Sheridan, William (1636–1711), Church of Ireland bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, and non-juror, was born at Togher near Kilmore, Co. Cavan, the eldest of five sons of Denis Sheridan (see below). William Sheridan entered TCD in 1652, graduating DD in 1682. He became rector of Drakestown and Telltown in Co. Meath in 1660, and was chaplain to the lord chancellor, Maurice Eustace (qv), until the latter's death in 1665. He then became chaplain to the lord lieutenant, the duke of Ormond (qv), and in 1669 was made dean of Down.
In 1681 William (or one of his brothers on his behalf) refused the offer of the diocese of Killala as being worth less than the livings he already had. He subsequently accepted Kilmore and Ardagh, becoming bishop in 1682. In September 1685, just months after the accession of James II (qv), he was defending himself against accusations of sedition and disloyalty. In 1685 he delivered a sermon in St Werburgh's in Dublin, at the invitation of the rector, William King (qv). It was a strong attack on presbyterians and catholics, and was published with prefaces by Bishop Anthony Dopping (qv) and King, in which they both declared their loyalty to the king. In 1687 he was one of the protestant bishops who approached the government of Tyrconnell (qv) for assistance in collecting tithes, then being withheld in some dioceses. He was in London by October 1689 and apparently never visited Ireland again.
He was unwilling to take the oath of allegiance to the new monarchs, William III (qv) and Queen Mary. He was thus much the most prominent representative of the non-juring body of Church of Ireland clergy. Only one other bishop, Thomas Otway (qv), appears even to have suffered a real dilemma about transfer of allegiance. By 1692 Sheridan had been deprived of his office, which was then offered to Robert Huntington (qv); he conscientiously refused it.
The bishop, who had lost the revenues of his see from the time of leaving Ireland, suffered great poverty for the remainder of his life. In the 1690s he received moral and financial support from Thomas Watson, the bishop of St David's, and from the earl of Huntingdon, themselves figures on the Jacobite fringe of English public life. After 1700 a notable friend was the Irish-born non-juror Henry Dodwell (qv), who made representations on Sheridan's behalf to the Irish bishops, especially to William King. Dodwell, deeply troubled by the schism in the church, attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate an agreement whereby Sheridan would voluntarily resign as bishop in return for a statement from the Church of Ireland hierarchy denying a temporal power to deprive clergy. His wretched condition and dependence on irregular charity were felt to be ‘a reproach to the hierarchy’ (HMC, Rep. 1, 244), but attempts to establish a pension out of the income of his former see were fruitless. In 1708 he complained of receiving little from his successor but one in the diocese, Bishop Edward Wetenhall (qv), and described Archbishops King and Vesey (qv) as his chief benefactors.
He married Mary O'Reilly and had a son, Donald. In 1690 he was said to have had a family of seven. In his last years, when he was frequently ill, he was cared for by a niece, a Mrs Sheridan. He died in London and was buried at Fulham on 3 October 1711. The first volume of his collected sermons, published in 1704, contains an engraved portrait.
William's father, Denis Sheridan (fl.
Denis's second son, Patrick Sheridan (1638–1682), Church of Ireland bishop of Cloyne, entered TCD in 1652 with William, graduating BD in 1665. In 1660 he was incorporated MA at Oxford and elected a fellow of Trinity College, where he was subsequently vice-provost, 1666–8. He was made dean of Connor in 1667, after William had refused the appointment. He married, in 1677, Anne (d. 1683), daughter of Francis Hill of Hill Hall, Co. Down, and widow of Lieutenant-colonel Moyses Hill, MP; they had no issue.
During Ormond's second viceroyalty the younger brother Thomas, who was an influential courtier, lobbied hard for advancement for Patrick and probably had a hand in his appointment as bishop of Cloyne in 1679. This was apparently against the wishes of Ormond, who was further displeased by Patrick's subsequent absenteeism. This was blamed on the unwillingness of his wife to remove to Munster. Ormond considered that his refusal to live in Youghal, where the congregation was the bishop's personal cure, undermined the protestant interest in the diocese.
Thomas was said to have obtained a promise at Newmarket from Charles II of the rich diocese of Derry for Patrick. Ormond, however, resisted Thomas's approaches, even when the duke of York was enlisted in the cause; he would endorse no move unless he saw a personal reformation by Patrick, who died 22 November 1682 without promotion.