Tighe, William (1766–1816), politician, topographer, and landowner, was born 5 May 1766, the eldest son of William Tighe (1738–82), landowner of Rossanagh, Co. Wicklow, and MP for Athboy, Co. Meath (1761–76), and his wife, Sarah (née Fownes) of Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny. William Tighe senior was a friend of John Wesley (qv), who made Rossanagh his base for preaching in Ireland. Educated at Eton (1775–84) and St John's College, Cambridge (from 5 July 1784), William junior inherited the estates of Rossanagh and Woodstock, the latter (which came to him from his mother) comprising 24,000 acres across several counties in Leinster and Munster. His extensive property gave him considerable political influence, and as patron of the boroughs of Wicklow and Innistioge, Co. Kilkenny, he returned four members to the Irish parliament. Following his continental grand tour, he was elected MP for Banagher, King's Co. (1789–90) and later represented the boroughs of Wicklow (1790–97) and Innistioge (1797–1800). He was an ally of his Ponsonby cousins in parliament and backed the proposals of Lord Fitzwilliam (qv) for catholic emancipation in 1795. However, his pro-catholic sentiments did not prevent his property being attacked by the United Irishmen: his family home at Rossanagh was raided by United Irishmen from Ballinacor in December 1797 and his house and estates were attacked again in September 1798 by remnants of the rebel army in Wicklow, when several yeomen were killed. Tighe staunchly opposed and voted against the act of union in 1799 and 1800 but received £30,000 in compensation as proprietor of the disenfranchised boroughs of Wicklow and Innistioge.
After the union was passed he partially withdrew from political activity but still retained a significant interest in Wicklow politics. He was a member of the RDS from 1784, and in 1802 he published a geological map of Kilkenny and Statistical observations relative to the county of Kilkenny (1802), which he had been working on for some time at his home in Woodstock House. The map and survey are now recognised as one of the best of the RDS's county surveys and he was the first person to produce a detailed geological map of any part of Ireland. He evidently had an interest in poetry and published The plants, dedicated to the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, in two parts (1808 and 1811). Tighe was a brother-in-law and cousin of Mary Tighe (qv) and edited the fourth edition of her poems, published in London in 1812. He wrote a prologue which he performed in 1803; it was published in The private theatre of Kilkenny (1825).
The accession of the whig government in 1806 provided Tighe with an opportunity to return to politics. The elevation of George Ponsonby (qv) to the lord chancellorship allowed him to be returned unopposed as MP for Co. Wicklow (1806–16). However, his time as an MP in the imperial parliament was continually interrupted by poor health as a result of asthma, and his attendance at the house of commons was sporadic. He participated in several debates relating to Ireland, notably in 1809, when he spoke in favour of tithe reform as one of the pledges made at the union. He also voted for the proposals for catholic relief in 1810, 1811, 1813, and 1815, but he missed the votes in 1812 and 1814 due to illness. He was seen as an ally of the Catholic Board at Westminster and met Edward Hay (qv), secretary of the Catholic Board, in London on several occasions.
Tighe died on 19 March 1816 following several years of poor health. In 1793 he had married Marianne (d. 1853), daughter and co-heir of Daniel Gahan of Coolquil, Co. Tipperary, MP for Fethard, Co. Tipperary (1785–1797) and his wife, Hannah. Tighe was made a freeman of Fethard in 1795. Tighe and his wife had two sons and one daughter: William Frederick Fownes Tighe (1794–1878), Daniel Bunbury Tighe (d. 1874), and Hannah Tighe. Both sons served in the army: William (who married (1825) Louisa Maddelena, daughter of Charles Lennox, 4th duke of Richmond) became a colonel in the Kilkenny fusiliers, and Daniel served in the grenadier guards.