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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Mon 8 Oct 2012 - 9:15

Twenty-ninth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, December 12, 1888




There were very few people in Court today when the proceedings commenced; but the galleries, as usual, were crowded. At the outset, Sir Charles Russell intimated that it would be desirable that the man Connell, who implicated Mr. T. Harrington in the course of his story as informer the other day, should be cross-examined before the rising of the Court for the Christmas holidays. He therefore asked that he should be in attendance on Friday morning.
"I suppose you don't object?" asked the President of the Attorney-General, who replied, "We will accede to the request as far as possible, my Lord."


Sir Charles Russell's cross-examination of the lady agent, Miss Thompson, was resumed. She explained that since the agitation the writs of ejectment were taken out in Superior Courts. Explaining this, she said it was a more expensive process, but the primary, and, in fact, the sole, reason for it was that it was not necessary to take the bailiff and others into the Courts to prove the particulars, a proceeding which, she considered, would put their lives in danger. She refused to admit that the process was adverted to to punish the people for the agitation by running up larger costs. As to the tenants she has evicted, she declared that she would not re-instate them except upon fair terms; but she did not consider the Land Court fair.
You look upon the Land Court as an abomination? - I don't look upon it as fair, and I certainly think the tenants were better off before the agitation.


Sir Charles Russell proceeded to deal with several tenancies under Miss Thompson in which reductions had been made. Here are some of them: - Michael Callagher - valuation 18 pounds 5s., former rent 37 pounds 10s., judicial rent 27 pounds.; Patrick Murphy - valuation 28 pounds 15s., former rent 66 pounds, judicial rent 47 pounds 15s.; Dennis Sullivan - valuation 29 pounds 5s., former rent 65 pounds, judicial rent 48 pounds 10s.; John Murphy - valuation 65 pounds 10s., former rent 147 pounds, judicial rent 100 pounds; Hugh M'Carthy - valuation 32 pounds 10s., former rent 78 pounds 10s., judicial rent 48 pounds 5s. (the latter was raised from 50 pounds in 1856 to 78 pounds 10s.); Parker - valuation 32 pounds 10s., former rent 78 pounds 10s., judicial rent 47 pounds. While reading some of these returns, Miss Thompson pointed out that some of the rents were afterwards altered on appeal.


"You are rather fond of appeals, I think?" observed Sir Charles.
Miss Thompson admitted she was, and, in one case, in which the rent was 50 pounds, she admitted that she had carried it to the House of Lords, and had been defeated, the costs, which she paid, being between 600 pounds and 700 pounds.
"A very cheap luxury," jocularly observed Sir Charles. "How much," he asked, "has the total rental been reduced by the Court?" - About 28 per cent.
Is it not a fact that in some cases it has been reduced to 50 per cent, and the average is within a fraction of 30 per cent? - It may be. Miss Thompson added that she noticed a change in the feeling of the people towards her in 1880, and regarded it as "the spirit of the time," though the Land League was "brewing" them.


In re-examination by Sir Henry James, Miss Thompson stated that all she did with regard to the Hurley estate was carried out for the sole benefit of the children, of whom she was the guardian, and she had never received one penny for her services, but rather had conducted the business of the estate at a loss.
A discussion here arose as to whether the cross-examination of Sir Charles Russell - who had left the Court - referred to Miss Thompson's own personal property or to the estate of which she was a trustee.
Mr. Lockwood expressed the opinion that it referred absolutely to the property over which Miss Thompson was trustee.
The President observed that it was an important distinction. Of course, a person who was acting as trustee was bound to get everything he or she possibly could in the shape of rent, whereas such an obligation was not imposed upon a person relative to personal property.
A brief reference to the witnesses who will be called to prove the speeches of 1880 and 1881 followed, the Attorney-General asking that some sort of an intimation should be given by the other side as to whom the wished called for this purpose, in order that expenses might be curtailed as much as possible. No decision was arrived at, but it was understood that counsel would consult together upon the matter.


Edward More Richards, of Eaniscorty, in the county of Wexford, caused considerable amusement in Court. He said, in reply to the Attorney-General's question, "What is your profession?" - "I am an Irish landlord." Mr. Richards described the amicable relations between himself and tenants prior to the establishment of the Land League, and a visit certain of the tenants paid him after the League was established. Upon the latter occasion the men asked for a reduction, one stating that if they paid their rents they "might be shot like dogs." However, one man, named Burke, left the crowd that day and paid his rent, and subsequently tenants visited him secretly and paid their rents.


Before going any further Mr. Richards asked to be allowed to omit mention of names. The question was not raised at that moment, but when Mr. Richards mentioned that a man, who was a prominent leader of the Land League, met him in a wood one night, and paid his rent, with the observation, "For God's sake don't betray me!" - Mr. Reid rose and represented that it would be a grievous injustice to his clients to be placed in the position of having certain charges made against them, and not being able to refute them.
The President replied that the point could be settled when counsel pressed an objection. At the same time they must receive such evidence with care, and caution, and due consideration.
The Attorney-General observed that the reason why he took this step would be obvious in the course of the case, for he would, probably, have to bring before the Commission instances of what had already occurred in consequence of persons giving evidence at the Commission.
Mr. Richards went on to say that he gave to the man the assurance, on his honour, that he would not mention his name at all.
Sir Charles Russell, having returned into Court, objected to the course of evidence, asking if they were now to go into the county of Wexford.


The President - Having been referred to upon this matter, I desire to state that I contemplate the future with alarm. We have been engaged for I know not exactly how many days on this inquiry, and he have not got to the end of any one branch of the subject; we have only entered into two of them, and there remain several others at any rate as important as the branches we have entered upon. It is impossible for us, sitting as a court of justice, to interfere, because the only ground would be that the evidence was irrelevant, and to arrive at the conclusion we must hear the whole of it together with the cross-examination. Therefore, all that I can do is to express my earnest hope that the utmost efforts will be made to compress the evidence within some limits, which have, I am bound to say, been somewhat exceeded, in some instances, at any rate. Rarely, if ever, can any legal investigation be exhaustive. Life is not long enough, and we must be allowed to hope that the years of our lives may not be consumed by this inquiry.
The Attorney-General said it had been a matter of very anxious consideration, and they had endeavoured to compress the evidence as much as possible.


Sir Charles Russell retorted that that was the usual argument. He assured their Lordships it had been a matter of great trouble and consideration amongst the counsel on his side, as to whether they were really justified in attending there, and causing so much expense, to meet some of the evidence. He submitted that the time had arrived when some expression of opinion should be made by the Bench.


Mr. Justice A.L. Smith - But your side has not curtailed the cross-examination, Sir Charles.
Sir Charles Russell - That inevitably follows.
Mr. Justice Smith - Pardon me. When you have a long cross-examination, the other side will follow the example.
Mr. Reid pointed out that the case was very much extended by the recital of every incident connected with every outrage, which, he contended, was merely done for the purpose of arousing public sympathy.
Mr. Lockwood protested that he had attempted as much as possible to continue his cross-examination to the smallest compass.
Mr. Justice Smith - I don't say you. I simply remarked that when you make a long cross-examination the other side will follow.
Sir Charles Russell - It is not that at all. We follow them. You are putting the cart before the horse.
Mr. Justice Smith refrained from replying.
The President, however, again expressed the hope that efforts would be made to compress the evidence as much as possible, and the matter dropped.
The Attorney-General then again questioned Mr. Richards as to what he thought was the result of the action of the League in his district. He said threatening notices were posted up and new tenants were boycotted. As a matter of fact, he had to start a mill to provide the tenants with food.
"I don't ask you anything," observed Sir C. Russell, with a significant look towards Mr. Justice Smith.


The next witness was a very interesting personage, he being alleged to be the first person who was "socially ostracised" in the land agitation, and the landlord from whom the title of "boycott" was derived. This was, of course, Captain Boycott. The Captain said that in 1873 he was agent on Lord Erne's property in Mayo. Up to 1879 he had lived on good terms with the tenants, but in that year he found a threatening notice posted on his gate. At that time Lord Erne had offered two shillings in the pound reduction in the rent. Only three tenants, however, paid their rent on that reduction. The notice threatened the Captain that if he forced the tenants to pay their rent, and if he did not get them the reduction, the writer would be "at him" day and night until he had had revenge. The tenants after that asked for 25 per cent reduction. Lord Erne, however, offered 10 per cent, which was refused by the tenants, they saying that they were afraid to accept it.


