Edward James Saunderson

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Saunderson Statue, Portadown, Northern Ireland, September 2009
"Irish loyalty". Caricature by Ape published in Vanity Fair in 1887.

Edward James Saunderson PC, JP, DL (1 October 1837 – 21 October 1906) was an Irish unionist politician.

He was born at Castle Saunderson, County Cavan. He was the younger son of Colonel Alexander Saunderson, Member of Parliament (MP) for Cavan (d. 1857), his mother being a daughter of the 6th Baron Farnham.

Edward Saunderson was educated abroad, and, having succeeded to the Cavan estates, married in 1865 a daughter of the 3rd Baron Ventry, and in the same year was elected MP. for Cavan as a Palmerstonian Liberal. He lost his seat in 1874, and by 1885, when he again entered parliament for North Armagh, he had become a prominent Orangeman and a Conservative; the question of Irish home rule had now come to the front, and Saunderson's political career as a representative of Irish Unionist had begun.

He had entered the Cavan militia (4th battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers) in 1862, was later made major (1875), became colonel in 1886 and was in command of the battalion from 1891 to 1893. In March 1893, Saunderson was one of the signatories of the manifesto of the Ulster Defence Union, launched to organize resistance to the Second Home Rule Bill of 1893.[1]

Almost from the first, Saunderson became a leader of the Irish Unionist party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, his uncompromising speeches being full of force and humour. For these aspects he was nicknamed 'the Dancing Dervish'.[2] In 1898 his services were recognized by his being made a privy councillor. He died of pneumonia in 1906.

Saunderson was Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for Cavan,.[3] and was appointed High Sheriff of Cavan in 1859.

In private life Colonel Saunderson was well known as a keen yachtsman; his character was deeply marked by stern religious feeling (an Evangelical Anglican), and his fine sincerity, while endearing him to his friends, never lost him the respect of his opponents.


The Irish Saundersons were a 17th-century branch of an old family, originally of Durham; a Lincolnshire branch, the Saundersons of Saxby, held the titles of Viscount Castleton (Irish: c. 1628) and Baron Saunderson (British: c. 1714) up to 1723.

He married Helena Emily de Moleyns in 1865 and they had four sons and a daughter.

EJ Saunderson's son, Somerset Saunderson, also of Belturbet, Co Cavan was a major in the British Army. In 1947, his grandson, Alexander, married Princess Louise, sister of Titanic victim, John Jacob Astor IV, and the ex-wife of two different Georgian Mdivani princes.[4]



  1. ^ Alvin Jackson, Colonel Edward Saunderson: land and loyalty in Victorian Ireland (Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 116
  2. ^ Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Black Staff Press, 1992)
  3. ^ The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 7925. p. 134. 2 February 1869. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  4. ^ Moore, Steven. Archives: Ulsterman to marry Georgian Princess The Belfast News Letter, 25 August 1999

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Maxwell
Hugh Annesley
Member of Parliament for Cavan
With: Hugh Annesley
Succeeded by
Charles Joseph Fay
Joseph Biggar
New constituency Member of Parliament for North Armagh
Succeeded by
William Moore
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lord Farnham
Lord Lieutenant of Cavan
1900 – 1906
Succeeded by
Thomas Lough