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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 15 Sep 2012 - 1:38

Eleventh Day of Proceedings - Thursday, November 8, 1888





Outside the Court this morning were two little knots of Irish men and women - unmistakably of the peasant type. Some of them were clad in the huge, rough, pepper-and-salt-coloured frieze cloaks of the Galway peasantry, and the heads of two of the aged females were enveloped by many-coloured handkerchiefs. These are, it is said, witnesses for the Times. What they will prove remains to be seen. They are strangers to the busy life of the Law Courts, and, conscious of being the centre of observation, seek - when inside the huge palace - the shelter of the numerous recesses with which the corridors abound. Business inside the Court was resumed at half-past ten. At that time Sir Charles Russell was the only leader present on behalf of the accused, and the tiers of benches behind, usually occupied by journalists, were almost empty. Mr. Reid and Mr. Lockwood dropped in later on, and the Q.C.'s bench gradually developed into its usual state of animation.

The counsel for the Times are the Attorney-General (Sir Richard Webster), Sir Henry James, Q.C., Mr. W. Murphy, Q.C., and Mr. W. Graham, of the English Bar, with Mr. J. Atkinson, Q.C., and Mr. Ronan, of the Irish Bar. The counsel for the Irish Members are Sir Charles Russell, Q.C., Mr. Asquith, Mr. R.T. Reid, Q.C., Mr. F. Lockwood, Q.C., Mr. Lionel Hart, Mr. Arthur Russell, Mr. Arthur O'Connor, and Mr. Harrington. Mr. P.A. Chance is represented by Mr. Hammond, solicitor, and Mr. Biggar, M.P., and Mr. Michael Davitt, appear personally.

There were no passages between counsel, such as have become almost inseparable coincident with the opening of the Court. The task of completing the chain of evidence the Times is attempting to draw around the Parnellite Party was proceeded with.


Thomas Huddy was the first witness today. He is the son of a man who was a bailiff on the estate of Lord Ardilaun, in Mayo, in 1880 and subsequent years. He is an intelligent-looking individual, of about 30 years of age, and was attired in deep black. He spoke to seeing several processes in the hands of his father in January, 1882, on the 3rd of which month he saw his father and a nephew depart for the purpose of serving the processes. He never saw them alive again, and for days he could get no information as to their whereabouts from man, woman, or child, until at length he saw their bodies on the 27th of the same month some miles from their homes. They had both been shot dead, for there were bullet wounds in their heads.
Matthew Kerrigan, who spoke in the Irish language, and whose evidence had to be interpreted, said he lived at Galway, and knew Thomas Huddy. Witness also knew a man named Flynn, a member of the Land League.


Mr. Harrington asked that the interpreter should simply put the questions, and not suggest anything to the witness. The interpreter had, the learned counsel asserted, distinctly suggested the Land League.
Sir James Hannen said that if anyone doubted the correctness of the interpreter's questions and answers, a second interpreter must be obtained.
Mr. Harrington repeated that the interpreter suggested the Land League to the witness.
The President: You should address your observations to the Court.
Sir Charles Russell - They appeared to me to be addressed to the Court.
The President - They didn't occur to me to be addressed to the Court.


The witness, proceeding, said he gave sixpence to Flynn for the Land League funds. The Huddys were murdered in January, 1882. A short time before there was a Land League meeting in the district. He could not tell the names of the speakers.
Mr. Atkinson - Did you see anything being done to the Huddys?
Witness - Yes, I saw them killed. (Sensation.)


Who killed them? - Pat Higgins, Tom Higgins, and Michael Flynn. The Huddys were stoned and shot, and before that they were knocked against a wall.
What did they do with their bodies? - They carried them away with them.
"What did they do with them then," asked Mr. Atkinson. - Witness replied that he did not know.
Did you see the bodies taken up after? - "No. I was in jail then," continued the witness. "I was charged with the murder, and was in prison for nine months. I was then liberated on giving the names of those who were guilty."
"As you came out of jail," asked Mr. Atkinson, through the interpreter did anyone give you money? - Yes; someone gave me three or four pounds.
Who was it gave you this money? - I do not know who it was.
Was it a policeman? - No; but it was a respectable-looking man.
Did he say what he gave it to you for? - No.


