A Mysterious Assault on a Four Courts Registrar, 1916

From the Belfast Newsletter, June 16, 1916:



A sensational and mysterious assault is reported from Blackrock, County Dublin, the victim being Mr Francis Kennedy, Associate of the King’s Bench, and nephew of the Lord Chief Justice.

It appears that in the early hours of the morning, Mr Kennedy, who resides at Marino Park, Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, was heard by his wife to groan. She rose to go to his assistance and on looking up saw a dark figure standing over Mr Kennedy with raised arm.  Mrs Kennedy Jumped up and caught hold of the man, who seized her by the throat and attempted to strike her.  Just then Miss Kennedy, her daughter, rushed into the room, and the thief, fearing that relief was at hand, ran down the stairs and made good his escape.   

Lights were procured and it was then observed that Mr Kennedy’s head was covered with blood and he was unconscious.  Medical assistance was sought and it was found that Mr Kennedy had a deep wound on the head. The intruder had gained access through the drawing room window but many articles of value in the house were untouched.”

Mr Kennedy had been employed as a registrar at the Four Courts for the previous three decades. His was not the only legal residence to suffer a burglary in the unsettled second and third decades of the twentieth century.  On the 27th July 1920 three men, described as soldiers, were charged with feloniously breaking into the home of Mr McLoone KC at 85 Merrion Square.  The McLoone family were away on holiday, but somebody tipped the police off.  The would-be burglars were found hiding under the bed with a quantity of ladies and gentlemen’s wearing apparel valued at £50 beside them, wrapped up in parcels ready to be taken away. 

English barristers too were susceptible to burglaries, though not all of them went to the preventive extremes taken by John Mews, of Westbourne Terrace, Paddington, who went so far as to include, in a book of instructions for his servants, a prohibition on admitting traders into the house via the side passage.  When the Mews’ cook ignored this rule, and let a greengrocer into the kitchen to take orders, he sacked her, arguing, in response to a subsequent action taken by her for back wages, that a man must be master in his own home.  The judge did not agree and found in favour of the cook.

Younger, more vigorous barristers actively welcomed the challenge of dealing with intruders.  Francis Cregoe Jenkin, a Cornish barrister, made the news in 1908 when he peaceably apprehended two burglars whilst staying at a friend’s house at Brentford. Items in the burglars’ bag included a scent fountain, a pair of pince-nez, a letter case, fourteen cigars, a pair of boots and a cap to the value of £1 19s. 

A well-known Ulster barrister, Basil McGuckin KC, of Shrewsbury Road, Dublin, likewise succeeded in capturing an intruder in his home in 1931.  A short struggle took place prior to the capture.  Mrs McGuckin was a prize-winning breeder of elkhounds, but it is not stated whether any of them played a part in defending the family home.

As for Mr Kennedy, he resigned his position in the Four Courts in September 1921, after 36 years of service.  The timing of his departure and the use of the word ‘resigned’ as opposed to ‘retired’ indicates that he may not have been a fan of the impending new regime.  His burglar was never apprehended. Could the attack on him have been politically motivated?

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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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