The Clarkes of Graiguenoe Park

The Cork Constitution, Oct 4th 1908





His Lordship, the Right Hon Mr. Justice Johnson, resumed the business of the Munster Winter Assizes at 10 o’clock yesterday morning, in the City Courthouse.

At the sitting of the Court,

The trial of the eight men who are charged with unlawfully assembly at Holycross on the 17th of November, was resumed, the accused are—Patrick Purcell, Edmond Cahill, Richard Hennessy, George Collins, Wm Kennedy, Wm Quinlan, Henry Cleary, and 'Thomas Leahy, and the indictment was that, on the date mentioned, they were, with divers other persons to the number of fifty or more, unlawfully and riotously assembled, and while so assembled did injure and damage the dwellinghouse of one Charles Neville Clarke, of Graiguenoe. They were also indicted with having assaulted and ill-treated Constable Daniel O’Brien.

Mr. Serjeant Moriartv and Mr. John Linehan,, B L, (instructed by Mr. Gleeson, Crown Solicitor, Tipperary), appeared to prosecute.

Mr. J Rearden, B L, (instructed by Mr. L Ryan and Dr Ryan, solicitors), appeared for the defence.

At the sitting of the court,

Serjeant Michael Murphy was examined by Serjeant Moriarty, and stated that on the 17th November he was stationed in the barracks at Holycross. Before that date he had known some of the accused—he had known Edmond Cahill for ten years. He is a farmer and a publican, and lives in the sub-district of Thurles. He knew William Kennedy by appearance, but not personally. He also knew George Collins, but he didn’t identify him in the crowd on the occasion in question. Witness was in the barrack at 5.30 o’clock, when he heard a band playing, coming in the direction of the barracks, and from the direction of Cashel. He went out to the front door and watched the crowd passing. Before they reached the barracks they halted., and then came on in processional order, headed by the band playing, the crowd shouting, groaning, and yelling, while there were also cars and carts to the number of forty or fifty. He should say there were 60 or 80 persons walking on the road, and there were three or four persons in each car or cart. Altogether there were present between 260 and 270 persons. There were also three or four men or boys who had bicycles. The crowd passed on, and when they had gone out of sight witness could gather from the noise that they were going in the direction of Clarke's house. That was the crowd,

but before all the cars had passed, witness directed two constables to go on to Mr. Clarke s front gate, and witness soon after went along the road to the front gate of Mr. Clarke s house. He went to the hall-door, which was locked, and he then went around to the back. At the time he reached the front door the crowd had passed from there. On witness's way to the back, he saw several cars and carts in a passage which led to the yard and some distance away was a portion of the crowd.

His Lordship—Is there any public highway to Mr. Clarke’s residence there?

Witness:--No. Further answering Serjeant Moriarty, he said he went again to the front door and whilst he was there, the crowd made a circle of the house and came to the front where he was. The band was playing and the crowd was yelling and groaning. He first stopped Patrick Purcell, and then he stopped Edmond Cahill, who was in a pony and trap, or a jennet and trap. He then saw William Kennedy, and Richard Hennessy—both were one car. Witness asked Purcell what he was doing there and to account for himself being found there at such a late hour of the evening and he said had a. perfect right to come there when Mr. Clarke made a promise to give land to the people, and that he hadn’t done so. About half an hour after Purcell made the statement witness wrote it in a note-book.

His Lordship permitted witness to read the note.

Witness—He said:—“I consider I have a perfect right to come here, when the people wanted Mr. Clarke to give up the land which he promised to do, but did not, and that was the reason I came here.

Serjeant Moriartv (to witness)—Did you next question Edmond Cahill? Yes, and he said he came with the crowd. Continuing, he said he also questioned Kennedy, and he said he followed the crowd, and Hennessy made the same statement. Constable O’Brien left the barracks some four or five minutes before witness on that evening.

Do you know whether he received the injuries, before you arrived at Mr. Clarke’s? I met him on the way to Mr. Clarke’s. He was covered with blood, and he told me ...

His Lordship—Don’t mind what he told you.

To further questions by Serjeant Moriarty, he said that on that evening he saw Mr. Clarke and his family. He met Mr. Clarke in the hall of his residence, and also Mrs Clarke and some others.

