Daniel O'Connell and the Doneraile Conspiracy
The Doneraile Conspiracy of 1829 had its origins in the Whiteboy movement, a secret oath-bound society, which for about seventy years had plagued the authorities with intractable problems in rural Ireland.
The Whiteboy disturbances first broke out in Clogheen in Co. Tipperary, in the year 1761, when groups of men assembled by night to level ditches which landlords and graziers had erected around the common land on which, until then, the people had enjoyed free grazing rights. At first they were called Levellers, but soon additional grievances with regard to rent and tithes were added. As the movement spread they began wearing white shirts, and soon became known in the Irish language as Buachailli Bana or Whiteboys. The purpose of the white shirt was so that they could recognise one another in the dark.
Whiteboys in North Cork.
The Whiteboy movement quickly spread over parish and county bounds, and soon reached the neighboring counties of Waterford, Limerick and Cork. In the 1820's, during the economic slump following the Napoleons wars, the Whiteboys were very active in North Cork. One of the most disturbed areas in Ireland was that from Shanballymore to Buttevant in an east west direction, and from the Ballyhoura Mts. to the Blackwater River to the south, and this includes almost the entire parish of Doneraile. Within this area nocturnal marauders struck again and again.
In 1822 the police station at Churchtown was burned. In the same year there were attacks on big houses at Ballyellis, Ballyhoura, Clenor, Clogheen, Lough Eagle and Wallstown. In 1823 disturbances spread to other areas. Glenosheen Barracks, just over the border in Co. Limerick, was attacked and burned. The Whiteboys also raided houses at Graigue, Flowerhill, Kilclousha, Kildorrery and Oldtown. Carker Lodge was burned. In 1824 there were attacks at Grange and Quartertown. In 1825 a mill at Ballygriggan, Castletownroche, was burned, and there was also a raid at Springfield near Buttevant.
Intelligence reports to the authorities indicated that the principal places where the " insurgents " assembled to the east of Mallow, were Killavullen, Torpey's Cross near Clenor, Grandy near Annakissa, Ballyvorisheen near Lissaniskey, Ballygriffin, Carrig on the banks of the Blackwater and Drumroe Commons. Frequent meetings of armed "insurgents" were alleged to take place in these areas, and nearly the whole population of the "lower class", including a great number of Cottier Farmers from Monanimy, Clenor, Carrig and Annakissa, were said to have been sworn Whiteboys.
So it was not surprising that as this troubled decade drew to a close, the large ascendancy landowners in the Doneraile area had every reason to be fearful for their property and their lives.
In the year 1829 the Whiteboy movement around Doneraile had come to a peak, and there was said to be a conspiracy among them to assassinate three important local members of the Establishment. One of these was George Bond Lowe, a magistrate who lived at Clogher House, Shanballymore; the second was Michael Creagh, a landlord who resided at Kilbrack Cottage, Doneraile; The third was Rear-Admiral Henry Evans whose abode was at Oldtown, Shanballymore. Bond Lowe was unpopular because of his activities as a magistrate, and seems to have been particularly hated by the Whiteboys. While reading in his house at Clogher, his lamp had been broken by a bullet through a window, giving rise to the popular contemporary ballad with the lines:
" Three cheers for the man gave the blow
That broke the pate of George Bond Lowe"
Michael Creagh was unpopular because he was severe on his tenants. The reason for the animosity to Admiral Evans was that he had spoken against Catholic Emancipation in the House of Commons.
Start of Conspiracy.
The first shots in what was to develop into the Doneraile Conspiracy were fired on the 20th. of January, 1829. On that evening Dr. John Norcott, M.D., of Newpark Cottage in the townland of Park North, Doneraile, and his neighbour Michael Creagh, of Kilbrack Cottage, were invited to a dinner party at the home of Admiral Evans in Oldtown. On the way home later that evening, near Ballinamona Bridge, shots were fired at Dr. Norcott's carriage. The gunfire, however, was not intended for Dr. Norcott, but for Michael Creagh for whom he was mistaken. The footman and coachman were wounded but Dr. Norcott and his daughter were not harmed. Shortly after the attack, Michael Creagh , who was also High Sherrif of the County, presided at a meeting of magistrates in Doneraile. At this meeting a large reward of £732 was offered for any information about the people who shot at Dr. Norcott's carriage.
on the 2nd. of March,1829, at Johnsgrove near Skenakilla, shots were fired at
George Bond Lowe, as he returned from Mallow Shrove fair with his servant. Bond
Lowe's attackers missed the man himself, but wounded his horse. Lowe, with great
difficulty brought his horse under control, got local assistance to follow his
attackers, and captured one of them, Patrick McGrath of Wallstown. McGrath was
taken to Cork gaol, tried and hanged on the 11th. of April 1829.
The Fair at Rathclare.
capture and execution of Patrick McGrath fomented further action by the
Whiteboys, and it was at this point that the Doneraile Conspiracy started to
take shape and gather momentum. The plot was said to have been hatched at the
fair of Rathclare, between Buttevant and Ballyhea, on the 27th. of April 1829.
Rathclare fair was one of those rural fairs, which were quite common in Ireland
at that time. It was held four times a year, - on April 26th., July 1st.,
November 1st. and December 17th. As April 26th. fell on a Sunday the fair was
transferred to the following Monday the 27th. A man named Patrick Daly attended
the fair that day, but had other things on his mind besides the selling and
buying of animals He was a spy for Col. Richard Hill, who lived at Clogheen,
between Doneraile and Buttevant.
Daly gave two depositions before Col. Hill and Michael Creagh. The first was
about a meeting held in Duane's pub in Doneraile, at which there was said to
have been talk about shooting George Bond Lowe. The second document described a
meeting in a tent at Rathclare fair, where, according to Daly's later oral
testimony, a paper was produced for signature by all who were willing to shoot
George Bond Lowe, Michael Creagh and Admiral Evans.
