Garzia (Garcia), John
He arrived in late 1717 in Dublin, where he mixed and lodged with various catholic clergy. He later claimed that before coming to Ireland he had been ordained a catholic priest; he certainly had no difficulty passing himself off as one. After insinuating himself into catholic circles in Dublin, he brought intelligence to the authorities. As a result in June 1718 there were night raids and arrests made of seven priests, and of nuns of the convent of the Poor Clares in North King St. Six of the priests were tried in November 1718. Garzia, as crown witness, testified that they had celebrated mass. They were convicted and sentenced to transportation, though the sentences may not have been carried out. Certainly, some of the priests are known subsequently to have served in Ireland. The seventh and much the most important of the priests, Edmund Byrne (qv), the catholic or titular archbishop of Dublin, was not tried until November 1719. Garcia however did not appear at the trial, and without his evidence the archbishop was acquitted and discharged. Reasons of state, perhaps representations from catholic powers abroad, may have made the government unwilling to proceed further against Byrne.
He probably engaged in no further priest-catching. His notoriety alone would have precluded it, and the government's enthusiasm for such activity had waned. The only evidence of his subsequent life concerns his pursuit of rewards, pensions and protection from the government and the established church. He complained repeatedly of his poverty, and of the hostility of the catholic populace towards him. Once on James's St. he barely escaped with his life when beaten by a mob, a common fate of priest-catchers. Though he had some support from the protestant archbishop of Dublin, William King (qv), he never received full satisfaction of his financial claims. For his security however he was granted accommodation in Dublin Castle. In 1719 he conformed to the Church of Ireland and in 1722 he was asking to be presented to a living, but without success. His representations continued until February 1723 when he may have gone as a missionary to Minorca, then a British possession.
He apparently had a wife and two children when he was in Dublin. He claimed in 1720 that Irish catholic priests, infuriated by his activities, had written to Spain to instigate persecution of his relatives there. As a result, he said, he had been deprived of his allowance from his mother, and the Inquisition had sentenced his picture to be burnt. In 1721 he said that his mother, having been told by Irish catholic émigrés in Spain that he had become a protestant, would have been glad to join the Inquisition in burning him alive.