Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, charming, charismatic, ebullient, erudite, modest, humble, self-effacing, a right boyo, with a gift of prophecy, blessed among women, a total genius, scholarly, historian supreme and the wiliest of them all, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. The birthday of the boy from Barrystown on April 22nd should be celebrated as a public holiday but there is no need for me to stress that! My lecture on Patrick Pearse and the Easter Rebellion in the context of World War I is on Tuesday night May 3rd at 8.30pm in Clonroche Community Centre. I have made an intense study of the period and have an array of original conclusions on Pearse and the Rebellion. I have, also, endeavoured to put a coherent ordering on the various issues and events. As I always say, the past is a foreign country: the present Commemoration is fixated on projecting latter day agendas and philosophies back onto 1916; driving the cart in front of the horse. There is ever an issue of historiographical integrity: conclusions must relate to the source material; not merely to one’s imagination. The probability is that such imagined interpretations will inevitably and invariably win loud cheers but they are bad history. The Clonroche Historical Society hope to make their tour to Kilmainham Jail and Glasnevin Cemetery in late May. Anyone, from the south of the Co. Wexford, who wishes to join it may do so at Ballymitty (the car park, there). The worry of the Society is that of making up the numbers to fill a fifty seat bus. I hope that some people from my native parish will join us on the day.
I am quite sure that some of my legions of readers will bring some sea weed for my flowers.
From The Echo June 5th 1915:–
“Concert in Kilmore
On Sunday night a most enjoyable concert and dramatic entertainment was given in Kilmore in aid of the schools. The famous Taghmon Dramatic Class staged “Shaugharaun” which was hugely enjoyed and the concert portion of the programme which followed was most entertaining. Songs were contributed by Messrs J. White Bannow; Tom Crosbie, Bannow; –Fitzgerald, Taghmon; Miss Beza Burke, Bennetstown; and dances by Messrs M. White and J. Shea (?), Bannow. The finale was “A Nation Once Again”.
I am always puzzled as to how these entertainers traversed the comparatively long distances involved—on bicycles? In horse and cart? Walked? The issue of Ireland’s nationhood was invariably sung about at such gatherings; such emotions were an aspect of that genre of entertainment.
At the Duncormack Petty Sessions in late May 1915, on the motion of Mr B. Boyd (a member of the Bench), and seconded by the Chairman, Mr J. J. Roche, “a sincere vote of sympathy was passed with Mr Leigh, Rosegarland on the death of his brother, Major Leigh, who had been killed in action at the front. Mr Boyd said he did not know what would become of the country were it not for men like Major Leigh who so nobly sacrificed their lives in defence of their country and the Chairman said he could not die a nobler death.
All the magistrates expressed the hope that Lieut Boyse, a member of the [Duncormack] bench, who had been wounded at the front, will have a speedy recovery.”
Obituaries of the Anglo-Irish and Catholic gentry types who died in World War I usually invoked motifs of noble sacrifice. The obituaries of and tributes to more ordinary Catholic who died in that conflict were unadorned and probably reflected a lack of enthusiasm in the wider nationalist community for the Great War. Those who died in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 were depicted, in the nationalist/Catholic community as having made a glorious sacrifice, with mystical results. It was a time of wars (I use the plural deliberately) and different people identified with different wars.
The Wexford Independent on May 22nd, 1858, after outlining the details of a stock sale at Rosegarland, added in conclusion:–
“Only that space is somewhat contracted, we should enter into detailed particulars of the vast and varied improvements carried on by Mr Leigh at Rosegarland; but we shall take another opportunity of doing so. Farm buildings on the most improved plans are being erected; old ditches levelled and thorn fences raised in their stead with judicious planting; small parks giving way to extended plains; indeed one field of forty acres was shown to us that was occupied by forty-five small paddocks a few years back, which must bring several acres of useless waste into cultivation. Mr Leigh farms about 1,000 statute acres and bids fairly to rival some of the first agriculturists in the Kingdom. We heartily bid him God speed in his glorious undertaking and trust that his example may not be lost on the rising generation of our landed proprietors and gentry.”
