Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh was a 19th century politician and landlord from Borris Co Carlow Ireland. He was descended from the Kings of Leinster and lived at Borris House. Kavanagh was born with just the rudiments of arms and legs. However he overcame his difficulties and lived life to the full, managing the family estates and becoming a successful politician. He learnt to ride horses, eventually becoming an expert horseman. He also became a first class shot and a noted yachtsman.
Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh was born at Borris House, Co Carlow in 1831. The youngest of four children he was educated at home and later received tuition at Celbridge, Co Kildare. At the age of three he began riding a small pony strapped into a specially designed built up saddle. He learnt to hold the reins with his rudimentary arms. (One of the saddles can still be seen in Borris House today). As he grew up he learned to fish from horseback and also learned how to use a gun. Though he always had the assistance of a servant he succeeded in living a largely independent life.
Kavanagh was sent abroad by his mother in 1849 when she discovered he was having an affair with a local girl. He travelled with his brother to Uppsala in Sweden and from there to Moscow. He later travelled though Egypt, Iraq and Iran. He arrived in Bombay (Mumbai), India on January 5th 1851. Kavanagh’s brother decided to travel on to Australia but he died of consumption on the way. Arthur stayed in India, but was running out of money. He secured a job as a despatch rider for the east India Company in Aurungabad about 300km to the east of Mumbai.
Kavanagh returned to Ireland in 1853 and succeeded to the family estates. He married Mary Frances Forde-Leathley in 1855 and they had seven children. He was a most philanthropic landlord who promoted the well-being of his tenants and largely rebuilt the towns of Borris and Ballyragget. His mother had introduced floriculture and lacemaking to the Borris and the tradition was continued by Kavanagh’s wife. Kavanagh helped to fund, and provide land for the Bagenalstown to Wexford railway line which passed through Borris.
Elected the British House of Commons, Kavanagh served a MP for County Carlow from 1866 to 1880. He overcame the difficulties of travelling from Borris to London by sailing down the Barrow and then sailing his yacht to London. He would moor the yacht near the Houses of Parliament and was then carried to the chamber by his servant. He later served on the Bessbourough Commission and was appointed a member of the Privy Council of Ireland. Kavanagh died of pneumonia in London at the age of 58 on December 25th 1889. He is buried in Ballicopigan cemetery in the demesne of Borris.
Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, the politician and landlord who had just rudimentary arms and legs was born in Borris House, Co Carlow in the year 1831 On This Day.
Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh
Image taken from page 103 of ‘The Cruise of the R.Y.S. Eva. … With frontispiece and sixteen tinted illustrations’ by The British Library on 2013-11-26 16:41:06