Lord Doneraile's Letters.
his Georgian mansion, Doneraile Court, on the banks of the Awbeg river, Lord
Doneraile, the 3rd. Viscount, told the government of his unease about the local
situation. In a letter dated 5th. June 1829, to William Gregory in Dublin
Castle, he said it was his intention to apply for authority to send the
principal informer (Patrick Daly ) to Dublin where he could be examined. The
Viscount hoped that, as a result, a good case against John Leary of Rossagh,
could be established. In a second letter to Gregory, dated June 8th., he said he
feared that the conspiracy had taken deep roots in the area, but that he hoped
he would be able to get to the bottom of it.
to the Lord Lieutenant, on June 14th., Lord Doneraile referred to the excitement
which the recent arrests had caused in the whole country, and the difficulties
of seeing informers, without suspicions being focused on them. The magistrates
had asked him to state that the principal informer, Patrick Daly, might either
be killed, or otherwise interfered with to stop him giving evidence. Doneraile
went on to ask for authority to send Patrick Daly to Dublin, under the charge of
Chief Constable Crossley, so that he could be examined by Crown lawyers, and
could be kept safely, where no other influences could be used to stop him coming
forward as a witness.
Lord Kingston's Fears.
in Mitchelstown, George the 3rd. Earl of Kingston, also expressed his anxiety in
a letter to Wm. Gregory. In this he stated that there could be no doubt that the
conspiracy existed, and added that the state of the country about Doneraile had
been very bad for some years past, and was getting worse. He also stated that if
stronger measures were not taken, he feared that many would be assassinated in
the neighbourhood. It was a matter for the government to get to the bottom of
the conspiracy, "as the whole country around Doneraile was demoralised".
He recommended only one of the informers (Patrick Daly ) as he was most explicit
in his informations. Mitchelstown was not the place for the investigation, but
Doneraile was. In all his experience he had never known anything so bad, and he
could recall the rebellion of 1798.
informations of Patrick Daly were enough to move the magistrates, and in the
summer of 1829 twenty one so-called 'conspirators' were arrested. In May 1829,
when one batch of prisoners were being transferred from Mallow to Cork, four of
them, Timothy Barrett, Michael Wallace, John Magner and Charles Daly escaped
from their police escort at a public house called the " Six Mile
House" on the old Mallow to Cork road.
and Wallace were subsequently recaptured, but not in time for the Summer
Assizes, where only 17 prisoners appeared. As not enough jurors were available,
the judge, Chief Baron O'Grady, postponed the cases to the following Assizes.
This, however did not allay the fears of the Doneraile gentry, so they applied
to the government for a Special Commission to try the accused. The government
agreed to this request, and the trial by the Commission was fixed to commence in
Cork, on Thursday, Oct. 22nd., 1829. Baron Pennefather and Judge Torrens were
nominated as judges and Mr. John Doherty, Solicitor - General was directed to
conduct the prosecution.
the interval between the two trials, John Magner and Charles Daly were still at
large, but George Bond Lowe, as a zealous magistrate, had not forgotten about
them. He heard that the two of them were hiding at the farm John Blake of
Ardleagh, near Ballywalter, Shanballymore. So early on Saturday morning, August
the 8th. 1829, he left his residence at Clogher, with a large force of police,
and went to Ballywalter to search the house of John Blake and arrest Magner and
he arrived a shot was fired, then a second shot, and then he saw Magner and
Daly, both armed, running across a field. He called on them to surrender. They
said "No" and pointed guns at him. Then they leaped off of the ditch
and ran away. He came on them again after running through three fields. Again
they refused to surrender and disappeared across the river. Next Daly and Magner
got out through a plantation and onto the road. Magner fired at Police Constable
Woodley, while Daly fired and wounded Police Con. Delmere. They ran off again,
pursued by the police. They fired again. Bond Lowe dismounted and fired at
Magner, who fell and died, at Ballyhinnock. In an extraordinary chase that
ranged through Kilquane, Monanimy and Ballygriffin, Charles Daly eluded his
pursuers, and eventually escaped to America.Dr. James Blackhall Wall, M.D.
examined John Magner's body, and found that he had died from a gunshot wound in
his left shoulder, which went through his lung.
Tribute to Bond Lowe.
result of this exploit, and his earlier one of capturing Patrick McGrath at
Johnsgrove, Bond Lowe became something of a hero amongst his own class. A
special meeting of noblemen, magistrates and gentlemen of the area was held in
the Sessions House, Doneraile, on Aug. 16th. 1829. Viscount Doneraile was in the
chair. A very laudatory motion to Bond Lowe was passed by the meeting for the
intrepid discharge of his duties as magistrate. To this flattering address Bond
Lowe suitably replied, saying he placed a firm reliance "on that mysterious
Providence which had protected him up to now".
The Special Commission.
Wednesday October 21st., 1829, the Cork city Sherriffs, accompanied by a number
of gentlemen, left Cork to meet the judges of the Special Commission, who were
on their way to the city via Fermoy. At about half past seven in the evening the
cavalcade returned, escorted by a troop of the Scots Greys regiment, and
numerous police. The whole exercise was probably expressly designed to impress
the public with the power and majesty of the law.
their next day, Thurs. Oct. 22nd., the County Courthouse at Cork was packed for
the trial. In the body of the court, along the galleries, in the Grand Jury box,
and in all the aisles, country gentlemen clustered, thick as bees in a hive. As
Thomas Sheahan of Clonakilty, one of the reporters at the trial said:
"There was as great a gathering of aristocrats, as if the country was in a
state of rebellion" But the ordinary people were noticeable by their
absence; not a friezw coat to be seen.
Commission opened in the morning, when Baron Pennefather and Mr. Justice Torrens
entered the court, accompanied by the High Sheriff. They were followed shortly
afterwards by Mr. John Doherty, Solicitor General, and by the usual Crown
Prosecutors on the Munster circuit, Sergt. Gould and Mr. Bennet K.C., who were
associated with Doherty in the case.
The Grand Jury.
