From the Clonmel Chronicle, 10 July 1880:
“The members of the Bar of Ireland sometimes unbend the legal mind in the soft excitement of lawn tennis; but when they do, the learned gentlemen have their little frolic in ‘chamber’ as it were, and not in court. They had what is called a ‘Lawn Tennis Tournament’ recently on the Earlsfort Terrace Rink, and a member of the Press went up to tell the public how it went on and off, but the notetaking chiel wasn’t admitted. He says that as he stood at the door, he saw an eminent and amiable judge doing wonders with the ball, and that the learned lot were shouting and tumbling about like so many schoolboys, which shows that they were enjoying themselves. There is no truth in the statement that wigs and gowns were worn on the occasion. It is said that there is in full swing a Bar Bicycle Club. I doubt it; but this is a wonderfully professional age, and I don’t suppose there is any reason why, so far as the Bar is concerned, the line should be arbitrarily drawn at bicycling.”
Any tennis and cycling clubs subsequently established had the good sense to keep their activities out of the papers, but the Bar of Ireland Cricket Club enjoyed a brief flurry of publicity in the closing decades of the 19th century before golf became the favoured sport of off-duty barristers. From the start, the Bar Cricket Club played at the Vice Regal Grounds in the Phoenix Park and their very first reported match – against the Vice Regal Club – took place here in May 1872 as the opening match of the 1872 season. Another match, against the Army this time, is reported as having taken place in June 1885 at the Garrison Ground.
But it was a series of matches against a Vice Regal Lodge team in 1889 and 1890 that really brought the Bar Cricket Club to public prominence. The first of these matches, which took place in beautifully fine weather on 14 May 1889, in the grounds of the Vice Regal Lodge (now Aras an Uachtarain) was graced by the presence of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, the then Lord Lieutenant Lord Londonderry (who went out to bat), the band of the West Surrey Regiment and a large concourse of spectators on horse and foot. According to the Dublin Daily Express, the weather was splendid, the assemblage and surroundings of a very striking character and very seldom had a larger gathering been seen at any cricket match on a Saturday afternoon.
Not only did the ladies attend in great numbers but the attendance of members of the Bar was of such a character as to lead one to believe that the interest felt in the match was universal amongst the wearers of the wig and gown. In contrast to the other amenities, the play was merely of a fairly good character but, as the Express kindly pointed out, allowances had to be made on all sides for the early period in the season at which the match took place. The result was Vice Regal 103, Bar 94.
The return match, which took place on the Vice Regal Ground on Sunday 19th May 1889, was described by Irish Society, Dublin as a red-letter day with everything combining to make it an enormous success, beauty again gracing the field in the form of a large female attendance, and with the weather of a most delightful character for the votaries of the willow. Judges attended too, on horse and foot, Judge Webb riding up on what was described as ‘a serviceable cob’ and soon-to-be-deceased Lord Justice Naish driving up in a hack which he optimistically discharged in order to walk home alone.
Although the idea initially prevailed that the Bar would turn the tables on their conquerors at the second time of asking, this second match offered practical demonstration that the previous win of the home team was by no means a fluke, with the overall result being a chastening Bar 127, Vice Regal 185. According to Irish Society, the only regret expressed was that these matches were not more frequent, possibly because business was so brisk amongst the members of the Junior Bar that they could not afford the time, but perhaps something might be done during the Long Vacation.
Something was indeed done during the Long Vacation, with a third match taking place on 17 August 1889 in the grounds of the Vice Regal Lodge. According to the Dublin Daily Express, both sides were represented by strong teams with Lord Londonderry again occupying his usual position in the field at slip. There was a slight shower in the forenoon but the sun prevailed in the afternoon, when the attendance became numerous and the band of the Seaforth Highlanders attended and played a selection of music. Thankfully, the Bar Cricket Club redeemed its honour by winning on this occasion; though details of the score are not available, its ultimate victory over Vice Regal was described as a stout thrashing.
The next year’s match against Vice Regal in May 1890 was a two-day affair, and according to the Freeman’s Journal, a trial of skill in real earnest. Once again, the weather was beautiful, with the Dublin Daily Express describing the Lodge gardens, where the match again took place, as a charming glade evidencing the tenderest tons of green relieved by the whiteness of May blossoms bursting into life and fragrance. The former Attorney-General, Peter O’Brien, who had organised the matches the previous year, was now Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and, though he did not play, was described as ‘generalling his team in the most masterly and fatherly fashion, putting them up to some tips of wily procedure which doubtless contributed greatly to their success.’
