Mitchell Henry was born in 1826. He was an English financier, politician and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was MP for Galway County from 1871 to 1885, and for Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown from 1885 to 1886.
Mitchell was the second son of Alexander Henry of Woodlands, near Manchester, England, a very affluent cotton merchant, founder of A & S Henry & Co Ltd and Member of Parliament for South Lancashire from 1847 to 1852, who was married to Elizabeth, daughter of George Brush of Willowbrook, Killinchy, County Down, and a supporter of the Anti-Corn Law League.
He was educated in London and at University College London where he read for a degree in medicine, eventually becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He became a senior consultant at the Middlesex Hospital in London by the time he was 30.
After the death of his father in 1862 Mitchell abandoned his career in medicine and returned to his native Manchester to run the family business. He soon became involved in politics and contested Woodstock for the Liberals in 1865, and stood in the 1867 Manchester by-election, and the 1868 general election, as a moderate Liberal, but was well-beaten in both contests. As part of his candidature in 1868 Mitchell started up the Manchester Evening News, though it passed out of his hands at the end of the election. He was particularly interested in the cause for a better health provision for the poor.
In 1852, he married Margaret Vaughan of Quilly House, County Down. He built Kylemore Castle in Connemara Co. Galway between 1863 and 1868. He had nine children, five daughters and four
Vanity Fair Spy drawing - 1879
sons. The youngest son Lorenzo Mitchell-Henry became an international pigeon shot and invented the "Henrite" shot-gun cartridge among other things. He later became a world record setting tunny fisherman.
At Kylemore Margaret, Mitchell and their large family revelled in the outdoor life of the ‘Connemara Highlands’. Sadly the idyllic life did not last long for the Henrys. In 1874 just a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a luxurious holiday in Egypt. Margaret was struck ill from a fever (known as Nile Fever) while travelling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done and after two weeks of suffering she died. She was 45 years old and her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years old. Mitchell was heartbroken.
However, he built a beautiful gothic memorial church a short distance from the castle on the shore of the lake. Margaret was finally laid to rest nearby in a mausoleum, where in due course he joined her. The church is a miniature replica of Norwich cathedral, the inside features coloured marbles from each of the 4 provinces of Ireland.
Although Henry remained on at Kylemore life for him there was never the same again. His older children helped him to manage the estate and care for the younger ones, as he attempted to continue his vision for improvements and hold on to his political career. By now he had become a prominent figure in Irish politics and was a founding member of Isaac Butt’s Home Rule movement.
Margaret Henry (nee Vaughan)
In an 1871 by-election he was returned MP for Galway County, and supported Home Rule for Ireland. Having broken with the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1884, in 1885 he was elected Liberal MP for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow, but defeat the following year when standing as a Liberal Unionist spelt the end of his parliamentary career.
His sense of responsibility for the West of Ireland was in the end largely the cause of his undoing. He approached Mr Gladstone, the Prime Minister at the time, and asked if something could be done to drain the bogs and generally improve the land in County Galway. Gladstone asked him to go into the matter in detail and let him know what it would cost. He did so and reported £1,000,000 a huge sum of money in those days! He was told it was to much and nothing could be done.
Thereupon he and a neighbouring large landowner, Mr Stoney, decided to do what they could from their own resources. Unfortunately their pockets were drained before the land!
It is believed that he was offered but refused a peerage.
He died in November 1910 at his home in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.