The Bells of St Bartholomew’s and Serjeant William Bennett Campion, 1882-1907

St Bartholomew’s Church, Clyde Road, Dublin, via Postcards Ireland

From the Freeman’s Journal, 9 February 1924:


In the first days of a New Year, we find ourselves chatting of joybells. It seldom occurs to the present generation of Dubliners that our local peal of bells has figured in anything but joyous litigation, and in the old Four Courts too. The story is told in the Memoirs of William Bennett Campion, Serjeant-at-Law. Shortly after the erection of the bells of St Bartholomew’s, residents began to complain to the ecclesiastical authorities that the bells pealed at night, and played tunes every three hours, as they do still. The bells did not mind the remonstrances, and Serjeant Campion was consulted. He advised an action, and, strangely enough, immediately afterwards, chancing to drive past when the peal rang out, his horse bolted and galloped along Blackrock [now Merrion] road before it could be checked, narrowly escaping a collision at the corner of Elgin Road. The bells had won the first round.

The Bells Win

The application for an interlocutory injunction was based on six suitably strong affidavits testifying to the annoyance caused by the bells. The Master of the Rolls was against the chimes, and only granted an adjournment for three weeks on an understanding that the bells in the meantime were to stop altogether. The bells lost the second round, but at once rallied their supporters to the tune of forty affidavits firmly denying that ‘any rational person could be disturbed by the peals.’  Some even went so far as to swear that they found the ‘noises’ positive aids to slumber and were quite depressed by their temporary silence.

A letter to the newspaper by Dr Maurice Neligan, who wanted the bells to stay.

The bells were leading in the third round, and the memoir most pathetically adds:

‘Mr. Campion found himself completely outsworn. The judge veered round absolutely in favour of the defendants, who won in a canter.’”

Another letter to the newspaper, this time by the man who had taken the case against the bells, Arthur K Deane, published shortly after losing it.

A rare reference to the potential karma imperiling a barrister who has annoyed someone by the outcome of their advice or pleading! As anyone who has heard their beautiful peals can attest, the bells of St Bartholomew do indeed possess an esoteric power, and this story corroborates it. Perhaps it was fortunate for Serjeant Campion that he did not succeed in the case. 

As it was, the Serjeant, the acknowledged doyen of the 19th century Irish Equity Bar, lived happily on for many years thereafter, passing away at the age of 92 in 1907 after a knee-sprain at his summer residence in Greystones. The Belfast Telegraph of the 1940s recalls him as “a tall gaunt, well remembered figure, who worked on almost to the end in the Law Library, fond of saying in his old age: ‘my father was born 146 years ago.’” 

Brought up in a rectory in Cork, each year the Serjeant’s family visited Dublin, and here on one occasion in the 1820s or 30s the children were sent off in the care of a nursery maid who was so excited by the wonders of the shop windows and the delights of the city that for a time she forgot about her charges and young William was lost. A search, conducted for hours, proved futile until his parents, driving along one of the streets leading to Stephen’s Green, saw a chimney sweep dragging along a boy, obviously a captive. It was the missing William. The man was pursued, and his victim rescued.  According to the Daily Express of 1 February 1912, “[i]n those days it was a not uncommon occurrence for children to be stolen and sold to sweep as the latter found it difficult to find the little slaves they needed to crawl and clean the dark and filthy chimneys.  But for this chance rescue, as stated, the boy’s future might have been vastly different.”

Far from being disillusioned by the metropolis, young William subsequently returned to Dublin at the age of 15 to enter Trinity College. Later, he was to combine his professional practice with a forty-eight year lecturing gig in English Law at Queen’s University, Galway, lasting until his death. In the early years of the 1850s and 60s, his journey to Galway was initially taken in a barge that started from Portobello and took him as far as Mullingar, the remainder of the distance being accompanied by coach – in total two days; continuous travelling!

His obituary in the Freeman’s Journal of 21 September 1907 states that “he took no public part in politics himself, which probably accounts for him never having received what the lawyers call ‘promotion’ and the public call a job.”

A nice write-up of the Memoirs is to be found in the Irish Independent of 15 January 1892, which describes them as

“a brief, but far from uninteresting, record of the life of one of the ‘old school of brilliant Irish lawyers of the 19th century… William Bennett Campion was one who may not have made history, as the saying is, but at the same time it would have been a pity had he passed without the world being able to see the worth and charm of a personality hitherto known only to intimate friends. ‘Simplicity and childlikeness are the traits that one specially recalls of William Bennett Campion.’  Thus writes the author of this memoir, and certainly as one looks at the singularly open and expressive countenance as portrayed in the frontispiece, one realizes that there was a man of a ‘steadfast character which never deviated by a hair’s breadth from the lofty moral principles guiding a strenuous life that extended into the reigns of four different sovereigns’…

Records of the busy life of a successful lawyer are sometimes apt to drag, particularly when there are interspersed records of the case in which they may have happened to appear, but there are few dull pages in this short but exceedingly well-written book. It is those portions that deal with the personal traits and the character of a very charming figure that most interest centers. About the many brilliant lawyers with whom he came into contact during the last century, there is also much that is very readable. The Serjeant lived, indeed, among a race of giants in the law, and it is all the more remarkable to quote, therefore, the following advice – ‘Avoid litigation,’ he would say again and again, ‘remember it is the very last resource.’  

Perhaps the most touching pages in the whole book are those which deal with the close of an active and honourable life.  We cannot do better to finish this brief review than by repeating the closing lines of the book – ‘There amongst the quiet hills he was laid to rest, far from the busy scenes of which he once seemed such an inescapable part. But until the last of those who knew him have also passed away, he will not be forgotten.”

The Newry Reporter of 16 May 1912 records some other good stories from the Serjeant’s memoir, including a father who arranged a match for his daughter with a pig as a dowry, only to repent that the girl was pretty and might find a husband on easier terms, which was unlikely to be the case with his older daughter. ‘There’s Mary, the ould wan’ he said to the other father – they of course, were negotiating the affair – ‘She can have the pig with her and welcome.’ Mary and the bridegroom married and lived happily ever after.

Another story involved an eminent counsel who ‘accepted a brief and did not come near the court. After a while, his clerk wrote to the solicitors suggesting that the fee should be paid. ‘It had been sent, they explained, ‘pinned to the first leaf of the brief.’

Another eminent bishop was famous for his eloquence. Once, when he had been heard with enthusiasm, it turned out that he had come without a discourse and had borrowed one from the rector, who was regarded by his flock as driest of the dry. As an Equity barrister of acknowledged brilliance, Serjeant Campion would have well appreciated how a really good lawyer – or bishop – will know how to make the driest content sparkle!

Discoveries at the Four Courts Bookstalls, 1796-1886

The Four Courts, 1885, by Walter Frederick Osborne, via Irish Art Digital Archive. Can you spot the bookstalls? A zoom in may help, or alternatively there is a larger version of the image at the link above.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 19 February 1921:


Reminiscences of Dublin’s Old Book Stores

(By M. M. O’H.)

The old bookshops of Dublin! What a vista of pleasant thoughts they create.  What delightful experiences of eager prowlings round their shelves, of unexpected ‘finds,’ of surprising bargains, of staunch friends acquired at trifling cost, of jostlings with ardent book-hunters – poets and prosewriters, judges, doctors, artists, musicians, a formidable fraternity bound by one of the strongest and most agreeable of bonds.

As in Paris, our old book shops and stalls have always clung to the river bank, and though Dublin may not be able to boast the secondhand treasures to be seen in the Gay City, this is no case of Eclipse first and the rest nowhere.

Forty years ago there were far more second-hand bookstalls in Dublin than to-day.  The vendors of those days, for the most part, did trade in the open air, not having as yet advanced to the dignity of shops and shutters.  The great rendezvous in the early Eighties was the Four Courts.  The moveable cases, in all stages of Decrepitude, were fixed standing on a low platform running from the main entrance on the quays each side of the gates of the eastern square.  The cases were tied to the railings with bits of rope and straps that had seen many weathers.

It was a queer, quaint show surely.  But when the Courts rose for the day, here could be seen all the legal luminaries prying into decrepid volumes and peering at the titles of the tattered tomes huddled in the cases.

A close-up on one of the bookstalls in the Osborne photograph above, complete with eager browser or perhaps the bookseller himself arranging his wares to best advantage.
The other bookstall shown in the Osborne photograph, with seller and browsers clearly visible.

Two of the chief vendors of the time were the Traynors – all elderly women – and quaint old John Campion, who used to sport a splendiferous top hat on Sundays as befitted one with his literary connections.  It was a time and a place for real, hard, well-contested bargaining, in which the lawyers had not always the best of it.

At the close of the day the cases were taken down, the counters dismantled, and books, shelves, planks and props were shouldered across the Court yard, and left in repose for the night in the basement of what was then the Exchequer and Common Pleas building. What a free and easy age it was.  And this procedure had been going on time out of mind.

Besides John Campion, the doyen of the trade, there was a Mr Traynor, who kept shop near Parliament street bridge.  But his was a more proper, secondhand store – the wares at the Four Courts being rather fifth, sixth, indeed tenth hand stock if their venerable appearance did not woefully belie them.  Traynor kept his books with scrupulous neatness, and they were sufficiently new-looking to grace any library.

