Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walsh, John Edward
WALSH, JOHN EDWARD (1816–1869), Irish judge and writer, born on 12 Nov. 1816, was the son of Robert Walsh [q. v.], by his wife Ann, daughter of John Bayly. He received his early education at Bective school, Dublin, and matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in July 1832. At the conclusion of his undergraduate course he was awarded the first gold medal both in classics and ethics. He graduated B.A. in 1836.
In 1839 Walsh was called to the Irish bar, and joined the Leinster circuit. During his early years at the bar Walsh was a frequent contributor to the ‘Dublin University Magazine.’ He also edited several law-books, one of which, brought out in 1844 in conjunction with Richard Nun, on ‘The Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace in Ireland,’ was long a standard text-book on the subject to which it relates. He was a reporter in the court of chancery from 1843 to 1852. In 1857 Walsh became a queen's counsel, and, two years later, crown prosecutor at Green Street. In 1866 he was appointed attorney-general for Ireland in Lord Derby's third administration, and in the same year was elected to represent the university of Dublin in parliament. In the same year he was raised to the Irish bench as master of the rolls, in succession to Thomas Barry Cusack-Smith [q. v.] In this eminent position Walsh displayed judicial qualities of a high order. His decision in the celebrated cause of MacCormac v. The Queen's University was of capital importance. It invalidated the charter granted to the university by Earl Russell's government in 1866. It was during his tenure of office as master of the rolls that the Irish public record office was reorganised under Sir Samuel Ferguson [q. v.]
Upon the disestablishment of the church of Ireland, Walsh became an active member of the provisional convention for settling the new constitution of the church. He died at Paris, after a very brief illness, on 20 Oct. 1869. He married, 1 Oct. 1841, Blair Belinda, daughter of Captain Gordon MacNeill, 77th regiment; he left five sons and one daughter. A portrait by Catterson Smith belongs to his eldest son, Canon Robert Walsh, D.D., rector of Donnybrook, co. Dublin.
Walsh will be best remembered as the author of a little book published anonymously in 1847, called ‘Ireland Sixty Years Ago,’ in which he drew a vivid picture of life and manners in the Ireland of the Grattan parliament. For the material for this work Walsh was much indebted to his father.[Irish Law Times, iii. 652; private information.]