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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Wed 24 Oct 2012 - 21:41

Thirty-seventh Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, January 23, 1889




Today's proceedings opened very tamely. The Commissioners took their seats in an almost empty Court at half-past ten.
Sir Henry James at once informed the Court that he intended proceeding with the letters, the writing in some of which Farragher identified yesterday as being that of certain clerks employed in the League offices shortly before its suppression. These letters, for the most part, pertained to the disbursement of various sums in connection with the League.


There were, however, one or two exceptions. For instance, one was from a Mr. George O'Toole, who entered a claim on the League for having traveled about the county of Wicklow, working for the League in various ways. Another was dated 18th October, 1881. It ran thus: - "Dear Friend, - Mr. O'Shea and Mr. Sheridan will proceed to London. I will go to Liverpool and bring the books from there to Palace Chambers. I will also direct the men at Liverpool to return to Dublin, as requested. Mr. O'Shea wishes you to send cheque for 30 pounds, to enable us to pay our way." This letter was signed "H. Campbell," and was addressed to Mr. J. Kenny.


After reading several letters written to the League by persons who had discharged duties connected with it, Sir Henry James said he had a suggestion to make with regard to a series of letters written to the League asking for authority to defend prisoners in such offences as riot and forcible entry. He would ask whether the other side would allow them to be put in without being read.
A desultory conversation followed, the result being that the suggestion was adopted, and a big batch of documents was handed in to the Secretary of the Commission to be produced in the verbatim report of the proceedings.
This formidable bundle having been cleared out of the way, Sir Henry went on in a very monotonous tone, reading other documents which included forms of questions to persons applying for legal expenses, or printed instructions to secretaries of branches of the League, and a printed form headed, "Guidance of Organisers."


At length the wearisome task was ended - and it extended over nearly an hour - and a tall young gentleman, with the formidable name of Robert Massey Dawson Sandys, son of Mr. Sandys, a coroner, of Sandys-park, in the county of Cork, entered the box. He was very stylishly attired. His father was - and is, in fact - a large agent in Cork, as well as being a landlord. According to Mr. Sandys, his father was on the most friendly terms with his tenants prior to 1880, but in that year the League reached the district, and the scene was changed. One by one his servants left him; one by one the shopkeepers boycotted him, and even the village blacksmith refused to shoe his horses. Mr. Sandys and his brothers had to turn out in the early morning, groom the horses, feed the pigs, attend to the cattle, clean out the stable, discharge all the other duties which were formerly discharged by menials, and work about on the estate day after day, and even till late in the evening. This, Mr. Sandys over and over again voluntarily attributed to the machinations of the League, notwithstanding Sir Charles Russell's objection to such assertions without the production of positive evidence.


Then Mr. Sandys produced a letter he said he had received from a tenant, in which the writer asked to be allowed to pay his rent secretly.
The President interpolated the remark, addressed to the Attorney-General - "We have had a great many of these letters, and we think we are content with the specimens produced."
Sir Charles Russell also interjected that if the letters were read he should have to ask the names of the writers.
"Well, Sir," observed Mr. Sandys, "I should be sorry to put the lives of those people in danger by revealing their names."
The President's suggestion was adopted, and the letters were not read, though Mr. Sandys particularly wished it to be understood that he had received a number of such missives.


"What did he think was the reason why the tenants did not pay their rents?" essayed Mr. Murphy. - "Because they were afraid of outrage and murder," was the response. - Mr. Sandys - who, without the least hesitation, and even without being asked, attributed such intimidation to the League - described how tenants sometimes came to the estate office after performing a circuitous journey of miles, in order to evade observation; how some sent their rent through the post, the letter containing it being posted, perhaps, twenty-five miles away from the tenants' residences, with the object of escaping detection; how several tenants were visited at night by armed and distinguished bands; and how one went mad with fright, shortly after a visit by one of these gangs, and subsequently ended his life in an asylum.


