Lalor, Patrick (‘Patt’) (1781–1856), tenant farmer and politician, was born in Tenakill, Queen's Co. (Laois), second son of Patrick Lalor (d.1813), a prosperous middleman and tenant farmer, who at the time of his death leased around 300 acres of agricultural land in the county. The younger Patrick (or ‘Patt’) inherited the Tenakill holding and in 1813 purchased his older brother James's life interest in the other lands for £2,911. He had married in 1806 Anne, daughter of Patrick Dillon of Maryborough (Portlaoise), Queen's Co., and over the next twenty years had twelve children. A shrewd, practical businessman, he was well able to support his family by continuing his father's career as land speculator and middleman. From leasing out land and houses at Tarbert, Old Forge, Cromogne, Doon, and Mountrath, he made £428 in the year 1820. The land at Tenakill he farmed himself at a profit of £200 a year. By 1832 he was moving away from being a middleman to being a substantial grazier in his own right; he held 500 acres in his own hands and relet 100 acres.
By this time Lalor was a prominent figure in the local community, having been radicalised by the tithe agitation of the 1820s. Legislation in 1823/4 abolished the previous exemption of grassland from tithes and Lalor found himself liable for £37, which was £13 more than previously. He responded by becoming one of the prime agitators of Queen's Co. and galvanising support for emancipation. O'Connell (qv) charged him with consolidating support among all the disaffected, irrespective of religion. At a repeal meeting in Maryborough (10 February 1831) Lalor made a remarkable speech in which he declared that he would no longer pay any tithes but would allow his goods to be seized as he was sure no man would bid for them. Within a few days twenty-five of his sheep were claimed but he branded them with ‘Tithe’ and used his contacts to ensure that they could not be sold at market locally or in Dublin or Liverpool. They eventually died from starvation on the road to Manchester. This episode provided the impetus for general national resistance and inspired an 1835 play entitled ‘The tithe court; or, Paddy the politician’. Lalor was an early advocate of the doctrine of passive resistance and boycotting; in a published handbill he advised ostracising anyone who paid tithes or bid for a neighbour's goods. He argued that church lands should be taken by the government and allocated to solvent, respectable tenants, who would pay the clergy from the profit of the lands. His views were not unlike those of his radical elder son, James Fintan Lalor (qv), but the two had a strained relationship. Patt Lawlor was a difficult, exacting father to all his children and refused to divide his lands, prompting his favourite son, William, to emigrate to the US, with the bitter accusation that his father was holding on to his property until he had no one to leave it to but old bachelors.
In 1832 Lalor ran as the repeal candidate against Sir Charles Henry Coote in a costly and violent contest which saw four people killed in riots. Lalor topped the poll and was elected for Queen's Co. (1832–5) after surviving the petition brought against him. His election expenses reached £5,000. His running mate, Peter Gale, lost to Coote by eleven votes. In parliament Lalor's appearance shocked at least one member, the liberal Denis Le Marchant, who wrote that he ‘shews that he has never been in gentlemen's society before. I believe it was only last year that Sir Henry Parnell presented him with a coat, the first he had ever been owner of’ (Aspinall, 314). He was not at home in the commons, finding it a frustrating experience which kept him from farming and impoverished him. He was narrowly defeated in the January 1835 election and never stood again, preferring to work at a local level. The Queen's Co. liberal club, of which he was a member, petitioned for catholics to be nominated to the commission of the peace, and in August 1835 was successful with the appointment of three catholic magistrates, including Lalor. He was also made a grand juror and in 1839 was elected poor law guardian of the Mountmellick and Abbeyleix unions. During the 1840s he was appointed to numerous workhouse committees and was nominated by his union to give evidence before a house of lords committee in 1846 and the boundary commission in 1848, where he recommended the establishment of four additional workhouses in the county to meet famine needs. His preferred solution was government-assisted emigration; meantime he apparently set up a soup kitchen at Tenakill.
