Andrew Dunlop.

Fifty years of Irish journalism online

. (page 13 of 19)
Online LibraryAndrew DunlopFifty years of Irish journalism → online text (page 13 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and who afterwards successfully conducted the prose-
cution of the murderers in Dublin.

Before leaving Maam about mid-day it had become
obvious that the utmost despatch would have to be
used if we were to get any account of the day's pro-
ceedings written in time for next morning's papers.
We foresaw that we should probably reach Leenane
a very little time before the shades of evening com-
menced to fall, and this suggested the pleasant prospect
of getting into Westport about midnight with our
despatches still unwritten. I had on one or two occa-
sions before this one being the occasion of the visit of
Miss Anna Parnell to Tulla, Co. Clare tried, and with
some success, the experiment of writing while seated
on an outside car ; the attempt was due to an accident
more than anything else. On the occasion referred to,
a Sunday afternoon, when still more than a mile from
Tulla on the road leading from Ennis, I found myself
blocked in the rere of the procession which was slowly



202 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

wending its way to the village to do honour to the
sister of Mr. Parnell. I had just been asked by The
Daily News to write one or two special letters on the
condition of Ireland. The telegram to this effect had
been addressed to Dublin and had been re-transmitted
(in accordance with my standing orders) to Ennis, my
head-quarters for the time being.

Under the circumstances I began to fret at the loss
of time entailed in following the slow procession ; I took
out my note-book and began to write, and found I could
do so without difficulty. When Miss ParnelPs meeting
was over I set out on my return to Ennis, and having
succeeded so well while the horse travelled at a walking
pace, I resolved to try the experiment of writing while
the horse travelled at the ordinary pace of an Irish
jaunting car. I was more than satisfied with the result,
for by the time I reached Ennis I had a column of a
special letter written, and sufficiently legible, to permit
of its being handed in at once to the telegraph clerk.

The success of this experiment suggested the adoption
of a similar one on this journey and on others already
mentioned. The representative of the other Dublin
journal who accompanied me followed my example.
We were both much facilitated by our friend of The
New York World who kindly lent us broad pads, which
made it more easy to write, especially on a mountain
road such as that along which our course lay, and the
inequalities of which not only increased the difficulty
of writing, but increased materially the risk of falling



LORD SPENCER AT MAAMTRASNA. 203

off the car which must ever attend all such attempts.
The result of our efforts was, that by the time we got
back to Leenane at six o'clock in the evening, we each
had a column of our despatch written.

But we still had an eighteen mile journey before
us, the distance we had travelled since morning being
about twenty-five miles. Our despatches could only
be telegraphed from Westport, and it would be neces-
sary after we had accomplished that to return during
the night to Leenane. Had our despatches been com-
pleted we might have sent them on by our wagonette ;
but we had still a good deal to write, and it was necessary
that what we had written should be put on the wire
with as little delay as possible. Dinner was managed
in a fashion which was rather original, and possibly
unique. While one of us looked after the " traps "
and another superintended the getting out of the
horses, a third, our New York friend, went into the
kitchen and " requisitioned " the establishment in very
effective style. He got a large bottle which he filled
with excellent hot soup ; then, seeing a huge pie,
which turned out to be rabbit, he took possession
of that also. Arming himself with a large cup and
knives and forks he brought out the whole to the
wagonette. The horses were rapidly " put to," and
in a few minutes, while it was yet daylight, we were
dashing along in the two-horse wagonette in which
we had travelled the preceding day from Westport.
Having cleared the village we attacked the soup,



204 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

drinking it as " cleanly " as we could in the jolting
vehicle ; the pie followed, and with it we consumed a
bottle of sherry which had also been requisitioned.

