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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 16 Sep 2012 - 22:11

Thirteenth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, November 13, 1888






Once more the Commission has settled down to business. Last week was very uneventful. The monotonous proceedings drew to a weary termination on Friday, unattended by any exciting revelation, and relieved only by one or two amusing incidents connected with the appearance in the witness-box of alternately witty and stoic representatives of the Irish tenantry. This morning still more of these heavily-shawled, rapidly-talking personages were to be seen lingering in the neighbourhood of the Probate Court. Many of them came over during the night, and will be called to further elaborate the story of crime and outrage the Attorney-General has promised to divulge and prove. There was a great array of legal talent when the Court opened, shortly after half-past ten o'clock this morning. All the counsel were in their places. Mr. Michael Davitt, too, occupied his usual seat in front of the counsel for the Parnellite Party.

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.


Upon taking his seat, the President at once adverted to the objections taken last week by Sir Charles Russell to the admission of certain hearsay evidence. The objection referred to was as to the admissibility of reports made by persons to their employers, with reference to the property of those employers. He was satisfied (said the President), speaking for himself, that there was a misunderstanding between the Court and counsel on the subject. The arguments addressed to the Court went to show that hearsay evidence would not be proof of the facts alleged to have been stated. It never was the intention of the Court to lay down anything to the contrary. The question which he now expressed an opinion on, and believed he had the full concurrence of his colleagues in stating, was this: That the fact that a particular report had been made by a person in discharge of his duty was not proof that the contents of the report were to be taken as evidence of the facts. To bring such evidence, they therefore held was not to prove the facts. There was another matter he had to mention, and that was with reference to the claims for compensation. When it appeared that these claims had been made in writing, the Court at once said that the writings must be produced; but still, if they were, the objection of Sir Charles Russell would stand, that the claims in themselves were not admissible. Again, here there was a broad distinction between the fact being admitted in evidence and its proving the claim. But they were of the opinion it was admissible as evidence of the fact that the claim was made. They therefore thought those two branches of evidence, upon the grounds named, were admissible.
Mr. Justice A.L. Smith said he entirely agreed with the President.


The President then referred to the examination of the box of documents. "We have examined them," said the learned Judge, "and are of opinion that, with regard to some of them, they ought to be disclosed." He referred particularly (continued the learned Judge) to the documents which were alleged to have come into the possession of Mr. Soames, purporting to be written by certain persons - amongst those against whom charges and allegations were directed. These documents were admitted to be spurious, and were rejected by Mr. Soames. He (Sir James Hannen) thought Mr. Soames was justified in not including them in the documents appended. The Commissioners were of opinion (he repeated) that these documents should be disclosed, as it was alleged on the side of the persons charged that they were forgeries. The handwriting of the documents rejected by Mr. Soames might be, on examination, shown to be the same handwriting as the documents said to be in the handwriting of Mr. Parnell. Of course, that was only an illustration as to why they should be disclosed. Some of the documents were said to be in the handwriting of Mr. Davitt, and in justice to him they ought to be disclosed. With regard to the mass of the documents, the Commissioners had examined them, and found nothing inconsistent with the statements made on oath respecting them. The documents relating particularly to the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter" it was not necessary to disclose. In the search for truth care must be taken not to obstruct its source by mentioning names.


"Some days ago I received a threatening letter," added Sir James Hannen.
"I have received several," rejoined Sir C. Russell.
Sir James Hannen said that, with the exception of certain reservations he had mentioned, the documents would be disclosed, but the Commissioners would exercise their discretion as circumstances might arise.
Sir Charles Russell asked that the Secretary of the Commission should make a schedule of the documents.
Sir James Hannen assented to that course.
The Attorney-General asked what was the decision of the Court with regard to the documents that had been handed in by Mr. Lewis.
The President - I am of opinion that there is nothing in that document which calls for disclosure.


Mr. Bucknill, Q.C., then made an application on behalf of the Marquis of Clanricarde. He pointed out that an order, or what in his opinion amounted to an order, had been made for Mrs. Blake to produce certain correspondence which had passed between her deceased husband and Lord Clanricarde's agent.
The President said that no order had been made.
"Then, of course," continued Mr. Bucknill, "I have no locus standi here. My argument, however, is this. Lord Clanricarde does not propose to oppose the jurisdiction of this Court, if it directs that any correspondence relevant to the case should be produced, even though they are letters written by Lord Clanricarde to his deceased agent. Some of that correspondence, however, was strictly private between Lord Clanricarde and his agent; and already a Court of jurisdiction in Ireland had directed that that correspondence should not be published. Yet if the correspondence can to shown to be relevant to matters now before your Lordships, of course it will be forthcoming. All Lord Clanricarde asks is that only such of the correspondence as is relevant should be produced. As most of the letters which passed between Lord Clanricarde and Mr. Blake, during his agency, were of a strictly private character, your Lordships will probably think them irrelevant. I, therefore, ask (said Mr. Bucknill, in conclusion) that your Lordships will look at the letters yourselves, and judge as to what are relevant to the case and what are not."
Sir Charles Russell objected to that course being taken. He contended that their Lordships were not competent at that stage to judge as to what was relevant and what was not.
The President said he would consider the matter, and the subject then dropped.


Inspector Langford was then recalled. He was re-examined by Mr. Lockwood in respect to a boycotting notice which, he said, he had copied on to a tablet years ago from the original, and then written out in his diary. The diary was produced, and Mr. Lockwood pointed out that in it the witness had stated that he wrote the letter in the diary from memory after reading the original. Mr. Lockwood further pointed out that it was written in such a manner as would suggest that it had been written from memory.
The witness, however, said he was still of opinion that he copied it from a tablet.
Mr. Lockwood said he thought the document spoke for itself.
Having obtained the permission of the President, Mr. Lockwood addressed a few questions to Langford, eliciting from him the fact that he knew the O'Flaherty family before the incident at the chapel; that he had never heard of the Bishop of the diocese censuring a member of the family on a previous occasion, or that Father Coen, after the chapel incident, had received a threatening letter.
Mr. Michael Davitt here sought and obtained permission to inspect, in company with Mr. Lewis, the documents said to have been written by him.


Patrick Kennedy, a tall, intelligent-looking Irishman, with a clean-shaven, closely-cropped head of hair, was next called. He was asked by Mr. Atkinson where he lived, but objected to say, observing that he lived "in the country."
Sir Charles Russell submitted that they must have some locality.
The Attorney-General explained that it was not a question as to his present residence, but referred to some years ago.
Kennedy then gave his evidence. He said he took a farm near Mullagh, in the County Galway, from which Catherine Dempsey had been evicted. Subsequently he made the acquaintance of three men, named Cunninghame, Farrell, and O'Hallern. These three attended a meeting which he believed to have been called by the Land League, on his farm, at which a man named O'Sullivan expressed the wish that the grass might wither beneath Kennedy's feet; Martin O'Hallern saying he had come there to reinstate the widow Dempsey.


"If you don't give up the farm you will get so-and-so," was an expression witness asserted was made to him by some men who attended the Land League meeting. Afterwards he sent a communication to the Central Office of the Land League in Dublin - that was in 1881. He received a reply and had a conversation with Mr. Ryan, secretary of the local branch, with reference to that letter, he saying that he would give up the farm. Ryan said there would be some delay in communicating with the Central Office, but he referred him to Matt Harris to explain his losses. Witness a short time after tilled the land. He did not go to Matt Harris.
"You need not be afraid," said Mr. Atkinson to the witness, whose voice was trembling.
"He is not afraid," replied a learned counsel sitting at the back of Mr. Davitt.
Witness (continuing) said he knew what boycotting meant. From 1883 to 1886, when the Land League was suppressed, he received no annoyance from his neighbours; but in November, 1886, he received a printed notice, after which some men came to the farm and requested witness to give it up. On the following day several head of his cattle were missing. He found them a mile and a half from his land. He went to Father Bodkin, who was a member of the Land League, and asked him if his cattle might graze on another farm. Father Bodkin then gave no reply.


"As I was passing the house of Mr. Derman, the secretary of the League at Tynagh (continued the witness), I saw that a meeting was being held there; so I went into the house. Matt Harris was presiding, and there was a stranger there, whom I was afterwards told was Mr. Sheehy, M.P. My brother was also present, and he tried to explain why I took the land. The stranger said he did not want to hear anything about it, but asked me to give up the farm. Matt Harris also advised me to do so, but I refused. The next night a man named Ford, a member of the League, and a man named Dillon, the secretary of the League at Mullagh, came to my house. Dillon advised me to attend the League meeting at Mullagh, and I accordingly did so on the next Sunday. I asked for leave to get grass for my stock, and I was told that I could do so if I gave up the farm. Dillon, on that occasion, told me he did not like me."
"What did he say he disliked you for?" asked Mr. Atkinson. - "Because," said witness, "he said I was a landgrabber."


In further examination by Mr. Atkinson, the witness said that, having received that authority, he put cattle and sheep on some grass obtained from a Mrs. Kelly, a farmer, grocer, and baker. During the time the sheep were on the land, Mrs. Kelly was boycotted by those who had formerly been her customers. He remained in possession of the farm until 1887. During this time he received various letters from the Land League branch at Mullagh. One, which he received early in 1887, ran as follows: - "Mullagh Branch Land League.
"I am instructed by the committee to communicate with you regarding the Widow Dempsey's farm. We are informed that you are still in possession, and if you don't send us some satisfactory account on or before next Sunday we shall be brought to the disagreeable necessity of declaring you still a land-grabber. By order of the committee, PATRICK DILLON, Assistant Secretary."

A short time afterwards he received another letter. It was written by the secretary of the branch under date of April 4, 1887. It said: -
"I am directed by the committee of the Mullagh Branch to communicate again with you regarding the widow Dempsey's farm. Give some satisfactory answer whether you will give up possession or not. Awaiting your reply by return of post."

During the following June he saw some cattle on his land, and had reason to believe they were the property of the widow Dempsey, and later on saw that the grass had been cut by some one who had no business to cut it. He was now under police protection.


Sir Charles Russell proceeded to cross-examine the witness, who, in reply to the question as to how long Sergeant Hennessy had been in the locality of the farm, said, "I object to the question." Sir Charles then attempted to obtain from the witness where he lived, but he again made an objection to the question, stating that there were too many who knew where he lived, and he didn't want the people of London to know, as he might "hear of it again" when he got back.
"Where did you live before you took this farm of the widow Dempsey?" asked Sir Charles.
"In the county Galway, Ireland," was the reply, received in Court with bursts of laughter.


Sir Charles looked sternly at the witness. "Come, Sir," he said, "answer my question. Why this stupidity?"
"I was livin' in Galway, shure," was the only answer that could be extracted.
"Were you living with your brother?" was the next question.
"Yes; I was."
"And how did you live?" - (Here again Sir Charles was confronted with a most remarkable display of obstinacy. The witness leant back against the rail of the box, nervously tapped his long thin fingers on the side, gazed up to and studied the architecture of the ceiling, but refused to reply, even with the merest monosyllable. Suddenly, after the question had been repeated over and over again, he glared furiously at Sir Charles, and at the top of his voice, trembling and impassioned, he exclaimed, "You can be as hard with me as you like. How did I live, indade - (scornfully) - "d'ye think I live on the wind, or what?"
This called for the interposition of the President, who quietly told the man he was not fairly answering the question. It was put again, and then Kennedy informed the Court that, prior to taking the Dempsey farm, he lived with and worked for his brother, and was "maintained" in return.


"The widow Dempsey was evicted in April, 1879," continued the witness. Her landlord was Mr. Trench. It was on the 18th or 19th of the same month that witness took the farm. There was no local branch of the Land League at Mullagh on the 18th of November, 1880, nor was there one at Tynagh. "Come, wake up," said Sir Charles Russell, after asking if the witness knew when the first branch was established at Tynagh. Kennedy laughed, was silent for several seconds, and then said the League was not established in 1881. "But you said 1881 - come, now," persuasively urged the learned counsel. "I did not say 1881," was the reply, which called forth the retort from Sir Charles, "You need not answer me so rudely, Kennedy"; and the occupant of the box, resting both hands on it in an easy attitude, again smiled, and gave no definite reply. His answer was equally ambiguous as to whether, since, 1881, he had not attended meetings, and told the police of the proceedings, his reply in the negative being supplemented by, "I didn't tell them half of what happened." He did say he would give up his farm if paid for his losses.


In reply to Mr. Lockwood, witness declared that he had gained nothing by giving information to the police from 1881 to 1883.
"Can you swear that?" asked Mr. Lockwood - Yes, I have been a loser rather than a gainer.
Then who is keeping you now? - The Times, I suppose.


Mr. Biggar then questioned witness. "You mentioned," he said, "that you were popular up to 1879, but after that you became unpopular. Now, do you not know that land grabbing was always unpopular? - I never heard of it before.
Do you not know that there was a great deal of land grabbing in county Galway before 1879? - I never heard of land-grabbing until 1880.
But you knew that it was an unpopular practice to take a farm from which any one had been evicted. What is your opinion on the subject? - That the land was meant for the people.
In reply to the Attorney-General witness said when he offered to take the farm from which Mrs. Dempsey had been evicted, he refused to take it if she still had any hold upon it. He was, however, told that plenty of other people would take it if he did not, and so he took it. He paid 20 pounds for security, and 20 pounds to Mrs. Dempsey.


In further re-examination, Kennedy declared that he never asked for police protection, and did not know why it was accorded him. He was summoned to the "Star Chamber," and made a statement to the Magistrates there.
The Attorney-General - Where did you first hear it called the "Star Chamber"? - I can't tell, but I think Mr. Bowler, a solicitor of Loughrea, was the first I heard use it.
Sergeant Hennesy, R.I.C., next occupied the witness-box. He is at present stationed at Tynagh, in the county Galway, where he has been since 1884, having left in 1880, and returned there subsequently. He knew the last witness, and knew that during 1880 he was protected by patrols, while in April, 1881 and 1882, he was put under special protection, the men staying in the house with him. As far as he knew, he told the Attorney-General in examination the only reason for this precaution was that Kennedy's life was in danger. The reason why it was taken off was because Kennedy refused to take two men of the Auxiliary of the Royal Irish. The National League was established in Tynagh in 1885, the officials being practically the same as those of the Land League. He received from Kennedy a certain document of which he took a copy. That document came from the League, and set forth that the committee had received a communication from Kennedy asking for "time," in order to dispose of his cattle, and had come to the conclusion that any person would be justified in exchanging dealings with him.
In cross-examination by Sir Charles Russell, the witness said he thought the only reason why the man was treated as he was was because of his taking an evicted farm.
By the Attorney-General - Before 1879, if tenants were turned out, there were other tenants ready to take the farms - any number of tenants.


Sergeant Rowham, of the R.I.C., in charge of the district, spoke as to the various occasions when outrages were committed on Kennedy's farm. The hay was carted off Kennedy's farm, and was traced to Loughrea, where the men who took it were captured. They were afterwards convicted. That affair took place after Committee meetings of the Land League had been held.
By Sir Charles Russell - These Committee meetings were held in the open air, in the chapel-yard, witness himself being present.
The Commission then adjourned for lunch.


James Manion, a farmer, was the first witness called after luncheon. He said he lived near Letterfrack, in the West of Galway. He remembered the Land League holding its meetings at that town in 1880. Pat Rohan was one of the men who did most towards establishing the League. He was treasurer of the branch. Michael Crawley and Michael Coyne were collectors for the League. The meetings of the League were held at Mrs. Welsh's house. One of Mrs. Welsh's sons was hanged for the murder of Lydon. He (witness) was for a time a member of the Land League, and was also a member of the Fenian Society. He was sworn in as a member of the latter by Pat Rohan. All those who attended the Land League meetings at Mrs. Welsh's house were also members of the Fenian Society. All members of that Society had a secret sign by which they knew each other. At the meetings drink was distributed, which was paid for by Pat Rohan.


A man named Flaherty, who was a member of the Land League, and also a Fenian, brought a notice to his house. In consequence of that notice he went with Flaherty to a place called Tully. On the way they called at Nabury's house, and together they proceeded to the Tully cross-roads, where they met Pat Rohan and about sixty or seventy others. MacDonnell was in command of the party, (continued the witness), and he went on to Anthony Coyne's house, where MacDonnell wanted us to kick in the door, and draw him out of bed. This was because he was going to evict an under tenant named Lydon, and the object was to give him a good beating and get the processes he possessed against Lydon. When we got into Coyne's house we put out the fire, and some of the party pulled Coyne out of bed, and severely beat him, ultimately firing three shots out through the roof of the house. We then left the house, and went back to our homes, I returning to Letterfrack. I don't know actually when I was sworn in, but I guess (this term was peculiar to the witness) it was in November, 1880.


Some months after this (went on the witness) I attended a meeting at Pat Rohan's house at Mullahglass, where the question of Mr. Graham's tenants was discussed. The meeting was held soon after nine o'clock at night, and there were several tenants present. I was one of the tenants, and said that I was sure we were all satisfied with the reduction he had given us. One of the men present then got up and said that he thought someone should be shot, either Mr. Graham or someone connected with him, because the rent had been paid. I was told to go and post notices on some of the doors of Mr. Graham's tenants, and I did so, the notices being to the effect that if they paid rent they would be shot. They, however, did pay the rent, on the sly.


I subsequently had a conversation with Rohan about Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Graham's agent at Letterfrack. I met him with several others just outside the town, and he told me that he thought Mr. Macdonald would be dining with Mr. Graham that night, and asked me if I would ascertain whether it was a fact that he would dine there. I went down to the house and asked the butler, and he told me that several gentlemen would dine there, and I knew that Macdonald would be one of them, but when I got back there I told Rohan that Mr. Graham was going to dine a long distance off, and Mr. Macdonald would not dine there.
Why was that? - Well, Sir, I was a bit in wid Mr. Macdonald, and I didn't want to have no hand in him.
According to the rules of the Fenian Society, I believe you are bound to do everything you are ordered? - Oh, yes, Sir; or else you'd be shot. After this (continued the witness) we used to take sheep away from the farm, and give them to the widow Welsh.


Witness, continuing, said he knew a Mr. Fleming, and he heard a man say in his presence that he would not like to be in his shoes. Fleming was subsequently fired at. A meeting was held at Mrs. Welsh's house in reference to the firing at Fleming. Witness remembered going to a place called Crawley's Mountain. About 200 people were present, the meeting being held by moonlight - between twelve and one o'clock. The meeting was held for the object of deciding to boycott Mrs. Blake and Mrs. Priory.


He also remembered the time when the Lydons were murdered. A meeting was held at Mrs. Welsh's house to consider the case of the Lydons. He was summoned by Pat Rohan to attend. Mr. Welsh's sons, Pat and Michael, were also present. It was Pat who was afterwards hanged for the murder of Lydon. In the discussion it was said that the Lydons ought to be shot for taking a farm from part of which the Wolske's had been evicted. He (witness) and five other men, including Pat Rohan, were then selected to pay a visit to Lydon's house. Several of the others (proceeded witness) had revolvers, but I did not have one. When we got to Lydon's we saw a light in the house, so we did not care to go in.


We therefore tried to get the cattle round the house, so that Lydon would come out to drive them away, so that then we could shoot him. His dog was, however, barking, so Lydon did not come out. We, therefore, had not the chance to shoot him, so we went away. I was not present when Lydon was shot.


Do you know what Moonlighting is? - I do very well. I was a Moonlighter.
Who are the Moonlighters? - They are all Land Leaguers. I do not know a Moonlighter who is not a member of the Land League.
What did you do when you visited a man's house? - We either beat him, or shot him, or committed some other outrage.
What did you do that for?
Sir Charles Russell here objected to the question.
In answer to another question by Mr. Atkinson, witness said many of the outrages were committed because the men who were attacked had paid their rent. He had himself put "No rent" notices on their doors. In answer to further questions, witness said Rohan had gone to America, but the other men whom he had mentioned had been prosecuted for conspiracy to murder Lydon. Among those men were Connelly, Joyce, and Flaherty.


Sir Charles Russell then cross-examined the witness. "Are you a 'ribbon' man?" he asked. - "I do not understand what you mean," answered the witness.
Did you never hear of the Ribbon Society? - Never.
When did you first hear of Fenianism? - Not until the Land League was started in my district.
Have you ever been to America? - No, I have never been out of Letterfrack until I came to London.
Were you also charged with the murder of Lydon? - Yes.
How long were you in prison? - About six weeks.


Did your mind give way? - Yes. I got a little excited, and was sent to an asylum at Ballinasloe.
You have got back your recollection now, then? - I guess so, now.
Have you ever engaged in any moonlighting expedition with the exception of that to Coyne's house and to Lydon's house. - Yes. I went to the house of a man named Macdonald, and I have accompanied men engaged in an expedition many times, although I have taken no part in it.
Did not secret societies exist extensively in that part of Galway? - Not to my knowledge.
Now, were not the meetings at Welsh's house Fenian meetings? - I don't see how I could call them Fenian meetings when they were Land League meetings.
Were there any persons present who were not Fenians? - No.
The Commission shortly afterwards adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday November 13, 1888, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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