Four Courts Bag-Carriers and the Great Robing-Room Heist, 1882

From the Freeman’s Journal, 20 October 1882:

“Maryanne Mulvey and Christopher Mulvey, “bag carriers” employed at the Four Courts, were brought up by Constables 97D and 113D charged with having stolen from one of the Four Courts’ dressing rooms, between the 7th and 15th October, a morning coat value £1, the property of Mr Jellet BL, 47 Dawson Street, a cloth vest, value £1, the property of Mr Waters, 35 Mountjoy Square, a shooting jacket, value £1, property of Mr Ingram, Fitzgibbon St, a blue cloth jacket, property of Mr Birch; a morning coat, value £5, the property of Mr Nunn, 6 Dawson St, a cloth coat, value £2, the property of Mr Hennessy, Pembroke Road, a cloth coat, value £1, the property of Mr Orpen, 48 Stephen’s Green West, a coat, value £1 5s, the property of Mr Gillmore, 1 Upper Pembroke Street, a cloth coat, value £1 5s, the property of Mr O’Flaherty, of Frederick Street, a black cloth coat, value £1 5s, the property of Mr Kilpatrick, Stephen’s Green, a cloth coat, value £1 5s, the property of Mr Kelly, Belgrave Square, Monkstown, a cloth coat, value £1, the property of Mr O’Shaughnessy, Upper Gardiner Street, a tweed trousers, value £1, property of Mr Irwin, and a number of other items… the articles had been taken from the dressing room of the Queen’s Bench.”

The charge against the Mulveys (who were husband and wife) was subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence. Perhaps a member of the Bar put in a good word for them?

It seems that, rather than a single robing room situate in the Law Library, each of the courts had their own separate dressing room below. The addresses given in this letter also show how members of the legal profession were now gravitating towards Dublin 2, rather than Dublin 1, though there remained some who clung to the old stalking-ground of Mountjoy Square. With the advent of the railway, some were even venturing further afield into the suburbs!

Bag-carriers were engaged to deliver barristers’ brief-bags, which might, if the barrister had been in court outside Dublin the previous day, also include their wig, gown and tabs. One very successful bag-to-home-and-back facility was the Legal Express, run by Messrs Edward Spring & Co, Carriers and Warehousemen, from which a large revenue was obtained..

Other bag-carriers, often from a family with a long tradition of such service, operated on a smaller scale within the Four Courts itself, transporting barristers’ bags from court to court. Demand for the inter-court service increased after 1838 when the very respected Mr Hartstonge Robinson BL dislocated his arm hurrying through the Round Hall with his brief-bag. The Sligo Champion of the day described his accident as a striking proof of the old saying that too much business is as bad as too little.

Sole trader bag-carriers, often operating without the assistance of carts and trolleys, had by far the most arduous end of the trade. Only three years after the heist above, Mrs Bridget O’Shaughnessy, of 5 Sandwith Lane, fell dead in the Hall of the Four Courts close to the entrance to what is now Court 4. She was described as a widow, in the habit of carrying briefs for members of the bar. Her time of death was 10.35 p.m., one of the busiest times of the day for the Round Hall, and her cause of death apoplexy. Perhaps she was late for court and an impatient counsel awaiting his briefs. I wish I could go back in time and tell her it is never worth getting stressed out over such things!

As the police stated that they could not move the body until an order was got from the City Coroner, Mrs O’Shaughnessy’s corpse lay for two hours on the floor surrounded by sacks, her removal only coinciding with the rising of the courts for lunch. No memorial for Mrs O’Shaughnessy – one of the legal world’s many forgotten tragedies! I hope the Mulveys fared better!

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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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