Gatecrashing a Bar Meeting, 1830

As you can see from the illustrations above, Courts 1-4 as originally furnished included a handsome box (complete with coat-hooks and inkwells) specifically for the Press.

Pre-Law Library, the Courts were often used for Bar meetings and the Freeman’s Journal of 16 February 1830 contains an interesting account of one such meeting, held to discuss a threat by the magistrates of Bruff, County Limerick, to hold a Mr Croke BL in contempt of court if he continued to try to represent his client before them:

“On Saturday, there was held in the Court of Common Pleas a meeting of the members of the Bar… to vindicate the privileges of the profession, which it was said had been invaded by certain magistrates…  As the notice for this meeting was posted in the public hall of the Four Courts, it was conceived by the reporters their duty to attend it… The chair was taken by Mr William Saurin, Father of the Bar…  

As soon as a reporter was seen in the Court, there was a loud call to exclude strangers.  [When] it was asked…if there were an intention to include reporters under that designation… the meeting loudly vociferated ‘yes, yes -out, out;’ and Mr Holmes told a reporter, when he was quitting the Court, that if he liked ‘he might make a paragraph of that.’

This splendid specimen of nisi prius wit was received with a loud roar of laughter from the younglings of the bar, who were at the moment engaged in pulling each other’s wigs.”

Pulling each other’s wigs indeed – the Freeman certainly sounds peeved at its exclusion!

Mr Croke was ultimately vindicated (though he still had to emigrate to Australia, after).

Alas, the previous harmony of relation enjoyed by the Bar and the Press was never completely restored!

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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