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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 16 Sep 2012 - 3:04

Twelfth Day of Proceedings - Friday, November 9, 1888




The damp dull morning has had its usual depressing effect upon those who daily sit through the tedious proceedings of the Commission. Even the regular attendants were not in their places this morning when business was resumed. The gallery, however, was pretty full, the audience there being composed mostly of ladies. The Judges' Gallery, too, was thronged with ladies; but the body of the Court, including the barristers' benches, presented a dreary aspect at the outset. The humble representatives of the Galway peasantry, with their Old World timidity, who enlivened yesterday's proceedings with their quick and ready repartee, still linger in the corridors of the Court. Their numbers have been augmented, several additional and deeply interested figures having been brought over from Ireland during the night. For the first time since the Commission opened, every leading Q.C. on both sides was absent at the hour for commencing business. "The Times are going to withdraw from the case," was the sarcastic rumour that ran through the Court; 10:35, and no counsel. The three eminent Judges have been sitting up there on their elevated benches in solemn silence for three whole minutes. The President leans forward and speaks in a whisper to his learned colleagues, there are various titters amongst the junior counsel; and then the Judges lean back and wait patiently for another two minutes, when Mr. Atkinson, Q.C., steps quietly into his seat.
"Haven't you a witness, Mr. Atkinson?" sharply asked the President.
"Yes, my Lord, he's coming," was the reply.
"Well, he ought to have come," retorted the President.
Michael Joyce, a Galway farmer, had just entered the box when Mr. Lockwood put in an appearance.
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.


Joyce was formally sworn, and proceeded to say that he took a farm near Oranmore, county Galway, in 1880, the farm having been surrendered by a man named Cussack. Directly he took the farm his neighbours treated him badly. There was a Land League branch near Oranmore. Soon after he took the farm sixteen of his sheep were killed, and several of his cattle were mutilated. He immediately gave up the farm after that, and had lived peaceably with his neighbours since.
In cross-examination by Mr. Lockwood, the witness said the times were very bad for farmers in '79. Another man, named Cussack, was competing for the same farm. Witness took it, and had not had any quarrel with Cussack since.


Mrs. Caroline Blake said she lived in Galway, and in 1872 was the guardian of her son, who had an estate in that county. The tenants paid their rents regularly until the agitation. When the agitation commenced they refused unless they had a reduction. Some of them said they dared not pay, and asked if he would support their families if they (the tenants) were killed. The came as a deputation. "I went and told them (proceeded the witness) I would not give any reduction if they came in that way, but would consider what they said, and do what was right. On one occasion an old man came with a little boy, who had the money up his sleeve - five or six pounds. He paid the rent, and pinned the receipt inside his jacket, for fear that he would be searched on going home. Other tenants would come to the window and knock, and we had to let them in without the servants seeing them."
Mr. Murphy - Were they able to pay? - Oh, yes. They said, "We can pay, but dare not." One tenant who paid had his hay burnt.


Pat O'Neil, Thomas O'Neil, and Michael Conolly were co-partners in a farm on witness's property. They stocked their farm with sheep. In 1879 over a hundred of the sheep were thrown into the sea and drowned.
Sir Charles Russell remarked that that was an accident.
In reply to a question by Mr. Murphy, however, witness said it was impossible that it could have been an accident. O'Neil afterwards left the farm, and he ultimately told the witness that he had received a threatening letter. A man named Henry Smith, who also rented a farm from me (continued witness), had some of his cattle killed.
Sir Charles Russell - Do you know it of your own knowledge? - I know it by the fact that it was reported to me next morning.
But you did not see it occur? - Well, of course not. Unless I had been one of the "agitators" I could not have been there. A man named King, who rented one of my farms," added the witness, "also had a bullock drowned." Witness further said that she had constantly to go out at night to drive herds of cattle from her land. They were "wilful trespassers." That, continued witness, constantly happened after the agitation had been started.


