Barrister’s Son Returns from the Dead, 1896

From the Cork Constitution, 5 March 1896:


To-day the Master of the Rolls had before him a case which brought to light a modern Enoch Arden. In 1866 William Henry Boyle, son of a well-known barrister, emigrated to America, leaving his young wife at home. Fortune did not smile on him, and he did not send for his wife. He ceased to write, and for many years his family had heard nothing of him, and at length assumed that he was dead. In this belief his wife married again, and she had a family. At last the wandering husband, who had been a travelling salesman, a shorthand clerk, and at other avocations at turn, found his way back to Dublin. His sister informed him of what had happened in his absence and that he was entitled to a share of his uncle’s estate, which, in 1887, was ordered to be put to his credit and remained in court still. Mr Boyle having established his identity, the Master of the Rolls made an order that he should get the money. His lordship recalled an incident that occurred in court when administering the estate of another supposed dead man. The argument of counsel was interrupted by a man in the gallery saying, “My lord, I am the deceased,” and it turned out that he was the man whose property, on the erroneous hypothesis that he was dead, as he had not been heard of for years, it was sought to distribute among his next-of-kin.”

‘Enoch Arden’ is a narrative poem published in 1864 by Alfred Lord Tennyson about a man who left his family to seek his fortune, only to be shipwrecked on a desert island. On his return home, he discovers his wife to be happily married to another man. He dies of a broken heart after loving her too much to spoil her new happiness.

The story has inspired a number of movies, including Marilyn Monroe’s last (unfinished) film ‘Something’s Got to Give,’ in which she played a female Enoch by the name of Ellen Wagstaff Arden, who returned from shipwreck on a desert island to find her husband remarried to Cyd Charisse. The film starts with a judicial application to have Ellen declared dead. The ending is for the imagination.

There was no shipwreck in the case of William Henry Boyle, and surely he could have managed a letter or two. Judges – though not, it seems, Porter MR – could be extremely censorious of husbands who returned to expose as unwitting bigamists wives whom they had previously deserted. They tended to be less so when the husbands returned to defeat Workmen’s Compensation Act claims made in respect of the death of the second husband. This happened in quite a few cases in England.

The reverse happened in Dublin in 1914, where the death the subject of the claim was that of the returned husband, killed after his return. Madden J adjourned the case, but remarked that he felt that the wife was entitled to make such a claim.

It seems that, when it came to choosing between his wife’s honour and a substantial legacy, Mr Boyle opted for the ignoble but financially remunerative alternative! Unless, of course, he intended to remedy his wrong by providing for her out of the legacy proceeds!

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In the Footsteps of Kings: Chancery Place, 1224-1916

Chancery Place, on the eastern side of the Four Courts, was originally a much narrower street known as Mass Lane.  The buildings on its western side sat close against the eastern wing of the Four Courts until they were demolished by the Commissioners of Public Works in the early 19th century. The above image from the 1840s shows Chancery Place following these changes and – aside from differences in vehicles, costume, and traffic regulation, and the replacement of the perimeter wall with street bollards – it looks quite similar today.

One of the buildings removed in the course of these changes was the church which gave Mass Lane its name. This chapel, the location of which is marked on the maps below, sat right up against the east wing of Gandon’s Four Courts, pre-dating it by many years. Clarke Huston Irwin, in his History of Presbyterianism in Dublin, says that

“The church of Mass Lane was originally the chapel of a Dominican Friary.  After the suppression of the friary by Henry VIII, the Benchers of the King’s Inns obtained the building and used it as their chapel.  James II restored it to the Jesuits and heard mass in it during his stay in Dublin.  After the Revolution William III presented it to a congregation of French Huguenots, and the King himself attended service in Mass Lane after the Battle of the Boyne.”

Following this change, Mass Lane officially became Lucy Lane, or, as the Huguenots referred to it, Golblac Lane, but everyone else still referred to it by its original name. Later, in 1773, the Huguenots sold the church to a congregation of Presbyterian Seceders.

The Dominican Friary referred to by Irwin is of course the Priory of St Saviour, which once occupied the entirety of the Four Courts site, and whose monastery buildings formed the nucleus of the old Inns of Court.  Where was the Priory Church? Archaeologists carrying out investigations on the Aras Ui Dhalaigh site in the 1980s believed it to have been in the area of that site, just south of where the monastery buildings would have been – but did not find any conclusive evidence. 

