Moynihan is an Irish surname which means 'Munsterman', apparently common in the Cork-Kerry area, and it seems likely that one or two individuals possessing that surname were amongst the many Irish who, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, made their way across the Irish Sea and settled in England. Amongst these were no doubt the ancestors of Andrew Moynihan, born at Wakefield in 1831 and raised in Dukinfield. Andrew joined the army and whilst serving in the Crimea War was awarded the Victoria Cross. He later rose to the rank of captain and his success enabled him to ensure that his only son Berkeley George Andrew Moynihan, born 2nd October 1865 in Malta, received a good education.
After attending Leeds Medical School and the University of London, Berkeley George became a surgeon and professor of surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary, where he established a reputation as one of the country's leading experts in abdominal surgery. The author of such leading works as Abdominal Operations (1905) and Duodenal Ulcer (1910), he was afterwards one of the founders of the British Journal of Surgery in 1913. He was knighted in 1912, became a CB in 1917, a KCMG in 1918, was created a baronet on the 29th June 1922 and raised to the peerage as the Baron Moynihan of Leeds on the 19th March 1929.
Berkeley George died on the 7th September 1936 and was succeeded by his son Patrick Berkeley who was a barrister at Lincoln's Inn in 1929 but later became a partner with the firm of Montagu Stanley and afterwards Stokes Priest and Co. The 2nd Baron was also active in the Liberal Party and was chairman of the party's Executive Committee between 1947 and 1950. Twice married, at his death on the 30th April 1965, he was succeeded by the only son of his first marriage to Irene Helen Candy, named Antony Patrick Andrew Cairnes Berkeley Moynihan.
The 3rd Baron led a colourful life. His various business ventures all failed and in 1970 he fled Britain to escape numerous fraud charges, seeking refuge first in Spain and then the Phillipines, where he enjoyed more success as a brothel-keeper and would be drug-dealer. He appears to have led a charmed life, as despite being suspected of many crimes including those of fraud, assault and even murder, he always managed to avoid arrest and remained at liberty until the day of his death from a heart attack at Manila.
His marital career was similarly colourful and during the course of his life was married no less than five times, although it has to be said that he neglected to properly divorce his fourth wife before marrying the fifth, thus adding bigamy to his long list of legal transgressions. At his death he left behind two sons, born to different mothers, both of whom claimed to be the heirs to his peerage title. These claims were challenged by the deceased Baron's half-brother, Colin the former Conservative MP and Minister for Sport and brought before the House of Lord's Committee for Privileges. After some deliberation the committee eventually issued their determination on the 20th March 1997. As regards the elder of the 3rd Baron's purported sons, Andrew Moynihan, the Committee decided that there was "overwhelming genetic evidence that he cannot be the son of the late Lord Moynihan", and as regards the younger Daniel Moynihan, that he was "the child of a bigamous marriage" and was therefore illegitimate. The Committee therefore dismissed the claims of both boys and determined that the half-brother Colin "must be the rightful heir".
Colin Moynihan the 4th Baron is the only son of the 2nd Baron's second marriage to June Elizabeth Hopkins. He attended Oxford University where he was a President of the Union, a double blue, coxed the crew which won the University Boat Race in 1977, and won a silver medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He later moved from competitive rowing into politics and was the Conservative MP for Lewisham from 1983 to 1992, and served as the Minister for Sport between 1987 and 1990. He is currently the chairman of the British Olympics Association and has two sons, the eldest of whom Nicholas Ewen Berkeley is the current heir to the title.
THE BARONS MOYNIHAN
Title in dispute between 1991 and 1997
- The Barony of Moynihan: Committee for Privileges Report 20 Mar 1997
- Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition
- "Moynihan, Berkeley George Andrew Moynihan, 1st Baron." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Feb. 2006