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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Mon 1 Oct 2012 - 1:26

Twenty-fourth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, December 4, 1888





Everybody was on the tiptoe of expectation and anticipation this morning. The result of Sir Charles Russell's application of Friday had been eagerly discussed on all hands. The probable committal or punishment of the persons accused of contempt of Court by the publication of a certain placard convening a meeting in a Lancashire town, and reflecting upon the National League, had, indeed, added a remarkable amount of public interest to the proceedings. Counsel were very early in their seats this morning, the Pressmen were equally early in theirs, spectators thronged the galleries and the Jury-box, and an eager buzz of conversation was kept up right until the entry of the Judges. Then occurred a sudden silence. It soon appeared that the parties included in Sir Charles Russell's application were Colonel Mellor, Dr. Kershaw, the promoters of the meeting, and Mr. Gormall, a printer living at Radcliffe, Lancashire. Mr. Horace Brown appeared for Colonel Mellor and Dr. Kershaw, and Mr. Alan Mcpherson was counsel for Mr. Gormall.
The Commissioners having taken their seats - a quarter of an hour later than usual - Sir Charles Russell rose and said that he understood the chairman of the meeting and the printer and publisher were present in Court.


Mr. Horace Brown, on behalf of Colonel Mellor, said he was instructed to say that Colonel Mellor wished to take and was anxious to take upon his own shoulders all and every blame that could be attached to the issuing of the placard. He admitted unreservedly that he gave instructions for these placards to be published, and for the meetings to be held. He had sworn an affidavit which set forth that at the time of the publication of the placard he had not the slightest idea or intention that it should reflect upon their Lordships, and immediately on learning of Sir Charles Russell's application he caused other placards to be issued, and posted over those complained of, announcing that the meetings would not be held. Colonel Mellor deeply regretted the action he had taken. Being a Magistrate of the county, he always upheld law and order under every circumstance. With regard to Dr. Kershaw, Mr. Brown explained that he was announced as chairman of the meeting, but had no idea of the contents of the placards until he saw them on the walls four days later. Dr. Kershaw also expressed his regret.
Mr. Mcpherson similarly expressed Mr. Gormall's regret.


Sir Charles Russell explained that after such an expression on the part of counsel he should not press the matter upon the Court. He, however, called attention to a meeting advertised to be held in another town in Lancashire, at which Sir Frederick Milner was announced as chairman. He presumed it would be said that meeting would not be proceeded with?
Mr. Brown replied that he had been instructed to say that the meeting would not be held, and to make an explanation similar to that made with reference to Dr. Kershaw.


The President, having listened attentively to the explanations, said the legislature had imposed upon the Court the duty to inquire into charges against certain persons, and while the inquiry was proceeding before them it was incumbent for all persons to abstain from calling meetings to argue in favour of one side or the other. They must be left undisturbed in the discharge of their duty. He was bound to say that on this occasion they did not think they were called upon to exercise any severity towards these persons, because they had sworn that they were not aware that they were guilty of impropriety, and had made every effort to express their regret. Therefore the matter might pass, though he would express the hope that it would be a warning to all persons. Thus the incident that had been so eagerly looked forward to terminated, and the Court settled down to the ordinary business.


The first move in this direction was made by Mr. Reid, who asked that certain accounts at the Charing-cross Bank, which were merely connected with the payment of election expenses of several Members of Parliament, might not be examined by the other side, under the order issued at an earlier date.
Sir Henry James replied that he was instructed to say Mr. Reid had not been correctly informed, and that they had reason to believe the accounts contained references to other matters.
However, the matter dropped for the time, upon the understanding that Mr. Reid's clients should prepare an affidavit declaring the contents of the accounts, which will be met by a counter-affidavit from the other side.


The usual class of evidence followed. The first witness was one Cornelius Callagher, who once worked for Mr. Heggarty, at Millstreet, in the county Cork. His evidence was very brief. Because he worked for Heggarty, who on Friday told a long story of boycotting and intimidation, of which he was the innocent victim, he himself was boycotted. Ultimately a gang broke into his father's house, dragged him out of bed, took him in the back-yard, beat him with a white thorn, and made him swear he wouldn't work for Mr. Heggarty any more. He obeyed accordingly.