Was this because, as suggested by Irwin, the Priory Church was in fact situated elsewhere, at the location which came to be called Mass Lane? If so, it may even have pre-dated the arrival of the Dominicans. In his paper, ‘The Dominicans in Medieval Dublin,’ delivered to the Old Dublin Society in 1947, Dominican historian Brian O’Sullivan suggests that there was already a chapel on the Priory site when it was taken over by the Dominicans in 1224. Perhaps, rather than erecting a new monastery church, the Dominicans simply used the old chapel, which then became the Mass Lane church.

There were other businesses in Mass Lane too, one of them employing a hero.  In August 1809, a youth of about 13 years was swimming in the part of the river opposite the Four Courts when his strength failed him. He was in the act of sinking in the presence of some hundreds of spectators when an unnamed young man in the employment of Mr Rinkle, Dyer, at the corner of Mass Lane, plunged into the river without taking off his clothes, and, by uncommon exertion, was so fortunate as to get hold of the boy on the first dive, and brought him on shore on his shoulders, and thereby saved him from a watery grave, to the no small gratification of the persons present. One of many Liffey rescues over the years!

The Wide Streets Commissioners’ plans for Chancery Street put an end to the Mass Lane church. In 1825, its contents, including an extensive gallery and pews, were advertised for sale. Though it is a pity that the building was not preserved or, at the very least, its antiquity investigated, there may indeed have been something to be said for getting rid of Mass Lane.  By now, its houses were very old, and, in December 1822, after a great storm, a wall fell on a bricklayer, who was buried beneath it.  On the same night, a forge also fell on the Lane, burying a woman passing by in ruins, though she was eventually taken out uninjured.

Most of the eastern end of Inns Quay was also demolished in the creation of Chancery Place, but there is a very fine building, 1-2 Inns Quay, at the corner of Chancery Place and Inns Quay, which dates from the early 1830s. This replaced earlier buildings on the site demolished by the Wide Streets Commissioners, who advertised the vacant site for sale as building ground in 1826. The Dublin City Council Digital Archives include plans of two very different designs put forward for the proposed building, the first a building consisting of two houses, the second, a mansion, both of which can be seen above. Ultimately, the former plan was adopted.

The building 1-2 Inns Quay must have been completed by 1834, as there was an advertisement that year for the sale of an interest in a lease for lives renewable forever applicable to the very excellent, new built Dwelling House No 2 Inns Quay which, from its contiguity to the Law Courts, was admirably adapted for the stamp and stationery business, and equally suitable as a private residence for a solicitor, or for law chambers.  The lease was initially taken up by William Connick, a merchant grocer, who, on the 7 November 1839 advertised to acquaint his Friends and the Public that he had just received his Winter Stock of New Fruit and was, as usual, well supplied with superior old Wines, in Wood and Bottle; Old Malt Whiskey, from one to seven years made; Cognac Brandy, twenty years old; Teas, Coffee, Sugar etc.  

If you look at the image at the very start of this post, you can see some men with placards bearing the words ‘Tea’ standing about on Richmond (now O’Donovan Rossa) bridge during the eventful State Trial of Daniel O’Connell in 1844; possibly they were advertising Mr Connick’s business. It seems that, like poor Dan, this business did not survive the Famine, since, in 1848, No 2 Inns Quay was once again advertised for letting to solicitors or merchants, the advertisement stating that, having been originally built with a shop front, it could alternatively be re-converted into a shop at very trifling expense.  It was subsequently occupied by solicitors.

The other half of the building, 1 Inns Quay, occupied the former site of John Bond’s helmet manufactory, the only extensive one in Dublin, supplying regiments and corps at a few days notice.   Later, Patrick Cooney opened a public house at No. 1, which became the Chancery Inn.

Meanwhile, round the corner in Chancery Street, there were looking-glass manufacturers and brass manufacturers, law agents, scriveners, attorneys, tailors and, of course, booksellers.  In 1846, Thomas Connolly’s Second Hand Book Establishment at 6 Chancery Place had a catalogue of over 4000 volumes of new and old books. In 1853, a letter of complaint was sent to the Warder and Dublin Mail about a religious painting displayed for sale outside a shop on Chancery Place, which was criticised as flagrant Popery. Clearly something of the spirit of the Presbyterian Seceders still lived on in the former Mass Lane!

The best known building in the street, the Legal Eagle, 1 Chancery Place, has been a public house since at least 1855.  Its original name was ‘The Victoria Inn’ or ‘Nerney’s Tavern.’ Its owner, William Nerney, lived above it with his family. The Nerneys were well known in the area already as they had previously owned a public house in nearby Charles Street.  It was at Nerney’s Tavern that Mr O’Moore, a member of the Bar, was arrested for debt in 1859, after having popped out with friends for a quick drink whilst waiting for a motion to be called on. His arrest was held to be in breach of the rule against arresting Counsel for debt while in the course of attending to legal business.  

