Listen Unto Me: The Trials of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, in Word and Song

Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were tried twice at the Munster Winter Assizes of 1882 for the murder of Thomas Browne of Dromultan.  At the end of the first trial, which took place on 14 and 15 December, it was shown that there was ‘not the slightest chance’ on the jury agreeing.  The following week, on 20-22 December, a second trial took place at which Poff and Barrett were found guilty by a ‘special jury panel.’


On 9 July 2021, the TV documentary series, Murder Mystery and My Family screened the story of Poff and Barrett.  Two UK barristers, Sasha Wass QC and Jeremy Dein QC, revisited the case and put their findings before high court judge, David Radford, who found the convictions of Poff and Barrett unsafe.


On 16 December 2021, Castleisland District Heritage submitted application to the Department of Justice for the Posthumous Pardon of Poff and Barrett.[1]  Currently, the file is with a member of the Department’s Strategic Policy, Planning and Research Team for processing.


The arrest and conviction of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett occurred early on in the period of land agitation that began in 1879.  Scottish barrister Alexander Innes Shand in his Letters from the West of Ireland, published in 1884, recalled the condition of Ireland up until then:


It must be remembered that till the commencement of the land agitation, whatever might be the feelings of the tenants towards their landlords, there had not been a single murder in Kerry; and six policemen, for example, used to suffice for the barony of Castle Island where now there are no fewer than sixty.[2]


The executions of Poff and Barrett would add to Castleisland’s emerging reputation as the murder capital of Ireland.  John Adye Curran QC, a judge in Kerry during the period 1886-1891, described the town as ‘a scandal, not only to Kerry but the rest of Ireland.’[3]


As Poff and Barrett endured a system of punishment for agrarian crime in its infancy, things would be no better for John Twiss, who suffered the same fate twelve years later.


19th Century Justice: Judge Charles Robert Barry (left) who conducted the trials of Poff and Barrett in Cork.  On the right, Judge John Adye Curran, who described Castleisland as ‘a scandal’

Justice Sought for Poff and Barrett


In December 2021, John Twiss was officially Pardoned, and the record set straight on the shortcomings of nineteenth century investigation and litigation in this case.  It is hoped that the same can be achieved for Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, and that their descendants can have the stain of murder removed from their family histories.


The 1882 trials of Poff and Barrett are transcribed below; the horrors the men faced in the courtroom as their lives were carried on the backs of their legal representatives must be left to the imagination.  The conviction of murder sought by the Crown was not achieved at the first trial, and so a second had to be endured.  On this occasion they were convicted, petitions for reprieve denied, and they were sent to the gallows to hang side by side for a murder they did not commit.


The people responded by keeping the wronged men alive in their stories and their songs; the miscarriage of justice would not be subdued by time or punishment, the people would remember. The injustice would transfer from one generation to the next until it would be heard, until the authorities would listen and concede that Poff and Barrett were victims of a system that failed them.


This collective cry is heard in songs of the period, one of which, the Poff and Barrett Ballad, was composed in the aftermath of the two trials.[4]   The words perfectly encapsulate the experiences of the men as shown in the transcription of trials below.


Richard Prendergast of Keel, Castlemaine, whose song John Twiss of Castleisland appears on his CD, Songs from the Past, has put the Poff and Barrett Ballad to music for Castleisland District Heritage.[5]  Please click the link below to listen.


Poff and Barrett Ballad


Come on you lovers one and all,
And listen unto me,
A mournful execution that happened in Tralee.


Poff and Barrett met their doom,
May heaven be their bed,
Their dying declaration –
These are the words they said:


James Barrett says: “I do declare
Before my God and Judge
That I never injured Thomas Browne
Or owed him any grudge.


I was not in the field that day
The fatal shot was fired,
Nor never knew the deed was done
Till after he expired.


I am a young man in my bloom,
I am scarcely twenty-five;
I never injured any man
As long as I’m alive.


In youthful days of manhood
I must give up my life,
Into the Blessed Virgin’s hands,
Who’s Mother, maid and wife.


God help my two young sisters
Who witnessed so much grief,
God comfort my poor parents
And grant to them relief.


Good-bye to all my dearest friends
Around my native place,
And when my spirit is at rest
Don’t throw me in their face.”


Sylvester Poff next handed,
The priest being in his cell,
A folded slip of paper
His dying words as well.


“Now I’m going before my God
Upon this very day;
I never injured Thomas Browne
Or took his life away.


There is one request I have to ask
Before I end my life,
I have a helpless family,
Likewise a loving wife.


I hope you won’t forget them
When I am in the clay
May the Lord have mercy on our souls,
That is all I have to say.”


Like soldiers bold they soon ran up
The scaffold grim and high,
You’d think that they were anxious
To know who first would die.


Their moments they were numbered
Before the trap did fall,
And turned around again once more
Those words addressed to all.


“We now confess before our God
Who reared us from our birth,
That we never injured any man
Or woman on this earth.


May the Lord have mercy on our souls
And we hope each one will pray
Unto the Blessed Redeemer,
To wash our sins away.”



Transcription of Trials of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett

First Trial
Munster Winter Assizes
Tuesday 12 December 1882


Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were arraigned for having, on the 3rd October 1882, near Castleisland, feloniously, wilfully and with malice aforethought, killed and murdered one Thomas Browne.[6]

Poff, on being asked to plead, said – I did not murder him no more than any man in court.

Barrett pleaded not guilty.

His Lordship – Are you both ready for your trial?

Barrett – We want counsel to defend us, my Lord.

Mr M J Horgan, solicitor, Tralee, said he had been concerned for the prisoners at the preliminary investigation and he had made out briefs for counsel at his own expense.[7]

His Lordship – Oh very well.

M Horgan said the case was a serious one and he would wish to have two counsel assigned for the defence.

His Lordship – I am afraid I have no power to do that.

Mr De Moleyns QC – The Treasury would not pay for two.

Mr Horgan – Then I would wish to have Mr D B Sullivan assigned as counsel.

His Lordship – Very well.

Mr De Moleyns QC – The case will be tried on Wednesday.

The prisoners were then put back.

Mr D B Sullivan said he had been assigned as counsel for the two men Poff and Barrett, charged with this murder, the hearing of which had been fixed for Wednesday morning.  Having looked into his brief he had come to the conclusion that it would be impossible for him to be prepared for the following morning in the absence of a map of this locality which was essential to the defence of the prisoners.

His Lordship – Have the Crown a map?

Mr O’Brien QC – We will have a map by and by, and if your Lordship thinks we should give them the map, which is portion of the evidence for the prosecution, we certainly will.

His Lordship – You ought.  Otherwise they must get time to get a map themselves.

Mr O’Brien – If your Lordship says so we will do it.

Mr Sullivan – What we want is a tracing – when can we have it?

