Teeling, Luke (d. 1823), linen merchant and catholic politician, was an elder son in the large family of Bartholomew Teeling of Matt, Co. Louth, and his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Patrick Grace. Luke Teeling is known from a contemporary letter to have had at least five brothers, Christopher, James, Joseph, Patrick, and William; one or more may have been sons of Bartholomew's first wife Theresa Taaffe, daughter and heir of Patrick Taaffe of Matt, Co. Louth, which Bartholomew seems to have inherited at Theresa's early death. Both the Teelings and the Taaffes were catholic gentry families long established in the Pale. Bartholomew's mother, Elizabeth, was a daughter of Rory O'More (qv) of Balyna, Co. Kildare, and an aunt of Patrick Sarsfield (qv), earl of Lucan. Bartholomew Teeling held lands in north Co. Dublin (at Walshestown and Gardenershill) and had a financial interest in the commercial development of Balbriggan. He died 28 October 1775.
Luke Teeling was apprenticed into the linen trade at Lisburn and, on completing his apprenticeship, remained in the locality, got a lease from the marquess of Hertford, and started his own bleach-green at Derriaghy. He married (March or April 1771) another Taaffe, Mary (b. 1753?), the younger daughter of George Taaffe of Corballis, Co. Meath, and sister of John Taaffe (1746–1825) of Smarmore castle, Co. Louth. He accumulated considerable wealth (‘he finished his own goods at a large bleach-field’) and acquired (1782) a site at Lisburn on which he built a family house – ‘the house north side of the chapel-gate’ (McCall). As well as being a linen bleacher, Teeling was a hops and wine merchant, and by 1798 was reckoned to be worth £30,000. Among politically conscious catholics in Ulster he was probably the most highly regarded. In 1783 his name appeared among the subscribers to the History of Ireland of William Crawford (qv).
Nine years later, though not previously a member of the Catholic Committee, Teeling was prominent as a delegate from Co. Antrim at the Catholic Convention: he praised the United Irishmen of Belfast (all presbyterians) for their support and, scornful of mere partial relief from the remaining penal laws, moved a resolution that ‘the Catholics might be restored to the equal enjoyment of the blessings of the constitution’ (3 December 1792). It appears that some Belfast United Irishmen led by Samuel Neilson (qv), adopting a strategy to advance parliamentary reform, had persuaded him to press for complete relief. Throughout the 1790s Teeling remained active in catholic politics. It was he who paid for the printing by Patrick Byrne (qv) of Address to the Defenders (1792) and who, after the dismissal of Earl Fitzwilliam (qv) from the viceroyalty, presided over the meeting of Antrim catholics to petition for his reinstatement (1795). He was a juror at the second trial of the proprietors of the Northern Star (November 1794) and secretary of a meeting of the freeholders of Co. Antrim which called for parliamentary reform and catholic relief (8 May 1797). According to James Hope (qv), he ‘never came under any oath or obligation’, but he assisted Neilson in bringing Catholic Committee men, Defenders, United Irishmen, and even ‘Break-of-Day-men’ into alliance.
Teeling was arrested (without the arresting officer being able to state any charge) on 16 June 1798 and held later on the Postlethwait, a prison ship anchored off the Antrim coast. Some time after his refusal to be sworn to ‘maintain and support the laws’ (9 December), he was moved to Carrickfergus castle, from which he was not released until 18 January 1802. Why he was held when he was never a United Irishman, was highly respected by his peers, and was on good terms with Viscount Castlereagh (qv) is a mystery. Why, despite his age, he was held for so long and why he was not sent with other ‘state prisoners’ to the comparative comfort of Fort George are greater ones. Consequently he lost much of his wealth, selling his Dublin property to one of the Guinnesses, and retired to a rural part of Co. Antrim, apparently unable in 1813 to pay a subscription of 5 guineas to the Catholic Board. He died 16 June 1823 in Belfast.
Luke and Mary Teeling had five sons and four daughters. The first and second sons were Bartholomew Teeling (qv) and Charles Hamilton Teeling (qv); the younger sons, George (d. 1822), Luke, and John (b. 1784?), all died unmarried, probably in America. The eldest daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1772), married a former apprentice of her father, John Magenis, who belonged to a minor catholic gentry family with a seat at Balealy or Balyely, near Banbridge, Co. Down, in which county he was a Defender leader before moving to America. Luke Teeling's brother Christopher (d. 1840?), a physician in Dublin, was a beneficiary of the will of Francis Higgins (qv) and seems not to have shared Luke's politics.