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Irish Links to Albany, New York

James II and his second wife, Anne Hyde, by Sir Peter Lely.

James II was previously Duke of Albany and York, for who both New York and Albany were named. He was the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. His reign lasted just three years – not quite a presidential term – before he was hurled out of England in the Glorious Revolution.

Before his fall, King James had been a big player in New York, not least as Lord Proprietor of the Province of New York. One of his lynchpins was Thomas Dongan from Celbridge, County Kildare, a Catholic who had managed to stay on the up with the House of Stuart. Dongan served as provincial governor of New York from 1683–1688 and it was on his watch that Albany was formally chartered as a municipality. He was the man called the first representative legislature in New York, and he granted the province’s Charter of Liberties.

Castletown House, Celbridge, the Palladian mansion, was built on land that Dongan sold to William Conolly in 1709.

Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, was governor of the English overseas possessions of New York, Massachusetts Bay, and New Hampshire from 1695 until his death in 1700. He grew up between houses near Navan in County Meath and Tyrellstown in Westmeath, and he owned extensive lands in Sligo and Leitrim.  He was a major financial sponsor of William Kidd, the privateer turned pirate, and his sidekick Darby Mullins from Derry, whom he ultimately betrayed. From an Albany perspective, he was much involved with the controversy over a grant of Iroquois land in 1696  to Godfridius Dellius, the influential pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. One of Bellomont’s last acts was  a conference with the Iroquois at Albany in early 1700/1 (which he described as the “greatest fatigue [I] ever underwent”). He returned to New York City where he soon afterwards succumbed to a severe case of gout at Bowling Green, Manhattan.

Albany elected its first Irish Catholic mayor (Michael Nolan) two years before Boston.

The first Irishman in Albany of whom we have any official record is John Anderson of Dublin, designated on the records as ” Jan Andriessen de lersman van Dublingh.” See here.
Daniel T Murphy was born in Albany in 1833 but relocated to Lexington, Kentucky, when he was a boy. He joined the gold rush in California in 1849, going to Santa Fe, San Diego and San Francisco, where he set up a successful hardware store. In 1851, he became a partner Murphy and Grant, which became the largest wholesale dry goods house on the Pacific coast. It had branches in Manchester, Paris and New York. Murphy seemingly made a personal fortune of about $30 million and married his daughter Anna to Sir Charles Wolseley (1846-1931) of Wolseley Hall, Staffordshire.

Irish Diaspora Connections to Albany


With thanks to Belinda Evangelista.