The master version of this biography, which includes images, is maintained at http://dorneyfamilyhistory.net/famtree_web/History_dorney.pdf
Thomas was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary to William Dorney, a hairdresser, and Catherine Prendergast. He was baptised at Saint Mary’s, Clonmel on 15 February 1810. The baptismal sponsors were Denis Mulcahy and Mary Crotty.
Thomas was working as foreman in the hairdressing business of Mr Knaggs in Dublin when his father died in February 1835. He quickly returned to Clonmel to take over his father’s business.
Thomas married Catherine Russell on 25 May 1836 at Saints Peter and Paul, Clonmel. The witnesses were Cornelius Denahy and Ann O’Brien.
They had twelve children together, William (1837, Thomas (1838), John (1840), Catherine (1841), Edward (1844), Mary Ann (1846), Agnes (1848), Honora (1850), Ellen (1853), Honora (1854), Teresa (1856) and Thomas Stephen (1858).
Thomas was registered as voter for Clonmel on 1 November 1836, resident on Mary Street.
The next we know of Thomas in the newspaper record is from 11 February 1837. The article was titled The Humbug meeting to Petition His Majesty and Parliament. It was clearly intended to be a humorous article, but if it was laughing with, or laughing at I can’t make out. It all hinges on if the speeches were reported accurately – Thomas in particular has a long speech quoted. The aim of the meeting was to petition parliament to abolish tithes.
In April 1840 Thomas was amongst many other names listed as having donated to the Repeal Rent, in order to fund the campaign to repeal the 1800 Act of Union, organised by the Loyal National Repeal Organisation. Thomas was acting as a Repeal Warden by at least March 1841. Repeal Wardens operated at a parish level and were in regular contact with the central organization, supervised repeal reading rooms and collected the repeal rent. In October 1841 he was described as the active and efficient repeal warden of that town (Clonmel).
He acted as a repeal warden until the whole project slowly failed due to the lessening involvement of O’Connel due to ill health and to dissent within the movement. At the meeting of the Repealers of Clonmel in October 1846, he proposed a motion deploring the dissensions. The split could be characterised broadly between those who wanted to use the existing political structure to achieve change and those who favoured more revolutionary methods.
Even though the Repeal Association was disbanded by 1848, Thomas was still a repealer at heart, and proposed repeal resolutions at the Meeting of the Trades of Clonmel in April 1848. He described himself as an O'Connellite Repealer.
When Daniel O’Connell visited Clonmel in January 1844 Thomas organised the procession greeting him. His name appeared on a petition in November 1844 requesting the Mayor of Clonmel call a meeting to arrange the collecion of the O’Connel Annuity (later called the O’Connel tribute), which the Mayor subsequently held. Thomas was appointed as one of many collectors.
William Smith O’Brien, also a repealer politican, was in Clonmel in July 1846. Thomas was one of a small number of men listed as waiting on Mr. Smith O’Brien.
In November 1847 Thomas travelled over to Cashel to take place in the Great Tenant Right Meeting. These meetings were held across the country in order for tenants to gain the right to sell their occupancy and improvements to whoever they please.
He was recorded at a meeting of Liberal electors in Clonmel in November 1853.
Thomas was also secretary of the Clonmel Teetotal Society. His name first comes up in relation to the Society in July 1840 when he sent a letter to the Lord Lieutenant (the response published in the newspaper) asking if a Temperance March could be made to celebrate the dedication of the new church of Saints Peter and Paul. The response was a long winded no.
In March 1842 he again approached the Lord Lieutenant asking if the Society was able to hold a march on Saint Patrick’s day. In that instance permission was given. He was still secretary in October 1844, but then there is no other mention of Thomas relating to abstinence activities until October 1882 until he was named moving a motion of the Clonmel Temperance Association regarding new or proposed contempt of court laws. Thomas worked as the Mayor’s Clerk in Clonmel (it's not clear how much work this entailed). It was essentially an unpaid position. He is first mentioned in that capacity in a Petty Sessions case in May 1843. In 1851 it was reported he was re-appointed Petty Sessions Clerk of Clonmel after a compliment being paid by the Mayor to his talents and assiduity.
Thomas was one of seventeen Petty Session Clerks that attended Dublin Castle in November 1856 to discuss receiving a salary for their services instead of the trifling fees they were currently due.
In June 1853 Thomas was one in an enormous list of names requesting the Mayor of Dublin convene a public meeting for the purpose of considering the best means of rendering a tribute of respect and gratitude for William Dargan. Mr Dargan, sometimes called The Father of Irish Railways, had declined a knighthood from the British Viceroy and then declined an offer of a baronetcy made by the Queen in person.
In December 1862, when he was appointed Secretary to Mayor Guiry, it was noted that Mr Dorney has filled the office of Secretary to tbo several Mayors of that town for many years, and given general satisfaction for the intelligent and efficient manner in which he has discharged the duties appertaining thereto.
In March 1864, when there was an announcement that his son Edward had been appointed to be Officer of Excise, Thomas was referred to as Secretary to the Mayor of Clonmel and Deputy Clerk of the Peace.
Thomas was appointed assistant Secretary to the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show in Clonmel in May 1864.
Thomas became insolvent around 1857. He appeared in court in June of this year when it was noted his discharge had been opposed.
The year of his bankruptcy may have been when he stopped working as a hairdresser; no mention in relation to this work has been found after 1856.
Thomas was one of the Secretaries in a meeting of the Roman Catholics of Clonmel. The meeting passed some resolutions regarding the pope which were then published in the Tipperary Free Press, Tipperary Examiner, Dublin Evening Post, Freeman’s Journal, News and Telegraph in December 1859. I can’t begin to understand the content, but it was clearly political.
Acting as Clerk of the Peace, Thomas read through the “voluminous indictments” at the Carrick on Suir Witchcraft Case (held in Clonmel) in October 1864. The accused, Molly Doheny, whose influence had wrought a spell over a police constable of thirty years standing, over his entire family, and several other persons besides. She was convicted of swindling and sentenced to twelve months hard labour.1 He was still Clerk of the Peace in March 1867.
Thomas appeared as one of a large number of witnesses in the Tichborne Case, appearing in both December 1871 and (possibly) October 1873. The later instance may have simply been a restating of his earlier evidence.
His statement was that he recognised the defendant from the defendant's time stationed as an officer in Clonmel, and that he was sure it was the right man as he remembered a small scar on the back of the man’s head when cutting his hair.
Thomas may possibly have lived in Hull, Yorkshire from 1876 to 1878. It’s certainly not sure but it might be him because that Thomas Dorney was involved with the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain. This is exactly the type of activity he would be likely to be involved in, and there are no newspaper mentions of him in Clonmel at the same time.
Later in life Thomas started selling rubber stamps, and, probably unrelatedly, became a journalist.
A September 1883 notice that tickets for an event could be obtained from Thomas Dorney, Independent Office, Clonmel. When his wife died (many years after Thomas) she was described as the widow of a journalist.
Thomas died on 28 June 1886 at William Street, Clonmel of angina pectoris. He was 77 years old. Thomas is buried in the cemetery at Rathronan, located four kilometres north of Dublin. No surviving headstone marks the location.
Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.