Prendergast, Sir Thomas (1702–60), 2nd baronet, politician and landowner, only son of Brigadier-general Sir Thomas Prendergast (qv) (c.1660–1709), 1st baronet, of Gort, Co. Galway, and Penelope, Lady Prendergast (née Cadogan), daughter of Henry Cadogan of Liscarton, Co. Meath, was baptised at the church of St Peter and St Kevin, Dublin, on 20 May 1702. Brought up in the shadow of his father, who had in the course of an extraordinary career negotiated the transition from Jacobite cavalry officer to membership of the Irish parliament, from fighting against the army of William of Orange (qv) at Limerick to leading his own regiment against the French, from participating in conspiracies to assassinate William III to the acceptance of a royal grant of money and land at Gort, Co. Galway, and from catholicism to protestantism, Prendergast succeeded to the baronetcy aged seven, following the death of his father on the battlefield at Malplaquet in September 1709. Guided by his mother, Lady Prendergast, who was obliged during her lifetime to engage in almost constant litigation to secure her son's inheritance from the avarice of her brother, William, 1st earl Cadogan, and the attempts of their one-time owner, the Jacobite Roger O'Shaughnessy, to recover his ancestral lands at Gort, Thomas Prendergast did not confine his horizon to Ireland. Thus, instead of TCD, he was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was admitted a fellow-commoner in 1719, and at the Inner Temple in London, which he entered in 1721.
Prendergast devoted much of his energy during the 1720s to the cause of freemasonry, and achieved the distinction of becoming senior grand warden of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1725. He actively promoted the dissemination of the craft and has been credited with putting it on a solid organisational footing in Co. Galway. This did not deflect his political ambitions, however, and, eager to forge a career at Westminster, Prendergast lobbied the 2nd duke of Richmond, who was married to his first cousin, during the late 1720s and early 1730s to assist him to obtain a seat or a lucrative Irish job. His wishes were answered when Richmond took advantage of a by-election at Chichester to return him as a government supporter; but Prendergast had not been in the house of commons a week when he voted against the ministry on the excise bill because Sir Robert Walpole would not accede to his request to be made Irish postmaster general. George II famously described Prendergast as ‘an Irish blockhead’, and Walpole made it clear that he did not disagree with this assessment when he covertly ensured that Prendergast was not returned at the general election in 1734. This did not spell the end of Prendergast's ambitions to secure a safe Westminster seat. Having acquired an estate in Caernarvonshire through his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Griffith Williams of Marle in that county, whom he married in 1739, he offered himself for election for the constituency in 1747, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, he enjoyed better fortune in Ireland: he was returned in 1733 to represent the constituency of Clonmel by the decision of the house of commons to invalidate the election of Guy Moore in a by-election caused by the death of Robert Hamerton. In keeping with his elevated sense of his own abilities, Prendergast took an active part in commons business, and achieved a measure of notoriety in the mid 1730s when his membership of the anti-clerical party, which successfully resisted the efforts of churchmen to levy a tithe on pastureland, attracted the hostile notice of Jonathan Swift (qv), who famously lampooned him as ‘Noisy Tom’. This did little to cause Prendergast to moderate his ambitions, and he was enabled, as much through persistence as goodwill, to earn the favour of government, as a result of which he was appointed a trustee of the linen board in 1736 and joint governor of Co. Galway in 1741. Securely located by the late 1740s within what Charles O'Hara (qv) termed the ‘court party’, he voted nonetheless for the return of the popular candidate in the contested election return arising out of the by-election to determine the representation for Dublin city in 1749. More indicatively, he opposed the expulsion of Arthur Jones Nevill (qv) and supported the controversial money bill, which acknowledged the crown's right to authorise the allocation of the money surplus at issue, in the bitter power struggle that precipitated the money bill dispute in 1753. His stand proved personally beneficial in that he was appointed governor of Co. Galway, and in 1754 achieved his long-term ambition to become postmaster general. He proved a capable postmaster and generally reliable office-holder in the politically unstable environment of the mid and late 1750s, though he found little to like, personally or politically, in the assertive manner in which the duke of Bedford (qv) conducted himself following his appointment as lord lieutenant in 1757, and he was soon regarded with great distrust by Bedford. This did nothing to enhance his negative public profile, moreover, as he was assaulted and humiliated by the mob that assembled in College Green in December 1759 to express its objection to a rumoured union. Prendergast survived this indignity, and was anticipating his elevation to the peerage when he died after a ‘very short illness’ at his Dublin home in Merrion Street on 23 September 1760.