Enniskerry Petty Sessions, Dec 1912

James Scannell writes about some law and order records from 1912.

In 1913 the enforcement of law and order was very different to that of today. Society expected the police to enforce the law, no matter how trivial the offence, nobility and gentry excepted  as this was still a class divided society where everyone was expected to know their place and give due respect to their social superiors, with the result the local Petty Sessions [District Courts] had their time taken up with trivial cases that today would merit a caution from a member of An Garda Síochána or fixed penalty notice.

In 1913 policing in County Wicklow was carried out by the Royal Irish Constabulary operating from local police stations, one of which was located in Enniskerry. At that time communities were smaller in size so the local police always had a fair amount of knowledge on who was moving in and around Enniskerry and who the regular local law breakers were.

AOH Hall EnniskerryThe Enniskerry Petty Sessions were held in the former A.O.H. Hall and it was here  on Saturday  29th December 1912 that the first post Christmas  sitting  took place with  Sir. Robert Hudson, Bart, presiding.  Hearing the cases with him were Mr. Frederick St. Clair Ruthven and Mr. A. Chatterton.

The  first  two cases  concerned the abuse of the ‘bona fide’ traveller rule  which allowed genuine travellers to avail of refreshment outside licensing hours  but was often abused  by regular drinkers  who travelled long distances to other public houses  to obtain refreshments when their local public houses  were closed by claiming that they were genuine travellers.

District Inspector Molony summoned James Brady, Killegar, for “ being on the premises of Mr. W. J. Johnson, Enniskerry,  on December 15th, not being a bona fide traveller.” The District Inspector said that the defendant lived just barely outside the three mile limit and was found regularly in this public house on Sundays. The District Inspector reminded the bench that all he had to prove was that the defendant was on that  premises  on a certain Sunday and that it was up to the  defendant  to prove that he was a  bona fide traveller He added that it was his view only reason the defendant came to the village was to visit the public house.

Sergeant Duffy who arrested the defendant testified –

At 12.45 on Sunday December 15th I found James Brady on the licensed premises of Mr. Johnson.  I asked him his reasons for being on the premises and he made a statement that he was going to Roundwood.  I subsequently found that this statement was not correct. Brady was only a short time in the district but was in the village every Sunday.

Mr. Chatterton to Sergeant Duffy: “ Does he [Brady] go to chapel  here ?” Sergeant Duffy replied: “ I  could not say.  I asked him what he was doing there and he said   that he was going to Roundwood.”

District Inspector Molony to the Bench:

It does not matter if the man came nine miles if he came for the purpose of getting drink. They have them in Bray coming from Dublin and Kingstown Sunday after Sunday.  It is open to the bench in the absence of any rebutting evidence showing that the man was bone fide to act on the assumption that he went there for the purpose of getting drink. It does not matter if he travelled forty miles if that was his purpose.

James Brady to the Bench: “It was not for the purpose of getting drink I came.  This is the first time I was ever summoned for anything in my life.” Sergeant Duffy replied: There is nothing [recorded] against him. He comes from Roundwood, I believe.”

The bench found the defendant guilty and in imposing sentence, Sir Robert Hudson said – “As this is your first conviction, we will fine you only 2s.6d. You are getting off very lightly.”

District Inspector Molony also summoned Charles Neill, Killegar, for “being on the licensed premises of Mr. Johnson on December 15th, not being a bone fide traveller. “ Sergeant Duffy testified – “When I found Charles Neill on the premises he had a drink before him, and on being asked to account for his presence, he said he came on pleasure and that he lived over the three mile limit.

Mr Ruthven to Sergeant Duffy: “What was he doing?” Sergeant Duffy replied: “He was standing at the counter with a drink of porter before him. 

However the bench found him guilty of the offence with the Sir Robert Hudson imposing a fine of 2s. 6d. and costs as this was the first time that the defendant had appeared in court.


On 1 January 1908 the Lighting of Vehicles, Act, 1907, came into operation, requiring vehicles to compulsorily display front and rear lighting between the hours of sunset and sunrise  with the final four cases heard relating to breaches of this legislation.

John Stephens, Ballybawn, was summoned by Constable Winter for  “using  a cart without a light after lighting up time on December 13th.” The constable said that the defendant had stated that he had forgotten to light the lamp – fined 6d. and costs.

Thomas Kavanagh of Ballybawn, was summoned by the same constable for  “having  no light on his cart at 5.20 p.m. on the evening  of December 13th.”  The defendant did not appear in court and the constable confirmed to the bench that the lamp was not lighting when he stopped the defendant and but had ensured that it was lighting before he let him go – fined 6d. and costs.

Thomas Reilly was summoned by Sergeant Duffy for “having no light on his cart on the night of December 19thand  “for being in such a situation whilst in charge of a horse  and cart on the public road that he could have not proper control over the animal.”  The sergeant said –

On  the night in question I  encountered Thomas Reilly  at  8.20 [p.m.]  driving a horse and cart without a light. When I encountered the cart I could not see anyone and stopped it. A minute or two later the defendant rose up from the back of the cart where he was apparently asleep.

The Chairman remarked that it was very dangerous thing to do with the sergeant stating the defendant was not drunk at the time and was coming from the Bray direction. The sergeant concluded his evidence by stating that that the defendant lived in Glencree.  The Chairman imposed a fine 6d. for the first offence  and 2s. 6d. for the second one.

The final case heard was one brought by Sergeant Woulfe, Delgany, who summoned  David Kelly, Kilpeddar, for “using  a cart without a light after lighting up time  on the 4th December.”  John Reilly and William, employed by Kelly, were also summoned by the same sergeant for using carts without lights on the same occasion. Sergeant Woulfe testified that the night in question was a very dark one  and that the parties were returning home from Bray. The road to Kilpeddar was very a bad one to use  a cart on at night without a light. The three carts were following each other. He added that Reilly was leading the convoy and only lit the lamp of his cart when he appeared. In questioning it subsequently emerged that the carts were entering the Glen of the Downs and that that it was pitch black at the  time. Each defendant was fined 6d. with 3s. 6d. costs.


Card, Peter W., Early Vehicle Lighting, Princes Risborough, 2004.

Montogomery, Bob, Early Motoring in Ireland, Garristown, 1999.

Montgomery, Bob, The Irish Gordon Bennett Race 1903, Garristown, 1999.

Wolfe, Gail, (Ed), Ballsbridge, Donnybrook & Sandymount Historical Society Annual Record 2009.

White, Brian, The County Wicklow Database 432AD  to  2006AD, Dublin 2006.


“Past Imperfect” column by Bob Montgomery in the Irish Times.

The Wicklow Newsletter – Saturday 5 January 1913.

The Wicklow People – Saturday 5 January 1913.


James Scannell is a local historian. You can find out more about Enniskerry Petty Sessions along with their use as a genealogical resource in Úna Wogan’s article, Petty Sessions at Enniskerry Courthouse.

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