The writ for the Special Commission was read, and the following Grand Jury was called and sworn:
Sir Augustus Warren, Bart., Warrenscourt, Foreman
Charles D. O. Jephson, Mallow Castle,
Major General Sir Robert Travers, Gortgrenane,
William Wrixon-Becher, Ballygiblin, Mallow,
John Smith-Barry, Fota, Carrigtwohill,
Savage French, Cusquinny, Cobh,
Wm. Henry worth-Newenham, Coolmore Carrigaline,
Major General H.G. Barry Ballyclough,
George Courtney, Ballyedmond, Midleton,
John Travers, Garrycloyne Castle,
Simon Dring, Ringrove,
William H. Cooke-Collis, Castlecooke, Kilworth,
John Pyne, Cottage,
Charles Colthurst, Clonmoyle,
William Henry Moore Hodder, Hoddersfield,
William Coppinger, Barryscourt, Carrigtwohill,
Garret Standish Barry, Leamlara Midleton,
Henry Braddle Mallow,
O'Driscoll, Clover Hill.
Grand |Jury is to be distinguished from the Petty Jury. The Petty Jury considers
the evidence at a trial, and decides on the guilt or innocence of the accused.
The Grand Jury was a system of local administration, controlled by landlords and
the legal profession.
Pennefather then charged the Grand Jury, and was fair enough. He mentioned the
evidence of informers, and advised that it should be received with the greatest
caution, and corroborating evidence must be produced. Witnesses for the
prosecution would be produced before the Grand Jury, but not those for the
defense. If the statement of these witnesses established a strong presumption of
guilt, the Grand Jury would be bound to find Bills of Indictment against them.
The government desired that the law would be speedy in the execution of justice,
freeing the innocent and punishing the guilty.
two persons were put on trial, so presumably, replacements had been found for
John Magner and Charles Daly. Ten had been on bail, but Bills were found by the
Grand Jury against all twenty two, for conspiring to murder George Bond Lowe,
Michael Creagh and Henry Evans. The twenty two people charged were: James
Barrett, Michael Barrett, Timothy Barrett, John Barry, Denis O'Shea, William
Heaphy, William Flynn, Charles Murphy, Maurice Regan, Owen Hickey, Edmund Walsh,
Edmund Coughlan, John Burke, Thomas Daly, John Leary, James McGrath, William
Shine, James Roche, Edmond Connors, Michael Wallace, Patrick Lynch and John
Shine. A man named Daniel O'Keeffe was arrested during the trial, bringing the
total to twenty-three.
Mr. Fitzgerald, attorney for the prisoners, complained that his clients had no Counsel. The Solicitor- General called on him to name any two barristers he pleased, undertaking on behalf of the government to pay them. Messre. Francis McCarthy and David R. Pigott, barristers, were then assigned for the defense. Mr. McCarthy complained that a material witness for the defense, named Heireen had been allowed to escape by the police. John Doherty replied that this man was a witness for the prosecution, and the police were not warranted in detaining him, as there was no charge against him. He was only placed with the police for protection, and had unaccountably withdrawn himself three weeks previously.
Court then adjourned until nine o'clock on the following (Friday) morning
court resumed at nine o'clock on Friday, and the following Petty Jury was sworn
in: W.S. Bernard, foreman, Sir J.L. Cotter, Bart., Denis O'Callaghan, Simon
Denis Cooke, Robert Warren, Bernard R. S. Shaw, Michael Allen Becher, Jasper
Lucas, Herbert Gillman, John Popham, Joseph Haines and Henry O'Callaghan. All
Doherty, Solr.- General, then requested that John Leary, James Roche, James
McGrath and William Shine should be put to the bar. These four prisoners were
then given, in charge, to the jury for having conspired in January 1829, to kill
and murder George Bond Lowe, Michael Creagh and Henry Evans.
The Solicitor - General then commenced his prosecution speech. The reporter, Thomas Sheahan, who was an eye witness at the trial, studied Doherty closely, and concluded that he seemed to be " a very theatrical sort of gentleman", with a very pompous manner. But he admitted he liked" his tall and well made figure, and his sad but not unpleasant face". He also had a fine eye, though some thought it cold and with no heart.
Sheahan also considered that, though the speech was fine and clever, it was not as cool and as dispassionate as it should be. Doherty should have remembered that he was addressing a not very congenial jury, who had scarcely anything in common with those they were about to try. According to Sheahan, the Solicitor - General's statement was a " lordly harangue, the tendency of which was to confirm the Irish magistrate, landlord and gentleman, in the ultraism of his pretensions, and to render him still more hostile to the serf, that it should have disputed his assumptions". Doherty used his imagination freely, so that one would imagine from his speech that the district of Doneraile was half the south of Ireland, and that another great rebellion was around the corner.
meetings, swearing and plowings to kill the three named persons commenced as
early as last November (1828), and the plans were laid in Doneraile, Mallow
fair, Rathclare fair, Kildorrery fair and elsewhere. The overt acts were the
shooting at Dr. Norcott's carriage, and the attack on George Bond Lowe at
Johnsgrove. Doherty told the jury that amongst the witnesses he would call,
would be a man named Patrick Daly. He admitted that Daly was employed by Col.
Richard Hill as a spy, but he would corroborate his testimony by that of another
witness of absolute integrity. When Doherty finished, he had been speaking for
examination of witnesses for the prosecution then commenced. There were five
informer or approver witnesses: David Sheehan, William Nowlan, Patrick Daly,(the
spy), Thomas Daly and Owen (Clampar) Daly, cousin of Patrick.
David Sheehan's Evidence.
informer David Sheehan said he lived near Ballyvonare. He knew John Leary of
Rossagh, the prisoner at the bar. Before Dr. Norcott's carriage was fired at, he
met Leary at Ned Roche's public house in Doneraile. Also present on that
occasion were William Shine, Owen Hickey, Michael Wallace, Charles Daly, John
Magner, Timothy O'Connor and William Nowlan. Leary spoke to him first and
gave him a tumbler of porter. He then asked "the boys" if they were
ready to do what they had promised, and they said they were. Leary then produced
a piece of paper and signed his name and then asked them to do the same. He then
produced a book, and swore them: the words were to " shoot Mr. Lowe"
which they all agreed to do. Witness was sworn at the same time by Leary, but
never went out with any of the party to shoot Mr. Lowe, Captain Creagh or
Admiral Evans. William Shine was the first person who took the book, and said he
would be the first person to shoot Capt. Creagh, who had transported his
brother. They all then swore to kill Bond Lowe, Capt. Creagh and Admiral Evans.
went on to testify that after Mr. Bond Lowe was fired on at Johnsgrove, he met
James Roche near Mr. Nagles at Wallstown, where they talked about the attack on
Mr. Lowe. Roche said that it was unfortunate that they had missed him, but that
in a short time they would be more successful in killing him. James McGrath was
with Roche at this meeting on the road, and said he would kill the man that had
his brother hanged after the Johnsgrove attack, to which Roche added that he
would assist him. David Sheehan admitted that he had been engaged in Whiteboy
attacks on houses. His motive for coming forward was that he did not like to
hear of murder. He had no hope of reward, but he would not refuse one if he got
it. If not he would continue to work for sixpence a day, as he did before.