Did you give evidence against the guilty persons? - Yes.
After you were examined, was there a change in the conduct of the people towards you? - There was, and there is.
Do you know what boycotting is? - Yes; I have heard of it, and know it is very bad.
What change do you say took place in the conduct of the people towards you? - If I sent my cattle to the fair, or my pigs to the market, I knew then.
What was done to the cattle and pigs? - Nothing.
Could you sell them? - Yes, but very badly.
Could you buy provisions in the village where you lived? - "There is no food selling in the village where I live," answered witness, amid laughter.
Then you can get it where you used to get it previously? - Yes, I can.
What change do you see in the people towards you? - The gentlemen and the world knows that (answered the witness) one day I was beaten by them. I am under police protection now, and have been ever since I came out of Galway Jail.


Sir Charles Russell then questioned the prisoner.
"Were those men who were accused of the murder," he asked, "convicted and hanged? - They were.
How soon after the murder were you taken into custody? - The same night that they were killed.
Was the money given to you while you were in the jail? - Yes.
The President - He has given two answers as to the money. Just ask him to explain.
The interpreter conveyed the wish of his Lordship to the witness, who explained that he received the money just inside the gate of the jail. He couldn't tell who it was gave it to him. All he knew was that he received it and that he saw the man, though he was a stranger to him.


Bridget Kerrigan, the wife of the last witness, next entered the box. She is a short woman, wearing a large black and white shawl round her head. Her evidence was also interpreted. Just after her husband's arrest, she said, she received a letter from a Mrs. Keating, in consequence of which she went into the town of Galway, where she saw Mr. Keating, a woman whom she had never before seen. She conversed with her through an interpreter.
Sir C. Russell observed that he did not see what connection there was with the case and Mrs. Keating.
The President - No, I don't see its relevancy.
Mr. Atkinson - But we shall prove whom Mrs. Keating was afterwards.
Sir C. Russell - Well, we ought to have had notice of the evidence.
Proceeding with the examination, Mr. Atkinson elicited from Mrs. Kerrigan that she received two sums of money from Mrs. Keating - 4 pounds on one occasion, and 2 pounds on another, the latter being sent her by post. She didn't know what the money was for, and since her husband's release she had neither seen Mrs. Keating nor received anything from her.
Sir C. Russell here observed that he thought it would be found the witness's husband was arrested as a "suspect" under Mr. Forster's Act.
The Attorney-General observed that such a statement must, of course, be made in evidence; but his instructions were that the man was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in this murder.
Sir C. Russell read an extract from a Parliamentary return, in which the name of Kerrigan was mentioned, he having been arrested as a "suspect."
The Attorney-General retorted that he was arrested the day after or upon the day of the murder of the Huddys.
The President closed the discussion by pointing out that it was probable the man was arrested twice, upon one occasion as a "suspect," and upon another as being concerned in the murders.
Sir Charles Russell (to the witness) - Was your husband in as a suspect? - He was in for the murder.
Michael Rudden, of the R.I.C., said that Kerrigan was in custody for six weeks on the charge of murder, and then re-arrested under Mr. Forster's Act.
By Sir Charles Russell - Witness was in Galway in 1880 and 1881. He could not say how many evictions were carried out in the West Riding of Galway between January and June, 1880, but a large number of constabulary were engaged.


David Kidd, a sergeant, stated that he knew Mrs. Keating, of Galway. She headed the Ladies' Land League in Galway. He had not seen her give money to discharged prisoners.
Sir C. Russell said he would admit that she did.
Witness added in cross-examination that he knew that under Mr. Forster's Act a thousand persons were arrested as suspects, and money was given them to live more comfortably in prison. The prisoners could, if they liked, live upon prison fare, and the money they would have received was then given to their families.