Mr O’Brien – You will have it before eight o’clock this evening.

Mr Sullivan – That will do.  We will be ready in the morning.[8]

 [The trial seems not to have commenced on Wednesday 13 as indicated but on Thursday 14]

Day 1: Thursday 14 December 1882

Justice Barry sat in the Munster winter Assizes.

Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were indicted for the wilful murder of Thomas Browne at Dromultin, near Castleisland, on the 3rd October last.  The prisoners pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Messrs D B Sullivan and George Lawrence (instructed by M J Horgan, solicitor, Tralee).

Mr De Moleyns QC and Mr Peter O’Brien QC (instructed by Mr A Morphy, Crown Solicitor for Kerry).

The following jurors (the special panel being called over on fines of £20) were ordered to ‘stand-by’ on the part of the Crown – Messrs P Moore, P D Hogan, Simon Bowen [or Browne], Wm Walsh, Richard Lombard, David Saunders, Wm Ross, John Power, Patrick Cronin, John Richardson and Daniel McCarthy.

The following were challenged on behalf of the prisoners – Messrs Michael Russell, Wm Moore Hodder, Thomas B Montgomery, John Hannan Thomson, Wm Welland, Samuel Anglin, Francis Sergeant, Wm Wheeler, George Lamb, Henry Smyth, and Samuel Baker

The following were sworn as a jury : – Messrs Wm Walton (foreman), T D O’Brien, David Barry, James Adolphus Fitzpatrick, A B Cross, James O’Mahony, John Daly, Robert Fitzgibbon, Wm McCormack, James Scanlan, Francis W Allman and John Leader.

Mr De Moleyns QC in stating the case for the Crown said he was sure it was almost needless to ask their earnest and careful attention to a case like the present, involving issues so grave and the importance of which cannot be overestimated.   In all those cases they all had separately their respective duties to perform – all to a certain extent painful and responsible, and they could not allow and should not allow any morbid statement to interfere and prevent them from doing their duty.  Their duty in that and in all other cases would be to form a conscientious opinion on the evidence brought before them, and he (counsel) would not press anything or state anything that did not bear legitimately on the issue they would have to try.  The prisoners were charged with the murder of a man named Thomas Browne on the 3rd of October last, at Dromultin, near Castleisland, Browne appeared to have been a large farmer, industrious, hardworking, and bearing a good reputation; but he was something more than a farmer.  He held, in common with two other tenants of the name of Fitzgerald, a large farm, and was able to purchase the fee of it some years ago for the sum of £1,500, thereby becoming his own proprietor as well as the landlord of the other tenants.  On the morning of the 3rd October last he had gone into Castleisland, and returning on his way home through Scartaglin he went into the house of a publican named Leary, where he saw the two prisoners and a man named John Dunlevy, to whom he would have to call their particular attention.  He might now state that Dunleary (sic) had left the country and was not forthcoming; but he was in their company at that time, and at an antecedent period.  He would now give them a record of Browne’s movements in the first instance on that morning.  The prisoners and Dunleavy had been drinking in the public-house on that morning and Browne, who was there also at the time, left before them about one o’clock, and went to work for some time on one of his meadows.  Soon after he went to his dinner, and returned to work again to the same field, the one in which he was found murdered, at an hour which would be fixed as a quarter past four.  He would now call their attention to one of the witnesses to be produced by the Crown – a woman named Bridget Brosnan.  She lives near Browne’s house – a respectable woman, who earned her livelihood by performing little jobs and to whom Browne and his family had been always kind, and she felt a corresponding feeling for them.

Her house was also close to that of a man named Patrick Fitzgerald.  About half-past eleven o’clock on that morning she saw the two prisoners, accompanied by Dunleavy, passing her house and she spoke to them on their way to Scartaglin.  They (the Crown) would be able to trace the three men to the public house of Leary, where they remained from eleven o’clock until a little before three o’clock.  In the evening at about ten minutes or a quarter to four – the time would be specifically fixed, Mrs Brosnan went out of her house to gather a basket of rushes in the dyke close to the fence on the opposite side of the road bounding Brosnan’s farm.  The meadow in which Browne was working was separated from the road by an intervening field about 80 yards in breadth, and when a map would be produced they would find that nearly opposite the field where Browne was murdered was the house of a woman named Ellen Fitzgerald.  Having got the rushes after a few minutes she got up on the fence, which was about three feet high, for the place where she had been getting the rushes was upon the opposite side of the road from the fence from which bounded Browne’s farm.  She had to get up on the ditch to go down to her own house, and he might mention that this place is somewhat elevated and commands a view of the country round.  Just as she got up on the ditch she saw two of the men whom she had been speaking to in the morning, and whom she well knew, approaching her from Ellen Fitzgerald’s house, two men being prisoners; the two men having reached a spot convenient for the purpose turned to their left, jumped on to the fence, and went into the field adjoining the one in which Browne was working, and in which he was in a few minutes afterwards found murdered; she would swear positively to those men; knew them well, and had spoken to them on that morning; there were no persons in sight, and she would swear to them two men; and there was no reason to doubt her accuracy or interest in the question, were the prisoners at the bar; alarmed by what she saw the men do, probably alarmed by other matters, what had already happened in the district – possibly also some of those mischievous rumours which circulate through the country – alarmed, however, at what she saw occurring, she hurried down to Browne’s house, a distance of about 180 yards; saw Mrs Browne at the gate; told her what she saw, and urged upon her as much as she could, to go into the haggard and see what was going on; she went out in an alarmed and excited condition, suspecting what the men wanted to do.  So far, he (counsel) brought them to the spot of the murder; a boy who actually saw the murder take place, would also be produced, and they (the Crown) charged that the two prisoners being thus brought together to that spot and shots being heard at the same instant – several shots being also heard by Mrs Browne and Mrs Brosnan and the boy – the men being identified by one witness, and seen by another to commit the murder – they charged that the two prisoners committed this dreadful atrocity.  These were the material facts of the case.  The two men were arrested shortly afterwards and were brought up before the magistrates at Tralee on the 19th of October and before being conveyed back to the gaol after the investigation, the prisoners, with their escort, were placed in a room pending some preliminaries which should be complied with.  In that room a scene occurred, which would be detailed to them in evidence.  One of the constables, who was in charge, had his back turned to Poff and Barrett, who were sitting close together, Dunleavy being within three yards of them.  The constable overheard a conversation – a statement made by Poff to Barrett in reference to Dunleavy.  That statement, he had thought it better, and fairer to the prisoners, not to state himself, but would get it from the lips of the person who overheard it, and if he (counsel) was not mistaken they (the jury) would think it of considerable significance.  His statement would be clearer when the map of the locality was produced and explained.  He had only to say, in conclusion, that he trusted, if they were satisfied with the evidence of those facts, that they would give a verdict which the interests of justice and their own duty to their consciences, and to their country, would require.