Dear old Father CP Meehan, Clarence Mangan’s friend, and himself an author of many gifts, was constantly to be seen delving amidst Traynor’s treasures. Canon O’Hanlon, another eminent Irish historian, was also a frequent visitor, and I have seen the late Professor Galbraith, of Trinity, and the late Mr Justice William O’Brien, in his seedy frock coat and tattered tall hat, going the rounds of the shop together, while the judge’s detective guard stood leaning against the quay wall, doubtless making internal uncomplimentary remarks about his distinguished charge’s addiction to literature…

Hickey, of Bachelor’s Walk, next appeared on the scene, and his store was as dishevelled looking as Traynor’s was neat.  It looked as though the books had wandered into him and flung themselves down any way – tired out with their peregrinations.  One could always ‘cut’ Hickey.  He hated to see anybody leave his shop without a book, and I have known him to toss up with a customer over an odd sixpence.  His description of classics, especially to people who had not a bookish appearance, was sometimes quaint and fearsome.  He was the last of the old school.  Today the second hand book trade has gone holus-bolus to the Southern Quays, the shops are on Crampton Quay and Aston’s quay, and the barrows lined upon the whole length of Aston’s place.  There are pretty much the same kind of hunters and the same kind of jostling…”

Not just books, but poets, could be discovered at the Four Courts.  As recounted in the Limerick Chronicle of 1837, the poet Thomas Dermody owed his brief and tragic success to a chance meeting at one of its bookstalls:

“One day a gentleman, whose name has escaped us, was turning over the leaves of an old volume at a bookstand in the vicinity of the Four Courts, in Dublin, when his attention was attracted by a squalid boy in the ragged dress of a peasant, standing close beside him, devouring in silent abstraction, the contents of a mutilated Greek Homer.  The circumstance naturally excited curiosity, and produced inquiries which led to the discovery that, with the powerful impetus of genius struggling against obstacles, the wretched-looking boy had abandoned his native village, destitute of friends and meant to seek books and mankind in the metropolis.  Fortunately the gentleman was a patron of letters, and a man of great influence: he undertook to advance the fortunes of the stranger, and through his means, Dermody, whom the reader will have recognised in the ragged urchin, was introduced to the Countess of Moira, who continued to patronize him until he exhausted her patience by his irreclaimable vices…”

Thomas Dermody, the ragged country lad with extraordinary poetic gifts ‘discovered’ at one of the Four Courts bookstalls around the time of its opening in 1796. Image via Wikidata.

Another poet often seen standing before the bookstalls of the early 19th century Four Courts was James Clarence Mangan, described in a retrospective account in the Dublin Weekly Nation of 18 August 1883 as ‘spectral-looking’ in appearance, ‘sicklied over with the diaphanous pallor said to distinguish those in whom the fire of genius has burnt to rapidly even from childhood,’ and never without his ‘large malformed umbrella which, when partly covered by his cloak, might easily be mistaken for a scotch bagpipe.’

Architectural purists deplored the bookstalls in front of the courts and there were at least two critical letters written to the Dublin Daily Express in 1857, possibly by the same person, which, however, went nowhere.  In an era before the internet, television, movies and, indeed, the popular press, buying books outside the Four Courts was one of the great Dublin pastimes and no one was going to see it taken away. 

Even the most dog-eared purchases were gloated over with delight and pride. One writer in the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of 1853 recounts joyously that “the other day, rambling about, I stumbled upon an odd volume of an old Magazine of my favourite ‘Ninety Eight.’  This was at a bookstall close to the Four Courts, Dublin, and I immediately became its possessory at the price of seven pence sterling.  The book-stall keeper, who was quite a Sir Chares Grandison of bibliopoles, politely offered to send my purchase home for me, but I took it to my habitat myself, and revelled in Ninety Eight half that night.”

This very early photograph of the Four Courts by William Henry Fox Talbot, via the Bodelian, shows a very extensive collection of bookstalls and advertisements in front of the central block in the mid 19th century.

A generation or so later, another bibliophile, writing in the Church of England Temperance Chronicle of 25 February 1882, enthused about the “venerable book stalls… on the sluggish banks of the Liffey – stalls where one can get old books ‘for a mere song,’ unlike some of the London would-be old bookshops, where all the old books are new, and all the new books old.  In Dublin too, whether one purchaser or not apparently makes little difference to the genially disposed proprietor of the stall.  ‘All the latest news at the court,’ witty comments on current events, deftly woven into a continuous narrative, with sparkling snatches from Tom Moore, and other native bards, why an hour at a Dublin bookstall is a delightful treat, once enjoyed, never to be forgotten.”

Another man of the cloth drawn to the irresistible attractions of Four Courts bookstalls was the aptly named Reverend Robert Herbert Story, whose ‘tendency to bibliomania, leading him to linger in all sorts of dingy and grimy corners in town,’ often became a severe trial to his friends, as it was not at all a pleasant pastime… to have to loiter among the dubious purlieus of the Quays and Four Courts while he was poking around among the bookstalls and conversing with the voluble and ragged Irish gentleman who presided there.‘  The same account notes that Story did manage to acquire as a result a large collection of old and curious editions – some of them of considerable value. 

Not just buyers, but the booksellers themselves, made substantial profits out of the Four Courts trade.  One brother and sister, who kept a stall at the early 19th century Four Courts, are described by the Dublin University Magazine of 1868 as having ‘retired to the country to enjoy a competence, before old age made his approach to either, and this within the recollection of the author.’ 

Rare the barrister practising within its Hall who could hope to achieve as much!

The Barrister and the ‘Charley,’ c.1780

‘A Brace of Public Guardians,’ by Thomas Rowlandson, via the Met Museum.

From the Irish Independent, 12 November 1907, this fantastic piece on ‘The Charleys,’ or the Old Dublin Watch, by D.J.M. Quinn, with an amusing story in its last paragraph about how an eminent and somewhat officious ‘gentleman of the wig and gown’ of times past found himself magnificently outwitted by a ‘Charley’ he had sought to reprimand:




Could the good citizen, who, gazing today on the stalwart form of the Dublin Metropolitan policeman as he paces with measured tread the streets of the city, take a glance backwards, say to the end of the 18th century, he would behold a vastly different type of custodian of the law.  At that period there existed in Dublin a body whose official designation was ‘the Watch,’ but who were known to the gallants of the day by the sobriquet of ‘The Charleys.’  The origin of the latter appellation is said to date back to the time of the gay King Charles II, in whose reign the Watch was first instituted.


‘The Charleys,’ who were the only guardian of the streets at night (there were none during the day), were generally old and feeble men, many of whom had, in their earlier days, been the domestic servants or retainers of members of the Corporation and of their friends.  They wore long frieze coats with large capes and low-crowned hats, and were armed with a single weapon, which they used for offensive and defensive purposes alike.  This was a long pole, with a spear at one end, and at the other was a crook for the purpose of catching runaway offenders.  They also carried a rattle, which they twisted violently round, made a harsh and discordant noise like that of a gigantic corncrake; with this, when in trouble or danger, they summoned fellow watchmen to their assistance.


The duties of these senile guardians of the peace were, to patrol a certain beat, to quell riots, and to arrest and bring to the watchhouse disorderly characters.  The first of these tasks they carried out fairly well, but the latter two, owing to their old age and stiff joints, was naturally a somewhat difficult and often an impossible achievement.  At times, however, they did manage to effect an arrest, but such an event was invariably brought about through sheer force of numbers.  They had also, as they walked along their beat, to call out the hour and the state of the weather, such as ‘Past 12 o’clock and a cloudy night,’ or ‘Past 2 o’clock and a stormy morning.’


For each ‘Charley’ at the end of his beat, was provided a small sentry-box, somewhat after the fashion of the shelter supplied at present to the night watchmen of the implements of the Corporation workmen.  In this, in bad weather, and often in good, he might be seen comfortably dozing away the silent watches of the night, oblivious to all the disturbance which were, at the time, the rule rather than the exception, of the hours of darkness.  But frequently his seeking after comfort proved his undoing, for it was no uncommon incident during a severe winter to find a ‘Charley’ stiff and cold in his box – literally frozen to death.  This was notably the case in the winter of 1785, when Dublin was visited with a terrible and prolonged spell of frost.  An old chronicler tells us: – ‘The Liffey was frozen over for weeks, traffic was at a standstill, and the Lord Mayor caused huge fires to be lit in the market-places to warm the poor.’  During this period no fewer than five ‘Charleys’ were found frozen to death in their boxes.


To show how utterly impotent were the ‘Charleys’ as preservers of the peace, the riot of 1790 between the frequenters of the coffee-houses in Dame Street will plainly show.  At midnight in December of that year, a duel was fought between two of the young Dublin bloods, each of whom asserted that the other had grossly insulted him.  During the progress of the fight, the supporters of the combatants had words, and in a short time two formidable forces were opposing each other with every conceivable weapon, naked fists included.  Above the din of the fight the loud buzzing sound of the Watch’s rattle was heard, but their advent had no effect whatever on the mob who, placing their own differences to one side, banded together to attack the common enemy, with the result that the Watch were severely mauled; their hats and cloaks were torn, their crooks and rattles taken from them, and they were chased from the courtways, where they endeavoured to secrete themselves.  The Lord Mayor, hearing of the riot, set out in his coach with the object of trying to restore order, but after a futile attempt to do so, he hurried to the Castle, where he invoked the aid of the soldiery, at whose approach the midnight disturbers of the peace made a rapid retreat.

‘Tom Getting the Best of a Charley,’ by Cruikshank, via


The greatest plague, however, with which the unfortunate ‘Charleys’ had to deal was the Trinity boy. These young gentlemen would sally out at night from one of the theatres (where they had perchance suddenly blown out all lights and left the audience in darkness) and walk in a body up the main streets of the city.  They usually contented themselves with flattening the hats of the ‘Charleys,’ who were out of their boxes, but those who were unfortunate enough to be inside fared much worse.  Creeping noiselessly behind him, they tilted the box over, thus imprisoning the unlucky Watch as securely as if he were under lock and key in the Watchhouse.   There he remained until his muffled shouts attracted some of his fellows or until some righteous citizen gave the alarm and summoned help to liberate him from his uncomfortable and undignified position.


If there was anything more than another which increased the respect of the Trinity boys for one another, it was some trophy borne triumphantly away after one of those midnight encounters, and as a result the walls of some of their ‘dens’ in the College were lavishly ornamented with crooks, rattles, hats, and even cloaks, wrested from time to time from the unfortunate ‘Charleys’.  So great became this practice that the Lord Mayor was forced to offer a reward ‘to any person or persons who would give information leading to the arrest of anyone despoiling the Watch of the various parts of their uniform.’ Notwithstanding the reward, however, the Trinity boys always managed to escape scot free, and at one time they had the audacity to advertise, whether in joke or otherwise is not known, a sale of property ‘most suitable to persons following the occupation of watchmen.’