Patrick Bolger, a member of the R.I.C., deposed that he was stationed at Ahaseragh, county Galway, in 1879 and 1880, and remained there till 1885. Witness knew Mr. Ross Mahon, who was now dead. He was a landlord. The tenants made an application for a reduction of 6s. 8d. in the pound, in the rent. That was not acceded to, and the result was that the tenants refused to pay their rent. A man named Timothy Maclaughlin, however, paid his rent. The sign-board over his public-house was "daubed" to show that he was to be boycotted. Maclaughlin, in fact, was boycotted. While witness was passing the house he saw a man, named Fallen, in the shop. Shortly after that Fallen was waylaid and beaten. He made a complaint to witness and gave him the name of one of the men who had beaten him. At the trial, however, he denied that he knew the name.


On the 21st of August (continued witness) a man named Daniel Croose was evicted from a farm for which Mr. John Ross Mahon was the agent. A notice was then placed on the land warning anyone not to take the farm. The land was put up for sale, but at the auction Croose said he hoped no one would buy the land, as he had hoped to be taken back. There were no bidders for the land. Croose had previously said that he had been treated very badly by Mr. Ross Mahon. Croose was a member of the Land League.
Mr. Murphy said he should be able to prove that Croose was allowed 7 pounds by the Land League the night before the auction. On the 26th of March, 1882, Sir William Ross Mahon's house, which was under police protection, was blown up. Amongst those who were arrested for the outrage was a man named Cormican. He was defended by Mr. Kelly, a solicitor. Witness knew a man named William Morrisey, who was a witness against the parties charged with blowing up the house. Morrisey's house was afterwards burnt, and John Rafferty, a member of the Land League, was charged with the offence and convicted at the Sligo Assizes. Morrisey was under police protection until he died.


Mr. Murphy here asked Mr. Lockwood, under the subpoena duces tecum, to produce a letter alleged to have been written by Mr. Kelly, who defended Cormican, to Mr. Matt Harris.
Mr. Lockwood said a search had been made amongst Mr. Harris's papers, but it had not been found. If Mr. Murphy had a copy of the letter he could put it in, provided he proved how it came into his possession, in the ordinary way.
Mr. Murphy intimated that it would be put in later on.


In cross-examination by Sir C. Russell, the witness stated that Mr. Ross Mahon was agent for a great deal of landed property, and himself had some property. The tenants on all the estates did not apply for reduction, only those on his brother's (Sir W. Ross Mahon's) estate. They got a reduction, but a couple of months afterwards claimed a reduction to Griffiths' valuation. There was a good deal of employment in the neighbourhood in 1881. He believed that a great amount of it was caused through the Government grants to landlords; but Sir W. Ross Mahon employed a number of his tenants irrespective of those grants. Prior to 1879 the country was very peaceful, but upon being pressed, witness admitted he had heard of two cases in which men had been shot at before 1879. Continuing his answers, the witness said he came to the trial because Mr. Soames sent him a subpoena. Head Constable Hughes, of Galway, wrote out witness's statement; he, however, simply taking down what witness told his superior officer.


Matthew Corless, a herd, formerly employed by the evicted tenant Croose, said he also lived on Sir William Ross Mahon's property. Witness had worked on the farm for fifteen years, and continued to work there after Croose was evicted. After the eviction an attempt was made to burn witness's house. The attempt was made at about ten o'clock in the night. He and his wife and eight children were in the house at the time. They, however, managed to extinguish the fire.
How long (asked Sir Charles Russell) had Croose lived on his farm? - For about twenty-eight years he told me.
How old was Croose? - Oh, begorra, sorr, I couldn't tell you that.
How old should you think? - Well, about 55 or 60.
Have you any land of your own? - Yes, about sixteen or seventeen acres.
Did you have that while you were a herd? - Yes.
What wages did you get as herd? - Twenty pounds a year.


