The life and times of George Robert Fitzgerald Commonly called Fighting Fitzgerald (shoots and kills a Wolfdog)
IW Editor notes - This is an unusual item that has a single reference to the Irish Wolfdog, but it's a lively and apparently true tale so I thought readers might enjoy it. Fighting Fitzgerald was schooled at Eton (London, England), was a captain in the Military, and at one time a courtier in Paris, but really he was a murderous thug and bully, as well become apparent from the below. Another mention in this story is of Lord Altamont, one of the last breeders of Irish Wolfdogs that the Richardsonions mention in their writings. Apparently, being a property and hound owner with Fighting Fitzgerald around carried its own risks....
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Fitzgerald, in his desire to brow-beat Lord Altamont, took the occasion of a visit he made to a gentleman near Westport, to go on the Earl's property; and he not only brought his own dogs and shot where he pleased, but meeting some of his lordship's gamekeepers, he asked them who sent them to shoot there? They replied, their master: he immediately took a cudgel, which he always carried with him and called his "rascal-thrasher," and beat the men most unmercifully, forbidding them, on pain of repetition of the cudgelling, ever again to appear in his sight with dog or gun. Lord Altamont had the good sense to take no notice of this outrage on his servants and property. But this was not all. Fitzgerald heard that a Mr. Browne, a member of the family, was shooting on a bog near Westport; he immediately assembled his dogs and men, and entered the bog at the other end. His appearance was enough for Mr. Browne, who withdrew at once; which the other perceiving, ran forward, until the retreat of the one and the advance of the other assumed the character of a chase, attended with shouting and all the tones of one cock crowing over another that had left his dunghill.
There was yet more to follow. Fitzgerald rode up to Westport House, and asked to see the wolf-dog, an animal so large and fierce that he was at the same time the admiration and terror of the neighbourhood. Just then his lordship's brother, a huge man, as the Browne family are disposed to be, enjoyed the high office of prime sergeant in the law courts, and was considered as the great lawyer of the family ; for in those days it was particularly expedient for one member of a family to be at the bar, in order to bark and bite when occasion required. Now, Mr. Browne being the big bow-wow of the Brownes, it was not a bad hit for the Westportians to name the huge watch-dog of the house the Prime Sergeant. The minute Fitzgerald was shown the dog, he instantly shot him, and desired the servants to tell their master, that until the noble peer became charitable to the poor, who now came to his door only to be barked at and bit by the over-fed monster, which devoured the broken meat that should have been bestowed on them, he could not allow any such brute to be kept. He, however, left a note to say, that as he always felt for the ladies, he would allow Lady Anne, Lady Elizabeth, and Lady Charlotte Browne, to have each one lap-dog. Proud of his exploit, he rode into the adjoining town of Westport, and proclaimed in the market-place that he had shot the Prime Sergeant. This announcement raised the whole populace. Every one had heard of Fitzgeralds exploits as a man-slayer in duels; and now, in their alarm and horror, it was debated whether the homicide should not instantly be seized. Yes, by all means; but who was to bell the cat—who come forward to lay hands on this ready pistoller and swordsman? While they were thus hesitating, he quieted all by saying—"Gentlemen, don't be alarmed for your big counsellor. I have shot a much worthier animal, the big watch-dog."
One would think this was going far enough; but not so Fitzgerald. He openly declared everywhere that what he had heretofore done was to irritate the Brownes into a personal conflict, but that their cowardice was not to be shaken; and, in order to show that pusillanimity was the motive of all their forbearance, he declared he would put it to the proof by grossly insulting Mr. Collector Browne, or, according to the appellation by which he was in latter days better known," the Right Honourable Denis." Armed, then, with pistols, sword, and cudgel, and attended by some of his most desperate adherents, he rode up to this gentleman's door, insisted on seeing him, loaded him with abuse, and called on him to come out instantly and fight. Prudence, if not religion, should have restrained Mr. Browne from taking any other notice of this wild man than to shut his door in his face; but Fitzgerald had, before all his servants, called him a coward,—and where is the Connaught squire that, even now, could brook being called a coward? So Denis Browne at once agreed to give him a meeting. "But," said he, "our battle must be on equal terms. You are an expert fencer, and have killed many with your small sword. I have never taken one in hand; so I won't fight with that weapon. I am a large fat man, a ready mark for your unerring aim, while you are so small and slender that I might as well fire at the edge of my penknife: I won't fight you then with pistols. But as fair play is a jewel, I will fight you with broadswords." To this proposition, as all that were present said it was just, Fitzgerald agreed; and Browne, taking his sword under his arm, said he would go for a neighbouring gentleman to act as his second, and be back in a few minutes. To this also Fitzgerald appeared to assent; but when Browne was a few yards from the house, instigated by some unaccountable ferocity, Fitzgerald, though generally fair and honourable in his conflicts, let fly a pistol bullet at his foe, which fortunately did not take effect; whereupon Browne retreated as fast as he could into his own house, from whence no insult or bravadoes of Fitzgerald could draw him; he properly insisting that he would have nothing further to do with an assassin.