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!! NY Times; Irish Life - 1880

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2005
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      New York Times
      New York, New York
      July 4, 1880


      DUBLIN, June 20 - The fierce determination of the Irish peasantry to prevent
      the reletting of farms from which tenants have been evicted for non-payment of
      rent manifests itself in various forms almost every day. A recent illustration
      of this temper is seen in the case in which a landlord, in self-defense, shot
      dead one of a violent crowd of peasants who attacked him. The true story of this
      fatal shooting, as told at the Coroner's inquest, is substantially this: Mr.
      Henry B. Acheson is the owner of some landed property in the County of Leitrim.
      A year and a half ago, while Mr. Acheson was a minor, a tenant was evicted from
      a farm of five acres on this property. There was a good deal of trouble about
      the farm and the result was that it was "condemned"- that is to say, general
      public "warning" was given to all whom it might concern not to take the farm,
      which soon became a waste. The fence which marked its bounds gradually
      disappeared, and of late it was a sort of "common" on which derelict donkeys and
      goats and cattle of neighbors browsed at will. Mr. Acheson, having recently
      attained the age of 21 years, resolved to do something toward rescuing the
      "condemned" farm from the melancholy condition of ruin and decay into which it
      had fallen. The first thing he resolved to do was to restore the fence. For this
      purpose he visited the land with some laborers, the party being accompanied by
      18 of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The laborers had been a short time at work
      building fences on the farm, which is situated on a bed of picturesque valley
      lying at the foot of the Leitrim Mountains, when two gun-shots were heard at
      some distance. The head constable in charge of the little party of Police went
      up a neighboring hill to reconnoitre, and immediately 2,000 men, women, and
      children swarmed over the slopes and descended rapidly into the valley. The men
      were armed with guns, pitchforks, spades, shovels and sticks, and the women and
      children carried stones. When this host came within a short distance of Mr.
      Acheson and his men, some one in the crowd shouted, "Now boys, take close
      quarters." The men closed in and rushed on Acheson and the laborers. The Police
      endeavored to intercept the charge of the multitude, but they were swept aside;
      several of the advanced men rushed up to Acheson, and one of them made a thrust
      at him with a fork. The head constable, seeing that his little force was
      powerless to protect Acheson, proposed to withdraw that gentleman and his
      laborers from the scene. The laborers ran away under a volley of stones. Acheson
      himself, who held a revolver in his hand, seems to have suddenly lost nerve, for
      notwithstanding the advice of the Police to hold his ground, he jumped over a
      fence and took to his heels. He ran with his life in his hand, for an infuriated
      multitude were pursuing him; several shots were fired at him, and showers of
      large stones whizzed through the air. After he had run about a mile a few of his
      pursuers were closing upon him. One man, who carried a pitchfork, was gaining at
      every step. Previous to this he had discharged three shots from his revolver
      into the crowd, and he fired a fourth shot straight at the man who was almost
      close enough to use his fork. That man fell mortally wounded, and died soon
      after. He was a small farmer named Meehan, holding a dozen acres of land, but
      was in no way connected with the Acheson's property. He appears to have gone
      with the rest of "the boys" on principle, to resist the refencing of the
      "condemned" farm. The car on which Acheson and his men had come to the ground
      was overturned in a dike. The Police pulled it out, and on it two of them
      followed the fleeing landlord, whom they overtook soon after he had shot Meehan.
      He was quite exhausted, and most likely, would soon have been overtaken by the
      crowds that gathered in upon him from all sides. The Police took him up on the
      car, and drove at full speed to the nearest Police station, thus saving his
      life, which, beyond doubt, would have been taken on the spot by the multitude in
      revenge for the killing of the man Meehan. The Coroner's jury, impaneled to say
      how Meehan came by his death, gave in a verdict that he died from a pistol-shot
      wound inflicted upon him by Henry B. Acheson. They declined to add the the shot
      was fired under provocation or in self-defense, his life being in danger.
      Acheson was taken into custody, and, of course, will be tried for the homicide.
      Another illustration of the prevailing determination on the part of the
      peasantry to "hold on to the land" at all hazards has lately been furnished.
      This time a woman is the chief actor. All through this struggle women have been
      very prominent in the lawless transactions by which it is marked. A landlord
      named Joynt, not being able to procure a suitable tenant for his farm, near
      Ballina, County Mayo, placed a man named Murphy in possession as caretaker pro
      tem. Murphy, it appears, recently went to America, leaving Mrs. Murphy and "the
      childer" in possession of Joynt's farm. Joynt thought he'd like to try and work
