The Tragic Tale of Charlotte Lodge

In 1878, Charlotte Lodge, a woman working in what was then Dublin’s most notorious red light district, Bull Lane, just behind the Four Courts, died in the Richmond Hospital following a vicious attack and gang-rape by local pimps.

Charlotte’s attackers were subsequently acquitted of her murder after an extremely favourable summing up by newly appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland George Augustus Chichester May. A woman witness to the attack also died the same day on which she was due to give evidence.

Charlotte’s story, as outlined in the below video (9 mins) not only gives us an insight into the terrible lives of women working in Dublin’s red light districts in the 19th century, but also leaves us with much to ponder.

Not long before the fatal attack, Charlotte had been the subject of an earlier attempt to drown her. What was the real motive for the attack on her? Why did the judge presiding over the case behave so strangely at trial? And why were the authorities so quick to clear out the Lane afterwards?

Thoughts welcome!

The Story of Mary Ha’penny

One evening in August 1900, a Dublin woman leaves her home near the Grand Canal to travel to the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor nearby. She brings with her four things: a bill-hook, two knives and a sword. The woman – Mary Halpin from Kilmainham, better known as ‘Mary Ha’penny’ – ends up in the Dublin Police Court.

Just one incident in the life of one of Dublin’s most fascinating forgotten residents, Mary Ha’penny, detailed in the 4-5 minute video below:

Two Tragic Barrister Trip and Falls at Wilton Place, 1882-1911


The Grand Canal, Dublin, at Wilton Place, between Baggot Street and Leeson Street Bridge, by Edward Tomkins, via

From the Clonmel Chronicle, 20 December 1882:


The body of the late Mr. Robert Donnell BL was discovered in the Grand Canal, in the immediate vicinity of Leeson-Street Bridge, yesterday morning. It is believed that the unfortunate gentleman accidentally fell into the water and drowned. The previous afternoon he left his residence, at Stephen’s Green, South, at about one o’clock, in order to pay a visit to some friends of his who reside in the neighbourhood of Leeson Park, and it is surmised that whilst he was walking along the edge of the canal, which is dangerous and unprotected at this part, he stumbled and fell into the canal and was drowned. A dark object in the water attracted the attention of a passer-by on the following morning, and on a search being made the body of the deceased was discovered and drawn out of the water. He had a sum of money in his possession, and his watch was found to have stopped at half-past six o’clock. The body was at once taken to the City of Dublin Hospital, Baggot Street, where it now lies pending an inquest. The deceased acted as assistant secretary to the Bessborough Land Commission, and after the passing of the Land Act of 1881 he was named sub-commissioner, but was unable, owing to ill health, to undertake the duties of the office. He was for five years Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy in the Queen’s College, Galway, and his ability as a lecturer was universally acknowledged.”

The brilliant Robert Donnell, from Balliuamakard, Co Tyrone, was a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, who had been called to the Irish Bar in 1864, subsequently becoming a member of the North-East Circuit, where he specialised in property law. Presybterian by religion but liberal in politics, as a member of the Convocation of QUB he argued for the right of Catholics to obtain degrees and in his early years at the Bar had been instrumental in the preparation of the Irish Land Act 1870.

His subsequent book on that legislation, ‘A Practical Guide to the Law of Tenant Compensation and Farm Purchase,’ was described by the Coleraine Chronicle in glowing terms as

a text book for the professional man, and an exposition of the law which tenants ought to understand thoroughly… every section, copiously annotated, being made as plain and intelligible as the contents of an ordinary spelling book, while the arrangement is so concise, and the index so complete, that every person having to use the Act, can at once place his hand upon the particular provision affecting his case.”

The title page of Mr Donnell’s book on the Irish Land Act. All Mr Donnell’s books had quotes on their title pages. This one is ‘The magic of PROPERTY turns sand to gold’, by Arthur Young. The full text is available to read on here.

Indeed the book was so good that the Londonderry Standard of May 1871 said that Tenants Rights Associations should not lose a moment in engaging its author to represent them.

Later the same year, the Freeman’s Journal, when correcting, at Mr Donnell’s request, a misrepresentation of an argument made by him in court, described him as a junior barrister of acknowledged ability and great promise as a successful advocate. Subsequently, the Dublin Weekly Nation extolled him as one of the most able and rising Juniors at the Irish bar and a frequent advocate of the tenant cause in many well-contested cases.

Mr Donnell’s professional career culminated in his appointment, in 1874, as Assize Crown Prosecutor for the County of Louth, a promotion described by the Belfast Morning News as “made on grounds that might, with advantage to the public service, be more frequently advanced,” in other words, on merit. The same year, he was spoken of as a Liberal candidate for Parliament. That Mr Donnell also had his enemies, however, became evident when an agent of Tory landlord Mr Pakenham denied him the use of a courthouse for one of his Land Act lectures.

Mr Donnell’s interests lay in the field of social science as much as in law. Formerly Whately Professor of Political Economy at Trinity, in 1876 he was appointed Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy at Queen’s College, Galway. In his inaugural address, he said that it would be his aim as Professor to develop an Irish political economy explaining the economical phenomena of our country and its time, noting the evils of our social state, and finding, in historic investigation at home, or in comparison with economical circumstances and conditions abroad, the explanation of, if not the cure for some of those evils.

