Armed Footpad Overpowered in Church Street, c. 1800

From the Freeman’s Journal, 30 January 1882:

A curious reminiscence of… old Dublin life turned up at one of the central [police] stations on Friday… [A]n old gentleman entered the station… and produced a small silver-mounted flint pistol, evidently of the last century… He said that he was most anxious to obtain a licence for the weapon, and… related the following story:-

His grandfather was a colonel in the East India Company’s service… and on his return to Dublin lent the pair of pistols he had carried for years in the East to a friend [whose] house was broken into, and the weapons stolen… The colonel’s son, the father of the recounter of the story… was a student [and] one night… was stopped by two ruffians who demanded ‘his money or his life.’ The young man overmastered one of his assailants and put the other to flight…

The highwayman begged for forgiveness, saying that [he had a wife and children in Church Street] and it was hunger that drove him to the crime… The young man said he would go to Church Street with his assailant [to see]… on reaching [there] the latter pointed out a cellar door and said ‘Let you, sir, go down and knock, as I had a little quarrel with my wife, and she might not let me in.’

As the young man descended the stairs the ruffian fired at him, wounding him in the neck. The student pursued him… brought him to the military station at the Four Courts, and gave him to the authorities. There the pistol was examined, and to the young man’s surprise he saw his father’s name engraved on it. It was one of the pistols that had been stolen years before.”

As the young man’s son was an elderly gentleman in 1882, this event must have occurred around 80 years or so previously, shortly after the opening of the Four Courts! Perhaps the ‘military station’ was associated with the Bar Militia active at the time? Or perhaps he was thinking of what is now Collins Barracks?

A romantic story worthy of Dumas or Dickens, with a feel-good ending for everyone but the highwayman*, who went to the gallows (presumably by way of Hammond Lane) the very next day!

*strictly speaking, a footpad, since he did not have a horse.

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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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