      his farm on his own account, but there was an obstacle in the way in the shape
      of Mrs. Murphy and family. Mrs. Murphy resolved to do as she saw a great many
      others doing with more or less success. She refused to quit the farm. Being in
      possession, she had the proverbial "nine points of the law" on her side. The
      landlord took the prescribed expensive and tedious measures to eject her. He
      obtained an ejectment decree, but it wasn't duly served on Mrs. Murphy, because
      of the difficulty of procuring a bailiff to discharge this humble, but just now
      eminently dangerous legal function in Ireland. The law's delay seems to have
      upset Joynt's temper. He called on Mrs. Murphy and not finding her in left a
      message for her with one of the young Murphys to the effect (as alleged by the
      latter) that he would shoot the whole lot if they didn't clear out by the next
      morning. Soon after this he called again. Mrs. Murphy was in, and received him
      very warmly. She slammed the door in his face, and informed him, through the
      chinks in it, with the blessing of Providence, she intended to hold the place
      until such time as Mr. Murphy returned from exile. In his efforts to force in
      the door, Joynt broke some windows, whereupon Mrs. Murphy, incensed at this
      destruction of property, came out and chastised Joynt about the had with a pair
      of tongs. This matron, though being enciente with her seventh child, corrected
      Joynt so very vigorously that he has now a severed artery in his head and a more
      or less fractured skull. The doctors can't yet say what will come of his wounds.
      Meantime, Mrs. Murphy has been arrested, awaiting events.
      When a man goes voluntarily or under compulsion into the witness chair in
      one of our courts, he must take his chance of having his whole private life
      turned inside out, although this operation has no more bearing upon the case at
      issue than the life and adventures of Dick Turpin. This fact has been painfully
      realized by one who, until recently, was a prominent, popular Irish politician.
      A telegraph clerk, who was tried yesterday at the Dublin Criminal Court, and was
      convicted of revealing the contents of a telegram which was sent during the late
      election in the interest of one Edward St. John Brenon, the politician referred
      to, who aspired to a seat in Parliament. Mr. Brenon took his seat in the witness
      chair, and in due time prisoner's counsel went at him, forcing the
      cross-examination. He succeeded in firing upon the witness the authorship of
      some essays on Dublin society which very much disturbed the town. They appeared
      in the London magazine called Mayfair, under the title of "The Morals of
      Merrion-square" - one of our very fashionable quarters. The writer of these
      spicy essays told his readers, in effect, that so far as the upper classes (with
      the habits of which he professed to be intimately acquainted) were concerned,
      Irish virtue was all political moonshine; for that, in fact, the "social morals"
      of the maids, and the matrons, too, of Merrion-square were of the freest and
      easiest. He implicates fashionable doctors and their fashionable patients, warm
      blooded dowagers and frisky Judges, and declares that cuckold husbands may be
      counted by the dozens in Merrion-square. These delightfully naughty essays were,
      of course, strongly condemned, and, of course, also, were extensively read in
      Merrion-square, where, no doubt, the residents of every house took it that they
      referred to the residents of every house in the square but their own. The
      learned counsel who was piteously dissecting the witness read the following
      elegant extract as a specimen: "Flirtations, intrigues, courtships, and scandal
      mingle in joyous revelry, sometimes even to abandonment, and notwithstanding the
      virtue for which the daughters of the Green Isle are celebrated, many an
      incident occurs that a certain esprit de pays obliges the natives to smother."
      The scandal is stirred up afresh by the sudden revelation of the talented author
      of the essays; Dublin society is shocked and outraged, and several
      horsewhippings are said to be arranged for the unearthed litterateur. But what
      all this has to say to the trial of the telegraph clerk is one of those things
      which it is not given to laymen to understand. Lawyers say it "goes to the
      credit of the witness; " they are very jealous of this ancient professional
      privilege of turning a man or woman inside out on "cross-examination" if they
      catch him or her giving evidence "at the other side" in the simplest case. If
      the learned Judge who presides attempts to limit the personal inquisition to
      some period short of the entire span from the cradle to old age, the learned
      counsel flies into a passion; raves about the duty of an advocate toward his
      client, and declares with appropriate action, that no power on earth shall ever
      prevent him from fearlessly discharging it to the best of his humble ability,
      &c. But the learned Judge seldom interferes in such cases; he usually slides out
      of the trouble by magnanimously "leaving it to the discretion of counsel," who,
      accordingly, hacks away remorselessly at the reputation of his helpless victim.
      One would say there is room for law reform here.

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
      Joynt / Joint Family Chronicles
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