A Barrister in Disguise: the Trial of Counsellor Tucker, 1840

From the Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 29 July 1840:


Henry Street – A Barrister in Disguise –

Counsellor Richard Tucker was brought on Thursday before Mr Duffy, just as the morning sittings concluded, and charged by police sergeant Moore (6C:) but just as the sergeant got into the box for the purpose of being sworn, the counsellor said – ‘Mr Duffy, I will tell you the facts of the case; you need not swear the sergeant.  The fact is, your worship, I took too much drink yesterday evening, and when proceeding home I met with a female with whom I unfortunately went home, and while I remained there my coat, hat, trousers and waistcoat, were stolen.  On awaking in the morning, and finding how matters stood, I sent for a covered car, into which I got, and knowing the lodgings of Sergeant Moore, with whom I am long acquainted, as we are both from the same country, I went there.  My intention in going to the lodgings of the sergeant was for the purpose of getting some clothes till I could go home.  However, he was unfortunately from home; but I got into his room and found his trunks and boxes locked.  This placed me in a peculiar dilemma, out of which I did not well know how to extricate myself; however, on looking round the room, I fortunately got a coat and hat, which I put on and went away.  I confess it was a very delicate situation, but what could I do under the circumstances? It appears, however, that the coat which I unfortunately took belongs to the sergeant, being his top coat, and, as far as I understand, is the property of the Commissioners of Police; and I had not proceeded far before a policeman discovered me in the coat, and suspecting it was not come by properly, he took me into custody on suspicion of stealing it, and here it is.

Mr Duffy – Is that the coat on you?

Mr Tucker – It is; and the hat is also Mr Moore’s; but this is his own private property.

Mr Duffy – Had you no other clothes on at the time?

Mr Tucker – No, for they took all from me in the house where I was except my boots and shirt.

Mr Duffy – You took some liberties with the sergeant’s clothes; did he ever go to your house and dress himself in your wig and gown?

Mr Tucker – Oh certainly not; nor would I take the coat if I thought it belonged to the commissioners.

Sergeant Moore – I am very sorry that the counsellor did not break open my trunk and take my own private clothes, as he would be perfectly welcome to them.  I know him many years, but I am placed in a curious position with the commissioners, although I am perfectly satisfied the counsellor had no bad intention in taking the coat.

Inspector McMahon – The gentleman was brought into the station-house to me, and I thought it better to bring the matter before the bench; and I do not think the matter would be here at all but that Mr Tucker went into the Lord Mayor’s court, where he was engaged by a client, and was arguing the case before his Lordship in the coat when the policeman recognised it, and took Mr Tucker into custody.

Mr Duffy said there was not the slightest doubt that Mr Tucker took the coat only for a short time; his character was quite unimpeachable.  He therefore discharged Mr Tucker at once.”

Was Mr Tucker a newly qualified barrister or one of long standing? The Pilot of 17 April 1839 records a Richard Tucker, Esq, fourth son of Martin Tucker, late of Petersville in the county of Meath, as having been admitted a bencher of the Honourable Society of King’s Inns. The Commercial Journal of 7 April 1855 records the death of Richard Tucker, Esq, barrister at law, fourth son of the late Captain Tucker, at his residence, Petersville, in the 39th year of his age, stating that “[h]e devoted his talents and profession to the cause of the poor.” Since this Richard Tucker would only have been 23 in 1839, either two different Richard Tuckers of Petersville, both fourth sons, are involved or, more likely, there is a mistake in one of the newspaper notices.

To date, Counsellor Tucker (the term ‘Counsellor’ was used in relation to Irish barristers in the first half of the 19th century) retains the signal distinction of being the only documented Irish legal professional prior to 1921 to have argued a case in court without wearing trousers or breeches!

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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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