A Noise Sensitive Judge at the Cork Assizes, 1864

From the Belfast Weekly News, 6 August 1864:


The learned judge, who is now in Cork, continues to maintain discipline with the region of a judicial martinet… At the sitting of the Court on Thursday, his lordship, addressing Sub-Inspector Channel, said:- The noise that has been in the court during the week is thoroughly disgraceful – principally the clapping of doors and the clapping of seats.  I never heard anything like it.  I have been many years on the Bench, and in a good many parts of Ireland, and I never saw anything approaching the uproar, confusion, and interruption of the business of the Court here.  What I require is – you must, instead of having those two men (pointing toward the dock) staring me, and never interfering to prevent noise – you must place these, or some of your men, in every part of the court-house, with directions, which I shall take care to enforce, that any person found clapping doors or seats be taken into custody at once, and I can see then whether it is possible to carry on the business by that course.  There must be one man on this door (the jury room door) and another on the seats behind the jury.  It constantly happens that the jury is going in to clap that door, but whoever does it must be taken into custody.  These policemen in front are encouraging the noise and not interfering, they are looking on, actually encouraging the whole thing. 

The case of McCormick v Murphy was then recommenced.  

During the examination of the first witness a young gentleman entered the court, and was going towards one of the back seats, when he slipped, and caused noise, near where a constable was standing.

HIS LORDSHIP: What is that man in the force?

The constable made no reply.

His Lordship repeated the question

Sub-Inspector – He is a constable, my lord.

His Lordship – What was that noise?

Mr Brereton – A young gentleman slipped, my lord.

His Lordship – He did what?

Constable – He was going to his seat, my lord, and he lost his footing.

His Lordship – Dropped his stick? Eh! (Suppressed laughter.)

Mr Exham – A gentleman was going to his seat, and his foot unfortunately slipped on the rug.

His Lordship – Take it away out of that altogether.

While primarily based in the Four Courts, Dublin, 19th century High Court judges occasionally had to venture out to preside at Assizes in other towns and cities throughout Ireland. As you can see from the 1865 illustration above, the Assizes in Cork could sometimes get very unruly!

Judge Ball, who lived at 75 St Stephen’s Green, was not merely noise-sensitive, but cold-sensitive, and may even have possessed a sense of humour. Was he simply being ironic above?

75 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, the site of Judge Ball’s former home.

Image Credits: (top) (middle) (bottom)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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