Jeremiah O'Connor, relieving officer, farmer, and apparently a thriving man, followed Callagher. This man used to deal with Heggarty, and because of this - of course, according to his story - his house was visited one night. "It wasn't the night," he explained, amidst laughter, "but it was in the afternoon of the night." Well, this gang didn't succeed in getting O'Connor out of his bed, but they fired into the house, "and I firmly believe," said he, "this was on account of the election of Mr. Heggarty, who was seeking election for the Guardianship at the time."


Ellen Fitzgerald continued the recital of events said to be the result of dealing with Heggarty. She is a comparatively young girl, with a heavy fringe over her eyes, and dressed very neatly in a long dolman. She lived with her mother, near Heggarty. One night several men broke into the house, and made her swear she would not deal with Heggarty, but she did not abide by the oath, and some weeks later another gang paid the house a visit, and tried to cut off her sister's hair. The mother prevented it, however, and the gang left the house after marking her mother's forehead.
The Court was now taken back to Castleisland. The Attorney-General explained that he had more evidence with regard to the Heggarty case, but as Sir Charles Russell would be called away during the day on public business, he would take an important witness.


This proved to be Thomas O'Connor, a tall man, dressed in a light-brown suit of Irish frieze. Having proved the establishment of the Castleisland branch of the Land League in October, he becoming a member, O'Connor declared that the members used to discuss the proposed reductions in the rentals. Everything didn't work quite satisfactorily at first. Some of the tenants wouldn't keep together, and "went on their own hook" at night, much to the disgust of the other members, who discussed the matter at their meetings. After the general meetings there were committee meetings in another room, but O'Connor did not attend, as he was not a member. He, however, very emphatically declared that at the meetings those who went "on their own hook" were referred to as vile things, and should be banished from the land "as St. Patrick banished the serpents."


Then came several rather important assertions from the witness. He was examined thus by the Attorney-General: -
Did you at any time hear of an inner circle in connection with the League? - I did.
Were you at any time invited to join? - Yes.
Did you join? - I did in a ------
You will only answer my question, please.
Sir Charles Russell - No, go on.
Witness - Well, I did in a way in December, 1880.
What was this inner circle called? - It was known by the name of "The Boys."
How did you come to join? - Two of "The Boys," George Twiss and John Connell, used to be often asking me to join it.
What did they say to you? - They said it would be a grand and a proud thing to be a soldier of Parnell, and that I should get a good pay for doing very nearly nothing.
Did you hear that they were sworn? - They told me so.
Did you consent to become a member? - I did, and I was taken to the house of the secretary, Timothy Horan, by Twiss and Connell, the former of whom said to Horan, "Tim, this fellow is all right, and we want him, or one in his district." He replied, "All right."


Before proceeding further with these interesting disclosures, the Attorney-General led O'Connor back. Had he heard of anything being done to those who "acted on their own hook"? - Yes; and he repeated his story with the wonderful simile about St. Patrick and the serpents.
"Anything else?" queried the interrogator. - Yes. He had heard that some of them were visited by night by some of "The Boys" for paying their rent.
Was that before or after he joined "The Boys"? - Shure, and he thought it was after.


Now came a more important question. Have you ever taken part in these expeditions of "The Boys"? - I have.
What was the first? - Putting back a woman - Mrs. Horan, I think, her name was - into a farm she had been evicted from.
Between thirty and forty "Boys," added the witness, were engaged in that expedition. About fifteen of them were (he said) armed, some with guns and some with revolvers. Before they left Mrs. Horan in the house they warned her not to again leave unless at the point of the bayonet. There were, witness believed, "Captains" to the "Boys." The man Twiss was "captain" on that occasion. Witness was paid 6s. for his share in the work. He and ten others were paid by the secretary of the League, Timothy Horan.


The witness then went on to describe a visit to the houses of various tenants on the Meredith estate, in 1881. There were fifteen of the "Boys" engaged in the undertaking, and they were all armed and masked. They visited about twelve houses altogether, and made the tenants promise not to pay rent unless under Griffith's valuation. In some cases they broke open the doors, and shots were fired by way of intimidation. The people were also told not to tell the police what had occurred. If they did they were warned the "Boys" would come again and give them a severe chastisement. Consequently, not half the visits were reported in the papers.


