Dublin, July 17. Last Friday Night some Revenue Officers made a Seizure at Howth of 160 Casks of Tea; but they were soon after attacked by a Number of Smugglers, when a desperate Engagement ensued, in which one Higley, a Smuggler, was killed; only seven Casks out of the whole Parcel, were carried off by the Officers. A Brother to the Deceased was taken Prisoner by the Officers, and this Day sent to Town, guarded by a Serjeant and four private Men, but in passing thro’ Pill Lane, on their way to Kilmainham, they were assaulted by a tumultuous Rabble, which rescued the Prisoner, and dangerously wounded the Serjeant; the House of a reputable Shop-keeper, into which the Soldiers retired, was much abused by the Mob.”
Just one of many exciting goings-on in the very exciting and somewhat rebellious street of Pill Lane over the years!
Perhaps not entirely by coincidence, many of the businesses along Pill Lane traded in tea. The generally rebellious nature of the street – which had played a significant part in the 1798 Rebellion – may have been one of the reasons for removing it. A much later example of its residents’ successful defiance of authority can be found here.
More on smuggling in Howth in Francis Elrington Ball’s ‘A History of the County Dublin,’ which details Mr Higley’s death but omits to mention the escape of his brother, here.
As late as 1820, Thomas Kitson Cromwell, in his ‘Excursions Through Ireland,‘ describes the town of Howth as “inhabited by a singularly hardy and healthy race of men, generally above the common height, who, until very lately, were noted smugglers, and several of the father and grandfathers of the present race, are frankly stated by them to have died of wounds received in the pursuit of that illicit calling. In one encounter of this kind, it is narrated, a Howth man who had fallen, was found to have owed his death to the lodgement of a sleeve-button in his heart; a revenue-officer, whose ammunition was expended, having loaded his pistol with this extraordinary bullet.”
“A disgraceful scene was witnessed the other day in Greek-street, Dublin, near the police courts, where two women engaged in a fierce contest, surrounded by a ring of male and female backers. They scratched, pummelled, and tore one another for fully an hour, the fight being artfully suspended on two occasions when a constable appeared. Each had possessed herself of a large portion of her antagonist’s hair, their forms were nearly naked, their clothes having been reduced to ribbons in the encounter , and their faces, streaming with blood, had hardly any human semblance. At last one got her opponent’s fingers in her teeth, and nearly bit them off. This ended the fight.”
Greek Street is not only near the former Northern Police Court in Chancery Street, previously known as Pill Lane, but is right behind the north-eastern corner of the Four Courts.
The women in question may have been inspired by Dan Donnelly, the famous boxer mentioned in the speech bubble at the top of the illustration above, whose tavern was a popular local haunt in the early part of the 19th century.
In the century following the opening of the Courts, crime in this once-prosperous area increased to such an extent that most of the business in the Police Court was said to come from miscreant locals. It is also only fair to say that there were also very many well-behaved residents who deplored the behaviour of their rambunctious neighbours.
Today the area is improving and increasingly vibrant – as befits its extraordinary and fascinating history. The most likely candidate for the scene of the fight described above, the corner of Greek Street and Chancery Street (below), is now in the course of being developed as the new Hampton Hotel. Hopefully there will be more positive developments to come – or at least no more woman-on-woman* fights!
*As per this twitter discussion, the original term ‘girl-on-girl’ in this post has been replaced by ‘woman-on-woman.’
An incident in Ballymena Courthouse on Monday, during the Quarter Sessions, prompted Judge Begley KC to refer to a tradition peculiar to that Court. A man who was leaving the building, had just reached the flagged portion and put on his cap. A police officer requested him to remove it, which he did. His Honour interrupted the business to remark that there was a very old tradition which entitled people to wear their caps in that part of the Courthouse.
The police officer said he was unaware of that tradition. That must be the only courthouse in Ireland where such a tradition existed, he added.
Judge Begley – It is the only one so far as I know. I would like it to remain so long as this Courthouse is in its present condition.
His Honour’s last comment was occasioned by the lack of heating. He went on to say that he would sit for the purpose of the Crown business on Tuesday, but no longer unless there was an improvement in the hearing.”
Traditionally, no matter how cold the courtroom, men in court were only allowed to wear hats or caps with the specific permission of the presiding judge.
According to the Waterford News of 1868, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer for Ireland, Standish O’Grady, once refused permission to the freezing foreman of a jury to wear a hat, saying that, if his head was really cold, he could always borrow a wig from one of the barristers; the foreman demurred.
A man who refused to take off his hat in court could be ejected from the court, fined, or have his hat forcibly removed. Imprisonment for contempt of court was also a possibility. An amusing incident happened in Kerry in 1944 when a judge threatened a member of the public gallery with contempt for wearing his cap in court. When called before the bench it transpired that the ‘cap’ was nothing more or less than a crop of fuzzy brown hair mistaken in the distance of the room for a piece of headgear.
Along with their many other privileges, an exemption from wearing one’s hat in court was traditionally granted to peers as a matter of course. Willoughby Bertie, 4th Earl of Abingdon, plagued by legal problems, was given permission by Lord Kenyon LCJ to wear his hat in court in 1785. A gentleman passing as the Earl of Egremont is reputed to have retained his hat in Marlborough St Police Court in 1902 when answering a charge of being drunk and disorderly in Piccadilly. However, this may not be correct as there does not appear to have been an Earl of Egremont at the time. Perhaps a pretender?
A judge might perhaps allow someone suffering from a head injury to keep on their hat in court. Patrick Griffin, an elderly victim of assault, was allowed to wear a soft hat in the Northern Divisional Police Court in 1888 to hide the bandages upon his head, his injuries being very severe. Likewise, in 1913, a witness at the Dungannon Quarter Sessions was allowed to wear a cap in court to cover his mutilated ear.
Permission to wear one’s hat in court might also be granted in cold weather. Indeed, sometimes judges would make a point of allowing witnesses to keep on hats in order to draw attention to the chilly state of the courtroom in which they were sitting. This occurred at the Kanturk Quarter Sessions in 1924, when the Recorder said that the building was in a wholly unfit condition for court and, owing to the breeze passing through, anybody who desired to do so had authority to wear their hat.
If an elderly witness asked to keep their hat on because of the cold, it was probably unwise to argue with them. At Shankill District Court in 1928, an 87-year-old gentleman insisted on keeping his hat on because otherwise his head would get cold, as there was ‘little or no hair on it.’ Justice Reddin, despite muttering that the cold affected everyone, was wise enough not to pursue the point, and allowed the man to keep his hat on.
It was also sometimes necessary for an accused to model hats in court. In 1937 a man charged with theft before the Belfast Police Court wore his hat in court in a number of modes fashioned by a district inspector for identification purposes. The judge was not satisfied with the identification and the charge against the accused was dismissed.
Quakers had particular difficulty with the prohibition on hat-wearing in court, since it was an edict of their faith that their hats should be taken off to none other than the Supreme Being. Judges, who tended to regard themselves as the Supreme Being, at least so far as their courtroom was concerned, proved less than sympathetic to this view.
An incident occurred in 1849 when Mr Abraham Fisher, a member of the Society of Friends, appeared in Youghal Court wearing a hat with a ‘broad brim’ of more than ordinary dimensions. On the instructions of Mr Justice Ball, presiding, the bailiff removed the hat from Mr Fisher’s head. The ill-fated hat was then left hanging on the spike of the dock after Mr Fisher, refusing to accept it back, retired from court, enquiring sarcastically as to whether Judge Ball also wanted him to remove all his clothes.
Baron Bramwell, having initially rebuked a Quaker for refusing to take off his hat in court, subsequently issued an apology to the man concerned, stating that, having considered the matter, he felt that a man should act according to his conscience and that there was nothing intrinsically disgraceful about the wearing of hats in court, the practice of taking them off being only a matter of usage and practice. Not all judges agreed; Mr Justice Montague Smith, in Liverpool Crown Court in 1865, described the Quaker practice of refusing to remove one’s hat as discreditable to common sense.
At the Limerick Summer Assizes of 1876, Mr Joshua Jacob, again a member of the Society of Friends, was summarily ejected after refusing to take off his hat when serving as a juror. Judge Ball – once again the presiding judge – got more than he bargained for when Mr Jacob drew up and published an account of what had happened, a copy of which he addressed personally to every member of both Houses of Parliament, arguing that, as officers of the court were allowed to wear hats, he, as a higher officer of the court in his capacity as juror, should also have been entitled to do so.
In response to Mr Jacob’s campaign, the Irish Times remarked that “[w]e so no reason why the conscientious scruples of good men, so long as these do not offend morality or good taste, should not be respected. Friends are not obliged to swear in courts of law, and it really seems rather small of a judge to forcibly expel a respectable juror because, from conscientious scruples, he refuses to remove his hat.”
In 1907, a query was put to the Secretary of War as to whether a soldier should take off their head-dress in court. A reply was received from the Army Council that an officer or soldier should remove his head-dress in court when a judge or magistrate was present, save when on duty under arms with a party or escort. In 1915, Robert Killen, charged before the Belfast Magistrates with being an absentee from the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, claimed that as a soldier he was entitled to wear his cap in court. It was taken off him by the dock sergeant on the basis that he was not there on duty.
If a man took off his hat in court, he needed to keep a careful eye on its whereabouts, as the court bore no responsibility for its theft or loss. In 1828 a man sentenced in Green Street Courthouse, Dublin, to 12 months’ imprisonment for assault, complained that he had just lost his new hat in court, and requested remuneration. This application was promptly rejected by Judge Moore, who said that the accused should rather have expressed sorrow and repentance for his sin and the crime he had committed rather than be making an application for compensation.
During the Irish War of Independence and subsequently, the wearing of hats in court was adopted by those associated with Sinn Féin as part of a policy of refusal to acknowledge the courts’ jurisdiction. The Kildare Observer and Eastern County Advertiser disagreed with this practice, not because they disapproved of the motivation behind i,t but because they saw it as ‘emulating the example of those police minions of the law who wear hats in court.’ In March 1918 five young men, described by the Larne Times as ‘prominently identified with the Sinn Fein movement,’ were told ‘Hats off.’ When they refused to comply, a constable rushed forward and removed their head-gear.
In 1918, Father Cahill CC, present in Seaforde Magistrates’ Court for the trial of a man charged with leading the Drumness Sinn Féin pipers’ band in processional order without authority, asked why he should remove his cap when the police wore caps in court. He was told that he must do so or leave. In 1919, the Reverend Malachi Brennan CC was removed by the police when he refused to take off his hat at a Galway Crimes Court inquiry into charges of unlawful assembly at his parish hall.
