Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vereker, Charles

VEREKER, CHARLES, second Viscount Gort (1768–1842), was the second son of Thomas Vereker of Roxboro, co. Limerick, by his wife Juliana, sister of John Prendergast Smyth, first viscount Gort [see under Prendergast, Sir Thomas]. Vereker, who was born in 1768, was descended from a family of Flemish extraction, long settled in co. Limerick. At the age of fourteen he entered the royal navy, and, serving as a midshipman in the Alexander in the squadron under Lord Howe, participated in the relief of Gibraltar in 1782. Though so young an officer, Vereker's gallantry on this occasion received the warm acknowledgment of his commander; but after a few years' service he retired from the navy and purchased a commission in the army. In 1790 Vereker was returned for the borough of Limerick to the Irish parliament. He retained this position until the union, when he was returned for the same constituency to Westminster, and he held this seat down to his succession to the peerage in 1817. In 1798 Vereker was appointed to the command of the Limerick militia, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and in that capacity was in charge of the garrison at Sligo at the time of the French invasion during 1798. After his victory at Castlebar the French general, Humbert, desiring to form a junction with the Ulster insurgents, marched on Sligo at the head of his whole force of sixteen hundred men, and on the morning of 5 Sept. he arrived at Colooney, a village within five miles of that town. Vereker, who had only three hundred men at his disposal, had received orders not to risk an engagement, but believing that the French force at Colooney represented only a detachment of the main army, he marched out to meet it. By skilful handling of his small force Vereker, after holding the enemy at bay for nearly two hours, contrived to effect his retreat to Sligo with but trifling casualties to his own troops. He was, however, himself severely wounded in the engagement. Humbert, conjecturing from his audacity that he was supported by the main body of the British army under Lake [see Lake, Gerard, first Viscount Lake], diverted his march from Sligo, a change of purpose which had a marked effect on the campaign, and accelerated the final defeat of the French. For his services Vereker was voted the thanks of the Irish parliament, received a sword of honour from the city of Limerick, and was awarded the privilege of adopting the motto ‘Colooney,’ with a grant of supporters bearing the flag of the Limerick militia.

Vereker was a vigorous opponent of the union, against which he voted, declaring in his place in the House of Commons in 1799 that ‘having defended his country with his blood, there was nothing in the gift of the crown that could tempt him to betray it by his vote.’ In 1807 Vereker was appointed a commissioner of the treasury for Ireland. He also held the honorary offices of constable of Limerick Castle and governor of Galway. He succeeded his uncle in the peerage of Gort on 23 May 1817, and was elected an Irish representative peer in 1820. Though he acted in general with the conservative party, Viscount Gort voted for catholic emancipation, and was a supporter of the Irish Corporation Act. Vereker died at Dublin on 11 Nov. 1842. He was twice married: first, on 7 Nov. 1789, to Jane, widow of William Stamer of Carnelly, and daughter of Ralph Westropp of Attyflyn, who died on 19 Feb. 1798; and, secondly, on 5 March 1810, to Elizabeth, daughter of John Palliser of Derryluskan, co. Tipperary. He had issue by both marriages, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Prendergast Vereker, third viscount.

[Burke's Peerage; Dublin Univ. Mag. vol. xix.; Webb's Compendium; Annual Register; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage.]

C. L. F.