Stephen de Vere

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Sir Stephen Edward De Vere, 4th Baronet (26 July 1812 – 10 November 1904) was an Anglo-Irish Member of Parliament in the nineteenth century.


He was the second son of Sir Aubrey de Vere, 2nd Baronet and Mary Spring Rice, and elder brother of the poet Aubrey Thomas de Vere. He had three sisters, although only one, Elinor, survived until adulthood. De Vere's other siblings were; Horatio, William and Vere Edmond.[1]

In 1847, he took passage in one of the infamous "coffin ships" that transported Irish emigrants fleeing the Irish Potato Famine to British North America and the United States, wanting to see for himself the horrendous conditions that were leading to the deaths of so many of these passengers.[2] He composed a withering report on his voyage now known as The Elgin-Grey Papers. When Colonial Secretary Earl Grey read this report, he forwarded it to Lord Elgin, Governor-General of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in the hope that these inhumane conditions could be improved.[3] The Passenger Act of 1847 made "coffin ships" illegal, though many still operated.[4][5]

De Vere became a Roman Catholic in 1847, and defended the re-creation of the English Catholic hierarchy in 1851.[4] He was a Liberal Party MP for Limerick County from 1854 to 1859, and was appointed High Sheriff of County Limerick in 1870.

Stephen Edward became 4th Baronet of Curragh in 1880 when his oldest brother, Vere Edmond, 3rd Baronet, died with no male heir. The Hunt/de Vere family estate for 300 years (1657–1957), including the period of the Baronetcy of Curragh, is the present day Curraghchase Forest Park, in County Limerick. Before becoming the 4th Baronet, Stephen had built a smaller house in the 1850s on Foynes Island in the River Shannon, adjacent to the port town of Foynes, less than 20 km (12 mi) from Curraghchase. There he wrote poems, political pamphlets and translated several editions of the works of Horace, considered by some as the best English translation of Horace's verses.[4]

He built a Gothic church in Foynes, and is buried beside it.[6] On his death in 1904 the baronetcy became extinct.[7] He never married and his estate, together with that of his unmarried brother Aubrey, went to their nephew Aubrey Vere O'Brien, while the Foynes Island farm went to their other nephew, Robert Vere O'Brien.


  1. ^ Wynne Jones, Joan (1998). The Abiding Enchantment of Curragh Chase. Cork. pp. 3–12.
  2. ^ P.F. Meghen (1967). "Stephen de Vere's Voyage to Canada, 1847" (PDF). Thomond Archaeological Society (original), The Old Limerick Journal (reprint). Limerick City and County Council. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  3. ^ Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience at Library and Archives Canada
  4. ^ a b c "Sir Stephen Edward de Vere, Poet/Politician, 1812-1904" (PDF). Limerick City and County Council. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  5. ^ "Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience – "Right of Passage"". Library and Archives Canada.
  6. ^  Lee, Elizabeth (1912). "De Vere, Stephen Edward". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ Elizabeth Lee, Rev. M. C. Curthoys,. "Vere, Sir Stephen Edward De, fourth baronet (1812–1904)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32798. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Wyndham Goold
Member of Parliament for Limerick County
Succeeded by
Samuel Auchmuty Dickson
Baronetage of Ireland
Preceded by
Vere Edmond de Vere
of Curragh, Limerick
Succeeded by