A good story is told of a celebrated barrister of those days and an astute ‘Charley.’  The gentleman of the wig and gown returning to his home late at night came across a watchman asleep in his box.  Hastily shaking him up the man of opinions soundly rated him for his dereliction of duty and threatened to report him at headquarters for being asleep.  The ‘Charley,’ though recently awakened from a sound sleep, proved himself equal to the occasion, for swinging his rattle quickly round his head, so that its noise attracted a neighbouring watchman, he laid violent hands on the interpreter of his dreams.  When the other ‘Charley’ arrived on the scene, the disturbed one complained bitterly of the legal man’s bad language and disorderly conduct.  The barrister protested his innocence, but all to no purpose, and with a crook securely fastened in his coat tails, to prevent any attempt on his part to escape, he was ignominiously escorted by his captors to the Watchhouse, where he stormed and raved until morning, when he was brought before the magistrate.  Here things were somewhat cleared up, as the magistrate had a full knowledge of the prisoner’s character, and liberated him.  The ‘Charley’s purpose had, however been effected, as it is, of course, unnecessary to say how futile the barrister’s complaint of finding him asleep in his box would have been after he had himself been arrested for disorderly conduct.


A wonderful article impossible to resist transcribing in its entirety!

Point to Ponder: Could the well-known expressions: ‘a right Charlie,’ ‘get back in your box,’ and ‘you’re out of your box’ originally have been referable to the ‘Charleys’?

A Objectionable Dress, 1909

Miss Minnie Cunningham, as depicted in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 24 May 1890.

From the Donegal Independent, 14 May 1909 and the Irish News and Belfast Morning News, 8 May 1909:


The jury in the Nisi Prius Court, Dublin failed to agree to a verdict in an action brought by Miss Minnie Cunningham, burlesque actress, against two companies owning theatres in Dublin and Belfast, and were discharged.

Miss Cunningham had been engaged to play the principal girl in the pantomime of ‘Jack and Jill’, which was produced last Christmas season in Belfast and subsequently in Dublin.

Her action claimed damages for alleged breach of that agreement.

The principal question in the case was whether the dresses supplied to her were too short. 

Mr Healy KC, leading counsel for the defendants, addressing Lord Chief Justice O’Brien, said that Serjeant Moriarty, who appeared for Miss Cunningham, had made the suggestion that it would be an advisable thing if the plaintiff would put on the dresses that she had objected to.

The Lord Chief Justice said he was about to make the suggestion himself.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘the jury should see those dresses on the lady.’

Serjeant Moriarty – It is a most admirable suggestion.  If the truth is on my side, it must appear in that way.

The plaintiff, her mother and Miss Scott, wardrobe mistress, retired.

The Lord Chief Justice said the question in the case was if, in fact, the dresses were indecent, irrespective of the plaintiff’s opinion and the opinion of the defendant.

Serjeant Moriarty – that is the question, I think.

Mr. Healy – That is quite right, but we will submit that, the plaintiff in the first instance having violated the contract in not attending rehearsal, her opinion on the point is of no value.  This is in our pleadings.

The Court then adjourned for half an hour.

On the court resuming, the Lord Chief Justice invited the jury to ask any questions they wished as to whether the dresses were altered or not since they were first given to the plaintiff.  It would be a terrible thing if a lady should be asked to wear an objectionable dress.  On the other hand, it would be a horrible thing, that a man who is in a public position, a stage manager, should try to get rid of a lady by forcing an objectionable dress upon her.  He would like to know if Mr. Healy saw one of the dresses on the lady.

Hr. Healy said he had.

Miss Scott, wardrobe mistress to one of the defendant companies, Warden, Limited, Belfast, stated in reply to Mr. Healy, that she had considerable expertise as she had acted for Mr. George Alexander, Miss Ada Reeve and others.

Since she saw the dress which had just been fitted on Miss Cunningham, in Belfast, it was not altered or shortened in any way.  She was quite clear about that.

The witness, in answer to Mr. Healy, said the dresses had come from the Bristol pantomime, and she had altered them to suit Miss Cunningham. 

Mr Healy -You would not be a party to any indecency in dress? Certainly not.

Witness further stated that when Miss Cunningham complained that the dresses were too short, she (the witness) said they were not and that she had made them according to her own measurement.  Miss Cunningham tried on the dresses again, and Mr. Warden came in, and he failed to see anything the matter with them.  Miss Cunningham was very cross about it, and she said she was not used to wearing small dresses and that she would not wear these.  She also said she was not used to going in rags.  Miss Cunningham was very unhappy, and she did not seem to like any of the dresses.

Miss Cunningham, from the Sketch, 4 October 1893.

‘I said,’ continued witness, ‘that I was willing to get more material, and that I would do anything for her.  I told her I would make a new little skirt for her.’

The Lord Chief Justice – What prevented that from being done?

Witness – I don’t know.  Mr. Warden was willing to alter it a little, for to make the dress long would make the character ridiculous.  Miss Cunningham wanted the dress to be three quarter length, but that would not suit a child’s part.

Witness, in further evidence, said Miss Cunningham had told her subsequently that she had given up the part.  Witness said that was a pity, as she thought the pantomime without Miss Cunningham would not be a pantomime.  She thought Miss Cunningham a very clever artiste.

The Lord Chief Justice – Whatever the result of this action will be, her reputation will remain as a very clever artiste.

Miss Cunningham’s part had been given to Miss Fink.

Some discussion took place as to the measurements of Miss Cunningham and Miss Fink, and it was suggested that they stand on the table in the court in the presence of the jury.

Serjeant Moriarty – Let them take off their boots.

Mr. Healy – I really think it is their hats that should be removed.

The Lord Chief Justice: And the jury agrees.  Let the ladies take off their hats and boots.

Miss Cunningham and Miss Fink, as depicted in the Irish Independent, 8 May 1909.

The two actresses, minus hats and boots, then stood upon the table side by side, and afterwards back-to-back.

The foreman of the jury – Miss Cunningham is undoubtedly the taller.

Mr. FW Warden was then examined by Mr. Healy, and he stated that he was the managing director of Warden, Limited, and carried on business in Belfast and Dublin. He had been in the theatre business all his life, and he had never had a case like this before.  The pantomime was visited by 74,000 people. ‘Jill’ was the part of the Princess, disguised as ‘Jill,’ and of course was a girl’s part.  Having obtained the services of Miss Dorothy Ward for the ‘boy’s’ part, he thought Miss Cunningham would suit the ‘girl’s’ part admirably.  She was an artiste of great talent and was one of the greatest favorites in Ireland.  She was well known in Belfast – her name was attractive – a household word in fact. 

The witness then detailed the circumstances under which he engaged Miss Cunningham at a salary of £30 per week.  It was usual in his company for the artistes to attend rehearsals free, but Miss Cunningham would not, and he gave way.  The plaintiff said to him ‘You have engaged Miss Dorothy Ward?’ He said ‘Yes.’  She said, ‘She is a great favorite in Belfast and Dublin.’  He replied that Miss Ward had made an enormous success in his last pantomime, and he hoped she would repeat it.  Miss Cunningham hesitated, and, after several questions had passed between them, she said, ‘I don’t think I would like to be in the same pantomime as Miss Ward.  She would outshine me.’  He said, ‘Nonsense. You are one of the greatest artistes that come to Ireland.’ 

At a subsequent interview he asked Miss Cunningham what she intended to do – was she going to carry out her threat not to appear in the pantomime.  She replied, ‘If I have to wear these dresses, I do not intend to play the part.’  He told her he would not alter them, and Miss Cunningham said, ‘I don’t want you or your d— part either.’ And she handed him the book part. 

The Lord Chief Justice – Did she use that expression?

Witness – Yes, she said ‘I don’t want you nor your d— part either. That was the exact expression she used to me on the stage of the theatre.’

Witness further stated that, luckily, Miss Fink was in Belfast at the time, and he engaged her for the part.  Her terms were £15 a week.  In his opinion the dresses in question were not in any way improper.

The witness was cross-examined at some length by Serjeant Moriarty and admitted that Miss Cunningham had on numerous times said to him that the dresses were too short, although they were very dainty and nice otherwise.

Mr. Thomas Hill, who was assistant stage manager during the production of the pantomime, was examined by Mr. Hanna, and stated that on the Wednesday, when they were at rehearsal in Belfast, Miss Cunningham went to Mr. Warden and said, ‘Can I have this song here?’ indicating a particular part of the performance.  Mr. Warden said, ‘My dear Miss Cunningham, no.’ (Laughter) She said, ‘I don’t seem as if I had got anything to do in the pantomime at all.’

Miss Cunningham, the witness went on to say, seemed to be always by herself, and not speaking to any of the other members of the company.  He further deposed to having heard Miss Cunningham say to Mr. Warden, ‘I don’t want you or your d—- part.’

At this point, Miss Cunningham was recalled and in reply to the Lord Chief Justice, denied emphatically that she ever used the words ‘your d— part.’

The next witness was Mr. John McMahon, who acted as stage manager during the pantomime, and who had come from Stockton-on-Tees to give evidence.  Questioned as to what he heard about the dresses, he stated that Mr. Warden told Miss Cunningham she could wear the Colleen’s dress in the song ‘Connemara.’

‘That’s all,’ added witness, ‘I heard about dresses.’  Being examined as to the demeanour of Miss Cunningham at the rehearsals, witness expressed the opinion that she did not put enough ‘go’ into the lines.  The part perhaps was not strong enough.

Miss Edith Fink, in reply to Mr. Hanna, for the defendant, stated that she was approached by Mr. Warden on Friday morning, the 18th, in Belfast – that was after Miss Cunningham had definitely thrown up her part – to play the part of ‘Jill’ in the pantomime in Belfast and afterwards in Dublin.

During the entire time in Belfast and Dublin, did you wear these dresses that Miss Cunningham had objected to? -Yes

The Lord Chief Justice – Is the length of the dresses the same? Exactly.

The Lord Chief Justice – Are you quite sure no alteration was made in the length of the dresses at all? Oh, no.

Mr. Hanna – Was there anything improper or indecent in the dress s worn by you?  No.

Mr. Hanna – You would not suggest that in December last you were as popular in Ireland as Miss Cunningham?  No, I had never played in Belfast before.

The Lord Chief Justice – Miss Cunningham is very popular and an excellent artiste in every way, I believe.

