Round Hall Wrestle After Perceived Insult to Barrister’s Mother, 1893

Mr Pierce Mahony, after his call to the Bar in 1898, five years after his Round Hall fist-fight.

From the Belfast News-Letter, 25 January 1893:

Dublin, Tuesday – Mr Pierce De Lacey Mahony, Parnellite candidate for North Meath, a picturesque, handsome, tall, sparely-built man, with Shakespearian cast of countenance, fine dark eyes and hair turning grey, assailed, Mr Matthew J Kenny, MP, of the North=West Bar, a tall, sinewy athlete, dark and fierce, with cleanly-shaven face, and known as a fighting Federationist. 

The time was about half past twelve, when the hall was occupied by several leading barristers and politicians.  Mr Matthew Kenny MP entered in wig and gown, and crossing the hall he was opposite the door of the Queen’s Bench, when Mr Mahony, catching sight of him, followed him up and saying ‘How dare you insult my mother,’ struck him under the left eye.  Mr Kenny caught his aggressor apparently by the neck, and endeavoured to pull him down. Each combatant struggled hard for the mastery for a time close to the statue of Chief Justice Whiteside, while the spectators looked on apparently interested, nobody interfering with the two wrestlers, who pulled and tugged one another to and fro. 

The Whiteside statue in front of which Messrs Kenny and Mahony grappled. Now in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

A crowd rapidly gathered, and at length a man from the crowd interposed and simultaneously a QC called on a policeman, who was soon seconded by another constable.  Of course, there was then an end of the fray.  Mr Kenny MP, who had got a ‘black eye’ charged Mr Mahony with having assaulted him.  Mr Mahony admitted the charge, adding ‘How dare he insult my mother?’ The policeman took him into custody, and the parties and their friends went to Green Street station, where the charge was entered.  Then the scene was changed the police court, before Mr Keys QC who instead of dealing with the case himself, sent Mr Mahony for trial, bail being accepted.  The proceedings were of a particularly breezy and lively character, suitable to the occasion. 

News of the encounter spread like wildfire.  The judges on the bench heard of it.  Out came registrars and officials, even while the struggle was proceeding.  Every few moments inquiries were made as to what transpired at the police court.  Mr M Kenny himself returned to the Four Courts, bearing the outward and visible signs of rough usage  – his left eye with those incipient rouge of primary colours which ripen into the genuine black eye.  It was said he intended bringing the affair under the notion of the judges of the Queen’s Bench as a contempt of court; but if he entertained such an idea, the matter would, doubtless, have been mentioned at the rising of the Courts. 

It is understood that the following speech published as having been made by Mr MJ Kenny MP at Moynalty on Sunday last, has been the cause of Mr Mahony’s attack – ‘Mr Matthew Kenny MP said that Mr Pierce Mahony was at Drunconrath with 500 peelers.  He heard they called Mr Mahony a Kerry souper, but that was not half of it.  They were not aware that his (Mahony’s mother was a Hindoo.  He did not give 2d about Pierce himself being a souper but all belonging to him were soupers.  Me (Mr Mahony) dared not live in his own country.  When he was member for Meath, he spent his time jobbing Kerry cows in England.'”

A ‘souper’ was someone who had changed their religion from Catholic to Protestant in order to avail of soup kitchen facilities during the Irish famine. Mr Mahony’s mother was Jane Gun Cunningham, of Mount Kennedy, County Wicklow, Ireland. No evidence of Hindu or Anglo-Indian connection, but Irish political attacks were commonly untethered to fact.

Mr Mahony was subsequently called to the Irish Bar in 1898, but retired within two years after having inherited a large fortune.  Mr Kenny became a Circuit Court judge after Independence. 

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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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