The same year he published his second legal work, ‘Reports of 190 Cases in the Irish Land Courts,’ all while maintaining a busy practice on the North-East Circuit.

Mr Donnell’s second land law book. This time the quote is “We’ll keep our customs, what is law itself but old- established custom?” (Sir Walter Scott) Possibly a reference to the Ulster custom of tenant-right? The full text of the work is available to read here.

The last reported case in which Mr Donnell appeared was in July 1882, a few months’ prior to his death. According to the Belfast Newspaper,

“a severe illness had quite shattered his health last spring but he recovered in the autumn sufficiently to enable him to move about and to attend to a portion of his business.”

The same newspaper suggested that Mr Donnell’s death might have occurred due to his frail physical condition having caused him to lose his footing when attempting to cross the lock, though this was somewhat contradicted by a report in the Leamington Spa Chronicle that he had been seen walking up Grafton Street, apparently in excellent health, a few hours previous to his demise.

At the subsequent inquest held in the City of Dublin Hospital, Baggot Street, David Redmond, lock keeper, deposed that at about 7.15 p.m on the evening of 18th December 1882, he observed the Deceased’s corpse floating in the water about 100 yards above the dock. between Charlemont Bridge and Leeson St Bridge. The face was downwards at the time and in the direction of the centre of the Canal, but the water was only three foot deep at that point. The cause of death was drowning, and there were no marks of violence on the body.

The jury returned an open verdict.

By January 1883, Mr Donnell’s law library had been sold at auction in the Literary and General Salerooms, D’Olier Street, and by February a new Louth Crown Prosecutor had been appointed to replace him. He was not, however, to be wholly forgotten. In 1884 the Londonderry Sentinel reported that a monument to the deceased was to be erected in the Corporation Cemetery, Belfast, taking the form of a broken column, six feet quarter at base, rising to a height of twenty-two feet and bearing the following inscription:

In memory of Robert Donnell, MA LLB Barrister at Law, who died at Dublin December 1882, aged 42 years. An accomplished scholar, an able lawyer, a good citizen, and a sincere friend. This monument is erected by those who admired his intellectual gifts, and appreciated his worth, as a testimony of their friendship and a lasting memorial of one whose memory is worthy of being commemorated.”

Twenty-nine years later, it happened again…

Wilton Place, Dublin, by Flora Mitchell, via

From the Dublin Daily Express, 18 September 1911:


The body of a well-dressed man was found floating in the Grand Canal at Wilton Terrace, near Baggot Street Bridge, this morning. It is surmised that in crossing by the footbridge at this place the Deceased fell into the water. A gold watch and chain were the only property found on the body, which has been identified as that of Mr. William Albert Fitzhenry, MA LLD, a barrister residing at 26 Upper Mount Street. The body was discovered by a lockkeeper named Ross. Deceased was called to the Bar at Michaelmas term, 1902, and was well known as a grinder.”

The answer to what exactly was a ‘grinder’ was provided by the Strabane Weekly News of 23 September 1911 which noted that the deceased, who was attached to the North-West Circuit, had prepared for their professional examinations a large percentage of the young solicitors of the last 10-15 years, particularly those from that Circuit.

This newspaper notice regarding a new Irish solicitor records him as having read for his legal examinations with Mr FitzHenry.

The inquest into Mr FitzHenry’s death was again held at nearby Baggot Street Hospital, the Coroner, Mr Christopher Friery, being himself no stranger to barrister drowning cases, having presided at the inquest into the tragic yachting death of Michael Joseph Dunn KC a few years previously.

Mr Friery, addressing the jury in relation to Mr FitzHenry’s death, said the curious fact about the case was that the deceased’s gold watch, which was found on him, was going at the time, and had not been stopped by the water. He described Mr FitzHenry as a well-known barrister and an excellent tutor, who had trained many students. Near where the deceased’s body was found there was a crossing, and although there was very little danger at the place (clearly things had improved, in terms of canal bank safety, since 1882), there was always the possibility that you might slip, especially during the night.

Mr FitzHenry’s family home at 26 Upper Mount Street today, via Not far from the Grand Canal.

The Coroner went on to say that the deceased had some financial trouble at one time, and had some other worries lately, which was scarcely necessary to enter into the details of, as none of them, in his view, were sufficient to account for self-destruction, or anything of that nature. It would be very cruel on the memory of this poor man and a severe blow to his family to think that he destroyed himself. The more charitable construction would be, especially as the evidence would probably bear it out, that he accidentally fell in and was drowned. No one knew how he got into the water, but the fact that his hat and stick were found in the water with him would go to show that he had stumbled in. If a man contemplated destroying himself he would have left those things after him. It was not suggested that the place was in anywise dangerous.

The lock keeper at Leeson Street Lock again deposed to finding a body in the lock opposite Wilton Terrace at half past five on the morning of 18th September 1911. It was not a dangerous crossing at the lock gate, but it was possible for one to slip in at night and fall into the water.

