Sir Thomas Wallace Russell - Encyclopedia


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"SIR THOMAS WALLACE RUSSELL, 1ST Bart. (1841-1920), Irish politician, was born at Cupar, Fife, Feb. 28 1841. At the age of eighteen he went to Ireland and settled at Donaghmore, co. Tyrone, working as an assistant in a drapery shop. In 1864 he became secretary and parliamentary agent of the Irish temperance movement, and became well known as a speaker for that cause; it was largely due to his energy that the Irish Sunday Closing Act was passed in 1878. In 1885 he unsuccessfully contested Preston as a Liberal, but in the following year was elected to Parliament for S. Tyrone. The Home Rule controversy was then at its height, and Russell was one of the most determined opponents of Gladstone's measure. His valuable work for the Unionist cause led in 1895 to his appointment as parliamentary secretary to the Local Government Board, a post he held until the general election of 1900. About 1899, however, Russell's views underwent a change, and from this time he not only gave up his advocacy of the Unionist policy in Ireland, but became its unceasing and rather bitter critic. His book Ireland and the Empire (1901) was largely an attack on the Irish agrarian system, and he also expressed in it his distaste for the Ulster point of view in no measured terms. He became in 1902-3 a member of the Dublin Land Conference, presided over by Lord Dunraven, which ultimately led to the passing of Mr. George Wyndham's Land Purchase Act (1903). In 1907 Russell succeeded Sir Horace Plunkett as vice-president of the Irish Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. In 1910 he withdrew from the representation of S. Tyrone, but in the following year was elected for N. Tyrone as a Liberal and Home Ruler. He received a baronetcy in 1917 and retired from public life in 1918. He died at Terenure, co. Dublin, May 3 1920.

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