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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 16 Nov 2012 - 22:52

Fifty-first Day of Proceedings - Friday, February 15, 1889






The inconveniently small Probate Court could not afford accommodation for all those who sought seats this morning. It was crowded before the proceedings commenced, and many disappointed ticket-holders were compelled to leave without even a glance at the interior. The Duchess of St. Albans and Lady Diana Huddleston found seats near the artists; while Miss Ellen Terry, attired in a scarlet cloak, trimmed with deep grey fur, had a seat in the public gallery near Lady Byng. In the body of the Court all was life and bustle before the Court opened; but with the "Silence!" of the ushers, the Judges entered, and the proceedings commenced.
Shortly before eleven o'clock, Mr. Parnell entered. He took his old seat by Mr. Davitt's side, at the solicitors' table. On his left were Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Biggar, and Mr. Herbert Campbell. The Member for Cork frequently instructed Sir Charles Russell, as did also Mr. George Lewis, in the conduct of the cross-examination.


Mr. Soames again entered the witness-box, and Sir Charles Russell resumed his cross-examination. Mr. Soames produced a schedule of all the signatures of documents, purporting to be those of Mr. Parnell, which he inspected prior to 1887. "I can now," he said, "give more accurate dates as to the time I first saw the letters of the 10th of June. I saw them in 1888. At the same time I saw one of Mr. Egan's letters, and the last in the month of July, 1888."
Sir Charles Russell having looked through the schedule, asked where Mr. Soames obtained some of the specimens of handwriting, purporting to be that of Mr. Parnell, he had handed in.
Mr. Soames replied that he obtained two leases bearing Mr. Parnell's signature for the lessor, and a Kilmainham letter addressed to "Gallagher" from the Governor of Kilmainham, whom he had subpoenaed.
When did the Governor give you that? - I can't call to recollection exactly.
Had you subpoenaed him at the time? - I had.


Now the next thing I see in the schedule is "A list of signatures inspected by me prior to April, 1887." May I take it that this list will also be a correct list of the signatures you put before the expert before that date? - No.
What addition have you to make? - I am not sure if the expert saw the last three letters, and I think he saw some I didn't.
Well, what do you suggest he saw? - I make no suggestion. He will be able to tell you himself. I can't tell you of my own knowledge.
Don't let us get to cross-purposes now, Mr. Soames. - I will not. I simply say I believe he saw some others. I cannot fix them. Mr. Soames added that he had four of Mr. Parnell's signatures of 1881, and seven of 1882. He had no doubt himself that they were the signatures of Mr. Parnell.
Sir Charles Russell - Is this the first time you have given evidence as an expert in writing? - I am not giving evidence as an expert. I say so to the best of my belief. I was not told for a long time after about the Parnell letters - not until Mr. Houston had released Mr. Macdonald of the pledge not to give the name of Mr. Pigott, and when Mr. Pigott gave his consent to his name being mentioned.
When did Mr. Pigott's release of Mr. Houston come to your knowledge? - In the month of October. I will refer to a book. I have a memorandum containing the heads of the evidence that I took from Mr. Pigott. I will send for it. I did not subpoena Mr. Pigott until after he made a statement. I subpoenaed him in the month of November.
Was the fact that the letters came from Mr. Pigott communicated to you by Mr. Macdonald or by Mr. Houston? - I think I heard it from Mr. Houston, but won't be positive.


Did you know anything of Mr. Pigott before then? - I had never seen him. I saw him when he called upon me at Lincoln's-inn.
What did Mr. Pigott tell you? - That he obtained the letters in the summer of 1886; that he obtained them for Mr. Houston. That was in July, 1886. He told me also that he had to go to America, and I think on more than one occasion to France, and to Italy or Spain - I won't be sure which; and that a very considerable amount of expense had been incurred. That is the substance of what he told me. It was the same when he obtained the other letters.


