Pennefather, Edward (DNB00)


PENNEFATHER, EDWARD (1774?–1847), Irish judge, of Rathsellagh, Dunlavin, Wicklow, born about 1774, was the second son of Major William Pennefather of Knockevan, Tipperary, and Ellen, eldest daughter of Edward Moore, D.D., archdeacon of Emly. The founder of the Irish branch of the family was a cornet in the army named Matthew Pennefather, a younger brother of Abraham Pennefather of Hanbury-on-the-Hill, Staffordshire. In 1666 Matthew acquired by patent estates in Tipperary county, and inherited others from his wife Levina Kingsmill. His eldest son, Kingsmill (d. 1735), was M.P. for Cashel and Tipperary in the Irish parliament, and married his cousin, the heiress of John Pennefather, esq., of Campie, Londonderry. The second son, Matthew, was lieutenant-colonel in General Sabine's regiment, and distinguished himself at Oudenarde. After his return to Ireland he was appointed auditor of the Irish revenue, and represented Cashel in the Irish House of Commons from 1716 till his death, 28 Nov. 1733 (Gent. Mag.)

Kingsmill Pennefather's eldest son, Richard, had two sons—Kingsmill (d. 1771), ancestor of General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather [q. v.], and William (major in the 13th light dragoons), who was father of Richard Pennefather [q. v.] and of Edward, the subject of the present notice.

Edward was educated with his brother at Portarlington and Clonmel, and graduated at Dublin University, B.A. in 1794, and M.A. in 1832. He was called to the Irish bar in 1796, and elected a bencher of King's Inns in 1829.

The ‘two Pennefathers’ were leading practitioners at the court of chancery when Francis Blackburne (afterwards lord chancellor of Ireland) began to practise (E. Blackburne, Life, p. 30). Edward excelled his elder brother, Richard, as an advocate, and was without a rival as an equity lawyer. He was counsel for the plaintiff in the celebrated libel case, Bruce v. Grady, tried before Serjeant Johnson at the Limerick summer assizes of 1816, when O'Connell led for the defendant (Authentic Report of the interesting Trial for a Libel contained in the celebrated Poem called The Nosegay). The plaintiff, who claimed 20,000l., obtained a verdict for 500l.

Pennefather was appointed third serjeant in April 1830, second serjeant in January 1831, and first serjeant in February 1832. In January 1835 he became solicitor-general for Ireland in Sir Robert Peel's administration, and was reappointed (September 1841) on the return of Sir Robert Peel to power. In November he was appointed chief justice of the queen's bench and a privy councillor. In January and February 1844 he presided at the trial of the O'Connells, Gavan Duffy, and their associates for conspiracy. Mitchell says that ‘the chief justice in his charge argued the case like one of the counsel for the prosecution’ (Ireland since '98, p. 103). Pennefather contended that neither secrecy nor treachery formed a necessary part of the legal definition of conspiracy. His charge was learned, lucid, and fair, though it was clear that in the opinion of the court the indictment had been in the main sustained. Sentence was pronounced on 30 May by Mr. Justice Burton.

Pennefather retired from the bench in January 1846, and died at his house in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, after a long illness, on 6 Sept. 1847. By his marriage with Susan, eldest daughter of John Darby, esq., of Markly, Sussex, and Leap Castle, King's County, he had four sons and six daughters. The eldest son, Edward (b. 1809), was called to the Irish bar in 1834, and became Q.C. in 1858. The fourth, Richard Theodore (d. 1865), was auditor of Ceylon. The second daughter, Ellen, married James Thomas O'Brien, bishop of Ossory and Ferns; and Dorothea, the sixth daughter, was wife of James Thomas, fourth earl of Courtown.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, 7th ed.; Cat. Dublin Graduates; Alumni Oxon.; Law Times, 11 Sept. 1847; Ann. Reg. 1847 App. to Chron. pp. 249–250, 1844 pp. 304–39; E. Blackburne's Life of Francis Blackburne, pp. 30, 199, 200 et seq., 216–217; Shaw's Authenticated Reports of Irish State Trials, 1844; authorities cited under Pennefather, Richard.]

G. Le G. N.