Unfortunately, an immense rainfall during the past fortnight meant that the ground was damp and somewhat elastic, the great heat of the day did not aid the players either in scoring or taking wickets. Though the first match was won by the Vice Regal, the barristers stormed to victory in the second day’s contest. By this time, Lord Londonderry had been replaced as Lord Lieutenant by Lord Zetland, who – despite gamely travelling up from his Kilmurry fishing lodge, bat in tow, to play for the Vice Regal team – may not have had quite the same level of interest in the event as his cricket-loving predecessor!
Perhaps because of this administrative change, or indeed because members of the Bar had had quite enough of taking direction from the Lord Chief Justice in their leisure hours, there were to be no more big cricket events to compare in any way with those of the 1889-90 seasons. We can only be grateful that the above reports of joyous play in glorious weather beneath the trees of the Phoenix Park survive to give us a brief window into the all-too-limited leisure hours of busy 19th century barristers – and a sense of the newsworthiness of any activity of the Bar and Bench, no matter how slight, in an era in which the Four Courts and the quasi-independent legal system operating out of it stood almost alone as one of the few remaining symbols of distinct and separate Irish identity!
From the Derry Journal, 8 June 1892:
“At the Petty Sessions, Nenagh, Mr Sadleir Stoney, Barrister at Law and Justice of the Peace for Dublin, who resides at Ballycapple, between Nenagh and Cloughjordan, surrendered to heavy recognisances and was charged with having assaulted Mrs Alice Bunbury, wife of Captain Bunbury, in her own house at Woodville, about a mile and a half from the defendant’s residence.
Mr Stoney conducted his own defence.
Mrs Bunbury was examined. She said she was visiting a lady friend on the evening in question, when Mr Stoney went to her house; she had previously objected to his going to the house. ‘I knocked at the door of the parlour,’ she continued, ‘where he was with my husband, but I would not be let in. I asked why he dared to keep me out of my parlour, and Mr Stoney said I would not be let in; that the parlour did not belong to me. I took a hatchet to break in the door, and he opened it, struck me on the face, and knocked me down. He took the hatchet and struck me with it, and was going to strike me a second time, when one of my servants snatched it from him. He gave me several kicks; the servant went out and when he came Mr Stoney had me by the hair of the head, and was flogging me with a whip, and the servant and myself fled downstairs; we locked the door; in about five minutes time we heard screams, and on going up to the nursery, I found him following the nurse round the table threatening to kill her; when he was going away he said ‘I will get plenty of help, and I will kill you all.’
The magistrates retired to consider and returned after half an hour, when they sentenced the defendant to three months hard labour in Limerick Jail, sureties to keep the peace being required at the end of this period.”
An appeal by Mr Stoney to the Nenagh Quarter Sessions a few days later was unsuccessful. The County Court Judge affirmed the conviction, saying that he was aware that Mr Stoney was an old and delicate man and that imprisonment would be very hard upon him but if there was any danger to his health an appeal could be made to remit the sentence. It seems that his prison term did not finish off the redoubtable Mr Stoney, who died in 1899, aged 76.
Some additional detail about Captain and Mrs Bunbury can be found on the wonderful history website of their family member Turtle Bunbury, author of many history books including the great recent publication, ‘Ireland’s Forgotten Past: A History of the Overlooked and Disremembered.’ The Captain, a childhood friend of Mr Stoney, had recently taken the 26-year-old Mrs Bunbury (née Stone, daughter of a Dublin solicitor) as his much younger second wife. Presumably Mrs Bunbury, with all the confidence of youth, had embarked on a campaign of getting her new husband to change his old habits!
Few boys’ nights in end in such unmitigated disaster!
From the Freeman’s Journal, 1 March 1879:
“During the past few months, quietly and unknown to the general public, a work has been in progress in Dublin calculated to materially benefit the city. By a judicious use of the authority vested in them and a rigid exercise of their legal powers, the police have succeeded in thoroughly cleansing that den of infamy, a disgrace known as Bull-Lane.
The existence of this moral plague spot has been for very many years a shame to civilisation and a disgrace to Dublin. The alarming increase in the number of robberies, thefts and minor offences committed by the male and female denizens of Bull-Lane, and in addition the number of violations of the law concealed by them, impressed the police authorities with the absolute necessity of thoroughly clearing the place of its criminal inhabitants, and after two months’ hard work they have succeeded in doing so, and at the present moment any one may walk from end to end of Bull-Lane without in any way being molested or insulted. It would rather remind one at the present time of a street in the city of the dead, for all the houses of ill-fame, which numbered nearly twenty, have been closed up and are now untenanted.
This moral campaign has been carried on under the direction of Superintendent Devin, and has been conducted on the simple principle of, to speak plainly, making the place too hot to hold its animal population. Two policeman, relieved at stated periods, were placed on duty at the end of the lane, and a close watch kept on everyone entering and leaving it. By this process the police were enabled to detect an immense number of breaches of the Licensing Acts, for the illicit drink trade was carried on here with greater briskness. Each week convictions were obtained against the proprietors and frequenters of the houses of infamy, and they were sent to prison for terms extending from a week to two months. Meanwhile every stranger who attempted to go up or down the lane was stopped and questioned by the police, informed of the nature of the locality, and warned that if he had money or valuables of any kind on his person he ran a considerable risk of being robbed. Almost in every case this had the effect of turning such persons back and of preventing others from going near the place.
