Sir John Lyndon (c.1630-1699) was an Irish judge and politician of the seventeenth century. He was the first holder of the office of Third Serjeant-at-law, which was created especially for him, reportedly as a form of "consolation prize" for not being made a High Court judge the first time he applied for the office.
He was born in Carrickfergus, son of Captain Roger Lyndon, Collector of Customs for the town, and his wife Jane Marten. The Lyndons were a prominent Carrickfergus family which settled in Ireland in the 1590s: John's own descendants were very much associated with Dublin. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and entered Lincoln's Inn in 1657. He was appointed Recorder of Carrickfergus and entered the King's Inn in 1663. He was seneschal of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He sat in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Killybegs in the sole Irish Parliament of the reign of Charles II.
The first Third Serjeant
The office of Third Serjeant was created especially for him in 1682: this was universally regarded as a "consolation prize" for his failure to secure a place on the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland). The situation became somewhat farcical when the office of Second Serjeant was given to William Beckett: both Lyndon and Sir Richard Ryves, the Recorder of Dublin, claimed that it had been promised to them. Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, took a keen interest in judicial appointments, but he did not regard the Serjeant-at-law as an office of much importance (probably due at least in part to his deep distrust of Sir Audley Mervyn, who had been the Prime Serjeant in the 1660s), and he frankly admitted that when he appointed Beckett as Serjeant he had forgotten that Lyndon had already received his patent of appointment to the same office. A compromise arrangement was reached by which Beckett remained Second Serjeant, although he died only a few months later. Ryves was promised, and received, the next vacant Serjeantship, and Lyndon was promised the next vacant seat on the High Court bench. The desire to conciliate Lyndon suggests that he was highly regarded by Ormonde, who was noted for loyalty to his friends.
Ormonde kept his promise, and In January 1683 Lyndon was raised to the Bench as justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland). He was sent regularly to Ulster as justice of assize. In 1686-7 he was engaged in a dispute with his colleague Thomas Nugent as to which of them had precedence in Court. He seems to have been in some financial difficulty at this time, as he petitioned the Crown for a licence to export wool, as a means of providing for his family.
The Glorious Revolution and afterwards
Although Lyndon was a sincere Protestant, (and, if he was a friend of Ormonde, he was most likely a staunch Anglican as well), the Catholic King James II, despite his policy of replacing Irish Protestant office-holders with Catholics in so far as possible, left Lyndon in peace until after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James's arrival in Ireland in 1689 put Lyndon and the other remaining Protestants on the Irish Bench in a very difficult position, as they were naturally suspected of sympathising with the new King William III. Lyndon and his wife tried to escape to England, taking their valuables with them, but they were arrested at the waterside and their goods were seized. His enemies claimed that Lyndon had agreed to preside at the trials of suspected enemies of the Jacobite regime, as a bribe for the return of his property, and certainly he did resume his position as justice of assize in Ulster for a time. Later in 1689 he and his family were permitted to go to England, but without their valuables. His position on the Bench was left vacant, apparently because no barrister would pay the fee for the patent of office.
Following the downfall of King James's cause at the Battle of the Boyne, Lyndon returned to Ireland, and was reappointed to the Bench in 1690 and knighted. He continued to go regularly on assize to Ulster. He died in 1699.
By his wife Elizabeth he had a numerous family, including at least five sons- John, Edward, Charles, Richard and George, and one daughter, who married her cousin Cuthbert Winder. Lady Lyndon died in June 1711, a fact mentioned by Jonathan Swift in a letter to his beloved friend Esther Johnson (Stella) : "your Lady Lyndon is dead". Their eldest son, Captain John Lyndon, had been killed at the Siege of Limerick (1691).
- Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1916
- Hart, A.R. The History of the King's Serjeant-at-law in Ireland Four Courts Press Dublin 2000
- The correspondence of Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon with his brother Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester; published by Samuel Weller Singer London 2 Volumes 1828
- Swift, Jonathan Journal to Stella Letter 26, July 1711