The picture is one of two which Nicol showed at the Royal Academy in 1857, where he had begun to exhibit six years previously. At the time he was still living in Edinburgh, not moving to St John's Wood, London, until 1862. An account of his career in the Art Journal of 1870 states that 'the subject was suggested by a paragraph which appeared in the Standard newspaper some time previously.' After quoting the passage transcribed above, the writer continues: 'Mr Nicol's picture, it may be presumed, represents a party of the Ryans or of the Dwyers in a cabin, listening to the calumny of the learned judge, as reported in a newspaper of the day; its effect upon each is most graphically depicted: the reader, with spectacles on nose, is evidently trying hard to master the subject, and reconcile it to his convictions; while his companion, somewhat calmer in mood, having some doubts as to the right reading of the passage, and, perhaps, wishing to find a flaw in the indictment, examines the paper for himself. The third of the party pronounces the charge an absolute falsehood, and would like to fight it out with the bench. But the "gem" of the group is the man on the left; the expression of supreme contempt on the face of this worthy for anything judge, or counsel, or any legal functionary whatever may say or think of his clan, is inimitable. In its special class not even Mr Nicol himself has surpassed this very clever and characterisitc composition.'