Westport was reached about ten o'clock. We
ordered supper at Gibbon's hotel, and then proceeded
to the telegraph office, and having handed in our
despatches as far as they were ready, resumed writing,
and completed all before midnight, the hour for which
we had ordered supper ; we had also ordered a closed
carriage to be in readiness to take us back to Leenane,
with very distinct directions that the horses should be
" fresh " ones. The closed carriage was ordered with
a view to a " snooze " on the way, but it had not the
desired effect. First of all the atmosphere was too
close to be pleasant, and when an attempt was made to
lower one of the windows it was found to be immoveable
save in an upward direction, up through the top of the
door, and up through the top of the door we accordingly
pushed it ; but sleep would not be wooed. What was
still worse, the horses were a different pair, no doubt,
to those which had brought us from Leenane, but
they were certainly not " fresh." The driver eventu-
ally informed us that they had been out all day. The
result was that although we left Westport half an hour
after midnight, and although it was of the utmost
moment that we should get back to Leenane in time to
snatch an hour or two of sleep before the time for
starting next day, we did not reach there until five in
the morning. We went to bed but not to sleep. I was



LORD SPENCER AT MAAMTRASNA. 205

too fatigued to close my eyes, and at seven o'clock
I thought it as well to get up. Breakfast with strong
tea roused us a bit, and while we were still enjoying it
there entered the room, three days " after the fair,"
the representative of the third Dublin morning paper.
We congratulated him on the vigilance and enterprise
of the journal which he represented, and informed him
that Lord Spencer was about to drive to Kylemore to
visit Mr. Mitchell Henry's place, and then to embark on
board the gunboat and sail round the coast to Galway
harbour and that our next glimpse of him would be on
Galway pier on Saturday afternoon ; it was now
Friday morning. The newcomer had travelled all
r.ight by the mail train from Dublin to Galway, and
thence by car to Leenane, and there was now before
him, in common with ourselves, the prospect of a drive
of fifty-eight Irish miles. It was not an exhilarating
prospect, but there was no help for it.

Before starting the Honorable Robert Spencer, M.P.,
who formed one of the Viceroy's party, read out to the
company (military and police officers and representa-
tives of the Press) a lengthy telegram, which had
been transmitted from London, giving an account of
the victory of Tel-el-Kebir.

We accompanied the Viceregal party as far as
Kylemore, visited the memorial church erected by
Mr. Mitchell Henry to the memory of his wife, and
then, parting company, we drove on through Letter-
frack, the scene of two agrarian murders of Lyden



206 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

and his son and also of Constable Kavanagh, while
the latter was engaged in inquiring into their assas-
sination arriving at Clifden in time to dine before the
departure of the " long car " for Galway at four o'clock.
The memory of that drive will long remain with me.
We were doing the last stage of an almost continuous
journey by road of two hundred and twenty miles,
during which period we had only had nine hours sleep.
It was almost impossible to keep our eyes open ; each
was anxious for the other's safety, and now and again,
if he saw his neighbour nodding, would give him a
shake to rouse him ; his neighbour would by-and-bye
return the kindly office, and the long and fatiguing
journey was at length completed in safety.

There was nothing remarkable in the proceedings at
Galway on the following day ; that is, nothing of a
character to require a place in these reminiscences.
We kept our bed until ten o'clock, and I never felt more
profoundly thankful at the close of a journey than I did
when we all reached the Broadstone terminus safely
at ten o'clock on Saturday night.



CHAPTER XVIII.
A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA.

I HAD to pay yet another visit to Maamtrasna. The
trials were over ; three of the accused, one an elderly
man named Myles Joyce, being convicted and sentenced
to death, and had been executed, all in a row and by one
pull of the lever, inside Gal way Jail. I was present
at the execution, and any facts stated here are altogether
from personal observation. Two of the men impli-
cated in the crime (Casey and Philben) had given
evidence for the Crown, and it was largely upon their
evidence that the conviction was obtained. After the
men were hanged an agitation was got up by a number
of the sympathisers with lawlessness, who are always
to the fore in parts of Ireland ; it was based on an
impugnment of the sufficiency of the evidence upon
which Myles Joyce was convicted. The other two
men who were hanged had confessed their guilt.
Advantage was taken of the fact that Myles Joyce
protested his innocence to the last ; and also of the
fact that the two men who were hanged along with him



