Esmonde, Sir John Lymbrick (1893–1958), 14th baronet, barrister, landowner, and politician, was born 15 December 1893 at Ingleside, Pontesbury, Salop (Shropshire), England, eldest among three sons and three daughters of John Joseph Esmonde (1862–1915), a medical doctor who practised for twenty-four years in England before returning to family lands at Drominagh, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, and serving as nationalist MP for Tipperary North (1910–15), and his wife Rose (Rosina) (d. 1901), daughter of John Magennis (Maginnes), of London. He had six half-brothers and one half-sister by his father's second marriage (1904) to Eily O'Sullivan (d. 1957), of Kensington, London. Born into a junior branch of a landed and titled Irish catholic family, he was a grand-nephew of Sir John Esmonde, 10th baronet (1826–76), liberal and home rule MP for Waterford County (1852–76). The baronetcy dated from 1628. Another grand-uncle, Thomas Esmonde (1831–72), won a VC in the Crimean war, and a half-brother, Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde (1909–42), a Royal Navy airman, was awarded a VC posthumously for his role in attacking German warships during the ‘channel dash’ of February 1942.
Educated at schools in Germany and Belgium, and at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare (1909–11), John Lymbrick Esmonde apprenticed as a marine engineer at Harland and Wolff, Belfast (1911–14). Commissioned lieutenant in the Leinster Regt at the outbreak of war in 1914, he subsequently served as captain in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Intelligence Corps. In a by-election following the death of his father, the sitting MP, of an illness contracted at a recruiting meeting, he was elected MP for Tipperary North (1915–18). Aged 21, he was one of the youngest persons ever elected to the house of commons, and was among seven nationalist MPs (including his father, briefly commissioned in the RAMC) to serve in the British army during the first world war. He served in the forces that suppressed the 1916 Easter rising in Dublin. His brother Lieut. Geoffrey Joseph Esmonde (1897–1916) was killed in action serving with the 4th Tyneside Irish Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers. Gauging weak support, Esmonde withdrew his parliamentary candidacy in the 1918 general election, the seat going to Sinn Féin unopposed.
After studying law at the King's Inns, Dublin (1919–21), he was called to the bar (1921), and afterwards became senior counsel (1942), and bencher of the King's Inns (1948). Defeated in a 1936 Wexford by-election to fill the vacancy created by the death of the sitting TD, his second cousin Sir Osmond Thomas Grattan Esmonde (qv), 12th baronet, he was returned to Dáil Éireann for Fine Gael in the 1937 general election (1937–44, 1948–51). In 1943, upon expiry of the senior male line, he succeeded his cousin Sir Laurence Grattan Esmonde (1863–1943) as the 14th baronet. During formation of the 1948 inter-party government he was suggested by Clann na Poblachta leader Seán MacBride (qv) as an acceptable taoiseach on the basis of his lack of involvement with either of the belligerents during the civil war (he had defended republicans in the courts when MacBride was IRA chief of staff and afterwards), but was turned down by his own party. Resigning from Fine Gael in 1950, he gave as his reason the predominance in the party of Cumann na nGaedheal over the old Centre party (to which he belonged originally), lack of consultation with backbenchers and concessions made to the Labour party. It seems likely that he was aggrieved that he was not appointed to succeed Cecil Lavery (qv) as attorney general in April 1950. He continued to support the government as an independent, but resigned from the dáil after Fine Gael adopted his brother Anthony as their prospective candidate; there was no love lost between the two brothers. As a barrister he was in a number of notable cases: he was senior counsel for Eric Dorman O'Gowan (qv) in his action against Winston Churchill, and for Patrick Kavanagh (qv) in his action against the Leader. In 1954 he defended Michael Manning, the last person to be hanged for murder. An avid gardener and member of the St Stephen's Green club, he lived at a series of addresses in Dublin city and county, the last being 26 The Rise, Mt Merrion. After receiving compensation, in 1937 he replaced the family seat, Ballynastragh House, Gorey, Co. Wexford, which had been burned by republicans during the civil war, with a new house and maintained it as a country residence. He married (1922) Eleanor (Lillie), daughter of Laurence Fitzharris, wine and spirit merchant of Ringsend, Dublin, and Monread, Co. Kildare; they had no children. He died suddenly 6 July 1958 in a Dublin nursing home.
