Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turner, Samuel (1765-1810)

TURNER, SAMUEL (1765–1810), Irish informer, born in 1765, was the son of Jacob Turner of Turner’s Glen, near Newry, a gentleman of good fortune in co. Armagh. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered on 2 July 1780, graduating B.A. in 1784, and LL.D. in 1787. Turner was called to the Irish bar in 1788, but does not seem to have practised, and became involved in the United Irish movement. He was closely associated with the northern leaders of the United Irishmen, and was a member of the executive committee when its principal leaders were arrested in 1798. Turner had escaped to the continent early in 1797, and spent the next few years at Hamburg, where he maintained the most intimate relations with the Irish patriots. He was included in the act of attainder in 1798 as one concerned in the rebellion ; but in 1803, on the death of his father, he returned to Ireland, and appeared at the bar of the king’s bench, when the attainder was reversed, with the assent of the attorney-general, on proof of Turner’s absence from Ireland for upwards of a year prior to the outbreak of the insurrection. Thenceforward he continued to reside in Dublin until his death, preserving to the end the reputation of a patriot among the popular party in Ireland, and enjoying the friendship of Daniel O’Connell.

The industry of Mr. W. J. Fitzpatrick has, however, conclusively established the treachery of Turner to the cause he espoused, and has identified him with the mysterious visitor to Lord Downshire mentioned by Froude in his ‘English in Ireland’ as having in 1797 betrayed important secrets to the Irish government, and with ‘Richardson,’ ‘Furnes,’ and other aliases under which he was known to the government, and by which he is mentioned in the ‘Castlereagh Correspondence,’ and elsewhere. For his services as an informer Turner was awarded a secret pension of 300l. a year by the government, which was subsequently increased to 500l. Sir Arthur Wellesley mentions him in a letter, dated 5 Dec. 1807, as having ‘ strong claims to the favour of the government for the loyalty and zeal with which he conducted himself during the rebellion in Ireland.’ According to Mr. Fitzpatrick, Turner was killed in the Isle of Man in a duel with one Boyce (Fitzpatrick, Secret Service under Pitt, p. 104). The exact date of his death is unknown. It is believed to have been 1810.

[W. J. Fitzpatrick’s Secret Service under Pitt; Froude’s English in Ireland; Madden's Lives of the United Irishmen; Civil Correspondence of the Duke of Wellington.]

C. L. F.