Rev. James Whitelaw

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Whitelaw, James, Rev., author and philanthropist, was born in the County of Leitrim, about 1749. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin (where he took his degree of B.A. in 1771), and entered the Church. The living of St. James's, in the Liberties of Dublin, and afterwards the vicarage of St. Catherine's in the same locality, were conferred upon him. He laboured indefatigably among the poor, establishing schools, industrial institutions, and loan funds. In 1798 he undertook, and carried through, in the face of great difficulties, on account of political agitation, a census of the city of Dublin. He estimated the population within the city boundaries at 170,805, and the number of houses at 14,854. [The population within the same limits in 1871 was 267,717; the number of houses, 26,859.]

For six years he was engaged chiefly on an enquiry into the condition of the endowed schools of Ireland, and was a prime agent in compiling the body of information upon which subsequent legislation regarding education in Ireland was based. He wrote a school-book entitled Parental Solicitude, and compiled a system of physical geography. He was constant in his ministrations at Cork-street Fever Hospital, where on one day he administered the sacrament separately to six patients in the last stages of malignant fever. The result was that he caught the disease himself, and died, 4th February 1813, aged 64. His widow was granted a pension of £200 by the Government. Some years before his death, in conjunction with Mr. Warburton, Deputy-keeper of the Records in Dublin Castle, he projected a History of Dublin.

Mr. Warburton furnished documents and the ancient history of the city; Mr. Whitelaw methodized the whole, and wrote the modern descriptive portion of the work. It was announced in the Gentleman's Magazine the month before his death, as preparing for publication. At his decease the first volume was finished. Mr. Warburton's death soon followed, and the work was completed, chiefly from Mr. Whitelaw's papers, by the Rev. Robert Walsh, in 1818, and given to the public as History of the City of Dublin, its Present Extent, Public Buildings, Schools, Institutions, etc., by the late J. Warburton, the late Rev. J. Whitelaw, and the Rev. Robert Walsh. [See WALSH, REV. ROBERT.] It is illustrated with maps and plates, and, amongst other useful information, gives brief sketches of foreign artists who lived in Dublin, and of eminent citizens, many of them not of sufficient importance to warrant their being noticed in this Compendium. Though entirely wanting in the interest, scholarship, and minuteness of Mr. Gilbert's Streets of Dublin, the work is a standard authority in regard to the city and its history.


110b. Dublin, History of, by Whitelaw, Warburton, and Walsh. 2 vols. London, 1818.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

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