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Medals awarded to distinguished Irish soldier to be auctioned in Shrewsbury

A pair of medals awarded to an Irish soldier, whose distinguished army career included serving under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns, will be auctioned in Shropshire this summer.

The pair of medals awarded to Lieutenant Robert John Uniacke (1795–1851) of the 7th Hussars
The pair of medals awarded to Lieutenant Robert John Uniacke (1795–1851) of the 7th Hussars

The Waterloo Medal and Military General Service (1793-1814) medal with ‘Orthes’ Peninsular War clasp, presented to Lieutenant Robert John Uniacke (1795–1851) of the 7th Hussars, have been consigned by a collector to a militaria auction at Halls Fine Art in Shrewsbury from August 21. They are expected to fetch around £1,200.

Lieutenant Uniacke was a member of a famous and wealthy Irish Protestant family who owned the Woodhouse Estate at Stradbally, County, Waterford. Described as a ‘most gallant officer’ in Army records, he was made a cornet on January 25, 1812, Lieutenant on July 15, 1813 and retired from the Army on July 24,1817.

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In 1821, he married Lady Mildred Bourke, sister to Robert, 5th Earl of Mayo, with whom he had six children. The couple’s only surviving son and heir, Colonel Robert Bor Uniacke died in 1853, aged 29.

A justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant, Lieutenant Uniacke inherited the estate in 1802 as the eldest son of Colonel Robert Uniacke (1756-1802) and Annette Constantia. He died aged 55 in Clifton, near Bristol in April 1951, where the family had a home.

Lieutenant Uniacke’s father was a Member of Parliament for the city of Youghal as well as being a Colonel of Waterford Militia and Surveyor General of the Ordnance. His mother was the daughter of John Beresford, the First Commissioner of the Revenue of Ireland, whose brother, George, was the 1st Marquis of Waterford.

John James Fitzgerald (1797–1825), Lieutenant Uniacke’s younger brother, sailed as chaplain on a convict ship in 1823 to Australia, where he became the chronicler of John Oxley’s geographical expedition in search of the sources of the river later called Brisbane.

In 1824, he was appointed surveyor of distilleries as well as Sheriff and Provost Marshal of New South Wales. He died of remittent bilious fever in Sidney in 1825, aged 27. Other members of the Uniacke family also have early connections to Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Uniackes of Woodhouse were staunch Protestants. They built St James’ Church between 1798 and 1802, a school for protestant children just outside the gates of the churchyard and another school for children of both Protestant and Catholic denominations where Lieutenant Uniacke’s sister and daughter both worked as teachers.

When the Great Famine hit Ireland, Lieutenant Uniacke crossed religious borders to work closely with Catholic medical doctor, Dr John Coghlan of Kilmacthomas to build
a Work House, which he helped finance himself and became a key member of the Board of Guardians.

The relationship between the two men is said to have developed into a friendship which was quite unusual for the time.

Entries for the auction are being accepted until July 12 and Halls Fine Art’s militaria and medals specialist Caroline Dennard will be holding a free valuation day by appointment at the company’s Battlefield headquarters on June 21 from 10am to 4pm.

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