Keogh, William Nicholas (1817 -1878)

William Nicholas Keogh was born in Galway, the son of William Keogh, clerk of the Crown for Kilkenny, and Mary ffrench. He attended Dr Huddard's school in Dublin, and graduated from the University of Dublin. He was called to the Bar in 1840, and became a Queen's Counsellor in 1849. A superb speaker both in public and private, he founded a well-known debating society, the Tail-end Club, and published several books on law, politics and literature. In 1847 Keogh was elected MP for Athlone. In 1851 he was one of the founders of the Catholic Defence Association, and was re-elected for Athlone in 1852. In the same year he helped found the Independent Irish Party, which was pledged to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Act and to further the cause of tenant reform. But within months of promising not to take office, Keogh (like his friend John Sadleir) made the decision which destroyed his reputation in his own lifetime and far beyond his death: he accepted office in the Aberdeen Government, becoming first Solicitor-General for Ireland, and then Attorney-General for Ireland in 1855. His decision was seen by the Irish electorate as an unforgivable betrayal of a solemn pledge and his name, along with Sadleir's, entered the Irish political vocabulary as a byword for betraying one's political principles. In 1856 Keogh was appointed a judge of the Irish Court of Common Pleas, but unfortunately his conduct as a judge did nothing to restore his reputation. He was a man of strong opinions, and his hot temper led to frequent quarrels with counsel. His conduct of the "Fenian Trials" of 1865–1866, and the savage sentences which were handed down there, were much criticised In his last years, Keogh showed increasing signs of eccentricity, in the face of unrelenting public hostility from much of the Catholic population. On 19 August 1878 he attacked his valet with a straight razor in a fit of delirium, and was confined to a hospital. While he may have recovered his sanity, he continued to decline physically, and died in Bingen am Rhein on 30 September 1878. He was buried in Bonn, Germany. He married Kate Rooney in 1841; they had one son, and a daughter.
Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Crest: A boar passant
Heraldic Charges: boar