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Sunday 20 December 2009


I’d like to know more about my great great grandfather Richard William Ralph Sadleir, but here’s what I’ve pieced together so far.

Sadleirswells, Co Tipperary, c1868

He was born in Sadleirswells, Co Tipperary, desecendent of a family with a proud tradition going back to the sixteenth century, a man whose relatives were among the great and good (and not-so-good) of the land. He married well, in 1848, to Eleanor Wilhelmina Octavia Cooper, daughter of another prominent Tipperary family of the Protestant Ascendancy.
Killenure Castle, Co Tipperary, c 2004

But by 1861 he was living in a cottage in Sutton in Lancashire with his wife, five children and a “poor dependant” man from Ireland. He was working as a chemical manufacturer’s assistant, and three years later he set up his own New Road Chemical Works in St Helen’s with a business partner, John Lawrence Kean. But the scheme failed in 1866 and he ended his relatively few days, aged just 57, as a banker’s clerk in a terraced house in Toxteth.
I think what happened is that he got caught up in the collapse of the Tipperary Bank brought about by the fraudulent activities of his cousins James and John Sadleir in 1852. It was a cataclysmic event for thousands of small and not so small investors in the county, who lost everything. John Sadleir, who it seems had been the criminal mastermind in the scandal took his own life that year by drinking prussic acid on Hampstead Heath one night. His brother James, who had also been implicated, refused to face justice and fled to Switzerland, where he was murdered for his gold watch in 1881 while out walking on the Zurichberg.
If Richard Sadleir lost all he had in the bank’s failure, it would explain why he went to find work in the industrial goldrush of mid-nineteenth century Lancashire. There’s no suggestion that he had any aptitude for chemistry, or any wealth with which to support his young family (only one of whom had been born before they left Ireland) in the lowly English addresses I have for them. I don’t know how he died, but it seems safe to say Life didn’t turn out as he might have expected it to.

Perhaps Holly Cottage looked like this ...
Ivy Cottage, Little Saughall, Cheshire, c1900

His wife had grown up in a Tipperary castle, and died in a Cheshire cottage, Holly Cottage in Little Saughall, where she had been living with two unmarried daughters. Another daughter, my great grandmother Eleanor Sadleir, left a note on the back of a photograph of her mother’s former home, keeping the memory alive, I’m grateful to say, for me and future generations.


  1. hello, we live in Holly Cottage on Seahill Rd next to the Greyhound Pub. not been able to find out how old the house is but at least 150 years old the other houses near by are very old so maybe it was our house.

  2. Oh that's very exciting! I wish I could visit all the places I write about. Thanks for this. Let me know if you want to know any more about RWRS!

  3. Does Holly Cottage look like Ivy Cottage?!

  4. Thank you for fantastic information about my relative.

  5. You're welcome, although I wish I knew more. How are you related? You can PM me via my website (

  6. I can ask my Dad (Thomas Ailbe Sadlier) as he got lots of information about our family tree which trace to Sir Ralph Sadleir. Our family, also come from Tipperary.

  7. i'm writing a book about my father and his first wife - it's called "Who the Hell is Phyllis" - I'll let you know when it's published. I've put in most of the bits I know about Ralph and John (the crook), Sadleir's Wells, etc. and there won't be much you don't know, but I'm hoping it'll be a fun read. Please keep in touch.

  8. Forgot to say that my maiden name was Sadleir and we are either direct descendents of Ralph or John. John (the cop) was my g.grandfather. I know live in Armidale, NSW, Australia.
    Best wishes, Deni McKenzie.

    best wishes.


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