James Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy

For other people named James Campbell, see James Campbell (disambiguation).

James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy PC (4 April 1851 – 22 March 1931) was an Irish lawyer, politician in the British Parliament and later in the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State. He was also Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Barrister and Judge

He was born in Dublin and educated at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating BA in 1874. After being called to the Irish bar in 1878, Campbell was made an Irish Queen's Counsel in 1892 and six years later was elected Irish Unionist MP for the Dublin seat of St. Stephen's Green. The following year he was called to the English bar, and in February 1902 was elected a Bencher of Gray's Inn.[1] In 1903 was elected to the House of Commons as representative for Dublin University, also becoming Solicitor-General for Ireland that same year. He was made the country's Attorney General in 1905, being appointed an Irish Privy Counsellor, and in 1916 became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

Considerable controversy surrounded the efforts to appoint him a judge: the initial proposal to appoint him Lord Chancellor of Ireland met with fierce resistance from Irish Nationalists, and great efforts were made to find another vacancy. It appears Baron Atkinson was asked to retire from the House of Lords but refused.[2] Pressure was then put on the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Richard Cherry who was seriously ill, to step down. Cherry was initially reluctant but eventually agreed to retire in December 1916.[3] Maurice Healy in his memoirs remarks that Campbell was considered the finest Irish barrister of his time, with the possible exception of Edward Carson; as a judge he was somewhat fretful and impatient.[4]

Campbell was created a baronet in 1917, and the following year was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland. During the Irish War of Independence, his position was somewhat ambiguous. As head of the judiciary, he was naturally expected by the British Government to do all in his power to uphold British rule; but as his later career showed he was not opposed to the existence of the Irish Free State and was willing to play a role in the new Government. This attitude naturally infuriated the British administration, some of whom regarded it as a betrayal. Mark Sturgis, the Dublin Castle official whose diaries give a vivid picture of the last years of British rule, condemned Campbell bitterly as a coward who "does nothing and apparently thinks of nothing but the best way to show Sinn Féin that he is neutral and passive."[5] On relinquishing office in 1921 he was ennobled as Baron Glenavy, of Milltown in the County of Dublin.

First Chairman of the Irish Free State Seanad

In 1922 he was nominated to the new Free State Seanad by W. T. Cosgrave, and was elected by almost all of his fellow senators as its first chairman (Cathaoirleach) on 12 December 1922.[6] This was in the midst of the Irish Civil War and shortly after his appointment his family home in Kimmage, Dublin was burnt by the anti-Treaty IRA, as part of their campaign against the representatives of the new state.[7]

After the 1925 Seanad election he was again elected as chairman on 9 December 1925 by a vote of 40–12.[8] He did not seek re-election when his term in the Seanad expired in 1928.[9]

Courts Act 1924

In January 1923 Lord Glenavy chaired the Judicial Committee appointed to advise the Executive Council of the Irish Free State (cabinet) on the creation of a new courts system for the Irish Free State. His recommendations were implemented in the Courts of Justice Act 1924 which largely created the Irish courts system as it currently exists. This replaced the ad-hoc but politically important Dáil Courts system.[10]

Lord Glenavy died in Dublin in 1931 and was buried in the city's Mount Jerome Cemetery.


His parents were William Mussen Campbell and Delia Poole Graham, the daughter of Henry Francis Graham of Newtown Abbey, County Kildare. William and Delia lived at Prospect House, Terenure, County Dublin.[11] His paternal grandfather's family was from Glenavy and Magheragall in County Antrim.

His son Charles married the Irish artist Beatrice Elvery, whose family founded Elverys Sports.

His grandson, under the name Patrick Campbell, was a noted satirist in the early years of television. He was a longtime captain of one of the panels in the BBC gameshow Call My Bluff against British comedy writer Frank Muir. Another grandson, Michael Campbell, later the 4th and last Lord Glenavy was the author of the homosexual novel 'Lord Dismiss Us'.


  1. "Court circular". The Times (36687). London. 10 February 1902. p. 6.
  2. Lord Lowry The Irish Lords of Appeal in Ordinary published in Mysteries and Solutions in Irish Legal History, (Four Courts Press, 2001)
  3. Hogan, Daire Richard Robert Cherry ,Lord Chief Justice of Ireland published in Mysteries and Solutions in Irish Legal History Four Courts Press 2001
  4. Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit Michael Joseph Ltd. 1939
  5. Sturgis, Mark The Last Days of Dublin Castle- the diaries of Mark Sturgis Irish Academic Press 1999
  6. Seanad debates, 12 December 1922
  7. http://www.theirishstory.com/2011/06/21/the-big-house-and-the-irish-revolution/#.UVV74BcqzTo
  8. Seanad debates, 9 December 1925
  9. "Lord Glenavy". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  10. http://www.courts.ie/courts.ie/library3.nsf/pagecurrent/8B9125171CFBA78080256DE5004011F8
  11. Lundy, Darryl. "William Mussen Campbell". The Peerage.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Kenny
Member of Parliament for Dublin St Stephen's Green
Succeeded by
James McCann
Preceded by
W. E. H. Lecky
Member of Parliament for Dublin University
Succeeded by
A. W. Samuels
Legal offices
Preceded by
George Wright
Solicitor-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Redmond Barry
Preceded by
John Atkinson
Attorney-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard Cherry
Preceded by
John Gordon
Attorney-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
James O'Connor
Preceded by
Richard Cherry
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Thomas Molony
Preceded by
Sir Ignatius O'Brien
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
John Ross
New office Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann
Succeeded by
Thomas Westropp Bennett
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John Ross
President of the College Historical Society
Succeeded by
Douglas Hyde
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Glenavy
Succeeded by
Charles Campbell
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