Robert Bourke, 1st Baron Connemara

Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs The London Gazette James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce

The Lord Connemara

Robert Bourke, Vanity Fair, 1877-04-28.jpg
"Bobby". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1877.
Governor of Madras Presidency
In office
8 December 1886 – 1 December 1890
Preceded byM. E. Grant Duff
Succeeded byJohn Henry Garstin
Under-Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs
In office
23 February 1874 – 21 April 1880
Prime MinisterBenjamin Disraeli
Preceded byViscount Enfield
Succeeded bySir Charles Dilke
In office
25 June 1885 – 28 January 1886
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded byLord Edmond Fitzmaurice
Succeeded byJames Bryce
Personal details
Born(1827-06-11)11 June 1827
Hayes, County Meath
Died3 September 1902(1902-09-03) (aged 75)
London, England
Political partyConservative
  • Lady Susan Ramsay
    (m. 1863; div. 1890)
  • Gertrude
    (m. 1894; died 1898)
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin

Robert Bourke, 1st Baron Connemara, GCIE, PC (11 June 1827 – 3 September 1902) was a British Conservative politician and colonial administrator. He served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs between 1874 and 1880 and 1885 and 1886, and was Governor of Madras between 1886 and 1890.

Background and education

Bourke was born into an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family at Hayes, County Meath,[1] Ireland, the third son of Robert Bourke, 5th Earl of Mayo, and Anne Charlotte, daughter of The Hon. John Jocelyn. His older brother was The 6th Earl of Mayo, a Viceroy of India. He was educated at Hall Place School, Bexley, Kent, and Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in 1852.[2]

Political career

Bourke practised as a barrister for a number of years[citation needed] before being elected Conservative Member of Parliament for King's Lynn in 1868.[2][3][4] In 1874 he became Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Benjamin Disraeli's second administration, a post he held until 1880,[2] when he was also sworn of the Privy Council.[5] He held the same post from 1885 to 1886 in Lord Salisbury's first administration.[2]

Governor of Madras

Connemara Library in Chennai

In 1886, Bourke was appointed Governor of Madras.[6] The following year he was appointed a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire[2] and raised to the peerage as Baron Connemara, of Connemara in the County of Galway.[7] In 1890 he laid the foundations stone of the Connemara Public Library in Madras, which was named after him and opened six years later.[8] The building was originally planned to house the proposed Victoria Technical Institute which was constructed in 1887, the Golden Jubilee year of Queen Victoria's reign. The third session of the Indian National Congress was held at Madras in 1887 when Lord Connemara was the governor. He hosted a garden party at Government House for the delegates. The construction of the Madras High Court was commenced in 1889.

Lord Connemara is credited with introducing a number of reforms while serving as governor. He personally supervised the famine-relief measures at Ganjam and reorganised the sanitary administration of Madras city. He also improved and extended the east coast railway line connecting Madras with Calcutta. The Madras Mail, in its 4 December 1890 issue, comments that his administration was "a bright epoch in the annals of Madras". He resigned as governor on 8 November 1890 and returned to Great Britain.

Later life

Monument, Kensal Green Cemetery
Monument detail, Kensal Green Cemetery

Lord Connemara contributed occasionally in the House of Lords, mostly on matters dealing with foreign affairs, making his last speech in June 1898.[9] He also published the work Parliamentary Precedents.[1]


Lord Connemara was twice married. He married firstly Lady Susan Georgiana, daughter of The 1st Marquess of Dalhousie, a former Governor-General of India, in 1863. They divorced in 1890. In 1894, he married Gertrude, former wife of Edward Coleman. Both marriages were childless. His second wife died in November 1898. Lord Connemara died in London in September 1902, aged 75,[2] and was buried in the city's Kensal Green Cemetery.[10] His barony became extinct at his death.


  1. ^ a b The New York Times 4 September 1902: "Lord Connemara Dead".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Robert Bourke, 1st and last Baron Connemara
  3. ^ "No. 23443". The London Gazette. 20 November 1868. p. 6000.
  4. ^ House of Commons: Kilkenny County to Knutsford
  5. ^ "No. 24837". The London Gazette. 23 April 1880. p. 2652.
  6. ^ "No. 25620". The London Gazette. 27 August 1886. p. 4176.
  7. ^ "No. 25700". The London Gazette. 13 May 1887. p. 2641.
  8. ^ History
  9. ^ Hansard Mr Robert Bourke
  10. ^ Archived 13 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine