Manager of Four Courts Coffee Room Prosecuted for Adulterating Spirits, 1921

From the Dublin Evening Telegraph, 7 April 1921:

Today in the Northern Police Court, before Mr Lupton KC, Mr John Barror, Coffee Room Bar, Four Courts, was summoned, at the suit of Mr Tannam, Inspector of Food, for having, on the 15th February last, sold him four glasses of whiskey adulterated by the addition of 4 percent of water.

Mr W J Sheridan, solicitor, for defendant, said he admitted the fact.  His client was totally unable to account for it.  He got his whisky from Jameson’s.  Of course, he did not in any way blame Jameson’s, but he merely mentioned the fact to show Mr Barror’s bona fides.  He had been a long time in business without a complaint, and he, Mr Sheridan, thought that in these circumstances a caution would meet the case, the amount of adulteration being small.

Mr Burke (Assistant Law Agent) said whiskey was a very expensive article at present. 

The Magistrate said he made a rule in each case to impose a minimum fine of £5, unless there was very good reason.  Recently he had visited the Sheriff’s courts at Edinburgh and Glasgow, and found that in one case, where a defendant said he had been 30 years in business without a conviction, yet was fined £20.  In this case he would fine the defendant £5.”

The Four Courts Hotel on Inns Quay also purchased its whiskey from Jamesons, or so Mr Lupton was told by its managing director Mr H G Kilby in an earlier adulteration prosecution reported in the Irish Independent of 19 December 1918.  In that case it was suggested that a cask of the offending whiskey might have been left in a corridor in transit from cellar to bar, giving unscrupulous servants the opportunity to abstract and replace with water.  Mr Lupton imposed a fine of £7.

Mr Barror, who also held the position of caterer to the RDS, Ballsbridge, had, with the approval of the Benchers, obtained a transfer of the coffee-room licence from a Mr Murphy in April 1900. His premises in the then Solicitors’ Building (now the Law Library) were comprehensively destroyed in the Four Courts bombardment of 1922.  A subsequent compensation claim for destruction of stock, silver plate and equipment was heard before the Recorder of the City of Dublin at Green Street Courthouse on the 22nd May 1922. Sums claimed included £108 for an old George snuff box of 1700, £76 for an early Victorian silver sugar bowl and cream jug and £100 for an old Irish silver kettle.  The total amount claimed was £8,971. An unsympathetic Recorder awarded £5,950.

Mr Barror features again in the newspapers in 1923, when he sued the management of the Mater Carnival held in the grounds of the RDS for £549 in loss and damage to cutlery. His catering business was a family one – his daughter Mary Barror also put in a claim for loss of personal items in 1922, and the family may also have run Barror’s Restaurant in Henry Street. He lived at Park Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4 and had a son who fought in Gallipoli. In addition to his professed hobby of collecting antique silver, he may also have been involved in the yachting world.

Mr Barror’s 1921 conviction for selling adulterated spirits puts a new complexion on a minor feature of the rebel occupation of the Four Courts in 1916. As previously noted, his coffee room remained entirely untouched by the rebels. Was this because, even before the prosecution above, there were whispers that, while the silver was good, the alcohol in its drinks cabinet was far from being as proof as it ought to be? 😉

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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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