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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 29 Sep 2012 - 15:23

Twenty-third Day of Proceedings - Friday, November 30, 1888

PARNELL COMMISSION.
TWENTY-THIRD DAY.

CONTEMPT OF COURT AGAIN ALLEGED.
SIR C. RUSSELL'S APPLICATION.

MISS FITZMAURICE IN LANCASHIRE.
MR. HUSSEY IN THE BOX.

Sir Charles Russell opened today's proceedings with rather a sensational application. Before the arrival of the Judges, he, the Attorney-General, and the Secretary of the Commission were observed to be engaged in very earnest conversation. Directly the Commissioners had taken their seats, Sir Charles rose. He had before him a large placard, with which he played while addressing the Bench.
"My Lords," he said, "I have both a complaint and an application to make." He interchanged two or three words with Mr. Lockwood, and then went on to say that his application was for leave to serve a notice upon the printer and publisher of a document of which he had examples before him, in order that the said printer might attend at the Court next Tuesday to be dealt with as the Commission might see fit. He proceeded to read the placard. It was headed "Hear both Sides," and the contents were invitations to the people of Farnworth, in Lancashire, to attend a meeting "to hear Mr. Richard Mitchell, an Irish tenant farmer, tell a plain, unvarnished tale of how he was boycotted and coerced by the agency of the National League," and also to hear from the lips of Miss Norah Fitzmaurice how her father was brutally murdered before her eyes, "through the instrumentality of the National League." The application was that the printer of the placard (one, Thomas Gornall, of Blackburn-street, Radcliffe, Lancashire, and those connected with him, should be served with notice to appear before the Court.
The Commissioners consulted for about a minute. The reply of the President was couched in very emphatic terms. "Nothing," he said, "can justify an assertion of that kind, and if you ask it certainly you are entitled to call upon him to appear here."

WHEN AGRARIAN CRIME COMMENCED IN KERRY.

An event which had long been anticipated followed - the examination of H. Hussey, the predecessor of Mr. Leonard as agent to Lord Kenmare. He said he had been an agent in Kerry for thirty-seven years. He had, however, never known of agrarian crime before 1880. Before that date, in fact, Kerry was as peaceful as any part of the world could be. The distress of 1879, indeed, did not create crime. It was not until the middle of 1880 that the change set in. He was on the most friendly terms with the tenants up to that date, and he even "stood" for county Kerry against a Parnellite candidate. There had, of course, been evictions before 1880. They, however, did not create crime, and the evicted farms were let without trouble. Farmers were not then attacked for taking an evicted farm.

AFTER THE FIRST LEAGUE MEETING.

On the 10th of October, 1880, the first Land League meeting was held at Castleisland, at which witness's name was mentioned. Mr. Biggar was the principal speaker. After that meeting he (witness) received a threatening notice, and was obliged to obtain police protection. There was also a difficulty in obtaining rent from the tenants, and, as a result, many of them were evicted although they were able to pay. Some of the tenants who had previously paid him openly, after the League was established, gave him their rents privately. He had had conversations with tenants who were solvent, but who refused to pay their rent.

WHY THEY REFUSED TO PAY RENT.

What was the reason they gave? - They were afraid they would be shot. So far as he knew (witness continued) there was no other society in Kerry that affected the tenants but the Land and National Leagues. Neither did he believe that there were any secret societies in the county. In 1882 matters seemed to get worse.

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP HIS HOUSE.

He himself especially came in for attention at the hands of the lawless. In 1884 there was an attempt to blow up his house with dynamite, the windows and door being shattered. He put forward a claim for compensation, which was opposed very severely, especially by some members of the Land League. Prior to 1880 he had, he said, always gone about in the country at all hours of the night unprotected, and had never carried a weapon of defence.
Had there ever been any Ribbonism in Kerry? - I never heard of it.
Was there any Fenianism? - Yes.
When? - In 1866. In 1885, he added, he was living at Arderloe House, and was protected by sentries, who were fired at.

KERRY PEASANTS AND CRIME.

Sir Charles Russell having read from returns a very large number of outrages in Kerry prior to 1880, asked - Do you now agree with what you have said - that there was no crime in Kerry up to 1880? - Except the one murder you have mentioned, I knew nothing of such things as threatening letters. Cases of that kind we regard as mere bagatelles.
Your experience has shown you, has it not, that resistance by tenants to what they, rightly or wrongly, consider to be an injustice, does not proceed from the very lowest class? - It has.
Your experience also tells you that crimes following resistance, or entailed by resistance, do not proceed from the lowest class? - It does. Kerry peasants are naturally the most peaceful of their class.

ARREARS - THE EFFECT ON THE TENANTS.

Sir Charles Russell further cross-examined Mr. Hussey upon more general questions. Mr. Hussey thought perhaps the agricultural value of Ireland in 1876 was 11,000,000 pounds, and certainly not 13,000,000 pounds. He could not say that there were hanging round the necks of the tenants accumulated arrears, which had the effect upon these unfortunate tenants in 1880, of keeping them out of the Land Court, because of the dread of future proceedings of the landlord for the recovery of those arrears. With regard to the turbary rights of tenants, he had not known of one instance in which a landlord had increased the turbary charges as a set-off against reduced rents. Mr. Hussey, of course, did not agree with the judicial rents. He thought them too low, but the tenants naturally considered they were too high. "In fact, they are now beginning to think there shouldn't be any rents at all," he added.

