RAKE (wastrel/ man-about-town)

Thomas Whaley was the son of Richard Chapell Whaley, a Protestant landowner and magistrate whose anti-Catholicism earned him the nickname 'Burn-Chapel' Whaley. When the latter died, his son inherited an estate in Co Wicklow, a town house at 86 St Stephen's Green, Dublin (now occupied by University College, Dublin), and an income of £7,000 a year. At sixteen, Whaley was sent to Paris, but his tutor was unable to curb the youth's profligacy. 'Buck' Whaley incurred gambling debts of £14,000 in an evening, and was forced to leave France when his bankers refused to honour his cheque.

Back in Dublin, he acquired a second nickname when, asked one evening in 1788 where he next intended to visit, he casually replied 'Jerusalem'. His fellow bucks wagered £15,000 that he could not reach the holy city and return within two years. Despite fears of banditry, Whaley immediately launched an expedition to the Holy Land, returning in June 1789 with a signed certificate from a convent in Jerusalem. Another wager required him to jump from his drawing room window into the first passing carriage and kiss its occupant. He also conceived a plan to rescue Louis XVI from the guillotine, but took fright in Paris.

A man of erratic impulses, Whaley unsuccessfully proposed marriage to a young Belfast woman who stood admiring his house. A mistress bore him several children, and on her death he married Lord Cloncurry's daughter in 1800. He represented Newcastle, Co Dublin, in parliament from 1785 to 1790, and Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, from 1797 to 1800. Although he took substantial bribes first to vote for the Union with Great Britain and then to vote against it, his financial difficulties forced him to flee to the Isle of Man. To live on Irish soil without being in Ireland (for a bet), he imported earth for the foundations of a new house.

Whaley died of rheumatic fever at Knutsford, Cheshire, on 2 November 1800. In his last years, he had written his memoirs as a warning to others, but his executors suppressed them and they were not published until 1906.