A juror – Did you see any signs of a scuffle or violence about the place? No.

The Coroner – The poor gentleman hadn’t an enemy in the world, and therefore there is no ground for suspecting foul play.

The Coroner read the following extract from a letter written by the deceased to one of his children the evening before:

I have a cold, and some worry that I must talk over with you all. It prevents me sleeping. I am going to try a good quiet walk after I post this.”

The foreman of the jury – That is quite sufficient.

Police Constable 116R said he was called by the lock-keeper, and he had the body taken out of the water. It appeared to have been only a short time in the water, and the watch was still going. He brought him at once to the hospital on the stretcher. He tried to restore animation, but failed.

The jury found that the cause of death was drowning.

The Coroner ended by saying that there were a lot of young solicitors throughout Ireland who would be sorry to hear of Mr FitzHenry’s death.

A newspaper notice of Mr FitzHenry’s call to the bar in 1902

Mr FitzHenry, a former auditor of the Law Society Solicitors Apprentices Debating Society, had been born in 1862 and practised as a solicitor before being called to the Bar in 1902. Perhaps his mid-life change of profession had contributed to his earlier financial difficulties? They appeared to have been resolved, in any event, by 1911, as he left the substantial sum of £387.6s.5d in his will.

An obituary in the Fermanagh Times described Mr FitzHenry as “an exceedingly aimable gentleman, he was most popular, and his death has caused very wide-spread and sincere regret.”

The same stretch of the Grand Canal today, via Wikimedia Commons

The distance from Baggot Street Bridge, where Mr FitzHenry met his end, and Leeson Street Bridge, beside which the body of Mr Donnell was found, is a very short one. It seems an odd coincidence that two such popular and successful members of the same profession (and almost the same Circuit) would have met their deaths in almost exactly the same spot a generation apart, in a location some distance from the usual barrister haunts of the time.

Mr FitzHenry would have been old enough, perhaps, to remember the death of Mr Donnell. Did the memory of one subconsciously call to the other? Or is there something in that stretch of the canal that bodes ill for the shining stars of the Irish Bar? If so, those of us whose lights burn less brightly can take consolation from the thought that we are thereby less at risk from the hazards of its murky waters!

A Bull Lane Girl’s Day Out, 1876

From the Freeman’s Journal, 14 July 1876:

“Three young men, one named William Donahoe, who stood in the Dock, and two others, Thomas Kinsella, and William Hurley, were indicted for an assault on three constables. Constable William Hatton, 59A, stated that on Sunday night, the 28th of May, between 9 and 10 o’clock, a band playing, followed by three or four hundred persons, passed through Kevin-Street towards Mark’s-Alley; the traverser Kinsella was the conductor of the band…

Witness asked Kinsella the name of the band, and he said it was the ’Francis Street band’ and that the same time gave witness a shove… witness stepped out and said he could not allow such conduct to go on; Kinsella gave him another shove and pointed the pole at him… the traverser Hurley gave him a box in the face; next day he arrested Hurley at his work in Guinness’s brewery; on Tuesday morning he arrested Kinsella in the yard of the Police Court.

Constable James Phelan 157A, deposed that on the occasion in question, Donahoe, who was one of the crowd following the band, gave him a blow which cut his head and obliged him to go to hospital.

Mr. Ennis, for Donahoe, said Donahoe’s defence was an alibi.

Henry Moore, a private of the 100th Regiment (Dublin Militia), deposed that on Sunday the 28th of May, Donahoe, with a young woman and a baby, spent the day with him at the Curragh Camp; at nine o’clock p.m. they left Newbridge by train for Dublin.

Replying to Mr. Beytagh, the witness said that Donahoe and the girl dined at ’31 Hut’ at the Curragh that Sunday with witness and other soldiers; visitors were allowed to dine in that way with the militia in camp; the girl who came down lived in a lane off Mary’s Lane – in fact, in Bull-Lane.

Anne Dalton stated that she was the girl who went with Donahoe to the Curragh; they got back to town after half-past ten o’clock

To Mr. Beytagh – Was an ‘unfortunate’ and lived ‘of course in Bull-lane’ in the same house with Donahoe; dined at the Camp on the Sunday in question with Moore and Donahoe and others.

Did the soldiers know your character? Of course they did.

The serjeants? Yes.

And the officers? Of course.

Mr. Beytagh – It certainly is a singular state of things at the Curragh Camp.

A ‘dairy boy’ living in Bull-Lane, deposed that he lent Donahoe a hat on Sunday morning, the 28th of May; Donahoe said he was going to the Curragh; saw Donahoe with the hat the same night in Bull-Lane, between ten and eleven o’clock.

The jury after a short deliberation, found Kinsella and Hurley guilty of a common assault, and acquitted Donahoe.”

The news that a young lady of blemished character had visited Ireland’s largest military camp in the green fields of Kildare provoked much pearl-clutching in the following day’s Dublin Evening Telegraph:

“We confess that the entertaining of the scum of society in quarters dignified by her Majesty’s flag has come upon us by surprise. Of course the lady was treated with that gallantry for which the military are famous, and we can only say it is a pity so much elegance and refinement was lost on the rather wild scopes of the Curragh.  It is possible that the disgrace was perpetrated under cover of a rule which permits the militia in training to see their female relatives; but we submit that it is highly necessary to draw the line somewhere, and to draw it pretty tightly at Bull-Lane.