The practice of defiant-hat-wearing for political reasons was still being engaged in as late as 1939, when a number of IRA men on trial in Carrick-on-Shannon had to have their hats and caps removed. Around this time, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State Eamon de Valera was asked in the Dáil whether persons wearing caps in court should be allowed to plead ‘not guilty,’ to which he replied that it was a matter for the court.
Two years earlier, an ‘eminent lawyer’ had told an Irish Press reporter, following the forced removal of a man who declined to remove his hat in court, that what was proper dress in court depended on the particular judge, who could not only order a man to take off his hat but, if he wished to do so, could also make him wear a hat or be committed for contempt. Fortunately, said the eminent lawyer, most judges were reasonable men.
Differences as to what was reasonable were evident in Portnockie Police Court in 1938, when the Clerk of the Court, in response to a solicitor calling attention to cap-wearers in court, remarked that ‘[t]his is a democratic age.’ Magistrate Bailie Geddes disagreed and said that gentlemen should always take off their caps and hats in court.
The prohibition on male hat-wearing in court has yet to be formally revoked, though tends to be enforced less often in an age of diminished hat-wearing. The type of hats removed against the will of their wearers have changed over time from the 18th century tricorne to the 1970s stetson removed in Carlow Circuit Court in 1971 from a man charged with robbery and violence. It is unclear whether the matching spurs on the accused’s boots were also removed as part of the same process.
The rules regarding the wearing of hats in court were precisely the opposite for women, who were not allowed in without them, and had to keep them on at all times save with judicial permission. This divergence in policy led to the famous joke about the judge who, having mistaken a woman wearing a sailor hat for a man, asked her to remove it, to which she retorted that she was no man and he in turn replied that he was clearly no judge.
In the King’s Bench Division in 1930, Mr Justice Roche directed an usher to tell a hatless girl handing in a document that, the next time she was to come into court, she was to come into court with a hat on her head. The girl blushed deeply and hurriedly placed on her head a brown felt hat of the close fitting type, presumably a cloche.
Mr Justice Roche’s colleague, Mr Justice Bateson, was liberal as regards the necessity for female head-coverings; when a female witness in a divorce trial asked if she could remove her hat to hear better when giving evidence, he eagerly assented, saying that he felt all ladies should take off their hats in court.
Matters came to – well, a head – in 1939 when Mr EG Hemmerde KC, Recorder of Liverpool, publicly declared that there was no historical or scriptural ground for insisting that women should wear hats in court, describing it as irksome and unnecessary. However, this was just one judge’s policy, and many still required hats, and indeed also required women to unbutton their gloves when holding the testament, though Lord Darling was once so tired of waiting till a woman had unbuttoned her glove that he told her to keep it on.
In 1934, a ‘pretty, well-dressed girl’ charged with theft, who admitted taking a fur coat from a dance hall as a dare and then wearing it to a dance in Dublin when she could not find the owner, was told by Judge Reddin that, out of respect, she should have worn a hat in court. Speaking about the accused in the third person, the judge said ‘it may be that she wishes to display her coiffure but I would like to remind her that there is a lot of brass in many a seeming platinum blonde. Pilfering is also becoming too prevalent.’ The girl escaped with a fine and the coat was restored to its owner.
The issue of mandatory female head-covering in court was resolved in England and Wales in 1942, when Sir Donald Somervell, Attorney-General, announced in the House of Commons that, in view of a certain change in social habits, the Lord Chancellor deemed it unnecessary to require compliance with the practice of requiring a woman to have her head covered in court. When asked if similar liberty should be given to men who wished to wear their hats in court the Attorney-General replied ‘that raises a very different question.’
This hat-wearing exemption, however, did not apply to Ireland, where the Irish Independent of September 18 1943 reported that a female witness in the Dublin District Court had been ordered by Judge Mangan to cover her head when taking the oath – a custom described by that newspaper as dating back to early Christian times and the edict of St Paul, in his Epistles to the Corinthians, that men praying should go with their heads uncovered and women with their heads covered. The Independent made clear that, in supporting the policy, it was not suggesting that hatless women were less likely to tell the truth, but that it did feel that covering the head in court tended to impress on them the solemnity of the occasion.
Northern Ireland judges and magistrates also persisted in requiring women appearing in court to wear hats for many years after the Lord Chancellor’s 1942 ruling. In 1968 ,Justice CM Maguire at Newcastle West Court told a woman witness that she was supposed to wear a hat in court. In 1960, Mr TD Elliott of Brookeborough Petty Sessions Court was gracious enough to allow a woman wearing a hat to remain in court, but gave her a severe warning for future occasions.
It goes without saying that no Irish judge today would require a woman to cover her head n court – though a news report on the 2006 retirement of Kilkenny Court Clerk Bernard Byrne noted that old notices requiring the wearing of hats still remained in place in some courthouses in that county.
That is not to say that the dress of female – and indeed male- witnesses does not provoke judicial comment. In 1943, Colonel CCO Whitely, chairman of Croydon (Surrey) Magistrates Court, rebuked a ‘girl witness’ for appearing in slacks, saying that it was an insult to the court. He subsequently delivered a formal statement saying that a female fellow magistrate had thanked him for making this point and that he was certain that, if one of the High Court judges saw a young girl wearing slacks, they would turn her out of court.
In 1937, a defendant in a civil case in Kildare came into court wearing an open necked shirt during an early August heatwave, to be told by a horrified unnamed judge that ‘this was not a bathing beach but a courthouse’ and that, out of respect for the court, the defendant should have buttoned his shirt and put on a tie. In response, the Derry Journal remarked that many men ‘had no tie to put on and ne’er a button on their shirts’ and ‘what this Justice has got to learn is that the ways as well as the days of the landed ascendancy are gone and he must come down out of the clouds and realise that truth can proceed from the throat that is left healthily open as well as from one that is incarcerated in a three inch standing-up collar and that respect is not measurable by the position of the buttons on one shirt.’
Skimpy warm-weather dress may however still provoke chastisement from Irish judges. In 2006 Judge Martin objected to two witnesses before her in Kilkenny wearing ‘muscle t-shirts,’ requiring them to borrow a jacket or change into polo shirts before giving evidence.
The question of judges or barristers wearing headgear (other than the wig) or skimpy attire in court usually does not arise because of the requirement of robing – although it remains an issue which could potentially rear its head during vacation sittings. In the 18th century, when legal costume was not required for Assizes outside Dublin, judges and lawyers commonly wore tricorne hats in court.
There is of course one very famous item of headgear which a judge has occasionally substituted for their wig in the past, and that is the black cap of silk and poplin which was placed on their head when pronouncing sentence of death. In England, the placing of the black cap was done by the chaplain of the court, in Ireland, by the judge himself – the reason for the difference is unclear. Perhaps we had fewer chaplains?
In 1943, former judge Henry Hanna regretted the cessation of the ‘black cap’ practice by Irish Free State judges and argued for a definite ruling on the point, saying that covering one’s head with a black cloth or hood was a long-standing and solemn judicial procedure and a sign of mourning for the life being forfeited. No ruling issued, and the vexed question of whether or not to put on the black cap continued until rendered moot in Ireland by the abolition of capital punishment in 1964 for most offences including ordinary murder (the death penalty was abolished for all offences in 1990).
Compulsory female head-covering in court, black caps, even the ban on slacks – all gone! But what about a witness – male or female – who insists on wearing a beanie, a trilby, a cloche or a leghorn in court? Would a judge require them to take it off, or, perhaps more wisely, decide to ignore it? It would be interesting to know!
The departure of the 7th Batt. Royal Dublin Fusiliers, known as the ‘Pals’ Battalion, was responsible for remarkable scenes of enthusiasm in Dublin.
Crowds lined the whole route, and the windows along the streets were filled with cheering spectators. Practically all classes of the community are represented in the Battalion, which had a large number of professional men, barristers, solicitors, civil servants, bank officials, merchants and traders’ sons, as well as artisans and labourers… About three o’clock in the afternoon, the Battalion was paraded at the Royal Barracks, the square of which was crowded with the friends and relatives of the departing troops. Played by the band of the 12th Lancers, and the pipers of the Officers’ Training Corps, Trinity college, the battalion left the barracks amid a prolonged outburst of cheering. With bayonets fixed, and carrying on their tips Irish flags, Union Jacks, and small flags of the Allies, the troops swung along the street with splendid soldierly bearing. Continuous cheering followed their progress, to which the troops frequently responded similarly. Outside the Four Courts a large crowd, representative of the legal profession and the courts officials, had assembled, A number of the judges were also present, and, as the battalion passed, judges, barristers and solicitors all cheered vigorously, and there was enthusiastic waving of silk hats, the judges taking as energetic a part in the demonstration as the others. The barristers and solicitors, of whom there were a large number in the ranks, received a special ovation at this point. Many of them had abandoned excellent prospects to respond to the call to arms, and their colleagues showed their appreciation by singling them out for an especially enthusiastic demonstration.”
July 1914 was not a good month for the Irish Bar. On the 22nd of the month, Pierce Gun O’Mahony BL, son of The O’Mahony of Kerry, was found dead in the trout-filled lake at his family home, Grange Con House, West Wicklow. Mr O’Mahony had not drowned. He had shot himself dead with a gun which he had taken out to fire at pigeons or rabbits. An inquest held on 28 July 1914 returned a verdict of accidental death. The same day, Austro-Hungary, using the June assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as a pretext, declared war on Serbia. The First World War had begun.
Some weeks later, on 7 September 1914, Mr Stephen Catterson Smith BL, keeper of the records in the Land Registry Office, and son and grandson of noted artists of the same name, was found dead in the laundry room of his house at 42 Stephen’s Green East. A six-chamber revolver, with one chamber discharged, was found close to his body. His housekeeper, Mrs Alice Reid, stated that Mr Smith had been suffering from indigestion and sleeplessness for some time past. This time, the verdict was one of suicide while temporarily insane.
On 16 September 1914, the Daily Express reported that five Dublin barristers had joined the ranks of the 7th Pals Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and would leave that day for the Curragh for training. They were Professor E Julian, of Trinity College Dublin; P Hickman, Hon Secretary and Treasurer of the Munster Circuit; H Tierney, of the same circuit; and Messrs T Hughes and CG Place, barristers-at-law. The Express subsequently went down to visit the new recruits at the Curragh, where their quarters consisted of five airy rooms with a billiard room, canteen and smoking-room, shared with a group of enthusiastic rugby players, one of whom described himself to the Express as being ‘as keen as mustard to get to the front, to see as much of the gun as possible.’
