Thomas Reynolds

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Reynolds, Thomas, the principal informer against the United Irishmen in 1798, was born in Dublin 12th March 1771. [We take the following particulars mainly from his Life, by his son, 2 vols. London, 1839 — a work containing much interesting and valuable information regarding the times of which it treats.] He appears to have belonged to a wealthy Catholic family, and to have been educated at a Jesuit College in Flanders. During subsequent visits to the Continent he witnessed some of the principal events of the French Revolution.

Upon his marriage to a sister of Wolfe Tone's wife, in 1794, he estimated his property at £20,000, apart from business. Reynolds settled at Kilkea Castle, County of Kildare, which he held on lease from the Duke of Leinster. He was a member of the Catholic Convention of 1792; but retired with the Earl of Fingall when more cautious counsels began to prevail, and soon afterwards became a Protestant.

At the solicitation of Lord Edward FitzGerald, he joined the United Irishmen, was appointed treasurer of his district, and colonel of an insurgent regiment. Only then, as he states, fully instructed as to the designs of the United Irishmen, and overcome at the thought of the horrors impending over the country, he in March 1798 gave the informations that led to the arrest of the Leinster Directory. He then retired to Kilkea. During the Insurrection the Government troops, for no assigned reason, occupied and wrecked the castle. He computed his losses at £19,760.

His son says: "It has been my father's lot since then to witness the ravages of war in the Peninsula, where Spaniards, French, Portuguese, and English, with their German auxiliaries, men trained to rapine, alternately plundered and devastated the country; but in all that disorder of which he was an eye-witness during six years, he has frequently assured me that he never saw such cool-blooded, wanton, useless destruction as was committed [by the King's troops] at Kilkea and the surrounding country." Some attempts are said to have been made to assassinate him; and at length, harassed and worn out, he unreservedly went over to the government side, was lodged in the Castle, and openly gave evidence.

In October 1798 the freedom of the city of Dublin was presented to him. His son feelingly descants upon the ingratitude with which he was treated by Government, the lukewarmness of his friends, and the virulence of his enemies and political opponents. A yearly pension of £1,000 for his life and the lives of his sons was settled upon him. He was for a time Postmaster at Lisbon, and was sent as Consul to Iceland. His sons also received official appointments. Reynolds spent the last few years of his life on the Continent. His death in Paris, on 18th August 1836, at the age of 65, is described as having been truly edifying. Letters from the Earl of Chichester, the Marquis of Camden, and other persons of note testify to the high appreciation in which he was held.

Sources

294. Reynolds, Life of Thomas: by his Son. 2 vols. London, 1839. Richey, Alexander G., see No. 174.

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-'60.

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