Evidence was then gone into.

Mr Robert Denny, CE, was the first witness examined, and he produced the map referred to in the statement of Mr De Moleyns.

Bridget Brosnan, examined by Mr O’Brien QC on being sworn.

The Prisoner, Poff – Make her kiss the book.

His Lordship – Did she kiss it before.

Mr O’Keeffe (Clerk of the Peace) – She did, my Lord.

His Lordship – Well, make her kiss it again.

Witness (to Mr O’Brien) – I live near the house of Thomas Browne; on the morning of the murder I saw Poff, Barrett and Dunleavy were on the road near my house; I knew them well; they were going that morning in the direction of Scartaglin, and I told Poff that last winter Dunleavy threw a bucket of water and dung down on me in the kitchen; later in the day I saw the post-boy, Mahony, pass, and then I went down for a little rushes, down into Browne’s fields; I turned at Browne’s house and went towards the field where there was a little hollow; I was about two minutes cutting the rushes and got upon the fence to come home, and as I got on the fence I saw Poff and Barrett coming towards me; they leaped over the fence and faced up to where Browne was working; I then ran up to the gate to Mrs Browne and said there were two men gone into the field; ‘They are men coming from the funeral,’ said Mrs Browne, and as she said that I heard the shot.  ‘Oh Lord,’ I said, ‘he is shot.’  ‘They are fowlers,’ said Mrs Browne; the shots came from where I saw Poff and Barrett go down; I went home myself with the rushes and then brought a gallon of water and saw Browne’s daughter crying.  I asked what was the matter, I knowing it very well, and she said, ‘My dad was shot just now.’  I saw Barrett lying on the top of the ditch, near this place a fortnight ‘ganging’ there; after that I made a communication to Thomas Browne.

Cross-examined by Mr O’Sullivan – Barrett lives close to me on the same road; I could not say whether Poff had his dog with him that morning; I didn’t ask Mrs Browne who the men were when I went up to her at the gate with the reaping hook; I told her three men went into the field; I mean two; I never swore before that three men went into the field; I was examined at the inquest and stated at that time that Poff and Barrett went into the field; I swore it there because I was in dread of my life.  Now, didn’t you swear also at the inquest that three men went into the field?  I don’t say they did; I was trying to save them.

Mr O’Brien – There were no depositions at the inquest.

His Lordship – Why not?

Mr O’Brien – I don’t know.  Perhaps your Lordship would direct an inquiry into that.  There may be reasons which I would state before your Lordship.

His Lordship – Very well.  Let the Crown move in the matter.

Witness (to Mr O’Brien) – After the inquest I went to Confession to Father Scollard, and that was the reason I changed the evidence.  He told me –

Mr O’Brien – You can’t state.

Mrs Johanna Browne, examined by Mr De Moleyns QC – On this morning my husband went into Castleisland and returned at twelve o’clock and after dinner he was working in the field at the hay; that evening Mrs Brosnan came to me pale and excited and while we were speaking I heard two shots; I went into the haggard and saw two men going in the direction of Castleisland; they had not then reached the bog; that was about 5 o’clock.

To his Lordship – They appeared to be running.

To Mr Lawrence – There was a funeral in the neighbourhood that day; Mrs Brosnan asked me when she came up to go and see who were the men in the field.  Did she ask who were the men?  I can’t remember now, I am not able.  Did you say they were fowlers?  I said so, and Mrs Brosnan said, ‘I suppose so,’ and went away then.

To his Lordship – Mrs Brosnan told me to go to the field; I thought she looked queer and frightful when she came up.

Maurice Horan, examined by Mr O’Brien QC – I am a cousin of James Barrett.  I was at school the day Thomas Browne was shot and coming home from school I came near Browne’s field.  On the road home I saw two men coming away from Fitzgerald’s and going towards Browne’s.  They stood a little when they went into the field off the road, near where Browne was working.  Browne was walking up the field towards them, and then I heard the shots.  I did not see the men firing at all.  I only heard the shots.  I did not see Browne fall.  The men were near Browne, and after the shots the men ran towards the road that runs by Ellen Fitzgerald’s.  I went up to the field and saw Browne lying dead.  I know Mr Considine RM.  I said to him I saw the men fire several shots at Browne.  I saw them fire several shots at Browne.  I saw them fire.

To Mr O’Sullivan – I know my cousin well.  I don’t know Mr Poff.  They were dressed in black.

To his Lordship – I was not near enough to know the men.

To a juror – They were about the length of the courthouse away from me.

His Lordship – These little boys have no idea of distance.

Mr Denny, re-examined, stated that the distance between where the boy pointed out that he was standing and the scene of the murder was about 160 yards.

Dr Nolan, Castleisland, examined by Mr De Moleyns, stated – I in company with Dr Harold made a post mortem examination and found a bullet wound penetrated the bone behind the left ear, it passed through the brain and lodged under the skin under the right temple; that would be sufficient to cause instant death.  I gave the bullet to the police; a second bullet passed through the chest.

Mr O’Brien –Here is the bullet, my Lord, that was found in the head.

His Lordship – A very curious effect the bone had on it; it is quite flattened.

To Mr Lawrence – My opinion is that the bullet in the body passed from the front to the back; I don’t know Dr Harold’s opinion.

Bartholomew O’Brien, examined by Mr O’Brien, stated – On the day Browne was murdered I met the prisoners and John Dunleavy in the village of Scartaglin.  I went with them into Michael O’Leary’s public house; after that we went to the Post Office where we played cards; I think we left there at three o’clock, and then we went to Horan’s public house and had a couple of drinks there; there was present John Dunleavy, Poff and Barrett, a boy of the Lyons, and a boy named O’Leary; I then went into the kitchen, and after that I did not see Poff and Barrett; Dunleavy remained in the public house; I could not say it was a half an hour while we were in Horan’s; I remained there until I heard of the murder of Browne; Dunleavy was there all the time; I saw him talking to the soldiers.

To Mr Sullivan – There were a good many strangers in Scartaglin that day at a funeral from Listowel; Poff had a large black dog with him.

Michael O’Leary examined by Mr De Moleyns QC – I keep a public house in Scartaglin, and that morning Poff, Barrett and Dunleavy came into my public house; I went to a funeral and returned about a quarter to five o’clock and found Dunleavy still in town; I did not see either Poff or Barrett there.

To Mr Lawrence – Poff had a large black dog with him.

Michael Mahony examined by Mr O’Brien – I live at Farranfore and carry the post every morning to Scartaglin and return in the evening.  I passed Browne’s place at a quarter to four or four o’clock that day; I did not meet anyone on the road that day.