 What sort of reception must await a decent woman whose husband or brother is in training and be easily imagined when roughs and their companions from Bull-Lane are partakers of the same hospitality… now that public attention has been directed to the practice we trust that the General commanding at the Curragh will adopt instant measures to defeat manoeuvres to introduce improper persons into the camp under any pretence whatever.”

The above was just one of a string of 1870s incidents which prompted the ‘clean-out’ of red-arrowed Bull Lane, Dublin’s infamous brothel quarter behind the Four Courts, a mere two years later.

More scandalous stories of Bull Lane to come!

Image Credits: (top) (middle) (bottom)

The ‘Hard-Swearers’ of Henrietta Street, 1844 

From Saunders’s News-Letter, 1 November 1844:


A young lad, named Michael Geraghty, was charged by Sergeant Fry, 1D, with stealing a gown, the property of Mrs Hawkins, of Henrietta Street.

The Complainant stated that he saw the prisoner upon the previous day running down Kings Inns-street with a great crowd following him, when he stopped him, and asked him where he was going.  He replied that he was running away from his father, who beat him; however, not considering his statement to be true, he took him to the station-house, where he searched him, and found concealed inside his shirt, and wrapped around his waist, a rich velvet gown, which he had ascertained since to belong to Mrs Hawkins, of Henrietta-street, and which was worth eighteen shillings.  He then asked the prisoner where he got it, and he replied that it was his father’s and that he had run away with it.

Mrs Hawkins identified the stolen property to be hers, and deposed that she sent the dress in a bandbox upon the previous evening, by her coachman, to Suffolk-street, and had not seen it since until that moment.

The Coachman was then examined, and proved that he gave the box with the gown in it to a boy who was going to the country with a cart, to leave on his way at Suffolk-street, and he had not seen it afterwards until he entered the board-room.

Two carmen from the stand in King’s Inns-street stated that they could prove ‘on oath’ that the boy charged had ‘neither hand, act or part’ in the transaction, and knew nothing of the velvet dress.

Mr Duffy asked one of them, named Palmer, if he heard the policeman swear that the boy told him that the dress belonged to his father, and that he ran away with it?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – Did you hear the boy tell the policeman that?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – Did you see the sergeant take the dress from the prisoner?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – And are you now ready to swear that he had neither ‘hand, act or part’ in the transaction?

Palmer – I am.

Mr Duffy – I have a very great notion of sending you for trial along with Geraghty, for I think you are all concerned in the robbery; however, as the evidence is only against him, I will fully commit him now for trial at sessions, and I advise you to be cautious as to what you may undertake to swear to.

The prisoner was then removed.”

‘Hard swearing’ was a term used to refer to swearing, as a witness, persistently to that which was false.

It certainly sounds like these witnesses satisfied the definition!

Image Credit

The Dangers of Wedding an Improvident Bride, 1832-1849

The French towns of Boulogne or Calais were the places of exile of choice for financially improvident Irish barristers. The subject of this post chose Calais (above, via Northwind Prints).

From Saunders’s News-Letter, 19 January 1837:

The Dowager Lady Ventry died at her lodgings last evening. The demise of this unfortunate lady will, we hope, enable a respectable citizen and a barrister of great standing and practice, to resume his station in society, and entitle him again to take his place in his profession – Mr Fitzgibbon Henchy. This gentleman’s marriage with Lady Ventry, which made him liable for engagements of hers to an enormous amount, and of which he had not the slightest previous conception – eventually rendered it necessary that he should leave his home and country. We trust now that he will be enabled to return to both.

The Morning Herald (London), 10 February 1837, put it more pithily:

“Lady Ventry dies in Dublin, and restores Mr Fitzgibbon Henchy to life.”

Peter Fitzgibbon Henchy QC was born in 1773 into a well-known family from Feenagh, County Clare. Appointed Commissioner of Bankruptcy due to his support for the Act of Union, he enjoyed for many years all the trappings of the successful 19th century Irish barrister, including a ‘splendid and hospitable mansion’ in Merrion Square.

Peter’s political leanings were shared by William Mullins, 2nd Baron Ventry, whose own support of the Union had earned his family a peerage. Ventry married three times; his third wife, Clara Jones, daughter of Benjamin Jones of the City of London, surviving him. When Peter’s wife Eleanor died in 1831, at the young age of 52, Peter remarried Clara within the year.

Posthumously described by the Times of 7 November 1847 as ‘a voluptuous Irish widdy of rank and vulgarity,’ the Dowager Lady Ventry no doubt had charms additional to her title. But she was also hopelessly bad at managing money, and her creditors were circling – with her new husband now the target. Attempts by Peter to defend the sea of writs which followed immediately upon their nuptials failed ignominiously when Chief Justice Bushe, in Perrier v Henchy and Wife (1832) held him liable, as Clara’s new husband, for her debts.