HOW THE POTATO CROP FELL.

Sir Charles Russell produced some remarkable statistics as to the fall in the aggregate value of the potato crop between 1876 and 1879. In 1876 the crops were valued at 12,000,000 pounds; in 1877, 5,000,000 pounds; in 1878, 7,000,000 pounds; and 1879, 3,000,000 pounds.
Mr. Hussey admitted the accuracy of the same, but explained that in the latter year the landlords imported huge quantities of Champion potatoes.
So did the Land League, didn't they? - I never heard so.
Have you not heard that Mr. Davitt, by the aid of public funds and the Land League, purchased and sent over 10,000 pounds worth of Champion potatoes? - I never heard of any of them coming to Kerry.
Well Kerry was represented by your presence. You can't have every blessing in this world. It all depends upon what you mean by a blessing. (Laughter.)
Are not Champion potatoes a blessing? - I suppose they are. (Renewed laughter.)

HOW THE EVICTIONS INCREASED.

Another display of figures followed. These dealt with evictions. In 1876 there were 1,269 evictions in Ireland; in 1877, 1,323; in 1878, 1,749; and in 1879, 3,893.
Mr. Hussey declared that the tenants would do almost anything to escape eviction. He, however, would not admit that he knew that in 1880 tenants obtained loans from banks at 10 per cent interest, or that he knew of any gombeen men in Kerry.

THE CONDITION OF THE TENANTS.

The condition of the tenants on the Kenmare estate in 1879 was the next step in Mr. Hussey's evidence. He knew that a petition for a reduction, supported by the local clergy, was presented, but he could not say that occurred in 1879. He stated that he had made the admission that several tenants really ought to receive reductions in 1879; but he only referred, in that admission, to those whose rent he himself had increased, he believing there were many tenants needing no reduction at all.
Sir Charles Russell here called Mr. Hussey's attention to the fact that Mr. Biggar went to Castleisland with Mr. Arthur O'Connor, M.P., to visit a man named Shea in 1880. A meeting was held there (said Sir Charles), the principal theme of the speeches being the wretched condition of the locality. The man Shea rented a bog for 10 pounds, which, according to Sir Charles Russell, was of no use to anyone. He was ultimately evicted, and his house partially pulled down. The poor man erected some boarding against one of the walls, and it was under that poor shelter that he and his family lived.
Mr. Reid pointed out that before the Cowper Commission Mr. Hussey had said outrages increased during the distressed seasons; but Mr. Hussey now said he did not consider the distress to be the cause of the disturbances. The year when it was attempted to blow up his house was a prosperous one.
You seem to attach a great deal of importance to the attempt to blow up your house? - I do attribute a great deal of importance to the attempt to murder fifteen innocent persons to get at one.
Do you not think it a very cruel thing to burn a tenant's house? - At the time such things were done there was no law to prevent the tenant going back to the property, and it was absolutely necessary either to put a man in possession or level the house.
Replying to Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Hussey said unless the house was leveled, directly the Sheriff's back was turned the evicted party walked in again.

WHAT CHARLES II. SAID OF JAMES II.

Mr. Davitt drew from Hussey the assertion that he considered Castleisland beyond redemption.
Is it not a fact that you told Mr. Rowland Trench, when he asked you the reason why you were not shot, that you had told the tenants if they shot you he would succeed you? - Yes; but it was not an original joke, because it was what Charles II. said of James II. (Laughter.)

MR. BIGGAR AND THE WITNESS.

Mr. Biggar put a few questions to Mr. Hussey, who claimed that he was very popular in Kerry, nine bonfires being lit in his honour in 1878, when he purchased the Horangh estate. But was it not a fact that the people near Castleisland scattered those bonfires? - Yes, that was a fact.
Was that an incident calculated to demonstrate your popularity? - I was popular, Sir, until you held me up as a subject for murder at a meeting in the neighbourhood.
Where? - In Castleisland.
Will you quote the passage in which I said this? - Yes. You said Mr. Hussey might be a very good man, but if any person were charged with shooting an agent, you would take care that he would have a fair trial.
That is not a fair quotation.
The President - Mr. Biggar, we have the speech, and you can have it if you like.
Mr. Biggar - All right, Mister - My Lord,
The Attorney-General briefly re-examined Mr. Hussey, who declared that he had never heard of a case in which a tenant was prevented from going into the Land Court, because of arrears. Prior to the existence of the Land League, notwithstanding the fact that he had raised several of the rents on the Kenmare estate was common talk, he claimed that he went about in the neighbourhood without having any cause for alarm. He believed the savings of the people had very much increased since the agitation had commenced, and he also thought the money spent in drink was more than before.

THE O'KELLY LETTER.