Sub-Inspector Davis, examined by Mr O’Brien QC, stated – I am the sub-inspector of the Castleisland district; Mrs Browne could easily recognise a person at the scene of the murder from where she was standing; the boy Maurice Horan was not in the next field to the murder – he was in the second next field, and there were two fences between them; hearing of the murder I went as quickly as I could to Browne’s house and having seen the body and examined some people, I looked at the clock and was astonished to find that it was fifty minutes fast.

Mr Considine RM examined by Mr O’Brien stated – I am the magistrate who had charge of this case; I was present at the inquest; Mrs Browne did not then state there were three men went into the field.

Mr O’Sullivan – Did she state she did not know the men?  She did not.

Mr O’Brien – What did she say?

Mr Considine – She said, to the best of my recollection, ‘How could I know who they were.’

On being pressed by the Coroner, she said, ‘I have told you all I know and I won’t tell you any more.’

Sub-constable Dallas, examined by Mr O’Brien, stated – On the 18th of October I was one of the escort that conveyed the prisoners and Dunleavy from the courthouse to the gaol; when I arrived at the gaol I took Dunleavy to the waiting-room, and Poff and Barrett were sitting about three yards from Dunleavy; I was sitting partly in front of Poff and Barrett, with my back turned; I heard Poff speak to Barrett and say in an undertone, ‘The smallest thing in the world would hang us, and Dunleavy could do that if he liked; but they would shoot him if he did.’

Barrett said nothing, but he made a motion to go towards Dunleavy; I then said I would not allow any talking, and Poff said in a friendly way to me that perhaps it would be no hard to let Barrett speak to Dunleavy; I told him that I was cautioned by my officer not to allow any talking, and that I could not permit it; afterwards I made a note of it (the note was here produced).

Cross-examined by Mr Lawrence – The conversation was after the investigation before the magistrates, when the prisoners were returned for trial; Constable Clarke and several constables were there at the time; it is a pretty small room; the note-book produced is the regulation note-book; I had it about a month before this occurrence.  Is there not a regular notebook issued by your officer in which you must enter everything connected with your duty and keep it until it is exhausted and then you are supplied with another?  There is no regulation book issued to us; we get nothing free (laughter); I wrote these words half an hour after in the barrack with pencil and afterwards I wrote over a portion of it in ink; I wrote the date, ‘19th October’ in ink.

Mr Lawrence – Did you make two other notes?

His Lordship – Is one a copy of the other?

Mr Lawrence – No, my Lord.

Witness (to Mr Lawrence) – One is not a rough draught (sic) of the other.  Just look at the other entries and tell me when you made them.  I can’t tell you; the first was the real entry; then the other entries are not real entries?  Yes; they are.

Mr Lawrence – I will read the entries – ’19-10-82 Words used by Poff and Barrett’.  Nothing follows that.  Another entry was, ‘19th October, 1882, words used by Poff and Barrett, and overheard by me: – ‘The smallest thing would hang us.  Dunleavy could do it if he liked to,’ and no more.  The other one was full.

His Lordship – Do you swear the full one was the first entry?

Witness – Yes; the first entry.

His Lordship – And were these intended to be fair copies of them?

Witness – Yes, my Lord.

To Mr O’Brien – I made a communication that evening to Mr Holmes, my inspector, with regard to the statement.

Mr Considine RM, recalled, said that on the next day the sub-inspector made a communication to him with regard to this conversation.

Mr O’Brien said they intended to telegraph to Sub-Inspector Holmes with regard to this conversation, and he would ask his Lordship to allow him to examine Mr Holmes in the morning.

Mr O’Sullivan – I may say, my Lord, we intended to impeach this constable’s statement.

Mr O’Brien – Of course, and that is the reason we wish to have Mr Holmes’ evidence.

Poff (rising in the dock) – I would wish to make an explanation of my words, my Lord.

Mr Horgan, solicitor for the defence – Sit down.

Poff – My words were taken down by the –

His Lordship – I can’t hear you now.  I will hear you afterwards.

Mr O’Brien – I would wish to ask Constable Dallas a question, my Lord.

His Lordship – Certainly.

Mr O’Brien – Did you make a communication, Constable Dallas, to Constable McGragh that evening with regard to the matter?

Sub-Constable Dallas – Yes, I did.

Mr O’Brien – Subject to that, my Lord, we now close.

The court then adjourned for half an hour for luncheon.

Sub-Inspector Davis was recalled and in answer to Mr O’Brien, produced a bottle containing some whiskey found in a ditch in the direction in which the murderers went; it was about half a mile from the scene of the murder.

Mr Sullivan then opened the case for the prisoners.  He said he should not affect to think it necessary to impress on them that this was a case requiring their most careful and serious consideration.  It was true that they stood in the presence of a dreadful crime, a crime closely associated with a certain social condition of things which they regarded with indignation and abhorrence.  It was to men in whose ears the narrative of that dreadful murder was still ringing that he should at the outset appeal for dispassionate consideration.  They might start with the melancholy fact that on that October day Thomas Browne was foully murdered by some men who, after having committed the dreadful deed, disappeared in the direction of Castleisland; the whole question for them was as to the identity of the assassins.  It was to that part of the case made by the Crown that the evidence for the prisoners would be distinctly applied.  And looking at the broad facts of the case, it did at first appear somewhat startling that at 4 o’clock on that evening in October, the two prisoners, undisguised, in a locality where they were well known to everybody, should commit this dreadful assassination.  Cases had occurred in which the assassins were undisguised, but that was when the assassins were strangers brought from a distance.  There was a total absence of proof of ill feeling between the deceased and the prisoners, and no reason suggested why the two prisoners should imbrue their hands in the blood of their friend and neighbour.  He reminded them of the fact that a large funeral had passed by that place some hours before, and said it was highly improbable that any men known in the neighbourhood should run such a terrible risk.  The case for the prosecution rested exclusively upon the evidence of the old woman Brosnan and her identification of the prisoners he impeached as wholly unreliable.  She came before them a tainted witness, who admittedly had on a previous occasion sworn to a deliberate falsehood.  The evidence of Mrs Browne, was that the assassins wore long black coats, but it would be proved that on the day in question the prisoners wore ordinary clothes, in fact ordinary grey and white frieze, worn by peasants in that part of the country.  Referring to the evidence of Sub-constable Dallas, as to the statement made by Poff to the other prisoners in the waiting room of the gaol, counsel said it was the most extraordinary evidences ever given in a court of justice, and was in fact perfectly incredible, and he asked the jury to dismiss it altogether from their consideration.  Having referred to the nature of the evidence to be given on behalf of the prisoners, counsel said that if it were according to his instructions the prisoners would not have to ask for the benefit of any doubt but would demand a triumphal acquittal at their hands.

The following evidence was given.