After the famine he became poorer – owing a year's rent on three of his farms, estimated at £228 – but he remained politically engaged. During 1849 he carried on a correspondence with William Sharman Crawford (qv) in which he advocated security of tenure and compensation for improvements. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish Tenant League (founded in August 1850), and regularly chaired their weekly meetings in Dublin in 1851 and 1852, when he was even proposed as a parliamentary candidate. He died 23 April 1856 at Tenakill. Predeceased by his most famous offspring, James Fintan Lalor, he was survived by his three daughters and six of his talented sons, many of whom were successful in various spheres. Peter (qv) led the rebels at Eureka stockade and became speaker of the Victoria parliament in Australia; William ran a large, successful farm in Wisconsin, USA; Thomas was a general in the American army; Patrick was a doctor; and Richard followed his father into politics.
Richard Lalor (1823–93), farmer and politician, was born in Tenakill, tenth child of his parents. He was educated privately and studied civil engineering at TCD, after which he returned to work on the family lands. He shared many of the ideals of his eldest brother, James Fintan, but was more cautious and refused to give public support for fear of being cut off by his father. Instead he forwarded information and money to his brother in secret. In 1852, despairing of ever being granted a farm, he emigrated to Australia with his brother, Peter. The two set up as successful wine merchants in Melbourne, but two years later Richard returned to Ireland and married Margaret, daughter of Michael Dunne, and began diligently managing the estates. In this way he gained the affection of his father, who had threatened to cut off all his sons, and was the main beneficiary of his will, inheriting 200–300 acres including Tenakill and Doon. For the next ten years he dedicated himself to farming, but in 1866 was drawn into local politics when the newly reconstituted Queen's Co. liberal club, which had not met since his father's time, appointed him president, a position he held for fourteen years. The club put forward suitable candidates for parliament, and Lalor took to writing personal letters to the nationalist press, outlining his views on tenant right, which echoed those of his father and brother. He criticised Gladstone's 1870 land bill for not providing permanent security of tenure. An early supporter of the militant obstructionism of J. G. Biggar (qv) and C. S. Parnell (qv), on 5 October 1879 he chaired the first important land league meeting in Queen's Co., and demanded that the next elected MPs be Parnellites. He proposed, in March 1880, Arthur O'Connor, a Kerry land leaguer and, to the clergy's fury, Patrick Egan (qv), a Fenian. When the latter withdrew he stood himself and topped the poll in April 1880, with O'Connor elected as his running mate. He sat as nationalist MP for Queen's Co. (1880–85) and for the Leix division of Queen's Co. (1885–92). Michael Davitt (qv), in his notes on MPs, characterised Lalor as ‘honesty personified’ (Moody, 513), but his parliamentary career suffered because of frequent absences owing to bad asthma. He denounced Gladstone's 1881 land bill as of no benefit to tenants already in arrears. During the party split he remained loyal to Parnell, inviting the condemnation of clergy in his county, but he was too unwell to attend the crucial meetings of early December 1891, when the vote of confidence was taken, and was also too feeble to contest the 1892 election. He died at home in Tenakill on 13 November 1893 and was survived by two daughters, one of whom, Nannie, wife of Dr John Fitzpatrick, co-founded the Ladies’ Land League in Queen's Co. (1882).
Her son, John Lalor Fitzpatrick (1875–1956), continued the family tradition by sitting as nationalist MP for the Ossory division of Queen's Co. (1916–18). A more forceful parliamentarian than his grandfather or great-grandfather, he made forty speeches in his short time in the commons, but stepped down in 1918 in order to support the candidacy of his nationalist colleague P. J. Meehan. After this he returned to farming at Colt House, Abbeyleix, but publicly opposed the Republic of Ireland Act, 1948, arguing that membership of the commonwealth was more instrumental to the ending of partition. He died 8 December 1956, twice married but childless.