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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 6 Oct 2012 - 10:40

Twenty-eighth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, December 11, 1888




The business commenced today in a thick fog. The dirty yellow vapour hung about the court-room in great clouds, and, sitting in the well, one could scarcely discern the features of the fair occupants of the galleries. There was a quickened interest in the proceedings. The Times informer, Connell, has not undergone the fire of Sir Charles Russell's cross-examination, and the public are eagerly looking forward to the ordeal, while the possibility that the Times may once more surprise their antagonists adds considerable zest to the case. Mr. Davitt and Mr. Biggar were in their usual places, and Mr. Ashmead Bartlett occupied a seat in the Jury-box.


The opening was particularly tame, not to say uninteresting. A tall, military-looking man, with an iron-grey moustache, and daintily playing with a pair of eye-glasses, entered the box. This was District Inspector Fitzsimons. He had little to prove - simply that he had received a certain boycotting notice which was lost, and of which a copy only was produced.
With this very simple explanation, Fitzsimons disappeared. Another district inspector, M'Ardell by name, who was stationed at Swinford, in county Mayo, usurped his place. He, too, produced notices. They were posted up in the neighbourhood of Swinford in 1882. One of these was quite an exhaustive essay upon the land question, which concluded with the injunction to the people to pay no rent, avoid the Land Court, and treat all who disobeyed with "social ostracism."
There was a great deal of distress in the district - so M'Ardell told Sir Charles Russell - prior to the publication of those notices, and there were undoubtedly several secret societies in the county, though not particularly in his own district. As to the imprisonment of prominent Land Leaguers, he was firmly of the opinion that that was a very desirable and proper step, but he certainly considered outrages increased after their imprisonment.


"Now, I am going to ask you a question on a delicate subject," observed Sir Charles, impressively tapping his left hand with his eye-glasses. "Has it ever come to your knowledge that, as a counter force against the Land League, the Government of the day were backing up secret societies in Mayo?"
M'Ardell thought for one moment. "I have never heard so," he replied.
"I don't say by becoming members, but by countenancing" - ? - "I don't know anything about it," interrupted M'Ardell, and Sir Charles Russell sat down.
Mr. Davitt rose and questioned the witness, who confessed that he knew as a fact that several bogus outrages had been reported, but had not been dealt with.
What sort of secret societies had he known of in Mayo? was Sir Henry James's principal question in re-examination. "The Fenians," was the response. Another important question was intended to clear away the impression possibly caused by M'Ardell's statement as to outrages increasing after the imprisonment of prominent Land Leaguers. M'Ardell explained that when he made that declaration he referred to his own district, and added that, under a manifesto issued in 1881, people who paid their rent were boycotted, and houses were attacked at night by armed parties.


A very interesting type of Mayo female peasantry followed M'Ardell. Ann Gallagher was dressed in a long crimson gown. Her head was covered with a flowing black shawl and a large white cap, and she wore bead-braided cuffs. She lived with her father at Curraghmore, near Swinford. The chief event she referred to occurred "seven years ago next Candlemas." One night her father was visited by a gang of men, "dressed in black, like policemen," and they struck him and beat him, telling him to "keep his rent in his pocket and fortune his daughters."


Another Mayo witness. He also lives near Swinford. Pat Sloyne is a jovial-looking, middle-aged man. His clean, clerical-looking face smiled good-naturedly as he addressed himself to his story. He was also visited, "near Candlemas of 1882," after paying his rent. However, the party were very kindly disposed towards him. They told him to stand away from the door, and when he had done so they fired through, the bullet "catching an ass" that was in the house.
Yes, there had been a number of raids that night in the district, said Sloyne, in reply to Sir Charles Russell. "My house wasn't the only one that was visited."
"Aren't you a banker on a small scale, a gombeen man?" asked Mr. M. Davitt. - Well, I do loan out some money.
How much interest do you get? - Well, I usually arrange for 3s. in the pound.
Did you not charge 6s.? - No.
Did you loan money to people in Costelloe? - I did.
And did they give you their I.O.U.'s? - They did.
Did you not tell someone in Costelloe that you thought you were raided by men who wanted to get possession of the I.O.U.'s? - No, I didn't. I "loaned" some money to a man named Gallagher, and received money from him from England. I processed his wife for the recovery of the money, but I don't know that that made me unpopular.
On the same night that the two previous witnesses were attacked there were similar attacks on other farmers in the neighbourhood of Swinford, another of whom, Martin Hawkey, proved having been beaten for paying his rent.


