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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 17 Feb 2013 - 22:24

Eightieth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, May 15, 1889





At the Commission Court, today, Mr. Monaghan, the voluble Galway witness, resumed his sad story of misery, destitution, and distress. He spoke of the horror he always had of evictions, and of his acting the part of the Good Samaritan to several distressed and resourceless tenants, generously lending them money, without interest, to meet pressing liabilities. These tenants - the majority of them, lived a great part of the year on seawood gathered on the Galway shore, and boiled down or otherwise transformed into an eatable but rather questionable composition.


Mr. Murphy conducted the cross-examination, treating Mr. Monaghan with great affability. As for secret societies, he knew nothing of them, he said, and, save and except the mysterious "Rory," whom the priests succeeded in driving from the locality, he knew of no disturbing element prior or subsequent to 1880 in the immediate neighbourhood of Oughterad. Certainly he had heard of outrages on the estates of Mrs. Blake and a Mr. Meredith.
About the tenants on these estates, Mr. Monaghan told Sir Charles Russell, in re-examination, that they were always in distress, and when others were apparently well off, had scarcely enough to live upon.


The next witness created a little stir. He was Father Egan, the Parish priest of Dunivy, near Loughrea. Father Egan is a youngish, good-looking man, clean shaven, after the manner of the Catholic clergy. When he entered the box he objected to be sworn except on the Douay version of the Bible. The objection was made to the President, who pointed out to Sir Charles Russell that it could not be met.
A brief conversation followed, in the course of which it was pointed out to Father Egan that the Archbishop of Dublin had been sworn on the same version as that handed to him, and the Father then took the oath in the ordinary way. The earlier portion of his evidence related to the renowned "Dr." Tully and that redoubtable gentleman's "medicine." This was explained by Father Egan. It was a very simple incident, which, according to the witness, has undergone an extensive magnifying process. It seems that the local branch of the League held periodical meetings, at which the conduct of any offending member was discussed. Tully usually came forward to prosecute these offenders, and to propose their ejection, in the event of their not apologising or expressing regret. This action of the "Doctor" was styled in the locality as his "medicine." As to the "pills" of the "Doctor," Father Egan denied that he had ever heard the expression used. He looked upon Tully as a very enthusiastic politician. In fact, he had actually given up a berth by which he made 6s. a day to devote himself to politics.


Passing from this topic, Father Egan drew aside the veil upon a sadder picture. It was that presented in the years 1879 and other periods of exceptional distress. Often he was called out into the country to visit the death-bed of some poor, starving tenant, and he found the greater number of them lying on beds of rags, with no clothes to cover them. Indeed, rags formed their only shelter from the cold, and when they moved on their wretched heaps portions of their naked limbs became visible through the scanty covering. Then the charitable came to their aid. Money came in from relief funds, and the greater part of it went to the Clanricarde tenants. He put especial emphasis upon the fact that Lord Clanricarde not only did not contribute towards the relief fund, but did not write a reply to a letter asking a subscription. Coming down to more recent events, Father Egan declared that he denounced the murder of Sergeant Lynton from the altar the Sunday after it occurred, either two or three times.


The murder of Mr. Blake and his servant Ronan, near Loughrea, on the 29th June, 1882, was the subject of Sir Charles Russell's next questions. Witness, in this connection, declared that on the day of the murder he and a Mr. Bowes were driving into Loughrea. They saw a horse attached to a cart dashing down the road after them. Mr. Bowes got out of the cart and stopped the runaway. Mrs. Blake was in the cart, and the man Ronan was lying on her arm, mortally wounded. He (witness) gave him absolution. He then learnt that Mr. Blakes's body was lying on the road, and he immediately went to the place and attended to it. Those murders were denounced by him at Mass; the Clergy denounced the murders, and expressed sympathy with Mrs. Blake, and the feeling of the whole district was one of sympathy for her.


The Land League had been suppressed before this murder. It was untrue to say the League encouraged outrages. The presiding clergyman, in fact, always denounced crime, and advised the people to abstain from criminal practices.


The process-server, Finlay - the old soldier who was murdered near Woodford, was here alluded to. Father Egan declared that he had never heard the old fellow called "Balaclava"; his sobriquet was "The Pensioner." He, however, was at an eviction meeting at which a Mr. Roche - one of the principal personages in Woodford, and chairman of the local Tenants' Defence Association - said, "The landlords are now having their Balaclava; we will soon have our Fontenoy"; but the rev. gentleman declared that he did not think that referred to Finlay. "Yes," said the rev. Father; "he had heard that on the night of the murder - which was afterwards sternly denounced by the clergy - Mrs. Finlay went about the streets cursing him and other principal men in the town. She, however, afterwards expressed regret to him, and now looked upon him as her greatest friend." As to his Tenants' Defence Association, which had been alluded to as being associated with Mr. Roche, the Father declared that he looked upon its work as having a decidedly moderating tendency on the demands of the tenants.


Mr. Atkinson conducted the cross-examination of Father Egan. One of his first questions was, "Was there not perfect peace until you made your appearance at Woodford in August, 1885?" - "Yes," Father Egan replied, "there was, and there is now." There had been, he admitted, leases in which persons had been boycotted; but every trumpery little occurrence had been construed into an outrage. As an instance of this, the Father mentioned that after Finlay's murder, some men who were intoxicated, on a Fair day, while passing the Widow Finlay's house, broke the windows. That was magnified into a "horrible outrage." He denied that he knew Mrs. Finlay was without food, fire, or light on that occasion. There certainly was, he said, a strong feeling in the town against her, because she went about the streets cursing.