In reply to Sir Charles Russell's questions, Mr. Sandys gave details connected with the working of several of the estates under his father's control. On the Dawson estate the rental in 1880 was 7,500 pounds, and now was 7,070 pounds. On the Erasmus Smith estate the rental was 7,370 pounds in 1880, but had now sunk to 6,300 pounds. This, however, it was explained, was owing to reductions made by the agent, and agreed to by the landlord.
The Attorney-General elicited from the witness that the tenants were well satisfied with the abatements which the landlords offered in 1880, and many of them consequently paid their rent secretly.


Dennis Tobin next entered the witness-box. He told the Attorney-General that he lived on the borders of Kerry, and that in February, 1880, he joined a society of Moonlighters. He was sworn in at Kilconnel, in Limerick, by a man named John MacInery, a prominent member of the Land League, who had in fact established nearly all the branches in that district. He told witness that the Moonlighters were the only support of the Land League, and were it not for the Moonlighters, "the League would be no good." He (witness) was sworn to be loyal and true to his country, and put down landlords, agents, and bailiffs. If he refrained from doing so he was to suffer death. Tobin gave the names of several Moonlighters, whom he knew, and who were also members of the Land League. Witness was once told by a man named Delhan to attend a meeting to hear a resolution read, in which were the names of persons who had been condemned by the League, and were to be raided upon.


In fact, such resolutions were always read at the meetings of the Moonlighters. Tobin admitted that he was provided with arms, which he kept, off and on, for six years, hiding them when not in use. They were given them by Delhan, and were afterwards delivered up to the captain of another party of Moonlighters. Tobin described a contemplated raid upon the stock of a man named Bat Connors in 1885. This, he declared was instigated by T.J. Connors, the secretary of a branch of the League, who gave a friend of Tobin's 5 pounds to carry out the raid. "We met at Beheena that night," Tobin continued, "but we didn't do anything because we were afraid of the police, who lived in a hut on the farm. A few nights afterwards we met, and were again afraid to do anything, and at length we refused to act at all, whereupon Griffin, who had the 5 pounds given him, said, "There, 6 pounds has gone, and we've done nothing." One of his colleagues, Tobin proceeded, slaughtered a cow on Connor's land after the meetings at Beheena.


Regarding another raid Tobin said that on the night the outrage took place, he went to a house near the scene, and there met "five men and himself." (Laughter.) This was a place called Knocknablough. Having arranged preliminaries, the party, who were disguised, went on to the farm, slaughtered three cattle, and, in leaving, forgot to remove the blocks and hatchets they used, which were subsequently found by the police. He was paid for that job. "How much?" "Why, 7s. 6d., to be sure!" The money was paid him by the previously-mentioned T.J. Connors, who said he had money from the "central branch" for that purpose.


Another event Tobin deposed to was what the Attorney-General called a "frightening plan." It was arranged that a party should fire into the house of a certain James Walsh, and frighten him, because he had supplied horses to Pat Sullivan, who was boycotted. Then he was present at a meeting, at which it was arranged, and the men were told off, to beat Dennis Connor, because he had worked for Bat Connors. He, with others, raided the house of a man named Talbot, from whom they obtained a gun. He would have visited another house, only "he got ill - he got the colic," and consequently could not assist the others, who, he had reason to believe, carried out the raid. After these events Tobin got out of work, and went to work on an evicted farm, in 1887. A few months after he had been so engaged the windows of his house were smashed, and a few days later a shot was fired into the house, and the bullet penetrated his wife's forehead.


Replying to Sir Charles Russell, Tobin said he was a member of the Land League, and afterwards the National League, five or six years before he was asked to join the Moonlighters. Although pressed very severely as to the names of the treasurer, secretary, and president of the Brosnan branch of the Land League, of which he said he was a member, he could not say, nor could he say positively where the meetings of the League were held. He thought, however, they took place at the house of a Mr. Moore, where he paid his fee, and was told to call for his card of membership. He called, he said, but he never received his card of membership.
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


On the court resuming, Sir Charles Russell continued the cross-examination of Tobin. The latter said he went to Tom Connors' shop, to purchase a pair of trousers and vest. Griffin, one of the captains of the Moonlighters, was there, and Connors called witness into the kitchen, and gave Griffin five 1 pound notes, to pay some men to take part in a raid. He told witness that if he would assist he should have the trousers and vest for nothing.