Mrs Browne, recalled by his Lordship, said that Mrs Brosnan did not tell how many men were there.

Mrs Brosnan, recalled by his Lordship, stated that when she saw the prisoners that morning they were dressed in their everyday clothes, just as they wore in the dock; they were dressed in the same manner when they entered the field.

A Juror – When did she give the names of the men first?

His Lordship – When she made her information.  At the inquest she said that she did not know the men.

Mrs Brosnan – Yes, my Lord, I thought I would not have to give any other oath, but when I went to confession I told the priest that I had given a false oath in order to save the men and then he said to me, ‘In the honour of God do not give another false oath and damn your soul.’

Mr O’Brien QC – You hear, gentlemen, what she says about the priest.

Mr O’Sullivan – Don’t sir, it is very improper.

Wm Browne, a respectable looking man, was the first witness called for the defence.  He deposed that on the morning of the day Browne was murdered he met the prisoners coming from their house and going in the direction of Scartaglin.

To his Lordship – It was about eleven o’clock in the morning and they had the same clothes on them as they have now – not black clothes.  I also saw a dog with them.

Maurice Healy was next examined.  He stated he lives about half way between the house in which Browne lived and the village of Scartaglin.  The prisoners passed by his house that evening about half past four or five o’clock; the reason he knew it was about that hour was because a postman (who generally passes by his door about four o’clock) had passed his house shortly before; the clothes they then wore were not black, and they went across the field, not towards Browne’s house, but in an opposite direction; they had a dog with them at the time.

In cross-examination nothing material was elicited.

Daniel O’Brien examined by Mr Lawrence, stated that he was a national teacher at Kilsarkin; on the week Browne was murdered he kept his boys late at school preparing for the Result Examinations and it was four o’clock when the children went away the day of the murder.  Redmond Connor and his brothers were in school that day.

Redmond Connor, examined by Mr O’Sullivan, stated he went to Kilsarkin to school and lived near Browne’s place.  On the day of the murder he left school in the evening, and went home through the fields, and after crossing the river he met the prisoners; he did not notice the dog; and they were dressed as they were now; he knew James Barrett; he got out on the road at the Cross, and saw there Mrs Browne and Bridget Brosnan; he ran part of the way; and going down he saw Browne leaving the meadow, and saw two men coming down to him; they wore long cloaks, and were up quite close to him; the men fired two shots, and Browne ran; the men ran after him and fired two more shots, and Browne fell; the men then ran in the direction of Castleisland; he made no delay after seeing the prisoners until he got to Browne’s; I was examined at the inquest.

Cross-examined by Mr O’Brien QC – I met no person before I met Poff and Barrett; I saw Mr Davis next day and I did not tell him that I saw the two prisoners; I said nothing at the inquest about seeing two men; it was after the prisoners were arrested that I told Mr Davis I saw them.

Maurice Connor, examined by Mr Lawrence, stated that he was with his brother, the last witness from school, until they got to the river; witness had boots on and his brother had none so the brother crossed the stream, settled stepping stones for them, and then ran away; at that place Barrett and Poff passed them; he remained talking to them a little and then went on, until about six minutes afterwards he heard the shots fired; Poff and Barrett were gone in a southern direction.

To Mr O’Brien – I never said a word about meeting Poff and Barrett until they were arrested; I did not see a dog with them, but they might have one unknown to me; I was speaking to Barrett’s father afterwards about the matter.

His Lordship – When Mr Davis asked you about the matter that night, why did not you say that you saw Poff and Barrett and to ask them as they must have known something about it.

Witness – I never thought of those men at the time, as I know they could not have done it.

Bryan Connor, the third brother, gave corroborative evidence.

Cross-examined by Mr O’Brien – How do you know it was six minutes after you met the prisoners that you heard the shots?  I walked it afterwards with a watch.  Whose watch was it my boy?  It was another man’s watch.  What is the name of the other man? (no answer).  Come sir, tell it!  Tell it sir? (no answer).  Whose watch was it sir?  Jerry Nolan’s watch.

Is he a first cousin of Poff’s?

I don’t know, sir.

Is he a first cousin of Nolan’s?

I think he is sir.

His Lordship – Why didn’t you tell at once the name of the man who owned the watch?  What reason do you give for not answering (no answer).  Very well, go down.

Mr O’Brien – I would now ask your Lordship that there shall be no communication between these witnesses.

His Lordship – Very well.

Mr Horgan, solicitor for the defence – I was speaking, my lord, to Mr Nolan who is instructing me here, and whom I do not intend to produce, and I think I have a perfect right to do so.

Mr O’Brien – Jerry Nolan is a baker in Castleisland.

His Lordship – Who sent you to Jerry Nolan’s for his watch?  No one.  You went yourself for it?  Yes, my Lord.

To Mr O’Sullivan – There were a number of police out firing shots and measuring this place, and that was the reason I went to Jerry Nolan for the watch; the prisoners are no relation of mine.

Hugh Brosnan deposed that at the time Browne was murdered, Poff had cattle grazing on his (witness’s) father’s land; on the day of the murder he saw the two prisoners going in a south-westerly direction; the prisoners were dressed as they were in the dock and had not black clothes on them; they came to the land for the purpose of looking after the cattle; they had a dog with them and went hunting rabbits.

To his Lordship – They came to the farm about five o’clock; Browne’s house is about half a mile from where they were hunting the rabbits.

Cross-examined by Mr O’Brien – I never saw them hunting rabbits there before, but they could be hunting there without I knowing it.

This closed the case for the defence and at the request of his Lordship.

Mrs Browne was recalled.  She stated that the men she saw running away appeared to her to wear black clothes; she did not notice anything in particular about their appearance, they were going so fast she couldn’t take particular notice of them.

The Crown then went into rebutting evidence.

Mr H F Considine RM recalled, stated he heard the evidence of the last witness and said it would take about 21 minutes to go from where the last witness described the prisoners as being to the scene of the murder by going through the place where a whiskey bottle was found; in reference to the place where the two Connors said they saw the prisoners, he said it would take 13 minutes to go from that place to Brosnans, they could go from the same place to the scene of the murder in six minutes.

The little boy Horan, recalled, stated he saw the feet of the men who fired shots at Browne; there was one ditch between him and the men; which was low; he could see their knees; the black coats they had came down to their knees.

Sub-Inspector Davis recalled, stated in reply to his Lordship there were two ditches between the previous witness and Browne.