Did you ask him from whom he got them? - I did not.
Did you at any time ask him from whom he got them? - Never.
Not any of the letters? - No.
Am I to take that, Mr. Soames? - You are to take it; it is the truth.
Why did you not ask him? - Because he told me himself that he was pledged not to divulge the name, and if he had to do so, he would have to do so himself in Court.
Don't you think this is a very important part of his evidence? - I do.
So, as I understand, you did not put the question because he told you that in the earlier stage of the conversation? - Yes.
Am I to take it that no information has come to you from Mr. Pigott - communicated in any way - from what person or from what persons he received those letters, or any of them? - You must take it that I have not had any information whatever from any source whatever.
And so far as you have formed an opinion from the communications from Mr. Macdonald, is he in the same state of ignorance? - I believe he is.
And I will put the same question as to Mr. Houston? - So far as I know, he is.


Were you aware at the time you had the interview with Mr. Pigott that he had been subpoenaed on behalf of Mr. Parnell? - No, not until subsequently. I think it was about the same time as I served him with a subpoena myself.
Had you not seen it announced in the papers weeks before that interview that Mr. Pigott had been subpoenaed? - I had not.
In arriving at the opinion you expressed as to the genuineness of the handwritings, I understand you to speak to the handwriting of Mr. Egan, Mr. Davitt, and Mr. Parnell; but I think you said you had formed no opinion about Mr. O'Kelly's? - Yes.


Can you refer me now to the alleged specimens of Mr. Davitt's handwriting on which you expressed that opinion? - Mr. Davitt in my presence made a copy of the letter; and from the copy he made I was convinced that the letter was genuine.
Did Mr. Davitt on that occasion at once, upon looking at it, say it was a forgery? - Yes, almost before it was in his hand.
You mean directly he looked at it? - No; I mean almost before it was in his hands. I mean he had already made up his mind to say it was a forgery.


Sir Charles Russell (to the President) - I contend that that is not a proper answer, my Lord.
Tell me, Mr. Soames (proceeded Sir Charles), were these three letters purporting to be written in Mr. Davitt's handwriting? - Yes.
Did he admit that two of them were written by him to the Governor of Portland? - I believe he admitted one of them.
Did you give him the disputed letter? - Yes; and while I was handing it to him he said that was a forgery, and immediately proceeded to take a copy of it.


Do you recollect when these were being marked his saying that this letter - the disputed letter - was not only a forgery, but a very clumsy forgery? - I don't recollect his using those words.
And I understand you formed your judgment about Mr. Davitt's handwriting upon what you saw him write? - Not entirely. I had seen these letters before.
Partly from that? - Partly upon what I saw him write and partly from the letters I had already seen.
Which letters? - I had formed a pretty definite conclusion from those you have in your hand before I saw Mr. Davitt.
Did your judgment become more definite after that? - Yes.


My Lord (said Sir Charles), this is the disputed letter. I will read it: -
"Dear Friend, - I need hardly say I am with you in all you write; but your fears are groundless. The blackthorn argument of the old times is played out. Allowances must be made for Irishmen in Parliament who are obliged to pose as loyal subjects, when we know them to be honest. I yield to no man in my nationalist faith, but I never hesitate to lay it aside when I consider it prudent to do so. When your friends have time for reflection they will admit what was done could not have been left undone."
Did you form any judgment as to what that referred to? - I did not.


My Lord, you will observe that there is no date on the letter, and no address. (To Mr. Soames) - Now I come to the Egan letters. Can you tell me what letters you had seen of Egan's when you formed the belief that the disputed letters were in his handwriting? - I had seen those which were found at Carey's house; I had seen his signature on a photograph, and I had also seen some writing on some envelopes.
Have these envelopes been put in? - They are not in my possession or control.
Where are they? - I saw them in Dublin.
Where? - I think I saw them at the house of Mr. Herrol, who is Chief of the Metropolitan Police there.


