MAY, Stephen Edward (?1781-1845), of Belfast.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



16 Sept. 1814 - Apr. 1816

Family and Education

b. ?1781, 1st illegit. s. of (Sir) (James) Edward May*, 2nd Bt. m. 17 Jan. 1820, Frances Stella, da. of Reb. Brinsley Nixon of Paynestown. co. Meath. Kntd. 20 Apr. 1816.

Offices Held

Storekeeper, Belfast 1803; collector of customs, Belfast Apr. 1816-32.

Capt. Belfast vol. inf. 1814.


May’s father was the Marquess of Donegall’s Member for Belfast. In 1803, while visiting France, May was sponsored by Donegall, his brother-in-law, for the port surveyorship. Failing this, he was appointed storekeeper. Meanwhile he had become one of Buonaparte’s détenus and the place was held by his brother Edward in trust for him until in 1809 the latter became a clergyman and leave was given for May to have it in absentia. Donegall failed to secure May’s release on exchange and he remained in France until 1814. On his father’s death that year he replaced him as Member for Belfast, styling himself ‘Sir Stephen May, Bt.’.1

Like his father he was prepared to support Catholic relief and voted for Parnell’s motion, 30 May 1815. Otherwise he voted with government: for instance on the civil list, 14 Apr., 8 and 31 May 1815, on the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., and on the property tax 18 Mar. 1816. No speech is known. In March 1816 Peel persuaded a reluctant Lord Whitworth to come to terms with Donegall, and May’s part of the bargain was the collectorship of customs and a knighthood. Donegall had asked for the baronetcy which May had assumed, and May had to be content with a knighthood, ‘reduced to the shame of admitting that he has usurped the title he bore’. Thus, commented Whitworth, ‘he retains his title and proves himself a fool, if not something worse’. May thereupon vacated his seat. He died 28 Oct. 1845, aged 64.2

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Add. 35739, ff. 113, 180, 278; 35764, f. 91; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 638-9.
  • 2. Add. 40191, f. 133, 135; 40192, f. 15; 40202, f. 265; 40290, f. 118; GEC Baronetage, v. 368.