Tragic Tipstaff Death in Phoenix Park, 1905

The Phoenix Park

From the Irish News and Belfast Morning News, 9 June 1905, this sad account of the death of Mr Robert Pierson, tipstaff/crier to the Recorder of Dublin:

Yesterday at the Dublin City Commission, before the Lord Chief Justice and a jury, James Doolan, publican, Watling Street, was charged with the manslaughter of Robert Pierson, who had for some years being crier in the Recorder’s Court.Mr Seymour Bushe KC prosecuted on behalf of the Crown. Mr TM Healy KC defended.The prisoner pleaded not guilty.

Mr Bushe, in opening the case for the Crown, said that the prisoner was charged with having led to the death of Pierson on the 7th March by his negligence in driving a trap through the Phoenix Park. Between seven and eight o’clock Pierson was proceeding on bicycle up the main road of the Phoenix Park. There were other men in the defendant’s cart, and they had been out enjoying themselves that day. They were at Lucan, the Strawberry Beds and Knockmaroon. They had refreshments at most or all of these places. At 7 o’clock they left Doyle’s, of Knockmaroon and drove towards Parkgate Street. As the cart drove down the park it was not on its right side. If it had been, it would not have interfered with the bicycle.

After further evidence, the Lord Chief Justice asked what position in life the prisoner was in. Mr Healy said the prisoner had not much money, and was absolutely ignorant of what had occurred. The members of the Bar who knew the deceased had subscribed to a fund for Pierson’s family. The prisoner would be prepared to pay £50 towards the fund.

His Lordship suggested £100. He thought it was a weak case as regards criminal negligence, but there was such a thing as civil negligence. Mr Healy sad they would be prepared to pay £75 if the present and future proceedings would be stopped. The Recorder had become treasurer to the fund. The Lord Chief Justice said that the Recorder was always at the head of anything charitable.A nolle prosequi was then entered, and the prisoner was discharged.”

The Recorder himself described Mr Pierson as a most admirable and efficient officer of his court, only expressing regret that he had had no light on his bicycle given the amount of times he must have heard cycling without lights being criticised in court.

Mr Pierson had five children, and the monies raised by the Pierson Family Fund enabled them to travel with their mother to New York to live with relatives. They had already left by the date of the manslaughter hearing above. Hopefully the additional £100 received assisted them in making a new start on the other side of the Atlantic.

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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