Suffragette Stones Home of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1913

Airfield, Donnybrook, the former residence of Lord Chief Justice O’Brien, via
The Lord Chief Justice himself, via Wikipedia.

From the Derry Journal, 13 May 1913:


I’m sorry I hadn’t time to do more.  Don’t you know I’m a suffragette?” was the answer given by a woman named Mary Fisher when arrested on a charge of smashing a window in the residence at Stillorgan of Lord O’Brien, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

In his evidence in the Dublin Police Court on Wednesday, Constable O’Brien [no relation] said he saw accused enter the front gate of Lord O’Brien’s residence, and as she answered the description of a servant who caused trouble there previously, he followed her along the avenue.  When she approached the front door, she took some stones from her coat pocket and threw them through the porch window.  Accused was placed under supervision of the probation officer for three months.”

Lord Chief Justice O’Brien may have had a lucky escape!  The previous year, whilst Mr Justice Lawrence was summing up at the Old Bailey in a case in which a suffragette was charged with setting fire to the Elms, Hampton-on Thames, a hammer and a tomato were hurled towards the bench.  The hammer went through the glass partition of the dock, and fell into the well of the court, but the tomato struck Mr Bodkin, prosecuting counsel, on the shoulder and smashed over his gown.

Suffragettes were in and out of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Court throughout the period 1912-14 in respect of window smashing in the Customs House, the General Post Office and other Dublin buildings, and defacing a bust of politician and barrister John Redmond by the marking on it of broad arrows.  Mr Redmond was particularly unpopular with suffragettes; in July 1912, while travelling down Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) in a carriage with Prime Minister Asquith and his wife, he was attacked by one of them with a hatchet and was lucky to escape uninjured.

The Sackville Street attack on John Redmond had a sequel in the Dublin Police Court, but it did not involve the attacker, who successfully escaped, much to the detriment of Miss Eileen Nolan, of Newtown, Celbridge, Co Kildare, who was set on by a crowd of two or three hundred women at Summerhill the following week under the mistaken belief that she was a suffragette, and the person who had carried out the Sackville Street attack; they were subsequently charged with assault.  Mr MacInerney, the magistrate presiding over the case, said that the anti-suffragettes’ conduct reminded him of the time of the French Revolution, when innocent persons were denounced and set upon as if they were mad dogs and stoned in the streets. 

Another interesting case took place in February 1914 in Arklow when ‘a good-looking young girl named Alice Power, stated to be a native of the County Carlow’ was charged with having broken two panes of glass in the Railway Hotel and at Kynoch’s Lodge with a brick.   Constable Smith gave evidence that Ms Power had met him the following morning on the road and said to him ‘I suppose you are looking for the person who broke the windows last night,’ following which she admitted having broken them.  When he asked her what object, she had in doing so, she replied ‘I suppose mischief, I was living with a Suffragette leader in Dublin for five months.’  When charged, Ms Power gave evidence that she had been induced to break the windows by a ‘lady in a motor car’ who had stopped to speak to her, told her of the great movement which had been started to secure freedom for women and the vote, and paid her 10 shillings to throw in her lot with the Suffragettes and break windows.

The ‘crazy story’ told by Ms Power caused outrage among members of the Irish Women’s Franchise League, to the extent that they took the step of retaining Mr O’Dempsey, solicitor, to watch the case on their behalf.   They must have been relieved when, at her trial two weeks later, Ms Power withdrew her previous statements and admitted that she had no connection whatever with the movement. 

Was Mary Fisher, who broke the windows of the Lord Chief Justice’s residence, a genuine suffragette, or a disgruntled servant?  There are no further reports of her case.  Lord Chief Justice O’Brien continued to reside at Airfield until his death the following year.  The house survives to this day – with the glass in its windows currently intact!

More stories on Lord Chief Justice O’Brien, a sartorial stickler and amateur ghost hunter who liked to lunch on apples and half a chicken, here. You can read his Reminiscences here.

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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