« PoprzedniaDalej »
witnesses, and stand between the victims and their persecutors.
I doubt if anything more terribly iniquitous than the proceedings which I have traced in these official records, is to be met with in the history of any modern conspiracy.
The High Sheriff in 1765 was Sir Thomas Maude; the foreman of the grand jury, Richard Pennefather, Esq. The following are the persons named, as having been formerly indicted and held to bail :
“Edmond Burke, of Tullow, bail £500; his sureties, John Hogan and Thomas Hickey, of Frehans.
“John Butler, innkeeper, Clogheen, bail £500; his sureties, George Everard, of Lisheenanoul, and James Butler, of Gurranne, county Cork.
“Edward Meehan, Clogheen, £500; his sureties, Pierce Nagle, of Flemingstown; John Butler, of Mitchelstown ; James Hickey, of Frehans; John Bourk, of Rouska.
“ Nicholas Sheehy, surrendered ; James Buxton, Patrick Condon, and Patrick Boar, out."
The preceding details sufficiently explain the views and objects of the prosecutors, and their temporary defeat by the terms entered into by Father Sheehy with government, by which a trial in Dublin was secured to him.
The trial, which took place on the 10th of February, 1766, in the Court of King's Bench, was impartially conducted; the conduct of the “ managers,” who got up the evidence, at every turn of the testimony, bore on its face the evident marks of subornation of perjury. The vile witnesses broke down, and after a trial of fourteen hours' duration, the persecuted priest was honourably acquitted. He had redeemed his pledge to the government, he had given himself up, stood his trial and proved his innocence. But no sooner was the verdict pronounced, than the faith of Government was broken with him. The unfortunate man was informed by the Chief Justice, that a charge of murder was brought against him, and on this charge he must be committed to Newgate. He was accordingly taken from the dock, removed to the prison, and, after two or three days’ imprisonment, was put into the hands of his merciless persecutors, to be forthwith conveyed to Clonmel.
The first intimation of the new charge against him was given to him in Dublin, a few days previously to his trial, by a person named O'Brien, who had accompanied him from Clogheen. Martin O'Brien, on account of his intelligence and prudence, had been chosen by the friends of the priest to accompany him to Dublin ; and he gave some proof of bis fitness for his appointment, by strongly urging on him, a few days previously to his trial, to quit the kingdom. Father Sheehy was then at large; he had been confined, for a few days after his surrender, in the provost in the castle-yard. He was placed under the charge of Major Joseph Sirr, then townmajor, and father to the person of less enviable notoriety in the same office at a later period. His innocence was so manifest to Mr. Secretary Waite and to Major Sirr, that he was relieved from all restraint, and the latter held himself responsible for his appearance at the time appointed for his trial.
While he was at large, he was informed by O'Brien that a person had brought him an account from Clonmel, that no sooner had the news of Father Sheehy's surrender been received, than a rumour got abroad that a charge of murder was to be brought against him. He recommended Father Sheehy not to lose a moment in getting out of the kingdom, and urgently pressed him to put himself the same day on board a packet for England.
O'Brien several years afterwards stated to my informant, that Sheehy smiled at the proposal. He said, the rumour of Bridge's death was raised only to frighten him out of the country, but he would not gratify his enemies; and if they brought such a monstrous charge against him, he could easily disprove it. Sheehy's arrival in Dublin, it is to be borne in mind, was only five months after the alleged murder, and at the time of his departure from Clogheen, it is positively affirmed by Magrath, on the authority of O'Brien, that Father Sheehy had then no knowledge of the murder ; and the probability is, that it was in Dublin a fugitive named Mahony, when about quitting the kingdom, had made the revelations to him.
Sheehy was conveyed on horseback, under a strong military escort, to Clonmel, his arms pinioned, and his feet tied under the horse's belly. While in confinement in the gaol of Clonmel, he was double bolted, and treated in every respect with the utmost rigour. In this condition he was seen by one of his old friends; and while this gentleman was condoling with him on his unfortunate condition, he pointed to his legs, which were ulcerated by the cords he had been bound with on his way from Dublin. He said, laughing, “Never mind, we will defeat these fellows;” and he began humming a verse of the old Irish song of “ Shaun na guira.”
