Sherlock, Lorcan George (1874–1945), tobacconist, politician and lord mayor of Dublin (1912–15), was born in Dublin on 5 June 1874, the second youngest of four sons and two daughters of Thomas Sherlock and his wife Theresa (née Donnelly), of 30 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin. His father, Thomas Sherlock (1840?–1901), a noted journalist, author, composer and city councillor, was the son of John and Bridget Sherlock, of 30 Upper Mecklenburgh Street, in Dublin's north inner city. On 9 July 1865, he married his next-door neighbour, Theresa Donnelly, at Dublin's pro-cathedral. Thomas Sherlock had strong Fenian sympathies and wrote for several nationalist papers – the Nation, Weekly News, Young Ireland and the Shamrock – editing the Weekly News and Young Ireland for a time. A supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell (qv), he wrote a biography of Parnell (1881), which proved a popular work and went through several editions. He also wrote other short political biographies, some political novels, and a popular long-running serial in the Nation, entitled 'I want the land'. As a composer, Sherlock wrote several popular scores, and set the poem 'A nation once again', written by Thomas Davis (qv) in 1844, to music in 1881. He served as a municipal councillor with Dublin Corporation from the late 1880s, was president of the court of conscience, served on the board of the RIAM, and was secretary of the Irish Cattle Traders' Association (ICTA) until his death. Throughout his career he retained his Fenian connections, being an active member of the Young Ireland Society in the 1880s, an affiliated group of literary and debating societies presided over by the old Fenian John O'Leary (qv). Indeed, it was while attending the funeral of another old Fenian, James Stephens (qv), that Sherlock caught a bad cold which resulted in his death on 7 May 1901 at his North Richmond Street home. His two oldest sons, John and Thomas, became journalists, John working in the press gallery in the house of commons. The youngest, Gerald, was Dublin city manager during the early 1930s, and played a key role in shaping Dublin Corporation's public housing policy. Thomas Sherlock's elder daughter, Agnes, became a nun, while the younger, Bridget, was the mother of Dr Thomas Sherlock Wheeler (qv), the state chemist and professor of chemistry at UCD.
Lorcan Sherlock received his secondary education at the Christian Brothers' O'Connell Schools, North Richmond Street. Aged 23, he married (1897) Elizabeth (Lily) Doyle, of 2 Summerhill Parade, with whom he had two children, Thomas and Lorcan. In the 1901 census he is listed as a tobacconist living at 78a Summerhill in the Mountjoy ward of Dublin's north inner city. His family life was not without sadness. After nine years of marriage, Lily died from septicaemia aged 28. Sherlock married secondly (21 June 1910) Catherine Mary McEneaney, with whom he had a daughter, Patricia, in 1911. That same year his second son, Lorcan, aged 10, died from symptoms related to chorea and endocarditis. By then, the family had moved to the more affluent seaside address of 5 Lawrence Road, Clontarf, reflecting Sherlock's rising career trajectory.
In physical stature, Lorcan Sherlock was a small man, often referred to in political caricatures as 'little' or 'wee' Lorcan. A member of the Irish parliamentary party (IPP) and a close friend of John Dillon (qv), in 1905 he was first elected as a municipal councillor for Dublin Corporation, representing his local district, the Mountjoy ward, which would become synonymous with his name over the coming decade. Once elected, he quickly established himself as a significant figure in municipal politics, regularly highlighting the deplorable state of working-class housing in Dublin. Even prepared to take party colleagues to task, in 1906 he accused Councillor Parkinson, chairman of the paving and lighting committee of the corporation, of fixing the price of the stone used for paving the streets. Such conduct did not go unnoticed by the press and gained Sherlock a reputation as a fiery and independent spirit. In 1908 he was the subject of an official presentation made by Dublin Corporation in recognition of his services to the city. He was also outspoken on workers' rights and made statements in support of trade unionism.
Sherlock's highly ambitious personality was already evident by 1911. Having sat as chairman of the corporation's technical education and electrical committees, he became manager of the sheriff's office and a key figure on the strongly nationalist Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI). In these roles Sherlock helped promote the IPP's nationwide campaign for increased funding for urban housing. Simultaneously, he expanded his political influence among the powerful business interests in the city through his role (like his father's) as secretary of the ICTA. He was a leading figure on ICTA deputations to Whitehall, and was instrumental in securing important concessions for the Irish livestock and horse-breeding industries. Such achievements significantly enhanced his political reputation, and there was little surprise when on 23 January 1912 he was appointed lord mayor of Dublin for the first of three successive terms (1912–15). On 24 June 1912, the University of Dublin conferred upon him the honorary degree of LLD in recognition of his services to the city, and he was often known as 'Doctor Sherlock'.