Hugh Kelly, a sergeant in the R.I.C., who was quartered at Ahaseragh Galway, at the time Morrisey's house was burnt, stated that he could not tell whether the man who was convicted of that offence was a member of the Land League or not.
He informed Sir Charles Russell that he knew Pollocks, and had heard that some thousands of people were evicted, a clearance being made, and the land turned into a grazing-ground. He had certainly seen the ruined houses and villages.
Mr. Justice Smith - How long ago was this?
The Attorney-General - It was twenty years ago, quite, my Lord.
Sir C. Russell - Hardly that. However, we will ascertain the date. It is well known.
Kelly, in further cross-examination, said a sergeant's pay was a little over 80 pounds a year, with something additional when on duty. He declared that he had never known the police, after an eviction, make a collection for the evicted people, but asserted that there was a tolerably good feeling between the police and the people, except where evictions were carried on.
The Attorney-General re-examined Kelly as to the Pollock's clearance. He declared that it took place quite twenty years before the period of which he had spoken, that the people were paid for leaving their houses, and were, in fact, paid for their furniture.
This drew from Sir Charles Russell the observation, "He seems to know more now than he did when I cross-examined him."


Robert Botterill, a landowner in County Galway, and living near the town of Galway, was next examined. He said that prior to the formation of the Land League in his district he got on in the best possible way with his tenants, but in the December of 1879 notices were posted up in the district cautioning the tenants not to pay their rent. In December, 1881, he had to take proceedings against some of the tenants who had previously been the best payers. On the 19th of January, 1882, while driving home from Galway with his son and two daughters, about one mile from his house, two pistol shots were fired at him by some persons hidden in a bush. No convictions followed the outrage, and after that for two years there was a police hat on the land.


In the opinion of Mr. Botterill, expressed in cross-examination by Sir C. Russell, the distress in 1879 and 1880 was very much exaggerated.
"How can you explain that?" asked Sir C. Russell.
"Well," replied the witness, "the corn crop upon which they rely to pay their rent was not bad, but the potato crop, on which they merely rely for sustenance for their family, was very bad."
Sir C. Russell - Oh! the crop from which the rent was drawn was very good, but the crop they depended upon merely for their living was very inferior! Did you make a reduction in that year, sir? - No; I was never asked. The witness added that he was taken into the Land Court in 1884 and 1885.
Witness (proceeding) maintained that the rents on his own property were fair. His son had managed the property for the last six or seven years. In the distressed times witness did not contribute to the loan fund. Labour in his part was paid for at the rate of from 6s. to 9s. a week. That was in winter and spring. In harvest-time it was 15s. a week. In 1879 and 1880 witness distributed the loan fund himself, together with Father Fellatly.
Sir Charles Russell - How much money did you distribute amongst your own tenants? - I think only about three. One was a man with a long family. (A laugh.) Another was a widow.
A "long" family? A large family, you mean? - Yes.
Sir Charles Russell - A long, weak family. (Laughter.)


Continuing his answers, Mr. Botterill said he bought the property in 1871. In some instances he raised the rents at once, but it was a very small percentage - "ten per cent, at all events," explained the witness.
By the Attorney-General - Witness only received 60 pounds or 70 pounds a year as rent from all his tenants. No complaints were made until 1879. The tenants would have paid if they had been left alone. The distress at the end of 1879 and 1880 was not nearly so bad as represented. There was a Land League in witness's district. Bartholomew Calligan was the secretary. If Father Fellatly had remained in the district there would have been no outrages. Witness was a tenant farmer himself, and some years ago paid 1,000 pounds a year as rent. The first Land League meeting was held in August, 1880.
By Sir Charles Russell - Father Fellatly was now in some part of Mayo. He left witness's district some time in 1880. One of witness's landlords was Lord Clifford.