The numbers of livestock, even on estates like that of Leigh’s, are surprisingly limited: agricultural productivity was then much lower than in latter times.
The Land League later charged—with what accuracy and truth I am unable to determine—that the Leveller Leigh—as they unkindly called him—was driving out tenants to create prairies of grazing land for his cattle and sheep. This piece is another indication that pre-1850 and certainly circa 1800 that fields were, often, little more than gardens in extent.
The Wexford on April 4th 1860 had a story of house robbery:–
“On Friday night the house and well stocked shop of Mr Colfer of Carrig, (Bannow), was entered by some daring villains and plundered of various articles to the value of over £20. The thieves, when committing the act, seem to have been in no hurry, as what they carried away was carefully selected for smallness in bulk but of the largest possible value. The entire shop appear to have been closely examined, yet no noise was heard, no dog barked, although the house is in the most populous part of the village. No trace of the burglars has yet been found but suspicion rests on the notorious Furlong, who was seen in the company with another fellow of bad fame, in the village on Friday.”
We have begun a long story! The Wexford Independent on April 7th 1860 reported that when “the Constabulary made captive the burglar Furlong and lodged him securely in gaol—great was the joy among the rural population who had been for a considerable time kept in a constant state of nightly vigilance at the real or supposed visits partook largely of the Flying Arab character. Again uneasiness is excited by several larcenies committed in Forth and Bargy, but they are of a petty kind and not amounting to burglary—such as clothes from hedges, fowl-stealing and milking of the farmers’ cows. Last week a long ladder was missed one morning from a farm house near Broadway and it was not long in the day when it became known that the windmill of Mrs Wall of Loughtown had been entered through a window about twenty feet from the ground and flour to nearly twenty four stone, with bran, &c, carried off. It is probable an inspection of the contents of the mill had been made by the thief on the afternoon previous, and the prospects were then inviting, but fortunately for the owners, many of them had sent for and taken home their sacks in the course of the evening. There are numbers of active young men and women, under various pretences of seeking employment or as travelling dealers in rags and bones, soft goods, &c, patrolling the country; but the honest business they can drive, by no means, seems to be a fair inducement to the protracted stay they usually make. The Constabulary are as vigilant as it is possible for them to be but a superior vigilance seems to be used over them by the Knights of the Moon and the Sylphs in their retinues….”
The Constabulary had legal power to arrest vagrants, going without obvious or professed purpose about the countryside. Other cases indicate that they were desperately poor—unlike modern criminals—and loath to work; in the harsh nineteenth century winters they resorted to the lime kilns for shelter and heat; many of them suffocated—or were burned—to death at these kilns. Short of erecting fences about the kilns it was not possible to deter them from going to the lime kilns, in which limestone would have been burned during the day.
The Wexford Independent on April 11th, 1860 had a narrative of pure drama and spell-binding excitement.
It initially noted that the gang comprising Furlong and his mother, his associate Coghlan, his wife and children had been arrested in a house at Scurlouge’s “having in their possession a considerable amount of property of various kinds, which was forthwith removed in the safe keeping of the Constabulary to Taghmon.” On the previous Saturday a Court of Inquiry was held at Taghmon, presided over by Christian Wilson J. P. [a first cousin of Jonas King of Barrystown] “and attended by J. B. Cooke J. P. and Constables Green and Whitehead and all the party instrumental in removing the property—also by Messrs Thomas Meyler, Thomas Walsh, Benjamin Wade, John Murphy, Michael Furlong and Edward Colfer [Carrig village], each of whose premises had been broken into within the last few months and property to a large amount stolen and carried away. On entering the store in which the goods were secured (which only for the good supply of bacon, beef, butter and lard with some spirits) resembled much a pawn office (only in disorder) each of the respective parties at once were enabled to identify a deal of the goods and property abstracted from their concerns and having lodged their depositions, which were severally read for the prisoners, the latter were fully committed to take their trial at the next Assizes.” The report rejoiced that “our county has been rid of as lawless and determined a gang of robbers as travelled our peaceful precincts for many years.” The rest of the story leaves no doubt on that count!
