Joy, Henry (1766–1838), barrister and judge, was born 7 January 1766, the youngest of the four sons of Henry Joy (1720?–89), joint owner with his brother Robert Joy (qv) of the Belfast News Letter, and of his wife Barbara, elder daughter of George Dunbar (d. 1779) of Belfast and Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. The young Henry Joy matriculated at TCD (April 1783) but soon left Ireland for London to enter the Middle Temple (26 April 1783), spending some time in Paris before his call to the Irish bar (1788). When he returned to Belfast it was remarked by Martha McTier (qv) that he was ‘not in the least conceited’ but had ‘a most disagreeable, vulgar tone of voice’ and ‘in private company’ no presence (Drennan–McTier letters, i, 304). Joy went on the north-east circuit, practising mainly in equity. By 1793 he had a house in Temple St., Dublin, kept by his unmarried sisters Harriet and Grace.
Through his aunt Ann McCracken (née Joy) he was a first-cousin of William McCracken (1756–1814) and his younger brother Henry Joy McCracken (qv). Cousinly affection was stronger than political differences and so he visited them in Kilmainham prison in 1797 and gave security for the release of William McCracken (December), while Bernard Coile (qv), already known as an agitator, gave security for Henry, who a year later led the United Irish rebels at Antrim and was hanged. It may have been because of this connection with insurrectionists that Joy was later a strong loyalist. In November 1798 he brought a resolution before the north-east bar association (which was carried) not to take a brief with any lawyer who had failed to take up arms on the government side during the rebellion. At the end of 1798, opposing the proposed union of the Irish parliament with the British, he took a prominent part in organising a meeting of barristers at which an anti-union resolution was carried (9 December). Perhaps his hostility to the union was a reason for his being prepared to defend Thomas Russell (qv), charged with high treason (October 1803). He required however a fee of 100 guineas. Joy warmed to Russell more, he later said, than to any other defendant; but the case was lost.
Joy's progress to the bench was ‘far from rapid’ (Ball, Judges, ii, 270). He did not become a KC until 1808, six years later was promoted to third serjeant (1814), rose to second (1816), then first (October 1817), before being appointed solicitor-general for Ireland (1 March 1822), attorney-general (18 June 1827) and chief baron of the exchequer (January 1831). Though never active in politics, Joy was, to the mind of Richard Sheil (qv), ‘prominent among the staunch Tories at the bar’ (‘Mr Joy’, 481–2), and, in the opinion of Daniel O'Connell (qv), ‘a virulent anti-Catholic partisan’ (O'Connell Corr., iii, 344). He became hostile to repeal of the union. A wealthy bachelor, he had a taste for foreign travel, even reaching Constantinople; he studied botany, formed an herbarium, promoted arboriculture, took an interest in ornithology and entomology; and even owned a museum. He was a member of the Dublin Society; served as its secretary (1813–22), was a vice-president (1822–38), and after his death a sister presented to the society his valuable collection of minerals. In his sixties he was elected MRIA (23 April 1827). Henry Joy's country house was in the Dublin Mountains at Woodtown near Old Connaught, where he died 6 June 1838; he was buried in Monkstown church.