A Stolen Judicial Lunch Goes Viral, 1912

From the Derry Journal, 21 February 1912:


Luncheon was spread in his private chamber in the Four Courts, Dublin, for Judge Kenny, when, about 1.30 p.m., a tramp entered and lost no time in helping himself to his lordship’s meal.

The Judge’s attendant on entering found this audacious visitor in the act of pouring out a cup of tea for himself.  The attendant promptly seized him, and brought him out into the passage adjoining the chamber, leaving the culprit there while he sought a policeman.  On the attendant returning, reinforced by a constable, there was no one to arrest.

The intruder had vanished, nor could a vigorous search reveal his whereabouts or the way by which he entered or escaped.

Coming as it did at a time of general media fascination with judges’ midday meals, the theft made the international media as far away as Portland, Oregon. English newspapers of the period regularly chronicled the preferred luncheons of the English bench, which varied from liver and bacon (Lord Eldon) to beefsteak and oysters with two bottles of port (Lord Stowell) to sweet-toothed Baron Pollock’s cup of hot chocolate and a biscuit.

In contrast, the only source of information about the contents of pre-1922 Irish judges’ repasts is a report in the Dublin Daily Express of 3 April 1907 that Lord Chief Justice O’Brien’s bag, when recovered after being lost on the way to the Dublin Assizes, contained a quarter of a chicken and two roast apples.

There was a lot of poverty in Dublin in 1912, and the thief may simply have been hungry. Hopefully Judge Kenny did not begrudge his stolen lunch!

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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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