For a Commissioner of Bankruptcy to be himself a bankrupt was unacceptable, with the Fitzgibbon-Henchys’ departure from Dublin now an inevitability. Destitution was only averted by the marriage of Peter’s daughter by his first marriage Georgiana Frederica to the magnificently named Reymond de Montmorency, 2nd Viscount Frankfort of Galmoye in the County of Kilkenny.

A contemporary illustration of Lord Frankfort and Alice Lowe, via

Sadly, Georgiana Frederica’s marriage proved as ill-fated as that of her father’s. In 1842, Reymond had his former mistress, Alice Lowe, indicted for stealing two minatures, two snuff-boxes, a toothpick, a gold box, a watchhook, an opal box, two knives, a smelling bottle and an etui case. Alice alleged that the charge was trumped up to prevent her from leaving; the jury agreed and acquitted. A ballad, ‘Lord F and Alice Lowe,’ highly unflattering to the former, ensued.

The Frankfort marriage dissolved not long after.

Ten years later, Lord Frankfort was himself convicted, in an interesting case of handwriting identification, of sending indecent correspondence to ladies of the nobility, offering to arrange assignations for them with men of their choice and to facilitate this by drugging their husbands to sleep.

The unfortunate Peter Fitzgibbon Henchy, in his sixties at the time of his second wife’s death, never returned to the Irish Bar, ending his days in exile in Calais in 1849. He was therefore spared the further scandal which occurred in 1867, when his offspring Lady Frankfort was convicted of having, in a fit of pique, seized her maid-of-all-work by the hair and dragged her violently across the drawing-room of their Hastings abode.

As a consequence, Peter, in addition to his other tribulations, enjoys the legacy of being the only Irish barrister ever to have had a daughter depicted in the Illustrated Police News.

Lady Frankfort, ‘known to be of violent temper,’ as depicted in the Illustrated Police News of 9 November 1867, via the British Newspaper Archive.

As for Peter, his story stands as a warning to all prospective grooms of the dangers, prior to the Married Women’s Status Act 1957, of marrying in haste and repenting at leisure!

Gurgles from the Grave as Judicial Rivalry Continues into the Afterlife, 1882-1979

Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin c. 1917, via Ebay.

From the Evening Press, 19 January 1979:

If you happen to be in Mount Jerome Cemetery and have the right kind of imaginative hearing, you can listen to those odd chortling and shushing sounds coming from a certain over-ground vault on the right hand side of the mortuary chapel. The chortling comes from the late James Whiteside, one time Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. The shushing is from his wife Rosetta, who is ordering him to behave himself (as wives so often have to do) and to remember where he is.

To find out what’s tickling Whiteside (for believe me, it isn’t Rosetta), you have to branch off to the left where, near the massive tombs of Arthur Guinness, Son & Company, there’s another over-ground vault from which comes an angry muttering. The angry one is Whiteside’s brother-in-law, Holy Joe, otherwise Sir Joseph Napier (pronounced Na-peer), former Lord Chancellor of Ireland, whose sister Rosetta had married Whiteside in 1833. What has him still growling after ninety-seven years entombment is the fact that his survivors were so careless and thoughtless about where they placed the inscription on his last resting place. He had been so careful himself about arranging that inscription, and then the damned fools had gone and placed it around on the side of the vault, where it can all too easily be overlooked.

In short, after taking so much trouble to remain prominent in death, Holy Joe lies in effect in what is an obscure grave, just as if he was a nobody. No wonder Whiteside, who detested him (and whom he detested) is laughing.

And what about Whiteside’s own epitaph, you may say, where is that?

Well, you won’t see it from the path beside his tomb. But there is a space between the side of his vault and the chapel wall and, human nature being what it is, you will want to go around and satisfy your entirely idle curiosity about what’s there. And when you go around you find some very distinct lettering telling you that here lies James Whiteside and his Rosetta. You can’t miss it.

A youthful James Whiteside, from the Illustrated London News, 27 March 1858, via British Newspaper Archive.

Just why Joseph Napier and his brother-in-law detested each other we don’t know. Apart from the fact that few brothers-in-law really like each other, in Whiteside and Napier’s case there was probably the added factor of professional jealousy. They were rival barristers on the same circuit and were engaged in a race to see who’d make the bench first.

Whiteside had inherited from his clergyman father a touch of ecclesiastical humbug in manner and way of speaking. This, added to a flair for melodrama, made him a great man for bamboozling juries.

Joseph Napier, unlike the tall, stately, handsome, golden-throated Whiteside, was a slight, dapper little Belfast man, with sharp features and a nose you could cut your meat with. He was cleverer than his rival, but his harsh Northern accent was against him, and being merely the son of a prosperous Belfast merchant, he found that harmonious humbug didn’t come so easily to him as it did to the preacher’s son. No matter how great the merits of his case he seldom could get far with a Dublin jury. Since the opposing counsel was usually his brother-in-law this only added further humiliation to defeat. What agony he must have gone through when the victorious humbug sidled over to him at the end of a case and with mock sympathy said ‘Ah my dear Joe, you really should have won that one…

Sir Joseph Napier Bt, as he appears on the frontspiece to his posthumously published ‘Lectures, Essays and Letters(1888).

