Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh (1831 - 1889) MP

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Nicknames: "Hon. Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh", "The MacMorrough"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Boris House, Co. Carlow, Ireland
Death: Died in London, England
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Managed by: June Barnes
Last Updated:

About Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh

Rt. Hon. Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, The MacMorrough was born on 25 March 1831. He was the son of Thomas Kavanagh, The MacMorrough and Lady Harriete Margaret Le Poer Trench. He married Mary Frances Forde-Leathley, daughter of Reverend Joseph Forde-Leathley, on 15 March 1855. He died on 25 December 1889 at age 58.

  • He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for County Kilkenny in 1856.
  • He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of County Kilkenny in 1856.
  • He held the office of High Sheriff of County Kilkenny in 1856.
  • He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for County Carlow in 1857.
  • He held the office of High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1857.
  • He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of County Carlow in 1857.
  • He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Wexford between 1866 and 1868.
  • He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Carlow between 1869 and 1880.
  • He was invested as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) [Ireland] in 1886.
  • He lived at Borris, County Carlow, Ireland.
  • Although he was born without arms or legs, he lead an active life, and rode, shot and travelled in remote parts of Asia and elsewhere.

Although Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh had only stumps for arms and legs he had a remarkable career. Placed in the care of a visionary doctor, Francis Boxwell, who believed that even an armless and legless child could be "trained" to live a productive life, Kavanagh learnt to ride in the most fearless way aged 3, strapped to a special saddle, and managing the horse with the stumps of his arms; he also fished, shot, drew and wrote, using various mechanical contrivances to supplement his limited physical ability.

From http://www.kavanaghfamily.com/notable/Art/art.htm

His chest was broad, but he could make the stumps of his arms meet across it, and by long practice he made the stumps themselves so supple, strong, and nervous, that with the reins round them he could manage a horse as well as if he had them between his fingers, and even make good use of a whip. In riding he was strapped on a chair saddle, and though thus exposed to the gravest risks in the event of his horse falling or breaking his girths, rode to hounds and took fences and walls as boldly as any in the field.

He was also an expert angler, fishing from a boat or from horseback, and supplying the want of wrist-play by dexterous jerks of the stumps of his arms. Nor did his practical dexterity end here. He contrived to shoot, and shoot well, both in cover and the open, carrying a gun without a trigger-guard, resting the piece upon his left arm-stump, and jerking the trigger with his right. He also became a fair amateur draughtsman and painter, and wrote more legibly than many who suffer from no physical defect.

In 1849 his mother discovered that he had been having affairs with girls on the family estate, so she sent him into exile to Uppsala in Sweden and then to Moscow with his brother and the Rev. Wood. He travelled extensively in Egypt, Asia Minor, Persia and India between 1846 and 1853; in India his letter of credit from his mother was cancelled when she discovered that he had spent two weeks in a harem, so he persuaded the East India Company to hire him as a dispatch rider.

Other sources say that this was due to the death of his eldest brother Charles of consumption in December 1851, which left him with only 30 shillings. After succeeding to the family estates after the death of his brother Thomas, he married his cousin Miss Frances Mary Leathley in 1855. Assisted by his wife, he was a most philanthropic landlord, and was an active county magistrate and chairman of the board of guardians. He served as High Sheriff of County Kilkenny for 1856.

A Conservative and a Protestant, he sat in Parliament for County Wexford from 1866 to 1868, and for County Carlow from 1868 to 1880. On being elected he had to be placed on the Tory benches by his manservant; the Speaker, Evelyn Denison, gave a special dispensation to allow the servant to stay in the chamber during sittings. He was opposed to the disestablishment of the Irish Church, but supported the Land Act of 1870. On losing his seat in 1880 Gladstone appointed him to the Bessborough Commission but he disagreed with its conclusions and published his own dissenting report. In 1886 he was made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland.

He died of pneumonia on 25 December 1889, in London.

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