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John Gordon Swift MacNeill, KC, MP 'South Donegal'

Spy (Sir Leslie Ward) (1851-1922)



Watercolour and bodycolour with pencil on tinted paper

12 x 7 inches

Vanity Fair, 13 March 1902, Statesmen no 748, 'South Donegal'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 151

'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 73

Born in Dublin, John Gordon Swift McNeill (1849-1926) practised law as a young man, being called to the Irish bar in 1876 and elected professor of constitutional and criminal law at the King's Inns, Dublin in 1882. He was an advocate of Irish Home Rule and published propagandistic works such as The Irish Parliament: What it Was, and What it Did (1885). From 1887 to 1918, he sat as MP for South Donegal before retiring from parliament.

“He is a parson’s son of three-and-fifty who ought to know better; but if he does not always behave as an Irish gentleman should, he is an Irish barrister who claims relationship with the late Dean Swift. He has taken classical honours at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Christ Church, Oxford, and he obstructs legislation on behalf of South Donegal in the unfortunate House of Commons while he professes Constitutional and Criminal Law in King's Inns. He is an extreme Home Ruler who, although he was believed to be attached to the Tim Healyite faction, is at home in the zareba of John Redmond without ever being antagonistic to Mr. Dillon. He has probably been called to order by the Speaker more often than any other Irishman; for he is politically full of insignificant sound and fury. He is also a pro-Boer who yet had friends in the House until Monday last: when by applauding the painful news of a national disaster he succeeded in overstepping the limits of bad taste.”

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