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Sir Thomas Larcom (1801 - 1879):

Sir Thomas Larcom, 1st Baronet, was the leading figure in the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in the nineteenth century and also served as Under-secretary for Ireland. 

Thomas Aiskew Larcom was born in Gosport, Hampshire, one of five children of Captain Joseph Larcom RN, a dockyard administrator based in Malta, and Ann Liverstoke. He attended the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1820 and posted to Gibraltar. In 1824, now a lieutenant, he was employed by the Ordnance Survey of England, and two years later transferred to the Ordnance Survey of Ireland to be in charge engraving maps, but his energy, abilities, knowledge and discipline soon shone through (even learning Irish to ensure that placenames would not be confused) and by 1828 he was in total charge of the Survey's headquarters in Dublin; in 1833 the first full maps were published. He invented the limelight for surveying, later used to light the stage in theatres, and established a meteorological observatory in Phoenix Park, Dublin;

It was his idea to accompany the maps with a written account of Ireland's physical and human resources, which became known as the Ordnance Survey Memoirs. The first was published in 1837 of Templemore, County Londonderry, under Larcom's editorship. Though many memoirs had been compiled in draft, they were not published because of excessive cost. In 1841 Larcom was appointed commissioner for the census of population in Ireland, and two years later a census report was published.

The Ordnance Survey of Ireland's six inch maps were completed in 1846, and Larcom then joined the Irish Board of Works where he supervised the first collection of agricultural statistics of Ireland. In 1848 he worked on the revision of the boundaries of the Irish Poor Law Unions and the District Electoral Divisions and two years later was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Irish Board of Works.

In 1845 three university colleges were founded in Ireland, in Cork; Galway and, in Ulster, Belfast. The choice of Belfast had not been an easy one, as competing cases were made, principally for Armagh but also Londonderry and Omagh. Larcom was one of the Commissioners appointed to adjudicate what became a straight Belfast-or-Armagh choice; Belfast. When the three Colleges came to be incorporated as the Queen’s University in Ireland on 3 September 1850, its senate, appointed the year before, included Larcom (still Deputy Chairman of the Board of Works).

In 1853 he was appointed Under-Secretary of Ireland, the first permanent holder of the office, whose duties he discharged with typical thoroughness and efficiency until retirement in 1868. In 1864 his suggested action in the face of alleged police involvement in sectarian rioting in Belfast was to place the entire city under the charge of police magistrates, ban all processions and parades, and proscribe the Orange Order.

He was created baronet on 28 December 1868 and after a retirement period in which he continued his interest in Irish topics, died in Hampshire, survived by his wife Georgina and three of their five children, his third son Charles succeeding to the baronetcy, which ended in 2004 on the decease of the 5th baronet.

Born: 22 April 1801
Died: 15 June 1879
Kate Newmann

Additional material Richard Froggatt; from TW Moody & JC Beckett: Queen’s Belfast 1845-1949: The History of a University (London, Faber & Faber 1959); Dictionary of Irish Biography