Sir Walter Coppinger

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Sir Walter Coppinger (died 1639) was an Irish noble from County Cork, Ireland, who was a magistrate of Cork city, a lawyer, and a landowner. Coppinger came from one of the most prominent families in Cork city; though himself of Viking rather than Gaelic descent, he was hostile to the English settlement of Cork, and had a reputation for ruthlessness.[1]

Sir Walter Coppinger was the eldest son of James Coppinger, and the great grandson of Stephen Coppinger who was the first representative of the city of Cork in the Parliament of Ireland in 1560, and Mayor of Cork on two occasions, in 1564 and 1572. Sir Walter was a moneylender, and acquired many lands and properties from people who defaulted on mortgages provided by Sir Walter. This made his somewhat unpopular and his reputation in Cork to this day reflects this.

Land, legal disputes and incidents[edit]

Coppingers Court

In 1594, Sir Walter acquired the rights of the manor and castle of Cloghan near Carbery, County Cork from two brothers, Charles and Donogho McCormacke McTeige McCartye. Years later, Charles disputed the original transaction and attempted to set aside the deed and obtain a ruling whereby the original transaction was by way of a mortgage only. In 1633, the court ruled the lands and castle belonged to Sir Walter.

In 1609, the Mayor of Cork mortgaged wines which would become due to the city in order to raise money towards the payments of debts. One eighth of all prize wines, one quarter of all wines not considered as prize wines such as Spanish and Gasconyne wines. This mortgage would continue until the Mayor paid £125 to repossess their estate. A number of people including Sir Walter Coppinger were granted this mortgage.[2] In October of the same year, Sir Walter was sworn as Serjeant of the Mace.

Sir Fineen O'Driscoll was the local lord in Cork, loyal to the English, and had been knighted in 1587 for his work in capturing Spanish ships. Sir Walter's younger brother, Richard Coppinger, was married to Sir Fineen's daughter, Eileen. In 1600, Sir Fineen opened his lands to English "planters" by granting Sir Thomas Crooke the rights to found the town of Baltimore which grew rapidly. But the settlement proved deeply unpopular with Sir Walter who was a staunch Roman Catholic and who had his own ideas on development of West Cork. Sir Walter harassed the inhabitants with legal claims to their lands and in 1610, a compromise was reached whereby Crooke, Coppinger and O'Driscoll agreed to grant a lease to Baltimore to the settlers for a term of 21 years.[1]

In 1616 Crooke and his fellow settlers brought suit in the Court of Castle Chamber, the Irish equivalent of Star Chamber, alleging numerous acts of aggression against them: Coppinger was found guilty on one count of riot but cleared of the other charges. Castle Chamber was not noted for effectiveness and this verdict achieved little.[3]

In 1618 Crooke, despairing of obtaining justice from in the Irish courts, appealed to the Privy Council in London to protect the settlers against Coppinger's "malicious and covetous desire to supplant them" both by "bloody riot" and by fraudulent claims to their titles.[4] No firm decision was taken, and Crooke renewed his petition before the new King Charles I in 1626, who, noting that Castle Chamber was apparently divided on the issue, ordered a hearing before Star Chamber.[5] The case was still proceeding when Crooke died in 1630; it seems that the authorities were reluctant to decide either for Coppinger or for the settlers. After Crooke's death, control of Baltimore passed to Coppinger.

In 1618, the Barrets mortgaged Ballincollig Castle for £240 from Edmond Coppinger. The mortgage was eventually transferred to Sir Walter and in 1630, for an additional £790, Sir Walter took possession of the castle and lands. In 1644, the castle was taken by Cromwell and after 1690 it was unused and fell into disrepair.

In 1630, Sir Walter and two others, Sir William Sarsfield and Sir Randall Clayton, were put in the election to the office of Mayor of Cork, but all were unsuccessful.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Peter Lamborn Wilson (1 January 2003). Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes. Autonomedia. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-57027-158-8. 
  2. ^ Cork, Ireland (City). Corporation (1876). The Council Book of the Corporation of the City of Cork: From 1609 to 1643, and from 1690 to 1800. J. Billing and Sons. 
  3. ^ Crawford, Jon G. A Star Chamber Court in Ireland- the Court of Castle Chamber 1571–1641 Four Courts Press Dublin 2005 p.324
  4. ^ Crawford p.325
  5. ^ Crawford p.325