Barrister Convicted of Knocker-Wrenching, 1870

From the Liverpool Courier and Commercial Advertiser, 12 May 1870

“George Carr, barrister… [was] charged with having wrenched off a knocker from the hall-door of the house 44 Dawson-Street between the hours of one and two o’clock on Tuesday… one of the constables observed the accused leaving a hotel in Dawson Street and then stand consulting together, shortly after he observed the prisoner go up to the hall door, wrench off the knocker, and throw it into the street.

 [Mr O’Donel] sentenced the prisoner, Mr Carr, to one month’s imprisonment, not adding hard labour. Subsequently, Mr Harris QC, attended by a large number of the members of the bar, appeared [and] said he understood that a member of their profession had just been sentenced to a month’s imprisonment, and that he did not wish to make a special application to his worship, but he had known that young man for a long time, and a more quiet inoffensive member of the profession he was not acquainted with.

Mr O’Donel said that in sentencing a young man, a member of his own profession, to a term of imprisonment he had experienced as much pain as if he had stood in the dock himself.  But there was no use in his sitting there to administer justice if he did not impose such fines and penalties as would be calculated to put an end to stupid acts of this kind.  Complaints were made sometimes that whole districts were stripped of knockers and on one occasion, on the north side of the city, no fewer than fifty knockers were wrenched.    As a magistrate sitting to administer justice he could not change the sentence he had pronounced.”

However, according to the Belfast Express, 18 July 1870:

“The sentence pronounced by Mr O’Donel was subsequently reversed by the Recorder. On the ground that he had been misled by the swearing of a constable who was mistaken, and arrested Mr Carr instead of the actual offender, for no other reason, it seems, that because that gentleman indiscreetly ran away… the real delinquent, who happened to be in Mr Carr’s company, swore that it was he who committed the offence.“

It sounds like house angel turned street devil Mr Carr (let out on bail pending appeal) had a lucky escape!  Knocker-wrenching – the Victorian equivalent of arm-wrestling – was a very popular practice among Trinity College and medical students; clearly Mr O’Donel was anxious to stamp out any hint of it among the junior members of his profession.

I wonder if the replaced knocker is still there on the door of No 44 – perhaps the next Irish barrister visiting the premises of Messrs James Herren to refresh their shirt supply might care to have a look?

Image Credit (left) (right)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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