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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 2 Oct 2012 - 0:28

Twenty-fifth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, December 5, 1888

PARNELL COMMISSION.
TWENTY-FIFTH DAY.

DR. TANNER'S ORATORY.
WITNESS'S EXTRAORDINARY ADMISSIONS.

WHY HE WAS EXPELLED BY THE LEAGUE.
AN ALLEGED POLICE THREAT.

Today's proceedings opened without any sensational incident. The boycott of Jeremiah Heggarty was again the subject matter under consideration. In this connection, Sergeant Dennis, of the R.I.C., was the first witness. Dennis remembered a meeting being held at Millstreet in December, 1885, at which Dr. Tanner was present and spoke. He took no notes of the speech, but after he got back to barracks "he did take a note." And what did Dr. Tanner say? Why, he referred to Mr. Heggarty, and described him as "a low creeping reptile," who would be "relegated to the lowest depths of a felon's cell," adding that he didn't like to style him a "being," but, if he did, he would "call him the lowest of creeping things - a louse."
This was Dennis's first attempt at reporting, he told Sir Charles Russell. He had never even "taken a note" before; but he remembered these "plums," and he picked them out because he considered them "serious."

MORE CONCERNING DR. TANNER'S SPEECH.

The next witness was quite as uninteresting as Dennis. This was Head Constable Hobbins, who attended the same meeting as Dennis at Millstreet, and took a note of Dr. Tanner's speech "immediately after it was delivered." To the sergeant's story he added just a little. He said that Dr. Tanner described Heggarty as "that parasite of infamy," whom no words would be low enough to describe, "that louse who fed on the rotten carrion of the landlords."
Now came a series of notices posted up with reference to Heggarty from December, 1880. One of these, issued in December of that year, declared that those who dealt with Heggarty would be a mark for a bullet. Having read so much, the President intimated that it would be more convenient to put the notices in without reading them. There were, said Mr. Atkinson, in all about twenty, addressed either to Heggarty, his servants, or his customers, or his friends.
This was the end of Heggarty's case. Now arose a discussion as to the admission of reports in the Cork Herald, which was brought to no definite conclusion, pending the arrival of Mr. Hooper, M.P., the editor, in England.

ARRANGING FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

A very interesting matter - to the Bench, Bar, and Press - was decided at this juncture. Sir Charles Russell expressed the general wish of the Bar as to the adjournment for the Christmas holidays. There was a consensus of opinion that they should rise at the end of next week. Of course the President, as he said, would have been contented to sit up to the latest moment, but they would accede to the request of the parties if each side concurred.
Sir Henry James considered it a reasonable request, and thus the matter ended.

TAKING AN EVICTED FARM - RESULT.

Fermoy was the next district fixed upon by the accusing party. The first witness from this locality was Richard Williams, a tall, nervous man, with low forehead and receding twinkling eyes. He took an evicted farm, and was boycotted very severely. His house was visited one night, a man asked for a match, he offered him one, and was shot in the groin and leg. Ultimately he gave up the farm to the persons who had been evicted.

COULDN'T GET HIS HORSES SHOD.

Prior to that, however, Williams experienced a great deal of difficulty about getting his horses shod. In fact, the wife of the village blacksmith went so far as to tell him that if her husband shod his horses, other customers would never send their horses there again. He had a conversation with a man named Leahy, a member of the Land League, about the farm, in the course of which Leahy told him unless he gave up the farm he would probably be shot.
Was that in the nature of a warning or a threat? was Sir Charles Russell's pointed question. Williams himself certainly regarded it as a friendly warning, given because of the great amount of antipathy exhibited by the peasantry towards people who took evicted farms.
Several of Williams's assertions were borne out by Sergeant O'Brien. It seems that owing to the vigorous boycott Williams borrowed some horses of a neighbour, Colonel Thackwell, who was then himself boycotted. On the forge of the anvil in the village blacksmith's shop, a few days later, appeared this notice: - "You are going to work for Thackwell. Very well; you can do so; but remember, you lose your customers and set yourself against the people. This is a fair warning. Take it if you like. If you don't, look out for squalls."

