John Ireland (1745–1839)

John Ireland (b.1745) was a Scotsman who arrived in Oxford on 16 January 1768 when he was 23 years old. He was matriculated at the University of Oxford as a privileged Apothecary four years later on 25 February 1772.

On 19 November 1772 at St Aldate's Church in Oxford, John Ireland (then described as being of St Mary-the-Virgin parish) married Mary Sherwood. They had the following children:

  • John James Ireland (born in Oxford on 10 September 1772 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church the same day)
  • George Sherwood Ireland (born in Oxford on 7 January 1776 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 10 January 1776)
  • Charles Ireland (probably born in Oxford in December 1780, and recorded in the St Mary-the-Virgin’s register as having been buried as an infant in St Aldate’s Church on 31 December 1780)
  • Mary Anne Ireland (born in Oxford on 12 June 1787 and baptised at St Mary-the-Virgin Church the same day).

In 1775 Abraham Robertson (1751–1826) came to Oxford from Duns Berwick-on-Tweed, and sought to finance himself by opening an evening school for mechanics. When this failed, he took employment as a servant with John Ireland. Ireland, realizing how gifted his servant was, managed to obtain a servitorship for him at Christ Church. In 1789 Abraham Robertson was to be appointed Savilian Professor of Geometry.

John Ireland's eldest son John James Ireland died at the age of 19 on 12 December 1792 and was buried at St Aldate’s Church four days later. His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal stated that he had “endured a long and severe Illness with great Fortitude and Resignation”.

In 1793 Ireland was working as an apothecary at St Mary Hall Lane (now Oriel Street), and he was duly listed as an Oxford apothecary in the Universal Business Directory of 1794/5.

Ireland was a friend of the artist John Malchair, who made him his executor in 1801.

Prior to 1811 Ireland was living in a house that he owned in Pembroke Street in central Oxford. The following notice appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 6 April 1811:

TO be SOLD immediately, either by PRIVATE CONTRACT or PUBLIC AUCTION, (of which proper notice will be given)—All those complete FREEHOLD PREMISES, the property of Mr. Ireland, and at present in his occupation, situate in Pembroke-street, in the parish of St. Ebbe, in this city. The house has attached a garden, and two stables for four horses. The premises will not require a shilling to be laid out upon them, being in the most perfect state of repair; and no house in this city can be better adapted for a genteel family, having every possible and well-contrived convenience in and about it. Speedy possession may be had.

By 1815 all of Ireland's children were dead (see below).

Ireland was still living at Pembroke Street in central Oxford (possibly at a different house) when on 26 November 1817 he wrote an obituary for James Benwell, who worked in the Botanic Garden and may have been head gardener there (Ireland's obituary reproduced here). Until his death in 1811 Thomas Benwell (the son of Jasper Benwell and grandson of John Benwell) lived at a house called Rose Hill in the parish of Iffley, after which the present Oxford suburb is believed to have been named, and by 1830 Ireland himself was living in that house (see below).

By December 1818 Ireland had been appointed a Justice of the Peace.

In February 1819 he joined the Parish Committee set up to consider the best means of taking down and rebuilding Carfax Church.

“Mr Ireland” appears as a regular visitor of the wine merchant Edward Latimer in the unpublished diaries of Mary Latimer of All Saints parish and Headington House, written between 1817 and 1825. Mary describes how on 15 November 1821 Latimer played whist with Ireland and two other friends in Headington House until past midnight, and that they then had “some Scottish songs to please Mr  Ireland” before the party broke up at half past one in the morning. On 26 November he again spent the night at Headington House after playing whist. Mary Latimer also mentions that Mr Ireland had his own pew in St Ebbe’s Church.

In 1825  Ireland moved up to Headington and set himself up as a doctor. G. V. Cox wrote, “I believe Dr Ireland obtained a Doctor’s Degree from a Scotch University on his retiring to Headington, where at the age of eighty he set up his brass plate as Dr Ireland.”

Ireland appears to have moved on to Iffley, as in 1830 “Ireland John, esq.” was listed there in Pigot’s Directory under “Nobility, Gentry and Clergy”. He lived at a house called Rose Hill. Ireland’s wife Mary Ireland died on 5 February 1830, and was buried at St Aldate’s on the 11th: she was described in the burial register as being of Iffley.

