Peter Burrowes

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Burrowes, Peter, an eminent lawyer, was born at Portarlington in 1753. He entered Trinity College in 1774, and distinguished himself not only in his studies, but by his fire and eloquence in the debates of the Historical Society. In 1784 we find him a student of the Middle Temple, writing a pamphlet asserting the right of the Catholics of Ireland to parliamentary suffrage. This gained him the friendship of Flood and others of the great men of the day. Next year he was called to the Bar, where he soon took a prominent place. Among the early events of his professional career, was a duel at Kilkenny in 1794 with the Hon. Somerset Butler. His life was saved by the bullet of his antagonist flattening on some coppers in his waistcoat pocket. He ever afterwards regretted his cowardice in not refusing to fight. The antagonists became firm friends in after life. In 1790 he formed a political club, with Tone and others; and letters occasionally passed between him and Tone, who refers to Burrowes in his Memoirs as "The Czar." Although he did not share the more advanced views of the United Irishmen, such friendships impeded his promotion in life.

His brother, a clergyman, residing in the County of Wexford, was murdered in the Insurrection of 1798; this, however, in no degree lessened Burrowes' detestation of the proposed measure of Union, and he was one of the fourteen King's Counsel who attended the Bar meeting in Dublin to protest against it, on 9th December 1798. In 1799 he was elected Member for Enniscorthy; and during the few remaining months of the Irish Parliament, was one of the most unwearied opponents of the Union; his speeches on the subject are models of clear and forcible reasoning. He joined in subscribing to the £100,000 fund raised for the counter-bribing of Members. An intimate friend of the Emmet family, he was Robert's counsel in 1803. Although receiving but little government patronage, his further progress at the Bar was rapid. At times his earnings reached £7,000 a year. He was trusted by all parties. He was a consistent supporter of measures for Catholic relief. In 1811 he successfully defended the Catholic Delegates against the Government of the day. Ten years afterwards Mr. Borrowes retired to the comparative repose of a judgeship in the Insolvent Debtors Court. In 1841 he went to London to consult an oculist regarding his sight. He died there in the same year, aged 88; his remains were interred in Kensal-green Cemetery. Many anecdotes are told of his activity and endurance in early life, such as his walking from Dublin to Portarlington, forty miles, in one day, and dancing all next night at a ball.


22. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Personal Sketches of his own Time: Townsend Young, LL.D. 2 vols. London, 1869.

63. Burrowes, Peter, Select Speeches, and Memoir: W. Burrowes. Dublin, 1850.

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