Cogan, William Henry Forde (1821–94), landowner and politician, was the only son of Bryan Cogan (1767–1830) of Dublin and Athgarret, Co. Kildare. His mother, Bryan's wife, Eliza or Elizabeth, was a daughter of a Dublin silk manufacturer, Edward Madden (1739?–1830), a granddaughter of Thaddeus Forde (d. 1759) of Corry, Co. Leitrim, and a sister of Dr Richard Robert Madden (qv). Born in Dublin on 2 February 1821, Cogan, a catholic, entered TCD (12 October 1838), obtained a gold medal for science, and graduated BA (1843). He was called to the Irish bar (1845) but relinquished practice. From his father he inherited Athgarret; from his father's brother Matthew, who died unmarried (1851), he inherited Tinode, near Brittas, Co. Wicklow; another property, Rahill, Co. Carlow, seems to have passed to him from his great-grandfather, Andrew Cogan. In 1876 W. H. F. Cogan owned 2,869 acres in Kildare, 1,441 in Wicklow, and 651 in Carlow. He made Tinode his seat, built a new house there, and served as high sheriff of Co. Wicklow in 1863.
A liberal or whig in his politics, Cogan was elected MP for Co. Kildare on 26 July 1852. Re-elected unopposed in 1857, 1859, 1865, and 1868, he overcame a challenge from home rulers in 1874 but stood down in 1880. As an MP he generally promoted catholic interests, but was never a supporter of Irish home rule. He became a member of the Loan Board Fund for Ireland (1860), a member of the Irish privy council (1866), and a commissioner of charitable donations and bequests (1878). After leaving parliament he was appointed, in the catholic interest, a commissioner of national education (1880). He was a vice-president of the Royal Dublin Society and a member of three London clubs (the Reform, Garrick, and United Service) and two in Dublin (Kildare Street and Stephen's Green). His portrait hangs in the Stephen's Green Club.
Cogan married (1858) Gertrude Mary, daughter of Francis Kyan and granddaughter of Major-general Francis Kyan (1752–1814) of the East India Company, whose elder brother, Esmond Kyan (qv), was hanged as a rebel in 1798. They had no children. Cogan's four sisters all died unmarried. He died 28 September 1894, at Tinode, and was buried in the vault of the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. Cogan was a good example of a catholic of the upper class who was entirely out of sympathy with the movement for home rule and agrarian reform which came to dominate Irish politics after 1874, supporters of which dismissed him as a ‘Castle Catholic’.