What condition were they in? Very excited and alarmed-looking in appearance. Continuing, he said he made an examination of the house, and found five panes of glass broken, three in one window and two in another. There were also marks on the sashes, and at the lodge entrance he found some stones, and one stone on the sill of the window. Witness remained at Mr. Clarke’s after the crowd had gone away.

Cross-examined by Mr. Rearden, he said he should say the crowd left Mr. Clark’s place at 5.40 o’clock.

And what time did you leave the barracks on that evening? At 5.25 o’clock.

And saw the whole of this dreadful riot take place, and was over in fifteen minutes? I should say so, in fifteen or twenty minutes. It took them that time to make the circuit of the house.

And the corps of cyclists described by Serjeant Moriarty were three or four men or boys? That is all I could see.

Further questioned, he said he had directed the two constables to go on to Mr. Clarke’s front gate to see if they passed the gate quietly.

You sent two constables to stop this hostile crowd of 300 people? I directed them to go to the front gate.

When you were in the passage leading to the back yard were not the crowd separating? I would not say they separated then.

You saw Purcell, Cahill, Kennedy, and Hennessy? I did.

You saw the other four? No.

Did you see one of the constables talking to Purcell at the front door, when you were there? Yes.

Did you hear Purcell say he hadn’t the slightest intention of hurting Mr. Clarke or anybody else? I didn’t hear him.

Did you see anyone throw stones against the house, while you were there? There were no stones thrown after I arrived at Mr. Clarke’s.

Did you see any violence on the part of the mob at all? No, except the shouting, yelling, and groaning, while going around Mr. Clarke’s place.

Did you hear them make any threat to anybody? No.

You didn’t see any of the sashes or windows broken? No.

Edward Nolan stated that he was Mr. Clarke’s coachman, and lives in the lodge. Ho heard the crowd coming along on the evening of the 17th ult, and heard the band playing. The crowd passed in the entrance gate. One of the men said in passing the gate that they were going up to the owner’s house. Witness remained in the vicinity of the lodge the whole time. After fifteen or twenty minutes the crowd came back. They were still shouting, and the band was playing. When passing out, five or six stones were thrown at the lodge, and one of the windows was smashed. Witness’s wife and family were in the lodge at the time.

Bridget Cassells, lady’s maid in the employment of Mrs Clarke, gave evidence of the crowd coming into Mr. Clarke’s place. The band was playing, and there was shouting. When they got in front of the window, out of which witness was looking, a stone was thrown, which hit the sash of the window, and another stone came through the window. There were three more servants in the room also, and they ran out of the room, too.

Cross-examined Mr. Rearden—Mr. Clarke’s house was a large one, and there were, perhaps, 100 panes of glass m the windows.

Charles Neville Clarke was then sworn, and, replying to Mr. Serjeant Moriarty, said that three years ago he sold his estate to the tenants, retaining in his own hands the demesne and home farm, the land he farmed himself. That demesne and farm were always in his hands, and in the hands of his father and grandfather, who farmed it all except one portion. He was a resident landlord spending his money in the country, and giving a great deal of employment. None of the eight accused were late tenants of his, and, so far as he knew, none of the persons composing the crowd in question were any of his late tenants. He knew the accused Edward Cahill, who was a publican., and knew the other accused by sight. Hennessy, he was told, was a large farmer. His relations with his tenants were of the most amicable character. On the evening of the occurrence he, his wife, two children, some lady visitors, and six or seven servants were in the house-. He heard a band, and went to the hall-door and saw lights on the avenue, bicycle lamps or lanterns. The band was_ playing, and the "mob howling, and shouting,” the mob consisting of a great crowd; he supposed about two or three hundred. He closed and bolted the hall-door, and went back to the room in which the party were assembled. As he was telling them about the band he heard banging against the hall-door, as if there was battering against it, and he closed the shutters of the room in which they were sitting. He looked out , and saw “a great mob” pass by with cars and carts, and make a complete circuit of the House. There were two panes of glass broken in their room, and three panes broken in a window in the basement —broken by stones, three of which he found himself (three small stones produced.') There were deep dents high up on the hall-door, caused, he thought, with stones, and there were marks on the window-sills, window-sashes, and walls.

Cross-examined by Mr. Rearden—He found three small stones in the rooms of the house. The avenue to the house was covered with gravel, and the stones found in the house would be some of this gravel. He owned a large estate at Holycross, and sold it three years ago, on terms satisfactory to himself.

