Here Comes the Sun!

Greetings and welcome to the first post on our new and sparkly UCD Library Cultural Heritage Collections Blog!!

She is certainly happy about the new UCD Library Cultural Heritage Collections blog!

As the Undertones say ‘Here comes the summer!’ When the sunshine breaks through during the summer a whole range and style of fashion, usually full of bright colours, is unleashed. But how would you feel if these bright colours were everyday wear in our judicial courts? This is not as far a fetched an idea as you may think. In the beginnings of the Irish Free State it wasn’t just the establishing of the provisional government, constitution and judicial system that was up for discussion. Oh no! It was fashion!

The images above and below are designs submitted by Kitty MacCormack, Dun Emer Guild, for robes for district justices, circuit court judges, Supreme Court judges, President of the High Court and Chief Justice. These were sent to Hugh Kennedy who was Chief Justice, the first Chief Justice, of the Irish Free State. As stated in Kitty’s letters to Kennedy, she has taken her inspiration from the Book of Kells and colours suggested by Kennedy himself.

Hugh Kennedy was born in Dublin in 1879 and was privately educated. He studied at University College Dublin (UCD) and King’s Inns and was called to the Bar in 1902. He later practised on the Munster Circuit. Kennedy was called to the Inner Bar in 1920 and was elected a Bencher of Kings Inns in 1922.

Kennedy was honorary secretary of the Central Branch of the Gaelic League. He attended the Treaty negotiations in London as Legal Adviser to the Provisional Government and was subsequently involved in the ensuing arrangements to transfer services to it. From February 1922 to February 1923, Kennedy was Law Officer to the Provisional Government, a member of the committee appointed to draft the Constitution and party to the subsequent negotiations with the British government.

Kennedy was appointed Attorney General and took up this post on 1 March 1923. As Attorney General, he was in a unique position to exercise wide-ranging functions. He was involved in establishing the executive machinery of the Irish Free State, in drafting suitable legislative provisions for its operation and in finding solutions or compromises to many central problems, notably the North Eastern situation and the establishment of government and parliament there and compensation.

Kennedy was a member of the committee appointed by the government to organise the judiciary of the Irish Free State and was later a member of the Rule-Making-Authority convened under section 36 of the Courts of Justice Act. In September 1923, Kennedy was among the members of the first delegation from the Irish Free State to the League of Nations when the Free State was admitted at the Fourth Assembly.


Photograph of the Irish delegation in Geneva, September 1923. Includes seated Kennedy (far left), W.T. Cosgrave and Eoin Mac Neill, Minister of Education (UCDA/P4/873).

On 25 October 1923, he was elected to Dáil Eireann as TD for Dublin City South but resigned his seat when appointed Chief Justice in June 1924. As Chief Justice, he continued his involvement in the development of the new judicial system. He was a central figure in the Governor General crisis in 1932 when he refused to assume the duties of that office on a permanent basis after the resignation of James McNeill.

Kennedy’s papers (UCDA/P4) are housed in UCD Archives and are of huge research value especially in the coming years of commemoration and reflection on the founding of the Irish Free State and, subsequently, the Republic.

But back to fashion! Looking at modern judicial robes, those conceived by Kitty and Kennedy and some *cough* other robes, the designs from 1925 don’t seem that far-fetched….

  • This post was researched and written by Meadhbh Murphy, Archivist, UCD Archives.

One thought on “Here Comes the Sun!

  1. Máire Byrne says:

    This is really fascinating especially to those of us who are interested in textiles. Many thanks

Leave a Reply