Case Citations and Personal Law Libraries, pre-1836

From the Freeman’s Journal, 1 September 1890: “Modern text books now enable practitioners to dispense with much memorised learning laboriously acquired in former days… Within the recollection of men still living the library at the Four Courts did not exist, and it was considered a breach of etiquette to bring a law book into court,…

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The Fishwives of Chancery Street, 1835

From Saunders’ Newsletter, October 1835: “SIR – I beg, through the medium of your valuable Paper, to again call the attention of the Commissioners of the Paving Board to the intolerable nuisance, which has been so long suffered to continue in Pill Lane. Nearly from the corner of Arran Street to that of Charles Street,…

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The Litigant who became a Barrister, 1853

From Saunders’ Newsletter, 3 July 1853: “The spectator in the Hall of the Four Courts may, if it pleases, sometimes see, in his costume, a tall, portly looking young man whose history is about as romantic as that of any learned gentleman in the Four Courts. Mr Wall… before his admission to the Bar… was…

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Long Hours for Law Clerks, 1865

From the Freeman’s Journal, 13 May 1865: “The general half-year meeting of the Attorneys and Solicitors’ Society was held yesterday in the Solicitors Hall, Four Courts [now the Law Library]… to consider the propriety of giving a half-holiday each Saturday to their employees. Mr Molloy observed that the early closing movement had been carried out…

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The Lord Chief Justice’s Phantom Coach, 1803-

The position of Lord Chief Justice, accorded to the most senior judge of the Queen’s Bench, did not bring good luck to the first such office-holder to sit in Court 1. Lord Kilwarden, by all accounts a decent and humane man, was set upon, stabbed and killed in 1803 while driving to a Privy Council…

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Gatecrashing a Bar Meeting, 1830

As you can see from the illustrations above, Courts 1-4 as originally furnished included a handsome box (complete with coat-hooks and inkwells) specifically for the Press. Pre-Law Library, the Courts were often used for Bar meetings and the Freeman’s Journal of 16 February 1830 contains an interesting account of one such meeting, held to discuss…

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Barrister’s Spouse Violated by Briefing Solicitor, 1842

From the Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, 20 April 1842: “Mr Robert Caldwell, a respectable attorney, was… charged with having… attempted by force to violate Anne Corbet, the wife of Mr Edward Lestrange Corbet, barrister. Mrs Corbet… deposed that she met Mr Caldwell for the first time in Sept.1840…  Mr Caldwell then sent some law…

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The Hammond Lane Explosion, 1878

From the Freeman’s Journal, 29 April 1878: “On Saturday afternoon Dublin was startled and horrified by one of the most appalling accidents which has ever taken place in this metropolis – an accident by which no less than fourteen fellow creatures have lost their lives, and by which a dreadful amount of suffering, sorrow, misery…

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The Perils of Personal Service, 1834

From the Wexford Conservative, 7 May 1834: “[A]n unfortunate man appeared in the hall of the Four Courts on Thursday with his face and head swollen inflamed and lacerated in a most shocking manner. His nose was literally flattened, and covered with dressing plaster and his hair and clothes were besmirched with blood, and his…

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Do Not Covet a Barrister’s Wife, 1862

From the Usk Observer, 19 July 1862: “The Dublin papers announce the death of a person named Sterne, who had been imprisoned for debt in the Four Courts Marshalsea for 36 years. Mr Sterne was a gentleman of large fortune… a gentleman of fashion as well as a ‘fast’ man about town. The most remarkable…

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The Wandering Law Library Ventilator, 1879

From the Northern Whig, 4 July 1879: “Today, about one o’clock, the glass dome, with heavy leaden ventilator in the centre of the Consultation Room, adjoining the Library in the Four Courts, fell in with a great smash, strewing the floor beneath with broken glass and smashed sashes. The ventilator, three feet high and more…

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Human Remains Behind the West Wing, 1834

From the Dublin Observer, 4 January 1834: “Some workmen, employed in the course of the past week in sinking a sewer from the Four Courts to the river, in the course of their excavations discovered, at the depth of about two feet from the surface, and approaching the pallisading enclosing the upper yard from the…

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Unacceptable Sanitary and Timekeeping Arrangements, 1874

From the Freeman’s Journal, 13 October 1874: “The Barristers’ Library is a crying disgrace… Barristers “look up” their cases in the Library, and also use it as a “trysting place” for meeting Attorneys. The Library is a room utterly unfit for the purpose to which it is devoted. It is not half large enough to…

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A Judicial Levee in a Haunted House, 1901

From the Belfast Newsletter, 15 April 1901: “Tomorrow the Easter sittings in the High Court begin, and according to old time ceremonial, Easter marks the beginning of the legal as it does the Christian year. So the Lord Chancellor Lord Ashbourne holds a levee at his residence, 12 Merrion Square in his gorgeous robes of…

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Young Bar Fracas, 1829

From the Belfast Newsletter, 6 November 1829: “On Saturday morning, at four o’clock, Mr Scully, the barrister, accompanied by Mr Blake, of Galway, and his brother-in-law, Mr R. Browne, were taking oysters, in Duke Street, Dublin, and entered into conversation with the Rev. Mr Grady, Mr Armstrong and Mr C. Browne. The parties were not,…

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Mob Attack, Inns Quay, 1830

For the Good Friday that’s in it, this story from Saunders’s News-Letter, 7 June 1830:- “DESPERATE OUTRAGE – For some months past, a person of genteel appearance has appeared in the streets, in various parts of this city, preaching to people, and according to his notions, following the life of one of the first preachers…

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The Law Librarian’s Office Burgled, 1857

From the Belfast News-Letter, Monday 23 February 1857: “The morning of Saturday the 21st has proved an eventful one in the life of Mr Delany, the respected librarian of the Four Courts. Sacrilegious thieves had, on the previous night, entered ni et armis into his sanctum sanctorum, and endeavoured to appropriate, to their own uses,…

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Health and Safety Issues in the Round Hall, 1853

On 4 August 1853, an anonymous barrister, ‘J.P.P’, felt compelled to write to Saunders’ Newsletter complaining about the dangerous condition of the Four Courts: “SIR – During one of the late heavy showers, as I was passing through the hall of the Four Courts to the dark cellar where we barristers put on and off…

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The Unwitting Dining Companions, 1784

From the Dublin Morning Register, 23 February 1838, an interesting account of barrister-solicitor relations from the previous century, involving John Scott, Lord Clonmell (‘Copperface Jack’), John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare (‘Black Fitzgibbon’) and an unnamed impoverished solicitor: “An anecdote of Fitzgibbon and Scott was related to the writer by a gentleman who knew the fact.…

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Mr Hooks, 1862

From the Oxford Journal, 15 February 1862: “An amusing breach of promise case came before the Dublin Court of Exchequer on Friday. The plaintiff is Miss Agnes Harrison, a lady of thirty-five summers, who resides with her brother in Armagh… the ungallant defendant, who rejoices in the euphonious name of Hooks, is one of the…

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A Pressing Communication, 1881

‘Pneumatic’ is not a word commonly used in relation to the Four Courts. However, for a brief period in the 19th century, the Sub-Post Office in the Four Courts was served by the longest pneumatic mail tube in the world. The operation of this system of delivery, based on the transmission of letters and telegrams…

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The Wigmaker of Arran Quay, 1862

The Dublin Correspondent of the Belfast Newsletter, 13 January 1862, writes: “I should chronicle the departure to his rest of a worthy and venerable citizen of Dublin, who saw in his time many an opening day of Term, and whose richly-stored memory was fraught with numberless anecdotes of the Irish Bar in its palmiest days,…

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