Next, the witness was questioned concerning the election for Poor Law Guardians, in Curraugh, in March, 1881. Mr. Timothy Harrington (said the witness) went down to that place, and addressed the people after Mass. He told them that he wanted them to return a Land Leaguer for the electoral division, and turn out the present man, who was a landlord's man. He also told them that they ought to vote for the Land League candidate. It was a shame for them to vote for a landlord's strapper and "lick plate." He, of course (said witness), referred to Mr. Richard Burke, who was then the Poor Law Guardian of the district.
Did you see Mr. Timothy Harrington after that? - Yes; I was with two men, named Thomas and Michael Bronson, when he was speaking to them.
What did he say? - He said he was afraid Burke would be returned, and he would not wish it for 200 pounds.


Did he say anything further? - He said that a few of us ought to go round by night and get a few of the farmers who would not otherwise vote for his candidate Mr. Jeremiah M'Sweeney.
Did he say what you were to do? - He said that we were to get them to sign the votes if possible, and not to frighten them, nor to hurt them, nor to kill them, and not to take any drink, for fear we should do anything foolish.
Did you go? - I did.
How many of you? - Two, and we were armed.


Did Mr. Harrington say anything about pay? - He said that if his candidate was returned we should have our higher pay. He told us to go on to Castleisland and he would send someone from there to canvass.
How many men did you visit? - Only two. There was no necessity to visit any more, because Joseph Murphy had been round in the daytime.
Did you go round with this man at all? - I did.
What did he say to the people? - He said he was canvassing for Mr. M'Sweeney, in the name of Mr. T. Harrington and the League, and that if they didn't vote for him they would, perhaps, be visited from Castleisland.


How many men declined to give their votes? - Only two.
What happened to them? - We visited them two nights afterwards.
Were you armed? - Yes, and disguised. We visited Thomas Walsh and James Muldeeney, and we frightened them, and said we would do something to them if they didn't sign the votes for Mr. M'Sweeney. They promised very faithfully, and then we left.


Did you call upon Mr. T. Harrington after that? - We did. We went and saw him at Tralee, and reminded him of his promise; but he told us to go away, as he was ashamed of us. But he said he would send someone to see us.
Did anyone see you? - Yes; a young man came up to Brosnan and me on the following Sunday in the street, and he gave us 7 pounds, and cautioned us not to annoy Mr. Harrington any more.
Were "The Boys" always members of the League? - I thought they were, and understood that no one could become a "Boy" unless he was first a member of the League.
How were the orders conveyed to you when you went on these expeditions? - I got them from those I supposed to be the captains, who, I understood, had them from the committee at Castleisland. I didn't take part in any expeditions after March, 1881, making all sorts of excuses to get out of it. I went to America soon after, and returned at the latter end of 1882, when a branch of the League was formed at Curragh, near Castleisland. My brother was the secretary, and I did a lot of work in connection with the League.


O'Connor went on to say that he saw various documents in connection with the League at his brother's house, amongst them being a series of resolutions deciding to boycott persons who dealt with boycotted farms or persons. On the Sunday before the man Cullotty was shot a tenant, John Brosnan, attended the meeting of the League, and said Cullotty had pointed out the house where he lived. The Committee then adjourned, accompanied by Father O'Callaghan.
Upon returning into the room, what was said? - Father O'Callaghan came in smiling. He said they all knew Cullotty. He was an ugly man, and would soon be uglier, and the tenant would have satisfaction.
When acting with his brother as secretary of the Curragh branch (continued O'Connor), he remembered an application being made to the Central Branch of the Land League at Dublin. Further than that, he remembered two replies being made from Dublin, but he couldn't tell where one of the documents written on official paper now was. However, he knew the effect of the contents. It was that the district was too disturbed, and therefore the League would not give any money for the tenants.


