Pike, Ebenezer (1806–83), shipowner and philanthropist, was born 25 March 1806 in Cork, eldest son of two sons of Joseph Pike and his second wife, Lydia Fennell of Cahir Abbey, Cahir, Co. Tipperary. Joseph Pike (1768–1826), banker, was born in Cork, second among two sons and one daughter of Ebenezer Pike (d. 1785), banker, and his wife, Mrs Anne Pim, widow, of Moate, Co. Westmeath. This Ebenezer Pike was partner with his two brothers, Richard and Samuel, in a banking business that operated from premises at Hoare's Lane, Cork city. The business was started by Joseph's grandfather, a merchant, and the building from which the bank operated is believed to have been the site of Ireland's first bank, Hoare's. Joseph was apprenticed to the bank and subsequently became a partner after the death of his uncle Samuel (1796). Another uncle Richard had retired by 1800; from then Joseph remained the sole proprietor until his death (1826). During this time Pike's Bank reached its peak and carried on a significantly large business, with more than £63,000 in notes issued by Joseph. In 1812 the bank suffered a minor run and several of Pike's notes were deliberately defaced after Joseph cast his vote in the general election for Sir Nicholas Colthurst (1789–1829). There was another run on the bank in May 1820 when Roche's Bank collapsed, and there was fear that the same fate would befall Pike's. However, Pike had kept reserves for such an occurrence and met all demands on the bank's notes. His reputation became so established that when he died suddenly (28 February 1826) and it was announced that the premises would shut until the executors were notified, there was no run on his bank. His eldest son, Ebenezer Pike (below), deposited funds with the local Bank of Ireland branch, which paid out all demands on Pike's notes. Joseph Pike married first Lucy Goff of Co. Waterford with whom he had one daughter, Elizabeth Pike (b. 1795) who married (1825) Joseph Bewley (qv) of Dublin. He married secondly (1803) Lydia (d. 1807/9), daughter of T. Fennell of Cahir Abbey, Cahir, Co. Tipperary. They lived at Bessborough House, Co. Cork, and had two sons and one daughter.
Ebenezer was apprenticed to his father's bank and was present when his father died suddenly in 1826 while supervising the burning of used notes. After his father's death the bank was wound up and Ebenezer, who inherited substantial wealth, headed a group of local businessmen that attempted to challenge the supremacy of the Cork-based St George Steamship Co., which was founded by Joseph Robinson Pim (qv). Pike launched the Superior on the Cork–Liverpool route, but the venture was not a success, and the ship was later sold to the St George Steamship Co.
In 1843 the St George Steamship Co. had itself begun to encounter difficulties and Ebenezer Pike reorganised (February 1843) the capitalisation of the firm. By October 1843 the venture had been completely reorganised into the City of Cork Steamship Co. (shortly after, the Cork Steamship Co.) with Pike as both chairman and managing director, and a capitalisation of £170,000, of which he was the largest shareholder. The new company inherited seven ships from its predecessor but immediately expanded by purchasing its first steamer. In 1846 the first screw steamer in Cork, built by R. J. Lecky (qv), was launched on the company's Liverpool–Le Havre route, and the Ajax was also purchased. The following year (1847) Ebenezer purchased the Minerva and in 1848 he launched the Gannet from his own newly acquired shipyards at Water St., Hargreaves Quay, Cork. At its height the yard employed nearly 370 men. More vessels quickly followed with the purchase (1850) of the Pelican and the Albatross and the construction of the Osprey (1855) and Britain (1856) at Pike's yards. In 1856 he also purchased the Prussian Eagle, which was originally constructed as an armed yacht for the king of Prussia. The Halcyon and the Abyss were acquired for the firm in 1860.
By the 1870s the Cork Steamship Co. had expanded to the extent that Ebenezer split operations into two distinct limited liability companies. Incorporated on 12 September 1872, the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. Ltd, which was based at Penrose Quay, inherited nine ships from the original company and ran the coastal routes. The Cork Steamship Co. Ltd was incorporated on the same day and was responsible for the foreign and continental routes operating from Liverpool with eight of the original fleet. Ebenezer retained control over both operations, and during the next ten years (1873–83) acquired six new steamers for the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. Ltd. He was also a partner with Sir Joseph Pease in a shipyard at Jarrow, on the Tyne in England, and a shareholder in mines in Prussia.
As a committed member of the Religious Society of Friends, Pike used his position within the commercial world to carry out many acts of philanthropy. After the closure of the quaker school in Ballitore, he founded a short-lived school in Dublin in 1839. In November 1846 he was appointed to coordinate the efforts of the quaker relief committee established to help deal with the famine. He wrote to landlords, clergy, and quakers in America and England to seek assistance and sent out fact-finding missions throughout the country to get an accurate picture of the situation. In addition to his work with the committee, his premises at Adelaide St., Cork, was used as a soup kitchen, for which he had a boiler constructed at his shipyards. From 1847 he sat on the board of the harbour commission, and the following year was appointed a trustee of the Merchant Seaman's Relief Society. He was also a member of the British Association. He died 29 March 1883 in Cork.
He married (10 March 1841) Lydia Clibborn Pike (a relation), daughter of Jonathan Pike, of Beechgrove, Co. Tyrone, and his wife Sarah, daughter of James Nicholson. They lived at Bessborough House, Blackrock, Co. Cork, and had three sons, including Joseph Pike (qv) (1851–1929), Ebenezer Pike Jr (qv) (1853–1931), and seven daughters.