Solicitor-Solicitor Prosecution for Cat-Shooting in Gardiner Street, 1846

Elevation of houses in Gardiner Street, Dublin, via Europeana. The height of the houses made them, and others in adjoining Upper Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street), ideal for solicitors’ practices with family living above.
Map of new-build houses in Upper Gloucester Street, Dublin, again via Europeana. Mr Bayley’s house, No 24, can be seen in the top left hand corner, with Mr Doolan’s house, No 12 Gardiner St, at right angles to it.
A closer view.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 2 July 1846:


Mr Nicholas Doolan summoned Mr John Frederick William Bayley ‘for constant annoyance by firing an air gun, and destroying his cats.’  The parties are solicitors, and reside within a short distance of each other – one in Gardiner-street, the other in Gloucester-street.

Mr Doolan said – I find this gentleman is licensed to keep a gun – it’s an air, or, I believe, a walking-stick sort of gun.  He either allows persons to fire it, or he does so himself, much to the annoyance of all the neighbours, but more to my annoyance.  They are in the habit of shooting at the back of my house, and they killed my pet cats.

A Voice – Shoot the cat!

Mr Doolan – They not only annoyed me, but they actually destroyed all my poor little pet cats, and I can bring a woman who saw a young gentleman in Mr Bayley’s house, or Mr Bayley himself, do it.

Mr Bayley – I never did.

Mr Doolan – They shot two fine pet cats belonging to me, the second of my poor cats was shot on last Saturday week.  My servant heard the cries of the poor little creatures, and Mr Fenton sent in his servant to tell me he heard the cries of the poor pet also.

Mr Bayley – Before this case  is gone into I must object to it being heard.  The bench has no authority whatever to enter on it, and I deny the whole charge in toto

Dr Kelly – Do you say that no person on your premises fired the gun?

Mr Bayley – I do not, but I deny the whole thing altogether.Dr Kelly – Yes, but you know, every man who is annoyed can best tell where the shoe pinches.  What do you say to this matter, feeling as a gentleman ought to feel under such circumstances?

Mr Bayley – I say this – Mr Doolan is a professional gentleman, and ought to know his business.

Dr Kelly – Then as a member of one branch of the legal profession, if you hold up a brother member in this way, it is not the way I would treat, or act by a brother member of the profession to which I belong.  I ask you, as a gentleman, will you put an end to the annoyance?

Mr Bayley – I will not undertake anything in this case.

Dr Kelly – Then, as a conservator of the peace, I will see what I can do in it.

Mr Doolan went on to say that on Saturday week last one of his little pet cats was shot; he heard the cries of the little creature.  Mr Fenton sent in his servant to tell him (witness) and he brought the body of the little animal; life was quite extinct; he went into defendant’s house on Monday, and told him of the matter; defendant said he knew what witness was about and –

Mr Bayley – No, I did not.

Mr Doolan said he addressed the defendant, and hoped he would give him redress by telling him who did it; he (Mr Doolan) knew that Mr Bayley did not do it himself, but he hoped he would give him the name of the person who did so.  Mr Bayley said the name would not do any good, as the young gentleman was upwards of 100 miles from Dublin at the moment.  Witness said that was not a fair excuse, and if his (witness’s son) had done the like to Mr Bayley, he would give him up to punishment for such an act.  He had evidence to show that for the last six weeks the gun was discharged very often during the day, but he could not tell the hand that fired it; Mrs Doolan, who was in a very delicate state of health, was dreadfully annoyed at the conduct of the parties alluded to, and, in fact, the inhabitants of the whole house were in great danger.

Dr Kelly asked defendant if he would give an assurance that the annoyance should be discontinued.

Mr Bayley – I will not give any assurance whatever.

Dr Kelly – Then I will take informations against the young man in your house, and have him brought before me on a warrant.  It is outrageous on your part to act in this manner.

Mr Bayley – I never did anything of the kind.”

Mr Doolan – Dr Brady told me his children were in great danger in consequence of the constant shooting.

Dr Kelly – Exhibit your informations before me, summon the young man whose name is unknown, and summon Mr Bayley as a witness here on Friday next, and if the party whose name is unknown refuses to appear, I will have him apprehended on a warrant.

Mr Bayley said he would attend without a summons.

The parties then retired.”

There is no further reference to the case, so it may have settled, hopefully with an apology from Bayley Junior. Mr Bayley lived at 24 Upper Gloucester Street and Mr Doolan at 12 Lower Gardiner Street, and you can see the proximity of their respective premises on the map above.

