Sir Edward Sullivan, 1st Baronet

Sir Edward Sullivan, 1st Baronet, PC (Ire) (10 July 1822 – 13 April 1885) was an Irish lawyer, and a Liberal Member of Parliament for Mallow, 1865–1870 in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was also Solicitor General for Ireland, 1865–1866, Attorney General for Ireland, 1868, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, 1870. Created a baronet, 29 December 1881, from 1883 to 1885 he was Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Early life and education

Edward Sullivan was born at Mallow, County Cork, on 10 July 1822. He was the eldest son of Edward Sullivan by his wife Anne Surflen, née Lynch, widow of John Surflen. His father was a prosperous local wine merchant, and a friend of the poet Thomas Moore. Sullivan was educated at Midleton and Portora Royal School, and in 1841 he entered Trinity College Dublin. He was elected a Scholar in 1843, and graduated B.A. in 1845.[1] He was also elected auditor of the College Historical Society in 1845, in succession to William Connor Magee (afterwards Bishop of Peterborough and Archbishop of York), and gained the gold medal for oratory.[2]

Legal and political career

In 1848, Sullivan was called to the bar; within ten years (1858) he was appointed a Queen's Counsel, and two years later, became a Serjeant-at-law (Ireland). Due to his diminutive stature, he was known as "the Little Serjeant", in contrast to Richard Armstrong, "the Big Serjeant".[3]

In 1861 he was appointed Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1865 became Solicitor-General for Ireland in Lord Palmerston's last administration.

In 1865 he was elected as the Liberal Party MP for Mallow. From 1866 to 1868, while his party was in opposition, he focused on his legal career, working with James Whiteside, as leading counsel for the plaintiff in the Yelverton case; his cross-examination of Major Yelverton, later William Yelverton, 4th Viscount Avonmore, in that case is considered one of the finest examples of forensic skill in the history of the Irish Bar.[4] In December 1868, on the return of the Liberal Party to power, Sullivan became Attorney-General for Ireland in William Gladstone's first administration.

He retired from parliament in 1870 to become Master of the Rolls in Ireland. In December 1881 Sullivan was created a baronet, Sir Edward Sullivan of Garryduff, Cork. In 1883, he succeeded Hugh Law as Irish Lord Chancellor. Sir Edward Sullivan died suddenly at his house in Dublin on 13 April 1885. His widow died in 1898.

Family and personal life

Sullivan married, on 24 September 1850, Elizabeth Josephine (Bessie) Bailey, daughter of the wealthy landowner Robert Bailey of Passage West, County Cork.[5] Bessie's sister Margaret married another prominent politician from Cork, John Francis Maguire. It was a mixed marriage, Edward being a Protestant and Bessie a Roman Catholic. They had four sons and a daughter. Their children included:

The family lived at 41 Eccles Street, Dublin. It seems that the boys were raised in their father's religion, and the only daughter Anne in her mother's. Sullivan was a book-collector, classical scholar, and linguist.


Elrington Ball called him an immensely influential figure in Irish politics and the dominant figure among the Irish judiciary; his baronetcy was regarded as a belated reward for the enormous assistance he gave to the British Government during particularly disturbed period in Irish politics. His influence over judicial appointments while he was Lord Chancellor was almost unlimited.[7]


Coat of arms of Sir Edward Sullivan, 1st Baronet
A battleaxe fesswise thereon a robin proper.
Per pale Gules and Azure a fess Or charged with three crosses-crosslet Sable between two boars passant Or that in chief facing the dexter and that in base the sinister.
Tot Praemia Vitae (So Many Rewards Of Life) [8]


  1. C. L. Falkiner, revised by Nathan Wells, "Sullivan, Sir Edward, first baronet (1822–1885)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), online edition, (subscription required)
  2. The Book of Kells. Described by Sir Edward Sullivan (1914)
  3. Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit (1939) Mercier Press reissue 1979 p.70
  4. Healy p.70
  5. Estate: Sullivan (Mallow). Landed Estates of Ireland
  6. Catholic Ireland. Fr John Sullivan SJ (1861–1933).
  7. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. ii p.312
  8. Debrett's Peerage. 1903.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Longfield
Member of Parliament for Mallow
Succeeded by
Henry Munster
Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas O'Hagan
Third Serjeant of Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard Armstrong
Preceded by
James Anthony Lawson
Second Serjeant of Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard Armstrong
Preceded by
James Anthony Lawson
Solicitor General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Michael Morris
Preceded by
John Thomas Ball
Attorney General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Charles Robert Barry
Preceded by
John Edward Walsh
Master of the Rolls in Ireland
Succeeded by
Andrew Marshall Porter
Preceded by
Hugh Law
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
John Naish
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Garryduff)
Succeeded by
Edward Sullivan