William Nowlan Examined.
Nowlan was the next informer to be examined. he said he knew all the prisoners
at the bar. He lived about two miles from John Leary's house. He remembered
speaking to Leary and James Roche before Dr. Norcott's carriage was attacked. He
also saw them at Ned Roche's and Duane's public house in Doneraile. At Heireen's
house in Doneraile he met James Roche, James McGrath, Pat Lynch, Michael
Wallace, Thomas Daly and Nicholas Griffin.
committee was formed, and Leary was one of them. The reason he knew he was on
the committee was, that he (Leary) used them to do things out of the way. On the
day at Ned Roche's, Leary took a book out of his pocket and swore the men to
kill Admiral Evans, Capt. Creagh and Mr. Lowe. The reason they gave for wanting
to kill these men were that Mr. Lowe was a leading man in the county, that
Admiral Evans, when in Parliament, was against the Roman Catholics, while
Captain Creagh was severe on his tenants. They appointed a time to kill Capt.
Creagh when he was to dine at Admiral Evan's. There were other meetings in
Doneraile before this one which Leary attended. He knew a man named John Magner,
who was killed. He saw Patrick McGrath at a meeting on one occasion, before the
carriage was fired on. Witness was not at the attack on the carriage. Shine
called on him to go, but he had a sore leg, as a result of stones falling on it
when he was fencing a gap. Next morning at, about nine o'clock, he met Roche in
his own field. Roche accused him for not attending, and told him they had fired
at Dr. Norcott's carriage, mistaking it for Capt. Creagh's.
day after Mr. Lowe was fired at, Roche came to witnesses house, and told him
that he (Roche) had never got such a fright as he did when Mr. Lowe pulled up
and Pat McGrath fired. He (Roche) did not like to fire, as there was a woman
close after Mr. Lowe, and he was afraid he would shoot her. Pat McGrath was
wounded and bleeding, and he tried to help him, but then left him, otherwise the
two of them would have been caught.
stated that he heard that that Patrick McGrath had been hanged for shooting at
Mr. Lowe. A fortnight after Patrick McGrath was hanged, he met Leary on the road
from Buttevant, and he told witness that " he would make up a party of good
boys" to kill Mr. Lowe. He met James Roche, James McGrath, Charles Daly and
Pat Lynch at Kildorrery fair on May 1st. 1829. They talked about killing Mr.
Lowe, on their way home from the Fair.
prisoner Shine lived near Carker and James McGrath at Wallstown. Witness had 25
acres of land for which he paid £2 an acre. Nowlan also admitted he had been a
Whiteboy for six or seven years. He gave his evidence because he thought he
would be hanged, which he often deserved.
Dr. Norcott's Testimony.
John Norcott, M.D., in his evidence told of an invitation he had to dine with
Admiral Henry Evans, of Oldtown, Shanballymore, on the 20th. of January 1829.
Mr. Michael Creagh was also at the dinner party. They left Admiral Evan's that
night at about 10.00 p.m. Mr. Creagh left in his carriage first, and witness
followed in his own carriage, with his two servants on the box. The colour of
his carriage was yellow, the same as Mr. Creagh's. On the road near Ballinamona
Bridge he heard a shout or call, and afterwards a shot, and then another. His
daughter was with him in the carriage. Three balls entered the carriage, three
wounded the servants, and three struck the carriage without entering. The
coachman, though wounded continued to drive, but had to give up after some
distance. He (Dr. Norcott) then took the reins, and brought the carriage home.
He extracted a ball out of his footman's shoulder.
Patrick Daly's Evidence.
Patrick Daly the spy, was then examined by the Solicitor - General. He had been sworn in as a Whiteboy in the year 1821, but had recently been telling Col. Hill anything he might hear against the government.
night William Shine's mother was dead, there was a meeting in an outhouse at
which Edmond Coughlan, Maurice Regan, Owen Hickey, Timothy Connors, William
Shine and he (witness) were present. Shine proposed to these men, as well as to
witness, to kill Mr. Lowe, Admiral Evans and Capt. Creagh. There was another
meeting held in Carker, where it was proposed to kill these gentlemen, but it
was deferred until an order had been obtained from the head Committee.
Head Committee was composed of John Leary, Charles Murphy, John Burke and Edmond
Connors, who met at the fair of Rathclare on April 27th. Present in Duane's tent
that day were, John Leary of Rossagh, Edmond Connors of Ballinguile, John Burke
of Ballyhoura, Charles Murphy of Imphrick, Denis O'Shea of Streamhill and Ednond
Connors of Kingstown ( Ballinree).
Murphy and Edmond Connors said the night was far too short for their men to
come, and get back after shooting the three men, and Leary said they had enough
boys in Kildorrery to do it. The four committeemen, Charles Murphy, John Leary,
Edmond Connors and John Burke signed a paper in Daly's presence. Charles Murphy
wrote first on the paper. This paper was to be sent to the committee that was to
meet on the 1st. of May at Kildorrery fair, and the purpose of which was that
the Kildorrery men should kill the three named people. He (Daly) went to
Kildorrery fair and warned Mr. Hovenden (Col. Hill's Steward) of the danger to
the three men.
Evidence of Cornelius Garvan.
evidence of the next witness, Cornelius Garvan, appeared to favour the defence,
as it seemed to throw some light on the signing of the paper in the tent. He
said he was in Duane's tent at Rathclare fair, and saw there Leary, Connors,
Murphy and Patrick Daly. He saw Leary engaged about security for a cow. A man
named Mahony, Leary's son and the man who sold the cow were there. Leary was
going security for the animal, and giving a guarantee that the cow would give
six bottles of milk. They had a pen and ink before them. There were other people
in the tent as well as Leary and Daly.