Mrs Doolan appears to have died not long after, as there is a record of Mr Doolan’s remarriage in 1850 to Alicia, widow of Richard Howard, of Nenagh. Mr Doolan must have been an animal lover, since there is a previous record of him having brought, in February 1839, a private prosecution against a hackney car boy for cruel treatment of his horse. The case made the newspapers when it was discovered that the boy’s income was a scant few shillings a week.

Hard times for children… and animals!

The Queen of the Fairies, 1844

From the Cork Examiner, 22 April 1844:

“We copy from the Kilkenny Journal the following extraordinary case tried on Friday last, at the Kilkenny Quarter Sessions:-

Mary Neill was placed at the bar, charged with having obtained a gown and shawl from Catherine Muldowney, under false pretences, with intent to steal.

Catherine Muldowney examined by Mr Purcell, deposed that she now lives at the butts, but in the month of December last, resided in Sir Wheeler Cuffe’s lodge.  One day in that month a woman called at the lodge, and asked witness for a drink of water; there was a man in the house, and witness desired her little daughter to give the woman a drink of milk; the stranger then said it was a pity to see such decent people living in a hole of a place like the lodge, and said if witness would give her some money she would put her in the way of getting great riches, for she (the stranger) was the Queen of the Fairies.

Witness said she had no money; but brought the best gown and shawl in her possession and presented them to the weird woman, who then informed witness that she (the woman skilled in the black art) was her (witness’s) father-in-law, who had been dead for many years; she or he, for it thus appeared that the vision from fairy land was of a sort of mixed or neuter sex, had been elected Queen of the ‘good people’ and now made it a constant practice to watch over the witness’s family and shield them from all impending dangers (laughter).

Here the witness, who appeared to be in a very nervous state, burst into tears; and the Barrister told her not to be frightened for she was now surrounded by anything but good people (laughter).

Witness went on to say that her female father-in-law then squeezed her hand and bursting into tears told her that her (the father-in-law’s) soul was suffering dreadfully for the good acts which she was doing for the witness’s family; but for witness to get up in the night, after taking her first sleep, and she would then find a bag of gold at the foot of the bed; she was to get her husband to empty the bag where it had been found, to bring some of the gold to a Priest and have some masses said for the repose of the poor father-in-law’s soul; the fairy-woman said it would have been worse for the witness if she did not give the gown and shawl, for the next morning she would find them full of silks and other valuable articles, lying at the stump of a certain tree in the demesne (laughter). 

Her fairy Majesty also directed witness to get up at six o’clock in the morning, and she would find on the dresser a bottle containing some of the very identical nectar which the good people themselves drink at their merrymakings; her being a teetotaller need not prevent her tasting this delicious beverage, for it was a compound which even Father Mathew himself might drink with comfort to his body, and profit to his soul. 

The strange visitant further affirmed that there was a ‘passage of the fairies’ through the house, and only that she stood in the breach and kept constant watch and ward, the witness’s little girl would have been spirited away by the good people, and her husband would have received a fairy dart in the right hip, which would have rendered him totally useless to her (great laughter); witness was dreadfully frightened; but the fairy woman having packed up the gown and shawl, drew the sign of the cross on her forehead, told her not to be afraid, for she (witness) would have cause to remember her long after that day (laughter) and requested that she would be praying all night that she (the Queen of the good people) might get safe over the hills on her journey to Fairyland (continued laughter); and, having departed, she never returned with the shawl, the gown, or the promised treasure; the prisoner was not the fairy-woman, but witness met her (prisoner) about a week after the visit of the ‘Queen’, and recognised her shawl and gown upon her, so she immediately gave her in custody of the police.

To the Barrister – No one was by during the conversation between the fairy and witness, the former having previously directed that the little girl should be put outside the house.

The Barrister said that the Queen was quite right in giving such directions, for if the child had been left within, she would have laughed her mother out of being humbugged.

Cross-examined by Mr Hyland – When witness’s husband came home she told him that the Queen of the Fairies had been with her, and would make them all great people, he only laughed at it, and called her a fool.  She believed the fairy woman was at that time in the family way; witness was in that way too, and the ‘queen’ gave her some powders to take, and told her they would make her give birth to a fine red-headed boy (loud laughter); her husband would not let her take the powders,  The ‘Queen’ was a clean snug looking woman, about 30 years of age, and wore a brown cloak.  Witness never got the silks, bottle or bag of gold, but Sir Wheeler Cuffe has given her a bag of another description, as he has turned her out of the lodge.

Sub-Constable James Fogarty proved to have arrested the prisoner with the clothes of the prosecutix on her.

