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Daniel O'Connell and the Doneraile Conspiracy


Under the names of Rapparees, Whiteboys, Defenders,Ribbonmen, etc., the Confederation of Kilkenny was carried on through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries until the nineteenth. At various times the duties of these organizations were subject to local conditions. Thus the Defenders were occupied protecting themselves and their priests against the hostility of the Penal Laws, engaging in armed conflict with the Orangemen in the north, while the Whiteboys were waging war against the atrocities of landlordism in the south. Between these two organizations there was a secret code, which operated until they were combined, under the name of Ribbonmen, in the early nineteenth century. The contentions of the Whiteboys regarding Irish landlordism have since been acknowledged to be just, and have been enacted into statutes. The Defenders joined with Wolf Tone in  the formation of the United Irishmen.

     About 1825 the Ribbonmen changed their name to St. Patrick's Fraternal Society, and branches were established in England and Scotland under the name of the Hibernian Funeral Society. In 1836 a charter was received by members in New York City, and in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The headquarters were for some years in Pennsylvania, but in 1851, a charter was granted to the New York Divisions under the name of "The Ancient Order of Hibernians." 

In 1823 Daniel O'Connell, Richard Lalor Sheil and Thomas Wyse formed the Catholic Association. O'Connell turned it into a mass organization by inviting the poor to become associate members for a shilling a year. Catholic priests were encouraged to advertise the Catholic Association and were employed as recruiting agents.

The Catholic Association campaigned for the repeal of the Act of Union, the end of the Irish tithe system, universal suffrage and a secret ballot for parliamentary elections

"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.

Doneraile Events.

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.

Later, 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.

The 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.

 Patrick 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.

From 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.

 Writing 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.

Over 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.


The 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.

 Barrett 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.

 Ballywalter Shootout.

In 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 Daly.

When 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.

As a 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.

On 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.

 On 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.

 The 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,

Alexander O'Driscoll, Clover Hill.

 The 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.

 Judges Address.

Baron 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.

 Prisoners Charged.

Twenty 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.

The Court then adjourned until nine o'clock on the following (Friday) morning October 23rd.

 First Trial.

The 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 were Protestants.

 John 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.

 Prosecution Address.

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.

The 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 four hours.

 The 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.

The 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.

 Sheehan 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.

William 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.

 A 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.

 The 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.

 Nowlan 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.

 The 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.

Dr. 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.

The 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.

 The 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).

 Charles 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.

The 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.

Owen '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.

Michael 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 served.

 Thomas Murphy Examined.

Thomas 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.

Mr. 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.

Thomas 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 magistrate.

 Local Woman's Evidence.

A 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.

 The case for the defense then opened, and the first witness called was John Harold-Barry of Ballyvonare, Doneraile.

 Harold-Barry's Evidence.

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.

Harold-Barry 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 Whiteboys.

 Evidence of Dr. William O'Brien.

Very 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.

John 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.

James 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.

 Other Witnesses.

James 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.

 Arthur 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.

 The Verdict:

The 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.

 The 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.

On 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.

Daniel 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:

The 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.

Daniel 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.

 Daniel 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.

 Under 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.

 Owen (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"

 A 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:

At 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.

 The 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.

 A 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.

 Finally, 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 against him.

 Legal Arguments:

Just 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.

After 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.

This 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.

 The 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.

 Daly's Affidavit:

It 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 "Yes".

 O'Connell 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".

 It turned out that the document shown by O'Connell to Patrick Daly was nothing more or less than " the information’s" 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 information’s 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 information’s 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 information’s had not been returned to the Clerk of the Court, and that Baron Pennefather had to send to Doneraile for them.

 On 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 their saviour.

 End of Special Commission:

John 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.

The 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.

 Final Trial:

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.

The Jury at this trial consisted of eleven Protestants and one Catholic.

 They 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.

 Connors 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.

 This 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.

The 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:

On 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.

 They 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 satisfaction.

 The 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.

In 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.,

Michael Creagh

Doneraile, May 20th., 1830.

 And so the reason for the absence of Patrick Daly's informations at the first trial remains a mystery.

 Case of John (O') Leary.

The 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.

 James 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



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