Midlands Circuit Judge Throws Himself Between Combatants to End Free Fight in Boyle Court, 1907

The old Courthouse, Boyle, Co Roscommon, via Buildings of Ireland

From the Evening Herald, 15 October 1907:

“While his Honor County Court Judge Wakely was revising the voters’ list in Boyle Courthouse yesterday a wild scene of tumult took place. George W Tully was after being examined in support of his claim for a vote, and on leaving the witness table he deliberately struck Arthur O’Connor two blows on the face with his clenched fist. Mr O’Connor retaliated, and a wild scene of riot ensued. The audience was composed of the supporters of Mr Jasper Tully and the supporters of the Parliamentary Party. As if the attack was pre-arranged, both parties rushed at each other, and fierce fighting took place all over the Court.

His Honor cried, ‘Order, order.” The police rushed between the combatants, and tried to separate them, but owing to the confined area in which the fight took place they were handicapped, and the riot continued till the parties on either side showed signs of exhaustion. His Honor from the Bench cried, ‘Shame, shame,’ but this had no effect, and he left his seat and threw himself between the parties, who were fighting and struggling all over the place, encouraged by the wild shouts and cries of their supporters, who could not join in the fray.

Eventually order was to some extent restored, but many of the combatants bore visible signs of the fierceness of the struggle. Mr Jasper Tully’s face was covered with blood, which ran from a deep cut over the eye. His face also presented a bruised appearance. His Honor, when he could make himself heard, said – Gentlemen of Boyle, I am ashamed of you. I never thought you would conduct yourselves in such a manner in a court of mine’ (cries of ‘It was Tully’s fault’).

This photograph of Jasper Tully at Westminster a decade prior to the above incident, via the National Portrait Gallery, demonstrates that the combatants in the above fight were men of mature years.

Mr Jasper Tully appealed to his Honor against Patrick O’Connor, who went near kicking the eye out of him.

Mr O’Connor – It was George and yourself commenced the row?

Mr Jasper Tully – My lord, look at the state of my eye (laughter).

His Honor – ‘Order, order.’ He then asked the head constable who was responsible for such a disgraceful scene (cries of ‘Tully, Tully’ and cheers and counter cheers).

Acting-Sergeant McGarry was sworn by his Honor, and swore he saw George Tully strike Arthur O’Connor twice on the face with his clenched fist.

His Honor – I sentence George Tully to a weeks imprisonment for contempt of court.

Mr Jasper Tully – What about O’Connor?

His Honor – Who was that man I saw struggling so violently in the seat?

Acting Sergeant – Alfred – O’Connor.

His Honor – I also sentence him to a week’s imprisonment.

Before the Court adjourned, his Honor again referred to the scene, and expressed the pain it was to him to witness such a disgraceful scene in the court over which he presided. He altered the sentence on Tully and O’Connor to a fine of £2 each, and hoped the matter would end at that.

Our reporter wires that the wildest scenes of tumult occurred in Boyle last night. The police were kept busy separating contending parties, and the town was in a very disturbed condition.”

Boyle Courthouse was not the only legal temple of justice to echo to the sound of fist meeting MP’s cheekbone. A fistfight in the Round Hall of the Four Courts, immediately in front of the statue of the late Lord Chief Justice Whiteside, resulted in a black eye for Mr Matthew Kenny MP in 1893.

Judge Wakely, from Edenderry, was the first Circuit Court judge on what later became the Midlands Circuit. Michael Byrne, solicitor, has written a wonderful post about him, and his successors on that Circuit, available to read here.

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