By the start of the new term on 26 October 1914, the war was depleting not only the personnel of the bar itself but also the staffs of the various official departments in the Four Courts. North-East Circuit barrister WW MacKeown BL had been gazetted to a lieutenancy in the 4th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers. Robin Cullinan BL, TJ Atkinson BL, Godfrey Place BL, DM Wilson KC and JE Proctor BL had all been given commissions in various regiments, along with Mr CCB Clarke, Assistant Registrar in Bankruptcy, and Mr F Bailey, of the Probate Office. Other enthusiastic barristers had joined the ranks as ‘tommies,’ something which the Express described as ‘a fine tribute to their courage and patriotism.’ Judges were allowing enlisted barristers to plead in khaki in lieu of the usual wig and gown, and there was even concern about possible detriment to legal services resulting from the anticipated reduction in lawyers, though, as the Evening Irish Times remarked, ‘there will not be many complaints – least of all from existing junior barristers – if we see a falling off in the number of calls to the Bar during the next year or two.’
On 27 October 1914, the Times carried a story headlined ‘Barristers’ Roll of Honour’ listing the names and ranks of the members of the Bar mentioned above and also including the additional names of W Dickie KC, WM Crozier BL, ECL Farren BL, GBJ Smyth BL, JF Teeling BL (already a prisoner of war), JB Lee BL and the famous golfer barrister Lionel Munn.
Valour was the virtue of the moment, never more so than in Lord Chief Justice Molony’s start-of-term eulogy to his recently deceased predecessor, Peter O’Brien, a man who he described as ‘an Irishman to the backbone, a typical Irishman, possessed in a high degree of that high quality associated with our race – that courage.’ The late Lord Chief Justice, in his prosecuting days known as ‘the Packer’ due to his uncanny ability to select juries to get the result he wanted, was rumoured to have survived several assassination attempts.
In case anyone was not on message, the Express of 13 October 1914 informed its readers about a new pamphlet by Mr Joseph A Rice, barrister, emphasising the need for recruits, explaining the position in relation to the Militia Act and showing by statistics that plenty of men of recruiting age were available and that, without doubt, if they were not forthcoming, the Government would exercise the powers vested in them to get them.
In December 1914, the General Council of the Bar of Ireland published the following resolution:
“That with a view to preserving so far as possible the practice of barristers who are unable to attend to their business owing to their serving in his Majesty’s Forces or otherwise in connection with the war, solicitors are asked to adopt the following procedure in every case in which a solicitor would normally have employed a barrister so serving:
– The solicitor to continue to place the name of the barrister so serving on such briefs and papers
– The solicitor to deliver such briefs and papers together with the fee marked thereon to such barrister as he may in his own discretion from time to time select, and to invite such barrister to hold the brief or attend to the papers so delivered to him on behalf of the barrister whose name is placed on it
That, with a view to preserving so far as possible the practice of every barrister who is unable to attend to his business owing to his serving in his Majesty’s forces or otherwise in connection with the war (hereinafter designated as AB) the Bar Council recommends: –
– That all barristers should make it a point of honour to do what they can to ensure that AB may get back his practice intact when he resumes work at the ba
– That all barristers, whether senior or junior to AB, should so far as is reasonably practicable do the work of AB;
– That every barrister doing the work for AB should after his signature to any pleadings or other documents add (‘For AB now serving in his Majesty’s Forces (or as the case may be) and if holding a brief should state to the Court for whom he is holding such brief and for what reason.“
A recommendation only, but one described by the Express as certain to be universally implemented, loyalty to fellow barristers being a salient characteristic of the Irish bar, with nothing being more censured by its members than an attempt by crooked means to sneak into another’s practice.
Also published in the Express was a list of serving barristers, including, in addition to those already mentioned, G O’Grady BL, API Samuels BL, AR Moore BL, JHF Leland BL, HK Purcell BL, HJ McCormick BL, SS John BL, G McCarthy BL, HO Holmes BL, WA Lipsett BL, G Plunkett BL, M Fitzgibbon BL and RJH Shaw BL. The list failed to include JH Edgar BL, FH Lewin BL and HM O’Connor BL, who had also joined up by this time. It was, however, long enough to subtly remind barristers young enough to enlist of what the Express deemed to be their duty.
Enlistment continued throughout December 1914, with C Arnold BL and W Johnson BL both receiving commissions, the latter being described as the 33rd member of the Irish Bar to join the Army. In January 1914, it was reported that WD Harbinson BL had also accepted a commission.
About the same time, the first reports of deaths started to come in. On 31 December 1914, news was received that Capt RC Orr, a solicitor formerly practising at Ballymena, had been killed in action in France. March 1915 marked the death in action of another rising young solicitor, Lt B Fottrell, and the first barrister casualty, Lt AR Moore, injured by shrapnel. Noting that ‘the casualty lists of the last few days have shown with bitter emphasis that Ireland is indeed at war,’ the Express of 20 March 1915 wrote that
‘[t]he Irish Bar, always public spirited, has set a fine example to the public in answering the country’s call. In the Law Library hangs a list – incomplete – of the members on active service numbering fifty-nines- which is over one-fifth of the average number daily attending the library. When we remember how many practising barristers over military age are, or are otherwise prevented from serving, it is no small achievement that twenty per cent of the practising member of the Bar have gone. And they are, by no means, of the briefless order, having resigned good practices and better prospects for the chance of a bullet and a nameless grave in Flanders.’
In the last week of March 1915, an article ‘The Irish Bar and the War,’ appeared in a number of national and local newspapers. It drew attention to the rapid promotion received by four of the original five barrister volunteers, P Hickman, T Hughes, E Julian and CG Place, each promoted to Captain in different regiments. There once again followed a full list of those serving, this time including the Circuit to which each enlisted man had belonged prior to leaving the bar.
A few days later, the same newspapers carried an advertisement for the 7th Leinster Cadet Company, saying that it consisted of educated men, approved for admission, with non-commissioned officers from their own number only, and that its members – specifically stated as including barristers – would be considered with a view to commissions in other divisions.
By now, the Fermanagh Times was estimating the number of barristers serving at 65 and the Irish Independent at 50. The Independent broke down the percentages circuit by circuit. The North-West Circuit, at 14 out of 50, had the highest percentage of barristers serving, but the Munster Circuit, at 17 out of 50, had the largest number. Connaught had 5 out of 38 barristers serving, Leinster had 3 out of 45, and the North-East a mere 7 of 196 (this later changed radically, with many additional barristers enlisting from the North-East Circuit, possibly because of its judges – more below). The best Irish legal record was that of the Kerry Sessional Bar which had numbered 11 at the outbreak of war. 7 of these were now with the colours while 3 others were over military age.
A further enlistment was reported on the 28 April 1915 – GH Brett BL had joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. By 30 April, the press were reporting that there were over 70 members of the bar with his Majesty’s forces, with several additions to the casualty list. 2nd Lt STL Maunder BL had been wounded in the foot and on the breast in a narrow escape from death, a bible which he had in his pocket having exhausted the force of the bullet. It was also noted that Tim Healy KC and his brother Maurice Healy BL both had sons in service – Mr Joe Healy – a well-known motor cyclist – and Mr Maurice Healy Junior, who had recently received a commission.
So far, the Bar had been spared any deaths. Things changed in May 1915 when it was confirmed that Pte WA Lipsett BL had been killed the previous month leading a hand grenade charge at Ypres. ‘Billy’ Lipsett’s unassuming good nature had made him a popular figure among other barristers in the Law Library, especially his former brethren on circuit. He had practised on the North-West Circuit for a number of years before leaving in 1913 to take up a legal position in Canada, and had returned as a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Judge Cooke, in Ballyshannon Sessions Court, expressed profound sorrow for the death of Pte Lipsett, a barrister who had so often practiced before him, whom he described as having earned undying fame by his death in the defence of his country. The judge also expressed sympathy for Pte Lipsett’s brother Lewis, also a member of the Irish Bar, now a lieutenant and serving in France, and hoped that the deceased’s example would spur on those who lagged behind. By now, 17 members of the North-West Circuit were in uniform, with W Doherty BL soon to make it 18.
Judge Cooke was not alone in singing the virtues of enlistment to protect the country from invasion by an army memorably described by his colleague Judge Brown in open court as ‘the hellish hordes of Potsdam.’ On 20 May 1915, Judge Wakely told the Roscommon Grand Jury that its members should help to have it realised that young men must go to the front to save their country from the abominations suffered elsewhere under the Germans, saying that he had offered his own services to the military, but, as he was too old, he had not been accepted. On 11 June 1915, Judge Craig told jurors at the Belfast Quarter Sessions that ‘[t]he question presents itself to me and to every man who is heard, and who has a spirit in him – what are you doing for your country? What am I doing for my country when these men are giving life and limb for it? I am an old man, No one would expect me to fight, and it would be very little use if I tried it but by the spirit that is in me if I were a young man I would enlist today,’ – a declaration described by one reporter as touching such a responsive chord in the hearts of those present that the building reverberated with applause and a sense of enthusiasm prevailed that was as inspiring as it was unique.
Call day at the Four Courts on 9 June 1915 was overshadowed by the news that Sub-Lt Gerald Plunkett BL had died at the Dardanelles. Less than a week previously, Rathmines and Rathgar Town Council had resolved not to accept Plunkett’s resignation tendered on enlistment, but to keep his membership open until his return. The Council’s next meeting on 19 June 1915 was to pass a resolution expressing its deep regret at Sub-Lt Plunkett’s death and its sympathy for his family.
Shortly afterwards, there was another death, that of James Anderson BL, Professor of Jurisprudence and Roman Law at University College Galway, who had been appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College Dublin in June 1914. 35-year-old Anderson, a brilliant lawyer practising on the Connaught Circuit and briefed in almost all the intricate cases in the Record Court, Assizes and Quarter Sessions, had desperately wished to enlist but had been repeatedly turned down due to heart issues. In the early summer of 1915, following a further unsuccessful attempt to enlist, he travelled to London to see if there was any war work available for him to do there. Rejected yet again, he caught influenza while in London and died shortly after his return home.
The tragic circumstances of Anderson’s death were noted at the opening of the Galway Quarter Sessions on 26 June 1915. PJB Daly, speaking on behalf of the Galway solicitors, described him as a most honourable gentleman and a painstaking advocate. FJ McCormack BL, on behalf of the Connaught Circuit, told the court that in the whole course of the time he had known the deceased, he had never said or thought anything about anyone else which was not kind.
