Mad Cow Escapade in Chancery Street, 1856

From the Freeman’s Journal, 19 July 1856:

“Mad Cow – Serious Accident

A young lad named Dominick Roynane was brought up in custody of Police Constable John Cartin 101D, charged with incautiously driving through the streets, without proper control, a wild and furious cow, to the great danger of the public. It appears from the statement of the constable that he saw the cow, being driven from Smithfield, turn from Pill-Lane into Mountrath-Street, where she ran at a woman named Mary Quinn, who was walking on the pathway, and taking her horns, tossed her several feet into the air; the poor woman fell heavily on the pavement, and was injured to an extent that the medical testimony which was produced in court stated that her life was in danger. She lies in St. Vincent’s Hospital, whither she was taken after the occurrence. The infuriated animal then rushed down the street, making furious plunges at several persons, and others at the constable, who had a narrow escape of being taken on her horns. She then ran into Mr Busby’s premises in New Street, where the constable left her for the purpose of procuring assistance in capturing her, and when he returned he found that she had rushed into a yard on Merchant’s Quay where she was snared with rope from a window and got into a float. The constable stated that the prisoner exercised every exertion to alarm the people on the street, and save them from being injured during the progress of the cow through the street.

The Magistrate said that although the prisoner had done everything he could to prevent the accident, he was obliged, under the circumstances, to direct him to be detained in custody until the life of the woman should be declared out of danger.”

There are no reports of any further criminal proceedings against Mr Roynane, so it may be presumed that the unfortunate Ms Quinn recovered! As can be seen from a zoom over the mid-19th century map below, all this drama happened right at the back of the Four Courts.

By 1856, the south side of Pill Lane (now Chancery Street) had been incorporated into the courts but buildings on its north side remained in place. With shops on one side, it may have looked somewhat like the street in the topmost, slightly later, image.

This current map shows that a lot has changed in terms of street configuration since 1856. Mountrath Street, for instance, is now buried somewhere under Courts 25 and 26. Route-tracking suggests that, after her encounter with the unfortunate Ms Quinn, the heroine of this story ran straight down Chancery Place and across what is now O’Donovan Rossa Bridge to reach her final destination on the opposite side of the Liffey.

Despite Chancery Street having seen a few further fleet-footed escapees over the years (mostly criminals from the Bridewell erected in the vicinity), the only thing that runs along it today is the LUAS. Next time you travel through this once-famous street, keep your ears open as you pass the north-eastern corner of the Four Courts – who knows, you might even hear, through time, the echo of a wild and furious, fast and angry, unmistakeably bovine ‘Moo!’

Just watch out for those horns!

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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