Did the Rev. Mr. Canning take part in the proceedings of the League? - Yes, until it was suppressed. The Land League Court was held in one of my tenant's houses (continued the witness). I was summoned before them for dismissing a herd for neglect of duty.
Cornelius Hagley was next examined. He said he lived at Rothorum, near Portumna, in co. Galway. In 1869 he bought some land, he working it without annoyance until 1887. In that year a notice was posted up on the buildings on the land. It was a notice to boycott "landgrabbers." He then attended before the meeting of the Land League at Loughrea. A nephew of a man named Fahy, from whom witness had bought the land in 1869, also attended, and put in a claim for the land. The chairman, a man named Sweeney, and Father Egan, decided in favour of witness. He also went to the convention at Dublin, and he afterwards received a letter from headquarters in his favour. After that decision he found a change in the demeanour of the people towards him. They used to shout and groan at him. The Roman Catholic Bishops in the neighbourhood reproved them, and said it was


The boycotting notice commenced with the words - "Hurrah for the power of the united people! Down with Larry Hagley and his precious son, who are always ready, like a shark, to pounce upon a poor neighbour!" The notice then advised the people to force the Hagleys to give up the farm at once, or else crash them into the dust.


In cross-examination, witness said he gave 100 pounds for the lease of the land, and admitted that he was himself a member of the National League. He said he received two letters, dated from the League offices in Dublin, and signed "T. Harrington, hon. secretary." One was dated 26th February, 1887. In this Mr. Harrington said witness did not, he was sure, expect him to have control over individuals or individual acts. His right to interfere was only so far as the action of that branch was concerned, and according to his own letter the conduct had been condemned by the branch and the committee at Loughrea. The second letter was dated the 2nd of March, 1887. In this Mr. Harrington wrote with regard to the boycotting notices that had been issued against him, he would suggest his bringing the matter under the notice of the local branch. In doing so he might produce the letter of authority from the central office for the purpose of having them adopt a resolution condemnatory of the passing of these resolutions as to boycotting, and describing the charges made against him as groundless.
"Did you take that letter to the branch?" asked Sir C. Russell.
"Yes," was the reply. The witness added that since then the people had been less troublesome. Pressed as to the social position of members of the League, he said they were not the "riff-raff of the place, but rather the respectable people."
Sir Charles Russell - Has any pressure been brought to bear upon any people to join the League? - Not to my knowledge.
District Inspector Frederick Wade, stationed at Portumna, produced various notices urging the people to boycott the last witness, whom they described as a "sly spy."


Michael Leonard, in the employment of Mr. Bodkin, County Galway, stated that he was a steward. Manning, a tenant, was evicted; and shortly after a number of people came to witness's house. They knocked at the door one night. I asked "Who's there?" said the witness; "and they said, 'Police.' "Well," I says, "I don't see what the police want to come to my house for at night. Let them wait until the morning." Then some shots were fired into the place; and as the man threatened to burn the house down unless they were admitted, he opened the door. There were about 500 men there.
Mr. Atkinson - Were they disguised? - No; fine looking men, with clean clothes. (Laughter.)
Had they anything on their faces? - No; not a ____. (Laughter.) They had plenty of arms as good as the Queen had. (Laughter.)
Did these men do anything to you? - Sure, and they did. They brought a coffin in, and a big, large one it was - (laughter) - and the crowd wanted me to go on my knees. Taking the lid off the coffin, they told me it was a shame I carried lies to my master, and that I was not to take Manning's holding. I didn't leave the house until the morning, for they threatened me if I did.
Mr. Atkinson - You didn't take Manning's farm after that?
Witness (holding up his hands) - Oh, no, Sir. (Laughter.)
Cross-examined - The men carried a light with them, but witness could not recognise any of the men. There were at least 500.
By the President - The men had big moustaches, but witness could not say whether they were false.
The Court then adjourned for lunch.


Thomas Connair was the first witness called on the Court resuming after luncheon. He said that in 1881 he was a tenant on Sir Henry Burke's estate in Galway. He had lived there for about twenty-four years. On the night of the 26th of November, 1881, his wife and children and himself - nine persons in all - were in the house. Between twelve and one o'clock the house was set on fire.
Were shots fired through the windows? - I cannot say. I heard a report.
Was it like the report of a firearm? - I cannot say that.
What was the report like? - I really cannot say. We all heard it (replied the witness, amid loud laughter), although we were fast asleep.
Had your rent been paid a few weeks before? - My rent had been paid, but I never was threatened about that.
Were you on good terms with your neighbours? - Well, I never spoke to my next door neighbour - a man named Welsh - or he to me, for twelve years. With that exception, I was on good terms with all my neighbours.