Mr. Murphy said he would prove that Mr. Matthew Harris had "named" the witness at a meeting, and had alluded to her as "Mrs. Blake, that she devil." "On the 8th of April, the day after that speech," Mr. Murphy asked witness, "was Cane's, a herd, house attacked?"


Sir C. Russell said he must formally object to hearsay evidence.
The President - Very well; I will take your objection.
Sir C. Russell - Unless the proper rules as to evidence are regarded in this matter, then this ceases to be in any sense of the word a judicial investigation.
The President - That is not a proper observation. It is the duty of servants to make the reports to their employers, and thus it comes as evidence.
The witness was further examined by Mr. Murphy, and deposed to having received a report of outrages on her cattle.
Sir Charles Russell - That won't do at all. This is not evidence in the usual way.
Mr. Murphy proceeded to again examine the witness.
Sir C. Russell - I object. It is not evidence.
The President - Then you should call attention to it in the usual way.
Sir C. Russell - I have called attention to it in the only way that is usual, and I shall continued to do so. I am restraining myself under circumstances of great irritation.
The President - I have not seen that you have restrained yourself at all. On the contrary, you have expressed yourself in a most disrespectful manner.
Sir C. Russell - Not disrespectful intentionally, my Lord.
The President - Very well; I accept it. Somebody should have the last word, and I think it should be I.
Sir C. Russell - That is usual, my Lord.


Mr. Lockwood then cross-examined the witness. She declared that she did not think there was any exceptional distress in 1879, because several tenants told her they could pay their rent, but they were told not to. Of course (she said), a cry of distress would produce distress. She went on to bear out her argument as to there being no exceptional distress by mentioning an incident connected with the potato crop that came under her own notice. She said that one of her tenants showed her the small stock of potatoes she had. She, however, had the "tip" to look over the other side of the wall, and when she did so she saw several pits of potatoes. In fact, several of her tenants had potatoes long after it was said they had none. She could not remember the names of the tenants who called upon her to obtain a reduction, as she had about 200 or nearly 300 tenants at that time. One of the men asked her distinctly if she could support his children if he were murdered, but she could not remember who it was.
In cross-examination by Sir Chas. Russell, the witness said it was through Father McConnell, who lived near her tenants, that she was attacked in the House of Commons. However, the accusations were found to be untrue by reports of Government Inspectors. She was defended by Mr. Forster in the House of Commons, and she believed it was Dr. Rowen, one of the inspectors, who said the "old did not look prematurely old, the young had a look of robust health and cannot be said to be starving." That was not the only place in which she had been attacked. She had been attacked in "Disturbed Ireland."


Will you undertake to say that any Land League meeting was held in the neighbourhood before or after your tenants called upon you? - Well, I can't say, but there was a meeting at the cross-roads, at which a great many misstatements were made, and which I contradicted in a letter in the Freeman's Journal, called Fact v. Fiction." (Laughter).
Was the meeting you referred to as having been held at Clifton held before the tenants came to you? - I believe so; and some of the speakers said the landlords made wealth their gods, and that there should be a close season for landlords as well as game.
Continuing her replies to Sir Charles Russell's questions, the witness said that the adjoining owners were Mr. Mitchell Henry and Mr. Graham. Father McAndrew was there now, but Father Conolly had left. Most of the outrages had been done before he left. She could not say the exact date of the worst of the outrages. She could not say when nine of her bullocks were drowned. After 1883 no outrages were committed on her property, "and now we are on the best of terms," added Mrs. Blake. "The tenants come in and out of my house now as they always did."
Sir Charles Russell - Have some of the tenants paid the rents out of the earnings of their children in America?
The witness replied that some of them did, but still she thought her tenants were prosperous. "There are exceptions, of course," she said.