THE WARNING TO MRS. STEEL.

O'Brien searched the house of a Mrs. Steel some weeks later, under a warrant of the Lord-Lieutenant, and amongst various documents they found two letters purporting to be signed by the man Leahy. One of these asked Steel to attend the League meeting to arrange about the withdrawal of the boycott from her cutting-machine. The second letter expressed the surprise of the writer that Mrs. Steel had not acted in accordance with the arrangement come to on the previous Sunday. "If you do so," continued the writer, "the whole power of the League will be directed towards getting customers for you. If you neglect to do so the same power will be directed against you. It is for what you did last year that you are now suffering. I shall remain at home here tomorrow all day, so that you may not be disappointed if you come down, and if you consider your own interest you will come."
To Sir Charles Russell, O'Brien explained that Steel had been boycotted because she lent her cutting-machine to land-grabbers. Still further went O'Brien. He declared, though it did not come out in his examination in chief, that Steel had told him that she had been fined 5 pounds by the League, and paid the amount.
Had he ever heard that the people sometimes got up cases of "outrage" for the purpose of getting compensation? - No, he certainly had not, and if District-Inspector Creagh had said such was the case he considered it was not correct.

LEAGUE DENUNCIATION OF OUTRAGE.

Cornelius Regan next appeared in the witness-box. His evidence was very brief. Its effect was that, after receiving a notice to pay his rent, as a tenant farmer he received a letter signed, "Captain Moonlight," which reminded him that he knew the injury he would do his brother tenants if he obeyed the notice. He could, however, pay if he liked, but if he did so, he would lose his ears. His house, however, was afterwards attacked by Moonlighters.
Now (asked Sir Charles Russell) was an abatement of rent a fair thing to ask for after the bad seasons of 1879-80? - Yes.
Were the tenants, or were they not, willing to pay their rents if they got a fair abatement? - They were. I was a member of the National League in my district, but no pressure was put upon me to join it. The League denounced the outrage upon me.

A DECISION TO BOYCOTT.

Mayo was the next county touched upon. The first witness from this county was a young man named James Walsh. He was a young fellow of, perhaps, 19 years. He stared vacantly round the Court as he climbed into the witness-box, and then an expression of dismay came over his features. In the month of December, 1887, Walsh was appointed to the secretaryship of the Kiltormer Branch of the League in Mayo.
Sir Charles Russell here raised an objection. He said he had had no notice of this witness with the subject matter of the evidence. They had been preparing to deal with co. Cork, and now they were suddenly called upon to deal with Mayo.
Mr. Lockwood remarked that he thought they ought to have some consideration shown to them.
The President - The Court considers you have had consideration. The Attorney-General expressly wishes to take the evidence of this witness.
The Attorney-General consequently proceeded to question Walsh, who stated that, while he was secretary of the League, a resolution was passed deciding to boycott a certain Michael Coleman. Members of the Committee of the League afterwards went round to the various shopkeepers and told them not to serve Coleman. At the request of the treasurer of the League he (Walsh) wrote and posted up six notices to the effect that those who voted in the election of Guardians for Mr. Hughes, who had evicted a tenant, "would get some of the Lynch law." After the League had been suppressed a meeting under the "Plan of Campaign" was held. One of the speakers said that those who had not joined the "Plan of Campaign" should be visited and made to do so.

SIR CHARLES RENEWS HIS OBJECTION.

Sir Charles Russell again rose, and renewed his objection to the Attorney-General dealing with any matter relating to the "Plan of Campaign." Sir Charles contended that there were no statements in the allegations relating to the "Plan of Campaign."
The Attorney-General, however, contended that the "Plan of Campaign" was implicated, and he declared that he was endeavouring to prove that acts of intimidation had been carried on by the National League.
Sir Charles Russell pointed out that the Attorney-General was dealing with matters which had occurred after the writing of the alleged libel. "But," said the President, "they did not happen after the passing of the Act under which we sit. Any evidence as to the conduct of the persons charged is admissible. We are of opinion that the inquiry certainly extends to all the charges and allegations which were made in the course of the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter." Therefore this evidence is admissible."