Owen (Clampar) Daly Examined.
'Clampar' Daly, cousin of Patrick was then examined. He said he was about 21 or
22 years of age. He was at the fair of Rathclare. He knew John Leary, and saw
him at the fair in Duane's tent, where there were four, five or six people about
him: the tent was crowded and Leary was at the back part of it. Barrett,
Connors, Murphy and Burke were also there. He saw Barrett and Connors writing
and handing papers to one another. He saw some of the men write on it. He also
saw the paper in Leary's hand but did not see him write.
Michael Creagh's Evidence.
Creagh of Kilbrack Cottage, Doneraile, then gave evidence. He stated he was a
magistrate of the county, and was High Sheriff the previous year. He also knew
Admiral Evans. When he dined with Admiral Evans in January 1829, Dr. Norcott was
there. He also knew William Shine. Shine's father and brother were tenants of
his, and he had lately served ejectments on them. He had a deposit of William
Shine's which was left to him by his father, a sum of 20 guineas. William Shine
withdrew it on the 2nd. or 3rd. of May, 1829, after ejectment notices were
Thomas Murphy Examined.
Murphy, another informer, who spoke Irish, was then questioned. He was at the
fair in Mallow on March 2nd. 1829. he knew James Roche, James McGrath and Mr.
Lowe. He met Roche and McGrath at the fair with Pat Lynch. He joined them for a
drink. He heard McGrath say he would be on the road before Mr. Lowe; he had a
pistol and, Roche had a double-barrelled shotgun. They said they would go on to
Mr. Grover's plantation and wait for him. McGrath then administered an oath to
him not to divulge the secret. he remained at the fair until night, and saw no
more of them after that.
Testimony of George Bond Lowe.
George Bond Lowe then gave evidence. He said he had been a magistrate since
1821. He remembered being fired at coming from Mallow fair on the 2nd. of March
last. His mare was shot in the neck. This took place at a screen of trees or
plantation of Mr. Glover's. He pursued the men who fired, and apprehended one of
them, Patrick McGrath, who was subsequently hanged. He knew the prisoner, James
Roche, but never looked for him. He saw him in the custody of the police the day
he was taken. When he (Lowe) asked why he fired at him, he pretended not to know
him, and said he never saw him before. He searched repeatedly for James McGrath,
but could not find him; he was afterwards taken in Co. Limerick.
Mrs. Glover's Evidence.
Mrs. Eliza Glover of Johnsgrove then gave evidence. She said she saw one of the prisoners in the dock, James McGrath, at Johnsgrove on the day that Mr. Bond Lowe was shot at. They were face to face and most decidedly he was the same man. She did not see from whence he came, but she saw him on the road.
Evidence of Thomas Roberts.
Roberts was the next witness, He lived with Quale Welstead at Ballywalter. He
was coming from Mallow fair the previous March, and he saw Mr. Bond Lowe and his
servant on the road. Shortly after they passed him, he heard the report of a
gun, and saw three men running off. On entering the field he saw Mr. Lowe in
full gallop and also, a man running into the plantation. He identified James
McGrath as that man. He entered the plantation, and in a dyke he found Patrick
McGrath, on his face and hands. He secured him and gave him over to Mr. Lowe, as
Local Woman's Evidence.
woman from the area was then examined. her husband's house was about 2 miles
from Johnsgrove, but it was nearer to Roche's house, who was known as "
Cold Morning". She heard of Mr. Lowe being fired at, and saw James Roche,
the prisoner, pass by her house. She greeted him. He had no arms at that time.
She believed it to be about two hours after the shooting that she saw him. They
did not speak to one another. She identified him in the dock.
case for the defense then opened, and the first witness called was John
Harold-Barry of Ballyvonare, Doneraile.
Mr. Harold-Barry gave a very poor opinion of the characters of David Sheehan and Patrick Daly. Both had been employed by him, but he discharged them, such was his impression of their conduct and their character. They had been employed against his wishes by his land steward. He had employed Whiteboys from time to time through necessity, in order to get the work done, and it was part of the system.
was rudely handled by the Solicitor - General. Apparently he had refused to
entrap a Whiteboy by "promising him protection". Witness replied that
no honorable man would act, as the police would have him act with regard to the
Evidence of Dr. William O'Brien.
Rev. William O'Brien, Parish Priest of Doneraile, in his evidence gave a
similarly poor opinion of the character of Sheehan and Daly. He had been P.P. of
Doneraile for thirteen years, but generally passed the winters on the continent
for health reasons. He did not know that a conspiracy existed in Doneraile until
it became public, but admitted that the town was far from quiet. He would be
happy that the Catholic and Protestant clergy and the gentry would unite to
quell the spirit of insubordination, which existed among the people.
John Daly's Evidence.
Daly, a brother of Patrick, told how Patrick had been tempting him to join in
plotting against the prisoners. Patrick asked him if he liked his master, and
added that he could be independent of his master if he would follow Patrick's
advice by going to Capt. Creagh, and saying what he (Patrick) would desire him
to say about some of the men who were in Gaol. For this he would get a reward,
which would establish him in a town, or send him to America.
Evidence of James (Cold Morning ) Roche.
Roche, (a namesake of one of the accused), then testified. He said he was the
man known as 'Cold Morning'. He had no knowledge of a meeting at his house
before the fair at Mallow. The accused, Roche, had lived with him but had left
his house at the end of April or the beginning of May. He was called 'Cold
Morning' because he had once kept a public house and it was usual in the country
for a publican to have a nickname.
Stawell told the court he knew the prisoner, Leary, " who was an honest
man, no man's enemy but his own, being partial to drink" His habits were
peaceful and he was an unlikely person to be engaged in disturbances.
