Sir William Betham

Betham, Sir William, an antiquarian and genealogist, born at Stradbrook in Suffolk, 22nd May 1779. He began life as a printer, and came to Ireland in 1805, where he distinguished himself in genealogy, a taste derived from his father; he was knighted in 1812, and next year succeeded Sir Chichester Fortescue as Ulster King at Arms. He devoted himself with indefatigable industry to his favourite study, collecting an immense mass of materials, and partially reducing to order, and making available, the collections in the Birmingham Tower and the Remembrancer's Office. He published several works of a somewhat speculative character connected with the study of Irish antiquities, and contributed largely to the leading literary societies of which he was a member.

His greatest MS. work was his index to the names of all persons mentioned in the wills at the Prerogative Office in Dublin. It consists of forty large folio volumes, begun in 1807, and not completed before 1828, during a great part of which period he devoted to it from eight to ten hours a-day. His "philological Deductions were not generally deemed satisfactory; and it may be regretted that these speculative studies withdrew his attention from those more tangible questions affecting our political and constitutional history, of which he had made himself a master, and for the illustration of which he had formed such ample collections."[146] The acceptance of Mr. Petrie's work on the Round Towers by the Royal Irish Academy did not meet with his approval, and was said to be the cause of his withdrawal for many years from that institution. He died at Stradbrook, Blackrock, County of Dublin, 26th October 1853, aged 74.


146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

284. Petrie, George, Life: William Stokes, M.D. London, 1868.
Petrie, George, see Nos. 225, 298.