Judge Gets the Boot on his First Day in Court, 1890

From the New Ross Standard, 18 January 1890:

Judge Hickson’s first experience of judicial life has been rather perilous, but he exhibited great nerve and self-possession. The practice of throwing slippers after a married couple on their wedding day ‘for luck’ is on the decline, as, however friendly the motive, the act was attended with some risk. It was not for luck, however, that a man named Finerty, from the dock at Tullamore on Thursday, inaugurated the judicial career of his Honor by flinging his heavy, hobnailed, iron-tipped boot at his head. The learned judge dodged the missile with the coolness and skill of an expert cricketer. And so he literally kept his head, and disappointed the ferocious fielder in the dock, who intended to have his Honor bowled out in a very ignominious manner with his skull indented. But his attack recoiled upon himself, and he learned that justice does not halt, but may be swift and sure. He would have been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for the offence of larcency, of which he had been convicted, the judge being disposed to deal leniently with him under the circumstances of the case, although he was an old offender; but his feat of desperate ruffianism, which in the interests of justice called for severe punishment, was rewarded by an additional penalty of twelve months’ imprisonment and hard labour.”

The stress of worrying about future missiles may well have been too much for County Court Judge Hickson, of 20 Herbert Street, Dublin, who died in October 1891. Despite the brevity of his judicial career, he did obtain some recognition in the form of the above depiction in the Illustrated Police News of 25 January 1890. His law library, which contained many scarce and valuable works, later sold for record prices.

Just one of many attempted attacks on Irish judges in the troubled times of the late 19th century, fortunately none resulting in physical injury; the psychological toll of being constantly at physical risk was, of course, a different matter.

The joys of the Bench can be overrated!

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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