Sadly, Mr Nerney got into difficulties around the time of his wife’s death in 1868. In November of that year, he published a notice in the newspaper to unnamed ‘neighbours’ saying that his failure to attend at an election was not due to having taken a bribe, but because he was unwell (the notice can be seen above). Soon afterwards, he went bankrupt, and his premises were sold on to another publican.

On the opposite side of the street, the Chancery Place entrance has always been a handy means of entry and exit for those with business in the Four Courts. There was much annoyance in 1896 when it was closed off during the construction of the new Law Library in the Eastern Wing, and even more annoyance when it was shut up during the War of Independence in 1921.  In the 19th century, this entrance would have been used by practitioners and, occasionally, litigants, but not yet by Judges, who at that time parked their carriages in the quadrangles on the river side of the Courts.

After the death of Four Courts caretaker Michael McDermott from a mysterious 1853 fall into the Chancery Place yard ultimately attributed to an attack of temporary insanity, a lodge was built for future caretakers and their families. Part of it may be visible in the last photograph in the slideshow above, which shows the entrance after the 1916 Rising, during which the Four Courts was occupied by rebels, with the East Wing, in which the Law Library was then located, coming in for particularly heavy gunfire.

Although it may seem an innocuous and even rather grey street today, Chancery Place has a long and interesting history.  Next time you are passing down Chancery Place, remember that you are crossing once-sacred ground, over which not one but two English monarchs likewise trod. Not many places in Dublin can claim that sort of lineage!

Maps and Plans: Dublin City Digital Archive and Harvard University Library

Historical Images: (top) (top middle)(bottom middle)(bottom)

News Articles: British Newspaper Archive

Current Images: Google Maps and

Marry a Former Chief Justice of Tobago in Haste, Repent at Leisure, 1840-55

There were many Irish barristers who took on the task of administering justice on foreign and often inclement shores in such a way as to do credit to their country of origin. Barristers such as John Jefcott, first Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, Henry Barnes Gresson, Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court and Michael Hogan, Chief Justice of Hong Kong, to name only a few.

And then there was Robert Nicholas Fynn, whom Queen Victoria was pleased to appoint Chief Justice of the Island of Tobago in 1840, a mere four years after his call to the Irish Bar. Historic Irish judicial appointments usually received a mixed reception, but in Mr Fynn’s case the reaction was unanimous – he was absolutely unsuitable for the post. The Dublin Monitor of 15 October 1840 drew attention to the notable lack of congratulations, other than in the Galway Advertiser – Mr Fynn’s father was a Galway merchant – and remarked that there were some not very creditable rumours afloat concerning Mr Fynn’s peculiar claims upon the gratitude of a certain noble marquis, and that, in the total absence of all assignable reasonable motives for the appointment, there must be some truth in them.

The same publication the following week carried an effusive letter of thanks from ‘A Leinster Circuiter,’ saying that its criticism of the appointment deserved the thanks of every member of the Irish Bar, many of whom, being men of information and high moral character (the final three words highlighted), would have been far more suitable for the position accorded to Mr Fynn, to the extent that they were left outraged and indignant by being overlooked in his favour.

Though his name still appears on Wikipedia’s list of its Chief Justices, Robert Nicholas Fynn never actually reached Tobago, his appointment being revoked just as his intended ship was about to leave harbour, with all his baggage on board, already emblazoned with the grand seal to which his office technically entitled him.

Despite having been denied the opportunity to develop the law of the Caribbean, Mr Fynn did subsequently manage to leave his mark on English jurisprudence in the form of In Re Fynn, one of the earliest reported child custody decisions, the opposing parties being his estranged wife Emily (referred to in the judgment by her full name of Amelia) and mother-in-law Marian Ainsworth.

Robert Fynn first met Emily Ainsworth in Brussels in 1842, after his brief stint as Tobago Chief Justice had been followed by a lieutenancy in the 2nd division of the West Yorkshire Regiment and a period as promoter of the unsuccessful Galway and Ennis Grand Junction Railway Company. They married the following year. Emily’s mother had reservations about Robert from the start, which he temporarily quelled by producing a volume of his speeches, sealed with an official seal bearing his crest and the words ‘Chief Justice of Tobago,’ and telling her of an impending appointment as Judge Advocate in Malta, never actually to eventuate.

