The Lord Glenavy
James Campbell.jpg
Campbell in Dublin in December 1922, at the start of his term in the Seanad Éireann
Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann
In office
6 December 1922 – 6 December 1928
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byThomas Westropp Bennett
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
In office
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded bySir Ignatius O'Brien
Succeeded byJohn Ross
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
In office
Preceded byRichard Cherry
Succeeded byThomas Molony
Attorney-General for Ireland
In office
Preceded byJohn Gordon
Succeeded byJames O'Connor
In office
Preceded byJohn Atkinson
Succeeded byRichard Cherry
Solicitor-General for Ireland
In office
Preceded byGeorge Wright
Succeeded byRedmond Barry
MP for Dublin University
In office
Preceded byW. E. H. Lecky
Succeeded byArthur Samuels
MP for Dublin St Stephen's Green
In office
Preceded byWilliam Kenny
Succeeded byJames McCann
Personal details
Born(1851-04-04)4 April 1851
Dublin, Ireland
Died22 March 1931(1931-03-22) (aged 79)
Dublin, Ireland
Alma materTrinity College Dublin

James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy PC (Ire) (4 April 1851 – 22 March 1931) was an Irish lawyer, politician in the British Parliament and later in the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State. He was also Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Barrister and Judge

"The Rt Hon James", caricature by Spy in Vanity Fair, 1909
"The Rt Hon James", caricature by Spy in Vanity Fair, 1909

He was born in Dublin and educated at Dr. Stacpoole's School in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) and Trinity College Dublin, graduating BA in 1874. After being called to the Irish bar in 1878, Campbell was made an Irish Queen's Counsel in 1892 and six years later was elected Irish Unionist MP for the Dublin seat of St. Stephen's Green. The following year he was called to the English bar, and in February 1902 was elected a Bencher of Gray's Inn.[1] In 1903 was elected to the House of Commons as representative for Dublin University, also becoming Solicitor-General for Ireland that same year. He was made the country's Attorney General in 1905, being appointed an Irish Privy Counsellor, and in 1916 became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

Considerable controversy surrounded the efforts to appoint him a judge: the initial proposal to appoint him Lord Chancellor of Ireland met with fierce resistance from Irish Nationalists, and great efforts were made to find another position for him. It appears that Baron Atkinson was asked to retire from the House of Lords but refused.[2] Pressure was then put on the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Richard Cherry, who was seriously ill, to step down. Cherry despite his failing health was initially reluctant to do so, but eventually agreed to retire in December 1916.[3] Maurice Healy in his memoirs remarks that Campbell was considered the finest Irish barrister of his time, with the possible exception of Edward Carson, but as a judge he was somewhat fretful and impatient, with a tendency (admittedly not uncommon in judges) to interrupt counsel.[4]

Irish War of Independence

Campbell was created a baronet in 1917, and the following year was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland. During the Irish War of Independence, his position was somewhat ambiguous. As head of the Irish judiciary, he was naturally expected by the British Government to do all in his power to uphold British rule; but as his later career showed he was not opposed to the existence of the Irish Free State and was quite willing to play a role in the new Government. This pragmatic attitude naturally infuriated the British administration, some of whom regarded it as a betrayal. Mark Sturgis, the Dublin Castle official whose diaries give a vivid picture of the last years of British rule, condemned Campbell bitterly as a coward who "does nothing and apparently thinks of nothing but the best way to show Sinn Féin that he is neutral and passive."[5] Noted Irish historian R. B. McDowell has commented in relation to this and similar criticism from his successor as Lord Chancellor, Sir John Ross, that neither man intended to stay and live in Southern Ireland, Ross moving via London to his country house in county Tyrone (inherited from his father-in-law), Sturgis safely back to England.

On relinquishing office in 1921 he was ennobled as Baron Glenavy, of Milltown in the County of Dublin.