The other reply was on a piece of unofficial paper. It was signed "Timothy Harrington," but, of course, witness could not state whether that gentleman signed the letter. That letter was also destroyed. It contained certain reasons for not giving a grant to the tenants. One of the reasons given was that the Branch was too dull. It also contained a request that the letter should not be read to Father Fitzgerald, the President of the Branch. That was all he could remember of the letter.


Sir Charles Russell then rose. He had no intimation of this witness, or of the subject matter of his evidence. He was therefore not prepared to cross-examine him. He would, however, ask the witness a few questions, and postpone his cross-examination until he had had an opportunity of learning something about the witness.
The Attorney-General raised an objection to the witness being recalled, unless a new question arose.
Sir Charles Russell, however, was determined, and absolutely declined to be forced to cross-examine witness. At the suggestion of the President, however, he agreed to cross-examine the witness, as far as he was able.


"Do you know that Timothy Horan is dead?" he asked the witness. - "Yes, I believe he died in 1883."
Have you ever given information or made statements to the police? - No.
Or to a district inspector? - I have told District Inspector Rice something, but nothing about the matter.
When did you come to London? - Last Sunday.
Who told you to come? - A gentleman connected with the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union in Dublin. He wrote to me, and told me to go and see Sergeant Donald, and he would give me a ticket for Dublin, and direct me where to go to.
Where is that letter? - I do not know. I haven't got it now.
Sir Charles, however, requested him to search his pockets. This he proceeded to do, and, greatly to the amusement of the Court, produced the letter. Witness (continuing) admitted that that letter was sent to him in reply to a letter which he had sent to the Patriotic Union.


As the cross-examination proceeded considerable amusement was caused. O'Connor was noticed to frequently place his hand in his left hand pocket. "What have you got there?" asked Sir Charles at length. O'Connor fumbled in his pocket, and drew out a bulky document, which he scanned with a blank look. "What is that?" "Well, shure, that's a copy of my statement," was the reply. Further questions were put, with the object of showing when the statement of the witness was taken, and whether he had received any money for coming to London - which he denied; adding, however, that he expected the people who brought him over would send him back. He thought, he added, that he was giving his evidence in the interest of justice. The statement he had given was taken down, "and changed every now and again." (Laughter.) He was shown a statement that morning at his hotel, and Mr. Walker, a lawyer's clerk, told him to read it over.
The letter written by O'Connor to the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union was also read. This intimated O'Connor's willingness to give evidence at the Commission, especially with reference to something Mr. T. Harrington said to him and paid for in 1881.
Several very amusing passages between counsel followed. They were not part and parcel of the proceedings, but were really in the nature of stage asides. For instance, Sir Charles Russell commenced to read the copy of O'Connor's statement, when O'Connor explained that it was not correct. "Then we shall expect the original one," was Sir Charles's retort. "Oh, yes; you shall have one signed by him," somewhat irately retorted the Attorney-General. A laugh rippled through the Court, amidst which Sir Charles was heard observing to the Attorney-General. "My dear friend, don't be so stupid. How childish it is!" Having read the document through, Sir Charles Russell obtained from the witness the declaration that the statement first of all "quite true," and then that he could not really say.
Sir Charles then again applied for the postponement of the witness's cross-examination, which the President acceded to.
O'Connor further told Sir Charles that, while in America, he lived in Meek-street, Indianapolis, and was a freight-handler; that he was never a Fenian, member of the Irish Brotherhood, or member of a secret society.
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.


Upon the Court resuming, O'Connor again appeared in the witness-box.
Mr. Lockwood declared he had at present no instruction, and was not prepared to proceed with the cross-examination of the witness.
Mr. Reid said that as he especially represented Mr. Harrington, he felt he had a peculiar and especial grievance, as the matter had not been put in the particulars.
The Attorney-General then interposed, and pointed out that the charges and allegations were put on the particulars, and this was evidence in support of these charges and allegations.
The President expressed it as his opinion that if Mr. Reid had any instructions at all he should proceed, as far as possible, with the cross-examination.
"My instructions are," replied Mr. Reid, "that the thing is a fabrication." After again expressing his desire to be allowed to postpone his cross-examination, he proceeded to put a question to the witness.
The President, however, interrupted. He said he did not think it right that Mr. Reid should be pressed in that manner, and allowed him to postpone his cross-examination.
Mr. Davitt made a similar application.
"You have never wasted a moment, Mr. Davitt," replied the President. "This matter does not apply to you personally, so I think you might safely leave it to those who are personally concerned."
Having read the original statement of O'Connor, the Attorney-General asked where Brosnan, who O'Connor alleges accompanied him in his nocturnal visits to the voters, now was. "He's in New York now, I guess," was the response. "Yes, they're all out of the country now," observed Mr. Michael Davitt in a loud voice.