But if Dublin juries were more impressed by Whiteside, Joseph Napier was more highly thought of by the leading English Tories. Both men had manoeuvred their way into the House of Commons in the Tory interest, where the reward for barristers toeing the party line was a seat on the Bench. Joe had one disadvantage, though. He was very hard of hearing –

Holy Joe Napier

With his hand to his ear”

was Dublin’s uncharitable gibe at his infirmity.

On the other hand, Holy Joe had practised as a pleader in London and had cultivated the London connection more industriously than Whiteside, who really wasn’t very comfortable in the society of English people and preferred life in Dublin, which Holy Joe did not. So when the Tories got in in 1852 they made Holy Joe Attorney-General of Ireland and fobbed his rival off with the Solicitor-Generalship. Next time around, which was in 1858, Holy Joe was lifted right to the top of the legal tree as Lord Chancellor, leaving Whiteside far below as Attorney-General.

Napier’s obituary picture in the Graphic, 20 January 1883, depicts him during his brief Lord Chancellorship – the high point of his career.

But the Tories were only in for a year, then Holy Joe was out. So was Whiteside, of course, but Joe’s deafness was seen to be such a drawback that it was plain he would never be put in the Chancellor’s seat again. It was some consolation that he drew the enormous Chancellor’s pension for life, but money isn’t everything to a man who lusts after power and prestige. The next Tory Government made Whiteside Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and though they made Holy Joe Sir Joseph he was only a has-been. Nevertheless with the Belfast obstinancy he dogged his brother-in-law’s footsteps.

But while the Bench gave Whiteside another victory over Holy Joe it had one drawback. He couldn’t exercise the golden voice as much as he had been able to when a barrister. So in the evenings he went down to the Metropolitan Hall and gave lectures to the Church of Ireland Society. They were packed out. This was a double aggravation to Holy Joe who for years had been preaching to small congregations drawn from the Young Christian Men’s Association.

Stung to fury, Holy Joe launched a series of talks in Dawson Street on Bishop Butler’s Analogy. Alas, the listeners were few. Worse those Young Christians who were contemplating a legal career deserted to the enemy.

Whiteside as Lord Chief Justice, from the Graphic, 31 May 1873, via British Newspaper Archive.
Whiteside presiding over the famous O’Keeffe case, again from the Graphic, 31 May 1873, via British Newspaper Archive.

The years ground on. Rosetta, bent on peacemaking, organised joint holidays for her husband and brother in English watering places, but compulsory geniality in each other’s company only brought them back to Dublin hating each other even more.

Then Whiteside suddenly fell ill with Bright’s disease. The brothers-in-law were the same age, but it was Holy Joe who remained in perfect order. Whiteside died in a hotel in Brighton at the age of seventy-two and was brought back to Dublin for a gigantic funeral, attended by all the lawyers and by Young Christians in droves. Nobody paid any attention at all in the cemetery to poor Holy Joe, who was obliged to give an unearthly cry and drop down in a faint before anyone would give him a second look.

Whiteside’s obituary portrait in the Graphic, 16 December 1876, via British Newspaper Archive.

Holy Joe survived for another six years. Dogging Whiteside’s footsteps to the last, he too died in an English hotel, the Royal Victoria Hotel in St Leonard’s-on-Sea. He was seventy-eight.

But his last years had been embittered by seeing two public statues going up to the detested brother-in-law (St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Four Courts), and no prospect of anything for him. So he arranged a compensatory inscription for his tomb. ‘An earnest and humble Christian,’ it boastfully began, ‘he consecrated to the Master the rare abilities he possessed and after a life spent in advancing the interests of Justice, Learning and Religion, he was summoned to the nearer and holier service of the Church above.’

But what’s the use of a lovely inscription like that when the dammed fools stick it on the side of the vault where nobody ever sees it?

Traversers Exiting a Land League Trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench, Four Courts, 1881, via Getty Images. The Four Courts statue of Whiteside, now destroyed, can be seen on the left of the image.

Perhaps due to divine intervention at the behest of Holy Joe, the Whiteside statue in the Four Courts seemed to be cursed from the start. Its initial unveiling ceremony was hijacked by the Lord Chief Justice’s former housekeeper, who arrived with her colleagues for an advance preview and took away the shroud covering it before the dignitaries arrived. Later, in 1893, two barristers, Pierce de Lacey O’Mahony and Matthew Kenny, got into a fight in front of it in the Round Hall. The statue was ultimately destroyed in the 1922 bombardment of the Four Courts, and the only surviving representation of it intact may be seen in the image above. Whiteside’s other statue survives in the vaults of St Patrick’s Cathedral to this day.

An illustration of the famous Round Hall fight between Pierce O’Mahony MP and Matthew Kenny MP, from the Illustrated Police News, 4 Feb 1893, via British Newspaper Archives. Whiteside’s statue is just out of picture to the left.

Now, with his old rival largely forgotten, it is Napier who enjoys the more long-lasting glory as the original ‘Holy Joe‘ – this nickname, allegedly coined for him by none other than Daniel O’Connell, remains a noun used in English-speaking countries to refer to a sanctimonious or pious person to this day.

