Wood, Ernest Mounteney (1909–91), barrister, was born in Dublin on 12 July 1909, third of three sons of Albert Ernest Wood (1874–1941) KC, and his wife Edyth (née Gillespie). His elder brother Wilfred, also a barrister, died tragically young in 1932. Albert Wood was a highly successful long-serving member of the Irish bar. In an age when elaborate oratory and a touch of the dramatic were a larger part of the armoury of an advocate in Ireland than was usual later on, Albert was renowned as a dramatic and picturesque counsel who had a powerful and persuasive effect on the mind of the average juryman and who enjoyed a successful career as well as the respect and affection of his colleagues.
Ernest was educated at Aravon School in Bray, Durham College, TCD, and King's Inns. He graduated BA and LLB, winning the John Brooke scholarship, and was president of the Dublin University Philosophical Society (1932–3). Called to the bar in 1932, he commenced practice in Dublin that year. He took silk in 1947, was elected a bencher of King's Inns in 1959, and finally retired from the bar in 1986. His career at the bar spanned 54 years and almost exclusively consisted of court work of various kinds. He was a redoubtable and successful defender of those charged with criminal offences and his services in such cases were available for nominal or derisory fees, long before the days of legal aid assistance. The effect he had on juries in civil cases was remarkable, appearing on occasions first to shock them with an outlandish assertion, then to entertain them with shafts of real wit, and finally capturing them. At the peak of his career it was generally accepted that defendants threatened with defamation actions in the high court frequently sought to retain his services for the sole purpose of avoiding his appearing against them. It was possible to recognise in his court manner traces of the rotundity and flourish which legend associated with his father Albert, but cleverly adjusted to the more prosaic style of modern court procedures.
He was a fiercely independent barrister, at times to the damage of his career, but the interests of his client were the absolute priority, especially if, as frequently happened, a client was the odd-man-out, the small man or the anti-establishment figure. There were elements in his own personality of an anti-establishment nature. He studiously avoided such formal occasions as judges’ dinners but was always duly respectful to the bench in court. However, in his conversation with colleagues outside the courtroom, there could be hilarious traces of some belief in the ancient proposition that the natural enemy of a barrister is a judge. An excellent colleague, always helpful, wise and loyal, he was particularly careful to ensure that a younger or less experienced barrister on the team got due prominence and his solid support. He was a good companion, lightening the burden of many a day's work by shafts of irreverent wit. An excellent storyteller, he was, equally important, a good listener. Though affable and accessible, he was in some ways an entirely private man. He had a great love for and understanding of the countryside and spent much of his limited spare time in it. His hatred of cruelty to animals equalled his hatred of pomposity.
He married Amy Kerslake in 1938 and they had two sons, Christopher, a business consultant, and John, a solicitor. He died 25 April 1991 in Douglas, Isle of Man.