Burke, William P. (1864–1941), priest and historian, was born 11 October 1864 in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, second son of Edmund Burke, founder of Burke's bacon-curers, and Eileen Burke (née McGrath). He was educated by the Christian Brothers in Clonmel, at Rockwell College, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, and St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, where he was ordained for the diocese of Waterford and Lismore (1891). After working in Liverpool, he served as a curate at St Patrick's church, Waterford (1896–1902), and Cahir, Co. Tipperary (1902–22). Appointed parish priest at Modeligo, Co. Waterford (1922–5), he was transferred to Lismore, Co. Waterford (1925–41) and created canon (1925).
He contributed articles to various journals including the Journal of the Waterford and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society. His principal works were The history of Clonmel (Waterford, 1907) and The Irish priests in the penal times (1660–1760) (Waterford, 1914), in which he demonstrated the operation of the penal laws in every county in Ireland, by means of commentaries on transcripts from sources in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the British Museum (latterly British Library), and the PRO, Dublin. Praised by historians, his work gained additional importance after the destruction of the Irish PRO in 1922, providing as it does documentary evidence for the implementation of the penal code. He worked for the commission of inquiry into the causes of the beatification of Irish saints and martyrs, and was particularly interested in St Oliver Plunkett (qv). Fascinated by the history of Irish colleges abroad, he travelled frequently to the Continent and collected information on them, which is preserved with his papers in the Cistercian abbey of Mount Melleray, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. He died 13 September 1941 in Lismore and is buried in St Carthage's presbytery, Lismore.