The morning after the wedding night Robert borrowed £50 from Emily for travel expenses; later, at Galway, when she remonstrated with him against what she thought his waste and extravagance, he struck her several blows on the head, kicked her, and threw a glass of hot spirits and water at her head and face, with so much violence that the glass was broken against her head, and at the same time threatened to thrust her head into the fire, and, on another occasion, threw her on the floor of a room with her infant child, with no other provocation than her having interfered to protect her nurse, a woman of nearly sixty years of age, from his violence.

Emily and Robert went to Plymouth, where Robert confessed that the bailiffs were after him for debts incurred before his marriage, and then to London, where Emily’s clothes were distrained for rent, before returning to Brussels. According to Emily, while in Brussels for the second time, Robert conducted himself in a most improper manner, drinking to excess, cursing and swearing and calling her a damned hypocrite, a damned bitch and a liar, before departing for Paris with their two sons, Alfred and Robert, aged three and two years old respectively, having pawned or sold certain articles of plate in order to fund the journey. Subsequently, in Paris, Robert was arrested for a bracelet that he had bought on credit, and sold on, but never paid for, and the boys had to be recovered by Emily from prison, where they had been incarcerated with their father.

Given that the above events were in no way seriously disputed by Robert Fynn, one might expect that Emily’s petition to restrain his application to regain custody of the boys would have succeeded. Such was not the case. Instead, Vice-Chancellor Knight-Bruce, despite a sympathetic initial ruling, ultimately refused the petition on account of Emily’s limited means. All the money originally settled on Emily had been expended by her on her husband, and Mrs Ainsworth’s suggestion, that she enter into a covenant to pay an annual sum to her daughter and the children, was rejected by the court as insufficient, as such a covenant was a personal one only, and would die with her.

There was, unsurprisingly, a minor kerfuffle following the Vice-Chancellor’s final ruling. Alfred Ainsworth, Emily’s teenage brother, hit Robert Fynn, and knocked off his hat. Robert justified a consequent application to have Alfred bound over to keep the peace by saying that he could forgive the contempt of court, but not the personal insult involved. His wife, he said, had also attacked him, but, of course, he was not applying to have her bound over. Possibly he felt it more appropriate to discipline her privately.

It is not reported whether the boys were subsequently returned to their father. An album of photos, entitled ‘Emily Ainsworth Fynn and family,’ was recently advertised for sale at an online auction. The album includes photos of three children who may have been Alfred, Robert, and little Emily, the latter fortunate enough not to have been included in the custody application, Robert having taken the view that, as a girl, he did not require her, and she could stay with her mother.

Robert Nicholas Fynn turns up again a few years later in the context of a private prosecution brought by him in respect of a stolen pocket knife. While admitting the item stolen was of trifling value, he stated that he had felt obliged to prosecute as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, Fynn’s own final appearance in the news, in 1855, was such as to call his own principles into question. Under the name of Captain RN Fynn, he had been advertising for governesses for two boys, requesting that successful applicants forward money for their travel expenses in advance, so that he could book their passage. Those who did, never received their tickets, though he did promise one of them that he would marry her when his wife died, which he anticipated as likely to occur within the next two months.

The governess scandal, as scandals often do, brought old history to the fore, in the form of two letters subsequently published in English newspapers, disclosing some interesting facts about Fynn’s abortive 1840 appointment. The first was a letter from Dominick Browne, 1st Lord Oranmore and Browne and former MP for Mayo, apologising for having nominated Mr Fynn for the appointment.

The second was an anonymous letter, circulated by the London Police as part of an investigation into Captain RN Fynn’s activities, which identified him as a member of the Irish Bar, referenced the Tobago appointment and stated as follows:

Mr Fynn appears to have had, at this time also, a hankering after governesses, for he inserted in the papers a notice to governesses, or something to the effect, as well as I recollect, that their position was to be more that of a lady in waiting than that of a governess, and that they were to have the same privileges as those attending on her Majesty. This having come to the ears of Lord John Russell, he immediately cancelled the appointment. Some time after this he left London for Brussels, where he managed to get introduced to some highly respectable families, and he passed himself off as Count Fynn, with many other etceteras, and contrived to get married to a beautiful woman, niece of a member of the House of Commons. We have reason to believe that very active measures will immediately be adopted upon this subject.”

Why did Mr Fynn require the company of a governess in Tobago if he had no children at the time? Was the motivation behind the 1840 advertisement similar to that of Gerald Kingsland, later to be immortalised in ‘Castaway’?