Mr Lawrence then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners.  He said he felt confident there was no person more deeply impressed with the serious and painful duty they were engaged in than they were themselves, and without any preface he would address himself to the evidence of the case.  He asked them to say that the innocence of the prisoners was most clearly established.  The witnesses might be divided into two classes – one class who saw the men who committed the deed of blood; and there was another class who saw the prisoners at a distance from the spot and, fortunately, also saw the murderers escaping.  He asked the jury, from the evidence of the Connors, to say if it were not clear that the prisoners were not and could not have been the persons who committed the crime.  He (Mr Lawrence) found some difficulty in determining what theory the Crown presented to them.  It at first appeared as if they wished to show that these men had followed Browne from Scartaglin, dogged him to his home, and there slaughtered him on his own land, but their recalling of Mr Considine seemed to be for the purpose of showing that the prisoners after meeting the Connors went round the base of the hill and so came back to the place where the man was murdered.  Many curious things had occurred, and the feeling in the country was now so strong and vehement in putting down deeds of blood that it was incumbent on counsel for the prisoners to exculpate them by positive proof of their innocence.   His learned friend, Mr Sullivan, and himself had cheerfully assumed that responsibility.   They brought up a body of witnesses who went through the searching ordeal of a cross-examination and came out of it unscathed and unharmed.  It appeared that Poff went to Scartaglin to get a letter for him which he had been told was lying in the Post Office and there was nothing unusual in doing that in a country district.  Counsel said if there was a word of truth in the story of Redmond Connor the prisoners could not have committed the murder for he met them going innocently on their way in a southerly direction before the murder was perpetrated.  Other witnesses saw the dog with Poff and Barrett but the Connors did not say anything about the dog and possibly it was in one of the rabbit burrows at the time.  The fact of the Connors not seeing the dog showed the strength of their testimony and that their story was not got up to fit in with that of the others.  That was a circumstance, counsel contended, that ought convince the jury that the boys were telling a truthful story.  Then, as to the clothes.  It was proved that the prisoners were not dressed in dark clothes or in long coats; but the boy Horan said the men who committed the murder wore long black coats down to their knees and Redmond Connor, who said the same of the man he saw escaping from the scene of the murder.  It was not for him to say what the motives were which induced the old woman Bridget Brosnan to swear as she had done – whether it was rancour against the prisoner or due to the infirmity of her extreme old age – but one thing was clear, that it was not true.  She heard shots and must have known that a tragedy was enacted and yet in speaking to Mrs Browne she did not mention one word about it but said, “I suppose so,” when Mrs Browne remarked that she thought fowlers were about; and later on when she met the daughter of Mrs Browne on the road crying, and the child said her dada was murdered, the woman said nothing of what she now deposed to.  At the coroner’s inquest Mrs Brosnan said she did not know the men; and were the jury now to believe her after she had admitted taking a false oath already?  Counsel then referred to the three entries in the notebook of Sub-constable Dallas, with reference to statement made by Poff to Barrett, in the hearing of several policemen, when the charge of murder was hanging over them and the rope was dangling in their sight – which testimony he characterised as unreliable – and said that the entry now brought to bolster up a case which had failed in every other way.  In conclusion, he would leave the case in the hands of the jury, confident that they could not on the evidence bring a verdict, the inevitable results of which would be the ignominious death of these unhappy men.

Mr O’Brien, replying on behalf of the Crown, said a dreadful murder had been committed in this blood-stained district of Castleisland – a district over which the assassins had often stalked with impunity – the most blood-stained district in the annals of our country.  He submitted that the evidence produced by the Crown conclusively pointed the guilt of the prisoners, and with all the responsibility of his position upon him he appealed to them to act upon the evidence and not to let the prisoners to go back to Castleisland to riot in human blood.  There was one man in the court whom the prisoners’ counsel could have called upon but who was not produced – Father Scollard.  The prisoners might have produced him to show that Mrs Brosnan was not at confession.  He could have stated that, though he could not have communicated the secrets of the confessional, and if it was shown that she was not at confession then there was an end to the case.  When she was asked with whom she had been at confession, they would remember the graphic way in which she recognised the priest, and calling him ma crusha.  She said it was in consequence of the confession that she gave her evidence under the sanction of her oath and under the sanction of the priest who had a divine mission to fulfil.  With reference to Dunleavy they know that the moment he was discharged from custody he bolted.  He asked them would they rely upon the evidence of the boys named Connor as against the distinct swearing of the woman, Mrs Brosnan, for if they believed her there was an end to their evidence.  Did they ever see a little boy more dumb-stricken than Bryan Connor when asked about the watch, which he said he got from Jeremiah Nolan, to whom he went for it of his own accord, and though Nolan was in court he was not produced?  If the old woman, Mrs Brosnan, invented her story she must be a greater assassin than the murderers of Browne.  She was an old woman, fast advancing to her grave – the grave was near at hand and eternity was within view.  The prisoner’s counsel had her whole life to ransack but did they by a single question impeach her life with dishonest conduct in one single particular?  It was as plain as light that the priest to whom she went to confession told her to tell the truth, she having denied any knowledge of the murder in the first instance, and if the jury did not see that, let them abdicate their pretensions for intelligence.  The prisoner’s counsel suggested no motive whatever why her evidence should not be believed.  They were asked not to believe her after being with her priest, and they knew how Catholic people revere the confessional and they saw that how, with a touch of pathos, he would ever remember – how the penitent recognised her priest and for his (counsel’s) sake, and for the sake of the Irish people, he hoped that the country people – the peasants of this country – would ever seem to regard their priests with the affection and reverence which that old woman regarded the priest who sat there that day.  It was only when she was at confession that her reluctance to give evidence against the prisoners disappeared; it was she was coerced to tell the truth.  He argued it was plain the murderers were not disguised on the day in question for if they were, would Browne have walked, as described by some of the witnesses, towards them when they called him.  Was it not likely that those prisoners coming from the district of Castleisland – a district, if he might use the expression – reeking with human blood, would know something about making their defence and their alibi.  Something had been said about a motive; what had they proved in that court a few days since.  A party of men enter a house, shoot the owner in the legs, warn him for life, and no motive.  In one of the most remarkable trials that ever took place in that country – he believed it was the most remarkable – he referred to the Maamtrasna murders – though the men were convicted, there was no evidence of a particle of motive.  The prisoners counsel under the Winter Assizes order, could produce a priest or any man of respectability, to give a character to the prisoners, but they did not attempt it.  If they were to look for motives in this unhappy country nowadays as many and many a criminal would escape with impunity and their courts of original jurisprudence would become a farce.

They had been asked to discredit the testimony of Sub-Constable Dallas – to recklessly believe that he was perjuring himself to murder two men.  If he was doing so was he not a fiend in human form?  The words he overheard were the most likely that could have been used and to reject this evidence they should believe he was a fiend in human form as against men about whose character not a word had been said.  If they did believe him counsel asserted it spoke with the force of a trumpet the truth of the aged woman’s story.  Mr O’Brien concluded – if you believe that, then I appeal to you to do your duty.  Spare them not if you believe that they dipped their hands in human blood.  You are there to vindicate the law and to protect human life.  It is your duty to act like men, courageously and with that fearlessness which becomes your privileged position and shrink not to endeavour to free from slaughter this blood-stained district.  I submit to you that the evidence leaves no doubt.  I appeal to the love which you have for the sanctity of human life and the love you bear our common country; I appeal to the God who looks down upon you and me to give you strength to do justice in this case (applause).