Mary Lalor, for the defence, was examined by Mr Hyland.  She at first refused the book, as she was in the family way, but the barrister having assured her she might safely swear without having a ‘red headed boy’, unless she had a particular penchant for an offspring with a head of that colour, she allowed herself to be sworn, and deposed that in the month of November last a woman lodged in her house, who she afterwards discovered went by the name of the ‘Fairy Queen,’ but to witness she had alleged that she was only a dealing woman.  One night the fairy woman came home, and said she had got a gown and shawl, which she produced, from a woman on the Dublin road, in exchange for some sponges in which she dealt; next day she pawned the gown and shawl, and in a few days after she sold the tickets to the prisoner, who was lodging in witness’s house, but did not seem to have any connection with the other.   

According to Mary Lalor, The ‘Queen’ was a well-looking woman, about 30 years of age, was in the family way, and wore a brown cloak.  The prisoner was living with witness some weeks, and appeared to be a decent honest creature.

Mr Hyland said the indictment had not been sustained against the prisoner, and there was no evidence of an connection between her and her elfin Majesty.

The Barrister, in charging the jury, said he was astonished that such monstrous credulity as the prosecutrix had displayed, could exist in any Christian country, much more in the neighbourhood of a city which was usually esteemed as the Athens of Ireland; it was indeed most wonderful that even the education which the lower orders receive did not fortify them stronger against superstition; and as the woman was so exceedingly weak and nervous, it was very fortunate she had not been led into some serious scrape through the articles of the imposter.  However, if the jury believed the evidence of the last witness, the prisoner was not implicated in the crime, with which she had been charged, and they were, therefore, accordingly bound to acquit her.

The jury retired, and returned a verdict of not guilty.”

In mid-19th century rural Ireland, members of the Law Library known as ‘Assistant-Barristers’, sat as part-time judges in rural criminal and civil cases which today would be dealt with by the Circuit Court.

Eagle-eyed readers may note the reference to ‘the first sleep.’  It was normal in those days for people to go to bed early, have an initial sleep and then do some light housework, reading or other forms of relaxation before engaging in a further one.  Perhaps this contributed to the high birth rate?

As for the ‘Queen of the Fairies’, a woman going by this name features in several news reports throughout the 1840s, travelling through the British Isles obtaining clothes and money by similar means to the above, but managing to avoid apprehension.  Eventually, in 1849, her fairy wings let her down and she was indicted for theft of a pair of boots at Sandycove, having told the owner of the boots that she was ‘on the road to Paradise.’  A detour ensued to the Dublin Criminal courts, where the woman, Margaret Byrne, was sentenced by Judge Crampton to six months’ hard labour.  There are no more reports of her fairy magic.

Image Credit

Humorists of the Irish Bar, and the Serjeant who thought he was a Rabbit, 1800-1931

The young John Philpot Curran, via Wikimedia Commons.

From the Derry Journal, 2 January 1931 (previously published in the Cork Examiner):



Since the jolly old days when a briefless but witty barrister, at a dinner in Dublin, thus addressed a pompous but utterly unhumorous Judge – What a curious reversal of the laws of Nature, my Lord; it is that while you have risen to the top of your profession by your gravity, I have fallen to the bottom of it by my levity.’ there has been humour at the Irish Bar. Curran bubbled over with humour, though fastidious critics might say that most of his effusions were witticisms. The distinction between wit and humour is very fine – indeed super-fine. Wit, they tell us, comes from the head- humour from the heart; and they also contend that while wit is a play upon words, humour is the deeper faculty of seeing the surprise which breaks the monotonous routine of human life.


At any rate, here are examples of the great advocate’s amusing scintillations, whether they be characterised as ‘wit’ or ‘humour’.

One day the Liffey was flooded, and the hall and dressing rooms of the Four Courts streamed with water. Curran had a motion to make at the sitting of the Court, and he seized the first wig and gown he could lay his hands on – they were rather saturated.

Well, Mr Curran’ said the Judge. How do you feel this morning? ‘Swimmingly, my lord,’ promptly replied Curran. When he was challenged by Lord Clare to fight a duel, Curran in his answer said, ‘As you are six feet, and I am only five feet five inches, chalk my height on your body, and I promise not to fire above.’

Norbury hated Curran and always tried to snub him. On one occasion, when Norbury kept fondling a big dog of his while Curran was speaking, the advocate abruptly stopped. ‘Please go on, Mr Curran’ said Norbury. ‘Excuse me, my Lord,’ said Curran. ‘I thought you were in consultation with your learned friend.’ We can imagine the expression of Norbury’s face at hearing these words.

