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Swiney, George (DNB00)


SWINEY, GEORGE (1786?–1844), founder of the Swiney prize and Swiney lectureship, born about 1786, was the son of William Swiney (1760–1820), admiral of the red, and a descendant of Major Matthew Swiney (1681–1766), who fought at Dettingen. He was educated at Edinburgh University, whence he graduated M.D. in 1816, with a thesis ‘De Insania’ (List of Medical Graduates, 1867, p. 52). Having retired from practice, he settled in London, lived a secluded life, was very rarely seen beyond his door, and acquired a reputation as an eccentric. He spent much of his time latterly in revising his will and framing elaborate directions for his funeral. He died at Grove Street, Camden Town, on 21 Jan. 1844, and was attended to the cemetery of St. Martin's, Pratt Street, by an enormous concourse of people, attracted by the rumours and exaggerations which had been circulated by the newspapers. About a dozen years before his death Swiney had left a parcel with a number of mysterious injunctions at the rooms of the Society of Arts. When opened the parcel was found to contain a draft of a will in the society's favour, but as no trace could be found of the testator the matter was regarded as a hoax. After Swiney's death, however, by a codicil (dated 14 Nov. 1835) modifying his previous arrangements (under a will dated 27 May 1831), it was found that he had bequeathed 5,000l. to the Society of Arts, in order to found a quinquennial prize for the best published essay upon jurisprudence, the prize to be adjudicated jointly by the Society of Arts and the College of Physicians; and 5,000l. to the British Museum to found a lectureship in geology, the lecturer to be an M.D. of Edinburgh. Among the recipients of the Swiney prize have been Sir Henry James Sumner Maine [q. v.] for his ‘Ancient Law’ (1864), Leone Levi [q. v.], and Sir Robert Joseph Phillimore [q. v.] The prize consists of a cup valued at 100l. (the original design was executed by Daniel Maclise in 1849), and 100l. (see Journal of Society of Arts, 30 Nov. 1888; Swiney's will was proved on 6 Feb. 1844).

A first cousin of the preceding, General George Swiney (1786–1868), colonel commandant of the 19th brigade of the royal artillery, entered the Honourable East India Company's service in 1802, was present at the battle of Deig and commanded the artillery in the first three assaults of Bhurtpore, where he was wounded, for which service he received a medal. He also commanded the artillery at the siege and capture of Emaum Ghur in 1810, receiving the thanks of the vice-president in council and the commander-in-chief. He eventually became the senior officer of the royal (Bengal) artillery (Cooper, Reg. and Mag. of Biogr. i. 148). He died at Cheltenham on 10 Dec. 1868. His nephew, Colonel George Clayton Swiney, entered the Bengal cavalry in October 1857, was transferred to the 6th dragoon guards, served in the Indian mutiny, and has written ‘Historical Records of the 32nd (Duke of Cornwall's) Light Infantry,’ 1893.

[Gent. Mag. 1844, ii. 100; Illustr. London News, 3 Feb. 1844; private information.]

T. S.