Mr. Mr. Biggar - Since 1879 the gross rental of her property was about 1,600 pounds. Some of the tenants went into the Land Court. "But it was a dreadful idea to go into Court with so many tenants, so they got their farms surveyed." That was for the purpose of agreeing as to a reduction. Witness lost 3s. in the pound by the Government reduction. She could not exactly say what the net rental was now. She gave 10 per cent for two years. "At least, I offered them 10 per cent reduction twice, but I could not say whether they accepted it." Each case was treated on its merits. A reduction was given to some, no reduction to others, by the Land Commissioners.
Sir Charles Russell said he had the figures. In three cases there was no reduction by the Land Court; in two other cases there was. The lowest reduction was 13 per cent, the highest 33 per cent. The average was between 20 and 25 per cent.
By the Attorney-General - Witness had lived on her property ever since her marriage - fifteen or twenty years ago - and knew her tenants well. They frequently consulted her as a friend when their cattle were ill, or when they wanted advice upon anything else. "The agitation," continued Mrs. Blake, "ceased in 1883. In that year I was obliged to start an hotel in order to get a living. After the agitation had ceased I was again on the best of terms with my tenants." Witness remembered the Crimes Act of 1882. A number of men who were supposed to have committed murders and outrages were put into prison. "They were the right men, too," added the witness.


Mr. Henry Blake was next examined. He said he was the son of the last witness. On the occasion of the outrage at Tullamore in December, 1881, he went to the place and saw some of the bullocks. They were many footmarks, and there must have been a good crowd of persons there.


Mr. Henry Smith occupied the witness-box after Mr. Blake. He said that in 1879 he held a farm under Mrs. Blake, at Derry Inver. In December of that year, witness said, he lost some sheep. He claimed compensation, and obtained it on the ground of malicious injury.
Upon what ground (asked Mr. Murphy) did you make a claim for malicious injury?
Sir Charles Russell objected to the question.
The President, however, pointed out that it was material to know what was taking place in the district, and, amongst other things, to know on what grounds this man made his claims.
Mr. Murphy proceeded with his examination of the witness, who stated that it was reported to him upon another occasion that certain of his cattle had been injured.
Sir Charles Russell again objected to the "report," submitting that there was no rule of law which made such statements admissible as evidence.
The learned Judges consulted together upon the point, after which
The President - As this objection has been taken in a formal way and argued, we think it would be right that we should consider it further, and in the meantime the evidence should proceed without referring to statements made by other persons. We will give a definite opinion upon it later on.
The examination of the witness was again proceeded with, he stating that the case referred to was investigated by Sergeant Kavanagh, who was afterwards murdered.


John Kean, a nervous little man, dressed in a large Irish frieze coat, and with a white woollen muffler round his throat, was next called. He was Mrs. Blake's herd, and has been in the employ of the family for years. He gave evidence as to the visit the tenants paid to Mrs. Blake, and as to the attack upon his house. Some men broke into the house," d'ye see" (this was a peculiar interjection characteristic of Kean) - and went and pulled his lad out of bed. Then he himself went and hid in the room.
Where did you hide? - Under the bed, for shure. (Loud laughter.) They spoke to my wife (continued witness), and I heard them say that if I would give up the holding I would be saved from "anything," and that if I did not they would come again to me.
Kean assured Sir Charles Russell, in cross-examination, that the men did not injure his son at all. He did not recognise any of the men. He was sure his son would not know them because they had no light, and it was very dark. He said he had six or seven children now, and at the "present time" (meaning when the attack was made) he had a large family. During the time of the distress Mrs. Blake was the only friend he had, and she paid him and kept him.


Mr. Lockwood next addressed himself to the witness, who, though he certainly did not appear to be much over 40 years of age, persisted in the assertion that he was "over 70." His eldest son now was 23, "Aye, and he's away in 'Merica," observed the witness, with a knowing shake of the head, "and he sends me something every year." He himself was in receipt of 14 pounds a year as a herd, he proceeded, and out of that he had to keep his wife, himself, and seven others.
Mr. Lockwood said he was not suggesting that the witness amassed a big fortune. (Laughter.)
"How much did you earn in a year?" he then asked. - "I cannot say."
How much a day? - That was according to the rate of wages. (Laughter.) Witness added that the highest wages he was able to earn was 1s. per day. The highest wages in the county was only 1s. 6d. per day.
In answer to Mr. Harrington, witness said he remembered the famine of 1847-48.
Did you see many bad things during that famine? - "God forbid we should see as much again," replied the witness.