The result was that the unfortunate girls who dwelt in the lane were compelled to fly from it, and each day saw several of them, together with such wretched property as they possessed, take to flight. It is pleasing to state that very many went to charitable institutions in the city to atone their former errors by repentance and amendment. One of the most important features in the entire work has been the breaking up of the community of idle ruffians called ‘bullies’ of whom there were no less than seventy-six in the lane, living by robbery and the proceeds of infamy of the unfortunate women. Some idea of the magnitude of the work effected may be formed when we state that the police counted 207 unfortunates living in the locality, and as many were in various parts of the city at the time the census was made, the number may fairly be increased by 150. Thus is Dublin rid, let us hope for ever, of an abode of crime unsurpassed by any similar spot in the cities of the kingdom.’“
A rather uncharitable and sanctimonious article as regards the ‘unfortunate girls’ referred to!
What the Freeman doesn’t mention, is the location of Bull-Lane very close to the back of the Four Courts. You can see it marked with an arrow between Greek Street and Fishers Lane on the map below.
The lane and its buildings are long-gone but this satellite image makes it easy to work out what has replaced them.
Yes, Hughes Pub, where barristers love to drink, stands just at that point where Bull Lane opened onto Pill Lane (now Chancery Street).
Of course, a street like Bull-Lane could not exist without customers. Brothel quarters tended to be located near prospective clients. Presumably quite a few persons with business in the courts were happy to avail of the services offered by its ‘houses of infamy’?
If Jack the Ripper had visited Dublin in the 1870s, Bull-Lane might have been his Whitechapel, and indeed the above cleansing was preceded by a number of tragic murders. I hope to cover these, and some of the other stories of Bull-Lane, in later posts.
In the meantime – who would have thought the term ‘bully’ had origins so close to home!
From the Dublin Evening Telegraph, 4th and 5th March, 1924:
Miss May McConnon, a typist, residing at the Gaelic Hotel, Blackrock, Dundalk, claimed £3000 damages against Mr Cecil Lavery, barrister-at-law, for personal injuries caused, as alleged, by the negligence of the defendant in the management of a motor car near Dundalk.
The Plaintiff gave evidence, in which she stated that she was getting off her bicycle near Hearty’s cottages on the main road between Dublin and Dundalk, in order to borrow a bicycle pump, when she was struck from behind by the motor car. At the time she was struck she was near the footpath. She heard no horn sounded.
Cross-examined by Mr Wood KC, the plaintiff denied that she was standing, holding her bicycle, and that when she was mounting it, it wobbled out in front of her. She did not remember the defendant saying to her ‘Why did you get up on your bicycle like that?’
Dr JV O’Hagan stated that the plaintiff was admitted to the Louth Hospital. She had a wound on the right side of the scalp, two deep wounds on the left thigh and numerous abrasions.
Surgeon McArdle gave evidence of having examined the plaintiff about the middle of September. On that occasion she collapsed in his hall at 78 Merrion Square. He expressed the opinion to her doctors that she had sustained a severe shock to the brain and spinal cord. He saw her again in November when she appeared to be worse. She was suffering from nerve degeneration and was at present in a deplorable condition.
Mr Wood KC, addressing the jury on behalf of the defendant, said that the defence in the case was that there was no negligence on the part of Mr Lavery, and there was no damage caused of the momentous character stated as the result of what happened on the road on the date mentioned. The defendant, who was an expert driver, was driving along a straight, wide road, having his car under absolute control, and the plaintiff, who was in front, seemed to the defendant, as it were, to get off the bicycle, and then wobbled out in front of him. His car caught her. It was immediately brought to a standstill, and he contended that the accident was not caused by any negligence on the part of the defendant, but by an irregular operation on the part of the plaintiff.
Sir William Taylor said that he saw the plaintiff on October 16, 1923, in Mr McArdle’s house in Merrion Square. All the wounds were practically healed, except one on the little finger of the left hand. On Saturday last he saw her in a home in Upper Mount Street, and on examination failed to find any organic lesion.
The defendant gave evidence, and said that he was driving at about fifteen miles an hour on the left side of the road, which was about 25 feet wide. He saw the girl on the left-hand side of the road with her bicycle. She was off the bicycle. He kept a perfectly clear course, and just as he was passing her she seemed to lift herself into the bicycle and came across the bonnet at the car. There was no question of avoiding her, and the only thing he could do was stop the car, which he did. The front of the car came against the bicycle and plaintiff was between the front wheels. It was not true that she was under one of the wheels and that the car had to be lifted to remove her. He said to her: “Why did you come out across me like that?” but did not receive any reply.
