Solicitor Imprisoned for Failing to Pay Law Clerk’s Salary, Dies Soon After, 1844

From the Dublin Christian Record, 27 December 1844:

“On Monday, John E Hyndman, Esq, city coroner, held an inquest at the Four Courts Marshalsea on the body of William Osbrey, who died in the prison on Saturday.  Deceased was a respectable attorney, and the circumstances connected with his death caused considerable sensation amongst his friends, a great number of whom were present.  After the evidence of several witnesses, the coroner summed up the evidence, and the jury found a verdict –

‘That the deceased, Wm Osbrey, died from natural causes; but that his death was hastened by the extremely harsh and cruel conduct of his clerk, Richard Kisby, who was aware of his delicate state of health at the time of his arrest at his suit, and also owing to the neglect of the medical attendant connected with the City Marshalsea, Doctor Harty.  The jury desire to express their high approval of the kind and humane conduct of Dr Kirwan (city coroner) to the deceased, and also Dr Benson, the medical attendant of this prison, and the governor and officers of the same.’”

A further report in the Dublin Weekly Nation of 28 December 1844 recorded that Mr Osbrey, who had carried on business as a solicitor from 20 Blessington Street, Dublin, since the 1820s, had been imprisoned on the 17th December 1843, at the suit of Mr Kisby, for a death of 11s 6d and that Dr Harty, who was attached to the City Marshalsea, had failed to turn up to attend Mr Kisby, although he had promised to do so.

In 1845, the High Court, on the application of Dr Harty, quashed the finding of the jury on all points relating to him, saying that “it was a monstrous thing for any coroner or jury to indulge without cause in gross libels on one individual and panegyric on others.” However, the good doctor’s reputation was to be conclusively ruined in 1851, when, he was found to have falsely imprisoned his illegitimate son, a student at Trinity College, Dublin, on the grounds of insanity.

Perhaps Mr Osbrey’s financial difficulties were contributed to by the decline in legal business due to the Famine, though he did have a history of insolvency going back to the 1830s. This seems, however, to have been his first imprisonment for debt.

There is no further record of what happened to Mr Kisbey, who appears to have taken Dickens’ Uriah Heep (image above) as a role model.

More stories about the Dublin debtors’ prison, the Four Courts Marshalsea, here.

Image Credit

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

Leave a Reply