"UNLESS HE JOINED THE LEAGUE."

Accordingly, the examination was continued on the lines the Attorney-General had originally proposed to take. At the particular meeting, under the "Plan," said Walsh, a certain Patrick Walsh was mentioned as having refused to join the "Plan." Consequently it was decided to boycott him. A few days later, according to Walsh, the treasurer or secretary of the League in the district where Pat Walsh lived, said that unless the latter joined the "Plan" he must be threatened.

HOW HIS EVIDENCE WAS PROCURED."

Sir Charles Russell's cross-examination was interesting. The first portion referred to method asserted to have been adopted by the accusing party in procuring this evidence. Walsh was first of all seen by a constable, who said the District Inspector wished to see him; and he was subsequently interviewed by District Inspector Allen, who took down his statement, reading it over afterwards to him. Upon arriving in London no other statement was taken, and when he went to Mr. Soames's office, the only one read over to him was that made by him to Allen.

WHY HE WAS EXPELLED BY THE LEAGUE.

Was there any charge ever made against you with regard to the League? - I don't remember. I don't know.
Was there any charge that you pilfered the funds of the League? - I believe there was.
Was it true? - Yes.
Did you take 10s.? - I did.
Were you secretary of a Juvenile Athletic Association? - I was.
And did you pilfer the funds? - I did.
And were you expelled? - I believe I was. (Laughter.)

OTHER INCIDENTS IN HIS LIFE.

Were you agent for a plate-glass company? - I was.
And did you insure your mother's windows? - I did.
And did you say that those windows were plate-glass, and were broken? - I did.
Was that true? - It was not.
And were you dismissed? - Yes.
Were you afterwards appointed agent for a life insurance company? - I was.
What was the name of the company? - The Gresham.
Did you represent that a Mr. P. Smythe, editor of the Western People, wanted to be insured for 500 pounds? - I did.
If that was true, you would be entitled to get a commission upon the premium? - I would.
Was it true? - It was not.
Mr. Smythe knew nothing about it at all? - He did not.
Mr. Reid - What is the reason you are to go back to Ireland so soon? - I don't know.
Is there any reason why you could not stay here a week or a fortnight? - I don't know any reason.
Did anyone tell you why you should be called at the present time? - No.

ALLEGED THREAT BY AN INSPECTOR.

Mr. Michael Davitt - When you were seen by the constable, before seeing Inspector Allen, was any threat made to you if you didn't give evidence? - Yes.
By whom? - By the inspector.
What was the threat? - He said that he didn't know what would become of me about the insurance fraud.
You took that as a threat? - Yes.
Do you know whether your mother was ever visited before this by a policeman? - I can't say.
The Attorney-General had only one question to put to Walsh. When (he asked) did the insurance fraud take place? - Six or seven months ago.

"CUT A PIECE OFF HIS EAR."

The next witness created endless amusement. He was a very short and a very deaf individual. Counsel could not examine him in the ordinary course, and so Mr. Graham and Jeremiah Buckley, a farmer of Ballyvourney, in the county Cork, conversed together - in a confidential style - Buckley leaning over the witness-box and Mr. Graham reaching up to him from the well of the Court, and shouting the questions in his ear. Buckley's story was such as has been heard several times in the course of the proceedings. He paid his rent, was visited afterwards by a gang, who cut a piece of his ear off, "and, faith, the scissors were a bad pair," and it was a long time before the piece came off."
Another difficulty presented itself when the cross-examination commenced. Buckley was brought out of the box, and stood immediately in front of Sir Charles Russell, who followed the tactics of Mr. Graham. As Buckley took up his position he smiled down very graciously upon Mr. Davitt, who sat very near him.
The cross-examination was also a source of amusement. Had he been an honest, hard-working man all his life? - Buckley looked anxiously around the Court. "Well," he said falteringly, and then he burst out, "Shure, and I don't understand half you say, Sorr."
The question was repeated in a simpler form, and Buckley confessed, with considerable vehemence, that he had worked hard enough for his living.
Had he a family? - Well, yes.
How many? - Only seven, Sir, and they're all young.
Have you any other living except what you can make out of the land? - Divil a bit, Sorr. (Laughter.)
I suppose you have a joint of hot meat every year? - Buckley's face was wreathed in smiles, and he answered with surprising alacrity, "What's that, Sorr?"
Do you often have flesh meat for dinner? - Begur and I don't, Sorr."