A ‘Tribute from a Catholic Friend,’ published the same week in the Galway Express, said that it was an open secret that Professor Anderson was sorely troubled by the thought that he was forced to live ingloriously at home, and could not offer his life freely for his country at risk from the atrocities which German devils and the cruellest fiends ever vomited out of hell had inflicted already on the helpless Belgian and French women and children they ever had in their power. The writer of the ‘Tribute’ noted that the professor had left school at 15 and had obtained his university education by rigorous denial, simple living, and strenuous work, and that, though a Presbyterian, he had respected the convictions of others, loved his countrymen of every class and creed and wanted Irishmen of every shade of opinion to unite in working for their beloved country. He had been most popular with the students of Galway and had on many occasions proved their true friend.
A few days later, another death, another tragic headline: ‘Barrister Soldier Missing.’ Capt ECL Farran BL, co-author of ‘The Irish Land Acts,’ now in the Royal Irish Rifles, had been shot on 16 June 1915 while crawling through an enemy ditch. His body was never recovered; leave to presume death was given in a court application eighteen months later.
On 28 June 1915 the Derry Journal carried a story about the proposed National Register, in which every man would have to state whether they were prepared to enlist if called upon and, if not, whether they were prepared to do other war work and leave their present residence and go elsewhere to do it if required. Readers were told that, among other things, the Register would enable Government to see total available fighting men and call on them if required.
Some happier news came with the announcement that 2nd Lt JR Moore BL and 2nd Lt H McCormack BL had both been awarded the Military Cross. McCormick, well-known in pre-war Dublin hockey and tennis circles, had shown conspicuous gallantry during the second battle of Ypres by personally assisting in the removal of the wounded and moving a machine gun under heavy fire and while suffering from the effects of gas. In November 1915, another Military Cross would be awarded to 2nd Lt Samuel Spedding John BL, called to the Irish Bar as recently as June 1914, who had crawled out under heavy fire and assisted to bring in a wounded officer and twenty men.
Barrister enlistment continued throughout the summer of 1915. Those who joined up included JF Miley BL, son of the Registrar of Friendly Societies in Ireland, and C Roche BL, son of a former President of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. The Strabane Chronicle reported that that a remarkable feature of the Summer Assizes in Tyrone was that there were very few barristers in attendance, the number being only one third of those noticed on previous occasions. At the Galway Assizes, Mr Justice Boyd complained about the low number of volunteers in the county, saying that he failed to understand, why, having regard to the high rate of enlistment among its respectable inhabitants, ordinary persons had not likewise come forward. Those who had failed to do so were slackers, wanting in nerve, wanting in thought, and were bringing disgrace on the country and would not like to find themselves, after the war, branded with the name of cowards. Though without doubt carried out with the intention of assisting them, Judge Boyd’s recruitment efforts caused some dissatisfaction among the military authorities, who felt that he had provided unnecessary information to the enemy. This did not, however, preclude him from being appointed a baronet on his retirement the following year.
On 10 August 1915, the Belfast Newsletter reported that the Irish Law Times, which had earlier published a list of barristers serving, had now published a list of members of the judiciary and the Irish bar whose sons were evening or had died in action in the present war. Those mentioned on the list included Mr Justice Boyd himself (2 sons), Lord Chief Justice Molony (1 son), Mr Justice Kenny (2 sons), Mr Justice Ross (1 son) and Mr Justice Wylie (3 sons).
In the meantime, the Pals Battalion, which had departed Dublin so gloriously in May, had completed its training at Basingstoke and, on 19 July 1915, embarked with the rest of the 10th Division for the east. In the early morning of 7 August 1915, they landed at Suvla Bay in the thick of murderous fire, to meet an attack at Chocolate Hill, so called because of its colour. Capt Ernst Julian BL died on 8 August 1915 from wounds received in the attack. Capt Robin Cullinan was killed on the same day, leading his men under heavy fire.
Also at Suvla were Lt Joseph Bagnall Lee BL, author of a book on the Town Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1906, and 2nd Lt JHF Leland BL, a former Scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, both serving with other companies. Lee was killed the day of the Pals’ arrival; Leland three days later. The next two weeks saw the deaths of former rugby player and honorary secretary and treasurer of the Munster Circuit Capt Poole H Hickman BL and 2nd Lts R Stanton, WR Richards and JV Dunn, LCpl HS Findlater and Cpl JG Persse, solicitors, as well as solicitors’ apprentices Lt SL Tolerton, 2nd Lts JH Shute, PJ Furlong and MJ Fitzgibbon, Sgt AC Crookshank and Pte JD Davidson. A superb and gripping account of the tragedy of the Pals and the Dardanelles is given by David Nolan SC in a lecture available at this link. Well worth watching!
Capt Julian, a noted rower and would-be mountaineer, had preceded Anderson as Reid Professor of Criminal Law in Trinity College Dublin. The Express journalist who had visited Julian and Hickman in the Curragh in September 1914, an old student of Julian’s, wrote movingly that the last time he saw his former professor, he had been inspecting the oiling of men’s boots. It seemed, he said, such a strange contrast to see the lawyer and the university professor taking up a pair of Tommy’s boots and showing him how to oil them, ‘but that was Julian’s way. He was thorough in everything… throughout his life he abhorred publicity and never courted popularity, but there was no man more truly beloved by his friends or more admired and respected by all who came in contact with him. From the time he obtained his commission he always endeavoured to promote the well-being and comfort of the men under him. In his last letter written on his way to the Dardanelles he showed that, to his mind the most important characteristic of the liner in which he sailed was the excellence of the accommodation provided for the men.’
The same writer was also effusive in his praise of former rugby player Hickman, saying that he had at least been spared his chief horror – coming back badly maimed. Prior to his death, Poole Hickman had provided newspapers with an account of the battle of Chocolate Hill where ‘even the dirtiest water was greedily drunk, the sun’s rays beat pitilessly down all day long, and one of the worst features were unburied bodies and flies, more gruesome than this pen could depict,’ describing days without sleep, without food, with snipers ‘up trees, in furze and in every conceivable hiding place,’ even dressed in green to better resemble the trees in which they were concealed. A description of Hickman’s own death was published in the Belfast Telegraph of 15 October 1914: ‘Cheering, leading the first line, he raced towards the Turkish trenches. None came back.’ Reading the above, it is hard to disagree with the view stated in the Express that ‘I do not think that anybody could read without pride the stories that are now coming through of the wonderful charge of the 10th division at Suvla.’
Undeterred by the catastrophe of Suvla, recruitment continued apace. On 17 August 1915, the Irish Independent reported that, due to the need for officers, places for Irishmen anxious to obtain commissions in the army and who were not members of existing Irish training corps were to be made available in the Inns of Court Officers’ Training corps, normally reserved for barristers, student barristers and public schoolmen. Arrangements had been made for men to be interviewed by a selection board sitting in the Land Judge’s Court, Four Courts at noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Members of the board included Mr Justice Ross and James Sealy BL. Meanwhile, William McAfee BL received a commission, and JB Burke BL, Crown Counsel for County Roscommon, volunteered for service with the RAMC.
Later that month, the Dublin Daily Express reported on what it described as an ‘enthusiastic’ recruiting meeting at Skerries, presided over by Lord Chief Justice Molony, with the bands of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers playing patriotic selections by way of accompaniment. The Lord Chief Justice told the crowd that they had all reached a crisis in the war, with many men falling in the defence of Irish homes, and that the time had now come to ask those at home to fill up the gaps made by their heroic deaths and to do what was in their power to achieve a lasting and victorious peace. The end was not yet in sight, and they had to battle with a relentless foe, who had departed from all the sacred principles of humanity and all the ordinary usages of law. They were face to face with a foe who knew no law, who stood for no justice, and it was their fixed determination to conquer him, for they would never allow it to be said that they had allowed Irish soldiers to die in vain by apathy.
The meeting was also addressed by Lt Maurice Healy, who said that there were some young men who did not want to go to the front and that ‘a certain party of men’ had come forward and supplied them with plausible arguments for staying at home. Healy went on to say that 92 out of 400 practising barristers had volunteered, and last week 5 of his friends had died, for what – Was it for France or Belgium? No, but to keep the Germans from Ireland, and yet they in Skerries could keep on playing golf and cricket and would not go into training and help the fighting men. If they joined the army and got a proper training with modern rifles, they would be in a better position to take part in a fight after the war if such a thing was necessary. That would be much better than playing at soldiers!
On 29 July 1915 Mr John Gore, solicitor, had interrupted a meeting of the Provincial Bank of Ireland to demand an explanation as to why its employee JP Coghlan, a newly qualified barrister, had been informed by the Bank that if he joined the army it could not undertake to reinstate him on return, saying that he could hardly imagine conduct more prejudicial to recruiting. On 21 October 1915, Coghlan, now a 2nd Lieutenant, in his inaugural address as auditor of the Law Students Debating Society, impeached Germany military for its high crimes, misdemeanours and ruthless disregard for international law. Lord Chancellor O’Brien, giving his vote of thanks, pointed to the large number of members of the bar serving the army as a glorious record. Mr Justice Ross said that there was no man who loved clean fighting more than the Irishman. Lord Chief Justice Molony, also present at Lt Coghlan’s inaugural address, said that it laid with every Irishman to put his strength into the struggle.
On 6 November 1915, another recruiting meeting was held at Swords. Attendance was good despite the fact that the clouds were low and threatening and the afternoon was such as to make the fireside the most comfortable place. Headed by Drum Major De Courcy Miller, whirling his silver headed staff in proper martial style, the pipes of the Dublin University OTC entered the village playing ‘Let Erin remember,’ with a ‘well-known’ Dublin barrister ‘handling the big drum and flourishing the drumsticks in the spectacular manner which is the privilege of military drummers, his tiger-skin apron and college blue tassels of the pipes giving a touch of colour welcome in the mass of khaki.’
The same week, the death had been announced of Ellard E Brady, solicitor, son of James Brady, also a solicitor, who had joined the Leinster Regiment with a younger brother a few weeks previously. Brady had contracted a fatal illness while training at Aldershot. A third brother, Matthew, whose lungs had been already weakened by gas exposure, contracted a chill at Ellard’s funeral and also died.
On 11 November 1915, the luggage of Lt Cecil Stacpoole Kenny BL was found unclaimed on board the Holyhead steamer from Dublin. Lieut. Kenny, described by the Express as ‘a very estimable and promising young barrister’ had been on his way back to Ireland for a visit after military training in England. No trace of him could be found and only the worst could be assumed as to his fate.
