An Aggrieved Apprentice, 1874

From the Freeman’s Journal, 16 December 1874:

“To the Editor of the Freeman.

SIR – Would you kindly insert the following in the interest of the grievances of attorneys’ apprentices.  The facts are briefly these:- In the second week of last month a sessional examination was held at the Four Courts to test the knowledge of the apprentices who attended the professors of law lectures during the preceding year.  No official announcement of the result has yet been afforded, and the apprentices who then went in for examination (I myself being of the number) are, comparatively speaking, left in ignorance.  Of course if any one goes into the secretary’s office he will be there informed as to the result, but we have no notice posted in that part of the solicitors’ building allotted to notices referring to solicitors’ apprentices.  Is anyone to blame for this apparent negligence?  Law students have informed me, so have medical students, that they are always officially acquainted with the results of their examinations.  Surely apprentices should take some steps to protest against such a state of things. – Yours obediently,


A prescribed course for testing the attainments of intended apprentices, and the fitness of those seeking to be admitted, had been introduced by the Incorporated Society of the Attorneys and Solicitors of Ireland in 1861, following a report of the Council of the Society. 

The 1887 Lecture Theatre.

Lectures and exams took place in the Solicitors’ Hall, Four Courts (now the Law Library), which premises were adapted in 1887 under the supervision of Alfred E Murray, Architect, to incorporate a purpose-built theatre suitable for the purposes of lectures.  All persons who have worked in the Law Library will recognise the ceiling of this theatre!

The concern of the apprentice who wrote the 1874 letter does not appear to have been that they did not receive their marks, but rather that the absence of an official posting of all marks meant that they were not able to assess their marks relative to the rest of their class. 

Accusing the Society of negligence, however, seems a bit strong.   

Of course no good deed goes unpunished, and law students are a competitive bunch, but still a few eyebrows must have been raised – no wonder that the apprentice letter-writer preferred to remain anonymous!

Image Credits: (top) (bottom)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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