Ballina, Mayo, Ireland
Wednesday, March 13, 1850
Abraham Lawson, Archibald Lawson, and John Lawson, were indicted that they
on the 18th of June in the 12th year of reign of her Majesty the Queen, at
Ballymote, feloniously, willfully and of their malice aforethought, did kill and
murder one James Callaghan; the said Abraham Lawson having given him upon the
left side of the breast, a mortal wound, the said Archibald Lawson and John
Lawson having then and there hiding and assisting against the peace and statute.
The prisoners who are brothers and occupy a respectable position in life,
appeared in front of the dock calm and collected. The manner of each was grave,
cool and thoughtful; there was no bravado or daring got up for the occasion, and
not a shade of fear could be detected in the countenance or bearing of any of
them. When called upon by the clerk of the court to plead to the indictment,
each of them replied in a firm voice, "Not Guilty."
Mr. French, Q.C., Mr. Close, Q.C., and Mr. Walker, Q.C., appeared for the
For the prisoners Mr. Keogh and Mr. Blakeney - agent Mr. Pollock.
Mr. Close wished to have all the witnesses put out of court, with the
exception of magistrates or professorial men- which was acceded to.
Michael Shannon swore and examined by Mr. French, Q.C.: - Knew a man named
James Callaghan; he is dead; saw him last alive at the fair of Ballymote, in
this county, on the 18th of June last; met him at the fair and went with him
into Gurneen's public house; deceased went into the yard and witness turned into
the kitchen to light his pipe; when witness had lighted his pipe he came into
the hall and heard an argument; Lawson and Morrison had hold of the deceased;
witness went to separate them and was struck by Lawson; saw Morrison and Lawson
strike the deceased; Abraham Lawson them came in and struck witness with a whip
when he was endeavouring to make peace; the third man then came in, Archibald
Lawson [identifies him] and struck witness and deceased; the Lawsons struck them
with sticks and stones; the young fellow in particular, struck witness
repeatedly; Callaghan thought to make out of the yard, when Abraham Lawson
pulled a knife or a dagger out of his pocket and followed deceased down with it;
witness was going to the assistance of the deceased when young Lawson knocked
him down; Callaghan then shouted out that he was stuck and murdered; a man named
Morrison then called out to the Lawson's come away, that there was one man dead,
and there was enough done, for the police were coming; witness did not see any
other persons in the yard during the whole time.
Cross-examined by Mr. Keogh- Knows where the Lawsons live now; they live
about five miles from Ballymote; did not know them before the day Callaghan was
killed, neither did the deceased know them; the house they went into on that day
was full of people; doesn't know if people go to fairs in this country upon
unlawful business; never knew the business of Captain of Ribbonmen; never met a
Ribbonman to know him.
Mr. Keogh - Now, on your oath, were you ever tried?
Witness - I tell you I know nothing at all about it.
Mr. Keogh - Are you one?
Witness - I don't know.
Mr. Keogh - You don't know whether you are a Ribbonman or not?
Witness went up to take a glass of ale, but does not know if he was there
six or seven minutes or half-an-hour; thinks he was something about
half-an-hour; when he went out he saw John Lawson and a chap named Morrison
striking at Callaghan; Morrison had nothing in his hand; neither had witness;
saw Abraham Lawton pull out a knife or dagger and run after Callaghan and stab
him with it; never called it by any other name; knows what a poker is, saw a
poker; on his oath, he never swore it was a poker; sore it was a knife or
dagger; knew it was because he saw the blade shining in his fist; would swear it
was a dagger and not a poker; is certain of that (Here Mr. Keogh read witness's
informations, in which it appeared that he swore distinctly that it was a knife
or poker, and in which the "shining blade" was not all mentioned.)
Mr. Keogh - There is nothing in that information about the "shining blade."
The shining blade was get up for this occasion.
Witness - There were not many blows struck until Callaghan was struck;
witness was struck with a tone about a pound weight; went to Ballymote fair to
sell a pig that day; did sell it to his brother, his brother might explain the
question of "frying a man."
Michael Brennan swore and examined by Mr. Walker, Q.C. - Recollects the
June fair of Ballymote; was in the house of a man named James Curneen on that
day; on coming out saw a row at the back door; saw Archibald Lawson and the
deceased fighting; the deceased had a stick with which he struck Lawson, and
kicked him out into the yard; saw the last witness (Shannon) knocked down by
John Lawson; Lawson had a knife in his hand, and he gave Callaghan two stabs of
it in the side; thinks it was in the left side; Callaghan said, "Oh! I'm
stabbed;" he then walked out into the hall and in passing through it he dropped
either a stick or a handkerchief; witness could not say which; on Callaghan's
stooping to lift it the blood gushed out; witness then said to himself "your
done" and immediately ran for Mr. Tighe to annoint him.
Cross-examined by Mr. Blackeney - Is a chimney sweep, and used to sweep
chimneys for the Rev. Mr. Tighe; saw Mr. Tighe in the town of Sligo on last
Monday; can't say what he was talking about, but is quite certain it was not
about cleaning the chimneys; is in the habit of going to mass; goes very often,
but did not hear of any collection being made to pay witnesses to prosecute the
Lawsons; never heard it from any of the boys; swears he does not know what
counsel means by the "boys."
Michael Kelly, Constable, examined by Mr. Close - Was on duty at Ballymote
on that day; in consequence of a statement made to him by Shannon arrested
Abraham Lawson; searched him and got a pistol on his person but no knife.
Cross-examined by Mr. Keogh - Knows the Rev. Mr. O'Connor; is one of his
John Cummisky examined by Mr. French - Was at the fair that day; did not
know Callaghan previously; saw him that day; it was about five o'clock in the
evening; saw Abraham Lawson with Callaghan; to the best of his opinion it was
with a knife.
Cross-examined by Mr. Keogh - Was examined on the inquest; saw Lawson
afterwards in Sligo gaol; was brought by Mr. Kelly, police constable, to
identify Lawson; had no conversation with Kelly after leaving gaol; but told him
he knew the man; does not recollect any conversation only he was told that Mr.
Kelly gave orders unless Lawson wore the same clothes he had on the fair day,
witness could not identify him; it was after he heard that he identified Lawson.
Dr. Lougheed was then called and gave testimony as to the nature of the
wounds inflicted upon them; they were of a nature to cause death.
Mr. Keogh then rose and addressed the jury at considerable length and with
great force, after which he examined Bernard Owen Cogan, Esq., High Sheriff,
Rev. Mr. Guinness, and E.J. Cooper, Esq., Markree Castle, who gave the prisoners
The learned Baron charged the jury, and went through the whole evidence,
which he examined very minutely, pointing out the various discrepancies which
appeared in it.
The jury then retired and after a consultation of about two hours returned
into court with a verdict of Not Guilty.
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News