You made a claim for the burning of your house? - Yes.
Did you state before the Grand Jury that your house had been burnt because you paid your rent? - No, I did not. I made a claim because I could not rebuild my house without assistance.
Mr. Murphy warned the witness to be careful as to his replies, and repeated the question. The witness, however, interrupted the learned counsel with a long rambling statement, his voice being at last drowned in an outburst of loud laughter. The President then interfered, and told the witness that he must answer the questions put to him. His Lordship then himself put the question to the witness. He, however, again denied putting a claim forward on the ground asserted.
Mr. Murphy insisted on pressing the witness, and again put the question. - The witness once more raised a laugh at the learned counsel's expense with the exclamation, "Oh! I can't answer two."
The President now told him to answer Mr. Murphy's questions in such a manner that he (the President) could hear what he said.
The witness then reiterated his assertion that he did not claim compensation for the burning of his house on the ground that it was burned because he did not pay his rent.
"Can you suggest a reason," Mr. Murphy then asked, "why anybody should burn your house? Was it because you paid your rent?"
Sir Charles Russell - That is no reason.
Witness said he made a claim for the malicious burning of his house.
Mr. Murphy admitted that that might be the case, but contended that it would be necessary to prove the malice.


In answer to further questions, the witness said he knew Martin Murphy. He lived about a mile distance from witness, and Murphy's house - so he heard - was burnt down on the same night as his (witness's). He saw the ruins next day.
Had Murphy (asked Mr. Murphy) paid his rent also? - I know nothing about the man.
Did you tell the police that your house was burnt because you had paid your rent? - I did not.
Did you suggest to them that the "welshers" had done it? - I could not say that, because I did not know they had anything to do with it.


After the burning of your house did you take a Land League ticket? - No, I did not.
Did you ever take a Land League ticket? - No; but my son did before he went to America.
Did he not take the ticket for you? - No; for himself.
Was that after your house was burnt? - I cannot say whether it was before or after.


Did you give your statement to Mr. Soames' clerk? One of Mr. Soames' clerks was confronted with the witness, and Mr. Murphy then said, "Did you tell him that you took a League card and paid for it?
"Well, Sir," falteringly replied the witness. "I was in Loughrea, and I got a ticket; but I don't know whether I paid for it or not, because I was too much intoxicated. I didn't know anything about it till next morning." (Laughter.)
After pressing the witness a number of times as to whether he told the clerk he paid for the ticket, Mr. Murphy exclaimed, excitedly, "Now, I warn you. There was a shorthand writer there who took down your statement. Did you or did you not tell the clerk that you paid for the ticket, or the card? - Well, Sir, I can't read nor write, and I don't know how I got it.
You did have a ticket, didn't you? - Yes, but I don't know where I got it.
Now, didn't you say you had paid for the ticket? - I don't know what I said. I can't read nor write, and I don't remember.
Did you say you paid for it? - I don't remember. I don't know whether I paid for it, I don't think I could have got it if I hadn't paid for it.
Mr. Murphy sat down with a wearied air, but rose again immediately and resumed the attack. "Did you not," he asked, "say that you attended a Land League meeting in Loughrea, and that you got the ticket there?"


It was of no use. The witness could give no intelligent answer. At length the President came to the rescue. He was very firm when he said, "Now, you have been asked a question, and you will have to answer. Did you say that you attended a meeting of the Land League?" - Well, I don't know what I said, at all.
Now I put the question once more. Will you say whether you spoke of a Land League meeting to the gentleman who took your evidence? - Well, and your Lordship is very hard on me. Bedad, I'm an old man of 68, and I couldn't be expected to remember all that I said. If you ask me for sure, I wasn't on my oath at the time.
Now you are upon your oath, which you apparently respect. Was the word "Land League" mentioned? - Well, I don't know. It was at a meeting I was, and I stood and listened to what was being said, and then I got a card, and they said it was a League card. That's all I know.
The President gave it up, too. He was thoroughly tired of the attempt to get anything further from the witness. He was about to leave the box when Sir James Hannen observed "Oh! we will let him have another chance to make an explanation. What do you say you told the police when your house was burned? - They were there early in the morning, and then they said, and ----and----"
Again the witness faltered, and finally stopped.


