James Campbell (1st Baron Glenavy)

(04/04/1851 - 22/03/1931)

James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy, lawyer and politician, and Lord Chancellor of Ireland was born on the 4th April, 1851 at Prospect house, Terenure. It was believed by his descendants that his paternal grandfather had been a police constable in Glenavy, Co. Antrim, and that this humble origin, though seen as socially embarrassing, inspired his later choice of title.

Campbell was educated at Trinity College Dublin and went on to have a successful career in law. He was called to the Irish bar in 1878 and became an Irish Queen’s Counsel in 1892. Campbell was elected as the Irish Unionist MP for St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin in 1898, and later became a Member of the House of Commons for Dublin University in 1903. 

Campbell served as Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1901 and was appointed as the country’s Attorney General in 1905. In 1916, he became the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, a position that faced controversy due to resistance from Irish Nationalists. Campbell’s appointment as a judge was met with opposition, but he eventually became Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1918. During the Irish War of Independence, Campbell’s stance was viewed as ambiguous as he navigated his role as head of the Irish judiciary.

In 1922, Campbell was nominated to the Free State Seanad and was elected as its first Cathaoirleach. Shortly after his appointment his family home “Clonard” on Kimmage Road, Dublin was burnt by the anti-Treaty IRA, as part of their campaign against the representatives of the new state. He played a significant role in advising the Executive Council of the Irish Free State on the creation of a new courts system, with his recommendations being implemented in the Courts of Justice Act 1924. Campbell’s leadership in the Seanad was marked by clashes with other members, particularly Hugh Kennedy, who favoured more radical changes to the court system

After his term in the Seanad expired in 1928, Campbell did not seek re-election.  

Throughout his career, Campbell’s pragmatic approach to politics and the law often drew criticism from both the British Government and Irish Nationalists. Despite the challenges he faced in his roles as a judge and politician, Campbell made significant contributions to the legal system in Ireland, shaping the courts system as it exists today.

In 1884, he married Emily McCullough and they had three sons and one daughter, including Charles and Cecil His son Charles married the Irish artist Beatrice Elvery whose family founded Elvery Sports.

His grandson, under the name Patrick Campbell was a noted satirist in the early years of television. He was a long-time 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 work of gay literature, Lord Dismiss Us.

He passed away in Dublin in 1931 and was laid to rest in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

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Connection with area: Irish lawyer, politician who had his family home in Kimmage burned down by anti-Treaty IRA in 1922