Noisy Courts, Wood Paving and the Limits of Judicial Power, 1905-15

Mr Justice Boyd, one of a small but select coterie of Irish noise-sensitive judges whose complaints provided fertile copy for journalists over the centuries.
The location of Judge Boyd’s Bankruptcy Court on Chancery Place, today. Image via Wikipedia.

From the Freeman’s Journal 18 October 1905:

“In the King’s Bench Division Bankruptcy side yesterday, Mr Justice Boyd during his sitting complained of the difficulty of hearing in his court.  He said it was practically impossible to hear the gentlemen who addressed him when the windows of the court were opened, even though near him at the solicitor’s table.  His Lordship said he had called attention to this before, and the matter had been brought to the notice of the Corporation to have this remedied by a wood pavement outside, but no satisfactory result had followed, and it would be necessary to get the Lord Chief Justice to deal with the matter.”

The following report in the Irish News and Belfast Morning News of 18 July 1906 indicates that Judge Boyd seems to have got absolutely no sympathy from the Lord Chief Justice. This may have been due to the fact that his bankruptcy court in Chancery Place (roughly where Courts 24-26 are today) was somewhat cut off from the rest of the Four Courts, so that they thought he was making a fuss about nothing.

“Judge Boyd’s Complaint

Today Mr Justice Boyd, while sitting in the Bankruptcy Court, was disturbed by the notice of the street traffic, and suggested that it would be well if the practitioners in the court would consider whether they would get up a memorial to the corporation requesting that body to do something to improve the carriageway in Chancery Place, so as to put a stop to the intolerable noise caused by the street traffic.  He himself had moved the matter on a former occasion, and the reply he got was that he was the only judge who made any complaint.

Mr Robert Doyle, barrister at law, said it was almost worse in the court of the Master of the Rolls.  The entire courtyard ought to be paved with wood.

Mr Justice Boyd – Chancery Place and round the corner behind the courts ought to be done at all events.  They do it for the Academy of Music, and all the churches, and why a public institution like the Four Courts should be placed in a worse position he could not understand.

Mr George Collins – No doubt your Lordship’s suggestion will be carried into effect.”

It wasn’t! From the Freeman’s Journal, 13 May 1911:



“During the proceedings in the King’s Bench Division (Bankruptcy Side) yesterday, Mr Justice Boyd said it was impossible to hear Counsel owing to the intolerable noise, caused by the street traffic outside the Court.  An application had been made on behalf of the judges to have the neighbouring streets paved with wood, but the Corporation had done nothing.  There were other streets in the city paved with wood, but the chief Courts of the country were left in such a condition that the professional gentlemen were not able to attend to their business properly.  There was no fund out of which the Judge or Court officials could pay for having this necessary work done.”

Judge Boyd was still at it in 1915, but in a resigned sort of way, when during the hearing of a jury case in Nisi Prius Court No. 1, he said it would be desirable to draw the attention of the Corporation or the Board of Works to the fact that when windows of court were opened noise prevented counsel from being heard…

Judge Boyd retired in 1916.  No wood paving was ever installed in the yard or the vicinity of the Four Courts, but many streets, such as Grafton Street, had wood paving until the second half of the 20th century.

Other interesting facts about Judge Boyd – he was a keen yachtsman; he once apprehended a thief with his own hands outside the Kildare Street Club, and he was so enthusiastic about recruitment during the First World War that the British army had to ask him to stop.  Not to mention the persistent rumour that his British army officer son, clad in Free State military uniform, oversaw the firing of the Free State guns on the Four Courts in 1922.   More here.

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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