Thomas "Buck" Whaley



1766-1800 [Thomas Whaley, or Whalley]; called “Buck“ or “Jerusalem” son of Burnchapel Whaley, a descendent of Cromwellians who consolidated a fortune in many counties based on his family estate and the fortuitous exploitation of a copper-mine in Wicklow; Whaley made his made with a famous bet that he would travel to Jerusalem and return in two years [var. 10 months] for 20,000, Sept. 1788-June 1789. elected MP Newcastle, Co. Down, and later Enniscorthy; suffered catastrophic gambling loses; he accepted bribes on both sides in the Union negotiations, and voted against; was supposedly present at the execution of Louis XVI whom he tried to rescue;
settled in Isle of Man under heavy debts; d. Knutsford, Cheshire (aetat. 34); his Memoirs, written ‘in repentance,’ were edited by a descendent, Thomas Whaley (London 1906); his magnificent house at 86 St. Stephen’s Green is part of University College Dublin, having been the Royal University where James Joyce studied; associated with Daly’s Club, College Green, and notably profligate; a port. included in engraving of House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green) [as figure No. 78 in key]; he is believed to have gone through £400K in contemporary money (c. £100 million. today). DIB OCIL


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Buck Whaley's memoirs: including his journey to Jerusalem written by himself in 1797 and now first published from the recently recovered manuscript, edited, with introduction and notes, by Sir Edward Sullivan, Bart. (London: Alex. Moring 1906).

See digital edition of Buck Whaley's Memoirs ([1906]) - at “Dublin Chapters”, index - accessed 06.11.2011.
Note that the online editor characterises Whaley’s Conclusion as ‘the most awful self-serving twaddle’ [J.K.]

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David Ryan, Buck Whaley: Ireland’s Greatest Adventurer (Dublin: Merrion Books 2019) - preview available online; further pages available at Google Books - online; both accessed 18.04.2021.

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Patrick Kennedy, Modern Irish Anecdotes (n.d.) [laid a wager he would have a game of ball against the walls of Jerusalem]; during the Viceroyalty of the duke of Buckingham a vol. of poems was published c.1770 entitled Both Sides of the Gutter, and once piece was devoted to the triumphant departure of the great man [...:] ‘Buck Whalley lacking much of cash / And being used to cut a dash / he wagered full ten thousand pound / He’d visit soon the Holy Ground / In Loftus’s fine ship / He said he’d take a trip / And Costello so famed / The Captain then was named.’ In the ensuing stanzas are cited Lawler, Heydon in her vis-a-vis, Long Bob, two French valets, Shetland hog, Watch the Newfoundland dog, Zara with Fly [horses], Cuffe from the barrack board; Great Temple Lord; Jack Coffey alias Paddy Whack; his Grace; Napper Tandy’s toe; Tom Fitzgerald from Cork; Beau Whalley [or] Whaley. (See M. J. Craig, Dublin 1660-1860 (Dublin: Alan Figgis 1980), as infra.)

C. P. Curran, Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London; Tirandi 1967): The house at No.86 [St. Stephen's Green], incorporated with that at No. 85, and now jointly known as Newman House, was built and decorated by Robert West for Richard Chapel Whaley. The inscription “16th April 1765 R.C.W.” on a stone over the ktichen fireplace and “1766” on a hopper-head supply the building dates. Wealth had flowed to Whaley from a dubiously acquired copper mine in Wicklow and he lived here, as one who knew him write, “in fine splendour and prince-liek munificence”. An early writer, and auctioneer of the nineteenth century, refers to “the grandeur of the wide Portland stone staircase and the sumptuous stucco decoration of the splendid ceilings, in itself an object of great interest pronounce by the élite of the country as a masterpiece of art.' The writer was an auctioneer but the comment was just. In contrast with No. 95, th human figure appears nowhere here, not even as a bust. Bad No. 86. included such figures work in equal excellence to the rest of the decoration, its stucco would stand unrivalled in Dublin. With this exception it frairly respresent the range of West's capacity.' [...; &c.] (p.63.)

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Buck Whaley was especially scathing of the Greeks, while travelling through Greece to win his wager in 1788; sailing through the Peleponese, he recorded that ‘the noble, generous, arduous and exalted spirit for which the Spartan youths were famed’ was now extinct, and ‘we behold their posterity sunk to the lowest pitch of human degradation, mean, cruel, cowardly, ignorant, dishonest and embracing contentedly the fetters of slavery ...’ (Buck Whaley’s Memoirs, first publ. 1797, ed. Sir Edward O Sullivan, London 1906, 66, 264.)

M[aurice] J[ames] Craig, Dublin 1660-1860 (Dublin: Alan Figgis 1980), p.221f., regarding the journey of 1788, ‘the only instance in all my life before, in which any of my projects turned out to my advantage’ (viz, an outlay of £8,000 and a net profit of £7,000). The information is taken from the Preface to Sir E. Sullivan, Buck Whaley’s Memoirs (London 1906). His father Richard Chapell Whaley (d.1769); known as Burn-chapel Whaley and a notorious priesthunter; the Dublin tradition that he said he would never allow a Papist to cross his door preserved if not created by the circumstance that Cardinal Cullen bought his house at 86 St Stephen Green in 1853, becoming first the Catholic University and then in 1908 the National University of Ireland.

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Dictionary of National Biography
[ODNB], lists Thomas Whaley or Whalley, 1766-1800; Irish politician and eccentric; lived extravagantly in Paris, 1782; MP for Newcastle, Co. Down, 1785-90; Enniscorthy, 1797-1800; visited Jerusalem on a wager, 1788-89; revisited Paris, 1790; left MS autobiography. And see reference to Buck Whaley’s diary of Lausanne, in Hubert Butler, Escape from the Anthill.

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