Needham, Francis Jack (1748–1832), 1st earl of Kilmorey , soldier and MP, was born 15 April 1748 in Co. Down, third and youngest son of John Needham, 10th Viscount Kilmorey, and his wife Anne, daughter of John Hurleston of Newton, Cheshire, and widow of Geoffrey Shakerley of Cheshire. He entered the army as a cornet in the 18th Dragoons in 1762, exchanging into the 1st Dragoons in 1763. In 1773 he was promoted to lieutenant and, exchanging into the 17th Dragoons, was made captain in 1774. He served throughout the war of American independence and was engaged in the blockade of Boston and the New Jersey and Virginia campaigns. Exchanging into the 76th Foot as a major, he was taken prisoner at the surrender of Yorktown, and at the peace of 1783 was placed on half-pay.
Returning to England, he purchased a majority in the 80th Foot and then (February 1783) a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 104th Foot. In April 1783 he exchanged into the 1st Foot Guards. Promoted to full colonel in 1793, he was appointed ADC to King George III and in 1794 served with Lord Moira (qv) on the expedition to the Netherlands. He also served with Gen. Sir John Doyle (qv) in the expedition to Quiberon Bay and the Isle Dieu (1795). In February 1795 he was appointed third major of the 1st Foot Guards and promoted to major-general, taking an appointment on the home staff in April 1795. He then held a staff appointment in Ireland, and during the 1798 rebellion commanded the crown forces at the battle of Arklow (9 June 1798). He placed his troops (around 1,600 men) in strong positions at the eastern and western ends of the town, where they could sweep the Arklow Rock Road and the Coolgreany road with fire if the rebels approached along them. Ultimately this was what the United Irish force (estimated at 5–9,000 strong) did, repeatedly attacking Needham's right flank, which was in fact his strongest position. Estimates of the United Irish dead ranged from 200 or 300 to 1,000, and the failure of the attack ensured that the rebels lost the military initiative. Needham was also present at the battle of Vinegar Hill (21 June 1798) but his force arrived late, leaving a gap in the British line through which many rebels escaped. This was later christened ‘Needham's gap’, earning him the nickname of ‘the late General Needham’ among his fellow officers.
Promoted to lieutenant-general in 1802, he was made colonel of the 5th Veteran Battalion (1804), entering parliament as MP for Newry in 1806. He was made full general in 1812, and (after the death of his two older brothers) succeeded as 12th Viscount Kilmorey in November 1818, resigning his parliamentary seat. On 12 January 1822 he was created 1st earl of Kilmorey (Queen's Co.) and Viscount Newry and Mourne. He died 21 November 1832 at the family seat, Shavington Hall, Shropshire, and was buried in Adderley church.
He married (20 February 1787) Anne (d. 29 October 1816), daughter of Thomas Fisher of Acton, Middlesex; they had two sons (Francis Jack Needham, who succeeded as 2nd earl, and the Hon. Francis Henry William Needham, lieutenant-colonel in the Grenadier Guards) and seven daughters. There are Needham letters in the PRO, Kew, and in the Rebellion Papers in the National Archives, Dublin.