Sir Charles Russell then asked Mr. Soames how he arrived at the conclusion that the reputed letters of Egan corresponded with the genuine writing; and the witness replied that the whole of the handwriting was similar. He referred particularly to the final "n" in the signature.
Two original letters, of the 10th of June and 18th of June, 1881, were here handed up to their Lordships, who compared them with photographs of the "alleged" letters.
The President (having examined them) - I have looked at them, Sir Charles. What more can I do?
Sir Charles Russell replied that he only wished their Lordships to see them.
The President asked if the learned counsel could not arrange as to what letters should be photographed.
Sir Charles Russell assented, and remarked that he had an application later on to make with reference to that subject.
Mr. Soames (continuing) said the character of the writing in the letters seemed to be the same. He did not - he repeated - profess to be an expert.
Mr. Soames, in answer to further questions, and still referring to the Egan letters, said he thought there was a great similarity between all the signatures.
Do you think there is a similarity between the signature of the letter dated 25th of October, 1881, and the signature of the letter of the 18th of June, 1881? - Yes, I do.
A very strong resemblance? - Yes. The "d's" in the letters are almost identical.
You expect, I suppose, in the case of forgery to find some resemblance? - Undoubtedly; but I don't expect to find one man forging several person's signatures.
But do you suggest that they are forged by one man? - Well, we have only traced them to one source.
Oh! you mean Mr. Pigott? - I don't suggest that he forged them. You suggested that. (Laughter.)
When you mentioned several signatures, whose did you mean? - I mean Egan's, Mr. Davitt's, and Mr. Parnell's.
Did you produce before the Court all the signatures of Mr. Parnell you have obtained? - With the exception of one I have mislaid; but I expect to get it. It was one addressed to Mr. White, in Ireland, I think, in 1881 or 1882.


Mr. Soames put together some of the letters in dispute, and some of the admitted letters, and compared them. He selected the gallery order of the 17th of May, 1881, which he compared with the signature attached to the following letter alleged to be that of Mr. Parnell.

"9 -1-'82.

"Dear E. - What are those fellows waiting for? This inaction is inexcusable. Our best men are in prison, and nothing is being done. Let there be an end of this hesitancy. Prompt action is called for. You undertook to make it hot for old Forster and Co. Let us have some evidence of your power to do so. My health is good - thanks.
-Yours very truly, "CHAS. S. PARNELL."

This Mr. Soames also compared with signatures of Mr. Parnell in the Kilmainham jail-book.


Mr. Soames, in proceeding, said Mr. Parnell's handwriting varied considerably. He had examined half-a-dozen signatures of Mr. Parnell in one book, and they were all written in different ways. Mr. Soames also asserted that Mr. Parnell had made contradictory statements about his signature. On being further questioned by Sir Chas. Russell, Mr. Soames stated that Mr. Parnell had said that his signature of the 19th of May, 1882, was totally different to any signature he had ever made. He said he never made the final "l" turn up. He also gave other particulars of alleged discrepancies.
When did he give these particulars? - In an interview with a witness who is now in Court, immediately after the publication of the letter of the 18th of April.
Where did the interview took place? - In the lobby of the House of Commons.
Did Mr. Parnell say anything else? - Yes. On a second occasion he said it was a copy of a signature which he used in 1879, but had discontinued to use for some very special reason. He also said he invariably made a dot after the "S." in "C.S. Parnell." He also spoke as to the formation of the capital "C" in the "Charles."
What did he say? - He said it was unlike anything he had ever made.


Did you notice yourself any marked difference in the character of the signatures in some of the earlier letters, as composed with those of 1881-2? - Oh, yes. I have two before me now.
Do you not find that in the earlier letters the initial letter "C" is made like a small "b"? - Are you speaking of any particular letter?
I am speaking of all the earlier letters which were put in yesterday. - Some are and some are not.
Can you refer me to any of the letters prior to 1880 in which the initial letter "C" is not like a small "b"? - Yes; the letter dated Avondale, 1875. In that letter, not only the initial letter "C," but the whole signature is different. There is also a letter written in the early part of 1880, in which the initial letter "C" is not like a small "b."
A letter dated 16th of June, 1882, was then handed to the President, and Sir Charles Russell pointed out that the bottom loop of the letter "C" in that letter was narrower at the point where the up-line turned off to the letter "h," than it was lower down. In another letter which was produced the case was exactly opposite.
Mr. Soames proceeded to say - in reply, of course, to Sir Charles - that he could produce a letter dated "House of Commons, August 31st, 1880," in which the letter "C" was formed in the same manner as it was in the letter of June 16th, 1882.
Passing on, Sir Charles Russell asked if Mr. Soames could give any signatures with the small "b" loop, or "C" formation, in 1881? - "Yes," was the reply, "he could show some letters as early as 1877 with the "C" formed like a small "b."