In cross-examination by Mr. Powell, the witness said that the dresses in question were altered for her from what they were made to fit Miss Cunningham.

Mr. George Miller, who had played the part of the ‘Widow Cobble’ in ‘Jack and Jill’ said, in his opinion, there was nothing indecent or improper in the dresses.

Mr. Chambers, also for the defendant, addressed the jury at the conclusion of the evidence, and Mr. Powell replied for the plaintiff.

The Lord Chief justice proceeded to address the jury.  Dealing with the facts of the case, he said the only question the jury had to consider was as to whether the dresses were so short as to be indecent.

The case was a singular one in some respects.  He had never heard a plaintiff so praised as Miss Cunningham was, and he was sure, as a general proposition, it was well deserved.  She seemed to have been a great success at her profession, and whatever might be the result of the present case, he thought she had got a great advertisement (Laughter) because there had been a chorus of praise for that interesting lady. He impressed the jury not to allow themselves to be run away on one side or the other, but to calmly do justice.

It was just half past four o’clock when the jury retired.

After thirty-five minutes deliberation, the jury disagreed and were discharged.”

Miss Cunningham, leaving court with her solicitor Mr Christopher Friery, again from the Irish Independent, 8 May 1909.

Miss Cunningham, who retired from the stage c.1916, is also known for being the muse of Walter Sickert, artist, suspected by some to be the infamous Jack the Ripper.  More about their interesting relationship can be found here.

The Tall Hat as Mandatory Off-Duty Legal Wear, 1800-1934

Irish barrister and politician Daniel O’Connell, popularly known as ‘the Liberator’, wears a top hat on his release from prison in 1844. O’Connell’s top hat was iconic, but other Irish barristers and solicitors would have been similarly attired on their daily journeys to and from the Four Courts. Image via Alamy.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 5 February 1916:



(Before Mr Justice Pim)

The plaintiff, Kate Mullen, brought an action to recover from the defendant, John Lemass, £90, arrears of rent due out of premises at 15 Usher’s quay.  The defendant pleaded surrender, and that he was entitled to certain deductions for rates and taxes, and that the rent had been reduced by £3 by agreement many years ago. 

When the case was called, Mr C.S. Campbell (instructed by Mr H. Lemass) informed his lordship that it had been settled by consent.

Mr Serjeant McSweeny, with whom was Mr Joseph Reddy (instructed by Mr CJ Reddy) read the consent, which provided that judgment should be entered for £80, there being an allowance of £10 towards the rates and taxes paid by the defendant.

Mr Campbell then said that his client had a case for the consideration of his lordship under the Courts Emergency Powers Act.  The defendant was a member of a well-known Dublin family, who had carried on the business of hat manufacturers in Dublin for generations, a staple product being tall hats.  Unfortunately, of recent years, the tall hat had ceased to be the badge of aristocracy, and had become the mere emblem of respectability, with disastrous results to the defendant’s business.  However, he had carried on a successful business until April, 1914, when a serious fire occurred at his factory, destroyed the stock and plant and stopped the manufacture of hats.  Immediately on top of this came the war, the effect of which was to stop credit from English and foreign firms.  Prior to the war the defendant had had unlimited credit.  The result was that a prior action had been taken against him, and it had then been ascertained by Mr Justice Dodd that a fair sum for the defendant to pay by instalments would be £80 a year.

The defendant having been cross-examined as to his means, by Serjeant McSweeny, Mr Justice Pim said he would, if he could, give the defendant time to pay by making an instalment order; but he was afraid this would not be a kindness to him, and he thought it best to let the plaintiff take the liberty to issue execution.”

The location of Mr Lemass’s premises on Usher’s Quay, opposite the Four Courts, was no coincidence. As noted by the Wicklow People of 13 January 1934:

“Up to a few generations ago a shiny silk hat was as much a necessity to a barrister as a horse-hair wig, and in a well-known Dublin hatter’s may still be seen an outsize, the property of the Liberator, which would go down over the eyes of some of our present-day politicians.  They bobbed up everywhere in the Four Courts, and at the opening of circuit, when judges went on circuit in the good old days, there was an epidemic of tall hats.  Lawyers of all grades, officers and other functionaries who graced the colourful occasion looked important and even imposing in the glossy headgear always associated with decorative ceremonial.”

You can see here a photograph of some 1878 gents in top hats inspecting ex post facto the scene of a tragic foundry explosion and building collapse at Hammond Lane, next to where 158-9 Church Street now stands. I like to think they may have been off-duty barristers.

High-hatted Tim Healy himself in Vanity Fair in 1886, just before the safety bicycle sent the top hat flying out of fashion, never really to return. Image via Wikimedia.

Horsewhipped Irish barrister and MP Tim Healy is quoted in the Sligo Champion of 21 October 1933 as saying that in his young days “everybody (who was anybody) wore a silk hat.”  According to Healy,

“the ‘topper’ went out when the ‘safety’ bicycle came in in about 1887… the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) begged Earl Spencer to ride beside him in Rotten Row (at the request of the hatters) in a silk hat.  They rode for a week so apparalled, but could not restore the old headgear.”

The writing was on the wall for tall hats in Ireland since 1913, when the Irish Independent of 7 February reported on evidence given by an impoverished draper sued by an assistant for his salary, that the assistant “had stayed on when there was nothing to be done, and there was nothing to sell in the place, the shop only consisting of hundreds of bandboxes of some antiquated tall hats that nobody would buy.”

There were rumours of a tall hat revival in 1926, when the Meath Herald and Cavan Advertiser of 7 February stated that

“We were all delighted to read about the return of the tall hat; it is such a dignified piece of headgear and is generally associated with clergymen, cabinet ministers, judges, barristers and the professional classes generally.”

Immediately below, the Advertiser noted that the inventor of the top hat, John Hetherington, had himself ended up in court when he “took a stroll down the Strand in the first topper one day in 1797, causing such a disturbance that he was arrested for a breach of the peace.  When tried before the Lord Mayor he was accused of wearing, on a public highway, ‘a tall structure of shiny luster, calculated to frighten timid folk,’ and it was stated that several women had fainted at the sight of the monstrosity.  Hetherington was bound over in the sum of £500 not to repeat the offence.”

Fortunately, for those hatters willing and able to diversify, there were lots of other hats beside tall hats – homburgs, derbies, fedoras, trilbies, and, of course, ladies’ hats, it being having been judicially noted by Judge Craig, the Belfast Recorder, in 1913 that

 “a good many ladies spend the sermon time in church in studying the dress of their lady friends.  A new hat, a new bonnet a new bow… is written down in the tablets of their memory.  Dress is a very great point with them, and to be an expert on such questions is one of things in which women pride themselves.”

John Lemass chose to diversify from hats into men’s outfitting generally and continued in business in Capel Street for years after the proceedings detailed at the start of this post. Indeed, many would say the greatest days of the Lemass family were yet to come – John’s son Seán (aged 17 at the date of Mrs Mullen’s case) became Taoiseach of Ireland in 1959.   

Perhaps his family firm even provided the silk top hats that the Irish judges wore instead of wigs to the official opening of the courts system of the Irish Free State in Dublin Castle in 1924?

There and Gone: Pill Lane, The Vanished Street Behind the Four Courts (Part 1)

A mid-18th century Pill Lane as mapped by Rocque

A street once there, now gone, can provoke more curiosity than one still paved and passable, and it is impossible for those who know about the vanished route of Pill Lane not to wonder, when traversing the portions of the Four Courts and Chancery Street over which it once passed, about how this street might have looked in the past. 

This post seeks to tell the first part of Pill Lane’s story.

For those unfamiliar with the history of the general area surrounding the Four Courts, the best introduction can be found in the following extract from ‘North Dublin City’ by Augustine Dillon Cosgrave, O. Carm, published in 23(1) Dublin Historical Record 3-22 (June 1969):           

‘Up to the end of the seventeenth century, the portion of the City of Dublin, lying to the north of the river Liffey was very small. It consisted of Church Street, then the principal thoroughfare, and a few streets to the east and west of it: from the east side out to the sea was a stretch of open country in which lay the suppressed Abbey of St Mary and the Dominican Priory nearer to the river Bradogue… Nothing to the east of this line had yet been recovered from the sea…

Pill Lane, renamed Chancery Street, derived its name from the Pill or Estuary of the Bradogue. Before the embankment of the Liffey in 1717 the Pill was quite a large river-inlet or harbor. The district adjoining was also called the Pill, and in 1641 Charles I granted the Pill to the City of Dublin, which City then lay south of the Liffey. This estuary was important at the very early period as being the Little Harbour of St Marys’ Abbey.  In 1684 Ormond Market, now demolished, was built beside the Pill, and called after James Butler, first Duke of Ormond. The word Pill is of Celtic origin and is the same as Peel in the Isle of Man or Poul in Poulaphouca or Pwill in such Welsh place names as Pwilheli, Llanfairpwllgwyngyl or Brich-Y-Pwil.

Speed’s 1610 map of Dublin, with buildings on the northern side of Pill Lane only. The large walled area to the south of the Lane, was the Inns of Court (formerly the Dominican Priory of St Saviour), today, the home of the Four Courts.

The original Pill Lane had buildings on its northern side only. The land adjacent to its southern side formed part of the Inns of Court, formerly the Dominican Priory. By the early 18th century, this land was no longer in the occupation of the Inns of Court, and had been built on. A century later the process would be reversed and this area reincorporated into the Four Courts complex.

18th century Pill Lane was a narrow street, bordered by gentlemen’s residences and places of business. A 19th century note records the continued presence of three or four old houses, now demolished, constructed in the ‘Elizabethan’ (or, more likely, the Dutch Billy) style and bearing stone tablets with the dates 1711 and 1712.

Houses on Pill Lane dating from the late 17th and early 18th century would have been versions of the Dutch Billy style. Above is a photograph by the late Patrick Healy of Dutch Billy housing elsewhere in Dublin, courtesy of South Dublin Libraries. Some of the houses in Pill Lane in the 18th century may have been even older.

One of the oldest recorded houses in Pill Lane was the ancient mayoralty house of the City of Dublin, subsequently owned by William Bedell, Bishop of Kilmore, and later passing to his descendants the Stanford family.