The court then adjourned until half-past ten this (Friday) morning when his Lordship will charge the jury.

The jury were accommodated in the Imperial Hotel for the night in charge of policemen.[9]


Day 2: Friday 15 December 1882


Before Mr Justice Barry resumed the hearing of the Castleisland murder case in which prisoners Sylvester Poff and James Barrett stood charged with the murder of Thomas Browne at Dromultin, near Castleisland on the 3rd of October last.

The Crown was represented by Messrs De Moleyns QC and P O’Brien QC (instructed by Mr Alexander Morphy, Crown Solicitor).

Messrs D B Sullivan and G Lawrence (instructed by Mr Maurice J Horgan, solicitor, Tralee) defended the prisoners.

Mr O’Brien said that Sub-Inspector Holmes, Tralee, was now in attendance and could be examined if his Lordship permitted.

Mr Sullivan objected to any further evidence being received.

His Lordship decided not to hear the evidence and proceeded to charge the jury.  He said – Gentlemen of the jury, under any circumstances would I think it necessary addressing such a jury as I see empanelled in that box, to occupy time in begging your most grave and serious attention and consideration to the momentous issue which it is now my duty to submit to you for your final determination; but if any such idea could have entered my mind, it would have been entirely removed by the becoming alacrity with which you acquiesced in the suggestion that the hearing of the case should be discontinued on yesterday evening and adjourn the conclusion of it over until this morning, and thus you cheerfully acquiesced in an arrangement calculated to impose great personal inconvenience upon you, and I saw that that was the result of your deep sense and appreciation of the gravity of the duty that devolved upon you.  You were determined that you would not be hurried or allow yourselves to be hurried or hastened to any inconsiderate conclusion.  Neither shall I occupy your time in making any observations upon the enormity of the crime, the startling features of the crime, into the circumstances of which you are empanelled to investigate – to inquire.  To state that in the broad noon day, within sight of his own dwelling-house, under the very eyes, you may say of himself and children, a man engaged in the peaceful avocations of agricultural life should be shot down by a pair of assassins in a matter so startling, so appalling, that if we read of its happening in some distant country where the blessings of civilisation have never reached, where there is no law, no order, where the civilising influences of Christianity have not penetrated – if we read of its happening in such a country as I have described, we would regard the narrative with astonishment, perhaps with credulity, but that it should happen in this Christian country in the year 1882, is a matter that must strike with alarm the mind of every well-regulated man.  That Thomas Browne was audaciously and foully murdered on the 3rd of October, about the hour of 4 o’clock – it might be half an hour sooner or later – that he was shot dead on his own land almost within sight of his wife and children there can be no doubt at all and in the very able defence conducted by my friends, Mr Sullivan and Mr Lawrence for the prisoners, it was not suggested that the crime was not committed by two men who went in off the road into the field.  The defence had been narrowed, and I would venture to say wisely narrowed, to one question, namely, whether the two men who committed the murder were the prisoners at the bar or not.  It is a case remarkable in some respects as regards the details of the evidence.  It is a case in which the defence is what was known as an alibi and though that word carries with it something of an unpleasant meaning I do not use it in any such sense.  That is the correct, legal, technical name of a defence which seeks to establish that the prisoners at the bar were elsewhere at the time of the commission of the murder.  But the peculiarity of the alibi in this case is that the alibi itself brings the prisoners at the bar on the spot within a few minutes of the time at which the murder was committed.  In that it is a most peculiar case and as Mr Lawrence in his always logical and well-reasoned address pointed out, it was a case that did not depend for the defence of the prisoners upon more periods of time – he put it in apt language when he said it relied upon the sequence of events.  Gentlemen of the jury, I will call your attention to the leading features in the evidence but I shall before doing so simply premise that the decision of the question of fact, guilt or not, is entirely for you.  If gentlemen, in the observations I make I seem to point at any one moment to any particular conclusion, understand perfectly from me now that I don’t intend by anything that I say to in any way control or dictate to your judgment on the question of fact.  It is your duty to decide the fact; it is your privilege to decide the fact; it is the right of the prisoner to have the fact decided by the jury, and it is the right of what is called the Crown – the prosecution – to have the fact decided by them.  It is not my province, my duty or my privilege.  The question of fact is entirely for you and to your judgment, conscience and determination do I commit it.  His Lordship then proceeded to review the evidence.  He said that upon the testimony of one witness, Bridget Brosnan, the Crown case would stand or fall, for if her evidence was wiped out of the case he would deem it his duty to tell them there was no case for their consideration at all.  He need scarcely tell gentlemen of their experience and intelligence that there was no better guide in connection with the testimony of a witness more deserving of their consideration than the demeanour of a witness in the witness-box and it would be for them to say how far they regarded the evidence of Bridget Brosnan in a manner calculated to challenge their credence.  It was difficult to believe she was mistaken.  If she was not mistaken, she was either telling the truth or she was wilfully telling what she knew to be false.  Before they believed the latter, that a woman, such as had been described by Mr O’Brien in his powerful reply for the prosecution – they should come to the conclusion that a witness coming into court under such peculiar circumstances would conceive a project so diabolical as that; she would with wilful falsehood swear that the two men who entered the field were the prisoners at the bar whom she knew well.  His Lordship, having referred to the evidence of Mrs Browne, addressed himself to the testimony bearing on the dress, which the assassins wore on the day of the murder.  He said the evidence of the little boy, examined for the prisoners, was assailed by the Crown who suggested that he had been induced to make a statement which would tally with the evidence of other witnesses, but that was a matter for the consideration of the jury.  With reference to the evidence of Sub-Constable Dallas, prisoner’s counsel asked if the extraordinary conversation he had overheard was ever made.  Why was it not heard by other policemen who were close at hand.  Now the jury know that a whisper or an expression in a low tone of voice might be heard by one person out of eight.  They would have to consider whatever the words were used, and also what inference they would draw from them.  It was plain it was not an afterthought of the Sub-Constable, and it should also be observed that the conversation was used from first to last as evidence against Dunleavy and not against the prisoners.  His Lordship did not think there was any evidence, from which they were to assume that the witness was telling what was untrue.  Of course it was possible that he had mistook the words or perhaps that he invented them himself.  If they believed the words were used they should ask themselves what was their meaning.  It did appear strange that Poff would run the risk of such an expression where he might possibly be overheard, but however, their experience told them that frequently men charged with grave crimes conducted themselves in a manner extremely indiscreet and unaccountable.  The question was did he use the words and if so were they indicative of a consciousness of guilt.