The jury, after an absence of one hour, found that the defendant was not guilty of any negligence.”
Mr Lavery, son of an Armagh solicitor, had previously featured in the Irish Independent on the 27th June 1915 as winner of the John Brooke Scholarship for that year. He had a large junior practice and took silk in 1927. He subsequently became Attorney General and Leader of the Irish Bar. A note in the Belfast Telegraph on the 17th April 1950 on the occasion of his appointment as a Supreme Court judge stated that his name had featured on one side or the other in almost every important case at the Eire Bar.
Road traffic accident claims – later temporarily stalled due to petrol shortages during the Emergency – continued to be a increasing source of revenue for the Bar for the next decade and a half.
The Belfast Telegraph of 30 October 1925 contained a report of another High Court case in which one Mary O’Connor, of Fair Green, Dundalk, claimed £500 damages from the Reverend Bernard Maguire, Parish Priest, as compensation for personal injuries caused to her by the alleged negligence of the defendant in the management and control of a motor-car which had knocked her down at the junction of Earl St and Francis St, Dundalk.
The case, subsequently settled for £55 and costs, must have called up some memories for one Mr Lavery BL instructed as Junior Counsel for the defendant!
From the Freeman’s Journal, 16 December 1874:
“To the Editor of the Freeman.
SIR – Would you kindly insert the following in the interest of the grievances of attorneys’ apprentices. The facts are briefly these:- In the second week of last month a sessional examination was held at the Four Courts to test the knowledge of the apprentices who attended the professors of law lectures during the preceding year. No official announcement of the result has yet been afforded, and the apprentices who then went in for examination (I myself being of the number) are, comparatively speaking, left in ignorance. Of course if any one goes into the secretary’s office he will be there informed as to the result, but we have no notice posted in that part of the solicitors’ building allotted to notices referring to solicitors’ apprentices. Is anyone to blame for this apparent negligence? Law students have informed me, so have medical students, that they are always officially acquainted with the results of their examinations. Surely apprentices should take some steps to protest against such a state of things. – Yours obediently,
A prescribed course for testing the attainments of intended apprentices, and the fitness of those seeking to be admitted, had been introduced by the Incorporated Society of the Attorneys and Solicitors of Ireland in 1861, following a report of the Council of the Society.
Lectures and exams took place in the Solicitors’ Hall, Four Courts (now the Law Library), which premises were adapted in 1887 under the supervision of Alfred E Murray, Architect, to incorporate a purpose-built theatre suitable for the purposes of lectures. All persons who have worked in the Law Library will recognise the ceiling of this theatre!
The concern of the apprentice who wrote the 1874 letter does not appear to have been that they did not receive their marks, but rather that the absence of an official posting of all marks meant that they were not able to assess their marks relative to the rest of their class.
Accusing the Society of negligence, however, seems a bit strong.
Of course no good deed goes unpunished, and law students are a competitive bunch, but still a few eyebrows must have been raised – no wonder that the apprentice letter-writer preferred to remain anonymous!
From the Cork Constitution, 17 April 1893:
“STRANGE CONDUCT OF AN IRISH BARRISTER
CHARGED BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES WITH STREET OBSTRUCTION
Mr William C Hennessy, barrister-at-law, Tralee, was charged by Constable John Foster with obstructing the footpath on the Grand Parade, at four o’clock on Friday evening. Mr Hennessy had been arrested and remained in custody during Friday night. He was not, however, asked to appear in the dock.
Mr Hennessy applied for an adjournment, as he was anxious to be represented by a solicitor, and anxious that the case should be tried on a convenient day. He complained that he was not allowed out on bail on the previous evening. If he had been allowed out on bail he would have been in a position to instruct a solicitor and able to go on with the case that day. He could not get a note sent to the Recorder of Cork, and he was twenty-one and a half hours in custody. He now asked the constable under what Act he brought the charge?
Constable Foster – He was walking along the Grand Parade yesterday evening close by the shops, and everything he met outside the doors he tossed further into the flagway. I saw him take balls of goods, carpets and trunks, lying outside the doors and knock them down on the footpath. There was a crowd after him. I cautioned him, but he told me he would persist in doing it.
Mr Humphries (chief clerk) – I suppose Mr Hennessy was quite sober.
Constable Foster – He was. I told him I should have to arrest him, but he defied me.
Mr Hennessy – Well, I suppose the case will be conducted regularly. What is the charge.
Constable Foster – Street obstruction.
In reply to Mr Humphries, the constable said the shopkeepers whose goods had been disturbed were not in court. He himself witnessed the acts of the prisoner when he knocked down the goods at the door of Mr Lynch’s furniture shop, Grand Parade.