The next letter Sir Charles cross-examined Mr. Soames upon was the following: -

"Hotel des Pins, Cannes, France, Feb. 10, 1883.

"My Dear Quinn, - I daresay you will have heard before now that I had left London for a warmer climate, in accordance with the positive orders of the doctor. I was obliged to leave suddenly, or I should have tried to see you before my departure.
"I am glad to say that already I feel a considerable improvement. The doctor thinks, however, that as soon as I am sufficiently strong I should take a long sea voyage, and he recommended America. I don't like the idea; but if my restoration of health depends upon it, of course I must go.
"I enclose you a cheque for 35 pounds 17s. 7d., the amount of cash in my hands belonging to the executive. At the last settling we had you held a sum of 1 pound 6s. 1d., so that now you will have 37 pounds 3s. 8d. in hand.
"If you can spare the time and have the inclination you might drop me a few lines here.
"I wish you would attend next executive meeting and inform them of receipt of this, or else write them.
"I am, dear Quinn, yours faithfully, FRANK BYRNE.
"P.S. - Kind regard to Mrs. Quinn and Tom."


When did you first obtain the letter? - I received the original on the morning of the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter."
From whom? - From Mr. Macdonald.
Do you know from whom he obtained it? - It was sent to him by registered letter, without any enclosure.
Did you know who sent it? - I do not.
Have you since ascertained from whom it came? - I have.
From whom? - From Mr. Quinn.
You mean Mr. Quinn, the Member of Parliament? - Yes.
Did you ascertain that Mr. Quinn had given it to Mr. Bella, the solicitor? - I did not.
Do you mean to suggest that Mr. Quinn sent it? - I do not. But I mean to suggest that that letter was in Mr. Quinn's hands in Palace-chambers, Westminster, about the time of its receipt in the year 1883.
What do you mean by saying that it came from Mr. Quinn? - I didn't say so.
You were understood to say so. - I appeal to the shorthand writer.
The witness's statement was accordingly read, from which it appeared that he meant to convey that he had "ascertained the letter came from Mr. Quinn."
Have you ascertained from whom it came direct to Mr. O'Donnell? - I have not.
When were these letters photographed first? - They were sent in different batches to Mr. Flemming, who does work for the British Museum.
Is he here? - No; but he is available, and can be here.
I hope he will be, as an important point has arisen. Did you take the statement by Mr. Houston? - No. He wrote it out himself and I received it within the last week.
Was Mr. Houston in the room when Pigott's statement was taken? - He was.


Continuing his evidence, Mr. Soames said he received a number of letters from Mr. Houston and Mr. Pigott; letters which had passed between Mr. Pigott and Mr. Houston, Mr. Pigott and Mr. Labouchere (in which Mr. Labouchere sent Pigott a 10 pound note), and between Mr. George Lewis and Pigott.
You have referred to correspondence between Mr. Lewis and Pigott? - Yes, and between Pigott and Mr. Labouchere.
Did Pigott tell you the substance of his interview with Lewis? - Yes, and of the interview with Mr. Labouchere. What Pigott told me was in writing - never verbally. The statements were in the form of a statutory declaration. It was a statement that Mr. Labouchere had given Pigott several sums of money - 10 pounds at a time. A 10 pound note reached him when in London.
That Mr. Labouchere had sent to Pigott? Did he say it was sent to Ireland? - I think it was sent to Ireland.
Did you ask him to show you the letter accompanying the note? - Yes. I have got it.


What did Mr. Pigott receive from the Times? - Pigott has received nothing from the Times in respect of the letters.
Whatever money the Times paid was paid to Houston? - No part of the money went directly or indirectly to Pigott. Mr. Pigott had received his wage long and long before.
Do you mean that Mr. Houston had paid him? Do you know how much was paid to Pigott? - I don't know. I did not ask him at the time.
After having told you all this, didn't it occur to you to ask Pigott how he came into possession of the letters? - It occurred to me that Mr. Labouchere was trying, by undue means -
But did it not occur to you to ask him how he came into possession of the letters - seventeen of them? - I never have asked him.
Has anyone done so? - I have not. So far as I know no one has pressed him on that point.


