Laurence Saule lived at the sign of the Golden Key in Saule’s Court, off Fishamble Street, in 18th century Dublin. He and his brother-in-law, Edward Jennings, were Catholics in a predominantly Protestant city, a fact which was ultimately to prove his undoing.
Saule was a distiller and a grocer. In 1740 he placed an advertisement in the Dublin Newsletter laying out his wares. In it he listed large or small Quantities of fine Bohea and Green Teas, of the last Importation, coffee, old brandy, choice rum, bourdeaux vinegar, and orange shrub, esteem'd by Judges to be very extraordinary. He also sold Chocolate of his own manufacturing, at 3s the pound, with the name SAULE, at large, impress'd thereon, to prevent any persons being impos'd on: fine and coarse bak'd, and raw sugars, best north whisky, spices, and several other sorts of Groceries. And he sold Irish Cyder, at 5s.6d. the dozen, with encouragement to those who buy the hogshead.
Edward Jennings was married to Saule’s sister Eleanor. He came originally from Ironpool, Kilconly, near Tuam in County Galway, and had moved to France in 1738 where he practised as a doctor in Tonnay-Charente. He returned to Dublin in 1750 for the birth of his son Charles Edward Saule Jennings in Saule’s Court. In Dublin he became one of a group of Catholic doctors who gave their services freely in the newly founded St. Nicholas' Hospital, or the New Charitable Infirmary, in nearby Francis-street.
In 1759 Laurence Saule was found to have harboured a Catholic girl in his home, in an attempt to protect her from the pressure she was under to conform to the Established Church. As a result he was prosecuted. At his trial the Chancellor declared that the law did not presume that an Irish Papist existed in the kingdom. Saule threatened to leave Ireland. He wrote to Charles O’Conor.
" Since there is not the least prospect of such a relaxation of the penal laws as would induce one Roman Catholic to tarry in this place of bondage… will you condemn me for saying,” he asked, “that if I cannot be one of the first, I will not be one of the last to take flight!"
He expressed his regret at leaving his friends and family now that he was no longer young and being forced to remove himself to a place, which he calls a ‘dreary clime’ and, where, like a child, he would have to begin all over again.
'But," he added, "when religion dictates, and prudence points out the only way to preserve posterity from temptation and perdition, I feel this consideration predominating over all others. I am resolved, as soon as possible, to sell out, and to expatriate."
Laurence Saule, together with Eleanor, her husband Edward and their son Charles Edward, left Ireland for France in 1760. Charles Edward was about eleven years old. In Tonnay-Charente the two brothers-in-law founded the brandy house of Saule and Jennings. It seemed like a new and more glorious beginning and for a time they prospered but a lull in the brandy trade soon saw the firm in difficulties. ‘This is a dreadful country to do business in’ Saule noted not long before his death.
On his departure for France Saule commented that he had left ‘all my books and papers not taken with me in the old shop house in the back closet up one pair of stairs.’ Presumably he hoped one day to return. But he was never to see Fishamble Street or Saule’s Court again. He died in France in 1768, two years after the death of Edward Jennings. His will, which he had made in 1760, before leaving Dublin, was executed by Valentine Browne, described as one of the richest of Dublin’s Catholics, a brewer and a gentleman. The will, which was intended to bind the two families of Saule and Jennings together, in the end caused an irretrievable break down between them.
And what of Charles Edward, the boy who had been cruelly taken away by these events from his home in Saule’s Court and the city of his birth? At first he fell upon hard times, and his cousin John Saule called him ‘poor Jennings’ and claimed that he was ashamed to appear in public, not having a decent coat to put on. But Charles Edward Saule Jennings subsequently became one of Napoleon’s most trusted Generals, General Kilmaine.