Music from Ireland in Colonial America
Expanded information from the Rogues' Consort CD Booklet

Arthur Dobbs
Governor of North Carolina Colony

Arthur Dobbs started life much better off than Sir William Johnson.

From Arthur Dobbs, Esquire, 1689-1765: Surveyor-General of Ireland, Prospector and Governor of North Carolina, by Desmond Clarke (Chapel Hill, Univ. of NC Press, 1957).

Dobbs’ father Richard sent his wife to Scotland for safekeeping, where Arthur was born in Girvan, Ayrshire, April 2, 1689. The family returned to Castle Dobbs (in Augher, County Tyrone), the house dating from 1730 and overlooking Belfast Lough and the County Down shore. Dobbs grew up there and may have had his early education from Jonathan Swift, who was a family friend. Details of his education are unknown, but he was a good classical scholar and scientist. When aged 22, he purchased a cornetcy in Sir Richard Echlin’s dragoons, known as the Inniskilling Dragoons. They were stationed in Perth,  Scotland when Dobbs went to join them. Dobbs’ father died, and as the heir, he returned to Ireland and married. He served as High Sheriff of Antrim, was elected Mayor of Carickfergus, and was a member of the Irish Parliament. Sir Robert Walpole appointed him Engineer and Surveyor General of Ireland. He got a grant in 1733 of 200,000 acres in North Carolina, and was also involved in the Ohio Company.

He persuaded many from North Ireland to settle on his lands, reasoning that a settlement policy was needed to counteract the French spread. He was finally appointed Governor of North Carolina at the age of 66, and left in 1753 in the man-of-war Garland, accompanied by his son Edward, a British officer, nephew Richard Spaight, and a few personal servants, including his blind harper, another person mentioned in Arthur O’Neill’s Memoirs. “I also knew a Michael Keane, a blind harper. He was born in Connaught (County Mayo)…He left this country for America with a Governor Dobbs…who was appointed to the Government of [North] Carolina...” There was difficult weather and the voyage took  almost 12 weeks. He arrived at Hampton, Virginia Colony on October 6, where Governor Dinwiddie met him and escorted him to the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg before he continued on to North Carolina.

The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Ed. By Wm. L. Saunders [AMS Press, Inc: NY 1968] Vol. V 1752-1759 p. 144 letter of Math: Rowan October 22d 1754: “he arrived there the night before in the Garland Ship of War after a passage of ten weeks from Plymouth. They met with a violent storm in which they lost their main mast and sprung their fore mast. He was setting out for Williamsburg where he intended to stay some days;”

George Washington, reporting to Dinwiddie on his mission to the French at Fort Duquesne, “found the Governor busy in the entertainment of distinguished men [Dobbs, and Governor Sharp of Maryland], and in the planning of a larger war by greater means.”

This “larger war” was against the French and their Indian allies.  In 1756 Dobbs sent his son, a British officer, with troops to reinforce Fort Oswego, New York, then being supplied by William Johnson.  Dobbs’ harper followed them, as Arthur O’Neill reports  “That when he and some other officers were garrisoned in Fort Oswego, and had a party, Keane was with them, and beat them very well, and took a Miss Williams from them all. He left the Governor and came back to his native country, which he longed to see.