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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Wed 10 Oct 2012 - 7:55

Thirtieth Day of Proceedings - Thursday, December 13, 1888





Patrick Molloy, who was committed to prison last week for contempt of Court, in refusing to comply with the terms of his subpoena, has, as we yesterday announced, been released. He left Holloway Jail a little after mid-day yesterday, and, when the Court opened this morning, he occupied a seat just behind the Press, in the body of the Court.


Today's proceedings were opened by Dennis Feeley, a sergeant of the R.I.C., who was stationed at Claremorris in 1878 and subsequent years. His evidence referred to the initiation of the land agitation under its then aspect at Irishtown in February, 1878. It further referred to the alleged connection of Mr. Davitt, Mr. O'Connor Power, and Mr. John Dillon, with the redoubtable "Scrab" Nally, P.W. Nally, and P.J. Gordon, at several meetings in the neighbourhood. On the 20th of April, 1878, Mr. O'Connor Power and Mr. Davitt attended a meeting not far from Claremorris, at which about twenty thousand people were present, and subsequently went to an hotel where, Feeley said, "All the agitators who ever came to the district were in the habit of going," and advised the people to be united. Feeley produced a book containing notes of his observations of the movements of certain politicians during 1878-79. From these it appeared that he had actually recorded the precise moment at which these various gentlemen arrived at Claremorris and departed therefrom. His record included also the movements of a gentleman whom he styled "a Freeman reporter." Feeley further produced an elaborate transcript of what he purported to be long-hand notes of speeches delivered at a meeting held in December, 1879, at Lunymore. One of the speakers here was Mr. Parnell, who, according to Feeley, told the people that those were days not for words, but for actions. Mr. John Dillon and Mr. Sexton also spoke, and the latter particularly - according to the witness - urged upon the people to break no laws. In the January following that Feeley, with twenty-four other constables, had to protect a process-server Kilvighue, and eventually they had to load their guns with ball cartridge, though they did not fire. Not one of the twenty-five constables escaped unhurt, being "stoned" with turf and pots and kettles.
Speaking generally, did crime increase after that Irishtown meeting? - Yes, and the police force was augmented very considerably.


Sir Charles Russell pulled Feeley up very sharply as to the alleged visit of Mr. Davitt and Mr. O'Connor Power on the 20th of April. He couldn't swear positively whether Mr. Davitt was really at Claremorris on that occasion. Asked whether he should be surprised to hear that Mr. Davitt was in Dublin then, he got out of the difficulty by saying he didn't know Mr. Davitt at the time.
You see him now, and you have seen him since. Do you swear that he is the person you heard speak from the hotel window? - I believe he was.


Feeley went on to deny that Canon Burke was a prominent member of the League; but he admitted that he presided at a meeting of the League in Claremorris "on conditions."
Sir C. Russell - Did he preside, Sir?
The President - He has already said he presided.
Sir C. Russell - But, my lord, he says "on conditions." Has he a right to make such a reply to me?
The President - He certainly has a right to explain his answer and ------
Sir Charles Russell - But, my Lord, how can it be evidence coming from this person.
The President (excitedly): Sir Charles, I will not argue with you. You appealed to me and I expressed my opinion.
Feeley then declared that the "conditions" were that no violent language should be used. Canon Burke refused to preside at a subsequent meeting of the League.
What are those papers you have there (pointing to a heap of documents before the witness)? - Oh, they are confidential matters.
Is it not a fact that you have been engaged in getting up this case for the Times? - No.
Have you not caused subpoenas to be served? - No. I heard from Mr. Bolton, and sent him papers relating to county Mayo.
Where are those papers? - I don't know. I have searched for them, and expected to see them here.


Has any charge ever been made against your conduct as a policeman? - Yes.
By whom? - By subordinates.
What was the charge? - Drunkenness.
Is that hanging over you still? - It is, but I may explain I have been in the force nineteen years and have never been punished, and don't expect to be punished, because of this.


Mr. Lockwood got from the witness what was at the time regarded as a significant admission. He, Feeley, had a large blue document in his hand, which Mr. Lockwood asked to see. After carefully scanning the contents of the document, Sir Henry James allowed it to go to Mr. Lockwood, and Feeley then admitted that it contained the report of a speech made by Thomas Brennan at the meeting attended by Mr. Parnell, which he said he had copied from a newspaper - "the Freeman, he thought."
What is this special seal (pointing to a small seal in the corner of the document)?
Mr. Cunynghame (the secretary of the Commission) - That is the seal of the Special Commission affixed some moments ago, when it was handed in. (Laughter.)
Mr. Lockwood - Oh! that explains the suspicious circumstances.
Sir Henry James here explained that he understood Mr. Davitt never was present at the hotel meeting referred to by Feeley.
Mr. Davitt - No. I never was.
Sir Charles Russell - As a matter of fact, he was to have been present, but he missed his train.
Sir Henry James - That explains it, then.
Sir Charles Russell - But it shows the unreliability of these reports.