Gethin Creagh, father of Michael Creagh, said he knew John Leary for many years
to be as peaceful a man as any in the country. For twenty years he had paid him
£220 a year in rent, peacefully, honestly and with propriety. He was,
unfortunately, given to drinking punch. If he thought he was of bad character he
would not come to Court to give him a good one, especially as he was charged
with trying to kill his son.
defense closed, and Baron Pennefather addressed the jury. He spoke with great
force on the nature of the crime with which the prisoners had been charged, the
peculiarity of the law relating to conspiracy, and the quality of the evidence
necessary to sustain it.
jury retired for about twenty minutes, and returned with a " Guilty "
verdict against all four accused - John Leary, James McGrath, James Roche and
William Shine. Judge Torrens then addressed the prisoners, donned his black cap,
and passed the sentence of death by hanging on all four accused.
After this verdict, the relatives of the prisoners were very distressed, as they thought that when the rest of the prisoners were put to trial, it would only be a matter of form before they were also sentenced to death.
the second day four more prisoners were put forward for trial. They were Edmond
Connors, Michael Wallace, Patrick Lynch and Timothy Barrett.
Mission To Daniel O'Connell.
As the second day of the trial was a Saturday, it was decided to postpone it until the Monday, lest the hearing should encroach on the Sunday rest. This delay was just what the relatives of the prisoners needed. They had no advocate equal to John Doherty. Only one man could match him - the greatest criminal lawyer in the country - Daniel O'Connell. The collected together a sum of 100 guineas and resolved to make an effort to obtain the aid of Daniel O'Connell's powerful talents. William Burke of Ballyhea, brother of one of the prisoners, John Burke, left Cork on Saturday evening October 24th. 1829, and travelling throughout the night, rode one horse to O'Connell's residence in Derrynane, Co. Kerry, a distance of ninety miles. He arrived at Derrynane at 8.30 a.m. on Sunday.. Having listened to him, O'Connell agreed to come to Cork to defend the accused. Burke rested his horse, and remounted him and returned to Cork, reaching the Courthouse about 8 a.m. Monday morning, having completed the journey of 180 miles in thirty-eight hours.
O'Connell arrived in his coach shortly after Burke. He caused a huge sensation
in the vicinity of the Courthouse. The ordinary people, both within and outside
the courthouse, though they were not many, when they saw the 'Great Dan '
amongst them felt as though they were a multitude.
The Second Trial:
following Jury was chosen for the second trial: Horatio Townsend, Nicholas
Kirby, Henry Hewitt O'Brien, John Lewis, Daniel O'Callaghan, Daniel F. Leahy,
Robert Hartnett, Thomas Burke, Thomas Hare, Jr. Edward Morrogh, John Henry Allen
and John Molony.
This was considered to be a much more satisfactory jury than the first one, containing as it did, Catholics, Protestants, merchants and landowners, people from the towns as well as the country. It included one Catholic, Edward Morrogh, whose role in it would prove to be crucial.
O'Connell was given permission to breakfast in court, as John Doherty gave
another long oration. This time, however, according to Sheahan, " he
lessened his canvas a good deal" and allowed that the conspiracy might now
be limited to the Doneraile area, and not allover Munster, as he implied in the
first trial. However he castigated Harold-Barry, stating that the law could
compel any man, no matter what his rank, under pain of imprisonment, to declare
the number of Whiteboys who might have been employed in his haggard or stable.
Daniel O'Connell, his mouth half full of bread or milk, interrupted Doherty,
correcting him by saying "That's not law " or "that Act has
expired" In particular O'Connell objected to Doherty's innuendo against
Harold-Barry, and he complained of the law that wouldn't allow him to address
the jury on behalf of the prisoners. He requested the Solicitor-General not to
go into evidence given at other trials but to confine his remarks to the case
now before the Court. This interruption stopped Doherty in his tracks, and the
remainder of his speech was uncontroversial.
O'Connell was masterly in his cross-examination of the various witnesses for the
prosecution. Thomas Sheahan, in his account of the trial says: "I never
beheld him greater" His tactics were to confound the prosecution, and to
show that they had no case. The Crown had tried to show that Sheehan and Nowlan
had repented of their former misdeeds. O'Connell showed off the 'repentant
sinners' as he called them. John Doherty had discounted the notion of concert
among the witnesses, but O'Connell found out that Sheehan and Daly had been
repeatedly together in Dublin before the trial.
cross-examination Patrick Daly exclaimed " it's little I thought, Mr.
O'Connell, I'd be facing you today" Daly also said that he had never asked
his brother to become a witness.
(Clampar ) Daly got special attention. Doherty spoke of him as a boy of sixteen
or seventeen , who was not anxious to be a witness. He turned out to be
twenty-four years of age, and a regular informer under the Game Act. During the
examination of Owen Daly, O'Connell stated that " he had never seen such
drilling of witnesses in his life"
man named William Twiss came on next to discredit the testimony of Owen Daly.
Doherty ordered Twiss off the table in no uncertain manner. "You may go
down off that table sir" said the Solr.-General. "New daunt go dawn
sir" said O'Connell mimicking Doherty's Anglicised accent, much to the
annoyance of that gentleman. The result of this burlesqueing of Doherty's voice
was an instantaneous burst of laughter, in which, according to Sheahan
"even the well-dressed savages joined ".
The Forty Hour Jury:
the conclusion of the evidence, Judge Torrens addressed the jury, and they
retired to consider their verdict. Then commenced the marathon saga of what
became known as the "Forty Hour Jury". They were deliberating up to
Tuesday morning, when they decided to acquit Timothy Barrett. They could not
come to an agreement on the other three prisoners.
gentry complained about the stupidity and doggedness of some jurors. These
people had begun to see the serious consequences of the disagreement: if the
jury, after such a long time, could not agree to a verdict, with the same
witnesses and evidence as resulted in such a quick decision by the first jury,
then something was wrong with one of the juries.
