Leinster Leader 27 May 1933
Kildare’s Forgotten Poet. A link with historic family
By Doreen Mills
Samuel Shepherd, Kildare’s forgotten poet, who at the beginning of the 18th century, 1731, was considered a poet of considerable genius – some of his writings are classed with that of Dean Swift, the writer and poet. He first began writing in 1827 and many of his poems refer to a woman named “Kitty,” her other name not being revealed, whom he married in Dublin in 1730. Through his mother he was connected with the historic family of de Burgh, of Oldtown, Naas, his mother being a sister of Thomas de Burgh, Surveyor General of Ireland. Shepherd wrote his first long series of poems in 1733 which he dedicated to this family. In the January of 1731 the magnificent library in Trinity College was opened by the Duke of Dorset, then Lord Lieutenant in Ireland at the time. Shepherd’s uncle, Thomas de Burgh, was the architect of the library, and his poetical nephew, Samuel Shepherd, was asked to compose a poem suitable for the occasion to be recited at the opening ceremony. He composed a poem in keeping for the occasion which was recited by a fellow of the College named George Sackville. Apart from being a poet of considerable genius he was a clergyman of the Established Church, and made a name for himself as a preacher of high standing. He preached before the Irish House of Commons at St. Andrew’s Church, Dublin, in the autumn of 1737. In 1736 he was appointed to the parish of Celbridge, and six years later the livings of Ballymacwilliam and Timahoe were included with his Celbridge parish. His first sermon to be mentioned in the press was that preached at Lady Gore’s funeral in the summer of 1745. Lady Gore was niece of Mrs. Conolly of Castletown. Shepherd was chaplain to Lord Chesterfield during his period of Viceroy of Ireland. A poem of considerable beauty by Shepherd is that entitled “Leixlip” in which he describes the scenery of Leixlip and its Castle; the poem he afterwards dedicated to the Right Honourable William Conolly, the owner of Leixlip Castle. By his marriage he had two sons – the elder he wished to enter religious orders like his father, but William as he was named, had no taste for such a calling, and preferred military life to the church. Through the influence of the Duke of Devonshire, then Lord Lieutenant, he became a Lieutenant in the East Indian Company. His father writes –
“Bishops and Deans,
‘Tis nonsense to quote,
For what’s a cassock
To a scarlet coat.”
In the bygone days of the 18th Century, 200 years ago, by a description we have from a poem of Shepherd’s women appear very much the same to-day for he writes –
“Listen to the safe debates
Which a women’s fruitful tongue creates,
Of fashion, officers and beaux
Soft tragedies, and gaudy clothes
Matches broke off, young maids disgraced,
Rich sauces and the art of paste.”
In the latter half of his years he suffered from ill-health and died at Celbridge in 1785.
Note: Samuel Shepherd was born in Limerick in 1831, son of John Shepherd, archdeacon of the diocese. In 1730 he married Kitty Anyon; they had six children. He was appointed vicar of the union of Kildrought and Straffan, with a church at Celbridge, Co. Kildare, in 1736, and was to remain there for the rest of his life.
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