208 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

made a declaration in prison implying that Joyce was
innocent, which, however, probably only meant that
he was not one of the actual perpetrators of the crime.
In consequence of all this, the telegraph office at Galway
was kept open, by direction of the Irish Executive, for
the entire night preceding the triple execution, and the
doubts thus raised were sought to be intensified by the
circumstance that when Marwood drew the bolt, the
dangling rope caught in the arm of Myles Joyce and so
interfered with the result aimed at by the executioner
that the latter had to catch hold of the unhappy
man's legs and drag them to complete his grim task.
Then came stories, assiduously circulated by the
Nationalist Press, of the appearance and re-appearance
of the ghost of Myles Joyce in the neighbourhood of
Galway Jail. The whole matter was the subject of
heated discussions in Parliament, mixed up at the same
time with discussions on the Barbavilla case a charge
of conspiracy to murder Mr. Barlow Smythe, the result
of which was an attempt to murder that gentleman and
the actual murder of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Henry
Smythe, who was seated with him in the carriage into
which the shots were fired.

The class of people called " Informers " have never
been popular in Ireland, and the word has been applied
almost indiscriminately to all descriptions of Crown
witnesses. It was not necessary, and it is still un-
necessary in Ireland that a witness should be an
approver, that is, a man who has taken part in a crime



A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA. 209

and has, in order to save his skin, become a Crown
witness, to entitle him to be called an Informer. A
Crown witness in any case which sympathisers with the
criminals choose to call a " political " case earns the
title of Informer, and the witness is held up to the
hatred and detestation of the people. In the case of
Casey and Philben, with whom the present narrative
is concerned, the two witnesses had become approvers,
with the result that when they went back to their homes
in the Maamtrasna district they were shunned by their
neighbours and were obliged to have police protection,
their lives being rendered anything but happy.

The report of the recantation of these men, their
" repentance " as it was called, was published in
United Ireland. It was stated that they had gone to a
visitation or confirmation service, I forget which, at
Clonbur, and had there openly confessed to Archbishop
M'Evilly, in the presence of the whole congregation,
that their statements made upon oath at the trial were
to a certain extent false ; false in so far as they in-
criminated Myles Joyce, and false also with regard to
one or two of the men who, on pleading guilty, had been
sentenced to penal servitude, it being believed that they
had not taken part in the actual perpetration of the
murders. On the publication of this paragraph I was
despatched the same evening from Dublin, in order to
interview Casey and Philben. I spent the short interval
between the time I received orders and the departure of
the night mail train in looking up the newspapers con-



210 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

taining the report of the trial, and the narrative of
the circumstances of the execution. I took a hurried
note of the material points, went home and dined and
finally started by the night mail train from Broadstone
for Claremorris. I utilised the time occupied by the
journey between Dublin and Mullingar in putting
together, in readable form, the notes regarding the trial
and execution which I had made in the afternoon.
This I put into an envelope, which I dropped into the
railway platform postal pillar, in time for the night
mail to Dublin, thus, as I thought, securing its delivery
on Sunday morning. But " the best laid schemes," &c.
I had not put sufficient value in stamps on the envelope,
a matter about which, seeing that no more were avail-
able, I did not trouble myself, as I never for a moment
dreamt that the fact of the postage being insufficiently
paid would, in the case of the journal to which I was
attached, cause any delay in the delivery. But the
next day was Sunday and the letter was refused by the
caretaker. There was a " row in the building " when
the fact was ascertained on Monday. But in the
meantime my design of publishing these notes simul-
taneously with the interview, and as part of my despatch,
was effectually frustrated.

Claremorris was reached at half-past one in the
morning ; it was a " toss-up " whether I should go
right through to Ballinrobe or sleep in Claremorris and
proceed to Ballinrobe next morning. I eventually
decided on adopting the latter course, and before going



