Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dillon, John Blake

DILLON, JOHN BLAKE (1816–1866), Irish politician, was born in county Mayo in 1816. He went at the age of eighteen to Maynooth intending to take orders, but turning to the bar he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated, became a good mathematician, and held the post of moderator. He was also a prominent member of the Historical Society. He was called to the Irish bar in 1841, wrote for the ‘Morning Register,’ was a member, with his college friend Davis, of the repeal, and afterwards of the Young Ireland party, and joined him and Gavan Duffy in founding the ‘Nation’ to supersede O'Connell's ‘Pilot’ in 1842. Though at first he deprecated an appeal to force in the frequent speeches which he made at the meetings of the Irish confederation in the Music Hall, Abbey Street, Dublin, he eventually followed O'Brien and led the rebel party at Mullinahone and Killenance. After their defeat he was concealed by peasants in the Aran Islands, and in spite of the 300l. reward offered by the government for his capture he escaped with the assistance of friends at Maynooth to France. Thence he went to the United States, where he was at once called to the bar with other Irish exiles, and practised in partnership with Richard O'Gorman. The amnesty in 1855 permitted him to return to Dublin, where he resumed his practice. For some time he played no political part, but was at length induced to enter the Dublin corporation as alderman for Wood Quay ward. He helped Martin and the O'Donoghue to found the National Association, became its secretary, and at its first meeting on 21 Feb. 1865 strongly advocated the disestablishment of the Irish church. He was returned in 1865 for Tipperary free of expense, and endeavoured to effect a union between the English radicals and the Irish national party. Though not a good speaker, he was well received in the House of Commons, and made a special study of the financial relations of England and Ireland. He also possessed the confidence of the Roman catholic bishops. He always remained a repealer, but he denounced fenianism. He died suddenly of cholera at Killarney on 15 Sept. 1866, and was buried at Glasnevin on the 17th. He was much respected by all parties. There is a portrait of him in the ‘Nation,’ 6 Oct. 1866.

[Times, 18 and 20 Sept. 1866; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Ward's Men of the Reign; A. M. Sullivan's New Ireland, i. 148; Nation, 22 Sept. 1866; Freeman's Journal, 17 Sept. 1866.]

J. A. H.