John Toler, Lord Norbury, Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas between 1800 and 1827, via the National Gallery of Ireland.

On another occasion, Norbury remarked, on a reference to a law book by Curran: ‘I fear you have not that work in your library, Mr Curran.’ ‘I have very few books in my library, my lord,’ said Curran. ‘But the contents of these books are in my head. Your Lordship has a big library, but their contents remain in the books, not in your Lordship’s head.’

Perhaps the most daring insult (under the mask of wit) that Curran ever offered to the miserable Judge was his comment on Norbury’s shake of the head while Curran was addressing the jury: ‘Never mind his Lordship shaking his head, gentlemen of the jury, for there is nothing in it.’

I have deliberately used the words ‘miserable Judge’ for Lord Norbury was the Judge who tried Robert Emmet and sentenced him to death. As for Curran, he was one of Ireland’s bravest sons, for during the period when he defended the United Irishmen, he ran the risk every night, on his way home from court, of being shot by the anti-Irish assassins of these dreadful days of intolerance.

I gladly pass on to a later day.

Serjeant Armstrong, who once thought he was a rabbit and tried to eat his hat. He went on to a successful practice.


I had not been long called to the Bar when Isaac Butt and Serjeant Armstrong appeared on opposite sides before the Master of the Rolls. The Serjeant was the counsel engaged by a charitable society, and he adopted an unusually sanctimonious tone. ‘Well’ said Butt, ‘I’ve heard of a converted coal-porter and a converted cobbler and even a converted hangman, but I’ve never before heard of a converted serjeant.’ Serjeant Armstrong (who was the terror of every witness he cross-examined) had very little humour in his composition. His custom was to ask a witness who posed as innocent or respectable, how often he had been in jail; if the person giving evidence happened to be a woman whose reputation was at stake, how many acts of immorality she had committed. The Serjeant, who was nearly thirty stone in weight, suffered from dyspepsia, from an acute attack of which he became temporarily deranged, and one of the crazes was that he was a rabbit – a craze which led him to make a hole in the middle of his hat, through which, incredible as it may seem, he attempted to jump. It is gratifying to know that this powerful Irish advocate recovered his intellectual powers, and after the attack made a large income at the Bar.


There must be a few barristers still living who remember Denis Caulfield Heron. He too, was a serjeant-at-law. It is an interesting fact to printers as well as to jurist that in referring to police-sergeants the word ‘sergeant’ is always spelled with a ‘g’, whereas in referring to serjeant-at-law it is always spelt with a ‘j’.

Heron had a propensity for making puns. He may have read Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’ and seen in that most enjoyable book the great lexicographer’s by no means infallible view that ‘the man who would make a pun would pick a pocket’. But, if so, this incorrigible legal punster could not overcome a habit which had become for him ‘a second nature.’

An Introduction to the History of Jurisprudence’ by Serjeant Heron. Now available in Kindle!

In a case where a Catholic was induced to change his creed by proselytisers, by a plentiful supply of rashers, Heron said to the jury ‘Here is an instance of a man selling his soul for greasy bacon.’ In an action for breach of promise by a young woman against a man who broke his engagement to enter a religious order, as her name happened to be Elizabeth or (familiarly) Bessie, Heron, who was counsel for the plaintiff, said, in opening the case: ‘He meant, by breaking his promise to say to her – Don’t be a silly Bessy, for I now prefer celibacy. Could a more forced pun be imagined? It almost deserves the Johnsonian criticism.


One of the rising young lawyers in the Free State not long since referred to the curious comment on a legal argument: ‘That capsizes my intellect,’ as originating from Mr Tim Healy, former Governor-General. But I can personally vouch for the fact that the words were first used by the late Lord Justice Barry. I had myself the honour of arguing a case before the Irish Court of Appeal, where I quoted some very old decisions from ancient volumes, and Lord Justice Barry pulled me up by exclaiming: ‘Well, that certainly capsizes my intellect.’

Lord Justice Barry, popularly known as ‘Charlie’.


Humour is not dead among Irish barristers. But we are less spontaneous now – perhaps less reckless too. In duelling days, barristers as well as professional duellists, did not hesitate to order ‘Pistols for two and coffee for one.’

The story told of a military officer might, in the eighteenth century, be told of a few fire-eating members of the Bar. An innkeeper while counting the change of a guinea thus ‘One, two, three, four,’ suddenly heard a shot and a groan and paused to say ‘Oh, poor Captain – the Lord be merciful to him.’