LEAGUE IN THE BALLYDAGHOB DISTRICT.

Sergeant Lang, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, followed Buckley. His evidence referred to the state of the Schull and Ballydaghob district in November, 1880, and its condition after then, when the Land League was established. Threatening letters, threatening notices, and outrages accumulated, and the word "land-grabber," previously unknown, became a bye-word - this was the effect of the League, according to Lang. Rioting marked the steps of the League in the Schull district. On the 6th of June, 1880, the district was very disturbed, and through the night mobs gathered and roamed about the locality, attacking the police barracks, and burning the effigy of a local Magistrate in the streets, necessitating the subsequent calling in of the services of the military.
Speaking from several years' experience in various parts of Ireland, Lang informed Sir Charles Russell he was sure that, before 1880, the taking of an evicted farm would have been a cause of crime. He had heard of cases of malicious injury and injury to property before 1880. At the time of the great famine, he added, Schull was visited very severely by distress, that people died wholesale, and were buried together. Many ate grass and seaweed to keep life within themselves.
The Court adjourned for luncheon at this juncture.

CRIME BEFORE 1881.

On resuming, the cross-examination of Lang was continued. He said the record of crime in the district of Ballydaghob and Schull was certainly very serious from the spring of 1881 to the end of 1882. The principal crimes were those of malicious burning of houses and hay-ricks. There were, however, cases in which it was probable that the parties who suffered committed the crimes themselves, in order to get the compensation.
Now, I want to ask you a general question. Were not the arrests under Forster's Act almost invariably made at the suggestion or investigation of local landlords or their agents? - Never, to my knowledge.
In answer to the Attorney-General, Walsh said that previous to 1886 he had never known of a case of a tenant being attacked for taking an evicted farm. In regard to outrages in 1881-2, witness said he could get no evidence, excepting from persons who were inclined to support the law.

ALDERMAN HOOPER'S ADMISSION.

At this point Mr. Lockwood rose, and intimated that Alderman Hooper was now in Court. He hoped, therefore, that the Attorney-General would deal with the question as to the admission of the Cork Herald.
The Attorney-General replied that all he wished to ask was whether Alderman Hooper denied he was acting as editor of the Cork Herald before the year 1885 - in fact, whether so far back as 1878 he was connected with the actual management of the paper as acting editor.
Mr. Lockwood said Alderman Hooper admitted that he was sub-editor at that time.
Sir R. Webster said he thought that would do for his purposes.

PROCESS-SERVER'S MIDNIGHT VISIT.

James Ceama then appeared in the box for a few moments. He told the Court that he once served a process for a Mr. Swanton. A midnight visit was afterwards made to his house by men who were masked and armed. They beat him, and attempted to injure his ear.

A MAGISTRATE'S EXPERIENCES.

Mr. George Henry Swanton next appeared in the box. He said he was a Magistrate for county Cork. In 1880 he was shot at while driving home, but was not hit. On the 30th of April, 1881, his father, a very old man, while driving home with his servant from Skibbereen, was shot at, and his eye was knocked out.

CAR-OWNER'S HOUSE WRECKED.

The next witness created considerable amusement by speaking very rapidly and excitedly in answer to the various questions put to him. This was John Sullivan. He said he lived at Schull. He was an owner of cars, and let them out for rate. In 1881 there were some disturbances and the police employed his cars. Witness's house was afterwards wrecked and one of his cars was thrown into the sea.
The witness admitted to Sir Charles Russell that it was on the occasion of the riot mentioned by Sergeant Lang, when the arrest of Father Murphy was expected, that his house was wrecked. "It was a very bad job for me," he added.
But it was not a very bad job when you got 110 pounds compensation. Did not two farmers offer to repair the damage done to your house for a 10 pound note? - Yes, and when I offered them the 10 pounds they would not come and do it. (Laughter.)

