Dockrell, Sir Maurice Edward (1850–1929), merchant and unionist politician, was born 21 December 1850, son of Thomas Dockrell, JP, merchant, of Monkstown, Co. Dublin, and Anne Morgan Dockrell (née Brooks). As early as 1829 Thomas ‘Dockrill’ (it is likely that his name was misspelled or that he changed the spelling) was in business as a carpenter and timber merchant at Bishop St., Dublin. The firm appears to have benefited considerably from the extensive damage to property which affected many Dublin premises during ‘the night of the big wind’ on 6 January 1839. By 1841 Thomas Dockrell had a crown window-glass warehouse at 4 Whitefriar St. (where he replaced a Joseph Philips who had been carrying on a similar business) and by the year of Maurice Edward's birth he had moved to Stephen St., where he had expanded his business to include the provision of oil and colours.
Maurice Edward Dockrell was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, where he was a notable swimmer, and at TCD, before entering his father's firm, which by this time (c.1865) had expanded to premises on South Great George's St. and expanded to include provision of paper and building supplies. On the death of his father (1880) he took over the management of the firm, which by 1882 had become Thomas Dockrell, Sons, Martin & Co., with premises at 41 South Great George's St. and at 45–8 and 51–2 Stephen St. (By 1887 the name of the firm had changed to Thomas Dockrell, Sons & Co., merchants and contractors, 38 and 39 South Great George's St.– the name and address henceforth associated with it.) In the trial in 1883 of Michael Fagan (qv), one of the Invincibles, he was objected to by the defence as a member of the jury. In 1890 the business was incorporated as a limited company with Dockrell as chairman and managing director.
Reputed to be a good employer, Dockrell employed several hundred men and played an important role in the commercial life of the city. There are references to his spirited energy and his gift of humour racy of the soil. As a businessman he was intensely competitive. For many years he was a director of the Hibernian Bank, a member of the council of Dublin chamber of commerce, and a member and vice-chairman (1899–1902) of the Dublin port and docks board. He was also JP for the city of Dublin and DL for Co. Dublin. A prominent and active member of the Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA), he contested the Dublin (St Patrick's) constituency in the general election of November 1885 but was decisively defeated by William Martin Murphy (qv).
Dockrell was to the fore in the citizens’ reception committees welcoming royal visits to Ireland, and in the jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria's reign. He was knighted in 1905 and held all the high offices in the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ireland up to senior grand deacon. On the outbreak of the first world war Dockrell became chairman of the City of Dublin recruiting committee and chairman of the Co. Dublin Red Cross Association. He held these posts until the end of the war. A witness before the royal commission of inquiry into the Easter week rebellion, he took back into employment those of his own staff who had been involved in the fighting.
Still active in the IUA, he was to have been one of its delegates at the Irish convention (1917) but withdrew for personal reasons. The following year he was elected MP for Dublin County (Rathmines) (1918–22). He was the only, and the last, unionist to be elected outside Ulster and TCD in an open contest. Between 4 and 8 July 1921 Andrew Jameson (qv), Lord Midleton (qv), Sir Robert Woods (qv), and Dockrell met Éamon de Valera (qv) at the Mansion House. Aimed at facilitating the opening of negotiations with the British government, these meetings ultimately paved the way for the introduction of a truce. After the treaty Dockrell played little or no part in public life.
He married (27 July 1875) Margaret Sarah (see Margaret Sarah Dockrell (qv)), daughter of George William Shannon, solicitor, of Dublin. She was chairman of Blackrock urban district council (1906–7) and a noted suffragist. They had seven children, one of whom died in infancy: Thomas E. Dockrell (1878–1912); Dr Dorothy Dockrell (1891–1975) (called to the Irish bar, Easter Term 1938); Henry Morgan Dockrell, TD (see below); George Shannon Dockrell (see below); Dr Maurice Dockrell; and K. B. Dockrell (1888–1937), barrister (called Hilary Term 1910) and KC (14 July 1924). Three of Sir Maurice's sons predeceased him. Until his marriage he lived at his family home, 1 Eaton Square, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. He later (from at latest 1878) lived at 10 Waltham Terrace. Blackrock, and (by 1888) at Camolin, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. He died 5 August 1929 in Dublin leaving estate valued at £26,943.
Henry Morgan Dockrell (1880–1955), businessman and politician, was born 17 April 1880 at the family home, 10 Waltham Terrace. Educated privately, and for a time at TCD (from 1898), he joined the family firm of Thomas Dockrell, Sons and Co. Ltd in 1900, becoming managing director and chairman on his father's death in 1929. A Cumann na nGaedheal and later Fine Gael TD for Co. Dublin (1932–48), he was the first protestant and ex-unionist in the dáil not elected as an independent. An active parliamentarian, he largely concentrated his efforts on legislation pertaining to economic matters, most notably the Control of Manufactures Bill, 1932; the Railway Bill, 1933; the Insurance Bill, 1935; the Trade Union Bill, 1941; the Industrial Relations Bill, 1946; and the annual estimates and finance bills. He frequently raised in the dáil the censorship of newspaper death notices of Irish serviceman killed in the second world war. In 1948 he unsuccessfully contested the new constituency of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, but was elected to the seanad on the industrial and commercial panel (1948–51).
President of Dublin chamber of commerce in 1933, he was a fellow of the Incorporated Institute of British Decorators, chairman of the Celtic Insurance Company, trustee of the Dublin Savings Bank, a director of Sherwin Williams (Ireland), and chairman of the Metropolitan Building Society Ltd.
