Woman-on-Woman* Fight Behind the Four Courts Reduces Combatants’ Clothes to Ribbons, 1879

As this illustration of a female fight shows, there was a long tradition of female fighting in the vicinity of the Four Courts. Image via Trinity College Digital Collections.

From the Leeds Times, 4 January 1879:

“A disgraceful scene was witnessed the other day in Greek-street, Dublin, near the police courts, where two women engaged in a fierce contest, surrounded by a ring of male and female backers.  They scratched, pummelled, and tore one another for fully an hour, the fight being artfully suspended on two occasions when a constable appeared.  Each had possessed herself of a large portion of her antagonist’s hair, their forms were nearly naked, their clothes having been reduced to ribbons in the encounter , and their faces, streaming with blood, had hardly any human semblance.  At last one got her opponent’s fingers in her teeth, and nearly bit them off.  This ended the fight.”

Greek Street is not only near the former Northern Police Court in Chancery Street, previously known as Pill Lane, but is right behind the north-eastern corner of the Four Courts.

Mr Donnelly, via Wikipedia

The women in question may have been inspired by Dan Donnelly, the famous boxer mentioned in the speech bubble at the top of the illustration above, whose tavern was a popular local haunt in the early part of the 19th century.

Satellite view of Greek Street and surrounding area today, via Google Maps. Greek Street is the street marked with a red dot.

In the century following the opening of the Courts, crime in this once-prosperous area increased to such an extent that most of the business in the Police Court was said to come from miscreant locals. It is also only fair to say that there were also very many well-behaved residents who deplored the behaviour of their rambunctious neighbours.

A survey of Sir Compton Domville’s holdings in Greek Street, 1804, from the Dublin City Digital Archive. Though not shown on the map, the Four Courts is located in the bottom left corner. At this stage the area was still a prosperous one. This soon changed.

Today the area is improving and increasingly vibrant – as befits its extraordinary and fascinating history. The most likely candidate for the scene of the fight described above, the corner of Greek Street and Chancery Street (below), is now in the course of being developed as the new Hampton Hotel. Hopefully there will be more positive developments to come – or at least no more woman-on-woman* fights!

*As per this twitter discussion, the original term ‘girl-on-girl’ in this post has been replaced by ‘woman-on-woman.’

Greek Street today, via Google Street View.

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

Leave a Reply