"Do you mean to tell their Lordships," asked Mr. Atkinson, "that that was the only reason why there was a strong feeling against her?" - "Well, no; but I think it would be a charity not to bring it up." Father Egan added that he went into the town and exhorted the people not to refuse to give her food. He did not do so because he thought she was without food, but because he thought the authorities would try and make a "case" out of it, and he wished to checkmate them.


"Yes," proceeded the Father," Sergeant Coursey did come to him and tell him that there was a difficulty in getting a coffin for Mr. Finlay's body. But he did not take any action in the matter because he thought it was only a trap." Why, still pressed Mr. Atkinson, did he not endeavour to get a coffin for the murdered man's body? "It does not lie in my way to get coffins for anybody," said the Father, amid an outburst of laughter.
"But when told that the man was lying in the wood murdered," Mr. Atkinson urged, "did you not think it your duty as a clergyman and a Christian man to go and see if this was true?" - I did not think it a priest's duty, when he heard that a man has been murdered, and is dead, to go there and make a post-mortem examination."
"Or," queried Mr. Atkinson, "was it the duty of a clergyman to go and calm the passions of his enemy?" - "I did not do so," said the Father.


Both Finlay and Sergeant Coursey were, the Father afterwards said, opposed to the tenants.
"And was that," asked Mr. Atkinson, "the reason why you refused to assist in getting a coffin?" "It was not the sole reason." "Was it one reason?" "Well, to a slight degree."
Mr. Atkinson then wanted to know the other reason. "Well," said Father Egan, "if Sergeant Coursey had come to Father Cohen and me in a respectful way, and with a proper sense of courtesy, we might have been inclined to help him."
Then do you mean to say that, as Christian ministers, it was your sense of offended dignity that prevented you assisting in getting a coffin? - Well, we did not anticipate that the authorities would have any difficulty in getting a coffin at the neighbouring towns. Father Egan, however, admitted that the nearest town was seven miles distant. He explained why - the police authorities altered the time originally fixed. It was afterwards that he heard that the funeral had been boycotted.


Adverting to the work of the Association at Woodford, Father Egan said he believed there was not a person in Woodford who would speak to, buy from, or sell to a boycotted person. He regarded the people who so acted as acting within their rights. He added that in the event of a person positively wanting food, if that person explained to the Association, it would at once interfere and procure it for him. The "storming of Saunder's fort," when, it will be remembered, the police were held at bay for some hours, was one of the next topics touched upon. Father Egan explained that he was opposed to that siege all the way through, and was especially opposed to young men going into the house to risk their liberty for the sake of keeping the place a few hours longer.
Sir Charles Russell then re-examined Father Egan. "Has any case," he asked, "ever come under your notice in which boycotting was carried to the extent of refusing the necessaries of life to anyone?" "I was never aware of such a thing occurring," said the Father.
The Court here adjourned for luncheon.

On resuming, Sir Charles Russell put a few more questions to Father Egan before dismissing him. The rev. Father informed the Court that in his opinion the whole of the disturbances at Woodford and Loughrea were directly due to the foolish attitude taken up by the landlords.


A member of the Irish Bar, Mr. MacInerney, was the next witness. He was retained, on behalf of the ratepayers, to oppose certain claims for compensation for malicious injury, the claims being considered much too high in many instances. He declared that the claim in Lynton's case was thrown out altogether, on the ground that it was not an agrarian crime at all. Mr. MacInerney was the person who defended the Invincibles, being assigned the duties by the Judge. For that he was paid by the Crown - "such pay as it was" - he added, amidst laughter. He deposed to there being in Ireland a great distrust in the administration of the law. The system of jury packing was especially objectionable. Mr. MacInerney described it very briefly. He said that the Court could secure any twelve men on the jury out of a panel of three hundred, by ordering those they did not require to "stand by" until the whole panel was exhausted.


Mr. John Roche, who is well known by all who had the experience of visiting Woodford during the most stirring times, was the next witness. He is a farmer and miller at Woodford. He was formerly a member of the Land and National Leagues, and subsequently became chairman of the Tenants' Defence Association, which, he said, was formed by the tenants for the purpose of defending themselves. Had it not been for that combination he was confident a large number of persons would have been evicted. Mr. Roche admitted using his stick on the head of a constable in one of the Woodford frays who was about to baton his brother-in-law. He added that the people were batoned mercilessly, and one poor woman's head was "beaten to a jelly." Mr. Roche recounted his own experiences in connection with the agitation, and the various terms of imprisonment he had undergone for them. He contended, amidst much laughter, that one of his "misdeeds" was his interference with a man who had stoned the police. Only one stone was thrown, and because he tried to prevent any further such offence he was sent to gaol for three months! Mr. Roche enhanced Father Egan's definition of "Dr. Tully's Medicine." He said it was well-known it meant boycotting.
(The report will be continued.)


It is expected that Mr. Matthew Harris, M.P., one of the Parliamentary representatives of county Galway, will enter the witness-box on Friday afternoon. Mr. David Sheehy, M.P., another Galway Member, who is at present in prison, will not be examined. The evidence to follow next week will be from the county of Mayo. Mr. V.B. Dillon, of Dublin, is receiving by every post letters from persons in Connaught, Leinster, and Munster offering evidence.


The Dublin Express states that the well-known philanthropist, Mr. Tuke, has now completed his Donegal tour, after an exhaustive inquiry into the people's condition. He travelled twenty miles a day, questioning landlords, agents, priests, traders, and peasants. He asserts that the inquiry was non-Governmental, and inspired by private philanthropy; and though Major Fair, the Local Government inspector, accompanied him, it was not officially.


A Correspondent of the Freeman's Journal states that Lord Fitzwilliam has notified to his Wicklow tenants an abatement of 3s. in the pound on all rents due 25th March, and in some cases four years' arrears are wiped out for one year's rent.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday May 15, 1889, Pages 2-3

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

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