Mr Hennessy – They were obstructing the footpath; not I. If a crowd of rioters choose to follow me I can’t help them.
Mr Humphries – You only arrested him when he said he would persist in doing it?
Constable Foster – Yes.
Mr Hennessy – Does he know it is illegal to block the footway with goods? Answer yes or no.
Constable Foster – They were not blocking the footway.
Mr Hennessy – Is it true that there was a bale of carpets separated by a foot from the shop in my way?
Constable Foster – I did not see.
Mr Hennessy – What did I knock down then?
Constable Foster – A carpet outside Lynch’s.
Mr Hennessy – Did these goods interfere with my passage.
Constable Foster – They did not, they were quite close to the door.
Mr Hennessy – We will have this point thrashed out as in Tralee and Killarney. Did I go out of the direct line I was walking in to interfere with the goods? I never go out of the line I take and did not in Tralee or Killarney. Under the circumstances I have to ask for an adjournment of the case to a date that will be convenient for the magistrates. I want to get the case tried out. I have to be in Tralee where we are trying the same points on Monday.
Mr Humphries – There are a number of statutes to prevent the obstruction of the footway. You are a lawyer learned in the law. The constable is an officer, and could not see the goods knocked about, even though they obstructed.
Mr Hennessy – I am unconscious of doing anything except turning them over. Some of the trunks I lifted carefully – with a mother’s care (Laughter).
Whatever punishment was inflicted on Mr Hennessy did not stop his crusade against street obstruction. On the 31st July 1893 he appeared again before the Cork Police Court summonsed by Mrs Elizabeth Mayne, Patrick Street, for having on Wednesday last wilfully and maliciously broken a crate of china outside her shop in pursuance of a line of conduct that he had been carrying on in Cork (and from the sounds of it, Tralee and Killarney) for some months past.
In reply, Mr Hennessy described the pathways in the city as a disgrace to Zululand, said that the first rule of the common law was that the King’s highway could not be blocked and he would assert his right to walk the public pathway whatever the consequences. He had the greatest confidence in the Cork Bench and would leave himself in their hands.
The Cork Bench, on the other hand, held that Mr Hennessy had no right to act has he had done and fined him 20s and 35s compensation. Mr Hennessy then asked to have a case stated and he also objected to one of the magistrates, Mr Roche, adjudicating the case as he was mixed up with commercial affairs in certain houses involved in the prosecution. He also suggested that the penalty should be increased in order that he might be able to appeal.
The Bench granted the application and increased the amount of the fine to 21 shillings..
An obituary in the Kerry Evening Post of 15 June 1898 contains some interesting information in relation to Mr Hennessy’s background. The son of William Maunsell Hennessy, antiquary and Keeper of the Records in Ireland, it had been thought that a very bright future lay before Mr Hennessy when called to the Bar sixteen or seventeen years previously, but the illness which had killed him (consumption) had led him instead to what was described as ‘a curious existence in a weak and witless way’ in Dublin, Cork, and Tralee before the recovery of his senses in the last year of his life had coincided with failing bodily powers.
The writer tactfully omitted reference to Mr Hennessy’s street obstruction campaign of 1893 and his preceding arrest by Scotland Yard in Listowel in 1892 for issuing worthless cheques drawn on the Dingle Branch of the National Bank (he was subsequently discharged by the Bow Street Magistrates Court after hearing evidence that he had lost his way after the death of his father and sister and a broken engagement). The obituary closed by describing Mr Hennessy at his best: full of the keenest wit, well spiced with pungency and leavened with a love of the ludicrous, as much the life and soul of the company when supping with histrionic friends in London as when eating his Christmas goose with friends in Ballymacelligott.
Poor Mr Hennessy! Some might say that he was a man ahead of his time – and a hero to today’s daily commuter!
From the Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 16 July 1784:
“Yesterday in the afternoon, a number of the prisoners, confined in the New Gaol, found means to break into the sewer that communicates from the prison to the Bradogue River, or water course that falls into the Liffey at Ormond Quay; several of them have been re-taken and conducted back to their old lodging, but better secured. About sixteen it is thought are escaped; a guard is positioned at the mouths of the Bradogue, and at the different grates and necessaries in Pill Lane through which this water course runs as it is supposed several of them are still concealed within.”
The New Gaol would have been Newgate Prison situate at ‘Little Green’ beside Green Street Courthouse.
The Bradogue meandered around a bit, flowing underground from Grangegorman to North King Street and Green Street before reaching the quays. Its primary outfall was at Ormond Quay (below), but according to a news report in the Dublin Evening Mail of 26 June 1857, a tributary flowed under the Four Courts, re-emerging at Arran Quay.
