Three Legal Men and a Baby, 1832

From the Dublin Morning Register, 27 March 1832;

“On Friday last, an infant child was picked up by a girl of the town in one of the piazzas, at the Four Courts, where women of her character are nightly accustomed to resort. She… attempted to lodge it with the watchman on the station, by whom she was taken into custody… and was brought up before three magistrates yesterday morning. [A]n application [was] made to the Mendicity [Institution] to receive the child, but… fearing the consequences of opening their establishment as an asylum for foundlings, the managers refused it admission. The churchwardens of St Michan’s were next applied to, but they could not receive the child on the parish, as the example would be fatal…

The magistrates said the child was likely to be sacrificed between the two parties, as the girl who had so innocently got it into her charge, could scarcely be expected to keep it [unpaid]… they thought it came within the denomination of “street beggar” and should be received as such by the Mendicity… and in the mean time [left] in the care of the girl [with] a small sum of money to provide for its support.”

The ‘piazza’ in which the baby was found must have been one of the passages running from the central area of the Four Courts to the eastern and western wings, originally open on both sides.

Abandonment of unwanted infants was such a common occurrence that the London Inns of Court had to set up a foundling scheme to provide for ‘exposed children’ left within its precincts. Many of the Inns of Court foundlings (all of whom were given the name ‘Temple’) did not survive infancy; some, however, were reclaimed by mothers whose financial circumstances had subsequently improved.

There is no record of any baby ever having been deposited within the precincts of the Law Library itself, but one hopes that, had this occurred, the Benchers of King’s Inns, under whose control the Library was, would have shown similar charity to their colleagues in England!

Image Credit

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

Leave a Reply