THE CONNAUGHT JOURNAL
Galway, Monday, March 29, 1824
OPENING LETTERS IN THE POST-OFFICE
James Donnelly was indicted for conspiring with Thos. Ashenhurst, of the
Belfast Post-Office, in August last, to secret a letter addressed to "R.
Marshall, Ayr," containing a £20 Note of the Edinburg Commercial Banking
Company; also (2nd indictment) for knowingly receiving the said Bank Note of
£20, which had been abstracted from a letter by Thomas Ashenhurst, who was
employed in the Post-Office, in Belfast.
Thomas Ashenhurst (approver) proved that, in August he was in the
Post-Office, Belfast; he was about a year in that situation; his duty was to
sort and give out letters at the merchants' side; has known prisoner from the
third or fourth day after he went to the Post-Office; he was about the Office
with another Clerk; they were often together; Donnelly lived in an entry, off
William-street; prisoner told witness that the boys who were in the Post-Office
before him had been in the habit of opening letters, and were never found out;
and he encouraged him to do the same; witness opened several letters; in one he
found 5l. in another 10l. in another 3l. in another 2l. in another 1l; Donnelly
got one-half the money, by agreement; recollects one letter directed to Robert
Marshall, Ayr, which contained a 20l. Scotch Note, and a 1l. 1s. Note; gave them
to Donnelly next day, who proposed to go to Scotland to get the large one
changed, that it might not be detected in Belfast; he was to pay his passage
with the 1l. 1s. Note; he said to witness that he had his passage taken; this
was on Sunday, the 3d; he was to sail on the Monday following; when he gave the
20l. to Donnelly, the latter was to return to him ten pounds.
Cross-examined-Does not recollect the directions of the other letters he
opened; the date of witness's indenture was September 23, 1822; witness went
with some of the money to the Theatre; he was before the Grand Jury, but was not
told that if he told the truth against Donnelly, he would get off; was told by
his father that if Donnelly was found guilty, he (witness) would get off; his
father told him he learned this from a gentleman of the Dublin Post-Office.
Other witnesses were examined, whose testimony left no doubt of the
The Learned Judge summed up the evidence at considerable length. His
Lordship highly complimented Mr. Harday, the superintendent of the Glasgow
Post-Office, and the Police-Officer from Glasgow, for the perspicuity of their
evidence, as well as for their sagacity and promptitude. The Jury then withdrew,
and returned with a verdict of - Guilty.
This awful result did not appear to have been contemplated by the unhappy
young man, who did not appear to be more than 17 years of age. He appeared
petrified for some moments, and afterwards retired to the back of the dock in an
agony of tears; he was finally carried to prison in a dreadful state of
agitation; his moanings being distinctly heard in Court while he was conveyed
through the adjoining passages to gaol, occasioning a thrill of horror which
pervaded a very crowded Court.
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News