‘Briefless Junior’ Secures Life-Changing Career Success by Standing in for Senior Detained on Field of Honour, 1815

Patrick MacDowell’s statue of the former ‘briefless junior,’ Sir Michael O’Loghlen, Master of the Rolls, after the Battle of the Four Courts, 1922, via South Dublin Digital Archive.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 12 July 1922:-

“Artistic Dublin is more than anxious to learn the full fate of the superb seated statue of Sir Michael O’Loghlen, Master of the Rolls, which the Bar of Ireland erected in the Round Hall of the Four Courts. Concern for the masterpiece recalls the fact that O’Loghlen owed his first success at the bar to the duel fought between Dan O’Connell and D’Esterre. He had been called to the Bar in 1811, but for years remained almost briefless. He chanced to be junior in a case in which O’Connell was leader. O’Connell had to keep his appointment with D’Esterre in Lord Clonmell’s grounds near Naas, and was, therefore, absent when the case was called. The ‘junior’ with the very greatest trepidation had to fill the tremendous breach, for O’Connell as an advocate had no equal in his time. O’Loghlen, however, proved no mean substitute for the great forensic orator. He took the whole of his client’s case on his shoulders, and after a masterly speech, which occupied two hours, sat down with a high reputation established. He astonished Bench and Bar by his fine performance, at once sprang into a first-class practice, became Serjeant-at-Law, Solicitor and Attorney-General, a Member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland and, finally, Master of the Rolls.”

The missing statue, sculpted by Patrick MacDowell, was wrought of a single block of the purest Carrera marble, elevated on a pedestal of veined Sicilian marble bearing the following inscription in Roman characters:

“THE BAR OF IRELAND, to the memory of Sir Michael O’Loghlen, Bart, Master of the Rolls, born, 16th October 1789, died, 28th September 1842.”

Situated by the portal of the Court of Exchequer (today’s Court 3), the statue depicted its subject, the first Catholic to hold high judicial office in Ireland since 1688, in a reclining attitude beside the court in which he had first pleaded as an advocate and subsequently presided as Baron of the Exchequer before his elevation to the office of Master of the Rolls.

Barristers, prone to disagree, were unanimous as to the quality of the sculptor’s work. Not all of them, however, agreed with his choice of subject; one newspaper published a letter from ‘A Barrister of Long Standing,’ possibly of a different religious persuasion, listing other judges allegedly better fitted for commemoration in stone.

The ‘bland benevolence’ of O’Loghlen’s marble features, unshaken by such criticism, remained a prominent feature of the Round Hall for the next seventy years until its abrupt and violent beheading in the bombardment of 1922.

Whatever happened to its remains?

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