Sydney Edward Smythe, the son of the agent of the Marquis of Sligo, proved that his father was fired at in September, 1879, after having taken proceedings against certain tenants. They fired back and killed one man.
They always carried arms (he said to Sir Charles Russell) for years before that, when going a distance, and upon that occasion both his father and himself were armed. He recollected the murder of Mr. Hunter near Westport in 1869, and Mr. Crotty in 1871, both of these gentlemen being agents.
Mr. Davitt - What was the name of the man you fired at and killed? - I believe his name was Howard.
Was he a poacher? - I don't know.
Had not your father proceeded against him for poaching? - I don't know.


One of Mr. Sydney Smythe's herds, an old man, who was so deaf that he had to lean half-way across the rail of the witness-box to catch the words of the examining counsel, was the next witness. His name was Hugh McCall. His evidence was delivered with considerable dramatic emphasis. He flourished his hand and hat about as he spoke. His house was visited by a gang of armed men. Nine guns were pointed at him, and he was told to give up working for Mr. Smythe, but refused. "Three days later," he added regretfully, "my wife went wrong in her mind on account of this, and I had to send her away, and she died in an asylum."


The next witness was described as a member of the Fenian Brotherhood. This was James Buckley, a labourer, of Causeway, near Tralee. It was in November, 1880, that Buckley joined the Brotherhood. He was asked to do so by a man named Thomas Dee. When he consented to join they went to see two members of the Land League, at Helen O'Connor's public-house. These two men were Pat Dee and Robert Dissett. He was then sworn to be loyal to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. A meeting of the Fenian Association was afterwards held in the Land League rooms at Casey's house. John Lynch was the "head centre" of the League, but was not present at that meeting. William Feenicks, however, was present. He was an active member of the committee of the Land League. He had attended about a dozen of those Fenian meetings at Casey's house, and had seen members of the Land League there.


In May, 1881, a man named Sheehy was occupying some land of which his cousin had been dispossessed. In that month Feenicks met witness, and told him that an attack was to be made on Sheehy, and asked him to meet some of the "boys" at a fort near Ballyduff. When he got to the fort he found Feenicks lying on the ground. He, however, rose and fired a revolver as a signal, and five other men, who were disguised, came up. They were Richard Casey, Samuel Hayes, Pat and John Harrington, and Michael Lawler. Four other men afterwards joined the party, one of whom was Daniel Dee. They wore white shirts over their clothes, and were all armed with scythes and pitchforks, while Feenicks carried a revolver. They then divided into two parties, Feenicks taking charge of one party, and Eugene Fitzgerald, to whom Feenicks handed the revolver, the other. He (witness) went with Fitzgerald's party, which proceeded to Sheehy's house. They went to the front of the house, and as there was no response to their repeated knocks, Fitzgerald fired shots through the door. They then broke the windows, but as they were about to enter the house one of Feenick's men came up and said they thought Sheehy had escaped to the police barracks, and they had better disperse, which they accordingly did.


The instructions given to the men by Feenicks before leaving the fort (said witness) was that they were to tie up Sheehy outside, and, if he would not promise to give up the land, he was to be shot. A man named Michael Roche lived in the Causeway (said the witness). He was once a member of the Land League, but was expelled because he had given information about the League which had led to the arrest of some of its members. Feenicks and Pat Dee were arrested as suspects.


After they were released they (Fitzgerald and witness and others) met at Pat Dee's house, and arranged for the murder of Roche. It was shown that he was going to the Petty Sessions, and it was arranged that Feenicks, Fitzgerald, and witness should shoot him. Roche left the Court-house at about three o'clock in the afternoon, in company with a Mr. Rice. Fitzgerald and witness followed them, but thought it dangerous to make an attack. They therefore returned to the village, and witness then gave up his revolver. A few days after that another meeting was held. Witness lived next door to Roche, and he was asked to shoot Roche himself. If he would do so he would (he was told) get the cost of taking him to America out of the funds of the Land League. He was given a brace of revolvers and twenty-four rounds of ammunition. He was told to practise with them and keep the best one. An arrangement was also made that, if he shot Roche, he was to make for Pat Dee's house, and enter the kitchen by the back door. They would then swear that he was in the village at the time of the murder. Three or four days after that witness met Roche on the high road driving some cattle.


