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 meeting in the midst of the Emmet Rebellion. Even worse, his terrified horses then returned at a gallop to his home, Newlands Cross, Clondalkin, where Lady Kilwarden met the empty coach.

Such horrifying events inevitably result in some sort of ghost story, and, indeed, ever since, the sounds of horses’ hooves have been reputed to be heard on the avenue at Newlands Cross, accompanied by the loud rumble of heavy coach wheels.

Another Lord Chief Justice, Baron O’Brien, was later to reside at Newlands. Although O’Brien in his ‘Reminiscences‘ admits hearing on occasion the rumble of a non-existent coach, he attributes this to an echo in the grounds carrying noise from a distant road. If Kilwarden was in fact attempting to commune, he must have felt very frustrated with his successor’s prosaicism!

What would be the closest office to Lord Chief Justice in the current system? Perhaps if the judiciary were to attend at Newlands (now a golf club) Lord Kilwarden might appear to assist in making the decision?

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