On the 12th of March, 1766, Sheehy was put on his trial, at Clonmel, for the murder of John Bridge. Most of the witnesses who gave evidence on the former trial were produced on this occasion.
Nicholas Sheehy was indicted on the charge of having been present at and aiding and abetting Edmund Meighan in the murder of John Bridge. Mr. Sheehy had a sister, who resided in Shanbally, in the vicinity of Clogheen; and at this place, according to the evidence, the murder of Bridge, Lord Carrick, Mr. John Bagnell, Mr. William Bagnell, and other persons obnoxious to them was first proposed by Mr. Sheehy to a numerous assemblage of Whiteboys; and by him, all those present were sworn to secrecy, fidelity to the French king, and the commission of the proposed murders, and subsequently the murder was committed by one of the
party, named Edmund Meighan, of Grange, in the month of October, 1764. Sheehy and Meighan were tried separately.
The same evidence for the prosecution was produced on both trials. The notes of one of the jurors, taken at the trial of the latter, were communicated to the editor of “ The Gentleman's and London Magazine,” with a view to establish the guilt of the accused parties; and, therefore, the account is to be taken as one, the leaning of which was certainly towards the prosecutors, and in suppport of the finding of the jury.* There is evidence, however, on the face of this report of the innocence of the prisoners. John Bridge, the man alleged to have been murdered, was a simple, Irarmless creature, of weak intellect, and was accustomed to go about the county amongst the small farmers, with whom he was a favourite, and was looked on by them as a good-natured poor fellow, who, having no friends or relatives, had some claim to their kindness. When the head-quarters of the Earl of Drogheda were at Clogheen, he had been taken up on suspicion of Whiteboyism, or for the purpose of obtaining information from him; he was flogged with great severity, and under that torture made disclosures, which were supposed sufficient to implicate several persons in the neighbourhood of Clogheen.
The discovery of the remains of a man alleged to have been murdered, on the trial of the persons charged with his murder, it might have been imagined would have been a matter of some importance. But the fact, of the parties who swore they had been present at the murder, and interment of the body, having failed to substantiate the latter part of their statement, by the discovery of his remains, was of no advantage to the accused.
Dr. Curry, in his pamphlet, “the Candid Enquiry,” alludes * Gentleman's and London Magazine, June, 1766; page 370.
to a letter which Sheehy wrote to Major Sirr the day before his execution, wherein he admitted that the murder of Bridge had been revealed to him in a manner he could not avail himself of for his own preservation ; and that the murder had been committed by two persons, not by those sworn to by the witnesses, and in a different manner to that described by them. Curry admits this letter was written by Sheehy, but he does not insert it; and in his subsequent work, “The Review of the Civil Wars,” there is no mention at all made of it, in his account of these proceedings. Having obtained a copy of this letter, the first point to ascertain was, if the letter was written by Sheehy, or fabricated by his enemies. The result of my enquiries was to convince me that the letter was genuine. It was declared to be so, by the successor of Father Sheehy in the parish of Clogheen (Mr. Keating), to Mr. Flannery, another clergyman, living in the same place, at a later period. Dr. Egan, who then administered the diocese, had likewise declared it to be genuine. The present parish priest of Clogheen, a relative of Edmond Sheehy, believes it to be genuine. One of the Roman Catholic clergymen of Clonmel, who takes the deepest interest in the fate of Father Sheehy, has no doubt of its authenticity. Every surviving relative of either of the Sheehys with whom I have communicated entertains the same opinion ; and lastly, I may observe, the document bears the internal evidence of authenticity in its style and tone.
The following is a literal copy of this document:
TO JOSEPH SIRR, ESQ., DUBLIN.
“ Clonmel, Friday morning, March 14, 1766. " DEAR SIR, “ To-morrow I am to be executed, thanks be to the Almighty God, with whom I hope to be for evermore : I would not change my lot with the highest now in the kingdom. I die innocent of the facts for which I am sentenced. The Lord have mercy