As we know, O’Connell killed d’Esterre in a duel. Shortly before the Liberator’s time a barrister boasted that he ‘shot his way to a good practice in the profession.’

The law is not a study which appeals to either poets or humorists. But if the study is ‘dry,’ Irishmen, whether at the Bar or any other occupation, must find some outlet for their native mirthfulness – or, to put it in homely language, for ‘letting off steam.’”

Despite the many examples of wit given in the above piece, what really sticks in the modern mind is the account of Serjeant Armstrong trying to eat his way through a top hat in the belief that he was a rabbit.

Could this be the origin of the phrase ‘I’ll eat my hat’? If so, it is just one of many expressions introduced into the English language by the lively, irreverent and verbose Irish bar!

The Arrest of Daniel O’Connell, 1843

An image of O’Connell at the time of his arrest, from the Illustrated Penny Journal, 20 November 1880.
An image of the judges presiding over O’Connell’s 1844 trial, again from the Illustrated Penny Journal. Judge Burton is on the far left.

From the Yorkshire Gazette, 21 October 1843:


Mr O’Connell, and his son, Mr John O’Connell, have been placed in the hands of justice, under the following warrant:

‘Whereas Daniel O’Connell, of Merrion Square, in the city of Dublin, Esquire, hath been charged upon oath before me, the Honourable Charles Burton, one of her Majesty’s justices of the Court of Queen’s Bench, in Ireland, for that he did unlawfully and seditiously conspire with certain other persons unlawfully and seditiously to excite discontent and disaffection in the minds of her Majesty’s subjects, and to excite her Majesty’s subjects to hatred and contempt of the government and constitution of the realm, as by law established, and to unlawful and seditious opposition and resistance to such government and constitution, and to induce and procure divers large numbers of persons to assemble and meet together in order, by intimidation and the demonstration of physical force, to procure changes to be made in the constitution of the realm as by law established; and to excite jealousies and hatred between different classes of her Majesty’s subjects…. and also for having on different days and times unlawfully and seditiously met and assembled with divers other evil-disposed persons for certain seditious and unlawful purposes; and also, that he excited divers other persons to meet and assemble themselves together on different days and times for the like seditious and unlawful purposes; and also that he seditiously published divers malicious and seditious libels of and concerning the government and constitution of the realm as by law established; and all such other matters as shall be alleged against the said Daniel O’Connell, by her Majesty’s Attorney-General.  These are, therefore, in her Majesty’s name to command you and every of you forthwith to apprehend and bring before me… the body of the said Daniel O’Connell, that he may answer the said charge, and be further dealt with according to law.’

By the following account of the manner of the arrest, it will be seen that every possible delicacy was observed towards the parties arrested.  This was as it ought to be the end of the proceeding was to make the parties amenable to justice, and that end being secured, the officers of the crown best proved their confidence and their calmness by sparing whatever might seem harsh, insulting, or revengeful.

‘Shortly after the celebration of mass at the residence of Mr O’Connell, about half-past nine o’clock on Saturday morning, Mr Kemmis, crown solicitor, waited upon him, and presented to him a paper, intimating that the government had instituted proceedings against him on a charge of conspiracy and other misdemeanours.  The communication went on to desire that Mr O’Connell would indicate a time at which he and Mr John O’Connell should enter bail before Mr Justice Burton in £1000 each, to answer any charge that may be preferred against them by her Majesty’s Attorney-General.  After some conversation between Mr O’Connell and Mr Kemmis, who, we understand, acted with the greatest courtesy, the hour of three o’clock on Saturday was fixed upon to enter bail, at the residence of Mr Justice Burton in Stephen’s Green.  Mr Kemmis then withdrew.

At eleven o’clock on Saturday forenoon, Mr Justice Burton appeared in chamber, at the Four Courts, and remained for an hour, in accordance with his practice, to hear motions out of term.  His lordship rose at twelve o’clock and walked home.  Many persons attended in the chamber, on the supposition that some proceeding would take place in regard to the state prosecutions; but, of course, nothing was done, as the arrangement had been made for three o’clock in the afternoon.

At a quarter to three o’clock, Mr O’Connell, accompanied by John O’Connell, Esq, MP, Daniel O’Connell jun., Esq, Cornelius McLoughlin, and Jeremiah Dunn, arrived at the residence of Mr Justice Burton.  All the parties were shown into the beautifully decorated drawing room, which contains a large collection of pictures of the rarest and finest character.