Just one of many colourful expressions added to the English language by the Irish Bar!

Too busy for a trip to Mount Jerome to check out the Whiteside and Napier tombs? Never mind – you can see photos of them here and here.

The Arran Quay Ghost, 1837

From the Tuam Herald, 9 December 1837, and the Dublin Morning Register, 8 December 1837:



An elderly little man, apparently in his perfect senses, came before the bench and stated that the ghost of his former master appeared to him nine times altogether.  The first appearance was in June, when he came to him at nine or ten o’clock in the evening.  He was greatly frightened, and was sick for three weeks after the ghost appeared to him.  He appeared to him five times more, and on the sixth time he asked him in the name of God, what did he want. 

The ghost told him that he had been murdered three years ago by a man named ___ who was foreman in his employment; that he was choked by that man and his brother in his own privy; that he left £15,000 in ready money, and his stock in trade, that the murderer possessed himself of all under the title of a false will; that a servant girl had cognizance of the fact, and that he (the ghost) would be greatly obliged to the narrator if he would go to a magistrate, set an inquiry on foot, and have the man arrested.

The man did not then go to a magistrate, but he went to the accused, and told him what passed between himself and the ghost, whereupon the accused said he did not care a pin for all the ghosts in Bully’s Acre.

The man then called down a priest who lodged in the house, and who asked him could he swear to all that had been told him on that occasion.  He said he could; and the priest replied that if he would see the ghost again to send him to his reverence.  He did see the ghost again, and told him what the priest said, but his ghostship said he did not want to have any call to the priest – he wanted to have justice done and requested that the man would go to a magistrate.  The man omitted doing so, and in the few days after the ghost again appeared to him, and made a similar request, so that at last he came before his worships.

One of the peace-officers who was present said he recollected very well that the man alluded to had died suddenly, and that his foreman was actually in possession of his property.

The magistrates said it was upon that very fact the man founded the story of the ghost. 

The man begged for God’s sake that their worships would take his informations, or do something in the business, for if they did not the ghost would give him no rest.

He was so importunate that they (the magistrates) directed him to Arran-Quay police office, being the division in which the accused person lives. We called there in the course of the day but could not learn that the ghost-seer had made his appearance.”

Image Credit

Wife Sued for Libel by Estranged Husband After Circulating Hand-Bills Seeking Name of her Predecessor, 1862

Portrait silhouettes by Monsieur Edgar Adolphe, via Alamy.

From the Dublin Daily Express, 6 October 1862:

“A STRANGE CASE.- Madame Margaret Phibbs, otherwise Adolphe, appeared to answer the complaint of Monsieur Edgar Adolphe, a photographic artist, 75 Grafton-street, to show cause why informations should not be taken against her for having published, at Mrs Dempsey’s, Grafton-street, on Wednesday, the 1st of October, and various other occasions a certain wilful and malicious libel, in the form of a hand-bill, for the purpose of annoying him and injuring him in his business, and to bring him into disrepute and shame; also for causing to be posted in the leading thoroughfares of the city and suburbs a defamatory bill, and thereby tending to provoke a breach of the peace.

Nicholas Harding, a printer, of Werburgh-street, was summoned by the same complainant for printing a certain wilful and malicious libel, in the form of a hand-bill, for the purpose of bringing said complainant into disrepute and shame. 

Mr E.A. Ennis appeared for the complainant, and Mr Purcell, instructed by Mr Charles Fitzgerald, senior, for the defendant. 

The case against Madame Adolphe was proceeded with first.

Mr Ennis stated that a case of a similar kind had been brought before the court some months ago, and there was a promise made that if no further annoyance were given the proceedings would not be gone on with.

Mr Purcell denied that such a condition was made.  He called upon Mr Ennis to read the alleged libel.

Mr Ennis said they could scarcely fail to have seen that bill on the walls of the town.  It was to this effect:

‘£50 REWARD!

If the Baron de Glasben de Tettenborn, artist, will give satisfactory information respecting the female under his protection, whom he alleges to be the former wife of Edgar Adolphe, photographer, 75 Grafton-street, Dublin, and, if she be now living, bring her forward, or if not, give legal proofs that she was alive on or about the 16th of November, 1856, he shall receive the above REWARD, or ANY person giving the required proofs.  Letters addressed to M.P., 87 Lower Dorset-street, Dublin, will meet attention.  N Harding, printer, 7 Werburgh-street.”

Mr Ennis proceeded to comment on it to show that it was a libellous nature, that it insinuated that his client had acted foully and dishonourably to some lady of rank.

Mr Purcell said they were anxious to examine the complainant.

Mr Ennis – Well, so you can.  Come up, Baron.

Mr Purcell – Oh! Is he a baron?

Mr Ennis said they were not there to inquire into his titles.

Monsieur Edgar Adolphe was then sworn, and examined by Mr Ennis. – I only want to protect myself from this annoyance.

Mr Purcell said he appeared for the defendant, and if she was his wife there was no known law for indicting a man’s wife for libel.  She had merely advertised for information to right herself, and he would ask the court to decide the case on this question.

