To understand the irregular lot of regional judiciary in Victorian Ireland, simply turn to the pages of The Irish RM series of books by Somerville and Ross. These light hearted accounts became a memorable TV series in the 1980s, starring Peter Bowles, Bryan Murray, Niall Toibin and Anna Manahan.
Like the fictional Major Sinclair Yeates, the magistrates and other legal officers, right up to the High Sheriff, usually hailed from Anglo gentry. Maintaining loyalists in the judiciary was vital for British control over the regions.
Often with an army service record, these legal agents of the Crown enjoyed an uneasy, if sometime comical, relationship with the local populace. They were aware that those who tugged forelocks obsequiously on approach were as likely to flip them the bird behind their backs.
Court records of the time suggest that despite the Land War and other national upheavals, their time was mostly invested in the mundane: hearing deep details of pig and sheep theft, random drunken assault, rent spats, trespass, rabbit poaching and episodes of petty inter-familial feuding.
For many, after eventful years engaging the Pashtun, Zulu and Boer in the Khyber Pass or on the Blood River, it was disconcerting to find themselves in a luxurious house in an Irish town where almost nothing happened at all.
Indeed, the Freeman's Journal reported a rampant outbreak of nothing at all around Ennis in 1876. The issue of January 11 carries the headline 'The Peace of Clare' emblazoned across an extensive report devoted to the first court hearings of the year at Ennis. Readers eager to devour dastardly deeds were instead informed in detail just how much of nothing had been going on in Ennis, Kilrush and the hinterland.
In a proud address, Court Chair Mr O'Hagan congratulated his seven assembled magistrates on the "peaceable state of the county, with only five cases to hear over such a long period" (three months). Mr O'Hagan asserted that this minute tally "forcibly demonstrated the almost total absence of crime amongst so large a community".
He went on to note that one case, being of indecent assault, was being postponed until the next session. "So it will not engage your attention today."
The most heinous case was judged to be an embezzlement allegation regarding a small sum of money, made by a grocer against his assistant.
At just one case per two Ennis magistrates every three months, perhaps a decent home project was required to keep under-utilised local legals busy in their extensive downtime?
Gleneagles, a grand Victorian house at Fairgreen in Ennis, was completed just in time for the first court session of 1876 and, according to its owner, was built by the Lord High Sheriff of Clare; the one officially responsible for the 1870s' convulsion of peace and quiet.
Aineis Brock, who bought the house 32 years ago and restored it, says: "My research shows he built Gleneagles for his mother and sister in the grounds of his residence, Maryville, which is still there today."
Gleneagles overlooks the old Fair Green and was extremely handy for access to the grand Romanesque 1850-built courthouse. Indeed, Brock suspects the Sheriff might have engaged some lingering craftsmen who had previously worked on it. "There are so many similarities in the styles and in the mason's signatures at Gleneagles."
Brock moved into the converted coach house with her two young children while restoring the bigger house. Today Gleneagles is in fine order. Painted a warm yellow, the six-bedroom property is one of the town's best and comes with a huge traditional kitchen with an Eastwood oil-fired range and granite worktops that would make Mrs Cadogan glow. There's also a garage adjoining and a substantial garden courtyard out back.
There's a rather beautiful main hall with three arched windows in the Roman style and two grand drawing rooms with marble chimneypieces. There's a second hall, a dining area, and the kitchen, which also has French-style timber units and half doors and chequered red and cream floor tiles.
The main house has three bedrooms and a bathroom with a marble-lined bath. The coach house has a huge cherrywood-floored reception, two beds, a hall and a kitchen/dining-room. Despite the central town location, it's utterly peaceful here.
Gleneagles is being offered through Sherry FitzGerald McMahon at €525,000.