Other residents of Pill Lane included John Geoghegan, pewterer, described in the Dublin Intelligence of 1714 as selling dishes and plates of the newest fashion, tea kettles, and chafing dishes, who may perhaps have been a relative of the Miss Geoghegan abducted for the purposes of marriage when entering a chapel on Arran Quay in 1737, Anthony Daraugh, described in his 1745 obituary as ‘an eminent dealer in Hard-Ware and a person of very fair character’ and James Aspy, a haberdasher, who fell off his horse near Swords in 1753 and broke his neck.  There must have been some ill-fortune attaching to members of the Aspy household; the coachman who drove James to the grave, upon his return, fell from the box, also broke his neck, and expired instantly.

Taverns in Pill Lane or its immediate vicinity at this time included The Sign of the Turkey Cock, where a nursery of cherry, apples and pear trees was advertised for sale in 1709 to ‘any gentlemen, gardeners or others with occasion for any of the said things, all extraordinarily good’, and ‘the noted tap house, known by The Sign of St Patrick, well known by some breweries in the City of Dublin to draw eight barrels of ale in a week beside porter.’   One of the best-known was Walter Kennedy’s tavern The Bunch of Grapes, at the junction of Pill Lane and Greek Street. Walter’s grandson of the same name built a house next door, with a window into the tavern to allow him to procure wine from the comfort of his own home.

A close-up of an early 19c Wide Streets Commissioners Map showing a portion of the southern side of Pill Lane at the Church Street end. This area, comprising 57-84 Pill Lane, was originally part of the Inns of Court. It includes the Old and New White Cross Inns. Other businesses operating in this part of the Lane in the 18c included Hugh Reilly’s school at no 61, James Crosby’s The Figure of Justice at no 70, Aery Jessop and John Fuller’s The Spinning Wheel and Shuttle at no 76, and C & T Murphy’s Beer Wine and Spirit Warehouse at no 84. Holmes Apothecary (no 85) was located on the opposite side of Mountrath Street.

At the Church Street end of Pill Lane could be found The White Cross Inn, with twenty-eight sleeping rooms, a large tap room and stabling for eighty horses. Later, another premises of the same name, The New White Cross Inn, opened nearby. If the White Cross stables were full, there was always The Sign of the Flying Horse at 5 Pill Lane, with haylofts and stabling for upwards of thirty horses.

Another Pill Lane hostelry, and one which nearly put an end to the Lane at its zenith, was The Coleraine Inn. In 1747 a fire broke out in its stables, which was burning a long time before it was discovered. The horses narrowly escaped, but an ostler lost his life, and all hay and saddles were destroyed. On inquiry, it transpired the fire had been due to the carelessness of a little boy who had stuck a candle in one of the racks of hay. There were more fires in Pill Lane in 1765 and 1774. Fortunately, John Bolton at The Sign of the Scales specialised in building fire engines, and the engine for St Michan’s Parish was kept at his premises.

The Coleraine Inn fire was the second of two disasters to strike Pill Lane in the 1740s. Three years earlier, an old house in the street, where Mass was being officiated in breach of the Penal Laws, had collapsed, killing the priest and nine others, with many ancillary broken limbs and bruises.

Pill Lane’s location close to the Ormond Market, whose butchers had regular faction fights with the Liberty Boys across the river, could also result in danger for its inhabitants. The year 1750 saw

“a terrible fray between the Ormond and Liberty Boys on Ormond Quay, Pill Lane, Church Street etc. in which one man had his arm almost cut off, another his head scalped, and several more very much hurt  The servant of a noted chandler in that neighbourhood, returning to his master’s house, was attacked by them and dangerously wounded in several parts of his head, the consequences of which cannot at present be judged of.  The Piquet Guard was forced to be brought out, which soon dispersed them. Several of the above wounded rioters presented themselves to the different hospitals to be dressed, but were refused, in pursuance of their resolutions to discourse all riots and licentiousness, the real poor and distressed being the only objects of their care.”

An advertisement for the sale of a house in Pill Lane belonging to Robert Gibson, suitable for a hardware-man, haberdasher, linen draper or grocer, all being well-established Pill Lane trades.

Proximity to the Ormond Market did, however, help to attract trade. 18th century Pill Lane was one of Dublin’s top shopping destinations – particularly where textiles were concerned. As early as 1705, a business at the corner of Pill Lane and Church Street was advertising a choice of broadcloths, stuff, and serge for sale by wholesale or retail at reasonable rates. Slater’s Public Gazetteer of 26th May 1764 references

‘Printed linen and cotton Manufactory, all kinds of chintzes and penciled Linens and Cottons, Black and red and purple ditto, also blue, white, and red and white printed handkerchiefs and Dresden ditto with all kinds of bordered cambric’ manufactured and printed by Hugh Holmes and sold by wholesale at his warehouse in Pill Lane almost opposite Bull Lane. Holmes is the only person in the kingdom who manufactured and prints his own goods, he is enabled and determined to sell them on the lowest terms.’ 

Much later, at the turn of the 20th century, there was a member of the Court of Appeal in Ireland also bearing the name of Hugh Holmes. It is interesting to observe how frequently the surnames of merchants in Pill Lane recur among the 19th century Irish bar and judiciary.

Other Pill Lane textile traders included John Gordon and Robert McCulloch, who set up a haberdashery business there in 1767, specializing in silk and worsted breeches, Aery Jessop and John Fuller, whose shop, ‘The Spinning Wheel and Shuttle’, at 76 Pill Lane sold stays, garters, wigs, knitting threads, quilting pens and needles, and Thomas Wolfenden, who offered genuine Lambeg blankets for sale at his warehouse on Pill Lane, near Church street ‘on the most reasonable terms to prevent the importation of that species of woolen good so detrimental for this Kingdom.’  

In 1775, Thomas Higgins, owner of ‘the sole and exclusive right, benefit and advantage of printing and staining with various colours’, advertised for sale at his premises in Pill Lane ‘an assortment of the most elegant chintz, tabby nets, and poplins,’ while the ropemaker George Williamson, of The Plough’ manufactured all kinds of packing cord, bed cord. twine fishing line, jack line, bell line and sailcloths.

An advertisement placed by James Crosby at the time of dissolution of the partnership

There was also, at 36 Pill Lane, The Irish Scale Manufactory, the Sign of the Crown, and the Scales, run by James and Daniel Crosby. Along with beams, scales, and weights, it also sold, for one British shilling a paper, their famous powder promised to perform ‘great Destruction of Rats.’  James subsequently moved to 70 Pill Lane and opened a competing business, The Figure of Justice, while Daniel continued to trade from the original premises. Another James by the name of Sleator, trading under The Sign of Mother Redcap, offered for sale a different kind of powder, one for hair and wigs.

Wholesale China, Staffordshire and Irish cut glass could be had from Thomas Higginbotham at his warehouse at 106 Pill Lane, on the corner of Arran Street opposite the National Bank, while Joseph Rathbone, a chandler, carried on business beside the Bunch of Grapes. Rathbone Candles, the world’s oldest candlemaker , is still operating in Blanchardstown today.

Another merchant in Pill Lane was Mr Luke Plunkett, who appears to also have been in the wine and spirits business.

Leonard McNally, best known as the barrister who received a British Government pension for informing on Robert Emmet, kept a grocery in the Lane for a while. He was not alone. In 1773 John Hughes begged leave to acquaint his friends and the public that he had laid in a general assortment of ‘every Article in the Grocery and Dye Stuff way’, including ‘a large and fresh assortment of the best-chosen teas’ in the house now known by the Sign of the Parrot. Robert White, who traded from 106 Pill Lane during the same period, offered ‘new fruit and all other kinds of goods in the grocery way’ as well as ‘Pitch and Tar… on the most reasonable terms’, ‘real rushling, remarkably nice and well cured for sale’, and ‘genuine salt water fresh every day taken up in its purity at Howth.’  Those looking for something stronger than salt water could find it at 84 Pill Lane, home to the wholesale grocery, tea, wine, and spirit warehouse of C & T Murphy.

A 1929 article on historic Dublin apothecaries notes, with some regret, that Pill Lane, despite its name, never contained a representative of this trade. The owner of Holmes Apothecary, which opened at 85 Pill Lane in 1779, might have begged to differ. An earlier provider of health services was Robert Jenkins, surgeon, who specialized in making ‘all sorts of trusses for Ruptures or broken bellies, either plain or with Springs, the Bandage being the Newest, Easiest, and most Chirurgical for that disorder yet known. Gentlemen in the County may be supplied with any sort, sending the number of inches round the waist, and the side on which the Rupture is.’

There were a couple of schools in Pill Lane as well, one (English and Latin) run by Hugh Reilly, at 61 Pill Lane, and another (English only) at the Sign of the Black Lion. Hugh may have been the son of Philip Reilly, earlier recorded as keeping a ‘school in Latin or classics’ on the Inns.

An advertisement placed by Margaret Ham, glovemaker, who seems a little worried about losing custom as a result of her move from 48 to 45 Pill Lane.

One interesting feature of 18th century Pill Lane was the presence of businesswomen. At 27 Pill Lane could be found the Grocery, Genuine Spirit, and Wine Warehouse of Catherine Foley, selling a variety of fine French teas raw and refined sugars, choice old wines (including ‘very old Jamaica rum’), spices, Bordeaux vinegar, and ‘every other article in the grocery way, mostly her own import.Elizabeth Tennant carried on a linen business at 22 Pill Lane, while Esther Metcalf, stay, slip, and robe maker, could be found plying her trade at Armstrong’s China Shop in nearby Charles Street. In 1776 Margaret Ham, glovemaker, placed an advertisement in the newspaper advertising her move from 48 Pill Lane to 45 Pill Lane, with the intention of continuing to manufacture all sorts of leather gloves in the same extensive manner as previously.

Also of interest is an unknown woman who, in 1761, enjoyed a brief but extremely lucrative success in a different line of business. Hired by one of its merchants as a maidservant, she showed ‘uncommon skill in dressing dinner, to the satisfaction of his family, who became prejudiced in her favour, until one evening, when she told them that she had to call on her former mistress. Not returning at the time appointed, it was discovered that she had carried off all the plate that lay in her way, to a considerable value, whereby she evinced her deep acquaintance with another art beside that of cookery.’