Mr Pierce Mahony, as solicitor for Mr D O’Connell, and Mr John O’Connell, having called upon the Crown solicitor for copies of the information, and being refused, the following notice was served upon him: –

Pursuant to act of parliament, 6 and 7 William IV, cha 114, I hereby require and demand to have copies of the examination of the witnesses respectively upon whose depositions respectively I have been this day held to bail; and I hereby offer payment of such reasonable sums for the same as may be demanded for same.  Dated this 14th October 1843.  Daniel O’Connell.

A considerable crowd collected round the door, and Mr Kemmis and Mr Bourne, the crown solicitors, and the learned judge being now in readiness, all the parties present assembled in his lordship study.

Mr O’Connell requested to see the information upon which the warrant was issued, and having read it over, said he was ready to enter into bail to the amount required.  When he attempted to sign the recognisance, the pen was so bad that he quaintly remarked – This pen was not made for the purpose of writing.

Mr O’Connell appeared in right good spirits, and certainly presented a strong contrast to some of his kind and ardent friends around him.

The bail bonds having been duly signed and agreed to Mr Mahony handed Mr Bourne the notice set forth above.

Mr Bourne said that now the recognisances were perfected he would give copies of the information which he could not do before.

After his arrest, and the perfecting of bail, Mr O’Connell issued the following address.


Merrion Square, Oct 14, 1843

Beloved fellow Countrymen – I announce to you that which you will hear from other quarters – namely, that I have given this day bail to answer to a charge of ‘conspiracy and other misdemeanours,’ the first day of next term.  I make this announcement in order to conjure the people, one and all, to observe the strictest and most perfect tranquillity.  Any attempt to disturb the public peace may be most disastrous, certainly would be criminal and mischievous.

Attend, then, beloved countrymen, to me.

Be not tempted by anybody to break the peace, to violate the law, or to be guilty of any tumult or disturbance.  The slightest crime against order of the public peace may ruin our beautiful, and otherwise, triumphant, cause.

If you will, during this crisis, following my advice, and act as I entreat you to do, patiently, quietly, legally, I think I can pledge myself to you, that the period is not distant when our revered Sovereign will open the Irish parliament in College-green.

Every attempt of our enemies to disturb the progress of the repeal hitherto has aa directly contrary effect.  This attempt will have the same result unless it be assisted by any misconduct on the part of the people.

Be tranquil, then, and we shall be triumphant.

I have the honour to be your ever faithful servant.

Daniel O’Connell.‘”

According to the Galway Vindicator, the way in which O’Connell was treated showed how different he was from the ordinary case of conspirator, the newspaper noting that Judge Burton had not only received O’Connell with a hearty shake of the hand, but had repeated this act on saying goodbye.

The trial of Irish barrister and politician Daniel O’Connell for conspiracy did indeed take place in the Four Courts the following year, and it is thanks to this event that we have some of the most beautiful illustrations of the Four Courts of its time.  The trial was a dramatic one, with some interesting events: a large and loyal number of members of the Junior Bar attended to show their support of O’Connell, and the Attorney General, annoyed by a remark passed by opposing counsel in the course of the trial, sent a note over to him challenging to a duel (the challenge was not taken up).

O’Connell was convicted of conspiracy and spent three months in prison before his conviction was overturned by the House of Lords.  Despite much celebration on his release, the Parliament never re-opened in College Green, and he died in 1847.

The statue to O’Connell in Sackville Street, the premier street of Dublin later changed to bear his name, went up some years later.   The location was chosen because this was the way that O’Connell had walked to work in the Four Courts from his home in Merrion Square; these walks to work, accompanied by a bevy of ragged Dublin boys, known as his ‘police’, and punctuated by a daily stop outside the house of the man O’Connell had killed in a duel, were famous.  A large lamp had previously stood on the spot.

Statue of Daniel O’Connell today. Image via Wikipedia.

Damages of £1000 awarded against former Lord Mayor of Dublin for Seducing his Own Daughter, 1846

The Mansion House, Dublin, and its ‘long parlour’, where former Lord Mayor and businessman John Ladavaze Arabin was alleged by his natural daughter Mary Anne to have committed an act of incest with her in 1842. A Wicklow civil jury believed Mary Anne, awarding damages of £1000 to her mother in respect of her seduction, but no follow-up prosecution was ever brought against Arabin. Images via National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

From the Cork Examiner, 2 March 1846



The Hon Mr Justice Ball took his seat in the Record Court yesterday, at ten o’clock, and proceeded to try the following case:

Mary Carroll v Lohn Ladavaze Arabin, ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin.

This was an action brought by the plaintiff to recover compensation for the seduction of her daughter, Mary Anne Carroll.  Damages were laid at £5000, and the defendant pleaded not guilty.

