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Charles Lucas
(1713 - 1771)

Charles Lucas, apothecary, pamphleteer and politician, is best remembered as a tireless campaigner against the corrupt practices of Dublin corporation in the mid eighteenth century. Today a large statue of him stands in the lobby of the city hall, Dublin, in recognition of his contribution to municipal reform.

Lucas was born in County Clare on 16 September 1713, the son of Benjamin Lucas of Ballingaddy, Ennistymon. His great-grandfather, Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Lucas, was a Cromwellian officer who had been granted lands in Clare after service in the wars of the 1640's. Some reports suggest that Charles Lucas's father was a wastrel and that the family, having lost their home in Clare, were forced to move to Dublin.  However, it appears that he bequeathed generous amounts of money to his children when he died in 1727.  Whatever the financial circumstances, Charles was apprenticed to an apothecary in Dublin in his teens.

In 1735 he published a pamphlet on the abuses of the sale of drugs. The following year he wrote a letter to Sir Hans Sloane, President of the Royal Society in London, describing the cave of Kilcorney and commenting on the flora of the Burren. Elected to the city council, he campaigned against corruption and advocated parliamentary independence for Ireland. He translated and printed "The Great Charter of the City of Dublin" in 1749.

His writings were held to be treasonable and, threatened with imprisonment, he fled to Europe. Taking advantage of his stay on the continent he graduated in medicine from the university of Leyden in 1752. Returning to Ireland in 1761 he was elected M.P. for Dublin and succeeded in holding his seat until his death ten years later. He founded the "Freemans Journal" in 1763 and was a frequent contributor to the newspaper. While in exile Lucas took the trouble to study the spa waters at Europe's fashionable resorts--a relevant detail since he is traditionally credited with the discovery of the spa wells at Lisdoonvarna. His letter to Hans Sloane indicates that he was extremely familiar with North Clare. In his later years Lucas rekindled his Clare interests; he was made freeman of Ennis in 1766 and voted in the Clare election of 1768.

Historians have frequently portrayed Lucas as an extravagantly anti - Catholic bigot. While he was not without prejudice, his anti-Catholicism may have been exaggerated. In later years he became less preoccupied with the dangers of "Popery" and made a distinct contribution to the development of Irish nationalist thought. However, Lucas did support "quarterage", an exaction which Catholics had to pay to the Protestant-controlled trade guilds from which they were excluded.

Lucas's final years were marked by intense conflict with the administration, continued assertion of Irish autonomy and criticism of English misgovernment.

He was so disabled by gout that he frequently had to be carried to and from the House of Commons. Charles Lucas died at his house in Henry Street, Dublin on 4th November 1771. He is buried in St. Michan's graveyard in Church Street.

External links:
A Letter to the Boston Massacre Committee 1770, by Charles Lucas
A Forgotten Patriot: Charles Lucas 1713-1771, By Sean J Murphy

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