A newspaper report of another domestic robbery which took place in Pill Lane, this one perpetrated by an apprentice.

Another Pill Lane inhabitant who turned to crime was Alexander Graham ‘born in Pill Lane in the Parish of St Michan’s, of very honest parents’ executed at Stephen’s Green for robbery on 6 September 1729. Even in its days of 18th century prosperity, not all the inhabitants of Pill Lane were wealthy, and Graham’s may have been one of the families living in poverty in one of the courts behind the merchants’ and gentlemen’s houses. Not that wrongdoing in Pill Lane was confined to the poor – in 1769 a gentleman’s son, living in one of these houses, brought a dog into his father’s house and threw it down a neighbor’s chimney, where it continued howling for days.

That said, with robbery the prevailing crime in Pill Lane, its wealthy inhabitants were more likely to be victims than perpetrators, making it inadvisable for them to venture outdoors sporting large sums of money or expensive accessories. In 1782, the coach of one such inhabitant, returning home by the gate of the old Blue-Coat Hospital, was stopped by ’11 fellows, armed with long knives and cutlasses, two of whom guarded the coachman while the rest dragged the unfortunate gentleman into the passage that leads to Oxmantown Green, where they took his watch, money, shoe buckles, and after stripping him stark naked cut him in a most cruel manner in the arms, legs and almost every other part of his body and to complete this most horrid deed left him bound to  a tree with his own garters.

Given the state of crime in Pill Lane in 1784, it is unlikely that this watch case was recovered.

In 1784, two reported robberies took place in Pill Lane itself. Mr. Joseph Neary of Ormond Quay, stopped near Greek street by three footpads, was fortunate enough to lose only three shillings and his shoe and knee buckles, which were only plated. When separately accosted by ‘three ill-looking fellows, armed with pistols,’ Mr Butter, who lived next door to the Bunch of Grapes, made a stout resistance and wounded one of the robbers before being obliged to yield. These attacks were representative of an increase in crime in Pill Lane in the second half of the 18th century which contributed to the exit of its older and wealthier residents.

The chain of events leading to the disappearance of what was once one of Dublin’s most famous streets may indeed have commenced with another robbery thirty years earlier, when ‘three or four disorderly fellows with drawn swords pursued a coach containing the family of the Hon Mr. Justice French, from opposite the New Cross Inn to St Michan’s Church, stabbing the coachman in the side and running the footman through his calves to prevent him following‘, an attack possibly influencing the Benchers’ subsequent decision to relinquish the Inns of Court and its eventual replacement by today’s Four Courts.

More about the Four Courts, and its effect on Pill Lane, to come!

A Curious Career, 1901

From the Enniscorthy Guardian, 7 December 1901, this Edwardian version of ‘Catch Me if You Can’ with a young Derryman playing the role of Frank Abagnale:





A Derry man whose name was given as Robert Schumberg Long, though his title to Schumberg is doubtful, was charged at Shillelagh Petty Sessions on Tuesday with the larceny of a considerable number of articles from the warehouse of O’Neill and Nephew at Carnew, where he had obtained employment on the presumption of his being a draper’s assistant. Shop pilfering of a systematic kind formed the basis of the charge of larceny, but the inquiries made by the police reveal very remarkable circumstances in the career of Long, who posed in various distinguished grades from a Cambridge University man and Doctor of Laws, and the elect of Mr Chamberlain for an important post in Pretoria, down to a counterhand in the quiet village of Carnew. 

In appearance, address and manners he was well adapted to play his part, and there was a skillfulness about him which had impressed Mr Darlington, the proprietor of the establishment in Carnew, and caused that gentleman for a time to believe that his new employee was a fully apprenticed and professionally trained drapery hand.  He came to Carnew last September, having obtained employment at O’Neill and Nephew’s on the strength of testimonials from other establishments, but the documents of course were quite in uniformity with all the surroundings of a curious career, bogus and forged. His engagement was for the modest sum of £25 a year with accommodation and maintenance, but whatever shortcomings existed in salary were recouped, apparently from other sources, judging by the plea of guilty and the admissions during the hearing of the charges at petty sessions. 

He remained in O’Neill and Nephew’s down to the 23rd of November, when he was taken into custody by Sergeant Delaney, acting on discoveries made through a search warrant. The prisoner’s boxes and portmanteaus in Mr Darlington’s house disclosed the possession of a large variety of drapery and fancy goods and clothing, much of which Mr Darlington identified as belonging to the establishment, and the minimum value of which he estimated at about £7. Letters and photographs, the latter in much abundance, helped the police from one inquiry to another.

It was ascertained that the defendant belonged to Londonderry, where he spent some years as a junior teacher. He left Derry in ’96, and subsequently returned, when according to the police information, he impressed people with the belief that he had been a student in Cambridge University, and had his card embellished with the significant letters, L.L.D. Amongst the documents found in this connection was a receipt from a northern hotel in Derry, acknowledging a payment from Dr Long.

He returned to Derry some time last year, and again early this year, and appears to have improved things, for again, according to the police information, he was feted, preparatory to going out to Pretoria to fulfill an important appointment bestowed upon him by Mr Chamberlain, and the ruse worked so well that the guileless newspapers in the north took him up, and published eulogistic paragraphs about the young Derryman’s educational career, and the distinction he had attained.  Copies of the newspaper matter are in the hands of the authorities and read side by side with the incidents in Shillelagh court they indeed formed curious and suggestive reading.

An endearingly trusting article detailing the accused’s illustrious career, from the Derry Journal of 31 May 1901, via British Newspaper Archive.

The next point in Long’s career was to spend some months in Newbridge, from whence he parted owing to the development of habits of an unsatisfactory kind. From here, he appears to have gravitated to Carnew, a forged testimonial going to show that he served his apprenticeship in Clones. The constabulary inquiries prove this latter statement to be altogether untrue, and the fact is that Long, who appears to have possessed some skill in the business, was never apprenticed nor trained to drapery. In Carnew he deluded many people. His airs, to paraphrase his own description, were that of a man of estate doing work as a clerk.

He made use of a will to impress some susceptible minds with the idea that he was inheriting properly in America, and elsewhere, and in his short career in Carnew he appears to have brought some innocent persons into trouble.  He extended patronage to the local tailor, amongst other equipment a riding breeches forming part of his necessary apparel. But the search of the police has discovered the never-failing tall hat and dress suit with which he more elaborately concealed his identity on occasions.

 Other particulars disclose his having passed elsewhere under an assumed name, and an incident has arisen connecting him with Greenock, and his presumed travel in England. Various photographs of the accused have been found. In one of these he figured as a barrister in wig and gown. A letter found, and the inquiries which the police have carried out, show that while in Carnew he attempted to do business on a large scale with extensive house furnishing people, on the plea that he was a person of position and property in the locality.  Various other matters have afforded much ground for inquiry by the police, who have ample opportunity now in the fact that Long has been sequestered for six months on his own plea of guilty in the county prison. 

On Tuesday he was brought down from Wicklow on trial before the magistrates, Mr A Meldon, Mr Brooke and Dr Brady. Mr Barbour, solicitor, of the firm of TK Toomey and Co, Dublin, appeared for him He was attended in court by his father, who was unable to throw but scant light on the son’s career since he left Derry in ’96, but apparently he had puzzled the father much after his style of treating other people. The man had believed that the son all the while was away getting a college education, as he put it, and when the youth was at home recently, knowledge was conveyed to the father about the appointment by Mr Chamberlain in Pretoria.

In court, Long was slightly disturbed, but towards the end appeared to be considerably relieved by a six months’ sentence. Out of the sum of £40 which had been found in his possession when arrested at Mr Darlington’s, £7 were ordered by the court to be refunded as the value of the goods identified by Mr Darlington. Mr Barbour, for the accused, having offered restitution, and minus his solicitor’s fee, the rest of the money was passed to the defendant, who in a most businesslike way had his portmanteaus and the articles made up to be sent thither with him to prison.

The case was called in court at the suit of District-inspector Otter against Robert Schumberg Long, for that he did, between 9th September and 23rd November, unlawfully steal, take, and carry away a quantity of tweed and other articles, the property of James S Darlington, Carnew. A deposition, made by Sergeant Delaney, was read, in which he stated that he received a search warrant to search the houses of the accused, and on 23rd November he searched them, and found various articles identified by Mr Darlington as his property.

James Doyle deposed that he carried on business as a tailor at Carnew. He knew the defendant. Since September last, he had made certain garments for him – a coat, waistcoat, three pairs of trousers and a riding breeches.  He identified these articles produced by Sergeant Delaney. He saw the material for the coat and waistcoat on the counter of Mr Darlington’s shop about a month or five weeks ago with the defendant, who was behind the counter. He showed witness this piece of stuff. He did not know where the defendant took it from, but he said this being a bit of a remnant, he would get it cheap. Witness aid he would make the coat and waistcoat out of it if he could. He would not swear whether he took the parcel away or that it was sent. The trimmings came along with the stuff. He didn’t think he took the cloth, but it was sent to him, and the trimmings along with it.  He made the coat and waistcoat, and Long paid him 10s. 

There were two pairs of trousers made before this coat and waistcoat.  The material came in a parcel which was sent to witness’s house. He was paid for the making of these by the defendant. The pair of trousers and the breeches material now also produced came in separate parcels. The defendant was to go away on the Monday before he was arrested, and witness had them made for him the night before.  The defendant came to him the night before the day he was to go away. Witness parceled them up and defendant then said he was not going away. This was the night of Wednesday, 20th November. Witness then brought them up to the shop to defendant on the next morning, and delivered them to him.  On Friday following (22nd) he paid defendant 4s 6d for the trimmings of a waistcoat which witness had bought previously. This was a knitted fancy waistcoat for another person. He paid Long the 4s 6d across the counter. It might be one or two or three o’clock.

Mr Barbour – It might be six?

Witness – It was not so late (to the Chairman) – It was some time in the middle of the day.

Chairman – It has not been shown that the defendant was an assistant in shop.

Mr Otter said he would show all that.

The witness said the Defendant was assistant in the shop of O’Neill and Nephew, which is the name Mr Darlington trades under.