Did you see many people in starvation? - Yes, many. Witness further said that the famine was brought about by the failure of the potato crops. There was also a failure of potatoes in 1879. Witness, in reply to further questions, said he was present when the tenants came round and asked for a reduction in the rent.
Did you hear any of them say they had the rent but would not pay it? - No, I did not hear what they said, but "Her Royal Honour" told me so herself, replied witness, amid laughter.


Mr. Archibald Hoolan was next examined. He said he was a general country merchant at Whitegate, in county Galway. That was about six miles from Woodford. A man named Pat Rogers, said the witness, was evicted from a neighbouring farm in 1882. A man named Michael White took the farm, and another man named Manough took a bog, which was connected with the farm. Witness said he had a large business and a large number of customers. On the 25th of November, 1882, however, he served White and Manough with goods. The next day not a single customer entered his shop, and on the following Sunday a notice was given out that he was to be boycotted. There had consequently been a great falling-off in his business, which has continued up to the present date. There was a post-office attached to witness's business, and people, of course, had to go there to get stamps and post letters. They frequently went to get the articles under that pretence. They were afraid of buying anything openly for fear of being boycotted themselves. The president of the Land League, at that time, continued the witness, was the Rev. Mr. Herdan, a Catholic priest.


Witness also said that he never went before the Land League, and it was that which had annoyed them. He had indirectly received notice that if he went before the League and stated his case, he would be all right. The President of the League (said witness) knew that he was boycotted, and expressed his regret at it. Witness also had his crops destroyed, his gates pulled down, and windows broken. He could not get his horses shod, and sometimes he had to send for the travelling forge of the police to Loughrea, a distance of twenty miles. He lent one of his carts to a neighbour, and four nights later the cart was taken out of the yard, and was found some weeks later on in eight feet of water in the Shannon. He occasionally read United Ireland, and saw that paper of the date of May 29, 1886. In that it was stated that at a meeting of the branch of the Land League at Whitegate, "the acts of persons who had brought a travelling forge into the parish were severely discussed and disapproved of." That, he said, referred to him, as did also another resolution condemning a local trader who had supplied emergency men with food, and one referring to the action of the police in taking down a notice about him as "illegal as the arrest of Miss Cass." He received a letter in January, 1886, from the chairman of the local branch of the League, the Rev. Mr. Horne. It was written by Mr. Harrington, who represented the injustice of boycotting witness, considering that he was a Government official, and could not act as other traders. That letter he gave back to the Chairman; but the boycotting was continued even to a greater extent then before.
In cross-examination by Sir C. Russell, witness stated that although Clerk of the Petty Sessions, he had no legal knowledge. He received 20 pounds compensation for the loss of his colt, which was six months of age.


Do you not know that the reason of your unpopularity was your dealing with emergency men - rightly or wrongly? - No; because I had not supplied them up to that time.
What was the chief cause of your being boycotted? - The first cause was my supplying White and Manough with goods. The two most important men in the local branch of the League were MacDermott, who, witness thought, was also a Poor Law Guardian, and a man named William Bark. Beyond the letter which had been referred to, witness did not know that Mr. Harrington condemned boycotting, and was anxious to put it down.
Re-examined by Sir Richard Webster, witness said a man who was the baker at Scariff also supplied Whitegate. He, however, refused to serve others after he was boycotted.