A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA. 211

to bed I ordered a car to be in readiness by eight
o'clock ; Ballinrobe, which is fourteen miles from
Claremorris, being, as I was aware, a considerable
distance from my ultimate destination. It was raining
heavily when, between ten and eleven o'clock on Sunday,
I reached Ballinrobe. The inquiries which I instituted
resulted in the information that Father Corbett,
the parish priest of Partry memorable as the parish
in which, twenty or five and twenty years before, there
resided another Roman Catholic clergyman who made
some noise in his day (Father Lavelle) would not be
at home until three or four o'clock in the afternoon.
Anxious though I was to push on, I concluded that,
under the circumstances, it was useless to do so with too
much energy ; and this view commended itself the more
as the rain was still coming down heavily. Patience
was rewarded in the latter regard, and shortly after
two o'clock I started by the horse and car which had
brought me that morning from Claremorris. When we
had got a couple of miles out of the town the driver
disclosed his uncertainty as to whether he had taken
the right road to Partry ; inquiry proved that his
doubt was well founded, and we had to return to the
town and proceed anew by a different road. The drive
was along the northern shore of Lough Mask, and when,
at a later period of the evening, I reached my destina-
tion, I found that between this journey and my former
trips round the eastern, southern and western shores of
the Lough, I had completed a circuit of this very



212 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

considerable sheet of water in the centre of a very
mountainous and not easily accessible district.

The distance to Partry was only some half dozen
Irish miles, and when I reached Father Corbett's
house I found that he had just returned from the
very district " back in the mountains " where Casey
and Philben lived. He was about to dine and, with
the customary hospitality, invited me to join him.
I should guard myself by saying that by " customary
hospitality " I do not mean that it is only when an
Irish priest is about to dine himself that he will ask a
visitor to accept hospitality ; on the contrary, I have
invariably experienced the most cordial hospitality
from Irish priests, even when they were well aware that
my own political views, as well perhaps as the views of
the journal which I might represent at the time, were
not in harmony with their own. On the present
occasion the matter was somewhat mixed. I had met
Father Corbett frequently before and had had long
conversations with him, in which, while he knew that
I was at the time representing a journal of particular
views, I had given free expression to my own individual
views, which, on all subjects, and especially on the
question of partisan government, were those of a free
lance. I expressed contempt for all political parties,
and a deeply rooted belief that, whatever inconvenience
might result from it for the moment, the substitution
of any system for the present system of government by
party must be an improvement. Father Corbett was



A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA. 213

therefore by this time thoroughly acquainted with my
general views ; but he had, I hope I may say, con-
fidence in my honesty of purpose, however much I
might differ from him on political questions. There
was still a distance of eight or nine miles to be travelled
before reaching the district in which Casey and Philben
resided, and the best method of covering the distance
was discussed during dinner, over which little time
was spent, as it was now after four o'clock and I had
made but little progress towards the attainment of my
object. I had realised by this time that my Claremorris
horse would not be fit to do the remainder of the journey
and return with anything like comfortable speed to
Ballinrobe, so as to permit my telegraphing that
night the result of my inquiries. Father Corbett kindly
volunteered to convey me by his own horse and car, an
offer of which I readily availed myself, and which
moreover set me free to let my tired horse go back at
once to Ballinrobe, the driver at the same time taking
a message for a fresh horse and car to meet me at Partry
on my return.

I had by this time realised that the utmost despatch
in travelling would be necessary. Father Corbett, as
he disclosed to me on the Journey, put a saddle and
bridle into the well of the car and we started. The
reverend gentleman was his own driver on this occasion,
and he did not spare the whip. The pace was rapid, all
the more so, perhaps, because before we had gone far
the rain again came down in torrents. It cleared off,



214 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

however, as we neared Tourmakeady, a picturesque
village near the spot for which we were bound. By
this time Father Corbett had informed me that we
should have to do part of the journey on horseback ;
and not only so, but that our route lay across country.
I had not set my foot in a stirrup for over twenty years ;
but still I flattered myself that, on a level road, I should
be able to keep my seat, though perhaps not in a very
graceful fashion. I was taken somewhat aback when
I learned that the riding was not only to be across
country, but across a mountainous country, a kind of
riding exercise to which, even in my youthful days,
I had never been accustomed. As we drew near to the
point beyond which a wheeled vehicle could be of no
use Father Corbett hailed a passing countryman,
and asked him to take a short cut across the mountains
to Casey's house, and tell him that he (Father Corbett)
wanted to see him, and that he would meet him at a
particular point. The request was equivalent to a
command, and the man immediately disappeared.
Another countryman was then hailed, and from him
Father Corbett requisitioned a horse and saddle
and bridle. Having saddled his own pony, he
mounted, while I was helped into the saddle of the
farmer's horse. I do not know whether I should be
able to ride a steeplechase without more than a moderate
amount of risk to my neck, but after the experiences
of the ride of that evening, I should no longer have any
very unspeakable dread of the pigskin. Fortunately



