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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 22 Feb 2013 - 0:45

Eighty-sixth Day of Proceedings - Friday, May 24, 1889




The mystery surrounding the destination and disposition of the Land League books cannot be cleared up by Mr. T.D. Sullivan. That gentleman assured Mr. Murphy so over and over again yesterday. Today he re-iterated the statement. But he wished to explain, and he did so very emphatically, that he had heard vague rumours that when the Ladies' Land League was formed some of the books and documents went to the house of Mrs. Moloney, who took a great deal of interest in the movement; that some went to London, some to Paris, and some went with Mr. Egan. But, should anybody say this was not so, he could not contradict the statement at all, as he had no direct knowledge.


Mr. Sullivan's poetical effusions were dwelt upon by Mr. Murphy, whose object was to show that some of them had a criminal intent. This is one he especially quoted: -
"Here's to West Meath,
Where a tyrant cannot breathe."
But this proved to be an incorrect quotation, and amidst much laughter Mr. Sullivan gave the correct rendering, the second line being -
"Where a tyrant scarce can breathe."
These lines had no criminal meaning, suggestion, or intent, their author explained. "I toasted the whole of the counties in Ireland, and "breathe" seemed to rhyme with "Meath"!
A very smart retort on the part of Mr. Sullivan, as the cross-examination proceeded, convulsed the Court with laughter. Mr. Murphy produced and read an article published in Mr. Sullivan's paper, the Nation, in which the expression "fiend" applied to dynamiters by the English Press was cynically commented upon. "Do you consider dynamiters fiends?" asked Mr. Murphy. "They are criminals of the deepest dye," was the retort. "Are they fiends?" "No man is a fiend," promptly replied Mr. Sullivan, and even the Judges joined in the laughter which followed. Order having been restored, Mr. Sullivan added that no man who knew the writer of that article would believe him guilty of sympathy with dynamiters, whereupon Mr. Murphy's axiom, "We can only, in this wicked world, judge people by what they say and do" - given with a great deal of emphasis - caused another ebulition of amusement.

There was another interesting incident a few minutes later. It again had reference to a passage in the Nation, which Mr. Murphy read out in support of his contention. Mr. Sullivan was not slow to explain. It was, he said, his duty as a newspaper man to publish both evil and good news in his paper. Mr. Murphy must know that he could find plenty of that in the British Press, and in the Times too. "You think it consistent with propriety to glorify evil news?" asked Mr. Murphy. - "Glorify?" exclaimed Mr. Sullivan; "why, that passage was a reprint."
Mr. Reid's re-examination raised no point worthy of note. Mr. Sullivan having left the box, the interest in the evidence again declined.


Father Charles Stewart was the next witness. He is a young, clean-shaven, sharp-featured gentleman, and gave his evidence with an unmistakable Hibernian brogue. The only evidence the rev. Father gave worthy of record was to the effect that he believed the Land League was a preventive of crime and outrage in the parish of Miltown Malbay, where he resided. About the murder of Michael Moroney, which has already been mentioned once or twice in the course of the case, he gave it as his opinion that it was not attributable to agrarian causes.
Another witness, whose evidence was of little importance, was Michael Killeen, a young man who also comes from Miltown. He was secretary of the local branch of the League, but he denied most emphatically that he ever threatened James O'Connell, who has already given evidence on the part of the Times, if he did not become a member.
In the cross-examination of Killeen the Court was afforded a slight indication of the effect of the suppression of the League. When the mandate was issued there was a hurried departure from the quarters the branch had formerly inhabited. They were not allowed to meet there, and so "away in the country," as Killeen put it, they met and discussed matters, and eventually they disbanded, Father White taking the books.
Yet another witness from Miltown Malbay. This was James Clancy, a tall, middle-aged man, with very dark hair and iron-grey beard. He also denied that he ever threatened that O'Connell should be boycotted unless he joined the League. Clancy was the first witness we have yet heard who may be described as a protege of the League. He was evicted from his tenancy on the Moroney estate in 1881, and has been maintained by the National League, which has even provided him with a hut to live in ever since. Clancy seems to have been doing very well since 1881. He has been "knocking about," as he styles it, "ever since," and has received 1 pound 3s. a week from the League during the whole of the period.


The next witness created some sensation. He is the gentleman of whom we have heard a great deal, and who has been referred to very frequently as "J.F." "J.F." is John Ferguson, of Glasgow. He is of medium height. He has bushy iron-grey hair and whiskers, the former being carefully brushed back, and exposing an expansive forehead. He wears a dark frock coat, a closely-buttoned waistcoat, and a massive gold chain. Mr. Ferguson - who, it was explained, is among the most prominent politicians in the West of Scotland - described how interested he had always been in Irish affairs, and the prominent part he had taken in Irish agitation. He had the honour very frequently of attending and presiding over the meetings of the Executive of the League, and in that capacity documents were placed before and initialed by him, "J.F." Speaking with the authority of one who has been closely associated with the League all through its career, he declared to have been entirely disassociated from crime, and to have denounced crime under every circumstance.
It was with Mr. Davitt, he told us, replying to Mr. Davitt's questions, that he talked over the formation of the League, and he very emphatically asserted that he never aimed at anything but the maintenance of unity and love between the English peoples. Indeed, had he believed that Mr. Parnell had any other object he could never have associated with him, for it would have given the lie to his life.
Replying to Sir Henry James, Mr. Ferguson denied that he had ever been a member of the I.R.B., but admitted that he had always been a supporter of Republicanism.


The Court adjourned at this point, and upon resuming, Mr. Justice Wills was accommodated with a seat on the Bench, near Mr. Justice Day.
The subsequent proceedings were extremely dull. Mr. Ferguson was asked about the grants made to evicted tenants, and declared it was wise to withhold the names and the amounts from the police, and was referred to the letter of Timothy Horan dealing with the shooting of several Moonlighters, and asking for a grant, and declared that the letter had escaped his notice, and that he would have given money for medical assistance, independent of the Land League. Inasmuch as he could not recollect the letter, Mr. Ferguson could not explain what the sentence, "Nobody knows the patients but the doctor and members of the society" meant, nor could he tell who "the members of the society" referred to.
As Mr. Ferguson proceeded, some laughter was evoked by the character of his answers. After one of these outbursts, the President very sternly observed, "I hear laughter. I shall be obliged to carry out a threat I have already made, and have the Court cleared. There is nothing to laugh at."
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday May 24, 1889, Page 3

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

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