David Freeley, attired in a long, sedate-looking black frock coat, with a scrupulously clean shirt-front, and stick, deposed to a similar system of persecution. His story, however, was saddened by a painfully tragic incident. He held a farm on the Taaffe estate in county Mayo in 1882, when after paying his rent a gang of ruffians visited him. Freeley escaped up into a loft of the house, but the gang seized upon his son and carried him out of the house. He, however, escaped, and rushed back into the bedroom. There was a severe struggle, and again the youth was seized and taken into the yard. Then there was the report of a gun, and when Freeley came down from his hiding-place, he saw his boy lying dead on the doorstep with a bullet-wound through his heart.


"The Land League denounced the cruel murder," said Freeley to Sir Charles Russell, "and the priest denounced it from the altar, and the Archbishop, who visited the church soon afterwards, referred to it in similar terms. Freeley added that he had paid his rent (less 25 per cent reduction), which he knew the Land League did not object to. He also was aware that there were secret societies in Mayo, and had heard that they were opposed to the Land League. He himself was a member of the Committee of the Land League, but he had never heard that the League complained that he paid his rent less the 25 per cent.
Have you any reason to suppose that the Land League had anything to do with the murder of your son? - None whatever, Sir.
Sir Henry James - Can you give any motive for the murder? - I had been asked by Canon Gerraghty to tell my neighbours to pay their rent; that was all. - Freeley went on to explain that he had left the Land League a few weeks before his son's death, and to declare that he considered a man who lived near his house was an accessory to the murder.
Sir Charles Russell - Was that a secret society that the Archbishop and the clergy denounced? - It was.
Sir Henry James - What was the secret society? - I'm sure I couldn't say.
District Inspector Carter's evidence went to prove that after the eviction of a farmer named McKews, near Claremorris, a notice was posted up on the farm to the effect that it was a Land League farm, that a Land League meeting at which Pat Nally, "Scrab" Nally, and Boyton were present, were afterwards held on the farm, and the land was tilled by the people.


Sergeant Nathaniel Cole described a procession to and from McKews' farm in the autumn of 1880. The processionists cut sheaves of corn, and on their way home triumphantly hoisted them on poles, shouting, as they went along, "Pay no rent." Cole declared he recognised many of the leading members of the Land League in the procession.
Mr. Biggar asked a singular question. It was this: - "Have you ever heard of the daughters or sons of tenants being fined by their landlords for getting married?" - No, I never have.


John Connell, of Claremorris, said his mother, in 1880, took some grass land from which a tenant had been evicted. They afterwards received a threatening notice telling them to give up the land. While he (witness) was in England shortly afterwards, his mother, who is an old woman of 70 years of age, was shot at, and badly wounded in the left hand.
Mr. Davitt elicited from the witness that his mother got a hundred pounds compensation for the injury. He, however, denied that there had been any quarrel about that money between him and his brothers. Neither was it true that one of his brothers had been accused of firing the shot.


John Dillon, the son of a tenant farmer, next appeared in the box. He and his father, in the year 1881, went with the sheriff to an eviction. Shortly after that he was shot dead on the road side. Witness applied for compensation, and received a threatening notice to withdraw the claim.
Dillon told Sir Charles Russell that the neighbours showed great sympathy for his family, and attended the wake and funeral in large numbers. There was a police hut (continued Dillon) near the spot where his father was murdered, and he had heard rumours that a policeman had been charged with the murder.
Now, do you not know that your father was in the habit of going to the hut and playing cards and drinking with the policemen there? - I cannot say he did.
Was there not a shebeen house near the hut? - I don't know.
Have you heard that a policeman was ultimately withdrawn from the district, and dismissed from the Force? - I can't say that I have.
Mr. Reid elicited from the witness that his father was in the habit of carrying 5 pounds or 6 pounds about with him. When his body was found, however, there was only sevenpence in his pockets.