The 18th century drainage system must have been rudimentary, and the stench faced by the escapees appalling.
Could some or all of the sixteen prisoners who failed to emerge at Ormond Quay have expired under the Four Courts then in the course of construction, thus contributing to its very persistent drainage problems?
More digging needed to find out!
From the Waterford Mail, 17 February 1864:
“SITTINGS AT NISI PRIUS
Wyse v Lewis
This was an action brought by Madame Letitia Bonaparte Wyse, widow of the late Thomas Wyse, formerly British ambassador at Greece, against Mr William Lewis, of Messrs Lewis and Howe, solicitors, of Nassau-street, in this city to recover damages for an alleged neglect by the defendant of the plaintiff’s business.
The plaintiff is the cousin-german of the present Emperor of France, and daughter of Prince Canino, a relative of the Emperor Napoleon I. In the year 1824 the plaintiff was married to Sir Thomas Wyse, who died in 1861, but after his death a bill was produced made by him in violation of his marriage articles, by which he left his estates to his brother. The plaintiff was advised to take proceedings in the Court of Chancery to assert her rights, and obtained a letter of introduction to the defendant, who undertook to act as her solicitor.
The plaintiff, about June 1862, having occasion to buy some items of clothing, bought them at Mr Edward Russell’s establishment in Dawson Street, and the price amounted to £20 7s 8d. She mentioned the matter to the defendant, and observed that she had only French money with her, and the defendant then undertook to pay Mr Russell’s bill. The plaintiff then wrote a note on the bill to the effect that the defendant would pay it, and sent it back to Mr Russell, who subsequently sent it by his collector to Mr Lewis, on which occasion the defendant promised that if the collector called back in half an hour he would settle it, but, although frequent calls were later made, Mr Lewis could not be seen.
On the 21st April 1862, Mr Russell issued a writ against the plaintiff, service of which was substituted on Mr Lewis, who (as it was alleged) never gave any information thereof to the plaintiff, and the first she heard of it (as alleged) was after she had removed Mr Lewis and employed Mr Valentine Dillon.
The plaintiff was arrested in July 1863, in the courtyard of the Four Courts, and brought off in the custody of the bailiff to the Sheriff’s office in Morgan Place, where, having paid the money and costs, she was discharged after about an hour’s delay.
The defendant’s case was that he had not made any promise whatsoever to Mr Russell’s bill, and had no money of the plaintiff’s to pay it; that the plaintiff knew that the bill was unpaid, and had been informed that an action would be brought on it, and that she had better not come to Ireland for some time.
After some deliberation the jury found for the plaintiff £500 damages.“
This must be one of the earliest actions by a client against their solicitor. William Lewis survived in business longer than Edward Russell, who was already into his second bankruptcy by the time of this case. Selling goods to ladies on credit was a risky business – unless the lady in question had a genuinely rich husband!
Had Thomas Wyse been alive, he would have been liable for Madame Laetitia’s debts – and perhaps it might have been worth it. The famous alluring charm of the woman born a princess and known in her younger days as ‘the Venus of the Bonapartes’ seems to have worked its magic indiscriminately on Dublin jurors and European noblemen alike.
Read more about her career here!
From the Leeds Intelligencer, 29 December 1838:
“MR DUNN AGAIN AND MISS BURDETT COUTTS
At Bow-Street, on Monday, Miss Angelina Burdett-Coutts, accompanied by her father, Sir F Burdett, and attended by Mr Parkinson and Mr Humphries, solicitors, appeared before Sir F Roe to proffer a charge of annoying and insulting conduct against Mr Richard Dunn, an Irish barrister, whose ridiculous attempt to appear in the character of the lady’s suitor produced, on former occasions, no small share of annoyance to her and her family, and the source of some inconvenience to himself. It appeared that, after the defendant obtained his liberation from York Castle, to which prison he had been committed, for want of sureties on the charge of Miss Burdett Coutts for similar annoyances, he proceeded direct to London in pursuit of the lady, and, having ascertained that she had gone to her residence in Stratton Street, Piccadilly (the house left to her by the late Duchess of St Albans) he immediately took up his quarters at the Gloucester Coffee-House, where he hired a bedroom, the windows of which commanded a view of Stratton Street, across the Duke of Devonshire’s grounds, and here he resumed the system of annoyance towards the lady which he had practised elsewhere, by making signals to her when she appeared at her windows, and followed her about, either on foot or horseback, wherever she drove in her carriage.
This species of annoyance became at length so intolerable, that the assistance of an officer was applied for, and Ballard was sent some weeks ago to watch the movements of the defendant, and to protect the lady from personal violence, which she had reason to fear was meditated, against her. The defendant, however, without resorting to any such act of violence, still pursued his unmanly course of persecution until a warrant, founded on the sworn information of Miss Burdett Coutts, was at last applied for and obtained, and on Monday morning it was placed in the hands of Ballard, who immediately proceeded with Fall, another officer of the establishment, to the Gloucester Coffee-House, Piccadilly, where they succeeded in apprehending the defendant, who was conveyed to the office, and taken before Sir E Roe in his private room, where the lady herself, attended by her father and two solicitors, were ready to prefer the charge.