"What time in the morning," burst in Mr. Justice A.L. Smith, "did you give your evidence?" - "Shure, Sir, and I didn't ask the time," was the reply.
Where have you been since? - Outside the Court.
Who has been talking to you? - No one, but the gentleman who showed me where to sit.
And you swear that no one has been speaking to you as to what you were to say?
The witness made no reply, but Mr. Lockwood was heard exclaiming to his colleagues, indignantly, "We must follow this up. There is not the slightest ground for saying that he has been tampered with."


Sir Charles Russell now rose. "I am instructed," he said, "that so far as the supposition is concerned that he might have been with any of our witnesses, that we have not one single witness here. I think that your Lordships having raised this question, we should follow it up."
The President - I despair of getting anything from this witness. You might call another witness.
Sir C. Russell - Oh! no, my Lord; I would suggest that this witness be further examined.
The President - He affects a stolidity that I cannot understand. You had better see what you can do with him.
Mr. Justice Smith - I don't suggest that any gentlemen on your side, Sir Charles, has spoken to the man at all, but it appears to me from his conduct in the box that he has been spoken to by some persons or other. That's my firm conviction.


Sir Charles Russell (to witness) - You live about four miles from Loughrea, and you say you have some neighbours named Walsh, and have quarrelled with them?
The witness replied that he had not spoken to them for five years. His house was burnt in November, 1881. He could not say how long before that he paid his rent. No one had threatened him because he paid the rent. It was on a Saturday night when his house was burnt. On the following morning the police came to him. "And what did the police say to you?" asked Sir Charles Russell. "Did they ask if you would go in for compensation?" The witness replied that he did not go in for compensation then, but when District Inspector Barry came he examined the premises, and after that witness employed a solicitor named Tighe to make a claim. Witness never said, "My house was burnt down because I paid my rent."


Mr. Beauchamp, a solicitor at Limerick, said he had been acting for Mr. Soames. In making claims for compensation the practice was to go before a Magistrate within three days after the injury was discovered, and swear an information. That was bound to be returned to the Clerk of Petty Sessions, and within six days after notices as to the claim had to be served on two of the principal inhabitants and the district inspector. He (Mr. Beauchamp) took down the last witness's statement in the presence of a shorthand writer. When asked what was the motive of malice he alleged, the witness answered, "Because I paid my rent." When asked if he was a member of the Land League, he replied that he got a card and paid for it.
By Sir Charles Russell - The statement was not taken down in the form of question and answer, and there was nothing to show whether the questions were leading ones or not.
Mr. Henry Gordon Holderness, the shorthand writer who took down the statement, was called. Reading from his notes, he said that the witness stated that his house was burnt down because he paid his rent; that he went to a meeting of the Land League; and that he claimed for 80 pounds, and got it in full.
The President observed that the witness must not be allowed to go away from the Court.
The Attorney-General (smiling): Perhaps Sir Charles Russell will look after him.
Sub-Inspector Barry was then re-called. In reply to Mr. Murphy, he said he visited the Connairs' house on the day after it was burnt down. To the best of witness's recollection he believed Connair assigned as the reason for the outrage the fact that he had paid his rent. Witness could not, however, state that positively unless he had the official report before him.


William Conway next entered the witness-box. In reply to Mr. Ronan, witness said he lived in the Woodford district, on Sir Henry Burke's property. Witness remembered Sir Henry Burke being boycotted in the year 1886. Witness cut some turf for Sir Henry Burke. On the night of the 15th of May, 1886, witness's house was burnt to the ground, and witness claimed compensation, on the ground that his house had been burnt down because he had cut the turf. He got 50 pounds compensation and 5 pounds expenses.