Did Mr. Pigott inform you that he had said he forged the letters? - He told me that he had told Mr. Lewis he had done nothing of the kind, and that Mr. Lewis had endeavoured to get him to say so. He has since showed me the letter from Mr. Lewis, accusing him of having admitted that they were forgeries, and his reply.


On that (proceeded Mr. Soames) I required a statutory declaration, and in this Pigott says an offer of 1,000 pounds was made by Mr. Labouchere for him to get into the witness-box and swear that he was the author of the letters. (Sensation in Court.)
That Mr. Labouchere offered him 1,000 pounds to go into the box and say he was the forger of the letters? - Yes.
Did he tell you of a correspondence with Arch-bishop Walsh? - No, I did not hear that from anyone. I consulted Mr. Inglis, Mr. Birch, and Mr. Ellis as to the letters.
You have said about Mr. Labouchere offering 10 pounds. Did you ask for the letter accompanying the 10 pounds? - I saw the letter and the 10 pound note. I can produce them. Pigott only received from me a very few pounds indeed - 40 pounds or 50 pounds in all.


And I suppose you have not made any arrangement as to what he is to be paid? - I told him distinctly that I would make no arrangement.
Did Mr. Pigott say that he expected 500 pounds? - I know he mentioned to Mr. Houston the sum of 5,000 pounds, and I know the circumstances of it.
What was the 5,000 pounds asked for? - He said it would be perfectly impossible for him to live in Dublin after giving his evidence here, and that he would have to go away and make some provision for himself. I never promised him one sixpence, nor has anyone on behalf of the Times, I told him distinctly that he might be quite satisfied the Times would never see him ruined by simply going into the box and telling honestly what he knew. He came to my office and gave his statement voluntarily, and afterwards I found that he had been watched by detectives on behalf of Mr. Lewis. I traced him to Mr. Labouchere's house, and on two or three occasions I traced him to Mr. Labouchere and Mr. Lewis.
Where was that? - At Mr. Labouchere's own house.
When was that letter written? - In October. Immediately after the statement Pigott wrote to correct two errors. Subsequently to that he sent me a statement in his own handwriting.
The first statement you took down in October? - Yes. He made a statement in October in my own house. A few days ago I took a statement in connection with Mr. Biggar and others and the Supreme Council, and subsequently to that I embodied the whole in one proof. I have the original statement.
With reference to these interviews with Mr. Labouchere, do you refer to any other interviews?


Mr. Soames (smiling) - I will tell you the whole, if you wait. I was watching them - (laughter) - not personally. A man going under the name of Wilson offered to give me information. I knew who he was. His real name was O'Brien, and I knew he had come over as an emissary from Egan to Labouchere. I knew it was a plant, and it was in consequence of that that I had him watched. He offered to see Mr. Pigott in Dublin.


Did Mr. Pigott tell you this? - No, I traced him. I knew that he was using the name of Sinclair. I traced him to Mr. Labouchere's, and then I traced Mr. George Lewis and Mr. Parnell to Lewis's house. He admitted to me that he went under the name of Robertson in America. He imposed the letters on us.
Did Pigott tell you of any other interviews he had with Mr. Lewis? - Yes; but I am not quite sure. He said he was going to see Lewis at his hotel.
Did he show you a letter, amongst others, of the 2nd of November, 1888, from Mr. Lewis - did he show you this letter, in which he says to Mr. Pigott that he had no objection to Pigott telling you of what passed? - I do not recollect.
Sir Charles Russell - Then I ask you to take a note of the date of the letter.


Mr. Soames replied that he would do so, and went on to remark that he had paid Mr. Houston very nearly 3,000 pounds altogether, and to Moser between 1,000 pounds and 2,000 pounds. Kirby was sent over to America to get from Sheridan a letter from Mr. Parnell, identical in terms with that published in May, 1882.