In his youth ‘HM’, as he was better known, won six Irish swimming titles and was an outstanding water polo player, competing for Ireland against Wales (1904) and Scotland (1905). He was treasurer (1905), secretary (1908–10), and president (1911) of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association (IASA) and attended the meeting of nations in London in 1908 at which FINA was founded. He was also a keen photographer (vice-president and gold medallist of the Photographic Society of Ireland) and a competitive hockey, waterpolo (captain of Irish water polo team 1906), and chess player.
He married (6 June 1906) Alice Evelyn (d. 1969), daughter of Thomas Hayes of Ballinalee, Co. Longford; they had four sons and one daughter and lived at Termon, Sandycove Avenue, Dún Laoghaire. Two of their sons were Maurice Edward Dockrell, TD, and Henry Percy Dockrell (27 December 1914–22 November 1979), solicitor and Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown (1951–7, 1961–77). Henry Morgan Dockrell died 26 October 1955 leaving estate valued at £30,077.
The second son of Henry Morgan Dockrell, Maurice Edward Dockrell (1908–86), businessman and politician, was born 6 October 1908 at 1 Herbert Park, Dublin. Educated at St Andrew's College, Dublin (from 1917), and TCD (from 1926) he graduated B.Comm. in 1930 and in the same year became a director of Thomas Dockrell, Sons & Co. On his father's death in 1955 he assumed the position of chairman and managing director.
Although profits remained steady during his tenure (c.£100,000 in 1971) the demands of the modern economy began to put pressure on the old-fashioned management systems of Thomas Dockrell, Sons & Co. After his death an appreciation in the Irish Times (22 Dec. 1986) stated that ‘long-term goodwill and the welfare of employees meant more to him than short-term profits’. In 1971 Dockrell, together with other members of the family, sold the total family interest to Crowe Wilson, in which Anthony O'Reilly (b. 1936) and some associates had acquired a controlling interest, and which was then taken over by Fitzwilton, which they also controlled. The transaction, which cost Fitzwilton £260,000, effectively ended four generations of family control of the business. Dockrell relinquished the role of managing director of Thomas Dockrell, Sons & Co. and was coopted onto the boards of Fitzwilton and Crowe Wilson. In 1976 his shareholding in Fitzwilton was valued at £100,000. His other corporate positions included seats on the boards of Berger (Ireland) Ltd and Telefusion (Ireland) Ltd and chairmanship of the Irish Civil Service Building Society (ICSBS). ICSBS was ultimately taken over by Bank of Ireland with Dockrell's support.
Like his ancestors, Dockrell viewed public service as a duty. Elected a member of Dún Laoghaire borough council in 1937 and of Dublin corporation in 1942, he became the first protestant lord mayor of Dublin (1960–61) in over sixty years. During his term of office he raised the hackles of some protestants when, in a gesture of ecumenism, he kissed the ring of the papal legate to the Patrician celebrations in June 1961. Always keen to build bridges between Ireland and Britain, he paid an official visit to London in May/June 1961, when he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, a gesture later described in his Times obituary as ‘an act of piety that involved some political risk’. A Fine Gael TD for Dublin South (1943–8), Dublin South Central (1948–69), and Dublin Central (1969–77), he served in the dáil for thirty-four years before losing his seat in 1977.
To Dockrell, the debate on the repeal in 1948 of the external relations act was his most important as a TD. Opposed to the measure, he believed that Ireland should not have given up her membership of the British commonwealth and broken her last link with Great Britain. The Fine Gael spokesman on posts and telegraphs (1965–9), he demurred at Fine Gael's merger talks with the Labour Party in January 1968, and in 1974 voted for the family planning bill, telling the dáil: ‘I'm past it but I'm for it’. He later stated in an interview with the Irish Times that this was the only lie he told in the dáil (Irish Times, 5 Nov. 1983). A liberal on social issues, when a booklet on family planning was banned (3 December 1976) he agreed to act as a trustee (with Senator Evelyn Owens and Victor Bewley) of the Family Planning Legal Appeal Fund to challenge the decision.
Never one for letting the party whip get in the way of his beliefs, he supported the call of Seán Lemass (qv) for a milder company tax regime in June 1948, and abstained from voting on the wealth tax bill (1975), at a time when Fine Gael were in government. As a protestant with a unionist pedigree Dockrell always consciously viewed himself as part of a minority, and before entering the dáil he was of the opinion that Eamon de Valera bore much personal responsibility for the civil war. However, his time as a TD helped to soften this view and he later described de Valera as having a ‘magnetic’ personality (Irish Times, 5 Nov. 1983). De Valera personally asked him to become a member of the council of state (1959–86).
In 1961 the University of Dublin conferred him with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his service to the city. An accomplished pianist, having being once a student of Michele Esposito (qv), he was of the view that ‘all life is an opera’, and once said that ‘music for people like me is a hunger – you ache to play’ (Irish Times, 5 Nov. 1983). He was a governor of the RIAM as well as being an ardent French scholar. He was also a member of the boards of Alexandra College, the Adelaide Hospital, and Sir Patrick's Dun's hospital.
He married (July 1938) Isobel Myrick Pound, daughter of Alfred Pound of Vancouver, Canada. They had four children and lived at Kylebeg, Mount Anville Road, Dublin. He died 9 December 1986 at home in Dublin.