Catholic member of the jury, Mr. Edward Morrogh, was the chief obstacle to
reaching agreement: he was against convicting any of the prisoners. On Tuesday
evening, some of the jurors began to complain about the strict confinement, and
one of the jurors, who suffered from gout, was said to be so ill, that a
physician had to be called. John Henry Allen was the man in question.
late on Tuesday evening, after forty hours deliberation, the jury was discharges
without reaching a verdict. Nine were for acquitting Connors, Lynch and Barrett,
three against. Edward Morrogh was for acquitting all, eleven against. The three
jurors who were against the nine agreed to forego their opinion, if Morrogh
agreed to give up his, which he declined to do. Had this been agreed, Connors,
Lynch and Barrett would have been acquitted and Wallace found guilty, but with a
strong recommendation to mercy. Barrett was acquitted, as there was no evidence
as the weary jurors were leaving the Court, Daniel O'Connell entered. The
Solicitor - General told the judges that it was his intention to put Connors,
Lynch and Wallace on trial for the second time in the morning. Mr. O'Connell
replied that they could not be tried for the second time; or if they could, not
at this Commission: and if if at this Commission, not until they were ready, and
they would not be ready in a day.
The O'Keeffe and Heireen Episodes:
The next day, Wednesday, was a day for legal argument, but was also a day on which occurred two curious incidents. The first of these was the arrest of a man named Daniel O'Keeffe, who claimed to have important evidence for the defense, but who, on his arrival from the country, was arrested on Wednesday morning, and charged as a newly captured conspirator. The second concerned the missing witness Denis Heireen. An application was made on behalf of Edmond Connors, Michael Wallace and and Patrick Lynch for a postponement of their second trial. This affidavit stated that Denis Heireen was a material witness for the defense, but had been taken from the office of the prisoner's attorney by Chief Constable Kiely of Carrigtwohill, who promised that Heireen would be forthcoming at the trial of John Leary, but he never showed. Baron Pennefather told the Defense Counsel that they had misconducted Leary's case, if knowing that Heireen was a material witness, they had not applied for the delay or postponement of the trial.
the Heireen arguments had ended, the Solr.- General said it would be as well if
the Counsel for the defense should now justify their case that Connors, Lynch
and Wallace should not be tried again, or tried a second time, or tried at this
Commission. Daniel O'Connell immediately accepted the challenge, and adjusting
his wig, went on to argue why his point of view should be accepted. The entire
bar listened to him from the moment he opened his lips: " with heads raised
and eyes showing attention and a little fear". A compromise was finally
reached, and John Doherty said he would not press for the second trial of the
three men at this Commission, and it was agreed that the re-trial be held over
until the Spring Assizes of the following year 1830
The Third Trial:
On Thursday morning, Oct. 29th., two more prisoners were put forward for trial, John Burke and John Shine. Shine's brother, William, had been condemned to death at the first trial before the Commission, while Burke's brother was the man who had ridden to Derrynane for Daniel O'Connell.
time an exclusively Protestant Jury was empanelled. They had had enough of the
Morrogh type juror, and as the names on the panel were called, every Catholic
was challenged by the Crown. The names on this exclusive jury were: William M.
O'Boy, John V. Anderson, Thomas J. Biggs, William Busteed, Thomas Gollock,
Hewitt Pole Baldwin, John Smith, John Deane Freeman, Thomas Knowles, Phillip
Somerville, Henry Baldwin and Henry Wigmore.
evidence to support the prosecution was the same as in the former cases. Patrick
Daly again narrated the scene in the tent at Rathclare Fair; how the prisoner
Burke was there as a committee man; how he - Daly - told it all to Col. Hill
immediately after the fair; all much as he had sworn on previous days.
was at this point that the most dramatic moment of the trial came. Baron
Pennefather called Daniel O'Connell to the bench and handed him a document;
O'Connell returned to the bar seat and read the document. While he was thus
engaged, the business of the court was suspended, and public curiosity was
greatly aroused as to the nature and import of this document. O'Connell, having
perused the document, continued to cross-examine Daly. He asked Daly if he had
told everything about the tent scene to the magistrates the day after it had
occurred, told them of the assassination order, of the committee order and of
the committee men who had signed the order. To these questions Daly answered
then handed the witness the document, which he had been reading and asked him if
it bore his signature. According to Thomas Sheahan " Patrick eyed it and
eyed it and eyed it again, but for the life of him he could discover nothing but
the likeness of his 'scratch' on it - he would not undertake to swear that it
was the fist of Patrick Daly".
turned out that the document shown by O'Connell to Patrick Daly was nothing more
or less than " the informationís" which had been deposed by Daly
following the Rathclare fair -- information drawn up by Col. Hill on that day
and countersigned by Michael Creagh on the following day. And the extraordinary
thing was that the informationís were silent about the assassination order,
although Mr. Creagh, the very gentleman by whom they were countersigned, was one
of the three, whose assassination on the 1st. May, had been signed and forwarded
on the 27th. April, according to Daly's sworn evidence in Court. It has to be
asked why these informationís were not produced in Court at the first trial,
whether they had been known to the Crown lawyers before the calling of the
Special Commission. Did Col. Hill or Mr. Creagh forget them altogether, and if
they had not forgotten them why they had not offered them to the prisoners. It
was understood that these informationís had not been returned to the Clerk of
the Court, and that Baron Pennefather had to send to Doneraile for them.
this day, too, the two Daly's contradicted each other in their evidence. Patrick
said Owen was not in the tent but at the entrance. Owen said he was in the tent
and had been nudged by Patrick to note the signing of the paper. Patrick
declared that they were both outside the door of the tent; Owen testified that
they were both enjoying themselves at the bottom of the tent. Patrick said that
Owen and himself had only one pint at the fair, while Owen said they had two
each.. Because of these discrepancies, and after a long address by Baron
Pennefather to the jury, within 20 minutes they brought in a verdict of
"not guilty" The people were overjoyed, and the gentry mortified by
this verdict of an exclusively Protestant jury. O'Connell thanked God earnestly,
and the prayers of the people could be heard for him, whom they regarded as
End of Special Commission:
Doherty, Solicitor - General, then announced that he had decided not to bring at
this Commission, the trials of any of the other prisoners against whom
indictments had been found for conspiracy. The Crown would have no objection to
allowing the untried prisoners home, on condition that they should give bail for
their appearance to stand trial at the next Assizes, in the Spring of the
following year, 1830.
Costs of the Special Commission:
'The Cork Constitution' newspaper of March 20th. 1830, gave the following details of the expenses incurred by the Doneraile Conspiracy Commission:
Crown Solicitor £331 - 15 - 3.
