Barrister Railway Fatalities, 1862-1921

From the Dublin Evening Telegraph, 11 January 1921:

“The sad news of the tragic death of Mr Henry Kennedy, a member of the Irish Bar, in Switzerland on Saturday night reached the Four Courts today.  It appears that while getting into a train about 11.30 p.m. at the frontier on his way home, he missed his footing and was killed on the spot.  The deceased gentleman was a son of the late Mr HP Kennedy, formerly Crown Solicitor for County Cavan, and brother of Mr Vincent Kennedy, ex MP… He joined the North West Circuit, and was afterwards Junior Crown Prosecutor for the County of Longford.  Mr Kennedy also joined the army in 1916, was on active service in Gallipoli and Egypt, and was subsequently discharged invalided.”

Some days later, an unnamed Irish barrister was also present on the Dublin to Derry Express when it ran into a huge landslide between Pomeroy and Donaghmore, ploughing into tons of earth so that it rocked like a ship on a stormy sea. Luckily, everyone survived and the barrister was home before curfew.

He was luckier than Mr H Thompson, barrister, of Dublin, originally from Belfast, who died in 1862 as a result of a derailment at Faversham, Kent, when three last carriages and the break-van separated from the preceding carriage and ran down an 15-foot-high embankment.

Just the stress of train travel could be fatal even if no accident in the strict sense of the word occurred. In 1867 William Henry Shegog, barrister, of 15 Mountjoy Square North, fell heavily on the platform at Amiens Street (now Connolly) Station immediately after stepping out of the train, and was carried to Jervis Street Hospital, where life was found to be extinct. He had been down the country collecting his rents.

English barristers had a much higher domestic railway fatality rate during this period, with tragic deaths recorded at King’s Cross (1880), Blisworth (1890), Herne Hill (1891), Taunton (1906), Euston (1911) and Retford (1912). Irish barristers, on the other hand, seemed to suffer particular ill-fate when travelling by railway abroad.

Mr Kennedy in particular was most unfortunate – it seems very bad luck to survive Gallipoli, only to die on a chilly Swiss platform. I wonder if, given the time of year that was in it, he was struggling with skis, or if his injuries during the War contributed to his loss of balance, or both? Perhaps he was tempted into travelling by a poster like the one above?

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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