Serjeant Moriarty— ... and his tenants.

Mr. Rearden—I didn’t say that. (To witness)—Did you ever hear of a home farm consisting of 1,700 statute acres? 1,600 acres—yes, and larger, too.

In Ireland? Yes.

Where? There is one in my own neighbourhood.

Who? Am I to mention the names of my friends who have estates in my neighbourhood?

His Lordship—He would rather not disclose

Mr. Rearden—Very well, we will leave these mysterious farms. (To witness)—The home farm is larger than most home farms! Yes, I suppose so.

Before and since the sale of your property to your tenants there has been a strong agitation in the neighbourhood about this home farm?

His Lordship—The witness need not answer that.

Serjeant Moriarty—I crave your Lordship’s leave for the witness to answer the question

His Lordship—I won’t interfere again.

Mr. Rearden repeated the question and witness said that the agitation hadn't been going on for quite two years

About this home farm? They want to grab it.

Grab it or get it. whichever you like. You know that they say the home farm is too big?

His Lordship—Really, I don’t see how this is to go on. I must stop this.

Serjeant Moriarty—I should very much wish, in the interests of the public peace, and in the interest of Mr. Clarke, that Mr. Clarke should be at liberty to explain who the persons are who wish to grab his farm.

Mr. Rearden - Grab his farm?

His Lordship—I have no observations to make. Go on, and ask as many questions as you like.

Mr. Rearden—Have resolutions been passed at various meetings of the tenants, dealing; with your home farm? No.

None of your own tenants ? I think there was one of them there.

How many tenants had you? On the estate about the demesne, about ten or twelve.

You know that resolutions have been passed at various meetings of tenants, whoever the tenants may be? Other people’s tenants.

Other people’s tenants or your own, I don’t care which? Yes.

Calling upon you to surrender a portion ol the home farm? They want me to give up the whole of it, I think.

Did you, after the resolutions were passed, ever receive deputations with regard to this business ? I never actually received a deputation.

You qualify your answer by the word actually? Two gentlemen came and asked me if I would be willing later on to sell some of the home farm.

Did you offer to sell 200 acres ? I said that when I had been paid in full for the land I had sold already, I would be willing to sell 200 acres of it. That would be in July of this year.

And since then no part of the 200 acres has passed ? My stipulation was that I should be paid in full for the land I had already sold before I sold any more.

Paid by the Estates Commissioners? Yes; I made that most distinctly.

As long as the Estates Commissioners keep you out of the whole of your money you refuse to part with any of your home farm ? I refuse to part with any more until I am paid for what I have sold.

You know that all this commotion about your farm has led to a good deal of excitement in the district? It has.

And various processions and bands have paraded the country ? Yes.

Was there a prosecution in connection with one of these processions?

His Lordship—I can’t allow that.

Further cross-examined—Witness said he was more angry than alarmed at the incursion of the crowd on his demesne. As far as he could see, the crowd came up the avenue, made a circuit of the house, and left by the front gate, and the whole circuit took about twenty minutes.

Did you see any of the prisoners there? I didn’t see any of the prisoners there.

Replying to Serjeant Moriarty, witness said the 1.600 acres mentioned included the demesne and the home farm. They included 100 Irish acres of plantation, 100 Irish acres Of tillage. 10 acres of shrubberies, and 50 acres of waste land and marshes.

Without in the least attempting to justify yourself, may I take it that you have no more land than you require for your own purpose? No.

And as regards your tenants, there has been no trouble between your tenants and you? Never.

His Lordship—From the beginning to the end of the land legislation, dp you say you had no trouble with your tenants? I have had no trouble with the tenants on that part of the estate about my own house.

Serjeant Moriarty—When you were asked by this so-called deputation if you would sell some of this land, you said you would sell 200 acres when you had been paid for what you had already sold? Yes.

Have you receded from that position ? No, not until they attacked my house. I then changed my mind, and I won’t sell one acre.

When you were selling to the tenants, did you, of your own free will, and to gratify your tenants, give to the tenants a portion of the land on your own hands? Yes, I gave them each from 8 to 12 acres added to their farms,

And they were satisfied with that? Yes.

Was there any fine whatever for that? No. _ ‘

His Lordship—You gave them the land, and their rent was proportionately increased ? Yes.

