Robert Holmes

Holmes, Robert, a distinguished Irish lawyer, for many years father of the north-east Bar, was born in Dublin in 1765.

He entered Trinity College in 1782, and was called to the Bar.

In 1798 he entered the lawyers’ corps of yeomanry.

During a parade in the hall of the Four Courts, he threw down his arms on the announcement being made that the corps was to be placed under the command of the military authorities, dreading least [sic] he might be called upon to assist in the atrocities then perpetrated upon the country people.

This led to a challenge, for giving which he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

In 1799 he published a passionate appeal against the Union.

In 1803, although cleared of participation in the plans of his brother-in-law, Robert Emmet, he was imprisoned for many months on suspicion.

This of course retarded his advancement, but his great legal abilities eventually asserted themselves, and he rose to the highest eminence at the Bar.

Never being able to forget the means by which the Union had been carried, and the sad fate of many of his relatives in 1798, he resolutely refused the offers of advancement, and even of a silk gown, made him by successive governments.

The University Magazine says:

“Few who had an opportunity of hearing will ever forget that splendid burst of impassioned eloquence by which the peroration of his speech, in the case of the Queen v. the Nation newspaper was distinguished. There is thought in every sentence; everlasting truths are enunciated in language of the rarest beauty; and when the old man, eloquent as he warmed with his subject, touched upon the sufferings of his country, her beauty, and her griefs, the musical intonation of his voice, his venerable and imposing aspect, the tear which stood trembling in his eye, the natural and simple grace of his gesture, all produced upon us an impression that can never be effaced. It was truly a fine sight to see him in his eightieth summer, advocating at the close of his life, with all the fire and all the vigour of his early years, those principles which persecution had failed to make him abandon, or temptation induce him to change.”[116]

His Case of Ireland Stated, published in 1847, was an able advocacy of the Repeal of the Union.

He died at the house of his daughter in London, 7th October 1859, aged 94.


116. Dublin University Magazine (31). Dublin, 1833-’77.

254. Notes and Queries (3). London, 1850-’78.
O’Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-’60.