On 26 November 1915, the half-yearly meeting of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland took place in the hall of the Solicitors’ Building in the Four Courts. The President of the society, Arthur E Bradley, told members that Irish solicitors of military age had responded well to the call and that there were now 80 practising solicitors and 59 apprentices serving with the colours; of these, 6 Irish solicitors and 3 apprentices had laid down their lives for their country (in fact, more than 4 solicitors’ apprentices had now been killed).
On 6 December 1915, the ‘splendid sportsman’ Capt FH Lewin BL – once upon a time fined for having driven his motor car through Dublin city centre at the impressively high speed of 29 miles per hour – succumbed to injuries incurred when a hand grenade burst prematurely in bomb throwing practice. On 10th December 1915 Capt RBB Burgess BL, one of the best rugby players in Ireland, ‘a man of fine physique and of frank and cheerful temper, great speed, and a deadly tackler, an Irish soldier and gentleman of the best type,’ died when a shell burst as he was cycling through the fields of France.
Death followed death throughout 1916. Boer War veteran 2nd Lt JR Shaw BL, son of the late Judge Shaw, was killed during a night reconnaissance in front of the trenches on 22 February. Two days later, Belfast barrister 2nd Lt JH Edgar BL was also killed in action. 9 April 1916 saw the death of 25-year-old 2nd Lt. HS Tierney, ‘a young man of splendid physique and a fine type of Irishman, a popular and promising member of the Munster circuit whose career in the army was marked by many acts of gallantry and bravery.’ Tierney had been one of the initial group of barristers to join the Pals battalion. The majority of this group were now deceased.
On 2 March 1916 the Irish Law Times published a War Supplement containing lists of Irish barristers and barristers’ sons, Irish solicitors and solicitors’ sons and solicitors’ apprentices who had joined up. Included was a letter of appreciation from Lord Chancellor O’Brien for what he described as a splendid response on the part of the legal profession to the call of their country. The Supplement recorded 124 barristers as having enlisted, 80 of whom had been practising immediately before the War. Of these there were 24 each from the Munster and Northeast Circuits, 18 from the Northwest, 7 from Leinster and 6 from Connaught. 10 barristers had been killed. Lt JF Teeling BL was still a prisoner of war. 174 solicitors and solicitors’ apprentices were serving, nine of whom had died. Numerous barristers’ sons, solicitors’ sons and judges’ sons had also enlisted.
The deaths continued through the spring and summer of 1916, many of them at the Battle of the Somme. Capt JCB Proctor BL and Lt WM Crozier BL were both killed on the first day of the battle. Crozier was a former Trinity Scholar; Proctor an ardent Unionist from Limavady, whose care and concern for his men of the same town was such as to cause a striking demonstration of grief among their families on hearing the news of his death. Others who died at the Somme were 2nd Lieut AR Moore BL, first barrister casualty of the war and subsequent recipient of the Military Cross, solicitors Maj Thomas J Atkinson, Capt WA Smiles and Lt Louis Barron and apprentices Lt TOJ Kavanagh and 2nd Lt PJ Furlong.
Back home, Ireland was reeling from the shock of the Easter Rising of 1916. Opening the Tyrone Assizes, Mr Justice Ross said that he was glad to know that a considerable number of Tyrone men of military age, in fact all of them, were at the front where every gentleman ought to be, adding that nearly every barrister of military age on the North-West Circuit had got a commission and gone to the front and three of them had already nobly died.
In Waterford, a barrister appeared in khaki at the Waterford Assizes – perhaps Lt JP Coghlan BL, former auditor of the Law Students Debating Society, whose legal experience was growing apace; in June 1916 he successfully defended a private court-martialled for murder. With death everywhere at home and abroad, the decision of the next auditor of the LSDS to deliver his inaugural address on the influence of literature on legislation must have come as a welcome relief to those attending. The July publication of Henry Hanna’s memorial volume ‘The Pals at Suvla Bay,’ brought back memories of those colleagues dead in the Dardanelles. One of the survivors, Lt JW Doherty, spoke at a recruiting meeting in Leinster Square the same month.
On 9 September 1916, Lt Tom Kettle BL, a poet and professor at University College Dublin, married to the sister-in-law of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a civilian notoriously executed by British military during the Easter Rising, was killed leading his men at Ginchy. Kettle, a former MP for East Tyrone, had been heavily involved in the previous year’s recruiting campaign, and news of his death featured not only in Irish, but also in English newspapers. Under the heading ‘A Brilliant Hero’ the ‘Evening News’ described him as having ‘brought to his native wit the aid of a mind richly stored by academic learning.’ The Star noted that Kettle had made over 200 recruiting speeches in the month following the outbreak of the war, which were probably the best in point of wit made during the campaign. Kettle’s poem about the war, ‘A Song of the Irish Armies’, from which the title of this post is taken, may be read here.
Others killed in September 1916 were Capt API Samuels BL, solicitors 2nd Lt SC Webb and Cpl W Whaley and apprentice Lt JKM Greer. Samuels, a former auditor of the Trinity College Dublin Historical Society, was described by a fellow officer as ‘a man of real capacity and intellect, and always such an interesting fellow to talk to or discuss with… I am honestly not exaggerating when I say that in my opinion Ireland has lost one of its most promising men in Arthur Samuels. He was a hero, and in his own battalion one of the most popular as well as most efficient officers.’ Wounded on 29 June 1916, Samuels had returned to duty on 7 July, despite having a piece of shrapnel in his back, and was sent back to hospital on 15 August before later returning to duty and his death. Judge Cooke at Donegal Crown Sessions noted him as the fifth member of the North-West Circuit who had laid down his life for his country. The formerly bellicose judge sounded tired as he said that the list of dead was ever lengthening, and he could not speak of them all.
In January 1916, Samuels’ father Arthur Samuels KC had written to the Times saying that it was a degradation to the imperial standing of the Irish people that compulsion could not be applied to the unmarried Irish shirker. By September, not all of his colleagues felt the same way. Another Irish barrister (name undisclosed) wrote to the newspaper counselling against conscription.
On 27November 1916, Law Society President Charles St George Orpen, speaking at the Society’s half-yearly meeting in the Four Courts, sadly told members that they were still under the shadow of the great war, days of anxiety sorry and stress, and that it was hard – he confessed that he found it almost impossible – to think of anything ese. Death, he said, had been amongst their brethren. 113 solicitors and seventy-one apprentices had joined the army and 12 solicitors, and 6 apprentices had given their life. He was proud of these men and the distinctions that had been won: 1 DSO, 5 military crosses and a distinguished conduct medal.
More deaths continued into 1917: newly qualified barrister and member of the Royal Flying Corps Lt Martin Lillis BL, and solicitors’ apprentices 2nd Lts Ivan Garvey and AM Turnbull. On 2 February 1917, JK Currie, solicitor, emotionally interrupted proceedings at Ballymena Sessions Court to announce that news of the demise of former local solicitor 2nd Lt JS Boal had just been received by telegram. Judge Orr, presiding, said that he regretted very much to hear of the death in action of this very brilliant young gentleman.
23-year-old 2nd Lt Jasper T Brett, also a solicitor, did not die in action. On the 4th February 1917 his body was found in the railway tunnel between Dalkey and Killiney in Dublin. Lt Brett, who had previously tried to throw himself overboard on a boat from Malta, had only recently arrived home from a hospital for officers mentally affected by the war. He left behind in his bedroom a note with the following message ‘The Water was ever my bete noir,’ followed by a wish that all should think of him as he once was, and the words ‘Thy will be done.’ In accordance with good solicitor practice, a informal will was appended. At a subsequent inquest held at Dalkey railway station, it was heard that Lt Brett, a well known Irish international rugby footballer, had been in the fighting at Suvla with the Pals, and had lost nearly all his friends in action. The coroner said it was a sad ending for one who had served his country and served it well.
The summer brought more deaths: barristers Maj WHK Redmond BL, MP, Lt CA McCarthy BL (missing, believed drowned at sea), Lt FEB Falkiner solicitor (who had previously received the Military Cross), and solicitors’ apprentices 2nd Lt VC Byrne, 2nd Lt AN Callaghan and 2nd Lt RK Pollin. Another officer fatality was Capt Hubert M O’Connor BL, a well-known and popular member of the Irish bar, previously awarded the Military Cross for going out three times under heavy shellfire to arrange for carrying in of the wounded. Writing to O’Connor’s family, his colonel described him as ‘a shining example to one and all, while being carried on a stretcher he was again hit in the leg, but was most cheerful, and only wanted to know how his officers and men were.’ O’Connor died in hospital the next day. In addition to the above, ER Meredith BL, son of the late Master of the Rolls in Ireland and chauffeur with the British Red Cross, contracted dysentery shortly after his arrival in Italy, and died after a few days’ illness.
Despite this, there were some who still professed to see the bright side of the War. Dr Mahaffy, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, extolled the benefits of conscription in an interview with the New York Sun, saying that it would teach Irish boys the lessons coming from observation of the world; they would learn what an English farm was like and what a French school was like. Dr Mahaffy’s own son, an English barrister of 43 – beyond the age limit, as he pointed out – had been shot through the jaw.
Not everyone shared Provost Mahaffy’s view on the benefits of military service – something which became painfully apparent on 16 May 1917 when the members of the Incorporated Law Society gathered for their half-yearly meeting. Opening the meeting, Law Society President John W Richards regretted that the hopes of peace which expressed at the previous year’s meeting had not been realised, saying that, since the war began, 118 Irish solicitors and 76 apprentices of solicitors had joined in his Majesty’s forces with 14 solicitors and 8 apprentices having given up their lives.
Business then turned to a proposed resolution by Mr Lane Joynt that, notwithstanding the exclusion of Ireland from the Military Services Act, a resolution should be passed that it was the duty of every member of the profession and their assistants of military age to offer their services and that the Bar Council should be asked to pass a similar resolution in reference to the Bar of Ireland – something which resulted in vociferous and mostly hostile debate. Some solicitors tactfully suggested that it was hardly necessary to move Mr Lane Joynt’s proposal as the response of the profession had already been extremely generous. Others more contentiously asserted that the motion should be postponed until the British Government apply in practical form its principles of freedom for small nationalities to Ireland. The proposal was eventually passed in the form of a recognition of the services rendered by the solicitors’ profession and their apprentices, and an expression that with the military age extended to 50 years a larger number would offer their services.
