LIEUTENANT-GENERAL JAMES O’HARA - 2ND LORD TYRAWLEY
September 16, 2020
James O’Hara was born circa 1690, the only son of General Sir Charles O’Hara, first Baron Tyrawley and Frances Rouse. Sir Charles had served in the English army from 1678 to 1724, having distinguished himself in the Battle of Vigo Bay in October 1702, but later arrested on the charge of looting. Following his acquittal, he was promoted to second in command of the Army in Spain and later appointed Commander-in-Chief of Ireland; at which time, he resigned his colonelcy in the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers) and transferred it to his son James.
James O’Hara had a fairly diverse military career over the years, becoming the Colonel of eight different regiments; he entered the army as a Lieutenant in his father’s regiment (7th Regiment of Foot) on 15th March 1703, serving as a junior officer in Spain and in the Low Countries during the War of the Spanish Succession. He was promoted to Captain on 24th March 1705, taking part in the Relief of Barcelona in April 1706 and later being wounded at the Battle of Almanza on 25th April 1707. He then served in Flanders, being appointed Aide de Camp to the Duke of Marlborough and wounded once more at the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709. In January 1713, he took over from his father as Colonel of the Royal Fusiliers, serving with his regiment in Minorca for some years; in 1717, he returned to England and was appointed Aide de Camp to King George I. Whist serving in Ireland, he was created Baron Kilmaine in the Peerage of Ireland on 2nd January 1722 and on 9th June 1724, on the death of his father, he succeeded him as 2nd Lord Tyrawley and was appointed a Privy Councillor. That same year, in November, he married Lady Mary Stewart, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Mountjoy; there were no children born of this marriage.
On 20th January 1728, he was appointed His Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Portugal, where he remained as Ambassador until recalled in July 1741; on his departure, he received fourteen bars of gold from King John V of Portugal, who had always been on good terms with him. According to Horace Walpole, ‘My Lord Trawley (sic.) has come from Portugal, and has brought three wives and fourteen children, one of the former is a Portuguese with long black hair platted down to the bottom of her back.’ One of the ‘wives’ was, undoubtedly, Lady O’Hara, whilst the other two were his mistresses. It was said that their presence in London ‘gave his Stratton Street residence more the appearance of a Turkish seraglio than the home of an English Lord.’
One of Lord Tyrawley’s illegitimate children was his elder daughter, George Anne Bellamy (her name on the birth certificate was a misreading of the name ‘Georgiana’ by the parson, who appeared to have been drunk at the time of her christening), born at Fingal in Ireland on 23rd April 1731; her mother was a Miss Seal who eloped from a boarding school with Tyrawley and who was later married, for respectability’s sake, to a Captain Bellamy, the master of a trading vessel. George Anne Bellamy later had a successful career as a celebrated actress taking leading roles at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, in Glasgow and Dublin. One of Tyrawley’s illegitimate sons, Charles O’Hara, born in Lisbon in 1740, also entered the British army and served in the Seven Year’s War, the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary War, finally becoming Governor of Gibraltar in 1795, a position previously held by his father. Another of his numerous brood of illegitimate children, was Patrick O’Hara who later became the captain of a 20-gun frigate, HMS Dolphin, at the time of the siege of Minorca in 1756. He attempted to assist the acting Governor there (his father, who was the actual Governor there, was permanently away from the island), but had to make his escape to Gibraltar so as to avoid capture by the French fleet.
In the meantime, Tyrawley had been promoted to Brigadier-General on 18th December 1735, Major-General on 17th July 1739 and appointed Colonel of the 5th Regiment of Horse in August of that same year. After returning from Lisbon, he declined to be assigned to America, being again promoted to Lieutenant-General on 5th April 1743 and becoming Colonel of the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards later that month. Subsequently, he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to St. Petersburg, arriving in Russia on 29th February 1744, finally retiring from that post in March 1745. On his return, he was transferred to the command of the 3rd Troop of Horse Guards and when this was disbanded in 1746, he was made Colonel of the 10th Regiment of Foot in 1746. A year later, he was appointed Governor of Minorca, but, as had been the case with some previous British Governors (the Earl of Hertford and the Earl of Stair), he never set foot on the Island, leaving its governance to Lieutenant Governor William Blakeney. In the meantime, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 7th January 1748, appointed Colonel of the 14th Regiment of Dragoons in July 1749, later transferred to the 3rd Regiment of Dragoons in July 1752 and made Colonel of the 2nd Coldstream Guards in April 1755.
In April 1756, the French attacked the island of Minorca, which had been a British possession since 1708 and which was governed, in absentia of the nominal Governor, Lord Tyrawley, by acting Governor Blakeney. After a siege that lasted 77 days, the garrison was forced to surrender on 29th June with the whole of the British troops being allowed to leave the island, carrying their arms, and being shipped back to Gibraltar. Tyrawley immediately defended his absence from the island in an explanatory memorandum, which stated that he had been stopped from carrying out his duties as Governor, referring to the fact that ‘it was not my fault, I had repeatedly offered my service to go there, and had at two different times, made my preparations for it and embarked my servants and baggage, but had been contre-ordered on the rumours of invasion at home.’
On 1st June of that same year, Tyrawley was appointed Governor of Gibraltar with a new fleet prepared in record time and the departure aboard HMS Antelope of this new Governor and ‘Commander-in-Chief of all His Majesty’s Forts and Fortresses in the Mediterranean’ taking place on 11th June. On arrival in Gibraltar on 2nd July, Tyrawley informed the erstwhile Governor, Lieutenant-General Thomas Fowke, that he was replacing him and that he was to be sent back to England, together with Admiral Byng, to face possible charges regarding their conduct in connection with the loss of the Island of Minorca.
(to be continued)
The Siege of Barcelona, where Lord Tyrawley first saw action