Rushing to Court across the Rubicon, c.1790

Ruth Cannon BL Barrister Ballinlaw from Kilkenny side
A somewhat gloomy Ballinlaw from the Kilkenny side. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

From the New Ross Standard, 1931:


This ferry way was popularly used in bygone years for passengers to enter County Waterford from the Wexford side.  Caesar Colclough, admitted as a Barrister-at-Law in 1783, was travelling with Charles Kendal Bushe from Wexford to Waterford while on the Leinster Circuit, and in order to shorten the journey decided on crossing the ferry of Ballinlaw.  It was blowing a strong gale at the time, and the boatmen expressed some fears as to their being able to cross over without danger to the lives of their passengers.  But Mr. Colclough pressed them with additional fees, and ridiculed their fears, as time was of the greatest importance to him, and his companion. It was then that Mr. Bushe, who afterwards rose to the dignity of Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, expressed himself in the clever and well-known impromptu – an amusing parody on the famous words of Julius Caesar to the sailors in similar perilous circumstances “Courage! You bear Caesar and his fortunes!”  Bushe’s lines ran thus:

‘While meaner souls the tempest strikes with awe

Intrepid Colclough crosses Ballinlaw

And cries to boatmen shivering in their rags

You carry Caesar and his saddle bags

This incident has been related time and again and served to make Ballinlaw ferry widely known.”

Ruth Cannon BL barrister Charles Kendal Bushe
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland Charles Kendal Bushe, in his robes of office, via Wikipedia. A long way from the Ballinlaw ferry!

There is a small error in the above article.  Charles Kendal Bushe subsequently served as (the very popular)  Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (a position officially described as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland) rather than the Common Pleas.  As a barrister, Bushe had  practiced on the Leinster Circuit and had many a brief in Wexford.  The Bushe family, who intermarried with another Irish judicial family, the Plunkets, and their mutual offspring, the Bartons, continued to be prominent in Irish legal life for many decades after Charles Kendal’s retirement.  Read about the romantic tribulations of one member of the family here.

Caesar Colclough himself was sent off to Canada as Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island in the early 19th century. Rumour has it that the appointment was not as a reward, but a punishment, for his support of the 1798 rebels.  Later promoted to Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador, Caesar was never happy in Canada. One account describes him as prey to financial worries, fears of sectarian violence which was on the rise, deteriorating health, and a heavy workload occasioned by population increase, the post-war economic recession, and the fact that almost all those who appeared before him were lay pleaders’ – in short, a judge’s nightmare.  He finally managed to escape Newfoundland in 1815, spending the rest of his life in Ireland and France.

The Colclough name came back into legal prominence in the mid 19th century with a famous will dispute regarding a cousin, also named Caesar, to which one of the daughters of Caesar Chief Justice was party.  More about it anon!

For more on the history of the ancient Ballinlaw ferry, see this great piece by Tides and Tales.

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

2 thoughts on “Rushing to Court across the Rubicon, c.1790”

  1. Wonderful anecdote Ruth! Ballinlaw – what an appropriate name for a ferry port, on which our learned legal judges should have chosen to travel. You certainly can bring the past to light and cheer us all up. Thank you so much

    1. Thank you, Conall, I hadn’t spotted the legal element in the name but it is certainly felicitous! Thanks for reading and commenting, all the best, Ruth

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