Did you pay for the suit you are wearing now? - "Faith, I did," was the reply of Tobin, who stroked his coat carefully.
Where did you get the money from? - "From my arms," replied the witness, clenching his fists and stretching out his arms, much to the amusement of those in Court.
"Have you ever been in trouble?" Sir Charles afterwards asked. - No.
Have you ever been in prison? - Yes, for six months.
Then, do you not call that being in trouble? - Well, it didn't trouble me much. (Laughter.)


In answer to further questions, Tobin said that when they raided cattle they divided the carcases. Witness, however, did not take his share, because he was afraid of meeting a policeman while taking it home.
In reply to Mr. Davitt, he said he was not aware that a body of men were known to exist in Limerick who were cattle thieves, and who made raids on cattle on their own account, the object being to get beef cheaply.


Mr. Davitt also elicited from Tobin that while he was in London he was under the charge of an Irish constable. They lived together, went out together, and amused themselves together.
How do you spend your evenings? Do you go to the theatres? - Yes.
And to the music-halls? - Yes.
Tobin, however, would not admit that he had ever had any conversation with the constable concerning the evidence he was to give before the Commission.
Did he ever tell you of the terrible cross-examiner, Sir Charles Russell? (Laughter.) - No.
Who told you? - The papers. (Renewed laughter.)


Tobin having disappeared from the box, the file of the United Ireland was again produced, and Mr. Atkinson read reports of meetings of the National League in 1884, '85, and '86, in which appeared the names of Mr. Sheehan, J. Moriarty, D.W. Curtin, D.J. Leahy, and other names mentioned by Tobin, as being present at the meetings.


J.T. Geelane, who used to be gatekeeper at Cork Prison, was the next witness. He deposed to several persons being confined in the prison in 1882 and 1883, awaiting their trials for conspiracy and other offences. Of these, a number were provided with food while in jail by prominent officials connected with the League. When those who were providing the food - and the witness did not give the names - heard that one man was going to turn informer, his supply of food was stopped. Mr. Tim Healy, M.P., and Mr. John O'Connor, M.P., visited several of these prisoners.
"I was in prison and ye visited me," remarked Sir Charles Russell sotto voce, amidst the laughter of his learned colleagues.
Replying to Sir Charles Russell, Geelane said he was told that the League was paying for the food, and that he was to stop all the prison food for those who were charged with Moonlighting, as it would also be paid for by the League.


The first District Inspector of the R.I.C. who has appeared in the witness-box in the full glory of his uniform, followed Geelane. He was District Inspector M'Ardle, a middle-aged man, with grey hair and a very elaborately-trimmed iron-grey moustache. He wore a pair of black kid gloves - a portion of the dark-hued uniform of the force - one of which, however, after a while, he carelessly withdrew from the right hand. M'Ardle produced certain documents he found at the offices of the Foxford Branch of the Land League when it was suppressed. One of these documents was from the Ladies' Land League, and assured the branches that whenever it was anticipated an eviction was imminent, a house would be built for the tenants. Another document was the "Amended Constitution for the Irish Republican Brotherhood." This set forth that the body should be composed of Irishmen, irrespective of class; that it should confine itself to the exercise of moral influence, and the cultivation of unity and brotherly love among Irishmen; and that it should await the decision of the Irish nation as to the hour for inaugurating a war against England.
(The report will be continued.)


It is stated that Mrs. O'Shea, wife of Captain O'Shea, will be an early witness before the Parnell Commission. Her evidence is regarded as of the highest importance, as she will be called to prove the circumstances under which certain of the Parnell letters were written.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday January 23, 1889, Page 2

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

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