Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Anderson, John (fl.1816)

For works with similar titles, see Anderson, John.

ANDERSON, JOHN (fl. 1816), founder of Fermoy, born in very humble circumstances, was son of David Anderson, of Portland, N.B. Having scraped together a few pounds by some petty dealings, he removed to Glasgow, and by a venture in herrings acquired 500l. In 1780 he established himself at Cork, where he became an export merchant and trafficked in provisions, the staple trade of the place. In a few years he realised 25,000l., and laid it out in the purchase of four-sixths of the Fermoy estate, which is picturesquely situated on the river Blackwater, nearly in the centre of Munster. He resolved to make a town of Fermoy, and succeeded in constructing the handsomest country town in Ireland. Mr. D. Owen Madden, writing in 1848, says: ‘The streets are spacious, and the town is tastefully designed. There is a neat square; there are fine churches for religious worship, and several private residences of respectability in the neighbourhood. The place looks bright and happy—not like the other dreary and dilapidated country towns in Ireland. Two large barracks, built in squares on the northern side of the town, contribute to the imposing appearance of the place. Fermoy has now 7,000 inhabitants. Sixty years ago the place was a dirty hamlet, consisting of hovels, and a carmen's public-house at the end of the narrow old bridge; now there is a cheerful and agreeable town, pleasant society, a good deal of trade, and more prosperity than might be expected.’ With reference to the barracks it should be stated that when the French came into Bantry Bay the government was unable to procure land, except on the most extravagant terms, for encamping the troops in the south of Ireland. Lord Carhampton, commander of the forces, explained the difficulties to Anderson, who at once removed them by giving land on his Fermoy estate without any charge for the required encampment; and he afterwards gave forty acres, rent free, on which the barracks of Fermoy and Buttevant are built.

Anderson erected for himself a handsome residence at Fermoy, and placed himself at the head of the community which rapidly began to grow around him. Meantime he had not given up his business, and he discounted to a considerable extent. On the proposed establishment in Ireland of the mail-coach system, Anderson, at a moment when no other man of capital and position would venture on so hazardous an undertaking, offered to embark on the enterprise. His proposal was readily accepted, the government stipulating that he was to provide the whole of the necessary means. The roads, which were at that period little better than horse-tracks, he was bound to repair and alter at his own cost. This Herculean task he lived to accomplish, and thus opened the country from north to south and from east to west. Anderson likewise established an agricultural society and a military college, and laboured in every possible way to civilise and improve his adopted country. The government so highly appreciated Anderson's services that a baronetcy was offered to him, which he declined. It was, however, conferred, in 1813, on his eldest son, James Caleb Anderson. Subsequently Anderson sustained considerable losses in consequence of his speculations in Welsh mines and other undertakings, and a meeting of his creditors was held at the King's Arms Inn at Fermoy on 19 June 1816. The meeting was also attended by several of the nobility and the principal commoners in the south of Ireland, who passed a series of resolutions which constitute a proof of the high estimation in which, despite his misfortunes, Anderson continued to be held. We have been unable to obtain particulars respecting Anderson's subsequent career and the date of his death.

[Notes and Queries, 3rd series, vii. 153; D. Owen Madden's Revelations of Ireland, 268–285; Anderson's Scottish Nation, i. 133; Irving's Book of Scotsmen; Burke's Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage (1862), 23, 24.]

T. C.