No matter how sympathetic one might normally feel towards impecunious 19th century barristers – then, as now, building a Four Courts practice could be a challenging task – it is hard to feel much sympathy for Mr Fynn.

Particularly when looking at the photos of his lovely family above.

Poor Emily! How careful a woman in those days had to be regarding whom she married!

Image Credits

The Irish Bar and Bench at Home, 1784-1890

Wilmot Harrison’s 1890 book, ‘Memorable Dublin Houses: A Handy and Descriptive Guide,’ includes much interesting information about town residences of the Irish bar and bench in the early and middle parts of the 19th century.

First up is 14 Harcourt Street, home of barrister and raconteur Jonah Barrington, whose memoirs can be read in full here. Barrington later moved to 42 Merrion Square before financial irregularities forced him to retire to Versailles, France.

Up the street at 17 Harcourt Street was Clonmel House, the residence of John Scott, 1st Earl of Clonmel, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland 1784-1798. Scott sported a permatan – something less fashionable then than now – and the well-known nightclub down the street at 29-30 Harcourt Street references his resulting nickname of Copper Faced Jack.

As the 19th century progressed, the area around Merrion Square replaced that around Mountjoy as the place of residence for the Bar to aspire to. Daniel O’Connell lived at 58 Merrion Square South, where he could be seen through his parlour window standing at his brief-strewn desk, working late. No executive chair for Dan!

Ely Place, round the corner, had been popular with eminent members of the Bar and Bench from a very early stage. Ireland’s greatest advocate, the self-made John Philpot Curran, Master of the Rolls in Ireland 1806-1814, lived at No 4 – a better-sounding address than his previous residence, Hog Hill!

Next door, at No 5, was the townhouse of the silver-tongued Charles Kendal Bushe, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1822-41. In 1885, his equally persuasive grandson Seymour was to shock Dublin when he eloped from the same street.

John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, 1789-1802, lived at No 6. It was here that a colleague, Richard Power, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, came to kill him in 1794; fortunately, Fitzgibbon was out at the time.

Those rebellious Junior Counsel, the Sheares brothers, lived just around the corner at 128 Lower Baggot Street prior to their arrest and execution in 1798.

Jane Austen’s former beau, Tom Lefroy, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1852-66, favoured Lower Leeson Street, ending his days in the bosom of his family at No 18 (later the Convent of the Sacred Heart).

Another great memoirist of the Irish Bar, Richard Lalor Sheil, lived at 23 Holles Street.

Though no illustration of it is shown, the book also references the house of John Toler, Lord Norbury, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1800-1827, at 3 Great Denmark Street, now the Olivier Cornet Gallery. Rumour has it that he still haunts his old place. Who knows? Perhaps they all do.

Almost all of the lawyers mentioned in this post were among the very top fee earners in their profession. Most also enjoyed substantial private incomes. The majority of 19th century Irish lawyers did not own or rent city mansions. Whilst many were comfortably off, a not inconsiderable percentage experienced financial difficulties in the course of their careers, with some living throughout in reduced and even pitiful circumstances. Looking forward to sharing details of less palatial legal residences in a future post!

In the meantime, here is a list of other legal addresses mentioned in Harrison’s book:

5 Leinster Street, where the unfortunate Lord Kilwarden, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland from 1798 until murdered in the Emmet rebellion, was brought to die in July 1803.

54 Merrion Square South, townhouse of Francis Blackburne, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, 1866-67.

3 Ely Place, home of Barry Yelverton, Lord Avonmore, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer 1783-1805, whose fault as a judge was that he jumped too quickly to conclusions.

5 Fitzwilliam Square, home of Edward Pennefather, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1842-46.

18 Stephen’s Green, residence of bare-knuckle boxing aficionado William Cunningham Plunket, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, 1835-41.

31 and 33 Stephen’s Green, homes of Attorney-General William Saurin, who took charge of the Bar Militia during the 1798 Rebellion.

29 Lower Leeson Street, home of the now forgotten Peter Burrowes, ‘the Goldsmith of the Irish Bar.’

2 Mountjoy Square, residence of smell-sensitive James Whiteside, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1866-76.

38 Mountjoy Square, home of the humourist Baron Dowse, another barrister who forced his way to eminence by merit.

Full book available to read here.