Mr. Bearden—He is paid for it by the Estates Commissioners.

Serjeant Moriarty—He is not paid.

His Lordship—That is not the tenants’ fault. The Government are short of money. A good many people are short of money. I am speaking from my own experience.

Mr. Bearden then asked his lordship to direct the jury with reference to the four prisoners. Thomas Leahy, Henry Clery, George Collins, and William Quinlan, against whom there was no evidence of identification with the occurrence.

His Lordship—That is my impression at present, but on cross-examination it may come out that they could be identified. Then the question will arise whether I should not direct them,

Serjeant Moriarty—I understand that Mr. Bearden, didn’t intend to go into evidence at all?

Mr. Bearden—That is so.

Serjeant Moriarty—They are proved by the witness and Constable Flaherty as having been in the crowd when they passed the barrack and went in the direction in which they are subsequently proved to have gone, ’namely, through the gate to Mr. Clarke’s demesne up to, and around his house, and back again. Constable Flaherty said he saw Thomas Leahy, Collins and Quinlan, pipers in the band, at the time it was passing the barrack, and it is competent for the defence to call evidence that they didn’t immediately afterwards separate, from the crowd who went up to the house.

Mr. Bearden then addressed the jury for the prisoners. He asked them, having heard the case that had been put to them by the Crown, was there ever in their experience such a. grossly exaggerated and distorted story. Was there ever such a mountain made out of a mole-hill? What become of the army marching on a. foe, accompanied by a corps of cyclists, as it was put by the Crown ? What became of the shower of stones? At the end of the whole riot, as it was called, the only damage done was the breaking of five panes of glass in a. house containing hundreds of windows, and stones ‘hat were found by Mr. Clarke and produced in court resembled the gravel on his avenue. It was a most unusual and extraordinary case, as it involved and dealt with one of the great political questions of the day concerning this country—the question of the land, which was now before the people as prominently as it ever had been. It was dealt with within the last fortnight by the legislature, and he was happy to say that, at length, after all the years during which it had. been agitated, ft seemed to be within the possibility of final settlement. Then the prisoners at the bar were not ordinary prisoners ; they were not of the class of men that the jury were accustomed to deal with; they were not ordinary criminals ; they were not criminals at all; not the daring, desperate characters that jurors were in the habit of seeing at the bar of justice. Six of them were respectable farmers, and two were boys, farmers’ sons and servants working on the farms in the district, and four of them the jury would have no hesitation in coming to a conclusion and acquitting, namely, Thomas Leahy, George Collins, Henry Clery and William Quinlan. There was not a tittle of evidence against them to connect them with whatever happened to Mr. Clarke's house. They were seen passing the barracks by Const, Flaherty, and the barrack was 800 yards distant. As for the others, the jury were told that for two years a strong agitation had been going on concerning the land in the possession of Mr. Clarke and the complaint of the tenant farmers of Ireland for years and years. Mr. Clarke had 1600 statute acres as his home farm and the farmers in the district wanted that land split up amongst them, just as the government were splitting up the land of the country amongst the people of the country. It was the choice now between the cattle and the people, as a prominent member of the Government said the other day. The agitation with reference to the land was recognised by the Government of the day. and just as in the past every demand of those agitators would be. recognised in Parliament. and carried out in legislation. The other four prisoners did not deny that they were amongst the crowd who went up to Mr. Clarke’s house. They admitted it, but they were there for no unlawful purpose, nor did they do any Unlawful act of any kind whatever. They went to protest against Mr. Clarke not giving them the land that they believed they were entitled to, and there was no evidence to show that they flung a stone or did anything that pointed to their being charged with a criminal offence. All the Land Acts since Bessy’s Act of 1860, were accompanied by agitation of a very much more serious character than that which the prisoners were engaged. They all hoped that agitation would cease; that the cause of it would cease, and that the day would soon come when such charges as that with which they were dealing would cease, and that the peasantry of this country would be happily and prosperously settled in the soil. . He would then leave the case entirely in the jury’s hands, and confidently expected from them the justice that it demanded.

His Lordship said that upon the evidence he would direct the jury to find that two of the accused, Thomas Leahy and Henry Clery, were not guilty of the charge preferred against them.