After some words with him, witness drew his revolver, pointed it at him, and pulled the trigger.
Did the revolver go off? - It missed fire, Sir.
How long had you had the revolver? - Three or four days; but I kept it in a ditch because I was afraid to keep it indoors.
What happened next? - I then caught Roche by the coat-collar by my left hand, and fired three or four times.
That is you pulled the trigger? - Yes; but it didn't go off, and as Roche began to shout I ran away. I went to Dee's house, and, when the commotion at the village was at its highest, I walked out of the house, and asked the police if they wanted me. They replied in the affirmative, and apprehended me. When the case came on Roche swore he felt the bullets pass his ear, and two people came forward and said they saw me standing at my door when Roche ran into the police barracks.


Did you try to get the money to go to America? - Yes. I applied to Fitzgerald, Patrick Dee, and Feenicks.
What was said? - One of them told me I would get the money, but they would have to go to Thomas Diggins, the treasurer of the Land League, for it. In the evening of the same day I saw Fitzgerald and Feenicks, and they gave me 60s., saying that was all the money in the hands of Mr. Diggins, as treasurer of the League.
Were you dissatisfied? - I was, and I told them so. Feenicks then told me that I couldn't expect to get any more, as I didn't shoot Roche. They took me to Thomas Dee, and he wrote a letter which he gave to me to take to Thomas Pearce, the president of the Land League.
Did you take that letter to him? - Yes. On the following day I gave him the letter, and he read it through and retained it. He told me he would go round to some of the neighbours and collect money to aid me in my escape to America.
The witness went on to say that the first house they visited was that of Thomas Diggins, who gave him 2s., to which Pearce contributed another 1s. These contributions were equally unsatisfactory, and the witness persistently called upon the Secretary of the League to contribute funds. Ultimately he received a letter from Dee, which he took to Dowling, the Secretary of the Lixnaw Branch of the Land League. This time he fared rather better, receiving 6s.; but from others he received small sums ranging from 1s. to 2s. 6d. The result of the trial was that he was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.


After that was any application made to you for the return of the money? - Yes.
What did you tell Mr. Feenicks? - I told him that I thought I was entitled to the money, and I should keep it, as I'd got it.
How were you treated then? - I was expelled from the society, I didn't attend any more Land League meetings, and the people wouldn't speak to me so familiarly as before.
The Court adjourned at this point.


On resuming, Sir Charles Russell commenced his cross-examination of the witness. He said that he had lived in Kerry all his life.
Now, can you tell me if there is any single respectable person in Kerry who would believe you on your oath uncorroborated. - I cannot name anyone. Patrick Deane could corroborate if he likes.
When did you come to London? - I came on Saturday with Sergeant Clarke, who was in charge of the district at Tralee.
Who was the first person you ever gave information to? - I first wrote to Mr. Cecil Roche, but I got no answer to that letter. Sergeant Clarke then came out to the Causeway to see me on the 29th of November. Up to that time I had not been in communication with the police concerning this case.


Then, am I to take it that you have been in communication with the police on any other occasion? - Yes; about the month of June, 1882. I then communicated with Constable O'Conner, and afterwards with Sergeant Kinsella. I had also communicated with Sergeant Clarke in 1882. That was the first time I had ever communicated with the police. When Sergeant Clarke (proceeded the witness) came to see me at Causeway, after I had written to Mr. Cecil Roche, he took me to the police barracks at Tralee, and I there made a statement. It was afterwards read over to me, and I signed it.
Did you make a statement to anyone when you came to London? - Yes, I made a similar statement to Mr. Shannon.
What was it that you communicated to Constable O'Conner, in June, 1882? - I informed him that there were arms concealed in the house of Edmund Summers.


Did you get paid for that? - No; but I gave the information because I was under the impression that no suspicion then would be attached to me in regard to the shooting of Roche.
In fact, you wished to make the police believe you were their friend? - I suppose so. (The witness here joined in the laughter which followed his remark.)
Sir Charles (severely) - Don't laugh, Sir. This is no laughing matter. - I am not laughing (replied the witness.)
Did you communicate with your companions that you had given the information? - No.
Then why did you not? Surely they would not wish you to be convicted? - I knew they did not care whether I was convicted or not.