Messrs Dwyer QC, Rollestone and Coates appeared as counsel for the plaintiff; and Messrs Hatchell QC, George QC, and Wall acted for the defendant for whom Mr Charles Fitzgerald acted as attorney.  Richard Walsh was attorney for the plaintiff.

Mr Dwyer stated the case, from which it appeared that in the year 1812, the defendant lived with his father at Clondalkin, in the county of Dublin, at which period he was about twenty-one years of age, and seduced the plaintiff herself, who was then a young girl residing with her father, who lived in the same neighbourhood, and he had by her three children – a son, who was born in 1818, a daughter, the girl alleged to be seduced in the present action, born in 1824, and a third child, also a female, born in 1834.  The defendant, he said, reared this family well and respectably, and educated his elder daughter in the best manner up to the year 1842, when he also seduced her from the paths of virtue, and had a child by her in 1842.  The learned gentleman, in conclusion, said he would prove these facts by the unfortunate girl herself, and read a number of letters which were written by Mr Arabin to her.

Mary Anne Carroll – examined by Mr Rollestone – I am daughter to the plaintiff; my mother lives in Bride Street, and has lived there for four years; we lived there in 1842, during the summer, at the time the occurrences took place, and we lived before that in French Street and previously in Cumberland place, my father is John L Arabin, the defendant; I saw him at my mother’s place, he always came wherever we were; my mother kept no servant in Bride Street, in 1842; I had a brother and one sister; he is older and she is younger than I am; I went to school to Miss Lord’s in Stafford Street and to Mrs Allen’s in Stephen’s Green; my father paid for my education.  I used to do the work in my mother’s house; my father wanted me to be a boarder at Miss Lord’s; but my mother did not wish it, and I was only sent as a day scholar; my father had a country house at Corkagh, near Clondalkin; I was often there, whenever I went to the country he used to bring me into down in his car; He often brought me from Clare-Street to my mother’s when it was late, it was his own house in Clare Street, and his brother the counsellor lived in it; I was frequently in that house; I remember making an appointment with my father, there, in the year 1842; I appointed to meet him in Sackville St, or a little street off Sackville St, the name of which I forget; he made that appointment in my mother’s house; my father did not tell me what he wanted with me, for he often met me and brought me to Harvies, on Wellington Quay, and other places.  I met him, according to the appointment, about five o’clock in the evening; it was summer time; my father was in the house when I arrived; he was in the parlour, and he brought me up to the drawing room; we had some conversation there, I forgot what it was; I don’t remember much what he said or did on that occasion; he told me I was his own property, and he could do what he liked with me; he did do what he liked with me; no man ever acted to me as he did on that occasion before or since; I had a child by my father, which is alive; my mother has it; she is in this town; my father told me not to tell anybody what had occurred, and he sent me home in a car; I often saw my father after that; I was never in that house again with him, but he was in a house afterwards with me and treated me in the same way; he was very sorry for what occurred.  He used to call me Mary and Polly; he frequently gave me money, and always gave me presents of money both before and after this transaction until lately, he often wrote to me since the seduction took place, but never before it (the witness here identified the several unsigned letters, which were read by counsel, and swore they were in her father’s handwriting); the child I had by my father was a female; he often saw it and nursed it; I never spoke to him about providing for the child; upon my oath my father is father of that child.

Cross examined by Mr Hatchell – It was in the house or cottage in Bride Street that I was delivered with the child; it will be three years old next June; no one was present at my confinement but my mother and a nurse, named Byrne;  I went to Glasnevin about a year ago, Mr Murphy, the landlord of the cottage in Bride-St, took it for me; my father gave me £2 10s to go to a cottage at Harold’s Cross- but Mr Murphy took the cottage for me at Glasnevin, and when I told my father what it was it cost, he said it was too much, and was very angry;  Mrs Barry came to live with me in Glasnevin, we lived there for three months; I let her part of the house to enable me to pay the rent.  I went by the name of Mrs Thompson in Glasnevin and also at my mother’s since I was confined.  I saw Dr Barry at the cottage; he was a doctor, but he was not Mrs Barry’s husband, for she was not married; I knew from Mrs Barry that Dr Barry was not her husband; a man named Thompson never came to that house with me, no gentlemen came to me but Doctor Barry brought gentlemen and used to take tea with them; they also drank punch but had no suppers or dinners, he went home very night.  I think I had left school at the time I went to the house off Sackville Street; I am certain of it; it was not found out that I was with child for a long time not for four or five months, I then told my mother; upon my oath my father never asked me who was the father of this child; I did not say it was a young gentleman in Harcourt Street, and that I was sworn not to tell; I told my mother my father was the father, she was very angry with me, and treated me very badly after I told her; she has the child, and is very fond of it.  The child was christened in Westland Row, in my presence, in the chapel, Jemima Arabin, my mother was present; the christening took place in about a month or so after it was born, my father gave me £1 to get the child baptised.  I walked to the house in Sackville Street, where I saw my father, I also saw a servant woman, I don’t know if I would know the house again; I never went to see it since and was never there before; I don’t know how long I was in the house; I was never in any other bad house.  I often walked on the Canal, and on the Circular Road, and in Merrion Square (laughter) I went there to see the band; my mother often sent me to the defendant to get money from him.

