William Nugent Macnamara MP (c.1776 – 11 November 1856) aka Major M'Namara was the eldest son of Irish MP Francis Macnamara of Doolin (and heir to the estate). "A Protestant in religion, a Catholic in politics, and a Milesian in descent" he was considered "one of the real old blood" in Clare and had the reputation of an Irish Lochinvar, a noted duellist and dashing cavalier. He was popular with his peers and tenants alike.
MILITARY: Educated at a Dublin seminary, he entered the local militia as a captain of grenadiers, later gaining promotion to major. During the Irish rebellion, as High Sheriff of Clare (1798–9), he was successful in keeping order.
MARRIAGE & CHILDREN: In 1798 he married Susannah Finucane (1780-1816) a daughter of Anne O’Brien of the Ennistymon family (inheriting Ennistymon House as a result of this union in 1843). The couple travelled widely and were in St. Marylebone, Middlesex, England when their only son and heir Capt. Francis McNamara was born in 1802. They had 6 children before Susanah died age 39.
INHERITANCE: In 1815, while on a grand tour of the continent (Europe) he succeeded his father as landlord of Doolin. Back in Dublin "the Major" acted as second to Daniel O'Connell (the Liberator) in his famous duel with John D'Esterre in which O'Connell fatally wounded D'Esterre in 1815.
POLITICS: He was the first choice of the Catholic Association to stand in the famous Clare by-election in 1828. As a result of Macnamara refusing to stand, O’Connell came forward as a candidate.
In 1830 Macnamara was elected MP for Clare to take the place of O'Connell, who sat instead for Waterford. He was then re-elected in 1831, 1832 and 1847, retiring in 1852.
By all accounts, he was highly regarded in the House of Commons, and it is said that Peel, the Prime Minister, never passed him in the corridor without extending him a friendly greeting.
LEGACY: He died in 1856, age 81 and was buried in the family vault at Doolin. (His wife, Susannah (Finucane) McNamara, was buried in St. Anne's Parish Church, Dublin). His obituary in the Clare Journal (13 November 1856) stated that he was known throughout North Clare as ‘the poor man’s magistrate’. His funeral to the family vault at Doolin was described as the largest ever seen in the county (extending for two miles).
His son Francis, an Army officer who had been a Repeal Association MP for Ennis inherited his estate.
The male line of this Macnamara family has died out. However, Caitlin Thomas (the author and wife of the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas) is one of his descendants.
OBITUARY: MAJOR MACNAMARA [Clare Journal - 27 Nov 1856]
The London correspondent of the Liverpool Albion thus writes of the death of Major William Nugent Macnamara many yeara one of the members for this county and whose death recently recorded:
A memento mori has been awakened in the breasts of many metropolitan this week, by from over that water, of the death of that glorious "old son of the sea,” (the English of the Milesian family name) Macnamara. Mournfully will the tidings recall figure, still fine in extreme age, of the gallant Major in Bellamy’s Kitchen of the House Commons or sauntering up the Haymarket, ever lingering to look in instinctively the window of the pistol maker’s opposite the Operation-bouse; or in Bond-street, gloating over the hair-trigger treasurers of gun-making Bishop, himself character much of the Major’s spirit, he still is in the flesh (and there's plenty of it) this day. Macnamara waa the beau ideal of the Irish gentleman all of the olden time, that admixture of the courtier, soldier and man of fortune, which one never seas now and which none of the Irish romance writers has ever succeeded delineating, except Lover, and is but once, in Treasure Trove.
The fustian swaggering melodrama, bog trotting, blarney tying, brigands of Lever and Maxwell bear and never could have borne, the smallest resemblance to the school of which the Major was the type, and which quietude and punctilio, far more than fastidiousness nod grimacing, were the characteristics. Self-respect and respect for others, the two essentials of a genuine gentleman, were stamped upon him j and these, joined to winning cordiality of mien and raciness of utterance, made him a universal favourite, without the favouritism degenerating into the familiarity ventured upon towards others of the same stamp, or rather same status, Daniel Callaghan, for instance, the member for Cork, of clarity colloquial celebrity. But Dan by no means the fellow of the Major in the sense now meant; and it was impossible to see the two men together, they often were, without being struck by the resemblance they presented to Farrow and Dowton, in Bunn’s then-popular (translated) play of the Minister and the Mercer, in which the trains of the high bred patrician, and of the underbred, though very "respectable" plebeian, were brought out by the two great performers with a naturalness that was miracle art.
— His independence, and the polish which helped to preserve that independence, by repelling all approach to equality on the part of the Tail/ rendered Macoamara anything but a favourite least politically, with Daniel of far more judgment and infinitely greater influence than him of Cork. Noth withstanding the Major being O’Connell's second when D’Esterre was shot, and ready ploy th<j tame port when Peel pretended to be athirst for the blood of the Hibernian but prudently shouted fee faw fum so loud (as when he challenged those very shy fighters (Hume and Dr Lushington,) that the police settled the matter, the Liberation did not like him. Unlike any of the rest of the Tail, the Major who was the very typo chivalry in all things, held his seat for his own county Cbre, (for which mainly helped to return the great tribute in '28), not in virtue of Dan’s permission, but in right of his own popularity with the electors, whose idol be was, as one of the rale ould blood,” sprung of a race who were ancient before Norman, or Saxon, or even waa heard of.
— Besides he was a genuine repealer and showed this sincerity of his fascination with that splendid phantom" in retiring from public life when the bubble burst. His independence of the Liberator—never paraded, hot never disguised—caused him to be regarded with no great affection their reverences the political priests, who, however, greatly respecting him and among those who expressed that respect was about the very lost man who might be expected to feel or least who may have had the opportunity of observing the circumstance, will remember that much to the wonderment of the Dillon Brow nee, Feergae O’Connors, and the rest of the boiling parliamentary potatoes, the Major never passed Sir R. Peel in the lobby without the latter relaxing one of his most honeyed smiles, and gentle inflexion of his very kitchen pokerish backbone; the Major reciprocating the courtesy blandly if he had him at twelve paces on Wimbledon Common, with surgeons for two, and a coffin for one ordered at the adjoining public house. Peace be with the gallant old warrior, who was ever ready to give, and to teach how to give, a quietus to others, and with so much ease and elegance that many a mao would have deemed it quite a pleasure to have bis brains blown out according to the Macnamara code, and quite misfortune and degradation to run the risque of violating that etiquette.
|Date of Birth||1776|
|Date of Death||11th Nov 1856|
|Associated Building (s)||Ennistymon House|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Jane Stamer|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||Francis Macnamara|