By the last year of the war, feelings had hardened further, with six Irish KCs signing a protest against conscription; there were subsequent allegations that they had been penalised in terms of work as a result. On 16 May 1918, Mr John Foley, solicitor, submitted for consideration at the half-yearly meeting of the Law Society a resolution that in the opinion of that Society the application of the Military Service Act to Ireland was detrimental to the well-being of the profession. The new President of the Society, Mr William V Seddall, promptly ruled the proposed resolution out of order as a contravention of the Defence of the Realm Act.
It was noted that no fewer than 139 Irish solicitors and apprentices had joined up and no fewer than 30 had been killed or died on active service. There were still some deaths to come: solicitor Lts AGF Simms, RT Scallan and WH Sanderson, and apprentices Capt HM Baillie, 2nd Lts D O’Rourke and HI Mahaffy (no relation to the Provost) and Lt MR Russell. Capt GBH Smyth BL, from Banbridge, was unfortunate enough to be killed in action on 22 October 1918; the war ended on 11 November.
This story of the Bar and the Great War began with two barrister deaths unrecorded on any Roll of Honour, It ends with a final barrister death likewise unrecorded. On 3 February 1920, a year, two months and 23 days after the armistice agreement between Germany and the Allies had been signed, Aedan Cox BL, former Junior Crown Prosecutor for the County of Leitrim, and brother of the founder of Arthur Cox & Co, was found dead in bed in the Union Hotel, Belfast, with a wound in his forehead and a revolver clutched in his right hand. During the war he had sustained wounds which resulted in the loss of his right leg and had subsequently received an appointment under the Ministry for Pensions.
On the evening of Mr Cox’s death, he had returned to his hotel about ten o’clock after dining with some military friends, retiring shortly afterwards. Later, he was supplied with cigarettes by the hotel ‘boots’ with whom he had a brief, jocular chat. In the early hours of the morning, the ‘boots’ was again called to the room; it appears Mr Cox was not sleeping too well. In the morning, after receiving no answer to his knocks, the ‘boots’ entered the room and found him deceased.
Nor was Mr Cox the only serving lawyer to commit suicide in the years immediately after the war. On 26 August 1920, Mr Robert Ross McCulloch, a 29-year-old solicitor practising in Derry, also committed suicide by shooting himself. During the war Mr Ross had been wounded while serving with the Motor Machine Gun service. Suffering severely from shell shock, he had been demobilised in 1917 with his memory for some months a blank, and his life for a considerable time despaired of. In the past year his symptoms had recurred. The Coroner, Dr Morrison, said that he had a son who had served in the army as a doctor during the war, and had explained to him the various symptoms. He said that for a time he himself had been unable to understand how a man having been discharged and perhaps a year or so at home and at work should say that he felt unfit. He had thought that in some cases possibly the man was ‘scheming,’ but his son, with his superior knowledge of the cases, pointed out that this was an extraordinary disease, and that a person apparently healthy might be mentally upset, and so baffle medical men. It was a tragic ending to a promising life. Another person present at the inquest said that he had known the deceased from boyhood, and he was an ideal and popular young man.
In February 1924, Dublin solicitor George T Roe shot himself through the head at his residence, 30 Northumberland Avenue. During the war he had served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Graves Registration Unit, and since he came home he had suffered from the effects of shell shock. He lived in a boarding house with his aged mother and sister, and that morning the Sheriff’s Officer Mr Scully and a detective had called to the house for the purposes of effecting his arrest for contempt of an order of the court. He came downstairs in his pyjamas, and asked Mr Scully what was the nature of his business. When the latter informed him that he had come from the Superior Court with a warrant for his arrest for contempt of an order of the court, he said with the utmost composure ‘I know about all that, I cannot fix it up now, but I will do so if you permit me to go before Lord Justice Moloney.’
He was then allowed to proceed upstairs to take leave of his mother, when about three minutes later a light revolver shot was heard, and Miss Roe rushed from the room in which her brother was, crying in great distress ‘Get a doctor quick, he has shot himself.’ When Mr Scully rushed upstairs he found Mr Roe in a kneeling position on the floor with his head resting on the bed clutching a pistol in his right hand, his finger being on the trigger. His head was slightly turned on one side and the blood was gushing from his mouth. A deeply affecting scene followed when his 90-year-old mother, weeping bitterly, knelt at the body of her son and stroked his hair.
I have not been able to find any details of the alleged contempt of court on the part of Mr Roe which provoked Mr Scully’s fatal visit. Was it in relation to proceedings before Lord Chief Justice Molony, who had been so assiduous in his recruiting endeavours? Or did Mr Roe merely wish to speak with the Lord Chief Justice because he felt that, having so strongly encouraged (one might even say, demanded) enlistment, Molony would naturally be sympathetic to and understanding of the consequences which service had inflicted on those who dutifully complied with his request?
One suspects that the above are only a small fraction of legal survivors whose lives were foreshortened by war injuries both physical and mental. In August 1923 the death was announced of 30-year-old Donal J Galvin, city solicitor, of Cork. It was stated that shortly after the outbreak of war he volunteered for service, and received a commission, being later given the rank of captain, and that he was seriously wounded. His brother Barry was appointed city solicitor in his place.
Further details of each of the Irish barristers who died in the First World War are set out in the wonderful online exhibition (link above) provided by Law Library staff members to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice. The Incorporated Law Society of Ireland also has an online Roll of Honour providing further details regarding solicitors and apprentices killed. A superb book by the late Anthony P Quinn BL, ‘Wigs and Guns: Irish barristers in the Great War,’ has also been published by Four Courts Press – more details here.
With a few exceptions, most of the Irish barristers killed in the First World War had been active in practice in the Law Library immediately before the war’s outbreak. The majority were of Dublin origin, and largely, though by no means exclusively, Protestant. Most had fathers in the professions, sons of eminent solicitors, KCs and medical men being particularly well represented. Many had distinguished academic and sporting backgrounds. Interestingly, the death rate among enlisted barristers from Ulster appears to have been lower than that among those from Dublin. Publication of one’s enlistment in the newspaper tended to be a particularly bad omen with regard to survival.
Indeed, the profile of a typical barrister who died in the Great War – an academically distinguished, sport-loving, Dubliner with a high-achieving parent – reflects the profile of the typical professional who joined the Pals battalion so tragically decimated at the Dardanelles. These were men who, had they survived, might have played a significant role in the development of the Irish Bar. Their deaths – and the subsequent separation of the Northern and Southern Bars in 1924 – led to a shift in power to a new generation of Bar leaders not necessarily from the old legal families in prominence before the War.
Permanent physical and mental wounds aside, how did war survivors fare in this changed environment? We shall see. For now, little remains to be said, other than to honour the courage and self-sacrifice of the fallen. And this.
It is with feelings of intense sorrow we announce the death of this gentleman. His loss is a public one. It is one which, we fear, it will be difficult to supply. The detail of his melancholy fate – having met death by drowning on Saturday – appear in another part of our columns. The learned and lamented gentleman had not been long attached to this circuit; but, short as was the time, we never remember an advocate who won more of confidence at the hands of the people, or, who, we verily believe, deserved a larger share of popular respect and attachment. Without casting censure on those who went before him, or who were with him in that peculiar walk of forensic exercise, in which he was singularly successful – that of a criminal lawyer – we may with truth aver such a man as Mr Walsh was sadly wanted on this circuit; and that his withdrawal under any circumstances, but particularly under the afflicting circumstances of his untimely fate is a public calamity. Since Mr Hatchell left the outer bar we have had no one to compare to him in the qualities which constitute the criminal advocate but Mr Walsh. The loss, then, of Mr Walsh is a grievous one. His sympathies were with the people. He was bold, and sanguine, and tenacious. He had the moral courage to speak what he thought, and what his case demanded; and to the crime manufacturers of this locality, who first drive the people to desperation and then hunt them down by the bloodhounds of the law, he was a decided and a bitter foe.
The melancholy circumstances of his death remind us of the last day he spent here. It was a day of relaxation after the heavy business of the assizes. At the request of one who was desirous of showing him the romantic scenery of our neighbourhood, he and three others, one a barrister, one an attorney, and the third a journalist, proceeded to Lough Darrig [now Lough Derg]. The day was beautifully fine; but nothing, for a long time, could induce Mr Walsh to venture on the lake. He expressed his utmost horror of water; after some entreaties, however, in which all his companions joined, he agreed to enter a small boat which lay on the margin of the lake; but the party had not proceeded far out when he intimated a desire to return, and it was not till a large boat was procured that he would remain on the water, but even then with some apparent reluctance. He did, however, remain out for a few hours. The party crossed the lake, went ashore on the Galway side, enjoyed the magnificent scenery of the Shannon, and Mr Walsh rejoiced in the evening that he had not allowed his prejudices to overcome him, and that he had seen what he had frequently heard of, the almost enchanting beauty of this neighbourhood.”
Viewed in light of the above, the circumstances of Mr Walsh’s subsequent demise, as reported in the Cork Examiner, 23 October 1844, appear somewhat eerie:
“MELANCHOLY ACCIDENT – DEATH OF JOHN WALSH, ESQ, BARRISTER-AT-LAW, BY DROWNING
We have the painful duty to announced the sudden and melancholy death, by drowning, of John Walsh, Esq, of Lower Dominick-street, which disastrous event took place upon Saturday last adjoining Tolka Park, Finglas, between two and three o’clock in the afternoon. It appears that the unfortunate gentleman, having disposed of his business for the day in the Insolvent and in other public courts, returned home, when, having got his favourite dogs, he proceeded alone to take a walk in the country as he was constantly in the habit of doing. He was observed going along the canal shortly before two o’clock, and before three was seen at the Finglas quarry, where the lamentable accident took place, which, as well as we could collect, must have occurred as follows, although the exact circumstances surrounding the event are as yet, and are likely to remain, unknown.
It is supposed that the deceased had thrown a stick into the water for one of his dogs to follow, and was reaching over the bank to get it again with his umbrella, when he over balanced himself, and was precipitated in head foremost. Other reports state that he had a cord or chain attached to the collar of one of the animals, a dog of remarkable size and strength, which suddenly jumped into the water, dragging the deceased along with him; however, the truth of this statement is not at all confirmed, for we could not ascertain, although we made particular inquiries, that either of the dogs were seen in the water or had the appearance of being recently wet. The unfortunate gentleman had sixteen pounds and a very valuable watch, together with keys and other articles, upon his person, which remains in the possession of the coroner at present.”
Inquest reports describe poor Mr Walsh as having been identified by his hat and umbrella, on which his name and place of residence was engraved. Ironically, the dogs accompanying Mr Walsh – Newfoundlands – were of a breed noted for their endeavours in saving persons from drowning.
