circa 1750 - 1820
He was born in Portland near Dumfries, Scotland, into a poor family, but he had a bright mind and became an astute businessman. John Anderson was a Scottish entrepreneur who came to Cork in 1780.
He later settled in Cork City, at that time the major centre for commerce and goods on the Atlantic Coast. During the American wars he made considerable sums of money as a commercial agent in New York which allowed him to make extensive land purchases in the Cork area.
His Cork business was based at Lapp's Island and his skills were recognised as his fortune rapidly grew and he was appointed to the City's Committee of Merchants. He was also made a Freeman of the City in 1787. Among the business interests in the 1780's was a malting and warehouse complex at Ballinacurra on Cork Harbour in partnership with John Lapp. In common with many Cork Merchants he was in favour of Union with Great Britain in 1800. Anderson's Quay in Cork is called after him.
In 1791 John Anderson married Elizabeth Semple of Waterford as his second wife and they had a daughter and two sons. The eldest son, James Caleb Anderson (1782-1861), was a noted experimenter with steam-driven road vehicles.
He also bought the castle of Buttevant which was north of Mallow, not far from Fermoy, from the Earl of Barrymore. When the Norman Barry's came from France, they built this great castle beside the Awbeg river in 1200. It was a border fortification, - a 'Buttevant' or a 'thrusting out' fortress from the words "Boutez en avante" which was the family war cry. John Anderson restored it as a castellated house and gave it to his eldest son Sir James Anderson. It was sold again by James Anderson in 1831 to Viscount Doneraile.
John Anderson was a merchant and a banker and was very involved in the building of the mail coach roads between Dublin and Cork. He started the Mail Coach Service and through this provided work for many people. He secured the equivalent of a Government franchise to provide a mail service from Dublin to Cork. This involved the building of an extensive infrastructure of roads bridges inns and staging coaches. By 1789 he was the dominant partner in the Dublin/Cork turnpike and mail and this was to extend to Limerick in 1793. The paramount achievement was getting from Dublin to Cork within 24 hours, the first Royal Mail arriving in Cork 8 July 1789.
Bust of John Anderson in Fermoy
In the early 1790s he bought some of the Forward estate beside the Blackwater River and developed the town of Fermoy, making him the founder
of the town of Fermoy. He designed the town and the streets remain much the same as they were originally built.
Responding to a British government demand for Military Barracks the entrepreneur in him saw the opportunity to build the town up as a Military base. In 1806 the first permanent barracks, the East Barracks, were built and provided for 1400 troops and 100 horses and this was later increased to a total of 3300 men. Soon a vast military complex with workshops and ancillary services together with coach workshops were functioning and prospering the town. A general military hospital of 130 beds was also built.
Old Military Hospital
In 1809 West Barracks was built. This also had a 42 bed hospital. When both barracks were complete there was accommodation for 3000 men, and 152 horses. By the 1830's this was the largest military establishment on the island of Ireland. The town of Fermoy expanded around these facilities and retained its British military facilities until 1922, when the Irish Free State was first established, and the Military Barracks closed down.
John Anderson's fortunes suffered a series of reversals with the fall in the value of land after the Napoleonic Wars.
He also lost over £30,000 in a Welsh Mining venture. He had a Banking business and
with the economic downturn the Bank collapsed in 1816. Through all these circumstances John Anderson eventually became bankrupt.
He died in 1820, financially poor, but rich in a lifetime's achievements.
Sir Robert Abercromby then purchased much of the Anderson interest in the town of Fermoy.