In re-examination Sir Henry James produced a notice which the witness said he found among his father's papers after his death. It commenced, "Good morrow, to you, friend Luke Dillon," and went on to denounce Dillon as a tyrant to the tenants. "You blackguard, Dillon," continued the notice; "you and that little wasp, Frank Conway, from County Galway, will soon get new shirts and dresses. The cloth will be timber, and the tailor will want no needle or thimble, because it will be two coffins to put you both silent under the ground." After stating that there were no greater pair of rogues within the walls of Ireland than Dillon and Conway, and that in the future all tyrannous bailiffs would be shot, the notice continued, "I will let you know that about 120 men were present when this letter was written, and everyone is sworn to shoot you in their turn."


Mr. Taplow, agent on Mr. Thompson's estate at Kilbragh, was next examined. He said that in August, 1885, he applied to the tenants on the estate for their rents. He, however, received a letter in reply, which stated that the tenants declined to pay their rent unless they got 30 per cent reduction. It was signed by some of the tenants and the secretaries of the National League.
Mr. Atkinson then read from United Ireland a report of a League meeting held in September, 1885, at which it was resolved that no work should be given to any man in the neighbourhood unless he joined the League. Further, that the tenants should not pay their rent unless they got 30 per cent reduction.
Continuing his evidence, witness said that after he had issued processes one of the tenants, Martin O'Donnell by name, paid his rent. He subsequently wrote asking for the return to him of the notice that if he did not pay his rent he would be proceeded against. In his letter O'Donnell explained that his life and the lives of his family were in danger, and that he had no other means of protection than in being able to produce the document. The other night (the latter went on) his hay was tossed about, but he suspected the tenants, on their return from Cork, were guilty of that outrage. His children were boycotted at school, and he was afraid to venture off his own land until he received the notice.
In cross-examination by Sir Charles Russell, the witness admitted that since 1879 he had made no voluntary reduction in the rents of the tenantry.


Thomas Fahy, an Army pensioner, who persisted in styling Mr. Murphy "your worship," detailed how he became caretaker of an evicted farm near Ballinrobe in 1881; how his house was afterwards fired into; and how he afterwards heard a "woice" outside saying, "That is enough." Next morning a notice was found posted on the door of his house, which said the next time "O'Rory" visited him he would put a bullet through him instead of his door.
Fahy was only in the box three minutes. Counsel had nothing to ask him in cross-examination. So James Maloney, an aged personage, with a great tri-coloured muffler, climbed up into the elevated space. His was the old story. It was briefly this: - "He became the tenant of an evicted farm and was visited by a disguised gang, was drawn out of bed, he was corded, his ears were bored, shots were fired over him, the windows of his house were broken, and the land was eventually given up.


George Carter, the son of a Mayo landlord, living at Balmullet, and who became his father's executor in 1875, stated that the tenants and his brother and himself got on very well together until the Land League was established. Just before a meeting of the League was held in Balmullet in 1880 a notice, threatening to "serve" him the same as Lord Leitrim was "served," unless the rents were reduced, was posted up in the neighbourhood, and in the latter part of the year he received a letter personally, threatening to "serve him the same as Lord Mountmorres," unless the rents were reduced. He also deposed to a gang of men visiting the estate when some of the tenants were at work, and turning the workers off and compelling them to leave work. In 1882, Mr. Carter's brother died, and he became the landlord of the property. Returning from Bellmullet Fair in the March of that year, he was fired at, the bullet striking him in the knee. He drove back to the town of Belmullet, and ultimately had his leg amputated. On the way back to Belmullet he picked up a young man, who, directly he learned that Mr. Carter had been shot, begged that he might be allowed to leave the trap, and not be seen with him.
The Court here adjourned for luncheon.