The obvious public query arose: how was Furlong arrested without loss of life or serious injury—at Cousinstown on the 22nd of March, in the open day, presented a pair of loaded pistols and threatened to shoot down two Constables, if they dared to advance in execution of their duty….”
The report revealed:–“Almost every day since the Constables were foiled in their attempt to arrest Mr [Sub-Inspector] Cooke and his men [Constables T. Green, Whitehead, Donohoe, Connors, Collier and Ward] were traversing, in plain clothes, the suspicious locales of the Constabulary district and were sadly led astray by respectable persons, who professed to know the object of their search. At length, almost wearied out, Mr Cooke on the 5th instant, resolved on making a charge on the house at Scurlogue, having some reason to suspect that some of its apartments were occupied, at that time, by the notorious burglar and being aware he was fully armed much caution was necessary. Having judiciously placed his men, the charge at the door was made by Constable Green, who after a few seconds forced in a small iron bolt on the inside, by which the door was secured and seeing a shattered step ladder laid against the loft, he ran it up, followed by Mr Cooke. On his head entering the apartment he saw Furlong rising from his pallet of straw, both hands engaged in a search at either side, as if for something. Green advanced with one eye on the mother, the other on Furlong, while Mr Cooke, quickly placed his pistol, capped and loaded, to the burglar’s head, commanding him to surrender, which so completely unmanned him that in a moment the cuffs were upon him secure. The straw was then searched and two pistols were found at his side, loaded to the muzzle, one of which is identified as the property of Thomas Walsh of Balwinstown. The other prisoners being arrested, the entire house was closely searched and the property already named secured.”
They were truly wonderful and fearless policemen. I am puzzled as to how Furlong could have expected that he would not be arrested. In that era, criminals would not have the high powered vehicles available to their counterparts in latter times, to travel away; equally the battery of legal defences available to modern criminals were not there then. The sentences were draconian with out remission for good behaviour, etc, et al.
At the Wexford Assizes in July 1860 Richard Furlong, John Coghlan and Kate Coghlan were charged that on the 31st of March 1860 “they feloniously entered the dwelling of Edward Colfer of Carrig, in the County Wexford and then and there committed a robbery of certain goods, tea, sugar, spirits, soft goods and tweeds, &c.”
Mr Ryan Queen’s Counsel, stated the case for the prosecution. Edward Colfer examined by Mr Ryan said that he lived at Dean’s Castle (sic) with his uncle, a shopkeeper—“keeps a general warehouse—remembers 30th March last—his uncle is unable to attend here—was in the shop, the last person on that evening—locked the concerns and took the key to his uncle’s room—shop was both bolted and barred as to the street door—was roused up at 6 o’clock and found the street door had been opened—two panes had been cut out of the window by which a person could enter and remove the door bar and bolt—being inside that could have been done—missed a canister of tea and soft goods, tweeds and Coburg cloths and ribbons—saw the articles again at Constabulary barracks in Taghmon—saw the canister with some tea in it—identifies it—that was about the 7th April—saw it with Constable Green—identifies the private marks of the Coburg cloths—it is the mark of the house—it is the mark of the house—identifies several articles shown him as the property of his uncle—saw all the articles on 7th April with Constable Green in Taghmon.
In reply to Richard Furlong, the defendant, Mr Colfer said that he never knew any of the prisoners “and had seen him only at the barracks, saw Ann Furlong before in Danescastle.
In response to Ann Furlong [the mother of Richard Furlong] he said that it may have been 14 or 12 months before that [the break-in at his shop].
Constable Green examined by Mr Johnson, Counsel for the defendants deposed:–“Is stationed at Taghmon and was there in April last; knows where Nicholas Coghlan lives at Scurlogues-bush, six miles from Taghmon; went there on 5th April; found two women in the house, one of the prisoners at the bar, Kate Coghlan; went up a ladder and there found Richard and Anne Furlong, the prisoner; for he was awake and he said in a low voice that his name was Mayler—he did not say he was Richard Furlong; found various articles produced on the loft and took all to Taghmon; the boy, John Coghlan was brought from Gibberpatrick along with his father, for they were not then in the house of Coghlan at Scurlogues-bush; found some skeleton keys and punches on the loft where the prisoner Richard Furlong was, and also, two pistols now produced.