But the story was not over. According to the Tipperary Vindicator, of 2 November 1844:
“Mr Meredith, attorney, appeared before his worship, and intimating that he acted on behalf of Major Louis Walsh, also in attendance, whom he affirmed to be the only brother of the late lamented Counsellor Walsh, made the following statement:- His client had returned from England on Saturday, in order to get possession of his deceased’s brother’s house and furniture in Dominick Street, to which he was entitled. He found it occupied by a lady named O’Kelly, together with two children, who were reputed to be that of the deceased gentleman, and was received by them without any denial of the pretensions he made to relationship with the former owner of the house. Mr John Walsh had not during his lifetime stated that he had a brother, and he (Mr Meredith) had advised his client that it would be proper for him to remain in the house, in order to secure ultimately the possession of it; but it so happened that he had been induced to quit the house, and after which he had not been able to gain admittance. During the previous night he (Mr Meredith) heard that the furniture was being removed from the house, whereupon he immediately gave instructions to a police inspectorto hinder the proceeding if possible. At six o’clock that morning a float had been brought to the door, and his (Mr Meredith’s) client, who was on the spot, not offering opposition to the removal of the furniture, the police made no interference in the matter, and consequently a good deal of property had been removed by Mrs O’K., and taken to a house in Anne Street, where it was there stored. His (Mr Meredith’s) application was that informations for robbery should be taken against Mrs O’Kelly, by whom a caveat had been entered against administration, in which she caused herself to be termed the natural and lawful aunt of the deceased.
Mr Studdert – You want us to act upon the assumption that your client’s story is true?
Mr Meredith said there was a person of respectability, named Askens, present, who had been in the habit of receiving money from Mr John Walsh during his lifetime, and transmitting it to his brother – the person before the bench – who lived in England at that period, and that he would have his evidence.
Charles Askens, of No. 17 Christchurch-place, was then sworn, and deposed that he knew the said Mr Walsh; knew that the person before the bench had always been recognised as Mr John Walsh’s brother; never heard otherwise than that he was his legitimate brother.
Mr Studdert said he should refuse the application for informations; but would allow Mr Meredith a summons against the parties in possession of the house in question, for illegally removing the furniture, so that they might have an opportunity of speaking for themselves, and in the meantime further information respecting Mr Meredith’s client could be sought for.“
Major Louis Walsh’s subsequent application to summons Mrs O’Kelly was dismissed by another magistrate, Dr Kelly, who was not satisfied that he was John Walsh’s bona fide heir at law. A report in the Kerry Evening Post of 6 November 1844 noted that ‘Major’ was only a Christian name of Louis Walsh and not a title of station in the army.
Meanwhile, a note in the Limerick Reporter described John Walsh as a zealous and eloquent advocate, with an excellent reputation as a criminal lawyer, whose practice was becoming every day more extensive, and whose professional emoluments, particularly during the last three years of his life, must have been very great. It also stated that he was formerly a very leading member of the Trades’ Union, and subsequently edited a weekly paper called the People; during that period he suffered six months’ imprisonment for an imputed political offence but latterly he took no part in politics.
Though perhaps politics had not done with Mr Walsh? The below advertisement appeared in the newspapers not long after his death.
Did Mr Walsh’s excitement at his belated discovery of the beauties of rivers and lakes lead him to be careless in his perambulations along the Tolka? Was he really done to death by the Newfoundland dogs so beloved of Irish lawyers? Or was some river sprite waiting to seal his fate all his life? Could he have been the victim of a conspiracy to acquire his large estate? Or perhaps killed because his legal skill and moral courage made him too dangerous to many?
The possibilities are manifold, but there is, however, one moral to this story – hesitate next time you well-meaningly try to help a colleague overcome a phobia!
“While his Honor County Court Judge Wakely was revising the voters’ list in Boyle Courthouse yesterday a wild scene of tumult took place. George W Tully was after being examined in support of his claim for a vote, and on leaving the witness table he deliberately struck Arthur O’Connor two blows on the face with his clenched fist. Mr O’Connor retaliated, and a wild scene of riot ensued. The audience was composed of the supporters of Mr Jasper Tully and the supporters of the Parliamentary Party. As if the attack was pre-arranged, both parties rushed at each other, and fierce fighting took place all over the Court.
His Honor cried, ‘Order, order.” The police rushed between the combatants, and tried to separate them, but owing to the confined area in which the fight took place they were handicapped, and the riot continued till the parties on either side showed signs of exhaustion. His Honor from the Bench cried, ‘Shame, shame,’ but this had no effect, and he left his seat and threw himself between the parties, who were fighting and struggling all over the place, encouraged by the wild shouts and cries of their supporters, who could not join in the fray.
Eventually order was to some extent restored, but many of the combatants bore visible signs of the fierceness of the struggle. Mr Jasper Tully’s face was covered with blood, which ran from a deep cut over the eye. His face also presented a bruised appearance.His Honor, when he could make himself heard, said – Gentlemen of Boyle, I am ashamed of you. I never thought you would conduct yourselves in such a manner in a court of mine’ (cries of ‘It was Tully’s fault’).
Mr Jasper Tully appealed to his Honor against Patrick O’Connor, who went near kicking the eye out of him.
Mr O’Connor – It was George and yourself commenced the row?
Mr Jasper Tully – My lord, look at the state of my eye (laughter).
His Honor – ‘Order, order.’ He then asked the head constable who was responsible for such a disgraceful scene (cries of ‘Tully, Tully’ and cheers and counter cheers).
Acting-Sergeant McGarry was sworn by his Honor, and swore he saw George Tully strike Arthur O’Connor twice on the face with his clenched fist.
His Honor – I sentence George Tully to a week‘s imprisonment for contempt of court.
Mr Jasper Tully – What about O’Connor?
His Honor – Who was that man I saw struggling so violently in the seat?
Acting Sergeant – Alfred – O’Connor.
His Honor – I also sentence him to a week’s imprisonment.
Before the Court adjourned, his Honor again referred to the scene, and expressed the pain it was to him to witness such a disgraceful scene in the court over which he presided. He altered the sentence on Tully and O’Connor to a fine of £2 each, and hoped the matter would end at that.
Our reporter wires that the wildest scenes of tumult occurred in Boyle last night. The police were kept busy separating contending parties, and the town was in a very disturbed condition.”
Judge Wakely, from Edenderry, was the first Circuit Court judge on what later became the Midlands Circuit. Michael Byrne, solicitor, has written a wonderful post about him, and his successors on that Circuit, available to read here.
From the Freeman’s Journal, via the Western Mail, 11 September 1871:
“During Tuesday last the locality of Pill Lane was considerably excited by a collision which occurred between a party of military and a number of the females gathered in the neighbourhood of the police courts. A soldier, absent without leave, was supposed to live in a house in the lane, and a picket of his regiment went in search of the fugitive. They attempted to enter the house, but were confronted by several women, by whom they were forcibly repulsed.
Upon renewing their endeavour to force admission they were furiously assailed, the din of the conflict sounding afar off, and attracting all the passers by in the vicinity. One of the female combatants sounding a species of general’s cry with a brickbat on the head of an adversary, in a moment a battalion of Amazons sallied forth and, with appalling vociferations, swooped upon the forlorn hope of redcoats, who, utterly confounded by the ferocity and determination of an enemy against whom the ordinary process of warfare could not be employed, were compelled to the ignominious tactic of entrenching themselves behind such points of shelter as the lane afforded.
A council of war was called, but the foe were in force, and the regulars being too feeble to take the field, they finally retired amid howls, leaving their warlike laurels in the lane, and the female visitors to reverse the boastful train, and sing after their fashion ‘None but the fair deserve the brave.’ “
19th century Dublin was a military city with many dependent on Army custom to keep their businesses going. One category of businesspeople who had no need to maintain good relations with the military were the fishwives of Pill Lane, immediately behind the Four Courts, who sold leftover fish to the poorest of the poor, on a street with a tradition of rebellion going back to 1798.
If even the mighty British Army quailed at their invective, imagine how lawyers making their way home must have feared abuse from these wild women! Read a complaint from one passer-by here.
I previously posted a short video about the Milltown Outrage, which occurred in Dublin in September 1861. It involved an attack on a 19-year-old governess by the cab driver engaged to bring her home from Sackville (now O’Connell) Street to Rathgar.
At the end of the video it was disclosed that an arrest had subsequently been made. The name of the man arrested was John Curran. Unusually for the perpetrator in a 19th century Dublin criminal trial, we have a contemporaneous drawing of Curran (above).
Curran was a 24-year-old husband and father living in Grant’s Row, off Lower Mount Street. He did not live with his wife, who was in service as a nurse (she lost her job as a result of the trial). He and his two children lived with his aunt, Mrs Meares, who kept a lodging-house. The children slept with Mrs Meares; Curran shared a bed in another room with two of her male lodgers. He owned a horse, and rented a cab from Mrs O’Connor in Baggot Street, where he also stabled the horse.
The trial of John Curran took place in the Commission Court, Green Street, Dublin (now Green Street Courthouse) the month after the attack. It would have occurred earlier, were it not for the fact that Miss Jolly was in poor health following the attack. It was, to say the least, an eventful trial, with one of the witnesses being subsequently convicted of perjury. There were also some unexpected witnesses – the crew of a cross-channel ferry called the SS Moorsom!
The key issue in Curran’s trial was one of identification of the perpetrator – something which is of key relevance in many criminal trials today. Although the law has evolved since then, the warnings given by the presiding judge in his charge to the jury regarding the dangers of identification evidence still apply.
Ironically, Curran shared his name with two of Ireland’s greatest advocates – John Philpott Curran, father of Robert Emmet’s beloved Sarah, and his own defence counsel, John Adye Curran. His trial was one of the most widely reported Irish criminal proceedings of the 19th century.
What was it that made the Milltown Outrage and its fallout of such concern to Dubliners? In 1861, Dublin’s middle-class community was enthusiastically expanding into the red-brick South Dublin suburbs of Ranelagh, Rathgar and Rathmines. But not all of the new arrivals had private carriages. Safe transportation for women living in these areas, particularly at night, was a must. But the only alternative to the cab was the Rathgar omnibus, which had already fallen into the Grand Canal at Portobello in April of the same year, resulting in the loss of a number of lives.