Sir Charles Russell - Whose bog was it? - It was Sir Henry Burke's bog.
Was there not a dispute between Sir Henry and the tenants? Did not the tenants contend that they had a right to the turf as well as the landlord? - The rule was (answered witness) that the tenants were to cut Sir Henry Burke's turf one day, and then they could obtain a ticket and cut their own for three days. That year, however, Sir Henry Burke's agent put up a notice that no one was to enter the bog until Sir Henry's turf had been cut. As it was necessary to cut the turf early so that it could be dried, the tenant's became dissatisfied at this arrangement.
In reply to Sir Richard Webster, the witness added that several names - amongst which was his own - were read out at the Chapel Cross as men who had cut turf for Sir Henry Burke.


A prolonged delay occurred before the next witness entered the box. The Attorney-General said it was owing to the difficulty experienced in getting the witnesses into the Court.
The President - The Court is a great deal too crowded. There are more persons in Court than there ought to be.


Mrs. Martha Lydon, who caused considerable amusement by declaring that she was "Happy Lydon," and by the remarkable way in which she answered the questions of counsel before they were interpreted, although she protested she didn't understand English, was the next witness. She lived with her husband on Mr. Graham's farm, near Letterfrack, co. Galway. On the night of April 28th, 1881, a number of people came to her house and broke in the door. Her husband, about 40 years old, was asleep, as was also her son, who was just 21. The men dragged her husband out of the bed, out of the room, and out of the kitchen door, and shot him dead.
"After that what did they do?" asked counsel.
"They came in and dragged out the little boy" - here the poor woman's voice faltered - "they dragged him out, and he was screeching all the way out, and they fired at him, and wounded him. (The witness burst out crying here.) She went on, tears streaming down her face, to tell how her "pour bhoy" lay for a month, how he gradually grew worse, and at length died. The night was so dark when the attack was made that she could not distinguish the faces of the men. Then the witness went on to say that the tenant who previously had the farm which her husband took, was evicted. Her name was Welsh, and she had several sons.
In cross-examination by Sir Charles Russell, she declared that one of Mrs. Welsh's sons was hung for the murder of her husband and son, and another was tried for murder of a police-sergeant, and transported for life.
Michael Buller, a head-constable, was called next.
He was stationed at Letterfrack about the time of the murder. Mrs. Welsh lived in the village when he went there, three months before the murder. One of the Welshes was transported for complicity in the murder of Sergeant Kavanagh, who was shot outside the barracks on the 15th February, 1882.
In reply to Sir Charles Russell, the witness stated that in all the counties in Ireland he had visited, in every village, there had been branches of the Land League, and, in later years, of the National League.


Patrick Small, an aged man, rather deaf, and with a strong brogue, stated that a man named Tom Byrne was evicted from Mr. Wade's property in Galway. After six months had elapsed witness took the farm. When he went to a fair, shortly after, to buy cattle, Byrne's son followed him; bidding higher in each case, so as to prevent witness purchasing. Witness was afterwards boycotted, and could not get his horses shod. He had to get police protection.
And you hold the farm now? - (Firmly) Yes, and will. (Laughter.)
You are a Catholic? - Sure I am, a Roman Catholic.
When did you go to mass last? - Last Christmas twelvemonth.
Why didn't you go? - Because they called me names, and roared at me when I was on my knees.
Sir Charles Russell - When was Tom Byrne evicted? - In '46.
In '46? - Yes.
You mean '86? - Yes.
Sir Charles Russell - Well, it is only a difference of forty years. (Laughter.)
Continuing, the witness said he would be 70 years of age "if he lived till next March." Tom Byrne had two months in Galway Jail for his conduct to witness.
The witness's son was called. He also stated that he could not attend mass because he was boycotted and "roared at."
The Commission then adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Thursday November 8, 1888, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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