The Misfortunes of Judge Linehan’s Criers, 1913-29

The Old Courthouse, Dungannon, where Mr Ree was locked in in 1913, via Wikimedia Commons.

From the Mid-Ulster Mail, 7 June 1913:

“Mr Robert Ree, County Court Judge Linehan’s crier, met with an unfortunate accident in Dungannon on the afternoon of the 4th.  It seems that the business of the quarter sessions was adjourned early in the afternoon, and the officials hurried off to the Dungannon Agricultural Show, with the result that Mr Ree, after settling up the judge’s papers, found that he was locked inside the courthouse.  There is no interior connection with the caretaker’s apartments beneath the courthouse, but he attracted the attention of passer’s -by, and a ladder was brought and placed against one of the upper windows.  Unfortunately, Mr Ree turned to close the window before descending the ladder, with the result that he overbalanced and fell into the area.  He was promptly removed to the Northland Arms Hotel, and was attended to by Surgeon Marmion, JP.  It was found that his face was much cut and bruised, but fortunately he had escaped more serious injury.”

No better luck attended the judge’s replacement crier, Mr Edward Murphy, who was unfortunate enough to meet his death in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916. According to the Mid-Ulster Mail of 13 May 1916, Mr Murphy had been passing through St Stephen’s Green on Easter Tuesday, 9th May, when, opposite the Unionist Club, he waved his hand in salute to an acquaintance at a window.  He was immediately fired at by a rebel sniper and killed.

The Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, formerly the Unionist Club, Stephen’s Green, Dublin, opposite which Mr Murphy met his death in the Rising of 1916, via Google Maps

On the 10th June, Judge Linehan, in addressing the Tyrone Grand Jury, expressed his satisfaction that the county had been free from the dreadful occurrences which had marked many parts of the country. He referred to the valuable lives lost during Easter Week and particularly that of Mr Murphy, stating that he felt his loss deeply and tendered his sincere sympathy to his widow and family.

Judge Linehan’s next court crier, Robert Fyffe, survived until 1929.  Announcing his death at the Dungannon Quarter Sessions, Judge Linehan said that Mr Fyffe had been with him for a great number of years, and had even made an effort to come with him to Dungannon, but had been too unwell to do so.  He was sure that the court would join with him in deploring his death and sending sympathy to his daughters.

Tyrone County Court Judge Linehan KC

Judge Linehan himself died in 1935. Tributes at Castlederg Petty Sessions Court following his death described him as one of the most courteous, efficient, and conscientious judges that had ever presided at a court in County Tyrone.  Mr VP McMullin, solicitor, on behalf of the legal profession praised his wonderful courtesy and assistance and said that as an advocate at the Bar he had had a brilliant career, but his brilliancy at the bar was easily outshone by his brilliancy on the bench. 

An obituary in the Portadown Times described Judge Linehan as a native of Cork who practised in Dublin, acted as a judge in Northern Ireland, and lived in England,  noting that although almost all the old County Court judges in the Irish Free State had been dismissed, most of the current Northern Irish Bench had been appointed prior to 1919. The obituary drew attention to the fact that, like a number of other members of the bench, Judge Linehan had commenced his career as a newspaper reporter and said that there was no doubt that his early journalistic experience had given him a wide insight into human nature which he had turned into account as a judge.

All Irish judges survived the 1916 Rising, although there were concerns at one point that Mr Justice Barton might have been detained by rebels in the Four Courts, and Mr Justice Johnson’s house in Lansdowne Road was occupied by rebel troops.

The most famous legal deceased of 1916 was of course Patrick Pearse, leader of the Rising, described alternately as ‘a nominal barrister’ and ‘a barrister without briefs’ in contemporaneous accounts. The legal profession, it seemed, was somewhat anxious to disassociate itself from him – and indeed from any of its other members who had participated in the Rising – described by one newspaper as ‘Sinn Fein ornaments.’ Now Pearse’s image hangs proudly a stone’s throw from the Law Library in the Four Courts. Times change!

Tragedy and disapproval aside, the Irish legal profession appeared to have enjoyed the drama of the Rising with gripping accounts by John Cusack BL and solicitor James D Caruth appearing in the press. The restrictions on movement imposed by both sides led to some interesting interaction between certain senior lawyers – not used to being in a position of being ordered about – and both Rebel and British troops.  More to come!

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