Trant, Dominick (1738–90), MP and lawyer, was born in Co. Kerry, second son of Dominick Trant, merchant, and his first wife Catherine, daughter of Thomas Trant of Kerry, a distant relation. He entered TCD (August 1756) aged seventeen - though no record attests to his graduation - and the Middle Temple, London (Easter 1759), being called to the bar in Dublin (Easter 1764). He was appointed JP for Co. Kerry (20 November 1766) and had by this time established himself successfully as a lawyer on the southern circuit, allegedly doing ‘a great business as counsel to his friends, the southern smuggling gentlemen’ (O'Connell, i, 325).
He married (June 1765) Mary, daughter of Capt. Richard Pope of Derryknockhane, Co. Limerick, a wealthy widow of both Judge Arthur Blennerhassett (1687–1758) and one Col. Degge. The marriage was without issue and Mary died shortly afterwards. He married secondly (1776) Elinor, one of three daughters and four sons of John Fitzgibbon (qv) and Elinor Fitzgibbon (née Grove); her elder brother being John FitzGibbon (qv), the future earl of Clare and lord chancellor of Ireland. Both Trant and his eminent brother-in-law were the sons of converts who pursued the law as a means to social advancement. A member of the Dublin Society from 1777, Trant was certainly familiar with the Continent, having met Robert Clive in the south of France, 1767–8.
Elected as MP (1781–3) for the government borough of St Canice, Co. Kilkenny, nominated by William Beresford (qv), Trant was a protégé of the archbishop of Cashel, Charles Agar (qv), with whom he worked closely on religious and political matters during the 1780s and under whose influence he was appointed master of the quarter sessions of Co. Tipperary (August 1787). Trant was appointed as king's advocate general of the court of admiralty in Ireland (14 December 1789). A political adherent of the bishop of Cloyne, Richard Woodward (qv), Trant was a resolute defender of the established church. He published, with Woodward's financial backing, Considerations on the present disturbances in the province of Munster (Dublin, 1787), in response to the Rightboy protests in Co. Cork. Trant defended the established church and the imposition of the tithe on a largely Roman catholic populace, arguing that the burden on the poor could instead be alleviated by lower rents. Describing the recent disturbances, he located the greatest discontent in north Cork, accusing the local gentry of being far from resolute in their defence of the rights and privileges of the established church. Furthermore, Trant hinted strongly at the identity of an unnamed individual who, he alleged, was complicit in the Rightboy disturbances and had demonstrated a ‘love of plunder, and an innate and habitual passion for anarchy and tumult’ (Considerations, 48–9).
Sir John Conway Colthurst (qv), a landowner in Cork and Kerry, took strong offence at these remarks, believing they were directed at him. Trant's sister-in-law Arabella Jeffereyes (qv) was also intimately involved, wearing the cap of agrarian reform and supporting some of the Rightboy protests. On 12 February 1787 Colthurst challenged Trant to a duel through his friend John Egan (qv), after Trant had refused Egan either an explanation and or a disavowal of the libel. Colthurst, an experienced duellist and ‘reckoned to be one of the best shots in Munster’ (Finn's Leinster Journal, 17–21 February 1787), and Trant, noticeably near-sighted, agreed their parties would meet the following day at Ballsbridge, south of Dublin. The duel was abandoned when the local sheriff apprehended Colthurst, taking him to Judge William Henn (possibly a relation of Trant), who bound him over to keep the peace. The combatants arranged to meet the following afternoon in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Before an audience of nearly 400 people, each combatant fired twice, with Colthurst's hat being grazed, as was Trant's coat. After lengthy discussions between the seconds and Colthurst, Trant suggested that the matter should be given over to arbitration by three gentlemen selected by Colthurst from among nine to be proposed by himself. Colthurst rejected this suggestion, while Trant again refused to offer any explanation; a third exchange of fire failed to alter anything. Trant's fourth shot proved fatal, lodging under Colthurst's right shoulder and leading to his death five days later.
The day after the duel Colthurst dispatched his surgeon to inform Trant that he was entirely satisfied with Trant's conduct, and that he should have been satisfied after the first three shots. On 20 February 1787, following a coroner's inquest, a verdict of ‘manslaughter by Dominick Trant in his own defence’ was passed. Trant was brought to trial accused of Colthurst's murder and found not guilty in July. Trant's gentlemanly conduct, in both standing his ground and trying to avert bloodshed, was widely acclaimed, though Woodward subsequently distanced himself from Trant. Remembered as one of the most notorious duels of the eighteenth century, it highlighted the inability of the authorities to prevent determined combatants from meeting.
Trant lived in Merrion St., Dublin, and Dunkettle, Co. Cork, a grand residence he purchased from Lord Riversdale. He died suddenly, 18 June 1790, in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. A portrait, painted in Rome (1790), hangs at Dovea House, Co. Tipperary. Trant had two sons and one daughter by Elinor; John Frederick, William Henry, and Maria (d. 15 Oct 1819) who married (10 July 1802) Henry Prittie, 2nd Baron Dunalley.