In reply to Richard Furlong, the defendant, Constable Green said that he was given a name “which he understood to be Green; is confidant it [the name] was not Richard Furlong; Nicholas Coghlan was, also, arrested but witness does not see him now; he is said to be owner of the house.
In reply to the Justice, Constable Green said that it was a thatched house; “there was straw on the loft; cannot say if the woman is or is not his mother; he was lying on the straw and under him were the Coburg cloths, with two flitches of bacon at his head; produces them; he was lying on the Coburg clothes; the woman was at the window and she had some ribbons in her pocket; produces them.
Edward Colfer when recalled could not swear the ribbons now produced were his uncle’s but is certain some like them were lost from his uncle’s house; there is no private mark on what are now produced; is quite sure that is as far as he can be, that he saw them the night before.
Constable Whitehead examined by Mr Ryan—“Received the instrument, a punch or chisel from last witness on 31st March; saw the window where it was broken, 16 inches by 10; did not see anyone go through it but was told there was one who could and did go through it.
In reply to the defendant Richard Furlong—“Thinks a man like him could pass through.” Furlong was quite effective in challenging evidence against him,
The presiding Justice asked “what was the proof, for he could see nothing against the woman Coghlan and the boy, her son.” Mr Ryan asserted that she was the owner of the house but the Justice riposted—“Oh! no—not she but her husband [owned the house] who was not present.” The Justice (or in the legal parlance of the time, His Worship or His Honour) then directed that “the woman Coghlan and her son to be discharged, there being no other charge against them.” His logic there seems sound enough.
In a clever intervention Richard Furlong “stated he was only a lodger in the house and if he had the misfortune to be there was no reason [to assume] he had them in his possession.” The Justice accepted the power of Richard Furlong’s reasoning; he said “there was much good sense in that remark. Why was not the owner of the house produced for he might have had these goods, but why it was not for the court to say.”
The obvious implication of the above is that the courts would proceed only on the basis of strict proof and would conversely dismiss a case if any aspect of doubt was present: the sentences was awesome and draconian, so the courts were loath to allow unsafe convictions. My impression is that Richard Furlong had robbed Edward Colfer’s shop in Carrig village. The failure of the prosecution to bring Nicholas Coghlan to the court and thereby enable the court to examine and cross-examine him made it very difficult to prove that Richard Furlong had brought the stolen goods to the house—the owner could have done so, also; at least there was a possibility of that.
For reasons not clearly explicable in the report, Ann Furlong, the mother of Richard Furlong, was found guilty of receiving the goods. Richard Furlong was acquitted of a similar charge. There was no proof, as such, that he robbed the premises of Edward Colfer—although such would be a reasonable assumption.
In regard to the threatening the Constables that he would shoot them on the 22nd of March 1860, the jury “after a few observations from the court [the Justice]” found Furlong guilty of common assault—in my opinion a most lenient interpretation of his actions.
Richard Furlong was found guilty “of having felonious possession of the goods” stolen from the house of George Gillies of Ballycanew.
In sentencing Richard Furlong the Justice spoke of how he was convicted in 1853 and again in 1858; he sentenced him to seven years penal servitude. The Justice stated that the mother, Ann Furlong, was convicted in 1852 and 1854 “and afterwards tried and imprisoned for vagrancy.” She was, also, sentenced to seven years penal servitude or imprisonment.
One detail is enigmatic: respectable people led the police astray when they were searching for Richard Furlong. Were they afraid of Furlong or was it a matter of reluctance to assist the police in any manner? Maybe people were trading in stolen goods with him? The impression I have is that Furlong’s modus operandi was so blatant, so brazen, and so concentrated in a relatively small area that his eventual arrest would be inevitable; with his record and that of his mother, he would be an obvious suspect every time a robbery occurred. The Justice remarked, before sentencing, that Ann Furlong should have set a good example to her son. Towards the conclusion of the case “she entered into a long tirade of abuse against the last witness [Catherine Coghlan, wife of Nicholas Coghlan], her own son and all near her.”