Lindsay (Lyndesay, Lindesay), Thomas (1656–1724), clergyman, archbishop of Armagh, was born in Blandford, Dorset, England, son of John Lindsay, who was probably an anglican clergyman; some sources list him as vicar of Blandford while others describe him as a ‘Scotch minister’. Thomas Lindsay probably attended the local grammar school in Blandford. William Wake (who was archbishop of Canterbury when Lindsay was primate of Ireland) would have been one of Lindsay's contemporaries at the school. Lindsay entered Wadham College, Oxford as a commoner on 12 July 1672 and became a scholar in 1673. He graduated BA (1676) and MA (1678), and was elected a fellow of Wadham (1679). The antiquary Thomas Hearne recalled that Lindsay was ‘a man of good parts but little or no learning, spending his time in the university in tippling, and (as some say) wenching too’ (Remarks and collections, i, 187). Lindsay took holy orders and received the degrees of BD and DD in 1693. He served as rector of Woolwich, Kent, from 1692 to 1695.
In 1695 Lindsay came to Ireland as chaplain to Sir Henry Capel (qv), who was a lord justice from 1693 and then lord deputy in 1695. Capel had a powerful patronage network at his disposal and he rewarded Lindsay first with the deanery of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin (6 February 1693) and then with the bishopric of Killaloe (2 March 1695). Lindsay must have been aligned to the whig interest during the 1690s, as Capel was a leading whig politician in Ireland. But during the reign of Queen Anne, Lindsay displayed a distinctly tory outlook. He was a high churchman, and tried where possible to strengthen the position of the established church. In 1699 he helped to introduce a measure that would enable the forfeited tithes (once held by Jacobite landowners prior to 1689) to be used for rebuilding parish churches. Lindsay's attitude to dissenters was ambiguous. Like other tories he was deeply troubled by the influx of protestant nonconformists. In 1702 he petitioned the government to amend a clause in the relief act that allowed French nonconformist ministers in Portarlington to receive a salary from lands owned by the established church. Yet Lindsay was described in 1696 ‘as a man of great moderation ... agreeable to the northern dissenters’ (HMC, Downshire MSS, i, 718–19). Lindsay's translation to the bishopric of Raphoe on 27 April 1713 and his rapid promotion to the archbishopric of Armagh on 4 January 1714 (in succession to Narcissus Marsh (qv)) was undoubtedly due to his tory credentials rather than his abilities. There were other more scholarly and industrious contenders for the primacy in 1713 (such as William King (qv)) but their political views did not chime with the tory-led government at that particular juncture. By late 1714 the political climate had changed once more and the whigs gained the ascendancy. The new whig junto could not dismiss clergymen in the same way that it could purge the magistracy and judiciary, and Lindsay remained as primate till his death a decade later.
In a political sense Lindsay's primacy was inconsequential; he had strong tory views but was powerless to act on them. He was under suspicion of being a Jacobite and kept a low public profile. Lindsay is known to have printed just one work (a sermon in 1691) during his entire clerical career. His health was poor and during the last few years of his primacy he suffered a series of stroke-like paralyses. Jonathan Swift (qv), who supported Lindsay's appointment to the primacy in 1713, was a much more vocal opponent of the government. Lindsay confined his limited talents to administration and put the cathedral on a much firmer financial footing. At his own expense he repaired the cathedral and purchased a second organ and a peal of six bells. In his will he made provision for a more suitable bishop's palace to be built and left £200 a year to support the vicars choral and choir school and £100 each for the poor of Armagh and Drogheda. Thomas Lindsay died unmarried on 13 July 1724. He was buried with great pomp at Christ Church cathedral, Dublin.