Bourke, John (c.1700–1790), 1st Baron Naas , 1st Viscount Mayo , and 1st earl of Mayo , politician, of Monycrower, Co. Mayo and Palmerstown, Co. Kildare, was the only son of Richard Bourke, LLD, of Dublin, and Catherine Bourke (née Minchin) of Ballynakill, Co. Tipperary. Educated at Mr Campbell's school, Dublin, he was admitted to TCD as a fellow commoner (August 1718) and received an LLD (1705 honoris causa (1730). He entered politics in 1727 as MP for the borough of Naas, and was a figure of some standing in Co. Kildare, where he twice served as high sheriff (1736, 1737). Aligning himself in the house of commons with Henry Boyle (qv), to whom he was related by marriage, he was appointed commissioner of the excise in 1749 by Lord Harrington (qv) as a favour to Boyle. Compelled to choose between Boyle and the Irish administration in the early 1750s when the duke of Dorset (qv) sought to curb the influence of the undertakers, Bourke sided with the administration. He voted against the motion to expel Arthur Jones Nevill (qv) on 23 November 1753, and in support of the altered money bill on 17 December. His relations with the administration suffered a setback when the committee appointed to inspect the public accounts (November 1757) directed him to relay resolutions critical of the large increase in the pension list over the preceding two years, but the difficulty was temporary. In 1761, when he was unable to secure his reelection for the borough of Naas, he was provided with a seat in the government borough of Old Leighlin. He continued to be a loyal supporter of the Irish administration thereafter, and was invariably present when his vote was needed during the 1760s and early 1770s.
He gained substantially thereby. During the course of his career, he became first commissioner of the revenue (1770), a trustee of the linen manufacture, commissioner of the tillage act for the province of Connacht, and an Irish privy councillor, and was the recipient of many minor favours. Meanwhile, his personal and political circumstances were enhanced when he succeeded in 1751 to the family estate in Mayo on the death of his cousin, Theobald Bourke, and when he took advantage of the demise of Thomas Burgh (1707–59) of Oldtown, MP for Naas (1731–59), to ‘gain an ascendancy in the borough’ (Falkland, 45) of Naas. He attained complete control of the borough ‘by management and revenue influence’ (Sayles, 251), and it paid dividends in 1768 when he and his eldest son John (1729–1792), MP for Naas (1763–90), were returned to represent it. In 1772 his second son Joseph Deane Bourke (1735?–1794) was appointed bishop of Ferns which returned 2 MPs; (Joseph was later archbishop of Tuam (1782–94) and 3rd earl of Mayo (1792–4)). By the early 1770s Bourke's attachment to Dublin Castle was so complete that the lord lieutenant, Harcourt (qv), had no hesitation in recommending him for a peerage. Created Baron Naas in August 1776, he resigned his revenue commissionership in 1780. He was advanced to the viscountcy of Mayo in January 1781, and to the earldom in June 1785. He maintained tight control of the borough of Naas meanwhile, opting to sell the seat left vacant by his elevation to the peerage. Though he was possessed of a stubborn and unyielding character that won him the nickname ‘Old Killjoy’, Bourke's life provides a fine illustration of the rewards that could accrue to an ambitious and self-interested politician of modest ability who served the Irish administration loyally. He died 2 December 1790, fifteen years after his wife Mary (née Deane), whom he married in May 1725; they had thirteen children. He was succeeded in the peerage by his eldest son.