It has been said that city families die out in three generations. While this may not be literally true, it is certain that the  circumstances of city life do not make for the continuity of race. But what gives the assertion and appearance of actuality is that urban dwellers are much more subject to fluctuations in fortune, owing to the changes in incidents of trade and commerce, than those who are settled on the land, such changes leading to the disappearance of families by migration and emigration. After the third there is a tendency towards a declination in the social scale, with the result that if the slums of any old city were combed out, it would be discovered that many of the submerged tenth are the descendants of one-time wealthy and influential families.

The Arthur’s offer a remarkable exception to this rule of urban non-stability, since they were identified with Limerick not for three but for twenty generations and despite the religious and political upheavals of the centuries, seem to have invariably maintained their importance as merchant princes. Nor do they lack memorials in the city. From the early times they were notable benefactors to St. Mary’s Cathedral in which there is an Arthur Chapel. Thomas Arthur who was mayor in 1462 built the façade of the choir in “Lofty Marble”, and its outer door bears the Arthur’s Shield, “Not through a spirit of vainglory”.

 Daniel Arthur, Mayor in 1552, had the three aisles and the entire choir paved in polished marble, whereas it was called “Leacadaniel”. Two hundred and thirty seven years after that, Patrick Arthur donated the ground on which St. Michael’s Parish Church was built in 1798 and when he died his body was interred therein a most unusual honour for a layman. It was the same Patrick Arthur who built Arthur’s Quay and the streets adjoining in the early 19th. Century. So it is that Patrick, Francis and Ellen Street are in honour of him and his immediate family. In the period between 1371 and 1675 the family gave numerous Mayor’s and Sheriff’s of the name. They also gave two bishops to the Diocese and many other eminent churchmen.

In spite the pressure to convert not many of the Arthur family gave into this pressure. There is a record of a Daniel Arthur in 1609 helping a Scottish missionary. Significantly enough the name disappears from participation in municipal affairs after the year 1695. It would seem that after that they devoted their entire attention to business with what success may be gleaned from how successful Patrick Arthur and his family were to become become.



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