TENANTS WHO PAID THEIR RENT.

Henry Copperthorne followed. He said he had paid his rent, and had afterwards had his hay scattered all over his place.
This was all he proved. On his disappearing, Mrs. Raycroft, an old lady, attired in black with a great white lined hood, entered the box. She remembered a midnight attack on her house in 1881, when the hayrick was overthrown. The only reason for the outrage that she knew of was that she had paid her rent.
Thomas Atheridge told a similar story. He said that three days after he paid his rent in 1881, the leg of one of his cows was broken.

PRISONER O'MAHONEY'S SPEECH.

District Inspector Michael Wall next entered the witness-box. He said he remembered the arrest of O'Mahoney in Ballydaghob. There was a riot in that town on that occasion. Before O'Mahoney left the town he addressed the crowd, and told them that he was another victim of "Fellow George" (Mr. Swanston), and he was sure the Ballydaghob boys would make it hot for him.

ANOTHER SPEECH OF MR. J. O'CONNOR'S.

Sergeant Ruttle next appeared in the witness-box. He said he attended a meeting of the Land League at Ballydaghob in March, 1881, and among the speakers were Miss Anna Parnell, Mr. John O'Connor, and Mr. O'Hea. Sergeant Ruttle then read reports of the speeches, which he said he had taken down in long-hand. In Miss Parnell's speech there was nothing of an incriminating character. The President remarked this fact. "I did not, however," he added, "like to interrupt during a lady's speech." "I am sure it was very interesting," Sir Charles said, amid laughter.
In his speech Mr. John O'Connor was reported to have said that the time had now come when they were to have a round with the Government. They had had a round with the landlords, and had taken all the form out of them. If a man went behind the tenants and paid his rent he would not - so the sergeant's report ran - tell them to nail his ears to the pump, or tell them how to boycott him; but they would know how to treat such men.
The Court subsequently adjourned.

ARREST OF A WITNESS IN DUBLIN.

A Dublin Correspondent telegraphs: - Inspector Melville, of Scotland-yard, arrived in Dublin last evening with a warrant, signed by Sir James Hannen, for the arrest of a man named Patrick Molloy, who had been subpoenaed as a witness at the Parnell Commission, but failed to attend. Molloy was arrested this morning, as he was leaving his father's house in York-street, and he will be escorted to London this evening. It will be remembered that, according to the evidence of Robert J. Farrell, the "Invincible" who burned a prover, Molloy was one of the selected by the Inner Circle of the Invincibles to assassinate a special juror named Barrett, and who escaped by not going home by the road in which the Invincibles were in waiting for him at the time of the Invincible trials. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but, disguised as a female, he succeeded in escaping to America. He returned to Dublin some time since, and succeeded in obtaining employment from the Dublin Corporation as a timekeeper, and he resided with his father, who is a weaver.

"INVINCIBLE" MULLETT'S EVIDENCE.

When the two "Invincible" convicts, who are now in England waiting to be examined, are placed in the witness-box, they will (so the London Correspondent of the Birmingham Post learns) be confronted with statements made by them in prison, which are said to be of a very striking character. That of James Mullett, in particular, is averred to be really startling; and this may be believed when it is remembered that he was a Dublin publican, at whose house the "Invincible" gang used to meet. He is not to be confounded with his cousin, Joseph Mullett, also a convict for similar offences. The latter, who is a hunchback, is of such a resolute character that those who know him assert that he would be cut in inches before he could say a word concerning those with whom he was associated.

JUDGES ENFORCING ATTENDANCE.

The London Correspondent of the Liverpool Post understands that Sir James Hannen, as President of the Parnell Commission, yesterday signed orders for the attendance before the Court of several persons in Ireland who, having been subpoenaed as witnesses, have refused to attend, on the ground that the Court has no jurisdiction in that country. The condition of things is likely to apply to a large number of persons whose attendance was otherwise expected.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday December 5, 1888, pp. 2-3

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Karen Trenouth
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