First Chairman of the Irish Free State Seanad

In 1922 he was nominated to the new Free State Seanad by W. T. Cosgrave, and was elected by almost all of his fellow senators as its first chairman (Cathaoirleach) on 12 December 1922.[6] This was in the midst of the Irish Civil War and shortly after his appointment his family home in Kimmage, Dublin was burnt by the anti-Treaty IRA, as part of their campaign against the representatives of the new state.[7]

After the 1925 Seanad election he was again elected as chairman on 9 December 1925 by a vote of 40–12.[8] He did not seek re-election when his term in the Seanad expired in 1928.[9]

The Courts of Justice Act 1924

In January 1923, Glenavy chaired the Judicial Committee appointed to advise the Executive Council of the Irish Free State on the creation of a new courts system for the Irish Free State. His recommendations were implemented in the Courts of Justice Act 1924 which largely created the Irish courts system as it currently exists.[10] This replaced, and indeed replicated the existing court system as established by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The Dáil Courts were declared to have been illegal, but their outstanding 'judgements' were conferred with legal standing by a separate Act of the Oireachtas. Glenavy clashed with another member of the committee, Hugh Kennedy, soon to become the first Chief Justice of Ireland, who was in favour of far more radical changes than those recommended by Glenavy and a majority of the committee. Political differences were compounded by the fact that the two men disliked each other personally.[11]

Lord Glenavy died in Dublin in 1931 and was buried in the city's Mount Jerome Cemetery.


His parents were Colonel William Mussen Campbell and Delia Poole Graham, the daughter of Henry Francis Graham of Newtown Abbey, County Kildare. William and Delia lived at Prospect House, Terenure, County Dublin.[citation needed] His paternal grandfather's family was from Glenavy and Magheragall in County Antrim.

His son Charles married the Irish artist Beatrice Elvery, whose family founded Elverys Sports.

His grandson, under the name Patrick Campbell, was a noted satirist in the early years of television. He was a longtime 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.


Coat of arms of James Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy
Granted 28 November 1917 by George James Burtchaell, Deputy Ulster King of Arms.[12]
A boar's head fesswise erased Erminois.
Of the colours.
Ne Quid Nimis


  1. ^ "Court circular". The Times. No. 36687. London. 10 February 1902. p. 6.
  2. ^ Lord Lowry The Irish Lords of Appeal in Ordinary published in Mysteries and Solutions in Irish Legal History, (Four Courts Press, 2001)
  3. ^ Hogan, Daire "Richard Robert Cherry, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland" published in Mysteries and Solutions in Irish Legal History Four Courts Press 2001
  4. ^ Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit Michael Joseph Ltd. 1939
  5. ^ Sturgis, Mark The Last Days of Dublin Castle- the diaries of Mark Sturgis Irish Academic Press 1999
  6. ^ "Seanad debates, 12 December 1922". Archived from the original on 25 September 2012.
  7. ^ "The Big House and the Irish Revolution – The Irish Story". Archived from the original on 29 January 2021. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Seanad debates, 9 December 1925". Archived from the original on 25 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Lord Glenavy". Oireachtas Members Database. Archived from the original on 18 May 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  10. ^ MacCormaic, Ruadhán (2016). The Supreme Court. Penguin Random House. p. 25.
  11. ^ MacCormaic 2016, p. 23.
  12. ^ "Grants and Confirmations of Arms Vol. L". National Library of Ireland. p. 159. Retrieved 26 June 2022.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byWilliam Kenny Member of Parliament for Dublin St Stephen's Green 1898–1900 Succeeded byJames McCann Preceded byW. E. H. Lecky Member of Parliament for Dublin University 1903–1917 Succeeded byA. W. Samuels Legal offices Preceded byGeorge Wright Solicitor-General for Ireland 1903–1905 Succeeded byRedmond Barry Preceded byJohn Atkinson Attorney-General for Ireland 1905 Succeeded byRichard Cherry Preceded byJohn Gordon Attorney-General for Ireland 1916–1917 Succeeded byJames O'Connor Preceded byRichard Cherry Lord Chief Justice of Ireland 1917–1918 Succeeded byThomas Molony Preceded bySir Ignatius O'Brien Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1918–1921 Succeeded byJohn Ross Oireachtas New office Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann 1922–1928 Succeeded byThomas Westropp Bennett Honorary titles Preceded byJohn Ross President of the College Historical Society 1925–1931 Succeeded byDouglas Hyde Peerage of the United Kingdom New creation Baron Glenavy 1921–1931 Succeeded byCharles Campbell Baronetage of the United Kingdom New creation Baronet(of Milltown) 1917–1931 Succeeded byCharles Campbell