A further spark to the fire: Ranelagh, Rathgar and Rathmines were Protestant areas, and Miss Jolly herself was a Protestant. It may not have escaped the notice of older Dubliners that the Bloody Fields, where the attack occurred, was exactly where citizens of Anglo-Norman Dublin had been massacred by a contingent of Wicklow Gaels in 1209. No one would have wanted the attack on Miss Jolly polarised in similar terms, but as long as the perpetrator remained at large, there was always the risk that it might be characterised as sectarian.
For a trial that prompted so much newspaper coverage both in Ireland and abroad – in London, one man was charged with attacking his wife due to a difference between them as to Curran’s guilt – it is amazing that the Milltown Outrage has now been wholly forgotten.
See below a further video detailing the events at the trial and subsequently. I hope you enjoy!
“A man named John Cowan was brought before the magistrates on a charge of having stolen a fawn in the Phoenix Park, on the preceding day.
Police Constable 97D stated that he met the prisoner on the King’s Inns Quay, with a suspicious looking bundle under his coat; on searching him he found a live fawn concealed on his person.
The prisoner said he was returning from the review, with a number of other persons, and saw the fawn lying beneath a hawthorn tree; imagining that it had been deserted by its dam, he thought it was no harm to bring it away.
Alderman Tyndall said it was most necessary to have all similar offences severely punished. He would, accordingly, inflict a penalty 5l on the prisoner, in the present case, which he hoped would be a warning to the public on future occasions.”
The above was only one of many incidents of fawn-stealing from the Phoenix Park resulting in criminal charges in the 1830s.
In June 1830 two ‘respectable mechanics’ were taken up at Arran Quay with a young fawn tied up in a handkerchief and concealed under one of their coats. They were also fined 5l each, and the fawn restored to the woods and wilds.
In July 1835 George Godden, one of the rangers of the Phoenix Park, swore informations against a man named George Callaghan, for attempting to steal a fawn the previous Monday. Mr Godden gave evidence that he observed Mr Callaghan, through a telescope, running away with the fawn, who had since died, in consequence of the injury received by the pressure in carrying it off. Mr Callaghan was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, in default of paying the usual fine of 5l.
In June 1837 Mr Godden appeared at Arran-Quay Police-office yet again, to give evidence against Dennis Keogh and Daniel McGordon, whom he had again observed, through his telescope, taking up a fawn and tying it in a handkerchief. He arrested them at Knockmaroon-gate, with the fawn still in their possession. The magistrate, Mr Hitchcock, said, in consequence of the many instances of fawn-stealing, and the depradations which had recently occurred in the Phoenix Park, the Magistrates were called upon to exact the maximum penalty of £30, or, in default of payment, six months’ incarceration to each of the prisoners.
There were no more prosecutions for fawn-stealing after 1838 – the purchase of black-market fawns must have gone out of fashion or perhaps the high financial penalties being imposed served as a disincentive?
“Sir – I was sitting in the court of Queen’s Bench yesterday, and while counsel was reading a long affidavit I applied myself to the columns of the Standard newspaper. Suddenly the Lord Chief Justice called out to me – ‘This is not a place for the public to read newspapers.’
I understood this as a prohibition, and of course desisted.But the question has since occurred to me – ‘Has not an exalted magistrate for once exceeded his authority?’ I know of no law prohibiting what I was doing, or conferring upon his lordship the power of imposing such a prohibition. I was not committing a contempt of court, or conducting myself in an unseemly manner.
I am a member of the English bar, to which I was called in 1844, and I have not only frequently read newspapers under the eye of the bench in England, but I have seen barristers of every degree of eminence doing the same thing, without rebuke or question. Reading newspapers is a necessity to barristers, and it is surely a reasonable convenience to them to do so in court in the interest of actual occupation. Of course I do not mean that an English barrister in Ireland is likely to be anxious to save time in the way; but I suppose there must be one rule for all, whether barristers, solicitors or spectators.
The Lord Chief Justice’s words applied only to ‘the public,’ of which I was considered to be an ordinary member; but can it be seemly for a lawyer to read a newspaper in court, and not for a layman? The case would be different if there were any danger of the courts being used by idlers for reading the news; but who would dream of affirming the existence of such a danger? The case of England shows that there is none. I am sure that the dignity of the English courts is well maintained, and I cannot think it probable that, in the face of the practice established in them, Irish judges would advisedly decide that to read newspapers in court was so unseemly as to call for interposition.
I may observe that newspapers contain law reports, and some journals nothing else. These must be used sometimes in court. But I was not asked what I was reading, nor whether I belonged to the profession. If I had declined to desist, would the Chief Justice have gone so far as to commit me, or fine me, or even to order my expulsion?
I am, sir, your obedient servant, TS
PS – I enclose my name and address.”
Not all Irish judges were as strict as Lord Chief Justice Whiteside! The Glasgow Herald, reporting on the 1887 Coercion Act trial of newspaperman William O’Brien, M.P. before the Mitchelstown magistrates, stated that
“On the Court resuming, all the defendants were represented. It was at once apparent that most of them, as well as other in Court, had taken advantage of the adjournment to furnish themselves with copies of the Dublin newspapers. They do many things in Ireland in a free and easy way. Few of our Scotch judges tolerate the reading of newspapers in Court, but here the Magistrates themselves showed the example, each of them returning to court with a newspaper in his hand. Mr O’Brien, who took his old seat beside his barrister Mr Healy, was deeply engrossed in the columns of an English newspaper. Even while evidence of his own paper was being read, Mr O’Brien continued to read, and seemed quite indifferent to what was going on… even Mr Healy, in an ideal moment, sought amusement in the pictures of a comic paper.“
The Weekly Dispatch (London) also noticed the magistrates’ newspaper reading, and was less tolerant of it, remarking that even though they presumably got their orders from Dublin Castle, it would have been as well for them to pretend to listen to the case that they were pretending to be deciding.
Traditionally, judicial objections to the reading of newspapers in court had been regarded as preciousness akin to ordering a bald man to leave a court on a bright summer’s day because the rays of the sun were refracted from his head to the dazzled eyes of the judge.
Moreover, as shown by the Mitchelstown report above, newspaper-reading on the bench was itself a common practice. Fraser’s Magazine of 1864 stated that Lord Mansfield, the prince of courtesy, was in the habit of reading newspapers and answering letters in court; Lord Eldon did so too, and Lord Abinger would do it ‘ostentatiously and offensively, to mark his contempt for the advocate.’ As against this, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke used to declare that ‘he did not take his place upon the bench to write letters to his correspondences, or to read the newspaper.’
Lord Campbell stated that a glance at a newspaper ‘may be permitted to a judge during a tedious reply, as a hint to a counsel against prolixity’. However, he did not approve of a judge ‘indulging his curiosity by turning over the unwieldy pages of the Times while a counsel has been opening in an condensed manner a very important and complicated case requiring the closes attention of a judge, however quick, learned and discriminating.’
Although the decision as to whether or not to allow reading of newspapers in court appeared to be one for the particular judge, by the late 19th century, more and more judges were deciding that court was no place for newspapers, at least if read by anybody other than themselves. Lord Morris, Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland between 1887 and 1889, was particularly fond of pretending to read the newspaper ‘ostentatiously’ during Counsel’s summing-up in jury trials, while in fact listening intently with a view to perfecting his own, invariably excellent, charge.
In August 1882, the Liverpool Echo reported that ‘a reporter who happened to be holding in his hands a copy of an evening journal, and who might, for anything that is known to the contrary, have been consulting it for purely business purposes – such, for instance, as a desire to know whether all his ‘copy’ had reached the office safely – was peremptorily ordered to put the newspaper down. Not satisfied with the rapidity with which this direction was obeyed, the judge next insisted that the gentleman should leave the court.‘
The author of the piece went on to state that ‘the right of an irate member of the bench to apply physical violence to the removal of a gentleman whose only offence is that he has looked at a paper in court remains to be established.’ However, in 1900 at Alzenau, Germany, a prominent tradesman was sentenced to 24 hours imprisonment for the ‘grave irreverence’ of reading a newspaper in court while a case was under trial.
In 1891 Mr Justice Denman told a barrister that ‘if you are a barrister you must behave as such and not be seen reading a newspaper in court or engaging in anything inconsistent with the idea that you are heart and soul following the business in hand.‘
The trend continued into the 20th century, with an English judge saying to a solicitor caught reading newspapers in court in 1911 that ‘this place is not a free library.’
In 1906 the Empire News and the Umpire stated that Sir Gorell Barnes ‘will not allow anyone to read a newspaper in court, firstly because he does not consider it in keeping with the dignity of the court for persons to be interested in anything but is proceeding there and, secondly, the rustling and turning over of the average unwieldy newspaper distracts people’s attention from the subject matter in harm.’
Irish Republicans in court during the Irish War of Independence enthusiastically adopted Lord Abinger’s practice of reading newspapers as a mark of distaste, though the reasons for their distaste went beyond mere scorn at the ineptitude of Counsel. In Fermoy, in February 1920, seven men charged in connection with a member of the Shropshire Light Infantry read newspapers in court and occasionally spoke to their friends. Their hats had to be removed. It seems that, in the circumstances, the court decided not to make an issue of their newspaper reading.
In 1929, at the Leeds Assizes, the Vicar of Hulme, near Huddersfield, was fined 40s for declining to desist reading a newspaper in court. Likewise, in the London King’s Bench Division in July 1928, Mr Justice Swift rebuked some people who were reading newspapers in court. ‘I don’t know whether they come from the theatrical profession,’ he said, ‘If so, they would be very angry with me if I went to one of their theatres and read a newspaper during one of their performances.’
There have been some relatively recent cases of witnesses being in trouble for reading newspapers in court in Ireland, though none resulting in fine or imprisonment. In 1968, the Meath Chronicle reported that a ‘blonde’ wearing a polo neck knitted sweater and black jeans had had to be removed from Trim Court after an altercation. In response to it being remarked by the judge that she had been reading a newspaper in court that morning, she said: ‘Yes I was, I was bored stiff. I had other things to think about.’
In 1993, the Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal reported that a man reading a newspaper at Dundalk Court had been told by the judge: ‘This is not a mart or a circus. You can’t stand down there and read a paper.’ The newspaper was put away.
In 1998 an Englishman was threatened with, but managed to escape, a week in jail for describing proceedings at Galway District Court as a mockery after he had been asked to refrain from reading a newspaper in open court. The judge said that it was a very hurtful thing to be told his court was a mockery, and that if the man knew how hard he worked he would not have said that, but it was not worth putting the police to the trouble of sending him to prison.
Anyone – journalist, newspaper, or barrister – who reads paper newspapers in court today, it seems, does so at peril of public reprimand at the very least! But what about online newspapers?