Barrister Rescues Sheep, Sued by its Owner, 1907

From the Northern Whig, 29 October 1907

“It is not the first time that trop de zele has brought trouble upon honest people.  The eagerness of Mr Robert Doyle, a member of the Irish Bar, in the cause of prevention of cruelty to animals, made him a defendant in an action for damages in the Recorder’s Court today.

Matthew Gahan, a County Wexford farmer, sent 320 sheep through Dublin to be shipped for England a few months ago.  On the way from the railway station to the inspection yard Mr Doyle saw that one of the sheep was lame, and he compelled the shepherd to take it to a police station.  Mr Gahan fetched a veterinary surgeon, who certified that the sheep was it to be removed, but not to have driven through the streets.  The owner missed the boat that evening, and the sheep had since been detained.  He sought £3.15 compensation.

The Recorder, who certainly is a minister of peace, suggested that the sheep should be taken back by the owner, and that Mr Doyle should pay the cost of its keep, a settlement which was accepted by both sides.”

Mr Doyle subsequently became King’s Counsel and, in 1913, Recorder of Galway.  An article from the Dublin Daily Express at the time of his appointment as Recorder describes him as the second son of Hugh Doyle, Registrar in Bankruptcy, and a brilliant graduate of Trinity College who had won every prize within his reach including not only almost all of the awards available to undergraduates in Classics and Law in Trinity College and the King’s Inns, but also numerous scholarships from the Middle Temple. 

The same piece also described him as:

“modest, unassuming, the soul of geniality and good-fellowship, it would be hard to find a more deservedly popular man among his brethern of the robe.  While for himself the members of the Law Library rejoice at his good fortune, their pleasure is mingled unworthily, perhaps but not unnaturally a tinge of regret for the stroke of fate which has done so much to eclipse the gaiety of the law library and impoverish the profession’s stock of harmless pleasure.”

It sounds like Mr Doyle was not only a pioneering crusader for animal welfare, but a well-regarded colleague!  As can be seen from the above photograph by RS MacGowan, sheep continued to be brought along the quays up to the 1950s and 60s. 

I hope that Mr Doyle’s sheep ended its days happily!

Image Credit

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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