Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Dobbs, William Carylocked

  • David Harkness

Dobbs, William Cary (1806–1869), barrister and politician, was born in Belfast, the eldest of five children and only son of the Revd Robert Conway Dobbs and his wife, Wilhelmena Josepha, daughter of the Revd William Bristow, rector of Belfast. A scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, he took a wrangler's degree in 1827, and an MA in 1830. He was called to the bar in 1833, and married Elinor Jones, daughter of Henry Sheares Westropp of co. Limerick, in 1834. They had five children: Robert Conway, Henry Sheares, Elinor, Whilhelmena Josepha, and Charity Frances. He became crown prosecutor for Drogheda and Dundalk, in the Irish north-eastern circuit, in 1851, and a queen's counsel in 1858.

In 1857 Dobbs had sought and obtained the Conservative nomination for the constituency of Carrickfergus, for which his grandfather had been returned to the Irish parliament, and his cousin, Conway Richard Dobbs, to Westminster (1832). Successful in the election over his Liberal opponent, Francis Macdonogh QC, he espoused free trade as a practical necessity, having been previously a protectionist, and promised his constituents to uphold the protestant interest and protect the constitution. A committed Anglican, he supported all protestant denominations at a time of anti-Catholic feeling in England and of perceived Catholic threat in Ireland. On the issue of landlord–tenant relations he sought clarification of the law and contracts acceptable to both parties, while on the thorny issue of the Maynooth grant he favoured its cessation, believing public money should not go to support a despotic church. Committed to the extension of education and of the franchise, he was cautious on the Irish national school system, believing that religion should be a central feature of education and fearing that the system gave Catholic priests too much power in Ireland in general; his preference for Lord Derby's Reform Bill of March 1859 was not realized owing to the defeat of the government.

Dobbs's own career did not suffer, however, as he was appointed to a judgeship in the landed estates court, in Dublin, in succession to Judge Martley, in April 1859, an appointment which rendered him ineligible to stand at the general election of the same month. By the time of his death ten years later he had become senior judge of the court, where, according to his obituary in the Irish Law Times and Solicitors Journal, his 'amiable character … intelligent and cultivated mind … [and] the consistency and uprightness of his conduct' had gained the appreciation of the public. Although the Dobbs family were living at Ashurst, Dalkey, co. Dublin, Dobbs died at 93 Wimpole Street, London, on 17 April 1869, while seeking medical attention. His body was returned to Dublin, and subsequently interred in the family burying-ground near Carrickfergus. He had been a member of the Carlton Club.


  • Hansard 3 (1857–9)
  • Belfast News-Letter (1857–9)
  • Northern Whig (1857–9)
  • Irish Times (19 April 1869)
  • Irish Times (29 April 1869)
  • Irish Law Times and Solicitors' Journal (1869), 283
  • register of wills, 1869, PRONI
  • genealogy, PRONI, Dobbs MSS, T 1190/1

Wealth at Death

under £14,000: probate, 21 May 1869, CGPLA Ire.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast
, 3rd ser. (1830–91)
M. Stenton & S. Lees, eds., , 4 vols. (1976–81)