With the introduction of the home rule bill of 1912, Sherlock, as an accomplished orator, was a powerful asset to the IPP, and presided at a stormy meeting when Prime Minister Herbert Asquith visited Dublin in July 1912. Sherlock also addressed many meetings, and pragmatically reminded his fellow nationalists that, in order to achieve home rule, they must be willing to accommodate Ulster in a Dublin parliament. Realising that social stability was essential for the granting of home rule, Sherlock tempered his earlier support for trade unionism, as James Larkin (qv) radicalised a discontented workforce and serious labour disputes ensued in 1913. With mounting unrest, Sherlock, fearing the safety of the bill, called together members of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and proposed a scheme of conciliation between employers and workers, approved by all members except William Martin Murphy (qv), president of the Chamber of Commerce and one of the city's largest employers. Murphy's rejection was a fatal blow to Sherlock's efforts, and hastened the largest industrial dispute in the city's history. The 1913 lockout defined Sherlock's second term in the Mansion House. On 31 August a city-centre meeting called by Larkin to address the workers was savagely baton-charged by the police, resulting in hundreds of injuries and the deaths of two civilians. In response, Sherlock called for a public enquiry into the behaviour of the police, a move seen by Fr Michael Curran, secretary to the archbishop, as 'pandering for the votes of the workingmen' (Yeates, Lockout, 159). Two days later, another tragic event occurred in the city when two tenement houses collapsed in Church Street, killing seven occupants and leading to much public condemnation of the city's housing policy. As lord mayor, Sherlock lent his influential voice to the many others calling for a viceregal commission to investigate the state of Dublin's tenements. The subsequent report in February 1914 by the Irish Local Government Board (ILGB) represented a crucial step in acknowledging Dublin's appalling housing conditions.
During the lockout, Sherlock did his best to restore calm, giving his full support to the 'women and children' fund established by his wife, Marie, to benefit the families of the distressed workers and portray a greater sense of civic unity. By early 1914, the workers' resources were exhausted and many were obliged to disavow their union and return to work. Notwithstanding the failure of Sherlock's peace efforts, he was still re-elected for a third term of office in January 1914. Accusations were made that he was only seeking re-election in anticipation of the granting of home rule, and the subsequent possibility of a knighthood. Sherlock strenuously denied this and declined a knighthood in 1915. As a loyal Redmondite, he supported the allied cause during the first world war.
After his three terms in office, Sherlock remained in the council chamber as sheriff of Dublin, presiding over a number of important committees, including the electricity supply undertaking that established the Pigeon House power station. With the formation of the new Free State government in 1922, Sherlock ceased to run for political office and instead performed the role of chief returning officer for the city of Dublin in the 1924, 1927, 1933 and 1937 general elections. As a member of the Housing and Town Planning Association of Ireland (HTPAI) since its establishment in 1911, he retained his interest in urban housing, and in later years supported the 'garden suburb ideal' promoted in Britain by Raymond Unwin, and explored by Dublin Corporation in the Marino scheme (1922–6).
One of Sherlock's many strengths throughout his career was his business acumen, and his long-standing reputation in public service coupled with his knowledge and understanding of the Dublin business community led to numerous offers of company directorships. He was also a gifted sportsman, and after a successful amateur cricket career he took up golf, becoming very proficient, playing to a handicap of six. He was elected captain of the Hermitage Golf Club, Lucan, Co. Dublin, in 1924, and chairman of the Leinster branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1937. His daughter Patricia (as Pat Fletcher) became a well-known golfer, and won the Irish ladies' open championship in 1934. One of Sherlock's proudest achievements was partnering his daughter to win the Irish open mixed foursomes at Milltown, Dublin, in 1939. Sherlock was also president of the Bohemian Football Club in 1927, and campaigned against the taxation of association football clubs. His other great sporting love was horseracing. He was described as a 'typical old Dubliner' with a 'ready wit and fund of story' (Ir. Times, 28 October, 1938).
After thirty-nine years in public service, Lorcan Sherlock retired on 5 June 1944, his 70th birthday. He died on 26 December 1945 at his residence, Park Avenue, Sydney Parade, Co. Dublin. After a funeral at Star of the Sea church, Sandymount, attended by leading figures from politics, the judiciary, business and sport, he was buried in Dean's Grange cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Marie, and daughter, Patricia. His portrait as lord mayor was painted by Darius Joseph MacEgan (1856–1939).