Callan was a medieval borough by prescription, with charters and grants from the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV. Its corporation comprised a sovereign and an unidentified number of burgesses and freemen. The officers were a sovereign, two bailiffs and a town clerk. It was a much fought-over borough, as the interests in it failed to resolve themselves. It also appears to have been the subject of various irregularities; for instance, in the first parliament of Queen Anne, Francis Flood (0760), who was a very rough character even for his time, was expelled from the House of Commons in June 1705 for abusing his authority both as an army major and as a magistrate, and John Pacey (1616), who was elected in his place, found that he could not take his seat until 1707 because the sub-sheriff of Co. Kilkenny had sent him only the indenture of his return, and not the writ for the election which was necessary to satisfy the Committee on Privileges and Elections that he had been duly elected.210
In 1710 the Wemyses, the Agars and the Floods had entered into an agreement to share the representation, but while the Duke of Ormonde enjoyed political power his influence was dominant. At the 1713 election Silvester Crosse (0543), who was private secretary to Ormonde, was returned, but the election was contested: Crosse received 53 votes, Francis Flood 47, and they were elected. The other candidates were Captain Thomas Chandler (23 votes) and John Cuffe (0554) with 7 votes.
Once Ormonde had left the stage the problems emerged. Never a family for half-measures, the Floods had prophetically declared that they would go 'knee deep in blood' to overcome their rivals. The Floods were the weakest members of this combine but they had managed to ensure that their nominee, Henry Chandler, was sovereign. In 1735 John Cuffe, created Lord Desart in 1733, purchased the Ormonde estate in the town and liberties of Callan from Charles Butler, Earl of Arran, but the control of the Floods prevented him from achieving his political intentions for the borough. In the 1750s the compact began to break up. James Agar (0014) had died in 1733 and subsequently his two sons, Henry and James, fell out. As the Agar family power grew, and their control of the boroughs in south Kilkenny increased through judicious purchases of land, they no longer needed the alliance with the Floods. Moreover, after the Agars quarrelled among themselves the unsuccessful branch of the family turned its attention to Callan, where the increasing friendship of the Wemyses and Agars endangered the control of the Floods.
Henry Chandler died in January 1758, and the Floods with difficulty maintained their position. At the sovereign's election in 1759 the situation came to a head and two sovereigns were appointed, James Wemys and Charles Flood. The Irish Court of the King's Bench decided in favour of Wemys, whereupon the Floods appealed the case to England. In the meantime Charles Flood continued to act as sovereign, being acrimoniously re-elected in 1760. He fought a duel with Matthew Keogh in which the latter was killed. There had been two similar duelling deaths in the preceding year as a result of duels fought by Flood's brother and nephew, making a total of three so far. The County Sheriff supported the Agars and sent the writ for the 1761 election to James Wemys, as sovereign. Wemys returned his brother, Patrick Wemys (2209), and James Agar (0015) of Ringwood. Henry Flood petitioned against the election on the grounds that the Sheriff had misdirected the writ. The Committee on Privileges and Elections upheld the petition and a new writ was issued to Charles Flood, who returned Henry Flood and Patrick Wemys.
The dispute smouldered. Given that the cost of a parliamentary seat was now at least £2,000, the Floods could not afford either this or the even greater expense coupled with the uncertainty of standing for the county. Hoping to ally the Wemyses firmly behind the Floods, Henry Flood, who now headed the family struggle, agreed to the appointment of James Wemys as sovereign. Wemys went over to the Agars, and admitted 27 Agar freemen to the corporation. In 1765 Agar further strengthened his position by purchasing the Manor of Callan from Lord Desart for £17,120. Flood, meeting Agar in the street in Dublin, assaulted him, and Agar challenged him to a duel; both were bound over but went to England, where the duel took place and Agar was possibly slightly wounded. James Wemys died in 1765 and as the legal cases were still undetermined the writ was sent to George Flood - for most of the 1760s there were two corporations for Callan. Jocelyn Flood (0763), Henry's younger brother, although under age, was elected, but he died two years later. As the final decision had still not been made, the writ was again delivered to Charles Flood, who duly oversaw the election of his nephew, John Flood (0764).
The passing of the Octennial Act and the 1768 election finally brought matters to a head. Henry and John Flood were returned 'by a fair and large majority of legal voices'. Agar petitioned against this and lost. Events then moved on to the inevitable duel. Agar had armed some of his supporters with a set of pistols, and in a fracas these were lost. Agar accused Flood of stealing them, and called him out. Agar fired first and missed; Flood then fired and shot him dead. In 1776 the writ was again delivered to Flood's sovereign, Ambrose Smith, who duly returned Henry Flood and Sir Hercules Langrishe, but this time Pierce Butler and George Agar successfully challenged the return.211 Thereafter the Agars controlled Callan; George Agar, Lord Callan, received the compensation for its disfranchisement in 1800.