Sergeant Clancy, R.I.C., who was stationed at Whitegate in 1882, remembered a man named Rogers being evicted, and men named White and Manough taking the farm. It was witness's duty to protect those men, they being boycotted. The Land League was established in March, or April, 1882. White had been in possession about two or three months before that date. The National League was established in 1884. There were no public meetings of the Land League held at Whitegate. They, however, held committee meetings. Witness had seen the people go to these meetings. Witness then handed in a list of the names of the men who frequently attended the committee meetings of the National League in 1884.


In reply to Mr. Lockwood witness asserted that he wrote down the names of the men who attended the National League meeting in March or April, 1884. He also asserted that he took the names down while standing in the street watching the people going into the meeting.


Mr. Lockwood then pointed out that there was writing on the back of the paper on which the names were written. There were the words "Compiled on the 6th of June, 1885." He then asked witness how he came into possession of the document in 1884?
Witness said it was all right.
Mr. Lockwood said he was glad witness was satisfied on that point, but he wished for an explanation. (Laughter.)
After a very severe cross-examination, witness admitted that he wrote the names down some time in the year 1885 in pencil, and afterwards copied them on to the piece of paper in question when he got back to the barracks.


John Hughes, who lives at Ardraghan, and has the post-office there, was next called. He deposed to having lent a car, on hire, to the police in 1886, and to being treated differently by the people of the locality after that date. He subsequently met Father Considine, who told him the people thought he had no need for the money. "Well, I said I hadn't," said the witness, "so I gave him what I got for it, and that was 15 pounds. I don't know what he did with it; but he said he'd give it to the poor of a neighbouring parish. After that the boycotting was took off."


Sir Charles Russell then addressed himself to the witness, eliciting from him the fact that he was very popular in the locality before this occurred, and he is even now. The witness could not say absolutely if Father Considine said he would speak about the boycotting, but he believed he did.
Except being annoyed by a baker refusing to supply you with bread, you had nothing to annoy you? - Well, when it comes to pounds, shillings, and peace, a man is annoyed, Sir.
Yes, perhaps so. But have you been boycotted up to the present? - Oh! no, Sir. They came back to me at the latter end of 1886. Up to the time of the Woodford evictions (the witness continued), when he let cars to the police, he was treated well.
And was there not, rightly or wrongly, a strong feeling about these evictions? - Yes.
And it is not a fact that anyone who assisted in them came under the general condemnation of the people of the country? - Right you are, Sir. (Laughter.)


I believe he also asked you to give something towards the Woodford Defence Fund? - Yes.
What was the object of the Woodford Defence Fund? "Well," replied the witness, "I suppose to pay some one like yourself, Sir."
This remark was received with considerable merriment, in which the President himself joined.


In my district, continued Mr. Hughes, there had been great distress during the past seven years until this year. During the distress in 1879, committees of the Duchess of Marlborough's Relief Fund came into the district. Witness said he remembered the commencement of the land agitation.
Did any of the landlords (asked Sir Charles) reduce their rents before that time? - Yes, Mr. Shaw Taylor, and, I believe, Mr. Burke, lowered their rents without even being asked.


Mrs. Burke, the widow of the late John Henry Burke, agent to the Marquis of Clanricarde, was next examined. She said they lived a few miles from Loughrea. Up to 1881 he was on good terms with his neighbours and the tenantry. At the latter end of 1881, however, Land League meetings were held at Loughrea. Witness was asked to subscribe to the League, but she refused. At the latter end of 1881 witness's husband received a threatening letter. On the 17th of June, 1882, witness went to Loughrea on a jaunting car. It was a holiday, and there were a lot of people on the road. When we were nearing Loughrea I noticed a boy sitting on the wall at a bend in the road. I noticed that he looked at us very savagely, and I asked the servant who was with us who he was. The servant said he did not know, and my husband said it was the first time he had not known any one in the neighbourhood. We then at once drove on, but we had not gone far when a shot was fired. I was wounded, and another shot, which was fired immediately afterwards, struck my husband.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday November 9, 1888, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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