Falkiner, Sir Frederick Richard (1831–1908), recorder of Dublin, was born 19 January 1831 at Mount Falcon, Co. Tipperary, third son of Richard Falkiner (1778–1833), a soldier in the 4th Dragoon Guards, and Tempe Falkiner (née Litton; 1796–1888). His older brother Travers Hartley Falkiner was a distinguished engineer and constructed many railway lines on the Continent. Educated at TCD, Frederick graduated BA in 1852 and was called to the bar the same year. Practising on the north-east circuit, he supplemented his income as a journalist with the Belfast News-Letter. Proving a success as a barrister, he became QC in 1867. He took his MA in 1874, and the following year became law adviser at Dublin Castle. On the death of Sir Frederick Shaw (qv) (1876), he was appointed recorder of Dublin where he established a reputation as ‘the poor man's judge’. In 1880 he was made a bencher of the King's Inns.
Only rarely did he encounter controversy, but when he did it was significant. On 27 July 1882 an attempt was made on his life at court, but the bullet missed narrowly. Ten years later (October 1892), he incensed Dublin's Jewish community when he commented, as recorder, that Jews would have to learn to obey rules. Any anti-semitism was denied, but there was further controversy in 1902 when he sentenced a Jew who had broken a window to a year's imprisonment, the same day that he had sentenced a non-Jew to two months for a similar offence. The uproar forced him to give a public apology in court, especially for his comment that the defendant was ‘a specimen of your race and nation that cause you to be hunted out of every country’. The incident is believed to have provided inspiration for the ‘Circe’ episode in Ulysses by James Joyce (qv).
A conservative by nature, he held strongly imperialist views. Deeply committed to Church of Ireland affairs, in 1882 he was appointed chairman of a committee that had responsibility for forming its education policy. He was also a member of the general synod of the Church of Ireland, and chancellor to four bishops. For his services to the state he was knighted in 1896. He retired as recorder 22 June 1905 and was made a privy councillor.
An occasional poet, he read widely, and wrote on the portraits of Jonathan Swift (qv). Chairman of the board of King's Hospital (the Blue Coat School), in 1906 he wrote a historical account of it, which also included much Dublin history. A portrait of Falkiner was unveiled there in 1910. He died 22 March 1908 while on holiday in Madeira.
He married (1861) Adelaide Matilda, daughter of Thomas Sadleir of Ballinderry Park, Co. Tipperary; they had three sons and four daughters. His second son, Caesar Litton (qv) achieved some distinction as a lawyer, writer, and historian. His wife died in 1877; he married his cousin Robina Hall McIntyre the following year. After 1900 he lived at Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin.