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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Thu 27 Sep 2012 - 8:39

Twenty-second Day of Proceedings - Thursday, November 29, 1888




The slight fog at the earlier portion of this morning had penetrated into the draughty little Court. The atmosphere is never particularly bracing, but this morning it was positively unendurable, and threw the President into a violent fit of coughing when he took his seat on the bench. There was a remarkable pancity of Pressmen present when the Court opened, the seats at the back of the counsels' benches being almost entirely untenanted, though two of the most notable occupants were Captain Plunkett - who never misses attending at least once a day - and Mr. Charles Collette, who sat by his side. Mr. Michael Davitt, with his bulky notebook, and Mr. Biggar, with his various documents, were early in attendance; and Lord and Lady Monteagle occupied seats in the Jury-box.
A slight reference by the Attorney-General to the paging of the official report of the proceedings; and then the story of crimes was resumed.


A tall dark man, who spoke in a gruff, halting manner, continued the recital. This was Timothy Sullivan. He was a tenant of Lord Ventrey's, in the co. Kerry. In 1880 a body of tenants asked for a reduction of rent, but were refused. Sullivan, however, paid his rent, and a short time afterwards his house was fired into. Next day there appeared upon his door a notice, to which was affixed the mysterious signature - "Rory o' the Hills," informing him that he was shot at because he had discharged his liability to his landlord, and warning all others who followed his example that they would meet with similar treatment.
"Had he a son," asked Mr. Davitt? Yes; he had. - Did he suppose he had anything to do with the writing of the notice? - No; decidedly not.


Thomas Kelly, of the R.I.C., followed Sullivan, the witness proving the receipt of the notice of "Rory o' the Hills." He was only in the box about two minutes. He was succeeded by Patrick Murphy, who was examined by his namesake - Mr. Murphy, Q.C. Patrick is a tall, priestly-looking individual. In accordance with what seems to be a recognised fashion amongst those of his class, he carried a round billycock hat with a glaring green lining. This man had to tell of a most dastardly outrage. He took a farm near Castleisland, from which a Mrs. Linahan was evicted. A few nights later, a party visited the house, broke open the door, and marched him out. They beat him with sticks and a gun, then fired at him, and ultimately perpetrated the outrage of cutting off a portion of his ear.


After that life became intolerable in the little homestead, and ultimately Mrs. Linahan was forcibly reinstated, Murphy's caretaker being ejected, and proceedings had to be taken to secure the farmhouse to Murphy again. This was not all. Returning from a fair, a man jumped out of a wood, fired at him, and hastened back to the wood; five of his bullocks were stolen, and their hides only were afterwards discovered; and several sheep were stolen and killed on his fields. Murphy had an indistinct recollection of having been told by Father Murphy - who, it was said by the "prosecution," was connected with the League - that if he would give up the farm he would receive what he had paid for it. "Niver a cint did I git, though," added Murphy.


To Mr. Davitt Murphy explained under what circumstances he became the tenant of the widow Linahan's farm. "To tell you the truth, sorr, I didn't want it," he said; "but I had the farm by the side, and Mr. Hodinett, the agent, tould me that my term would soon be up, and he would eject me if I didn't take Mrs. Linahan's farm." The day he took the farm Mrs. Linahan shook his hand and said she was glad he had the farm rather than her brother-in-law, who had watched it for five years.


Murphy's successor in the witness-box had a remarkable appearance. He was a tall, grey-haired man of probably 60 or 65. He had only one arm, and wore around his neck two large tri-coloured shawls. This was John M'Cauliff, whose brother used to serve processes in the locality of Tralee, and in the parish of Curran. In 1880 an armed party visited the house, broke in the door, and fired several shots at both his brother and he. His brother was very seriously injured, and his arm was completely smashed, necessitating its amputation.


The result of Mr. Lockwood's cross-examination was the addition of one more incident connected with the crime. It seems that the armed party ransacked the house and took away a lot of money from the house.
The Attorney-General here expressed the hope that he would not have to trouble the Court with any more lengthy references to Kerry crime, although outrages might probably be mentioned again. He had deferred the examination of Mr. Hussey, owing to the fact that Sir Charles Russell, who wished to be present, was today compelled to be absent upon public business.


The appearance in the box of District-Inspector Crane, a very fashionably-dressed official of the R.I.C., who informed the Attorney-General that he was educated at Oxford, was a welcome relief. He described the peaceful condition of the country all around Dingle in and prior to 1879, and the series of outrages which occurred after the establishment of the Land League. According to this witness, the landlords and tenants were on the best possible terms before the League was established in the locality; but afterwards crime followed, as the shadow follows the substance. To substantiate this statement, he said that after a League meeting in Dingle evictions took place, the police meeting with a great deal of opposition. Before the establishment of the League - Bailiffs had no need to seek police protection. After - their lives were absolutely in jeopardy, and in one instance a coffin was hung up outside a bailiff's house. From Dingle Mr. Crane passed on to Listowel. His story with reference to this district was the same - a peaceful countryside, meetings of the Land League, attended in some instances by the brothers Harrington; outrages of a revolting character, such as the maiming of cattle, raids for arms, and Land League "hunts," and the murder of a tenant farmer named Costelloe because he paid his rent. One effect of his experience was that he had formed the opinion that outrages were not coincident with the greatest poverty, but really occurred where there was the greatest amount of prosperity.


Have you found in Listowel or Dingle any connection between the Moonlighters and the Land League? - Well, I may say that I have always found that wherever there was an actively working branch of the National or Land Leagues, there is also a body of Moonlighters. They go in localities. For instance, in the North of Kerry there are the "Dohu Derry Boys," and in another portion the "Red Road Boys."
Have you found in Dingle or Listowel any moonlighting society where there was no Land League? - I have not.


Crane then went on to Killarney, also a district in which he resided. He produced statistics as to crime in that district. In 1881 there were 70 outrages; 1882, 66; 1883, 53; 1884, 39; 1885, 68; 1886, 80; and 1887, 54.
Had you any difficulty in obtaining evidence with reference to these cases? - Yes.
To what do you attribute that? - To the system of terrorism existing in the neighbourhood. It was so great that a man was afraid to be seen speaking to a policeman in the street.


The catalogue of crime he produced was very similar to that District-Inspector Higgins detailed the other day. It referred principally to incidents we have already heard of from the persons actually concerned. He repeated with regard to this district what he had said of Dingle and Listowel - that wherever there was an active and working branch of the Land League there was also a body of Moonlighters, who did not exist where there was no League. As for the Land League, its members never once attempted to assist the police in the detection of crime.
Mr. Lockwood's cross-examination was very searching. Had the District-Inspector Crane ever been to Ireland before he joined the Constabulary? - No; he knew nothing of the country till he went over there in June of 1879 for the express purpose of joining the force. The first eviction he attended was at a place called Lispole, in 1881, he being attended by several armed police. He declined to say that there was any extraordinary amount of sympathy shown for the party being evicted; but the people certainly cheered whenever a pitchfork came out of the window.
You have spoken of the murder of Moriarty. Do you remember the burning of the house of a man named Kennedy? - I don't think I do; but I could, perhaps, if you were to mention incidents connected with it.
Have you heard that Moriarty was the man who was employed by the authorities to fire Kennedy's house? - I can't say that I have.
It is possible that he might have been so employed without your knowing it? - Yes, of course.


Mr. Lockwood pointed out that Inspector Crane had asserted that the Coercion Act of 1882 had the effect of suppressing crime. In the returns, however, it would be seen that in 1885, although the "good work" of coercion was going on, crime again considerably increased in Killarney.
The Inspector made an explanation. He said that in the half of 1885, when the Coercion Act was not at work, the majority, and the worst class, of crimes occurred.


The file of the Kerry Sentinel was at this juncture again placed before Mr. Lockwood. He read an article written by the London correspondent - who, in fact, is Mr. Edward Harrington - and in which crime and outrage was denounced. "Baptising in Blood" was the heading of another article which Mr. Lockwood read, and which also sternly denounced outrages.


Mr. Asquith, referring to Crane's statement that the Moonlighters and the Land League were intimately associated, asked - Do you suggest that the Moonlighters and the Land League are united together? - I do.
How are they? - So far as I have seen, if the League say that a man shall not take a farm, the Moonlighters always carried out the resolution - at least, they invariably do.
So far as your inquiries go, do the same people belong to the same bodies? - I don't say that the majority of the Land Leaguers are Moonlighters; but I do say that the majority of Moonlighters are Land Leaguers.
In support of this serious assertion Crane mentioned that just before the shooting of Mr. Curtin a meeting of the League was held in the locality, at which one of the speakers shouted out, "Shoot him!"
Is that what you call passing a resolution? - Well, that was not a resolution, but the man was shot.


Mr. Asquith pressed Crane to give incidents. He could not, however, give absolute proof of particular cases; but he declared, for the purpose of emphasising his assertion, that in 1882 a notice appeared in United Ireland to the effect that the farmers should be asked to produce their Land League cards, and two nights after that various raids took place in the locality, the raiders asking the farmers to produce their cards of membership.
And out of that you suggest that there was some connection between the Land Leaguers and these outrages? - Well, I don't say so, but I say it was rather a remarkable fact.
Mr. Harrington obtained from Crane the statement that almost all the people in the localities of which he had spoken were members of the League, and that when arrests were made it frequently occurred that the criminals were members of the League. He gave one or two instances, in each of which there was no conviction.
Can you give any other instance? - You yourself were arrested once at Listowel for rioting. (Loud laughter.)
I was. But was I found guilty? - I can't say. I know that you were returned for trial, but I can't say whether you were acquitted or whether the prosecution was not proceeded with.


The inspector, like Inspector Rice, spoke of his "private information," but declined to make known the source of that information. Referring to threatening notices generally, he declared his belief that private family matters were often the cause of such notices being posted up.


Mr. Davitt, referring to the state of the peasantry in 1880 and 1881, asked Crane whether he was not on terms of intimacy with Lord Ventry. He admitted he was.
Then I suppose you have dined at Burnham House? - I have.
And I suppose there is a vast difference between the bill of fare there and in the farmers' cottages? - Well, that is the same all the world over.
What do the peasants live on? - Well, usually potatoes and milk.
Do they never strive to better their social condition? - Well, I couldn't say whether they do or not. I certainly think they didn't seem to me to require roast beef and pudding.
Have you any knowledge of bogus outrages in Kerry? - Yes; I have heard of one or two such cases.
As a set off against the impression caused by the article of the Kerry Sentinel under the heading of "Baptising in Blood," the Attorney-General read another article in the same issue, headed, "Brilliant Moonlighting." Referring to the burning of an oat rick in the locality, the article said the police were inquiring into it, but were not, "within the bray of an ass" of finding it out.


After the luncheon interval of half an hour, District-Inspector Rice was recalled. The evidence was very similar to that of Crane. He had never heard, prior to 1880, of people being attacked for land-grabbing, or paying rent, or taking evicted farms. After 1880, whenever an eviction was about to take place in the locality of Listowel, Maurice Murphy, the secretary of the local branch of the League, was in the habit of going out on a horse and collecting the people together by blowing a horn. Eventually Rice caused Murphy to be arrested while in the act of blowing the horn. "And faith, I have that horn at home now," he added, amidst laughter. This was not the only method of calling the people together. Several men went out into the country on cars, and gave information of the pending eviction, and the chapel bells were rung. Rice further produced the book dealing with outrages, reading the various entries. He also gave particulars of the outrages from August, 1886, to May, 1887. During that period there were five threatening letters reported, five incendiary fires, three cases of firing into dwelling-houses, twelve cases of raiding for arms, three of firing at the police, and five of malicious injuries.


Rice was about to give the conclusions to which he had arrived as to the connection between the League and the Moonlighters, when
Mr. Lockwood objected.
The President, however, pointed out that the previous witness had given similar evidence.
The Attorney-General (to the witness) - Did you find any trace of any other organisation besides the Land League? - I can't say I did, except the Moonlighters, whom I considered part of that system.
Mr. Lockwood - Do you suggest that the Moonlighters are carrying out the behests of the Land League - I do.
On what ground? - Take the case of evicted farms generally.
But I want to get to the ground work of your assertions. Can you give me only your general conclusion? Can you give me names and dates? - Well, I don't think I can now, but my general conviction remains the same. I may say that persons who took evicted farms were over and over again denounced by the League.
Well, have you anything else on that point? - If you wish it. (Laughter.)
If I wish it! I wish you to tell my Lords all you know. - Well, I'm getting on very well, I think. (Laughter.)
Have you any other case? - Take the case of the man Murphy. His house was burnt down because he lent a mowing machine to a boycotted person.
Asked how he arrived at that conclusion, he said that the League passed resolutions condemning those who lent machines to landgrabbers.
Mr. T. Harrington - Can you point to any one single definite instance in which the League instigated outrage? - Oh, no.
Have you any secret information to that effect? - No.
So that your inference is not founded upon any information? - I arrived at my conclusions as a result of my observations.
Of your observations! I asked had you any information? - No, I had not.


Mr. Davitt put a few questions to Rice, eliciting the fact - though he particularly wished it to be understood he made no imputations - that as the Police Force increased in the Listowel District so did outrages.
Another witness of the peasant class. This was a short individual with a great blue wrap round his neck, and a large felt hat in his hand. He gave the name of James Shea, and said he lived at Ballymaquin. Because he worked for O'Connor, who had taken a farm from which a person was evicted, he was shot at, but not hurt.


Counsel had no questions to ask in cross-examination, so Shea disappeared, and Eugene Sheehy took his place in the witness-box. He also gave evidence as to outrages. He said he lived at the Causeway. He bought some hay at an auction on a farm from which Daniel O'Connell had been evicted. Shortly after that, on a night in July, 1886, a body of men visited Sheehy's house while he was in bed. They told him to give up the hay, and fired shots into the house. Sheehy was, however, not hit.
Mr. Reid elicited from Sheehy that he was himself a member of the National League, and that he was always on friendly terms with the League. "And I hope you always will be," added Mr. Reid, amid laughter.
In re-examination by Sir Henry James, witness said that after the outrage he, of course, gave up the hay.
Did you get your money back? - No, Sir.
How much did you pay? - Oh, I paid nothing for it.


Mary Regan followed. She said her father lived at Brimaleague. He was a sub-tenant to a farmer named Sullivan. Sullivan was evicted, but Mr. Regan remained in possession of his part of his farm. On Christmas Day a crowd assembled outside the house and called him a "landgrabber." A few days afterwards, at about five o'clock in the evening witness heard a shot fired. She went outside the house, and saw her father lying on the ground. He had been shot, and died about twelve nights afterwards. Witness did not know if her father had done anything to annoy his neighbours, except taking the land.


The succeeding witness created very considerable amusement. He spoke in a very quaint, "sing-songy" style, holding his hands in a devotional attitude, and emphasising every answer by an impressive flourish of the left hand. This was Michael Hayes, who was caretaker on the farm from which Sullivan had been evicted. He gave an account of a visit to his house by Moonlighters, who told him to leave the farm. He did not do so; but about twelve months afterwards he was again visited. Witness did not stay to receive them, but - thinking discretion the better part of valour - beat a hasty retreat through the back window, leaving his wife and family to entertain the visitors.
"Did you apprehend great danger on the occasion of the second visit?" asked Mr. Lockwood.
Hayes looked dazed. He could not comprehend the meaning of Mr. Lockwood's language, and looked appealingly at the usher for assistance.
Mr. Lockwood, however, relieved the witness's impression by repeating his question in a simpler form. Hayes then said he was "half afraid." He afterwards admitted that he was in fear of his life, and that was why he got out of the back window. "And left wife and children unprotected," added Mr. Lockwood. The witness, who is a little man, and apparently not capable of affording much protection in such circumstances, looked quite abashed, and played with his fingers without being able to reply to the question.
The Court adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Thursday November 29, 1888, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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