Mr. Asquith asked at what decision the Court had arrived with regard to the application for permission to inspect the letter alleged to have been written by Mr. O'Kelly.
The President replied that they had examined the document, and had decided that the persons charged should have access to the document forthwith.
The question here arose as to whether there would be a dispute as to the ownership of the Cork Herald.
Mr. Lockwood's reply was that they would not admit any responsibility until 1885, when, he believed, Mr. Hooper became the Editor, though he was a shareholder prior to then.

CRIME IN CORK.

Now for Cork crime. Kerry is finished with. The first witness from the county Cork was Mr. Jeremiah Heggarty, who lives at Mill-street, and is a large merchant and landowner. In the year 1880 a branch of the Land League was established there, up to which time he had been on good terms with his neighbours. In December of that year an official of the League - whose name he preferred not to mention - called upon him, and after that notices calling upon the people not to deal with him were posted throughout the town and district. One of these notices, all of which were printed, told the people to shun Heggarty as a leper, and the second, dated from "Assassination Hall," declared that there were ungrateful, renegade Irishmen found capable of occupying farms of the evicted, and foul Irishwomen base enough to converse with the blood-thirsty members of the Irish Constabulary. In consequence, "Captain Moonlight, Governor-General of the district for the time being, with the advice and consent of his privy councillors," will now begin to use "cold steel."
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.

WATCHFUL BOYCOTTERS.

On the Court resuming, the examination of Heggarty was continued. He said that after the notices to which he had referred had been posted up, two men, Patrick Murphy and Dennis Keelahan, were stationed as sentinels outside his shop. They interfered with witness's customers. Witness had seen these men entering the room where the meetings of the League were held. Those men were afterwards prosecuted, and convicted at the Cork Assizes in March, 1881. Heggarty's house was ultimately attacked, and members of his family were ill-used.

COMPLAINT TO MR. DAVITT.

In December, 1880, Heggarty wrote to Mr. Davitt. In that letter he said, although he did not agree with him in his general politics, nor did he entirely agree with the programme of the Land League - of which body he was not a member - he greatly admired his manly utterances with regard to coercion. He felt it his duty to inform Mr. Davitt of what the League had been employed in for the purpose of venting private spleen and private malice, and for annoying private persons. Such actions, Haggerty thought, would bring disgrace on all the League organisations throughout the country. He then complained to Mr. Davitt of the manner in which he had been boycotted, and said that if every district in Ireland was governed by the same "reign of terror" as Mill-street was, the Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended in its most hideous form. Such action would, he thought, weaken the interests of the tenant farmers of Ireland. To that letter Heggarty said he had no reply.

HEGGARTY'S PERSECUTION.

After the conviction of Murphy and Keelahan, witness's dairy farm was attacked, and considerable property was destroyed. A short time afterwards witness, while on his way to the chapel, saw the two secretaries of the League, Jeremiah O'Connell and John Riordan, giving some instructions to the people. When he reached the chapel, witness found that that side of the chapel on which his brother-in-law sat was almost entirely deserted.
Witness, in being further questioned by Mr. Atkinson, said he was a Magistrate, and he had had many men brought before him on charges of assaults in the street. These men were invariably defended by a counsel who was instructed by the secretary of the League. Witness then again referred to his own troubles. He said that in the year 1885, while returning home in a cart, he was shot at, but was not injured. In 1887 he was again shot at, and on that occasion he was injured. He was, however, being boycotted even to the present day. In the interval between the suppression of the Land League and the establishment of the National League witness thought that the county was settled. Heggarty further said that the effect of his boycotting was that his trade was completely taken away, and he had thereby lost about 16,000 pounds.

"INSULTING QUESTIONS."

Heggarty, on being cross-examined by Mr. Reid, said he first became a sub-agent to a small landowner in 1880.
Did you act as bailiff for any other landowner in that year? - I did not come here to answer insulting questions, answered Heggarty, angrily.
The Attorney-General pointed out that the term "bailiff" was very offensive in Ireland.
Mr. Reid protested that he had no intention of insulting the witness, but, unfortunately, we were in England and not in Ireland.
Witness then said he did not act as sub-agent to any other landlord during that year. He also denied that anyone had called him a "landgrabber." He admitted it was a fact that from the commencement he had spoken in very strong terms of the Land League, and said "as a matter of course, everyone who opposed the League must be unpopular in Ireland."
Mr. Heggarty told Mr. Davitt that he had no recollection of having heard Mr. Davitt say anything which would have the effect of countenancing such boycotting as he had been subjected to. He asserted that trade jealousy might be at the bottom of the movement, but he was firmly of the opinion that it would never have succeeded had it not been for the cloak of the League. As for his district, there was peace and plenty before the Land League was established.

RECEIVED NO GOVERNMENT MONEY.

Mr. Biggar - Did you ever receive any secret service money from the Government? - I don't mind answering the question, although I know it is put with the object of insulting me. I have no hesitation in saying I never received any money from the Government or any other person, although some of you said so. I never had need of their money. I am under no obligation to anybody to that extent, and I fought my own battle alone, and scorned taking anything that was offered me.
The Court then adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Friday November 30, 1888, pp. 2-3

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Karen Trenouth
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