Constantine Molloy QC, Tullamore (1832–97), a prominent member of the Molloys of Tullamore. By Michael Byrne

The Molloy family in Tullamore have distinguished antecedents and can include among their number two of the town’s most prominent citizens in the 1820s to the 1840s, Michael Molloy and Anthony Molloy. Michael Molloy founded the Tullamore Distillery in 1829 and from it came the Bernard Daly distillery and that of Tullamore DEW. Michael Molloy was a patron of schools and of the new Mercy convent of 1838-40. The family were the owners of Tullamore up to the 1620s and were the principal landowning family in the baronies of Ballycowan, Ballyboy and Eglish until the Jacobite and Cromwellian plantations. Some such as Charles Molloy had extensive landholdings at Greatwood in Killoughy up to the 1850s. Constantine is a recurring name in the family and one of our regular contributors to this blog, Cosney Molloy, is proud to be called after an early king of Cornwall. Kilcormac and Rahan are strongholds of the family.

Constantine Molloy was on the prosecution side in the first Parnell in 1880 and is, perhaps, better known for his publications including Molloy’s Justice of the Peace, a work that became the leading text of the day with one reviewer describing Molloy as ‘the most eminent criminal lawyer at the Bar’.[1]  But then what senior lawyer is not spoken of as eminent!

Molloy was born in the house now occupied by Conway & Kearney, solicitors in High Street, Tullamore and was called to the bar in 1858 and to the inner bar in 1882. He was the only son of a Tullamore shopkeeper and spirit grocer, William Molloy and his wife Mary (née Molloy) and was born in 1832 and educated at TCD and King’s Inns. The family owned two properties in the 1840s that now occupied by Conway & Kearney and the adjoining large menswear, Guy Clothing. Molloy got to be known early on in Tullamore for his legal knowledge and assisted the local business community with the preparation of the paperwork for the formation of the first limited liability company in the town in 1860 to promote the provision of gas lighting and the formation of the first town commission in the same year. He served as a commissioner for a short time.

The Molloy family owned the two houses on the extreme left in the 1820s to 1840s. This pic about 1908.

Molloy sold the old home in High Street to Patrick and Henry Egan in 1884 for a sum of £700 and the rere was extended for the brewing concern. Molloy had been appointed crown prosecutor for King’s County in 1880 and, in 1884, was succeeded in that position by another circuit member, David Sherlock of Rahan Lodge, Tullamore when Molloy was appointed crown prosecutor for the counties of Carlow and Kildare.[2] Constantine Molloy was a junior counsel on behalf of the crown in the Parnell trial that began on 28 December 1880 and was regarded as the greatest authority on the criminal law at the time. He had been consulted on the indictments and when the nineteenth count, which involved a lengthy discussion, was dropped to shorten the proceedings it gave rise to some wit in the Law Library. The verse ran as follows:[3]

‘In the Library he sat, / / Someone cried “Ahoy” / / Holy saints what name was that? / / Constantine Molloy!! / / But the nineteenth count was bad / / Would not do, my boy; / / This is very, very sad, / / Constantine Molloy/ /’

The Parnell trial of 1880-81. Now where is ?

Molloy as a senior member of the King’s County bar was invited to give the best thanks on behalf of the bar at Tullamore on the retirement of Judge Jellett as chairman of the King’s County quarter sessions in 1878. He was also a prominent member of the Dublin Statistical Society and was its honorary secretary for a time, contributing four articles, mainly on the operation of the county courts.[4] He died at his home in Dublin on 12 May 1897 while dressing to attend a King’s Inns banquet.[5] Molloy was survived by his only son, William J. Molloy, who was born in 1886 and was educated at Downside and Castleknock. He carried on the long established firm of Tyndall & Co., of Fleet Street, Dublin and died at his residence at 25 Leeson Park, Dublin in 1940.[6]  While a leading member of the home circuit, Constantine Molloy joined the Leinster circuit bar in 1884, preferring it to remaining associated with King’s County as crown counsel, which from 1885 would have involved him in joining the Connaught circuit. It was due to Molloy as treasurer and John Henry Edge as secretary, that the two volumes of surviving home circuit minute books were deposited in the King’s Inns in 1885.[7] These provide a useful repository for the legal history of the ‘senior branch’ of the profession on what is now the Midland Circuit.

Exhibited here as part of an upcoming series is the bookplate of Molloy QC.


[1] See Desmond Greer, ‘Crime, justice and legal literature in nineteenth-century Ireland’ in Irish Jurist, XXX, p. 267.

[2]ILT & SJ, 3 July 1880 and 2 Feb. 1884.

[3] The witty verse is  quoted in Liam O’Malley, ‘Law’ in Tadgh Foley (ed.), From Queen’s College to National University: essays on the academic history of QCG/UCG/NUI Galway (Dublin, 1999), pp 61-62; see also Adye Curran, Reminiscences, pp 106-07. Serjeant Sullivan recalls that Molloy punctuated his speech with ejaculation of the phrase ‘into it’ prefaced by a grunt – Sullivan, Last serjeant, p. 165.

[4] R. D. Collison Black, The centenary volume of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, 1847-1947 (Dublin, 1947), pp 111, 148 and for the Jellett presentation,  ILT & SJ, 25 March 1911, p. 79. In May 1865 Molloy read a paper to the Dublin Statistical Society on ‘The Acts relating to the composition of juries’ – see Irish Times, 17 May 1865. For the review of his Justice of the Peace see Irish Times, 28 August 1890.

[5] ILT & SJ., 15 May 1897.

[6] ILT & SJ., 28 September 1940, p. 253.

[7] Adye Curran, Reminiscences, p. 26.