Mr. Linehan then addressed the jury for the Grown. He pointed out the several salient points in the evidence, and said there was nothing more likely to create alarm and terror than the intrusion of this crowd, shouting and roaring, and with a band playing. From the very first, the object and demeanour of the crowd was absolutely manifest, and this was proved by the subsequent acts—to intimidate and terrify Mr. Clarke and his family.

His Lordship, in summing up, said the case was a simple one to present to a jury, if it were not for the bold defence, very fairly and modestly made by Mr. Rearden, and made no doubt on the instructions given to him. It was as near a case as could be to highway robbery. It was much the same as if a person had a purse containing money in his pocket, and another insisted on taking it. in pursuance of a public meeting, that alleged he had a right to do so for the purpose of dividing it amongst his friends. Yet that was the nature of the defence made in the present case, and a more audacious defence his lordship had never heard in a land, which was supposed to secure to every one of the King’s subjects, certain rights to owners of property, and all other persons. His lordship should make this protest against the idea that public plunder was to be admitted in regard to property or anything else. The gentleman, into whose demesne the accused entered, was Mr. Clarke., who, his lordship would say, had acted in an exceedingly creditable manner. He lived in Ireland, and spent his money in Ireland, and that was something; he had sold without compulsion., over 1,000 statute acres of his property to his tenants, and when he had been paid in full for what he had sold, he would sell more of his land. But who were these defenders of public rights? Not a single one of them was connected .with any estate. One of them was a publican, and what had a publican to do with Mr. Clarke’s property? There was such a thing as an agitation in view of a common policy to transfer the land from the possession of few to the many— that was a common policy, but the way that was carried out in the present case, by a publican and others accused had no relation whatever to that policy, for, as regarded the conduct of the accused in this case it was most monstrous. It was stated in the course of evidence that there was no intention to hurt Mr. Clarke on the occasion, and his lordship believed that statement, in fact the words used by Mr. Clarke in his evidence were that he was indignant, and his lordship was sure if Mr. Clarke had stood out that night in the middle of the. road, not one hair of his head would have been injured. He then defined the legal meaning of riot, and said that the accused identified were not a bit afraid on the evening in question, to state what they were at. His lordship thought that no violence was intended, but this was a very dark night, there was shouting and groaning, and his lordship asked what object had the crowd in going and circling the house of Mr. Clarke? The object was to intimidate Mr. Clarke to part with land in which they had no interest at all. Surely, there are demesnes in England and Ireland of hundreds of acres, but here there seemed to be a public grievance that there should be existing in Ireland a rich man, who spent all his money in Ireland, was born there, lived there—his lordship recollected Mr. Clarke’s father Very well - brought up his family there in the house in which his father lived before him. His lordship then described the action of the crowd in Mr. Clarke’s demesne as given in the evidence, and asked was that a peaceful remonstrance— to a gentleman to fulfil a promise which he had never made? Were people in Ireland to be left at peace, or were they to be intimidated in the way Mr. Clarke and his family were? In conclusion, his lordship said the jury could find the accused guilty of riot and unlawful assembly, or of one or the other, or acquit them, according as they believed the weight of evidence given against them

Serjeant Moriarty said his lordship had not made any mention of the assault upon Constable Brien.

His Lordship—On purpose I did not. A stone was thrown and hit the constable, but I don't see that was part of the common object of the occasion. It is an act„ done apart from a common purpose, for which act the man who did it is responsible, but the common purpose was not responsible.

The jury retired, and after an hour returned into court with a verdict that the accused were guilty of unlawful assembly. In the meantime other cases dealing with riot had been disposed of, the accused pleading guilty, his lordship allowing them out on their own personal recognisances in fixed sums, to come up for judgment when called upon.

His Lordship now said the verdict, of the jury was a right one, and if he had been in their place it was exactly what he would have done. The jury, by their verdict, had vindicated the law. His lordship had no vindictive feeling against the prisoners, or, Mr. Rearden’s address, though he was compelled to denounce his address in strong terms. Now, what he was going to do with the prisoners was to allow them to enter investing to their own recognisances in the sum of £10—he would not even want sureties, to come up for judgment when called upon. If the accused conducted themselves, if they all kept themselves out of this mischievous agitation, which was absolutely without a particle of foundation, they would hear no more of the case; but if they got into this silly agitation, and if they were charged with any offence, they would not only be punished for that offence, but also for the present one.