A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA. 215

my horse was fairly well acquainted with mountaineer-
ing and did his work well ; but I fancy that I myself
cut but a sorry figure. Now the path the way I
should say, for there was neither path nor roadway
was up an irregular steep, and again down a steep of
equally irregular formation. The " John Gilpin "
attitude, or an approach to it, was practicable going up
hill, but it was impracticable when the descent came.
This was largely the character of the whole journey,
although there were intervals of comparatively level
ground when I was able to break into a trot. After a
ride of about twenty minutes we came in sight of a
mountain stream on the other side of which, and coming
towards us, was a man whom Father Corbet t recognised
as Casey. Casey crossed over, and here, about seven
o'clock on a July evening, I interviewed the informer,
who, according to his own statement, had been instru-
mental in sending one man wrongfully to the gallows
and one or two more to penal servitude who had not
earned that distinction. Casey told his story with
great readiness, and in considerable detail ; the burden
of his excuse for the perjury which he said he had
committed at the trial being that the Crown Solicitor
(Mr. George Bolton) would not accept from him any
other story than that which he eventually told in the
witness box. When I had exhausted my inquiries of
Casey, Father Corbett, who was present throughout
the interview, despatched Casey to Philben, to tell him
we were coming. Remounting our steeds, our path



216 FIFTY YEARS OF IRISH JOURNALISM.

was somewhat smoother for part of the way to Philben's.
It lay for some time along the bed of the river, and
occasionally on the river's bank. Father Corbett
exchanged horses with me and I was able, the greater
part of the way, to do a fairly smart trot. In about
ten or twelve minutes we reached Philben's house.
Casey, who, as I have already intimated had
met us in the first instance, had subsequently
gone on towards Philben's without any police
escort, or, at all events, without the escort being
visible ; but in the neighbourhood of Philben's house
several police constables were to be seen. They kept in
view our party, which now consisted of four Casey,
Philben, Father Corbett and myself but at such a
distance that they could not hear any part of the con-
versation. Philben, unlike Casey (who expressed his
readiness, nay his desire, to undergo any punishment
that might fall to him if prosecuted for perjury) showed
a reluctance to be interviewed. He would say nothing,
indeed, on the subject which had led me to visit him
until Father Corbett spoke to him in Irish doubtless
making him aware that I knew not a word of that
language. Even after he consented to be questioned,
however, Philben showed great reticence, and did not
appear to be at all so positive regarding the new
version of his story, as Casey had shown himself.
I soon found that a prolongation of the interview
would not lead to my acquiring any further infor-
mation or explanation of the discrepancy between the



A THIRD VISIT TO MAAMTRASNA. 217

original sworn testimony and the version which both
Casey and Philben were now evidently most anxious to
gain credence for, so that they might be cleared of
what they regarded as the stigma attaching to the name
of informer, and thus be enabled to live on more
friendly terms with their neighbours. It being now
eight o'clock we remounted, and after a little more
experience of very steep and very irregular descents, we
once more reached the high-road, when, for the first time,
I had an opportunity of convincing Father Corbett
that on the level ground I was not such a very bad
horseman. "Post-haste " had been the word through-
out, and no time was lost in attaching Father Corbett's
excellent little cob to the car, and commencing the
return journey. At Partry there was a fresh horse
and car awaiting me and after a few minutes delay
I was again en route to Ballinrobe, travelling at
a rapid pace, and I reached my hotel there about
twenty minutes to eleven o'clock. I was much
fatigued, I need hardly say, and at one time I had
thought of not wiring my despatch that night, but of


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAndrew DunlopFifty years of Irish journalism → online text (page 13 of 19)