Legal Monkeys Hire Organ-Grinders to Disrupt Judge’s Party, 1846-66

Not the actual party.

From the Derry Journal, 28 June 1909:

“The recent successful campaign against the street organ-grinders in securing that persons who disliked it should not be annoyed by street music recalls a practical joke played on a learned Judge through the medium of organ-grinders in Dublin.  Mr T.B.C. Smith, who was Irish Master of the Rolls from 1846 until 1866, a gentleman of atrabilious temperament, to whom O’Connell affixed the soubriquets of ‘Vinegar Smith’ and ‘Alphabet Smith,’ gave a musical party at his residence in Merrion Square, the invitations to which were restricted to the crème de la crème of Dublin Castle society, to the exclusion of several members of the Junior Bar with social ambitions.  The music, however, at the party of the Master of the Rolls was disturbed, and eventually stopped, by the performances outside his door of a dozen organ-grinders all playing at the same time different tunes, who indignantly refused to move on, and produced documents purporting to be written by the Master of the Rolls requesting their presence on that very evening to perform outside his door, and even naming as remuneration very handsome sums.  The writers of these bogus invitations were well known to be some of the very many members of the Junior Bar to whom the Master of the Rolls had consciously or unconsciously given offence.”

The Hon. T.B.C. Smith, Master of the Rolls and occasional victim of Irritable Judge Syndrome.

Another report in the Freeman’s Journal of 23 August 1904 suggests that the number of organ-grinders was even greater – between twenty and thirty – and that they came from Chancery Lane,  between St Patrick’s Cathedral and Christchurch Cathedral, where a colony of Italian organ-grinders flourished in the 19th century.

Alphabet Smith was without doubt irascible – he challenged opposing Counsel to a duel during the trial of Daniel O’Connell and, even before this, the Vindicator of 22 November 1843 carried a report that leeches were having to be applied to his temples to calm his nerves.   To be fair, he also suffered from chronic indigestion, which would make anyone cranky.

I suspect leeches may have been required again following this ill-fated party!

The scene of the above story, T.B.C. Smith’s house at 8 Merrion Square, today. Now the Royal Institute of Architects of ireland.

Image Credits: (top) (middle) (bottom)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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