Turner Camac

(1751 - 1830. )

Turner Camac, born in 1751, was a soldier and businessman, who developed mines and canals. The Camac Bridge (also know as Dolphin Barn Bridge) and demolished street Camac Place, now the site of Seagull House, Dolphin’s Barn Fire Station and the nearby green space was named after him.

It was the eldest son of John Camac of Lurgan and Elizabeth Turner.  In 1768, at the age of 17, Turner embarked on a career path that led him to the East India Company, following in the footsteps of his older brother Jacob, who was already established in India as a celebrated soldier since 1763. Turner’s initial intention was to pursue a civil appointment, but upon his arrival in Calcutta, he was enlisted in the Bengal Military establishment. His career in the military rapidly progressed, with promotions to Ensign in 1769, Lieutenant in 1770, and Captain in 1778. However, he resigned from the military in 1779 and returned to Ireland, where he found himself reasonably well-off due to his military service and likely other investments.

Back in Ireland, Turner Camac continued to make significant contributions to society and academia. He presented oriental manuscripts to Oxford University on multiple occasions during the 1780s, a gesture that earned him recognition and an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law in 1788. Additionally, he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace (JP) for the counties of Louth, Armagh, and Down in 1784, demonstrating his commitment to public service and governance. In 1789, he served as the High Sheriff of Louth.

Upon his father’s passing in 1790, Turner assumed the role of guardian for his younger brothers, John and Ynyr Burges, further solidifying his position as a leader within his family and community.

Despite his distinguished military and civic career, Turner Camac’s involvement in mining in Avoca and his foray into radical politics remain somewhat enigmatic. His engagement in mining ventures, particularly with the Hibernian Mining Company of Avoca, as company chairman, is documented through various historical accounts. Turner’s investment in mining operations, alongside his brothers, underscores his entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to explore new ventures, even in the face of uncertainty. In 1792 they minted the ‘Camac’ pennies, halfpennies and farthings. Turner Camac was also a founder and director of the Grand Canal Company in 1791, causing him to be commemorated by the still extant ‘Camac Bridge'(also know as Dolphin Barn Bridge) and demolished street Camac Place, located on the site of Seagull House, Dolphin Barn Fire Station and the nearby green space.

rner’s political leanings leaned towards liberalism, evident in his active participation in political activities during a period of heightened political tensions in Ireland. He joined a delegation to petition the King on behalf of Earl Fitzwilliam, demonstrating his commitment to political reform and advocacy for progressive causes.

Turner Camac’s later years saw him facing financial challenges, likely stemming from the collapse of the Hibernian Mining Company and other investments. His decision to relocate to Philadelphia in 1804, leaving behind his family in London due to financial strain, marked a significant turning point in his life. Despite these challenges, Turner remained active in business and social circles in Philadelphia, maintaining ties with his Irish heritage and participating in events celebrating Catholic Emancipation.

Turner Camac passed away in Philadelphia in 1830, leaving behind a legacy of entrepreneurship, political activism, and resilience in the face of adversity. His contributions to mining, academia, and public service reflect a multifaceted individual whose life journey encompassed various realms of society and industry.

Person Photo
Connection with area: A director of the Grand Canal Company who the Camac Bridge was named after.