Witness continued.- I know defendant.  She is my wife.

Mr Purcell asked the court to dismiss the case.  He had sworn that the lady was his wife, and he was sure that no proposition in law supported the idea of a man taking an action for libel against his wife.  This was the first case of the kind that had ever occurred in his experience, and now that the man had confessed that the defendant was his wife, assuming the whole charge to be true, there was no charge could be supported against her of this kind.  It was a principle most clearly established in law that a man could not be a witness against his wife, nor a wife against her husband, save in three cases – first, of treason; second, where the wife brought a charge of violence against her husband; and third, in a case of murder.

Mr McDermott,(who was assisted by Mr Allen in trying this case) asked was it not competent to bind the husband over to keep the peace? 

Mr Purcell said this case was different altogether.  It was a case of libel, and he would ask on what principle could a man bring an action for libel against his wife, and, if not, how he could proceed criminally on the same charge.  They were one flesh.

Mr McDermott – Then, if he committed suicide she should die also, I suppose?

Mr Purcell said she would – as a wife.  He would put in the objection, and if their worships wished he could overrule the objection and proceed.  He did not see how a man who had sworn that a woman was his wife could ask for these informations to be taken.  On legal grounds, strictly, this case should be dismissed.

Mr McDermott said that was not quite clear, but that they should, at all events, hear the evidence.

Mr Purcell asked them to take a note of the objection.

Witness continued (in reply to Mr Ennis) – I have been married these six years to this lady.  I have been four years and five months separated from her.  The matter that I complain of commenced two years ago, and I brought her before the court for it.

Mr Purcell objected to the former case being opened up again.

Witness continued – I have observed these bills distributed in thousands within the last two years.  They have been sent up to me by my boys by this lady.  On the 1st October, my wife was in Mrs Dempsey’s, opposite, at the window, and when I went to the opposite window she made faces at me, and took out one of these bills and shook it at me, and sneered over, as she is in the habit of doing.  I did not notice who was with her.  That bill would tend to lessen me in the public estimation, as it might provoke me to knock that woman down in the street if I saw her.  It speaks as if I had this woman under my protection.

Mr Purcell – Is the name of the lady to it?

Witness – ‘MP’ are her initials.

Mr Purcell – Would that excite you – that bill?

Witness – It would, sir.  If I saw it in her hand, or in your hand, I might knock you or her down.

Mr Purcell – Would you?  If you tried it you might get the worst of it.

Cross-examined by Mr Purcell:  I am a photographer and minature painter.  I married defendant on 16th of November 1856, in Warrington.  I was married before, at Brighton, in Essex, 25 years ago.  I object to answer further, as I wish to respect the ashes of those who are gone.

Mr Ennis cautioned the prisoner against answering any question but such as he pleased.

Mr Purcell only asked him to answer or decline as he pleased.  He would not force him to answer any question that might criminate himself.  Either way would serve him equally.

Witness objected to tell his first wife’s name, but afterwards said it was Eloise Giles.

Mr Purcell – Where were you married in Brighton?

Witness – I object to this.

Mr McDermott said it would be better to show, first of all, where the libels lay in this document, and then they could proceed.  He did not see any crime in what was printed there.  It did not imply any crime that he could discover.

Mr Ennis said he would show at once a prima facie case.  First, it was implied that there was an improper female living with him.

Mr McDermott did not see that it did.  Frequently there were advertisements of that kind printed, seeking information as regards a legacy, or for some such cause.  This lady evidently wished to gain information with reference to her position as the wife of the complainant, as, of course, she would not be his wife if his first wife were living.

Mr Ennis proceeded to argue at length on the difference which, he stated, existed between defamation and libel and in this case he contended there had been a case of defamation by the defendant.  He would willingly stay the case if the defendant would promise not to give further annoyance.

Mr Purcell would enter into no agreement.

Both the magistrates stated that they were unable to find anything that would warrant them to find the defendant guilty of a libel or defamation, or that it was anything but a bona fide transaction on the part of the defendant to endeavour to obtain information which she was entitled to under the circumstances.  They would, therefore, dismiss the summons, recommending that defendant would not irritate complainant further.  They would give no costs to either party.

The complaint against the printer was then dismissed without prejudice, and the parties left the court.”

Monsieur Adolphe’s premises at 75 and 76 Grafton Street as they are today.

First wife still alive or not, no prosecution for bigamy was ever brought against Monsieur Adolphe, who continued to carry on the Gold Palette Photographic Gallery at 75 and 76 Grafton Street, Dublin, until well into the 1880s. The notoriety of the above proceedings does not seem to have prejudiced his business. In 1865, he advertised the addition to his establishment of a ‘third exclusive Ladies’ Room’ added in the hope of affording ‘greater comforts and convenience to its numerous visitors than can possibly be met with otherwise… no appointment necessary.’

It seems that the Adolphes never reconciled, as Monsieur Adolphe was recorded as living alone in 1879. Hopefully his estranged spouse followed the magistrates’ advice and refrained from treating the above advertisement as an invitation to pay his premises a visit!

More on the art and photography of Edgar Adolphe here.