Norcott, William (1773?–1820), barrister, satirist, and bon vivant, was eldest son of William Norcott of Charleville, Co. Cork, and Mary Norcott (née Knight). He entered TCD in July 1790, graduating BA (1795), LLB (1801), and LLD (1808). The records of the Inner Temple in London also record the admission of a student named William Norcott between November 1791 and November 1792. In October 1796 he was admitted as a student at the King's Inns, Dublin, his admission papers stating that he was then aged 23. He was called to the Irish bar in April 1797.
He proved himself to be an able and witty barrister and was a friend of John Wilson Croker (qv), Thomas Grady, and the Rev. Richard Frizelle, all of whom were noted satirists. After the act of union, he began writing political satires and also collaborated with his friends in writing satirical works. His satires included The metropolis (1805), The metropolis, part ii (1806), The seven thieves (1807), and The law scrutiny, or the attorney's guide (1807), all published by J. Barlow of Bolton St., Dublin. There has been some debate regarding the authorship of The metropolis: Croker, O'Grady, and Frizelle have all been credited with writing it. It seems likely, considering the close relationship between these men, that there was an element of collaboration in its writing, although the later satires mentioned appear to have been entirely his own work.
Norcott was a well known figure in Dublin society. He was later described as having ‘a smirking countenance and a swaggering air; was an excellent bon vivant, a remarkable good mimic and affected to be witty’ (Barrington, ii, 377). He was a favourite at Dublin Castle during the lord-lieutenantcy (1807–13) of the duke of Richmond (qv), although he sometimes caused offence in legal circles due to his habit of mimicking judges. On one occasion, at dinner with legal colleagues, he spent the evening mimicking the mannerisms of members of the judicial bench. Lord Avonmore was also present and pointed out to Norcott that he had only done impressions of eleven members of the judicial bench and that he had not mimicked the twelfth member, who was, of course, Avonmore himself. Norcott, extremely embarrassed, lapsed into silence for the rest of the evening.
His excessive drinking and gambling eventually ruined both his fortune and his career. He was gradually frozen out of ‘polite’ society and, after some spectacular losses at gambling, even considered suicide. He fled the country in 1815 and went to Malta, where Croker secured him a post in the island's administration. Disgracing himself again, he was ostracised in Maltese society and fled to Constantinople. Here he initially prospered and, converting to Islam, lived extravagantly in Constantinople, dressed ‘in the extreme of Turkish fashion’ (Sheil, i, 222–8). He soon exhausted his funds, however, and had to earn a living selling rhubarb and opium on the streets of Smyrna. By 1820 he had been reduced to begging; he reverted to Christianity, secured some money, and tried to flee from Turkey. Such a renunciation of his faith carried the death penalty under Islamic law; he was caught outside Constantinople and beheaded, and his body thrown into the sea.