Crown Counsel £1386 - 15 - 0.
Witnesse, Postage, etc. £556 - 4 0 9.
Judges £738 - 9 - 2.
As usual, in a big trial, the chief beneficiaries were the legal luminaries.
Death Sentences Commuted.
execution of Leary, Shine, Roche and McGrath, were fixed for 14th. November
1829, but the death sentences were commuted to transportation for life to New
South Wales, Australia.
At the end of March 1830, the three men Lynch, Connors and Wallace, about whom the jury disagreed at the Special Commission, were again tried at the Spring Assizes. On this occasion Daniel O'Connell was not present but the accused were represented by a very able lawyer, William Deane Freeman.
Jury at this trial consisted of eleven Protestants and one Catholic.
were: Mathew Hendly, Robert Travers, Michael Roberts, John Isaac Heard, Richard
Smyth, William Lander, Thomas Hungerford, John Thomas Cramer, Norman Uniacke,
Isaac Biggs, William Sheehy and William Newman.
and Wallace were acquitted, and Lynch was found guilty for his own sake as he
would have been found guilty of an alternative capital charge of highway
robbery. In Lynch's case, the jury added a recommendation of mercy, and his
sentence was commuted to transportation to New South Wales, with Leary, Shine,
Roche and McGrath.
was the last of the Doneraile Conspiracy trials. The Crown decided not to
proceed further, and the remaining prisoners were allowed out on their own bails
of £100 to appear at the next Assizes, when, it was understood that they would
be discharged if the Crown decided not to proceed against them. No further
trials were held. The Doneraile Conspiracy, which began in a blaze of publicity,
in the end simply fizzled out.
There probably was a conspiracy of some kind. Obviously the attack on Dr. Norcott's carriage (in mistake) for Michael Creagh's and the attacks on George Bond Lowe had to be organized by somebody. However, these incidents were confined to Doneraile and concerned local grievances. here was never a conspiracy on the scale outlined by John Doherty in his opening address to the Commission.
landlords and the magistrates had become nervous, and wished to have a big show
trial. The Special Commission was organized by Bond Lowe and other magistrates
to frighten the hotheads in the Whiteboys; it was intended to set an example,
and to strike terror into the hearts of all would be assassins. Some of those on
trial may have been active Whiteboys, but it is likely that others charged were
not involved. Indeed, William Nowlan, one of the informers, stated twice in
Court " there are many in for this trial that are innocent".
Transportation of Prisoners:
the 23rd. of April 1830, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the five convicted
men, the old man John Leary, James McGrath, James Roche, William Shine and
Patrick Lynch were taken with other convicts from the County Gaol in Cork, and
were escorted by a small party of the Scots Greys Regiment to the steamer Waterloo,
lying at Merchant's Quay, to be conveyed to the hulk Surprise at Cobh,
for transportation to New South Wales.
were in prison dress, grey jackets and trousers and leather caps. John Leary had
fur cap on, and, before he went below in the vessel he took farewell of his
daughter and one of his son, during which he wept bitterly. His family were
given permission to go with him to the convict ship at Cobh, which gave him some
other men didn't say anything, except Shine, who made some protestations about
his innocence, at the end of which he looked around and bid farewell to Ireland
forever, and then went below. Shortly afterwards the vessel proceeded down river
with its human cargo, on the first stage of their long journey to the other side
of the world, amidst the lamentations of their families and friends.
House of Commons Moves.
the House of Commons, in London, on the 12th. of May 1830, Daniel O'Connell
moved for the depositions of Patrick Daly, and the notes of the judges who
presided over the Special Commission to be made available. The object of this
motion was to indict the Solicitor-General for having evidence of the
discrepancies between Patrick Daly's written and oral testimonies, which were
not produced at the first trial. However the motion was defeated by seventy
votes to twelve.
Letter from Michael Creagh:
Arising from the House of Commons discussion, Michael Creagh wrote the following letter to the 'Cork Constitution' newspaper on 25th. May 1830.
I shall feel obliged by your contradicting the newspaper report of a speech said to have been delivered by my friend, Mr. Jephson, in the House of Commons. He is made to say that he had a strong impression on his mind that I told him I was coming in a post chaise for Daly's informations. I told him no such thing, for the paper I came here for had nothing to do with Daly's informations. His informations were in the hands of government very long indeed before that period. I am quite sure Mr. Jephson thought what he said; but were it to remain uncontradicted, the public might suppose Daly's informations were (as stated) kept back by the magistrate, when the real fact was otherwise.
I am, sir, yours, etc.,
May 20th., 1830.
so the reason for the absence of Patrick Daly's informations at the first trial
remains a mystery.
Case of John (O') Leary.
case of seventy year old John Leary remained in Daniel O'Connell's mind. On the
9th. of October 1833, he wrote a letter to Richard J. Littleton, recently
appointed Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in which he gave an
account of the Doneraile Conspiracy trials, and made a strong case for a pardon
and a free passage home for John Leary. The appeal was not granted, but Leary
was included in an amnesty on the occasion of Queen Victoria's coronation --
28th. of June 1838. He was then too old to travel home; but at the end of his
life he was not without company as two of his sons joined him in New South
Wales. He died in Sydney General Hospital on the 23rd of June 1839.
McGrath, on his release, became quite comfortable in Australia, and brought out
some of his relatives. Nothing is known, presently, of the subsequent history of
James Roche, William Shine or Patrick Lynch.
Willian Burke, who rode to Derrynane for Daniel O'Connell, died on April 7th. 1876, and was buried in Shandrum Cemetary, near Charleville.
Owen 'Clampar' Daly lived on for many years around Ballyhoura without being harmed. When he finally died, his body was found on the old coach road, south of Castlewrixon. By his side was his faithful companion of his latter years - his shotgun.
I am indebted to Michael Shine, of Doneraile, local historian, who gave me permission to take this article from a much more detailed account of the historical differences between the actual Doneraile Conspiracy and the account contained in Canon Sheehans novel Glenanaar. Also I must declare a personal agenda in publishing this account as the John (O') Leary involved in the above is an antecedent of mine.
Neill O'Donnell, Doneraile, 4th. July 1997