 I was never turned out of the Clare Street house; he never turned me out of the Mansion house last year when he was Lord Mayor, but he insulted me.  I never complained of his having turned me out of any house; the defendant insulted me in the mansion house in the big, long parlour; he never turned my mother out; upon my oath he never sent my mother to Kilmainham for annoying him (letter produced) that is not in my handwriting.

Mr Hatchell QC proceeded to address the jury for the defence.  He stigmatised the entire case as a foul and malicious conspiracy, got up by a party behind the screen to wreak upon the defendant vengeance for something he had done towards him, or supposed to have done.  In fact, however, he was prepared to show that the plaintiff was nothing more than a tool in the hands of others.  The defendant however might safely rely upon the case for the prosecution, call upon the jury for a verdict, but he would not be satisfied without showing his perfect innocence of the crim imputed to him, for he was enabled under Providence, to remove all imputation from his character that he never was the debaucher of his own child.  The case, if true, would have been tried before a Dublin jury, but it was not, and why not? Because all the parties were well known there.  He did not and could not deny that when a young man he had formed a connection with the plaintiff – lived with her and had some children by her amongst whom was Mary Anne, but he repudiated the atrocious allegation that he was her seducer.  The learned gentleman then proceeding to read a great number of threatening letters from the plaintiff to the defendant accusing him of infidelity towards her in which she threatened to expose him to the public but she never in any one of these documents insinuated in the slightest way his having acted towards her daughter in the manner she sought by her case to establish.

Mr Justice Ball charged the jury and in doing so desired them to weigh well the evidence and both sides and consider if they could fairly find a verdict and damages for the plaintiff upon it, after the admission and testimony which went to show the case to be an attorney’s action and that that attorney was influenced by bad feelings towards the defence.  He said that the plaintiff herself also appeared enraged against the defendant, and it was therefore for their consideration if her story was worthy of credit, when in all her letters threatening the defendant she never once alluded to the alleged seduction of her daughter which most probably, she would have spoken of if true. These were the principal considerations in the case, independent of which it would be necessary to consider if there were not inaccuracies already shown to exist, if other witnesses might not have been examined if well founded, and whether it was possible that the defendant could be so based and degraded as to have an incestuous connection with his own child, for he did not attempt to deny his parentage.

The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff – £1000 damages and 6d costs.”

The status of John Ladavaze Arabin as Lord Mayor of Dublin during the Famine is frequently referenced, albeit without reference to the above extraordinary case involving allegations of incest committed by him in the Mansion House during his mayoralty.

An action for seduction was an action brought by a parent of a child who had been seduced, for loss caused by the seduction; hence the reference in Mary Anne’s examination in chief to her having done the work in her mother’s house.

Arabin subsequently obtained an order for a new trial from the Court of Queen’s Bench, on the basis that the baptism of Mary Anne’s daughter Elizabeth had not been sufficiently proven.  The document submitted on his behalf in support of the application for a new trial included affidavits from third parties alleging that Mary Anne Carroll was of bad character, and disorderly; it also, somewhat inconsistently, alleged that he might not, after all, be her father. 

A settlement was subsequently reached between Arabin and Mary Carroll whereby he agreed to settle on the latter a sum equivalent to the damages awarded in her favour.  Mr Arabin’s bankruptcy in the following decade may have been due to this settlement, legal costs or perhaps simply business losses due to the Famine.  He married in 1848 and died of an asthma attack in 1863.  Mary Anne also appears to have married in the same year as the proceedings above, but nothing is known of her fate, or that of her daughter Jemima.   

Although incest between father and daughter was certainly a crime in 1846, no prosecution was ever brought against Arabin – possibly because of the view taken by Judge Ball, or because of his status as former mayor, or a combination of the two.  He did however resign as a judge of the Court of Conscience ( a court for the recovery of small debts, presided over by non-lawyers) shortly after the verdict.