Taylor, John Shawe- (1866–1911), reforming landlord, was born 3 January 1866, eldest son of Walter Taylor Newton Shawe-Taylor (1832–1912) of Castle Taylor, Ardrahan, Co. Galway, landowner and high sheriff of Galway 1868, and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1896), daughter of Dudley Persse of Roxborough, Co. Galway. He entered the Cheshire Regiment, was ADC to the general officer commanding the southern district, and rose to captain, seeing service in Burma, Egypt, and the Boer war. Described by William O'Brien (qv) as ‘a gentle fanatic with all the simple chivalry of Don Quixote and some of the divine mission of a Savonarola’ (Olive branch, 140), he first exercised his social conscience by preaching teetotalism and religion to his troops, but the land agitation of 1902 gave him a stronger focus for his reforming energy. He stood to inherit 7,679 acres in Galway, but was sympathetic to tenants. On 3 September 1902 he wrote a public letter to the papers suggesting a rapprochement between representatives of landlords and tenants, and inviting four nationalists, including O'Brien and John Redmond (qv) to a conference with four landlords, including Col. Edward Saunderson (qv), the O'Conor Don (qv), and the duke of Abercorn (qv). There had been other calls for a similar conference throughout the summer, but this one proved successful because of the public endorsement of the chief secretary, George Wyndham (qv). The original named landlords rejected the offer to attend but the idea was taken up by the progressive Lords Dunraven (qv) and Mayo (qv). Shawe-Taylor was authorised to spread Wyndham's ‘private’ opinion that there would be unlimited British credit for a scheme of buying landlords out. Within a few months a majority of landlords declared in favour of the conference, which was held 20 December 1902 and resulted in a report that became the basis for the remarkable Wyndham land act (1903). Redmond noted that only Shawe-Taylor's ‘assiduous energy brought [the conference] together . . . when refused an interview, he sat for a day in the hall, waiting, like the most importunate of widows’ (Gwynn, 289).
Emboldened by this success, Shawe-Taylor next tried to set up in August 1903 (at Wyndham's suggestion) a conference with the catholic bishops to settle the university question. This proved too delicate an issue for his enthusiastic but unsophisticated political skills, and came to nothing. The following year he helped establish with O'Brien, Dunraven, and the under-secretary, Sir Antony MacDonnell (qv), the Irish Reform Association, which looked to settle the university question and bring powers of self-government to Ireland. However, this devolution scheme alarmed the Ulster unionists and ended in disaster, with Wyndham being forced from office. The scheme was, in any case, a halfway house, which satisfied neither side. Shawe-Taylor pleaded with Redmond that ‘we must creep before we can walk’ (Gailey, 222) but the interests of the progressive landlords were sidelined after 1905. Shawe-Taylor's main political contact was with the increasingly marginal O'Brien, who in 1907 used him to try and make a rapprochement with an uninterested Sinn Féin. This contact also came to nothing and Shawe-Taylor played no other role in the political direction of the country. He died in London, after a short illness, on 30 June 1911 and was buried in Ardilaun. He had been married less than six years (m. 12 July 1905) to the wealthy Amy Eleonora, daughter of Gerard Norman of Bromley, Kent, and left a son and a daughter.