THE LEGACY OF MEYRICK

1798
The Galway Independent reports this week that the ‘high-profile Meyrick Hotel on Eyre Square has suffered an almost 90pc collapse in value since its €70m peak’ , having been written down to a value of €7.8m in 2011, a remarkable achievement for any Irish property.

The hotel has had a chequered history since its opening in 1852, and has undergone numerous changes in the intervening period. Originally known as the Railway Hotel, it was perhaps best known as the Great Southern Hotel until it was renamed by the new owner in the mid 2000’s to the ‘Meyrick’ (for more on the history of the hotel see our blog post here). The name comes from a General Meyrick, after whom modern day Eyre Square was once named.

Meyrick had a ‘colourful’ life in the British military, beginning his career at St. Kitts, where he served under Admiral Hood against a larger French fleet commanded by the Comte de Grasse. Returning home he suffered from Yellow Fever and subsequently married into a fortune… and unsurprisingly rose in the ranks rather rapidly afterwards.

But it was in Ireland where he had his greatest ‘achievements’.

His obituary describes his Irish service as being ‘unattended with brilliant glory or renown… the enemy being unknown until his appearance’. Nonetheless he served dutifully suppressing the rebellion at Dulleek/Tara where his men bore a ‘great deal of fatigue’ but killed ‘all they met with’, Knightstown, Co. Meath, where ‘many rebels were killed’ and at Wexford, which he ‘relieved and restored to tranquility’.

In 1799, as General of the District (presumably Clare and Galway), he led raids throughout Clare, ‘burning, ravaging and destroying all before (them)’. His actions successfully ended the rebellion in Clare and claimed at least 300 rebel lives.

In March of 1799 he oversaw the trials of the captured Clare rebels. Some were sentenced to death, some to transportation to serve in the Prussian army, others to jail, whipping or transportation elsewhere. ‘All of the seven sentenced to death were brought back to their own towns to be executed’. The executions drew huge crowds, and two of the leaders were left on the gallows for three hours as an “awful warning to the spectators”.

His magistrates’ justice also extended to a county wide curfew – ‘anybody found out of doors between one hour after sunset and sunrise was liable to be handed over as a recruit to the British Navy, as was anyone taking an unlawful oath or found assembled in a public house after 9 at night or before 6 in the morning’.

And as for Galway, of which I’m sure he was very fond, he was called on to oversee the ‘martial court’ in the prosecution of 400 United Irishmen from throughout the county charged with treasonable offences, ‘murder and houghing {severing the Achilles tendon of an animal}’, of whom 30 were sentenced to death by hanging, 50 to transportation and 30 whipped. He later had a wall built around modern day Eyre Square and received the honour of the citizens who named the site after him.

He died peacefully of dyspepsia (indigestion, poor man) at the home of his son in Berkeley Square, London at the ripe old age of 66.

It’s always rankled me a little that the owners of the Great Southern chose the name ‘Meyrick’ as he was associated with those rather unsavoury (to say the least) events during the 1798 rebellion and subsequently – perhaps the owners didn’t really look into his activities and just assumed it would be a nice historical sounding name for a landmark Galway Hotel. And well, perhaps a name like Mellows doesn’t have the same cachet as the aristocratic sounding ‘Meyrick’.

Meyricks Obituary was retrieved here.

His Activity in Clare retrieved here.

Some of his Wexford work from here.

Galway from here.

More in Louth here:

And for info on the Battle of St. Kitts see here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Saint_Kitts

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