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Patrick Real (1846–1928)

by Aladin Rahemtula

This article was published:

Patrick Real, by Albert Lomer & Co., n.d.

Patrick Real, by Albert Lomer & Co., n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 33378

Patrick Real (1846-1928), judge, was baptized on 19 March 1846 at Pallasgrean, near Limerick, Ireland, youngest of six children of James Real, tenant farmer, and his wife Ellen, née Donegan. The family migrated when Patrick was 4 but his father died of illness at sea. Mother and children settled at Ipswich, Moreton Bay District, in late 1850. Leaving school at 12, Patrick was apprenticed to two carpenters, then went to work at Ipswich railway workshops.

Always a teetotaller and non-smoker, of 'striking appearance', 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall, 'spare of build with black hair and keen blue eyes', Real was quick-tempered and loved politics and debating. He became interested in law in the late 1860s. In order to bypass the discriminatory provisions for admission to the Bar, he took the option, under the harsh rule 10, of not paying a premium and reducing the serving period required from five to three years. He also had to pass an examination in classics and law. In 1871 he began his laborious studies, while supporting his mother from his savings, assisted by the classical scholar Fr James Breen, head-teacher at St Mary's Catholic school, Ipswich. Real was admitted to the Bar on 8 September 1874, the only barrister admitted under rule 10, which was repealed that year largely because of his efforts. Attorney-General (Sir) Samuel Griffith moved his admission and became his friend.

Real's first reported case was Whittaker v Townley (1875). Briefs followed regularly. By 1878 he had won the confidence of many solicitors and the good opinion of the chief justice. In the important case Attorney-General v Simpson (1878) he appeared as junior to Griffith and Ratcliffe Pring. Impressed with Real's abilities, Griffith sometimes chose him as his junior. On 8 January 1879 Real married Annie Catharine, sister of Andrew Thynne, at Ipswich. His practice was flourishing and he became one of the highest-earning barristers of his day. He was called upon several times to act as a District Court judge and for some years was crown prosecutor in the Central District.

Real was appointed to the Supreme Court bench on 8 July 1890 on the death of Justice Charles Mein. In 1891 he served on the royal commission on the establishment of the University of Queensland. On the bench he had a rule not to read any papers or pleadings relating to a case before him until he came into court. When in 1903 (Sir) Pope Cooper was appointed chief justice—correctly, according to seniority—Real was bitterly disappointed at being passed over. To pacify him the government appointed him senior puisne judge, which upset his senior, Justice Charles Chubb, of the Northern District Court. Parliament enacted legislation appointing the senior judge in Brisbane to the position. Real was acting chief justice in Cooper's absence.

Prone to rash and imprudent statements from the bench, his loud, 'husky and gruff' voice occasionally playing to the gallery, Real reached the low point in his career with his opposition to the controversial Judges Retirement Act of 1921. He retired next year, aged 76, and practised, not very successfully, as a consulting barrister. Thomas O'Sullivan described Real as a 'simple, upright, religous man who took life seriously'. Real never forgot his roots and was always willing to help those in need.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died on 10 June 1928 at his home at Coorparoo and was buried in Toowong cemetery. Archbishop Sir James Duhig eulogized him as 'the poor boy, the industrious citizen, the able lawyer, the learned and upright Judge'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Duhig, Occasional Addresses (Syd, 1934)
  • R. Johnston, History of the Queensland Bar (Brisb, 1979)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1921, p 1002
  • Queensland Heritage, 1, no 9, Nov 1908, p 3, 5
  • Queenslander, 14 July 1928
  • Brisbane Courier, 8 Dec 1903, 28 Sept 1931
  • T. O'Sullivan, Sketch of the Career of the Honourable Patrick Real (mimeograph, State Library of Queensland).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Aladin Rahemtula, 'Real, Patrick (1846–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Patrick Real, by Albert Lomer & Co., n.d.

Patrick Real, by Albert Lomer & Co., n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 33378

Life Summary [details]


Pallasgrean, Limerick, Ireland


10 June, 1928 (aged ~ 82)
Coorparoo, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.