Shortly afterwards a mob attacked Captain Boycott's house and turned all the servants out. On another occasion, he was attacked in the street, and had to seek refuge in a police barracks. A great deal of his property was destroyed by the mob. When, in the winter time, he went with his wife to Dublin, the landlord of the hotel where they were staying received a notice warning him not to allow Captain Boycott to stay in the establishment. They had to leave, and came to London, afterwards going to the United States. In the September of 1881 he returned to Loughrea to a stock auction, and on that occasion he was hooted, and his effigy was first hanged and then burned in the Market-square.
Sergeant Elliot then appeared in the box for a few moments. The principal statement in his evidence was that fourteen persons were prosecuted for an attack on Captain Boycott, and that they were defended by counsel who was instructed by the president of a branch of the League.


Peter Lavender, of the R.I.C., gave further evidence relating to Captain Boycott's treatment. He said that when some labourers were being escorted by a body of military and police to the captain's farm, they were followed by a crowd, by whom they were hooted. They were headed by Patrick W. Nally. In May of 1883 Patrick W. Nally, while in prison, made a statement to witness.
Sir Henry James, before asking what that statement was, pointed out this Patrick Nally was mentioned by name, and specifically charged, in "Parnellism and Crime." He further read from the United Ireland of November 7th, 1885, a report of a National League Convention, at which Mr. Parnell, referring to Patrick Nally, who had put up as a candidate for one of the four constituencies of the county, said that he was a man who had performed good service for the League.
A discussion followed on the proposal that the conversation with Nally should be repeated by the witness; after which the President observed that the Court thought the evidence should not now be given, and the witness accordingly retired.


The story of the boycott of Captain Boycott was continued. The witnesses were rattled through very rapidly. Michael Farragher - who exhibited considerable trepidation - worked for the Captain for a week, and the Sunday afterwards a bullet was fired through the door of his father's house, where he lived.
Thomas Gildey, a car owner, near where Captain Boycott resided, let the Captain have some of his cars, was met by a Land League band, and groaned at, and was boycotted for five weeks.
Constable Phillips described the difficulty process servers experienced in 1880, in the locality, in carrying out their duties, being hooted at and groaned.


Alexander Gamble, a District Inspector of the R.I.C., said he had charge of the Tralee District from 1886. His evidence was corroborative of various other statements - he had heard nothing of the punishment of persons for paying their rent before 1881; but such cases were frequently reported after the League was established. He declared that he had found in his district in Kerry moonlighting societies which committed outrages upon people with reference to land. He found from statistics of the crime in the county there were no moonlighting outrages prior to 1880, and he had also found that the outrages were committed upon persons who were previously denounced by the Land League, and, though he believed several of the members of the moonlighting party were Land Leaguers, he could mention no names. After the Land League was established the county was - to use Mr. Gamble's brilliant piece of tautology - "disturbed, turbulent, and unsettled." Police protection was afforded almost everyone who had made themselves obnoxious to the tenantry.
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


On resuming, the Attorney-General continued the examination of District Inspector Gamble. This officer said that in 1886-7 there were forty-six persons under police protection in his district. As he was proceeding to examine Gamble with reference to one of the outrages, the Attorney-General was interrupted by Mr. Reid, who raised a point as to the admissibility of a statement made by another person to the witness as evidence. This led to a long discussion, in the course of which the Attorney-General stated that if this evidence was not admitted, it would be his duty to call witnesses to prove fifty such cases.
The President said he regretted that the objection had been taken, because he was afraid it would lead to a multiplication of witnesses. This it was desirable on many accounts to avoid. He was, however, of opinion that statements made by an outraged person to the police was only evidence of the fact, and was not admissible as evidence against the persons charged.
The Attorney-General accordingly proceeded on those lines, to question Gamble with regard to a moonlight visit to a man named O'Connor in September, 1886. He was shot in the foot, and he told Gamble that he was visited because he had evicted a woman named Rice some years previously, and also because he had refused to reduce the rent of his tenants.
The Commission shortly after adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday December 12, 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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