The inquiry was private, and confined merely to the facts deposed by the complainant, and Ballard, the officer, as to the conduct pursued by the defendant, the lady declaring that from his pertinacity in following her about from place to place, and his general behaviour, she apprehended personal violence from him.
The defendant was about to make a speech, but was stopped by the magistrate, who told him that the topics he was about the introduce had nothing whatever to do with the subject matter of complaint against him, and as it appeared that he could give no satisfactory answer to the charge, Sir F Rowe called upon him to find bail to keep the peace towards Miss Angelina Burdett-Coutts and the rest of her Majesty’s subjects for the next twelve months, himself in £500, and two sufficient sureties in the sum of £250 each. The lady and her father then retired, and the defendant being unable to find the required bail, was taken to the office of the principal clerk until the warrant for his committal was made out, and here an occurrence took place of rather an unusual description, which, however, went to support the charges made against the defendant.”
Mr Dunn had, perhaps in the hope of encouraging him to come to sense, been left in a room with Miss Burdett Coutts’ sworn averments against him on the table; he read them, got upset and attacked Officer Ballard, all before being conveyed to Tothillfields prison. Not for long though! On the 19th January 1839 the Intelligencer reported that he had been liberated, on application made to Lord Denman, grounded in an informality in the commitment.
Meanwhile, his widely circulated antics seemed to have set the English Bar askew; or perhaps led to things being reported which might not otherwise have made the public domain. Again on the 19th January 1839, the Freeman’s Journal carried a story from a London paper regarding a 25-year-old English barrister, Mr Sands, who had recently been held to bail for causing a disturbance at the house of a widow lady named Isherwood, aged 55, and possessing property to the amount of £30,000, because the lady refused to convert friendship into love, and accept him as a husband.
Perhaps chastened by his spell in prison, all was quiet with Mr Dunn until June 1839, when the Freeman’s Journal reported as follows:
“Miss Coutts Burdett, in her great admiration of Mr Kean’s talents, has visited the Haymarket theatre on each night of his performance during the past week; she has, however, suffered much annoyance from the impertinent importunities of that learned barrister, Mr Dunn, who upon two occasions followed her to the theatre, and stationed himself immediately opposite her private box. On the third night (Friday) he took ‘nothing by his motion’ Mr Frederick Webster, the stage manager, having prudently received and conducted Miss Burdett through a private way to another private box.”
Given the times that were in it, some people most unfairly blamed Miss Burdett-Coutts for the whole affair, with the Wilts and Gloucester Standard of 12 January 1839 seeing fit to remark, without mentioning anybody’s name, that
“Young ladies would require to be very careful of how they look and how they act in the Park. The want of this circumspection on the part of ladies, and especially of marriageable ladies with large fortunes, has in repeated cases been attended with very inconvenient results, both to the love-struck swains themselves and to those ladies whose attractions of face or fortune have inspired the tender passion.”
One suggested solution was for Miss Burdett-Coutts to marry, in so doing acquiring her own permanent protector, and indeed on the 19th October 1839 the Northern Standard reported that she was to be led to the altar by Mr Lockhart, of literary celebrity, but either this was a misrepresentation, or the engagement was broken off, because no marriage ever occurred.
On 4th May 1840 it was again reported in the Dublin Register that Mr Dunn, the Irish barrister, had been again annoying the Burdett Coutts family after becoming aware that they were residing at the Park Hotel, Norwood, during the Easter holidays (the combination of eligible young ladies in hotels, carriages or both, seems to have proved irresistible to Mr Dunn).
According to the Freeman,
“Nothing daunted at the treatment he had received on former occasions, Mr Dunn began walking in front of Norwood Park, waving his handkerchief, and making himself otherwise offensively conspicuous. Not the slightest notice was taken of these follies; so the learned gentleman grew bold, and a few days since and the audacity to call at the hotel, and demand an audience of Sir Francis Burdett which, it is needless to state the worthy baronet declined giving. Mr Dunn, on being made acquainted with Sir Francis’s refusal to see him, became most outrageous in his conduct. The servants, at length, disgusted with the insolence of his bearing, were directed to eject him from the premises. This was the work of more than one or two, for the barrister is a powerful man, and in endeavouring to expel him from the grounds, blows ensued, and, after being severely pummelled by the lackeys, the learned gentleman retired with a rueful countenance. We understand the whole affair will come before the public this week, proceedings having been taken to prevent the fortune-hunter prosecuting his addresses to Miss Coutts in future.”