After the usual interval Mr. Carter, replying to Sir Charles Russel, said he was one of the landlords who borrowed money under the Landlords Relief Act. He, however, denied that there was any dispute as to the way in which he employed his tenants with that money. He did not recollect the priest expostulating with him because he did not pay his tenants - who were on the verge of destitution - for the work they did, or because he kept the money back with a view to deducting a certain amount for rent. On the occasion on which he was shot in the knee a Mr. Froom was in the conveyance with him. He, however, had not said that he was of opinion that the shot was fired at Froom, and not at himself. He had, however, heard that Froom was greatly disliked because he had carried out some harsh evictions. Carter added that he was also disliked because of the evictions on his property. A woman had told him that it would be the cause of his death.


Once more the Times counsel took a retrograde step. County Kerry was revisited. Miss Thompson, who comes from this county, said that she had lived in Kerry all her life, and when her father died he left her some property near Castleisland. On the death of Mr. Hurley, she also acted as trustee in connection with his property, and was guardian to his children. After 1883, Mr. Hussey managed the property. After the establishment of the League in the district she found that there was a change in the demeanour of the tenants on Mr. Hurley's property towards her.
"Now, during the year 1881," asked Sir Henry James, "were references continually made to you in the Kerry Sentinel?" - I have been told so, but I made a point of never reading the paper. (Laughter.) In 1880 (continued the witness) she entered into an arrangement with the tenants that she should expend 2,500 pounds on constructing roads, on condition that the tenants should pay an interest on the money expended, according to the amount of benefit derived by them from the improvement.


In 1880, added Miss Thompson, the tenants when evicted always had the option of re-entering the farm as caretakers; they, however, invariably refused to do so, giving as a reason that if they entered the farms as caretakers, they would get no money from the League. Every tenant, after leaving his farm, pulled down his house, and huts were erected for men in the Land League. In many cases, the tenants had paid their rent furtively. She, indeed, had often been asked for two receipts, one for the actual amount paid, and the other to show the League. In the harvest time of 1880, after all the grain was cut, Miss Thompson was surprised to find that she could get no one to gather it for her. She then discovered that she was boycotted. She had been boycotted up to the present time.


Sir Henry James then read an extract from the report in the Kerry Sentinel of September, 1882, at a meeting held at Fenit, at which one of the speakers said that Miss Thompson was not to be held more sacred than anyone else, as she had shown "the cloven foot of the exterminator."
Miss Thompson then went on to say she had police protection, and her house was practically the police barracks of the district. In 1883 three houses on the Hurley property were burned, as well as a tract of mountain grazing. A horse belonging to a man who had supplied the police with goods was stabbed. On one occasion, while Miss Thompson was driving home late at night, her car was upset by a piece of wire which had been stretched across the road, and she was badly bruised. Two children came up at the time, and one of them had had its face cut by a piece of wire which had been stretched across the road lower down. Miss Thompson then offered to take the children home with her, but they refused, as they said they were afraid to be seen with her because of the "night boys."


A very peculiar incident in the rent campaign was mentioned by Miss Thompson. On a certain day she saw (she deposed) a certain Michael Horan, one of her tenants in Kerry. He was walking up the street with a remarkably good pair of boots on. He entered the office of the Kerry Sentinel, and a few moments later emerged, followed by Mr. Edward Harrington, who appeared to be very amused. Horan made his way to the office at which Miss Thompson was waiting to receive the rents; whereupon he said he hadn't enough to pay for a pair of boots, pointing to an old tattered pair of boots he wore, in place of the new ones he wore when he entered the Sentinel office. However, he subsequently paid his rent.


Replying to Sir Charles Russell, Miss Thompson said Mr. Hurley, when he became possessed of the estate, did not ask an increased rent, but did away with the middlemen, and let the farms to the tenants direct at a smaller rent. She herself, in 1880, asked an advance, in consideration of improvements effected on the farms.
The Commission shorty after adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday December 11, 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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