There is a reference to Dr Ireland's residence in Headington in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 6 July 1833, suggesting that he was living there again. He moved away to Cirencester, Gloucester, probably in 1838, as on 15 December 1838 a stone-built dwelling house in the village of Headington, “late the residence of J. Ireland, Esq., M.D., was advertised for sale: it had two large parlours, a large drawing room, two large bedrooms, two garrets, a spacious kitchen and wash-house, and a cellar paved with stone, plus a garden that was well-stocked with fruit trees and a good pump with a plentiful supply of water.

Ireland died at Cirencester at the age of 94 and was buried there on 21 June 1839. His death was reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 22 June 1839, where he was described as “John Ireland, Esq., M.D., Magistrate for Oxford”.

William Tuckwell (born 1829), who was the son of the leading Oxford surgeon William Tuckwell, remembered Ireland in 1830s and wrote of him in his Reminiscences of Oxford:

Ireland represented the matriculated apothecaries of that date, men who made up their own medicines, attended ladies at the most interesting period of their lives, sold Epsom salts, blisters, hair powder, across the counter of the shops which they called their surgeries. Some remained humble to the end; not so Ireland, who somehow obtained a Scotch degree, discarded the surgery, and set up a brass plate as Dr. Ireland on his house in Pennyfarthing Street [now Pembroke Street]. He was a grandiloquent, pompous man … a dissolute old scamp withal; some of the stories told him I should not like to quote. I remember his swing along the street with cane held at attention; recall his stalking into my mother’s drawing-room with his new honour fresh upon him, and bespeaking her congratulations on the fact that he would “enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a Doctor of Medicine”. I saw him later in extreme old age; he said that he was ninety-nine years old – he was nothing like so old – but he added, with his hands aloft, “My memory is in ruins.” He deserved credit, however, for discovering the mathematical talent of his servant lad Abram Robertson, who became afterwards Professor of Astronomy. West was his partner….

The two children of John Ireland who reached adulthood

George Sherwood Ireland (1776–1805)

On 22 September 1802 at St Mary's Church in Portsea, George Sherwood Ireland married Harriet Carter. George was a purser on the HMS Athenian at that time. They had one child, John James Ireland, baptised at Portsea on 22 January 1804.

George died at Oxford at the age of 29 and his death was reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 September 1805

His son John James Ireland, who was a Chorister at Christ Church from 1815 to 1819, was matriculated as a “Chirurg.” on 15 May 1827 at the age of 23. In an inquest reported in The Times of 27 December 1830, John James Ireland was described as a surgeon and apothecary of Headington: possibly he was living in the house of his grandfather, who had just moved from Headington to Iffley. He was described as a surgeon of Cirencester in the announcement of his marriage in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 3 January 1835. His wife was Miss Anne Shergold, the second daughter of Mr Shergold of Cirencester. Their death of their younger daughter, Ann Shergold Ireland, at Cirencester was reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 26 January 1839. He was living at Summertown when his son William Dobson Ireland was baptised at the church there on 17 September 1854. He died at Weymouth on 16 April 1876

Mary Ann(e) Ireland (Mrs Evans) (1787–1815)

On 9 August 1813 at St Aldate’s Church, Mary Ann Ireland married George Sherwood Evans of St Ebbe’s. a Fellow of Pembroke College and Rector of Hinton Waldrist in Berkshire. (His middle name, Sherwood, was the maiden name of Mary Ann Ireland’s mother, suggesting that he may have been a relation.) Both were aged 26.

G. V. Cox has an interesting tale to tell in his Recollections of Oxford about this marriage:

At the Lent Assizes, an Oxford drawing-master, Mr O’Neil, brought an action against the Rev. Mr Evans, or rather his wife, to recover damages, as a compensation for the breach of a “promise of marriage”, made by Mrs Evans when Miss Ireland, daughter of a well-known Oxford apothecary. Verdict for the plaintiff; damages one farthing!

The story had a sad ending: Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 3 June 1815 reported:

On Sunday last [29 May] died, at the Parsonage House, at Hinton, Berks, in the 28th year of her age, after the safe delivery of two daughters, Ann, wife of the Rev. George Evans, M.A. of Pembroke college, and daughter of John Ireland, Esq of this city. The death of this Lady has occasioned the deepest sorrow and affliction amongst her relatives and numerous friends, to whom her amiable disposition had strongly endeared her.

The parish registers of Hinton Waldrist record that her twin daughters, Caroline and Mary Evans, were privately baptised at Hinton Waldrist on 25 May 1815. Two years later, on 22 May 1817, George Sherwood Evans married his second wife, Penelope Symonds, at Hinton Waldrist.

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