Now, were not all the men whom you have named in connection with this terrible business members of the secret organisation? - Yes.
Have you ever been a member of the Land League? - No.
Have you ever paid a penny to it? - No.
Have you ever had a member's card? - I never have.
In answer to further questions, Buckley admitted that a room in Casey's house was used as the band-room, the Land League room, and the room for the Fenian organisation. He also said he had never been engaged in any outrages other than the two he had mentioned. In 1878, he proceeded, he joined the Munster Fusiliers, but was afterwards transferred to the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment at Hounslow. He got his discharge from that regiment, and was given a good conduct certificate. He, however, destroyed that certificate, as he did not think it worth keeping.
Then, you did not think it worth while to keep a little evidence of your good character? - I can get evidence of good character from the Causeway. Michael Neelan can give me a good character if he likes, but he is now opposed to me because I am giving evidence here.
Because you are giving evidence that is not true? - No, because I am telling the truth.
Then you swear that you are telling the truth? - I am telling the truth. Neelan has already discharged me from his employment at the instance of members of the League.


Sir Charles Russell then questioned the witness more particularly with regard to the attempted murder of Roche. Buckley said that he had his hand on Roche when he fired, and he pulled the trigger four times.
Do you mean to convey that you really meant to kill that man? - Certainly, sir; that's what I was ordered to do.
If it was, how do explain that the Magistrates should only bind you over to keep the peace, unless they considered it a bogus affair?
Sir Henry James objected, but the President said that the question could only be directed to show whether it was a bogus outrage or not. Buckley then answered that he believed the reason why the Magistrates so decided was because Roche's story varied so much that "no one could believe him."


Now, while you were in London did you hear that some money had been left to your mother? - Yes, and that it was stolen from her.
Stop, stop, stop! Did you not break the box open to get the money? - I may have done at some time, but not then.
Were you not charged with breaking your mother's box, and, failing to find the money, with beating your mother? - That is quite untrue, and the person who instructed you took the money.
Name them, Sir? - I won't.
That means you can't, I suppose? - Perhaps I could.
Did your mother become partly insane after this attack made upon her.
Sir Henry James objected.
The President - You are assuming, Sir Charles, that he has admitted it?
Sir Charles Russell further directed his attention to the personal character of the witness. He was on one occasion imprisoned for assaulting the police, and fined for the same offence, the fine being paid by the Land League, who always thought him hostile to the police, commended him for it. Last August, too, he was convicted of an assault.


Mr. Reid followed. He elicited from the witness that he had been incarcerated in Holloway Jail for assaulting the police. He explained that the reason why he assaulted the police was that when he came to London he was taken to be an Irish detective, who had come over to London with reference to certain dynamite outrages, and, wishing to be arrested to convince certain Irishmen otherwise, he assaulted the policeman. (Loud laughter.) He added that his life had been threatened by some of these Irishmen, many of whom still lived, and who at that time considered him a detective.
Returning to Buckley's exploits in Ireland, Mr. Reid asked if he ever killed a sheep of Roche's? - "No," was the reply, "nor a duck either."
Did you ever sell Sheehy a revolver, and after that make Sheehy drunk and steal 12 pounds from him? - I swear I did not. Was I ever convicted in a Court for it?
Well, you have sworn to being engaged in a plot to murder.


Mr. Davitt obtained from Buckley the declaration that , as a Fenian, he had free access to the meetings of the Land League, and many of the Leaguers were also Fenians. Buckley said he knew as a fact that Roche gave information to the police, but he denied emphatically that he had any of it. He practised with the revolver upon a field, having a stone as a target.


Sir Henry James re-examined the witness, who said that it was stated in the oath he took that a man who did not obey orders would be shot. Buckley was only a "private" in the Brotherhood, while Feenicks was a "sergeant"; consequently, he had to do what Feenicks ordered him to do. Although he was not a Land Leaguer, after he joined the Fenian Brotherhood no one ever objected to him going to the Land League meetings. He had, in fact, proposed resolutions at those meetings.


Buckley then left the witness-box, and his place was taken by Sergeant Clarke. In answer to questions by Sir Henry James, he detailed how Sheehy had one night come to the police barracks, with only his shirt and trousers on, saying that his house had been attacked by "Night Boys."
Mr. Reid then rose and questioned the witness. He told Mr. Reid that the first time he had had any information was in 1882. Witness questioned him as to the outrage on Sheehy, and he told witness that he had taken part in it. He also gave the name of others who were engaged in it, but no steps were taken to prosecute the persons, as it was thought more prudent to wait and watch.


Sergeant Clarke told Mr. Davitt that he had been with Buckley since he had been in London. He took him to a theatre on one occasion.
In answer to Mr. Biggar, witness said that up to the time he left Causeway Buckley's character was good.
The Court then adjourned.

Source: The Echo, Thursday December 13, 1888, pp. 2-3

Last edited by Karen on Sat 13 Oct 2012 - 13:17; edited 2 times in total

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