James Seymour Darlington stated, in reply to Mr Otter, that he carried on the business of a general warehouse at Carnew under the style of O’Neill and Nephew. There was a drapery department in the shop. The defendant was employed as assistant in it for witness. He entered the employment on 9th September at the remuneration of £25 per annum.

Mr Otter – As regards purchasing goods by assistants is there a rule?

Mr Barbour objected.

Mr Otter – This is purely that Mr Darlington explained to the defendant the rule with regard to assistant purchasing in a shop.

The Chairman said in a case in London last week in reference to the Army and Navy Stores, such evidence was allowed.

Mr Darlington – The rule was that assistants should not purchase goods from each other without his knowing of the purchase taking place, and that it should go through the books and pass through witness’s hands or Mrs Darlington’s when amount of same would be entered to the assistant’s account.  On 23rd November, a search was made of the room occupied by defendant.  Witness saw an amount of goods there which he identified as his property.  He saw the clothes mentioned in Doyle’s evidence. These were made from cloth in his establishment. One of the pair of pants had the buttons with the names of the establishment. The riding breeches was made out of material in the shop.

Mr Darlington then identified the following articles found in defendant’s portmanteaus – One five noggin bottle of whiskey, half pint bottle of whiskey, one pair of tan shoes, two hair brushes, four clothes brushes, six pairs of scissors, two dozen lead pencils, two razors, seven one ounce packets of tobacco, one pipe, two dozen boot laces, one box saddle paste, three bars carbolic soap, two penknives, two notebooks, two bottles crown cream polish, one shaving brush, one turnscrew, two dozen shirt studs, two bottles sateen polish, three woolen undervests, six linen collars, two pairs woolen drawers.  The value of all these articles would be over £7. The defendant did not bring it under his notice, according to instructions, as regards the purchase of any of these articles, and he had no knowledge that the defendant was taking them.

The defendant gave notice to leave his employment on 20th November. The notice was up on 6th.  On Wednesday night witness settled up his wages, and he was to go on the following Thursday.  Up to that date his wages came to £5.4s.2d. There was a deduction of 3s 6d for the amount of his account for a pair of towels, some note paper, and a cardboard box.  That left a balance of £5 0s 8d, which witness paid defendant. At the time the defendant made no mention about all the articles witness had identified. He paid the defendant with a five pound note.  The engagement should cease then, as he was to leave the establishment next morning. A fresh arrangement was made that night after the settlement, and the defendant agreed to stay under it. With regard to money paid to assistants over the counter, there was a check-till in the establishment.  There was an entry of the sale first on a sheet of the till. The till is then drawn and the money put in.  In the act of drawing the till the amount registered passes up under a glass shade.

Mr Barbour – did you read?

Mr Otter – No, we have the block.

Mr Darlington, continuing, said at night he checked the entries on the sheet with the money, to see if it corresponded, so that if an assistant did not enter an amount on the sheet the money would not be on the block, it would go into his own pocket.

Mr Barbour – Oh, I don’t know about that.

Witness produced the sheet for Friday, 22nd November. There was no entry of the payment made by Doyle on that date. Long gave witness the impression that he was a qualified draper’s assistant.

Mr Barbour questioned Mr Darlington, who stated that the articles produced and identified could be got in any other house, but if some of the cloth in Mr Barbour’s coat was found in his house he would not say that the material in the coat was his.  There was some row in the house amongst the assistants, and three of them went out one morning. Witness had occasion to make inquiry about the counter having been scratched, but hadn’t a row with the prisoner.  He did not blame any of the assistants, but they left all the same.

He had some rules as to what assistants should do. Some were written and some not. It was he put the police in motion for the search warrant. He had a suspicion from rumours he heard, particularly on this Friday. He did not search the room, but the rooms were open to every one.  He had these suspicions before he re-engaged the defendant on the night of the 20th. He called him into his room, and he had received a letter from Mr Bell, a commercial traveler, who said – ‘Long is sorry for giving you notice. He has no place to go to, and in consequence of the others having left you might keep him.’   Witness thought it might suit his purpose to do so, and they re-arranged. They shook hands, but the motion to to do came from the defendant. There was no regular stock-taking in the house. All the stuff was under witness’s own eye.

The Chairman, Mr Meldon, said the bench were considering whether or not they would ask the defendant would he plead guilty, and elect to be tried by them or be returned for trial.  They would like to know from Mr Otter whether he saw any objection to that course.

Mr Otter – The objection, of course, is that in addition to the larcenies there is embezzlement. We have one instance of embezzlement now on the deposition, the 4s 6d paid by Mr Doyle.

Chairman – But that is not entered on the charge.

Mr Otter – There are two other items of embezzlement which I proposed to prove, and I intended asking for an adjournment, but if this bench thinks the whole offences might be dealt with as one matter in its entirety, possibly that would meet the circumstances of the case.

Chairman – Unless you are able to show that there are other convictions.

Mr Otter – There is nothing previously so far as I know.

Chairman – If that is so I will ask the defendant. He is entitled to be tried before a jury, but if he pleads guilty he can be dealt with now.

Mr Barbour said he was going to adopt that course for the defendant. He would plead guilty, but only to some of the articles. He is prepared to make restitution, and the question then for the bench would be one of consequences, or whether or not they would deal with him under the First Offenders Act.

Chairman – That would be idle. We could not think of dealing with him in this way.

Mr Barbour – The way I put it is this – this young man, who is practically a boy, has got into the habit of taking things after the manner of a kleptomaniac, and under the section the bench had power in case of a larceny or false pretences, if it appeared, because of circumstances as regards the person’s youth, character or antecedents previously, they might consider it expedient to release him on approbation.  There was one element in the case, and it was that practically any punishment they could inflict would not be greater on the defendant than that which the consequences had entailed upon him.  His business prospects were done, his good fortune was done, and he should go away elsewhere to try and make a living. He came of respectable parents, and is willing to make restitution to the fullest extent.  In any case, whether the bench did not adopt the view he put (Mr Barbour) forward, it was not a matter for a heavy penalty, as the bench was limited to six months.

Chairman – Now, before we go further, is there anything known of his previous history?

Mr Otter – He is from Derry.

Mr Barbour – His father is here.

The Chairman then questioned the father, Andrew Long, who stated that he was a tailor at Pollock’s Londonderry. His son was not apprenticed to the drapery, but might have been after he left him in ’96.  He was at school all his life before that. While away he came home several times. He was 23 years of age last November.  He left witness the last Tuesday in September last.  He gave him, as he thought, a college education. When he left first he went to Dublin.  Witness supported him therefore six weeks.

Mr Barbour – Was he at the drapery trade in Dublin or any business to your knowledge?

Witness- He might have been.

Chairman – When he went to Dublin, what did he do?

Witness – I can’t say.  I got letters from him. You can read some of these.

Chairman – Did you never know what he was doing in Dublin?

Witness – Oh yes; I understood that he was going to some lawyer in Dublin.

Chairman – An attorney’s clerk?

Witness – Yes.

Mr Otter – When he left you last September did he say where he was going to?

Witness – I never spoke to him about it.

Mr Otter – Did he mention about an appointment in Pretoria?

Witness – No.

Mr Otter – Did he mention anything about South Africa?

Witness – I understood from my other boy that he had an appointment in Pretoria.

Mr Otter – Did he want money for an outfit?

Witness – He didn’t ask me, but I gave him some.  I knew he wanted it. I gave him £27.

The Chairman said all the replies were most unsatisfactory. It was extraordinary that this man did not know what his son was doing while away.

The bench having consulted, the chairman said the defendant elected to plead guilty, but when he asked him whether he would do that or go forward for trial, the question was weighing in his (chairman’s) mind, whether the power given them by law was sufficient to meet the case. This did not seem to be the larceny of a single article, or of one or two, or to have been done in a day or two. It was a continued theft after theft from his employers, and there was no stating whether or not they had come to the bottom of it, or whether more money was involved or more goods taken than was before them.  Taking the whole case into consideration, they would sentence him to six months’ imprisonment. They had grave doubts whether that imprisonment was commensurate with the offence committed, as they were sure if the defendant was tried before a jury, it was years and not months he would get.

Mr Otter – There was a sum of £40 got with him, but with the exception of a small amount I am not able to prove that that was dishonestly come by.  I presume the undertaking given to compensate Mr Darlington for those goods holds good now.

Mr Barbour – Oh, yes.

The bench then ordered that £7 of the money be given to Mr Darlington, and at Mr Barbour’s request three guineas was paid to him as his fee. The balance of the money is to be given to the defendant. Subsequently the defendant largely interested himself in arraying his portmanteaus, and the goods they contained, and these were removed with him to Wexford Prison, where they will be detained and handed over to him on release.

That the profession of barrister was among those Dr (or rather Mr) Long sought to assume is testament to the glamour accorded to the courtroom advocate by the popular media of the period, a glamour which, though long faded by the passage of time, occasionally resurfaces with the odd swish and flounce even today!

Top Image Credit

A Poet and Inventor’s Last Will, 1906

From the Nottingham Journal, 17 December 1906:


The extraordinary will of a Dublin poet, which was made as far back as 1882, was before Mr Justice Barton on Friday, when an action was brought to have the estate of Henry Edward Flynn administered.

The deceased, who had lived at ‘The Retreat’, Ranelagh, County Dublin, and died in 1884, having given various directions in his will as to his property and directed that out of the proceeds of some of it, his two nephews should pay the expenses

‘of publishing at least 500 copies of my manuscript work, Come hither, and I will show unto thee the condemnation of the great – that sitteth on many waters. A duty and an obligation that I owe to the Supreme Eternal who created me, and to the Holy Ghost who inspired me and gave me power to write it.’

The testator went on to say:-

‘I do hereby direct and request that my executors shall provide a plain, solid oak coffin at least one full inch thick in the bottom and every other part thereof; and therein at my head to place a copy of the said work if the same shall be then published, and that the said copy shall be properly and securely encased in glass.’

Amongst the property enumerated in deceased’s will was a promissory note of Isaac Butt, QC, MP, for £130 lent by the testator. The Chief Clerk’s certificate, which was the only matter before the Court on Friday, having been considered, Mr Justice Barton directed that the form of the decree should be settled by consent.”