Once more the evidence was directed to a description of boycotting and intimidation in the county of Cork. Kate Fitzgerald, the mother of Ellen Fitzgerald, re-introduced the subject. She was a very aged woman, and appeared in the dock with a large black hood over her head, which is characteristic of the Irish country people, with a great white frill protruding some inches beyond the folds of the hood. Mrs. Fitzgerald had simply to re-tell the story given by her daughter as to the visits certain gangs paid to her house, because, as she averred, she dealt with Heggarty.


The next witness was a source of very considerable amusement. He was a little man, shaved, barrister-like, around the mouth, and he spoke with marvellous rapidity, giving such a long answer to every question that the Court was convulsed with laughter, and even Sir Henry James, who examined him, could scarcely proceed. This was Mr. Daniel Sweeney. He was once a caretaker for Heggarty. Shore and he worked for Mr. Heggarty, and he once went out to get some horses from a Mr. Murphy, who told him to apply to the Land League first. Then he went and got a League card, and paid a shilling for it. He got it from a "black man" - (loud laughter) - and he had no difficulty in getting the horses then.
Daniel was only in the box a very few moments, and Daniel Riordan succeeded him. This individual was pretty much of the same stamp as the preceding Daniel. He was also one of Heggarty's caretakers in 1881 - so he told Sir Henry - and because of that some Moonlighters visited him, shot guns off near him, and gave him a "light scratch" in the ear with a knife. But that wasn't all. "They put him on his knees," to use his expression, and made him swear that he would not work for Heggarty any longer.
"That'll do," observed Sir Henry James, after Riordan had answered so much, and counsel had intimated they had nothing to ask. "Very good," was Riordan's retort, as he climbed down out of the box.


James Cahill, a man who used to be in the R.I.C., followed. He arrested a certain Daniel Connell in connection with moonlighting expeditions in 1881, and found two notices upon him. The first contained the "regimental orders of Captain Moonlight" with relation to several raids which were to be made on the 31st December, 1881. Five houses in all were to be visited. One tenant was to be shot for paying his rent, another to be "clipped" for paying his rent; another for discharging one of his labourers, while a man named Sullivan was to be shot in the leg, and his wife and daughter "clipped," for dealing with Heggarty. The second document drew attention to those orders, and asked the men to assemble early with arms, and to bring false whiskers for Owen Riordan. This document was also signed "Captain Moonlight."


Sir Henry James took the witness in hand. Had he ever heard from Donnell who the captain of the Moonlighters was? - Yes. He had heard him say that Owen Riordan, who lived in Mill-street, was the commander.
Had Donnell ever said whether he received money for his services? - He thought he could remember Donnell swearing that he had once received 12 pounds from the Land League for his deeds of bravery.
"Did he swear that?" asked Mr. Reid. - "Well, my recollection (said witness) is that he said he was asked whether he would have a Parnell medal, on one occasion, or 5 pounds, and he took the 5 pounds." (Laughter.)
On the back of these notices appeared the words "Regimental Orders for Captain Moonlight, 30-12-1881." That, Cahill explained, was written apparently by the person who drew up the notices.
"Was Donnell ever convicted?" asked Mr. Reid. - Oh! no. He became an informer, and went into the witness-box at the trial of several Moonlighters.
Was Donnell not the captain of the Moonlighters? - Well, he was certainly called that, though he stated he was not. Riordan declared he had certainly never heard that the document was drawn up by Donnell himself, although he was a very prominent and active mover amongst the Moonlighters.
The Commission again adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday December 4, 1888, pp. 2-3

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

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