His brother Sir Anthony Charles Esmonde (1899–1981), 15th baronet, surgeon, landowner, and politician, was born 18 January 1899, at Ashlett House, Church Stretton, Shropshire, youngest son among the three sons and three daughters of John Joseph Esmonde and his first wife, Rose (née Magennis). Educated in Germany, at Clongowes Wood College (1909–11, 1913–14), and at the RCSI, after qualifying in 1921 he served as surgeon-lieutenant in the Royal Navy (1921–5). Thereafter he practised medicine successively in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and Gorey, Co. Wexford. Heavily defeated as a Fine Gael candidate in Tipperary in 1943, he succeeded, on his brother John Lymbrick Esmonde's retirement, as TD for Wexford (1951–73), holding the only Fine Gael seat in the constituency throughout a twenty-two-year tenure. He was variously party spokesman on health, social services, and forestry. Prone to adopt independent positions on various issues, he had an ambivalent relationship with the party leadership, who were said to be uneasy with the tradition of ‘empire nationalism’ he was perceived to represent. He was a member of the Kildare Street Club, the first Esmonde to belong to it since Sir Thomas Esmonde espoused home rule in the 1880s.
Esmonde was a member of the Irish national health council (1956). Keenly interested in European unity, he was a member of the consultative assembly of the council of Europe (1954–73), serving on the committees of agriculture (chairman (1960–64)) and non-represented countries, and wrote numerous articles on the EEC. He led a peace mission from neutral European nations that sought unsuccessfully to mediate in the civil war between Nigeria and the secessionist region of Biafra (1969), and subsequently wrote of the experience. On Ireland's accession to the EEC, he was among the country's first ten representatives in the European assembly, forerunner of the European parliament (January–July 1973), but resigned within six months of his appointment, and did not contest the February 1973 dáil election. He continued medical practice in the Gorey area until 1980. Created a Knight of Malta (1957), he was member for many years of the Catholic Truth Society and the RDS, and was an avid agriculturist and outdoorsman, enjoying fishing and shooting. Succeeding as the 15th baronet on his brother's death without issue (1958), he moved residence from St Osmond's, Gorey, to Ballynastragh House. He married (1927) his second cousin Eithne Moira Grattan Esmonde, youngest child of Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde (qv), 11th baronet (1862–1935), MP and Free State senator; sister of Osmond Grattan Esmonde, 12th baronet; niece of Laurence Grattan Esmonde, 13th baronet; and great-great-granddaughter of Henry Grattan (qv) (1746–1820), the patriot politician, whose granddaughter Louisa married John Esmonde, 10th baronet; they had three sons and three daughters. He died 17 March 1981 in a Wexford nursing home after a short illness.
His eldest son, Sir John Henry Grattan Esmonde (1928–87), 16th baronet, politician, landowner, barrister, and judge, was born 27 June 1928 in a nursing home at 36 Upper Mount St., Dublin; his parents’ residence at the time was 25 Summerhill, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Educated at Blackrock College, the King's Inns (1945–9), and UCD (B.Comm. (NUI, 1950)), he was called to the bar in 1949. Practising on the Leinster circuit, he was appointed senior counsel in 1971. Small in stature, serious in demeanour, quiet-spoken, and gentlemanly, he impressed as a pertinacious cross-examiner. Active in his father's electoral campaigns, on the latter's retirement he was elected Fine Gael TD for Wexford (1973–7). A perceptive contributor to dáil debates on legal topics, he lacked political cunning, and was undermined by party constituency colleagues. Suffering defeat in the 1977 general election (which terminated the family's nearly unbroken tradition since 1900 of supplying the county with parliamentary representation), he was appointed by the out-going coalition government as circuit court judge on the western circuit (Mayo and Galway) (1977–87), an office he found much more congenial than politics. He succeeded as the 16th baronet on his father's death (1981). A member of Galway county club, he resided at 6 Nutley Avenue, Ballsbridge, Dublin. He died suddenly 16 May 1987.
He married (1957) Pamela Mary, daughter of Francis Stephen Bourke, FRCSI, MRIA; they had three sons and two daughters. He was succeeded as 17th baronet by his eldest son, Thomas Francis Grattan Esmonde (b. 1960), a neurological surgeon, who from 1992 has occupied senior positions at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.