Mr Bushe BL Elopes, 1885

From the Weekly Freeman, 5 June 1886:


Mr. Gerald Brooke applied to have his marriage annulled in consequence of [his wife’s] infidelity with Mr. Seymour Bushe, barrister, Dublin… on Friday, 3rd October 1885, unfortunate unpleasantness arose about a comparatively insignificant tiff about a pet dog—at which the lady announced her intention of going to the house of Mr. Brooke’s mother… Mr. Brooke endeavoured [to] prevent her, but persuasion was of no avail, and having regard to the hysterical turn of mind she had manifested lately, he had been advised by medical men not to oppose her beyond a certain point. 

The lady directed the groom to drive an altogether different direction, when they came to the junction of Nassau-Street and Grafton-Street, she complained that she was cold and said she would take a cab… [she] told the cabman to drive to the residence of Mr. Bushe, a man of very great eminence at the Junior Bar, [and] stayed there all night. The next morning Mr. Bushe and Mrs Brooke departed by rail for Belfast and were next found on board a vessel to Glasgow, travelling under names always beginning with B. probably to correspond with the initial on their luggage…

The general feeling – justly or otherwise – was that the impressively-mustachioed Mr Bushe, who had been charming judges, solicitors and barristers alike since his call to the Irish Bar six years earlier, had been taken advantage of by the older and more experienced Mrs Brooke, whose temper was described somewhat unkindly in the subsequent criminal conversation case against Bushe as ‘incompatible with the comfort of married life.’

Kathleen Brooke was the daughter of the famous photographer Clementina Hawarden, who sadly died at a young age due to excessive inhalation of the chemicals used in her work. In the above photograph of her as a child, she looks sweet but extremely strong-willed. The timing of her fatal visit to Bushe is interesting. The 3rd October 1881 was towards the end of the legal vacation, and probably if she hadn’t acted when she did there would have been no hope of any elopement for the next ten months.

As it was, Bushe lost three years of work. By 1888, however, he was back in practice, and by the following year was featuring as frequently in reports of cases as he had done in 1885, receiving instructions from a wide variety of solicitors and clients. It helped that he had had the sense to allow judgment in default to be given against him in the criminal conversation trial, thereby minimising exposure of the more salacious details.  It also helped that he immediately paid off the £1000 in damages awarded to Brooke and married Kathleen Brooke as soon as her divorce came through in 1886.

In fact, not only did Bushe take silk not long after his return to the Bar, but almost every one of his greatest legal successes lay ahead, and newspaper records show that, while also practising occasionally in England and Wales, he continued to maintain a busy practice in the Four Courts until just before the beginning of the First World War. If not entirely unscathed (as Joyce famously remarked, he never became a judge), he seems to have weathered the scandal better than one would expect in the era of Parnell.

Whether or not, like his predecessor, he found his spouse’s temper incompatible with the comfort of domestic life goes unrecorded!

Image Credit (left)(right)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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