Although no copies of his poetry are available online, Mr Flynn appears to have been a most interesting person. During his lifetime, he not only ran what appears to have been a small farm in Ranelagh, known as ‘Retreat,’ but also held the position of Inspector of Buildings for the Patriotic Insurance Company of Ireland. During the Famine, he suggested that pest houses should be constructed of iron rather than wood as less likely to spread cholera. He also patented a number of inventions relating to railways.

A mid 19th century map showing the location of ‘Retreat’ off Ranelagh Road and directly across from Mount Pleasant Square.

The great Isaac Butt may have been a friend of Mr Flynn’s, or perhaps the latter met him in the course of one of his trips to the Four Courts. Not only is Mr Flynn recorded as giving evidence in legal proceedings as an expert witness, but in 1852 he brought his own case against the Dublin, Dundrum and Bray Railway Company for deprivation of access to his farm during the period of construction of the Harcourt Street Railway Line.

All that remains of ‘Retreat’ today is a small modern house by that name off Ranelagh Road situated on a laneway known as Orchard Lane. There is a headstone in St Nahi’s Cemetery, Dundrum to Mr Flynn’s wife Eliza Avice, who predceased him in 1855, and, beside it, another headstone with the following inscription: “This Ground belongs to HENRY EDWD FLYNN, Retreat, Ranelagh, Co of Dublin.”

Was the body of Mr Flynn ever buried in this plot? Did the terms of the settlement approved by the court provide for disposal of his remains elsewhere? And did his poetic life’s work ever get printed, never mind buried with him? What is certain is that he never got repaid by Isaac Butt, who died debt-troubled in 1879.

As a conveyancing expert, Mr Butt would have appreciated how the application of the maxim Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos to the inscription on Mr Flynn’s tombstone raises an intriguing ambiguity as to this eccentric pioneer’s final destination!

Image Credit

Attorney’s Apprentice Eschews Physical Combat in favour of Private Prosecution, 1821

Taste a la Mode, or the Rotunda Gardens in 1790, via The Dictionary of Dublin (1908)

From Saunders’s News-Letter, 10 July 1821:


Yesterday the Recorder, Aldermen Tyndall, Montgomery, and Hamilton, sat at the Sessions House, Green Street, for the trial of prisoners and traversers.

Edward Callanan, Esq, a traverser, was put to the bar, charged with having, on Friday evening the 22nd of June last, assaulted Stephen Blake, Esq, who, being swore and examined by Mr Finlay, stated that, on the evening laid in the indictments, he was walking in the Rotunda Gardens with some ladies.

Mr Blake is serving his apprenticeship to Mr McNevins, of Gardiner-street, Attorney; Mrs McNevins was leaning on his arm, in company with Mr and Mrs Richardson. It was near ten o’clock; the garden was extremely crowded. Mr Callanan came up to him and said, ‘Mr Blake, I want to speak to you;’ witness replied ‘as soon as he got disengaged he would be glad to do so.’ In the course of five or six minutes Mr Callanan came behind Mr Blake, and took hold of his ear, which he pulled, witness turned round suddenly, when Mr Callanan struck him a blow on the side of his head, and then disappeared among the crowd.

A few days after Mr Blake was in the hall of the Four Courts, where he saw the traverser in company with a gentleman of the profession, of the name of Byrne; Mr Callanan passed Mr Blake by, observing to his friend ‘have you any lattitats to serve, if so, here is a fellow that will do it’ (looking significantly at Mr Blake); Mr Callanan then said to witness ‘you are a damned coward!’ Mr Callanan repeated the same words, in the Court-yard of the building.

When cross-examined by Mr Everard, Mr Blake stated that there was no scuffle in the Gardens; he walked on with the ladies, told the whole truth as far as relates to the transaction; did not lift his hand, or in any way push Mr Callanan from him; he lodged information against Mr Callanan the day after the outrage.

Mrs Emma McNevins was then examined. This lady’s testimony went to corroborate the evidence given by Mr Blake, respecting the blow given to him by Mr Callanan, which Mrs McNevins distinctly saw, as at the moment she was in conversation with Mr Blake, but did not know what led to it. The prosecution here closed.

George Fenton, Esq, gave evidence for Mr Callanan that he was in the Rotunda Garden on the night in question. He saw Mr Callanan tap Mr Blake on the shoulder in a civil manner. Mr Callanan said ‘he wished to speak to Mr Blake;’ Mr Blake put out his hand in a very scornful manner, and said ‘I don’t want to have any concern with you,’ Mr Callanan then took Mr Blake by the ear, and gave him a very smart slap on the face; Mr Blake did not state the facts as they occurred. When cross-examined by Mr Finlay, Mr Fenton agreed that the Rotunda garden was not a very regular place to transact business, but stated that Mr Blake pushed Mr Callanan from him in a very disdainful manner.

Edward John Nolan, Esq, gave evidence that Mr Callanan called on him in his professional capacity, to consult how he (Callanan) could get up a bill of his which Mr Blake held, and which was paid. Here the Learned Recorder observed, that no previous transaction between the parties had any thing to do with the present charge, which was exclusively for the assault alone.

The defence closed. The Recorder then charged the Jury at great length, and pointed out the Law with his accustomed ability and effect, dwelling forcibly on every part of the evidence. The Jury retired for about five minutes, and on their return brought in a verdict of – Guilty.

The Recorder having conferred with the Magistrates on the Bench, proceeded to pronounce the judgment of the court, which was that Mr Callanan be imprisoned one month, pay a fine of 20 marks, and at the expiration of his imprisonment that he should give security to be of the peace to the prosecutor, and all his Majesty’s subjects, for seven years, himself in 100 l and two sureties in 50l each. The Court then adjourned.”

Throughout the first half of the 19th century, many houses in Mountjoy Square, Gardiner Street, Dominick Street and Parnell (formerly Rutland) Square were occupied by lawyers. The ground floor of these houses was usually devoted to business with the family residing upstairs. The Rotunda Gardens at the end of O’Connell/Sackville Street would have been the perfect place for a solicitor’s wife resident in Gardiner Street to take the air and exchange legal gossip – it seems that apprentice’s duties’ in those days may even have stretched to chaperoning!

As recently as the preceding decade, the dispute between Mr Blake and Mr Callanan (which appears to have originated in the purchase by the former of a debt owed by the latter – such buying of debts by legal professionals hoping to make a profit on their enforcement being commonplace at the time) would almost certainly have been settled by way of a dawn meeting at the Tholsel, Sandymount Strand or Bully’s Acre.

But, by 1821, in Dublin at least, the law was beginning to replace the pistol or the fist as the preferred means of avenging a gentleman’s honour – and who were lawyers, of all people, to complain about this? Certainly Mr Blake’s successful prosecution did not cause any damage to his professional progress with Mr McNevins – the two of them continued to work together on debt and bankruptcy cases even after Mr Blake had set up his own firm nearby.

Mr Callanan’s career was to be shorter-lived. According to the Galway Advertiser of October 1821, only a few months later,

[i]t is with sincere regret that a duel was fought on Saturday morning… between Patrick Donelan, Ballyeighter, and Edward Callanan, Esq of Eyre Court.  On the first discharge of pistols, both parties were wounded.  The former grazed across the eye brow, the latter slightly wounded in the leg.  No entreaties by seconds being of avail, and they not knowing that either was touched, another case of pistols were presented, and for the honour of humanity, we are confident, if known, would not have been given to them.  At this moment a simultaneous fire took place, and melancholy to relate, both shots took effect, Mr Donelan being shot in the shoulder and Callanan through the heart.”

An inquest subsequently returned a verdict of wilful murder against Mr Donelan.

Reading between the lines, one suspects that the slap inflicted by Mr Callanan on Mr Blake in the Rotunda Gardens was a deliberate challenge to arms – and that his subsequent references to ‘cowardice’ were prompted by pique at having been denied the satisfaction of physical combat.

How prescient of Mr Blake not to rise to the challenge!

The Lion, the Unicorn, the Harp and the Little Knobule, 1931-2023

Every bit of the Four Courts has a story and the sculptures over the entrances into the grassed courtyards on either side of the portico are no exception.

Originally depicted with some artistic licence in early illustrations of the Four Courts, the 19th century camera (which never lies) show these sculptures as in fact depicting a lion and a unicorn surrounding a harp surmounted by a crown – the British crown, in fact, with the lion being England, the unicorn Scotland, and the harp added in to keep the locals happy.

The gate into one of the courtyards at the front of the Four Courts, as depicted in the Illustrated London News from the 1850s. It shows what looks to be a Saint George’s Cross in place of the harp. Accurate or just artistic laziness?
John Carr’s 1805 illustration of the Four Courts shows the harp in place above the entrance to the western courtyard, but not the eastern one. Perhaps he just forgot to put it in? Zoom in here to decide. Image via Ireland Illustrated.

Although they survived the 1922 Battle of Dublin in better nick than the rest of the Four Courts complex, the form of the sculptures changed slightly, but significantly, in the course of reconstruction work over the following decade.

The destroyed Four Courts and well preserved sculpture over the entrance to eastern courtyard in July 1922. The same sculpture also survived intact a bomb thrown close by in 1893.

According to the Roscommon Herald, 12 August 1931:

“One of the great items of interest of the week was the completion of a stone-cutting job over the front entrance of the Dublin Four Courts. The Royal Arms has been clipped and punched and hammered into a new shape: the lion and the unicorn have had their heads re-carved into a shape that resembles more than anything else the outer leaves of a bit Flat Dutch cabbage on a frosty morning: the medallion which formerly supported the crown over which those graven beasts were supposed to have been fighting is now bereft of that adornment, the harp remains on the face of the carving but the crown is gone. The harp, however, is not on top. The place of the crown has been filled by a little knobule.”

An interesting solution to the vexed political problem of the Irish Free State’s exact relationship with Great Britain! As the image at the start of this post shows, despite our Constitution of 1937, and subsequent legislation declaring Ireland a Republic, these amorphous animals and question-posing knobules persist in exactly the same form today.

Time to update? And if so how?

Above image via Google Maps. Image at start of post via Digital Repository of Ireland
(Creative Commons Licence)