A Pleading Two-Step, Part 2: The Proper Business of the Junior Bar, 1856-64

From the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, Saturday 8 March 1856:


Judge Ball having during the day proceeded to settle issues in records to be tried in Cork at the ensuing assizes, and Mr Brereton, QC, having appeared for one of the parties, Mr John Leahy interrupted the learned gentleman, and said that as the senior of the junior bar in court, he had been requested to object to a Queen’s counsel acting in the settlement of issues without a junior with him.  The drawing of the pleadings, and the settlement of the issues as a part of the pleadings, were by long-established practice the proper business of the junior bar, and a Queen’s counsel had no right to draw them under the old system, or to settle issues under the modern practice without having a junior with him.

Mr Brereton stated that the point raised by Mr Leahy did not arise, inasmuch as he was only holding the brief of Mr Exham, who was prevented from coming on circuit by unforeseen circumstances.  He said that he was one of the seniors employed for the trial, and admitted that he had no brief of his own on the present motion.

Judge Ball observed that the practice was most objectionable, and one that ought not to be followed.  He would, however, allow Mr Brereton to act for Mr Exham on the present occasion; but in doing so, he wished it to be understood that it was not to be considered as a precedent, and that he disapproved of the practice.”

The practice, that Queen’s Counsel could not appear at the trial of cases without Junior, was well established in the Courts of Chancery and King’s Bench, but the question of whether they could draft and sign pleadings, move motions and agree settlements, thereby potentially limiting the Junior Bar’s role to the substantive hearing, was less certain.

On 8 June 1858, the Belfast Newsletter reported that

“There are rumours of the probability of a meeting of the Junior Bar being held shortly, or the purpose of considering the subject of the serious encroachments by the ‘silk gowns’ on ‘junior business.’   This unprofessional evil has grown, it is said, to an inconvenient extent, and some Queen’s Counsel – regardless of the honour of the silk – hesitate no to draft and sign pleadings, move trivial guinea motions, and motions of course.  Indeed, there are rumours that the right Hon. Lord Chancellor when conferring the honour of silk gowns, during the present term, on several utter-barristers, required of each of them a pledge that he would not receive or transact junior business.”

On the 16th of the same month, the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier reported the Lord Chancellor as having stated in court that there was as subject he wished to mention, which he hoped would not be taken in ill part by any members of the Bar. Having noticed that several Chancery petitions had been signed by members of the Inner Bar, he thought it of the greatest importance to the Bar generally to preserve the classification of business. He knew that in the King’s Bench, it was thought that a Queen’s Counsel ought not to sign pleadings unless signed by a member of the Junior Bar, and he thought it of the greatest importance to suitors that the Outer Bar should have the proper training which the discharge of Junior business would give them, and that the Queen’s Counsel should be relieved of such business.  All such petitions should in future be drawn and moved by members of the Outer Bar and if the case was one of difficulty or required the intervention or assistance of a member of the Inner Bar it might be sent after being prepared by Junior Counsel for the revision and consideration of a Queen’s Counsel.  He thought it was a matter which affected the public and he would not make any orders on such petitions unless signed by Junior Counsel.

The Lord Chancellor’s statement did not resolve the matter, and in June 1863 a meeting of the Bar of Ireland appointed a Committee of 12 Queen’s Counsel and 12 Junior Counsel to consider if members of the Inner Bar should sign pleadings at law or Equity unless countersigned by Junior Counsel. Having completed the Herculean task of analysing the pleadings in the Court of Chancery during every sixth year since 1800, and the Court of Queen’s Bench in Trinity Term during every tenth year of the same period, the Committee found that, although no positive rule had hitherto existed as to the signature of Queen’s Counsel of pleadings in Equity or at law, it was desirable that, for the future, no Queen’s Counsel should sign any pleading at law or Equity, or any document to which the signature of counsel was required – a recommendation subsequently approved by the Bar of Ireland at an 1864 meeting convened to discuss the Committee’s report.

The rule applied to pleadings only, and did not extend to petitions of appeal.   Though not included in the current Bar Council Code of Conduct, it seems to have survived into the twentieth century, being referenced in a taxation application in 1912. Subjected to some criticism from the Incorporated Society of Attorneys and Solicitors of Ireland for its potential to result in additional costs for clients, the requirement that a Junior Counsel’s name appear on pleadings did have the benefit of securing, for the Outer Bar, drafting, motion and settlement experience (not to mention fees) which might otherwise have been denied to them and, in so doing, may have provided some compensatory public service by raising the standard of subsequent Senior Counsel and judiciary. Even today, it remains most unusual to find Junior Counsel’s name omitted from pleadings – something which almost certainly would not have been the case but for that 1864 resolution!

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