Mr. Soames next produced six other letters, which he said had just come into his possession. One was a letter dated the 30th of April, 1877, and signed by Mr. Egan. Another was dated July 17, 1876, and was signed - so it was stated - by Mr. Parnell. There was also a letter dated from the "House of Commons, Feb. 23" (no year), to John M'Clean, and signed by Mr. Parnell. There was a letter, dated the 1st of October, 1881, to the Right Hon. Mr. W.E. Forster, written by Mr. Campbell, and signed by Mr. Parnell, a letter to Mr. (now Sir G.) Trevelyan dated Palace-chambers, Jan. 6, 1883, and signed by Mr. Parnell, and a letter was written by Mr. Parnell and dated Kilmainham, October 21st, 1881. Mr. Soames also produced an affidavit signed by Mr. Parnell on the 2nd of December, 1880. He also received a number of cheques bearing different signatures.


At the instance of the Attorney-General Mr. Soames proceeded to explain his position in relation to the Times. He said he was in a different position to any other solicitor, as he was engaged on the staff, and was paid a retaining fee. He was, in fact, practically the treasurer.
Now (said Sir Richard Webster), when the letters were handed to you for investigation, had any bargain been entered into as to what should be paid for them? - No, the letters were handed in to the Times to keep them as long as they thought necessary to make inquiries, and if they were not thought satisfactory they were to be returned. In that case not a sixpence would have passed out of our hands.


Now, I want to know something more about Mr. Davitt's letter. Who were present when Mr. Davitt took a copy of that letter? - Mr. George Lewis and myself.
The Attorney-General then called upon Mr. Davitt to produce that copy.
Mr. Davitt: I will search among my papers, and if I can find it you shall have it.
Was the copy like the original? (the Attorney-General asked Mr. Soames). - It was so alike that Mr. George Lewis remarked upon it. Mr. Davitt then made a reply, the effect of which was that he had been trying to make a fac-simile of the letter. He had, however, been writing as quickly and as fluently as if he had been writing an ordinary letter.
Did he hesitate, and appear to be copying? - He wrote quickly and as fluently as he has done in the Court for many days past, during which time I have watched him. I produce, in addition to those already produced, a signature of Mr. Parnell on the Vaughan lease in 1883, and another one in the same year in a letter to "A. Bolt, Esq." I also produce a letter written in March, 1881, by Mr. Parnell. This comparison was made by me some time ago.
Now, you said if these were forgeries it was remarkable they were all the same. But you did not enumerate the whole of the letters alleged to be forged? - They are those of Egan, Parnell, Campbell, Davitt, O'Kelly, and Byrne.
Sir Charles Russell - May I ask a question?
The President - Yes.
Sir Charles Russell (to Mr. Soames) - In whose handwriting do you say the body of the seven disputed Parnell letters is in? - Six are in Mr. Campbell's writing. I cannot speak to the body of the letter dated "9-'82," and commencing, "Dear E, - What are these fellows waiting for?"
The President suggested that they should have photographs of the letters before the expert was called.
The Attorney-General promised that complete sets should be made, and the Court then adjourned for luncheon.

Upon resuming, Mr. Soames said the letter dated "9-1-'82," and commencing "Dear E., - What are those fellows waiting for?" had been kept under lock and key until just lately, and no one on behalf of Mr. Parnell had seen it.


Mr. Woolacott, a lobby reporter of the Central News, gave evidence bearing upon the fac-simile letter, which, it will be remembered, runs thus: -

"Dear Sir, - I am not surprised at your friend's anger, but he and you should know that to denounce the murders was the only course open to us. To do that promptly was plainly our best policy. But you can tell him and all others concerned that though I regret the accident of Lord F. Cavendish's death I cannot refuse to admit that Burke got no more than his desserts. You are at liberty to show him this and others whom you can trust also, but let not my address be known. He can write to House of Commons. - Yours very truly, "CHAS. S. PARNELL."

Mr. Woolacott deposed to having an interview with Mr. Parnell on the evening of the day on which this letter appeared in the Times. Counsel read the report of the interview, in which Mr. Parnell said the capital "S" and capital "C" were the only letters resembling his genuine signature. Mr. Parnell declared the letter an "impudent forgery."
In cross-examination, the witness said his interview with Mr. Parnell last from five to six minutes.


