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Hickey, William (DNB00)


HICKEY, WILLIAM (1787?–1875), philanthropist, born in 1787 or 1788, was the eldest son of Ambrose Hickey, D.D., rector of Murragh, co. Cork. After spending five terms at Trinity College, Dublin (1804–5), he was admitted a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge (7 March 1806). His father was admitted fellow-commoner at the same college three days later. William proceeded B.A. at Cambridge in 1809, and was admitted to the same degree in that year at Dublin, where also he graduated M.A. in 1832. In 1811 he was ordained for the curacy of Dunleckny in the diocese of Leighlin, from which he removed in 1820 to the incumbency of Bannow, diocese of Ferns. While there he built a glebe house, restored the fabric of the church, and in conjunction with Thomas Boyce of Bannow House founded an agricultural school on a farm of forty acres. With Boyce, too, he established the South Wexford Agricultural Society, the first of its kind in Ireland. From Bannow he was promoted in 1826 to the rectory of Kilcormick, where he built a new church and a school-house, besides originating many much needed improvements in the shape of roads and bridges. The following year, in a time of fever and famine, he proved, at a great pecuniary sacrifice, an active and untiring friend of his people. In 1831 he was advanced to the rectory of Wexford, and finally, in 1834, to the union of Mulrankin. He was also rural dean of Tacumshane. Hickey was much impressed by the poor condition of the Irish farmer, and studied such improved modes of husbandry as might be communicable, in a cheap and simple form, to the occupants of a few acres. As early as 1817 he distinguished himself by an ably written pamphlet on the ‘State of the Poor in Ireland.’ His first work on farming was dated from Ballyorley, Kilcormick, and was written, like his subsequent publications, under the pseudonym of Martin Doyle; it was originally issued in the ‘Wexford Herald’ in the form of letters to the editor as ‘Hints to Small Farmers,’ and when published in a collected form in 1830, passed through numerous editions, of which the last appeared in 1867. These letters were followed in succession by ‘Hints on Road-work,’ 1830; ‘Hints to Small Holders on Planting and on Cattle,’ 1830; ‘Irish Cottagers,’ 1830; ‘Hints on Emigration to Upper Canada,’ 1831 (3rd edit. 1834); ‘Practical Gardening,’ 1833 (2nd edit. 1836); ‘The Flower Garden,’ 1834 (3rd edit. 1839); ‘A Cyclopædia of Practical Husbandry,’ 1839 (new edit., enlarged by the Rev. W. Rham, 1844 and 1851); ‘Rural Economy for Cottage Farmers and Gardeners, by Martin Doyle and others’ [1851] (6th edit. 1857); ‘Small Farms: a Practical Treatise intended for Persons inexperienced in Husbandry,’ 1855; ‘Farm and Garden Produce,’ 1857; ‘The Farmer's Manual’ [1868]; ‘Practical Gardening: Vegetables and Common Fruits,’ new edit. 1868; ‘Cottage Farming,’ 1870; and ‘Field and Garden Plants,’ 1870. Hickey also regularly contributed to several periodicals, among which were the ‘Highland Society's Quarterly Journal of Agriculture,’ ‘Blackwood's Agricultural Magazine,’ the ‘Gardener's Chronicle,’ and ‘Chambers's Journal.’ With Edmund Murphy he conducted the ‘Irish Farmer's and Gardener's Magazine,’ 9 vols. 8vo, Dublin, 1834–1842. He also edited, in great part, ‘The Illustrated Book of Domestic Poultry,’ 8vo, London, 1854 (new edit. [1870]). In all his writings Hickey took the broadest philanthropic views, studiously avoiding religious and political controversy. He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and was awarded their gold medal in recognition of his services to Ireland. He also enjoyed a pension from the Royal Literary Fund. He died comparatively poor on 24 Oct. 1875, aged 87. His portrait, drawn by Charles Grey, A.R.H.A., and etched by J. Kirkwood, accompanied a biographical sketch in the ‘Dublin University Magazine’ for April 1840 (xv. 374–6). Hickey's other works are:

  1. ‘An Address to the Landlords of Ireland on subjects connected with the Melioration of the Lower Classes,’ 1831.
  2. ‘Common Sense for Common People; or Illustrations of Popular Proverbs, designed for the use of the Peasantry of Ireland,’ 1835.
  3. ‘The Labouring Classes in Ireland: an Inquiry as to what beneficial changes may be effected in their condition,’ 1846.
  4. ‘The Village Lesson Book,’ 1855.
  5. ‘The Agricultural Labourer viewed in his Moral, Intellectual, and Physical Conditions,’ 1855.
  6. ‘Common Things of Everyday Life,’ 1857.
  7. ‘The Village Lesson Book for Girls,’ 1859.
  8. ‘Notes and Gleanings relating to the County of Wexford in its past and present conditions,’ 1868. He edited ‘Extracts from the Letters and Journals of George Fletcher Moore at the Swan River Settlement,’ 1834; translated from the French a selection of the ‘Sermons’ of Adolphe Monod, 1849; and was among the contributors to ‘Tales for all Ages’ by W. H. G. Kingston, S. E. De Morgan, and others, 1863.

In April 1840 he was reported to have nearly completed a work to be called ‘Practical Illustrations of the Parables.’

[Wexford Constitution, 30 Oct. 1875; Wexford Independent, 27 and 30 Oct. 1875; The People (Wexford), 30 Oct. 1875; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biog. p. 585; Charles's Irish Church Directory, 1875, pp. 85, 89; Cambridge Graduates; Dublin Graduates; Register of St. John's College, Cambridge.]

G. G.