What would happen next – and what effect would the errant Mr Dunn’s behaviour have on the never-very-good name of the early 19th century Irish Bar?
Not heard of Mr Dunn BL before? Catch up on his previous here!
More to come next week!
From the Belfast Weekly News, 12 May 1904:
“The trial of James Thompson for having married his mother-in-law took place on 10th inst, in the Recorder’s Court, Dublin. Mr Bushe KC, who prosecuted, stated the case for the Crown. He said in 1896 the prisoner on 2nd June married a girl of the name of Tully. She died in 1899, and he was once more free to marry. But, of course, his wife being dead, he was not at liberty, under the law, to marry certain relations of hers who were surviving. For instance, he could not marry his deceased wife’s daughter by a previous marriage, he could not marry his deceased wife’s sister, nor could he marry the mother of his deceased wife. This man formed the intention of marrying his deceased wife’s mother. He knew that such a marriage as that could not take place legally, or, if he did not, he should have known. Notwithstanding that he made a declaration and signed a document which set out that there was no impediment between him and the woman whom he desired to marry.
Mrs Jane Millar deposed to the marriage. On cross-examination she said sailors make the very best of husbands. Her own husband was a sailor.
Mr O’Mahony (for the defendant) – ‘They say sailors have a wife in every port.’
Mrs Millar – Don’t you believe a word of it. Sailors are all right.
Mrs Tully, or, as she called herself, Mrs Thompson, was then examined. Speaking in a strong Scotch accent, she said she saw nothing wrong in marrying Jim – not a bit of harm in that. Jim was a ‘guid mon,’ a sober mon and a ‘keerect mon.’
‘What kind of husband did he turn out to be?’ asked Mr O’Mahony. – ‘The very best of husbands. (Laughter). He only stayed half an hour after we being married, and off he went to sea. (Roars of Laughter).
‘He didn’t even wait for a cup of tea?’ – ‘He did not even do that, then.’ (More laughter)
‘The kettle wasn’t boiling, I suppose?’ – Well now, there wasn’t even time to boil the kettle for a cup of tea.
The Recorder – He must have been in a terrible hurry to get away (Laughter).
Mr O’Mahony – He wanted to get out of hot water, my Lord (Renewed laughter).
Detective Ahern said Thompson seemed surprised when arrested. He remarked, ‘Many a man is sent to jail for beating his mother-in-law, but this is the first time I ever heard of a man being arrested for marrying his mother-in-law’ (loud laughter) – and the sailor looked very happy with his new bride in their little home.
Mr O’Mahony addressed the jury on his client’s behalf. He said the situation brought to mind the words of the poet –
‘Twas talk in the morning, at night it was jaw
All on account of my mother-in-law’
(Laughter.) James Thompson did what no other man would think of doing. He did it with pride and in the best of good faith. He was a sailor, and about to leave to undertake a long voyage. Before going on that voyage, he married his mother in law, who was a Dundee woman, as he was a Dundee man. He had some property, and if he were drowned at sea no one could get that property except his widow or children. He had no children, and in taking his mother-in-law – for whom he had a strong affection – as his wife, he was doing what he thought would be a good thing for all concerned. It was a sailor’s idea of how things ought to be done (Laughter.) Unfortunately for himself, his voyage of matrimony was made rough for him by the squalls of legal authority. His barque struck upon the hidden rocks of the legislature, and now he was stranded not in a hospitable shelter, but was tight bound in a dock awaiting to be discharged. (Laughter.)
And the little mother-in-law, when she came up she told the jury she was perfectly contented with her good sailor husband. (Laughter.) But each was perplexed to know what were their relations to one another. What relation was he to his deceased wife’s sister he had married his mother-in-law – (loud laughter) – and what relation was his deceased wife’s mother to his step-daughter now that he has made his mother-in-law his wife? (Roars of laughter.)
The Recorder – I give it up. There’s one thing to be certain, you must have a wife before you can marry a mother-in-law. (Laughter.)
The Recorder, summing up, said if the jury were satisfied that Thompson made the declaration and entered into the marriage without knowing that he was committing an offence, they ought to acquit him.
The jury found that the accused had made a false declaration, but that he did not believe there was any impediment to his marriage. The Recorder said that was a verdict of acquittal, and he ordered Thompson to be discharged.”
According to another report, the happy couple left the court hand-in-hand. So unusual to read any case – never mind a criminal one – so joyous and happy throughout! Mr O’Mahony must have put a lot of work into his entertaining closing submissions!
It sounds like Mr Thompson wanted to pass on the benefit of a life insurance policy.
The prohibition on marrying one’s deceased (or divorced) wife’s mother continues today, though hopefully the alternative practice of beating them is less prevalent today than in Edwardian times!