Other statements made by Mr. Parnell in the House of Commons in 1887 and 1888, quoted from "Hansard," in which he denied the charges made against him in the Times, were read.
In the course of one of his speeches Mr. Parnell explained that the signature attached to the fac-simile letter was one he had not used since 1879. Dealing with the letter purporting to have been written by Frank Byrne, dated "Hotel des Pins, Cannes, France, Feb. 8, '82," in which Byrne said, "Mr. M'Sweeney will also have informed you that I received the promised cheque for 100 pounds from Mr. Parnell on the day I left London," Mr. Parnell declared that he never gave Frank Byrne a penny, and that the only money he had ever given him was when Isaac Butt was alive, and when he contributed towards a public testimonial to Byrne.


John Cameron Macdonald, the manager of the Times, was the next witness. He said he had held that position for the last ten or twelve years. "In 1886," he said, "a communication was made to me by Mr. Houston respecting these letters. In the autumn of the same year - in October - I had a communication from Mr. Buckle, the editor, respecting the letters.
When were any letters first brought to you? - At that time.
How many? - Five by Mr. Parnell, and five by Patrick Egan.
When you received those letters, were you under any bargain to purchase them? - None whatever.
Was there any stipulation that they should be purchased? - None whatever.
Did you make any stipulation? - Yes. I suggested that their authenticity and legal value should be tested, and that if these two points were clearly proved to our satisfaction, we would then pay for them what Mr. Houston said he had paid for them.
How long were the letters in the possession of your solicitor before published? - They were in my possession from October, 1886, till after the 18th April, 1887, and for some time afterwards.


Did you see and know that signatures of Mr. Parnell were being procured for comparison? - I did; and I knew that Mr. Inglis was so engaged.
When the letters first came had you any information as to whose handwriting the body was supposed to be in? - None whatever.
When did you first hear that the body of some of the letters was in the handwriting of Mr. Campbell? - I think the first suggestion to that effect was made by Mr. Inglis, and the first supposed identification of the writing was communicated to me about two months before the 18th of April, 1887. Mr. Macdonald also said he received the two alleged letters of Mr. Parnell, dated the 16th of June, from Mr. Houston. He also received the Egan (City Bakery) letter, the O'Kelly letter, and the Davitt letter - all at the same time.
When did you first learn that Mr. Pigott was the person from whom the letters came? - Not for some time afterwards.


Witness pledged himself to Mr. Houston not to divulge the name of the person from whom he got the letters.
How much have you paid Mr. Houston in connection with the letters? - Mr. Houston stated that he had expended in obtaining possession of the letters 1,780 pounds. That sum was paid to him, but he declined to have anything more than that amount.
Then Mr. Houston did not get any remuneration? - No.


Cross-examined by Mr. Asquith, Mr. Macdonald said he heard of the letters first in June, 1886, from Mr. Houston. He had seen Mr. Houston once previously. Mr. Houston called in his private capacity, and witness knew him as being connected with the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union. Mr. Houston first called on Mr. Buckle and said that there was proof of the existence of compromising documents, and he hoped the Times would undertake to find them. Mr. Houston was told that if the letters were authentic, and of legal value, the Times would think of it. In October Mr. Houston called, and read the two letters - the Kilmainham one and the fac-simile letter. He asked, if they could be proved legal and authentic, whether the Times would undertake to purchase them. He was told that they would. Afterwards Mr. Houston showed witness five letters signed by Parnell and six by Patrick Egan. Witness asked Mr. Houston on one occasion for the envelopes, and he replied that the leaders of the Land League movement conducted their correspondence in this way - one wrote the body of the letters, another the signature, and the third the envelopes.
Mr. Asquith asked if the contention was that three persons were engaged in writing one letter.
Mr. Macdonald - I make this statement, and leave you to draw your own conclusion.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday February 15, 1889, pp. 2-3

N.B. The name Wilson, highlighted above, was found in the Special Branch Ledgers as having been connected with the Ripper case. His real name was O'Brien. Could this be one of Mary Jane O'Brien's relatives? Was she murdered for this individual giving information to the police or during the Parnell inquiry?

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

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