Burgh, Thomas (1744–1810), MP and administrator, was born in May 1744, second son among eight children of Thomas Burgh (1696–1758) of Bert, Co. Kildare, landowner and MP for Lanesborough, Co. Longford (1727–58), and his wife Anne, daughter of Dive Downes, bishop of Cork and Ross (1699–1709).
He attended the school of the Rev. Richard Norris in Drogheda, Co. Louth, and entered TCD 1 February 1768, graduating BA (1773). He spent some years in the army, and throughout his life had a rather abrupt military manner. Through the influence of his distant relation, James Fitzgerald (qv), 1st duke of Leinster, he became MP for Athy, Co. Kildare (1776–90). After his appointment as treasurer of ordnance and comptroller general (23 January 1779), he deserted Leinster to vote with the government and increasingly attached himself to his brother-in-law John Foster (qv). Although he was a mediocre speaker with a rather arrogant and overbearing manner, a government observer described him as a ‘useful man . . . [who] keeps the friends of government together’ (Johnston (1971), 173). He was later MP for the safe government seats of Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath (1790–97), Clogher, Co. Tyrone (1797–1800) (through the influence of William Foster (1735?–1797), bishop of Clogher), and Fore, Co. Westmeath (February–August 1800). A strong government supporter, he held several official positions: comptroller and auditor general (1784–93), commissioner of education (1788), joint weigh master of Cork (1792), secretary to the treasury commissioners (1793–9), accounts commissioner (1799–1807), and revenue commissioner (1802–10). As auditor general he was concerned that the government should balance its books, and in 1793 he resisted calls to assist the poor by abolishing the hearth tax, claiming that if they took fewer holidays they could easily pay the tax. Besides being an efficient administrator, he had a talent for invention and designed the huge cookers used in the militia camp at Loughlinstown, Co. Dublin. He reluctantly voted for the union (although he appears to have spoken against it in private) and did not join Foster in opposition in 1799. However, he was removed from the treasury to the board of accounts in June 1799 because Cornwallis (qv), suspecting his unionism was rather half-hearted, decided that it was essential to have a thoroughly dependable pro-union secretary at the treasury. He did not seek election to Westminster. He resided at Sackville St., Dublin, and Chapelizod, Co. Dublin, and succeeded to the estates of his brother William Burgh (qv) in 1808. He died c.15 June 1810 at his residence in Bert, Co. Kildare.
He married (1775) Anne (d. 1831), daughter and heiress of David Aigoin, a Dublin merchant; they had three daughters and a son, Gen. Ulysses Bagenal Burgh (1788–1863), who in 1826 succeeded his cousin William Downes, lord chief justice of the king's bench, as 2nd Baron Downes. In 1764 Thomas's sister Margaret Amelia married John Foster of Collon, Co. Louth, and in 1767 his sister Anne married Walter Hussey Burgh (qv).
Rather confusingly, for seven years he shared the representation of Athy (1776–83) with his second cousin, Thomas Burgh (1754–1832) of Oldtown, Naas, Co. Kildare, who was also MP for Harristown, Co. Kildare (1775–6, 1783–90). It was Thomas Burgh of Oldtown to whom Edmund Burke (qv) wrote his Letter to Thomas Burgh (1780), explaining his silence during the Irish free trade debates (John A. Woods (ed.), Correspondence of Edmund Burke, iv (1963), 201–2).