The Litigant who became a Barrister, 1853

From Saunders’ Newsletter, 3 July 1853:

“The spectator in the Hall of the Four Courts may, if it pleases, sometimes see, in his costume, a tall, portly looking young man whose history is about as romantic as that of any learned gentleman in the Four Courts.

Mr Wall… before his admission to the Bar… was remarkable for a monastic disposition.  His confessor was a Franciscan friar.  He had frequently heard him speak of the excellence of his order, and been commended by him to attach himself to it… the preliminary requisite… was, that he should take a vow of holy poverty, and assign to trustees all his property, to be applied by them for a charitable purpose…

Mr Wall, being under the conviction that he was in all things bound to obey the reverend gentleman… was duly admitted to the Convent for Irish Franciscan Friars in Rome… He soon discovered that there was a marked difference between theory and practice… the Franciscan friars were not the austere and rigid old gentlemen that they had been represented to him to be. They had no very ungallant partiality for the rules of chastity, and as for poverty and abstinence they did not possess for them as many attractions as a well-filled purse or a good round of beef…

He took the liberty of remonstrating with the heads of his fraternity on their gross departure from their laws, but he was very soon told: ‘Away, thou troublest me – I am not in the vein.’ Mr Wall wrote to the Pope himself, but his Holiness treated him with silence…

In all probability this most troublesome devotee would have been thrown into the dungeons of the Inquisition, had not the [1848] Revolution broken out in Rome… Mr Wall… was released from his confinement.  He returned to Dublin, and… applied to a convent in that city to admit him, but he was refused admission on the grounds that he had not completed the preliminary course in Rome. 

His adherence to principle had reduced him to a condition of very great poverty… a lawyer… advised him to file a bill to set aside the deed under which he [had] surrendered his property for the purposes of the Church, on the grounds of fraud and undue influence… but as his means did not admit him to carry on the suit with sufficient rapidity, an application was made to dismiss for want of prosecution

The case came before the Master of the Rolls.  His Lordship refused to dismiss the bill, and granted the order sought by the cross-notice, giving liberty to Mr wall to sue in forma pauperis, and assigning to him counsel and solicitor, the result of which was, that last term, the case was put down for hearing, and the Lord Chancellor made a decree declaring that the deed was void ab initio

Mr Wall appears disposed to pursue the legal profession, and being learned and studious may make it profitable; at all events it seems that he has swallowed a very considerable dose of the Franciscan Order, and is quite resolved to keep aloof from the fraternity.

Mr Wall ended up a very popular Dublin magistrate, living in… you’ve guessed it… Monkstown!

More about his subsequent career, filled with excitement and romance, here.

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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