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Transportation for Theft

In January 1848 the courthouse in Ennis held the trial and conviction of four men who were charged with attacking a house in the Clonlara district and taking away a gun while the owner was at church. The particulars were that John Liddy, Patrick Canny, Michael Hickey and Michael Skeehan, did maliciously assault the dwelling house of William Walsh and carry away a gun, the property of Walsh.

Margaret Walsh, the wife of William Walsh stated that her husband left the house on Sunday morning about half past ten to go to church. About a quarter of an hour later she went upstairs and saw some men with guns running across the field. She went to look for her husbands gun but could not find it. Next she heard the crashing of a window and then some men tramped up the stairs. They followed her into her bedroom, and one of them demanded "Give us the firearms or we will have your life."

She identified Liddy and Hickey as being two of the men. They continued to search the bedroom. They went through the house smashing the furniture and demanding guns and ammunition. She identified another of the men as Skeehan.

Then they heard noise and saw that it was Drury their steward coming. Mrs Walsh shouted that help was coming at last. The men cleared off. Later that day Mrs. Walsh was brought to see Liddy at Ardnanaglassy police barracks where she identified him. The servants in the house also identified the men as Liddy, Hickey, Skeehan and Canny.

Mr. Drury the steward said he was on his way to Mass when he noticed four or five men going across a field of tillage in the direction of Walshs house. Drury followed the men and as he approached he saw one of the men standing outside, then the others came out and he recognised Liddy who presented a gun at him. He followed the men and a group of people helped in the chase. One of the men went into John O'Hallorans house. A woman came out and Drury asked her if there was a stranger in her house but she replied that there was not. The police arrived and took the culprit from under the bed with a gun in his possession. Liddy was identified as being under the bed. Skeehan and Hickey were later arrested.

The evidence for the prosecution was then concluded. However there was little evidence against the man named Canny. The jury returned a verdict of "guilty". The judge sentenced them to fourteen years transportation.

The report of a special commission for Clare at Ennis in January 1848 by Blackbourne, Lord Chief Justice, and Pigot, the Lord Chief Baron states the following:
There were -

  • four trials for murder;
  • one for conspiracy to murder;
  • one for appearing in arms;
  • one for carrying away arms;
  • one for robbery of a gun;
  • one for posting a threatening notice;
  • one for felony;
  • two for attacking a house.

Ten prisoners were sentenced to death;
Five to fourteen years transportation;
One to seven years;
Seven to eighteen months imprisonment;
And five to twelve months hard labour.
Note that in most of the cases the jurors returned a verdict of guilty without leaving the box.

The Lord Chief Baron explained that these crimes "are committed by armed gangs assembled for the purpose of violating the law. In many instances, they are perpetrated, not under the cover of night, but in the open day, indicating that species of daring which too often arises from a sense of continued impurity".

The number of illegal and violent acts reported in Clare during 1831 was 3,280.

Homicides Attacks on houses Robberies of arms Illegal meetings
28 420 293 658

A New Hist. of Ireland, part 5.
Ireland under the Union 1801-70
Edited by W.E. Vaughan.

Extracts from The Times, July 1841

Extracts from Limerick Chronicle, July 1841

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