Clogher was an ancient city and the site of an episcopal see. It was probably a borough by prescription confirmed by a 1630 charter, 5 Chas I, which incorporated it with a portreeve and 12 burgesses. According to the memorial to the Commissioners of Union Compensations, from 'time immemorial the citizens and inhabitants of the city of Clogher, have returned members to serve in parliament for the said city'. They were anxious that the compensation should be used for the economic benefit of the town. There was also a memorial from the bishop, who hoped that the compensation would be used for the benefit of the church. Both stressed that they did not look for any personal gain, while the dean, chapter and prebendaries suggested the improvement of the cathedral and provision for clerical widows and orphans. Another memorial came from the Rev. Hugh Nevin, Seneschal of the city of Clogher, declaring that 'In the year 1793 he was appointed Seneschal of the said city at a salary of thirty pounds a year, for the purpose of holding elections for returning Members to serve in parliament for the said city.' His concern was that his salary of £30 p.a. would cease with the Union.384
In 1790 it was stated that:
This Borough, or City as it sometimes is called, is of the most singular constitution, either by art or accident, of any of the kingdom. It in reality has no electors but when the Sheriff's precept for choosing representatives is delivered to the Bishop, who resides in and is proprietor of the place, his Lordship issues a patent, appointing some confidential friend, generally his agent, chief magistrate and his principal domestics, Burgesses of this nominal city, who assemble in his hall, elect the person who he nominates and when the return is signed by them and this farcical mummery concluded, these puppets of the moment wait on the Bishop, and resign those offices to which his pleasure had exalted them.
From hence it is evident, that this Borough is private property and so completely united with the Bishop's person, that it can hardly be separated from it. But some years since, Government, to their unspeakable surprise, meeting with a refractory ecclesiastic, threatened him to support the independent gentlemen of the County, in opening the Borough to the inhabitants of the Manor, who certainly were the original electors and to avoid so formidable a collision, the Bishop has, ever since, appointed those Members for Clogher, whom the minister of the day selects. Chosen by the mandate of a Bishop and nominated by a Lord Lieutenant's Secretary, the public need not be informed what the parliamentary conduct of these pillars of the constitution invariably is and eternally will be.385
When conflict arose in 1783, it was said that 'The right of election supposed to be vested in and is claimed by the Protestant inhabitants at large but the Bishop of Clogher claims a patronage and by his influence and election manoeuvres, always returns the Members.' As a bishop's borough, its returns were supposed to be at the nomination of government, but in 1783 there had been local opposition to the newly appointed Bishop Hotham's control of elections.
The bishop countered this unrest by supporting a popular candidate, his agent and the sitting MP, Thomas St George (1850), warning the Chief Secretary that if he was not put forward there was a risk of the borough splitting and both seats being lost to government. Government was not entirely sympathetic to the bishop's predicament, and Hely-Hutchinson (1001) shocked the inexperienced Viceroy, Lord Northington, by suggesting that the Bishop of Clogher should be told that unless he brought in the government's nominees for Clogher, the government would not help to pack any election committee that might be set up, and consequently resolutions of a personal nature might be voted against the bishop.386
The government proposed Sackville Hamilton (0945) and Edward Bellingham Swan (2032). Hamilton was returned, but another place had to be found for Swan. This was the turbulent Volunteer election, and the bishop undoubtedly had problems. The situation quietened, St George died prematurely in 1785 and John Francis Cradock (0510), the Duke of Rutland's aide-de-camp, was returned unopposed. The trouble flared up again at the time of the Union but this was probably at least partly due to the anti-Union machinations of Speaker Foster (0805), whose brother, William, was Bishop of Clogher from December 1795 until his death in November 1797. At the 1797 election Thomas Burgh (0284) and Jonah Barrington (0087) were returned: both Speaker Foster's protégés.387 Burgh was uncertain, but Barrington was definitely the Speaker's man. Government requested and obtained their resignation, which was allowed under the 1793 Place Act. The ensuing by-election was disputed. Government through the bishop put up Richard Annesley (0048) and General William Gardiner (0844). Their return was successfully contested by anti-Unionists John King (1162) and Charles Ball (0081). Clogher was disfranchised by the Act of Union and the £15,000 compensation paid to the Trustees and Commissioners of First Fruits to promote the constant residence of the clergy.