[The prisoner Poff here stood up in the dock and said something which was unintelligible]

His Lordship (To Mr D B Sullivan) – Do you wish that the prisoner should be allowed to speak.  I will never allow any man’s mouth to be shut who is on his trial for his life.

Mr Sullivan made no answer.

Poff – It was I got Dunleavy arrested.

Mr Sullivan – I would advise him to hold his tongue, my Lord.

Poff – I need not be in dread of him.  I know he must have information wherein –

His Lordship – Possibly the best thing you could do would be to take the advice of your counsel.

Mr Sullivan – I think so, my Lord.

His Lordship (continuing his charge) said – If Dallas invented his evidence his guilt would be as great as that of the other assassins who shot Browne.  That he would now exhume this fabrication, spent in its own purpose with a view to taking away the lives of the prisoners, was a terrible suggestion to make.  Such things had occurred before and it was for the jury to say whether it had occurred in this case.  The first question they would have to ask themselves was did the evidence for the Crown, not encountered by any other testimony satisfy them of the prisoners’ guilt.  Referring to the evidence of the witnesses (Connors), his Lordship said if their evidence was truthful it was impossible that the prisoners at the bar could have been the assassins.  He also referred to the circumstances in the evidence of the boy Connor, respecting the watch, to his hesitation in answering where he had got it, and to the improbability of his story altogether.  They all knew from their experience in courts of justice – not less in recent times than in former times – that there is a facility in getting persons to come forward to swear in favour of a friend who was in trouble and as he had often repeated the result of their experience was men, boys, women or girls would be found to come forward – he would not go further than to say to strain a point – in favour of an accused friend who would rather die on the scaffold than say a word against their bitterest enemy.  It was not because a witness was produced in favour of a friend to establish an alibi that therefore he was to be laughed at, scouted out of court, or disbelieved.  Having drawn attention to the evidence of other witnesses, his Lordship said they would perceive all the testimony largely came round to what he originally laid down, that the case should stand or fall on the evidence of Bridget Brosnan.  Of course, any evidence tending to corroborate her testimony should be taken into account.  In his opinion the evidence of Dallas, in the absence of Bridget Brosnan’s, would not warrant the jury in convicting the prisoners.  They should take the evidence as a whole – they should consider how one piece of evidence bore upon another.  It was not disputed on the part of the prisoners that the two men Mrs Brosnan saw entering the field committed the murder.  The question was were they the prisoners, and before they came to that conclusion they should give the amplest attention and consideration to the evidence for the defence.  They had the contradictory testimony respecting the colour of the clothes the assassins wore, and which they would also consider.  If on the whole of the case they had a doubt – such a doubt as they would have in their ordinary transactions of life – an independent doubt – not one arising from fancy or cowardice or misunderstanding or for the purpose of ventilating some intelligence superior to others – that was not the doubt that should operate in their minds.  They were called upon to perform no other duty than one which they had been performing every hour of their life.   If they had a doubt on their minds of the character described, no matter what their abhorrence of the crime might be, the prisoners should get the benefit of it; but if they were convinced in their hearts, in their intelligence, judgement and conscience that it was the prisoners who committed that deed, they should find them guilty regardless of the consequences and he could only say may God direct them to a right conclusion.

Before the jury retired the prisoner Barrett was made to turn round in order that they might see his back.

After an absence of an hour they returned into court, and the foreman handed the issue paper to the Lordship.

His Lordship – They wish to have Maurice Horan, the little boy, asked if he saw Redmond Connor either in the field or on the road, and where he was coming from.  He already said he was coming from school at Scartaglin.

The witness referred to was then examined and said he was coming from school but did not see Redmond Connor at all in the field.

His Lordship (to the jury) – Does that satisfy you?

A Juror – Yes.

Mr Sullivan was about saying something when Mr O’Brien objected and His Lordship said every question to be asked should be asked through him.

Redmond Connor was then recalled and stated he knows Maurice Horan and saw him in the field where the murder took place shortly after; he was going out on the road at the time.

The jury again retired, and in half an hour the foreman returned, and made a communication to his Lordship and again withdrew.

His Lordship (to counsel) – The foreman has informed me there is no chance of the jury agreeing.  Do you wish that they should be called out and that I should put to them the usual question.  From what has occurred, I don’t see any use in it.  What do you say, gentlemen?

Mr O’Brien QC – We leave it to your Lordship’s hands.

Mr Sullivan – I say the same, my Lord.

The jury were then called out.

His Lordship – Well, Mr Foreman, you have told me that you don’t think there is any chance of the jury agreeing.

Foreman – Not the slightest.

His Lordship – Can I be of any assistance to you in any way – reading over any part of the evidence, or answering any question within my province?

A Juror (Mr Leader) – None, my Lord.

His Lordship – Then in that case, I discharge you, gentlemen.

The jury were then discharged.

Mr Sullivan asked what course the Crown intended to pursue with reference to the prisoners.

Mr De Moleyns said they would answer the question in the course of the following day.[10]


Day 3: Saturday 16 December 1882


Munster Winter Assizes.  The Castleisland Murder Case.  Mr De Moleyns QC said he might mention for the information of the prisoner’s counsel in the case of the prisoners Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, charged with the murder of Thomas Browne at Dromultin near Castleisland on the 3rd of October last, that they would put the prisoners on their trial at the present assizes.  He (Mr De Moleyns) would mention later on to counsel the time at which the case would be taken up.[11]


Second Trial
Munster Winter Assizes
Day 1, Wednesday 20 December 1882


His Lordship, Mr Justice Barry, sat in the City Court at half-past ten o’clock yesterday morning and resumed the business of these assizes.

Two men named Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were put forward again, the jury having disagreed in their case last week, charged with having, on the 3rd October last, wilfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought, murdered one Thomas Browne near Castleisland in the county Kerry.

Mr James Murphy QC attended specially from Dublin to conduct the prosecution on behalf of the Crown.

He was assisted by Messrs De Moleyns and O’Brien QCs, instructed by Mr Alexander Morphy, Crown Solicitor, Kerry.

The prisoners were defended by Messrs D B Sullivan and G Lawrence, instructed by Mr M Horgan, solicitor, Tralee.

The special jury panel having been called over the following gentlemen were sworn on the jury: Isaac Banks, foreman; William Ross, William Varian, Thomas Lambkin, Francis McCarthy, Samuel Anglin, Henry Good, Francis Sergeant, Christopher Croffis (?), Maurice Hickey, Richard Perrott, Henry Smith.

The following were challenged – Richard Edward Longfield, James Penrose Fitzgerald, Lace (?) Julian, James Johnson, William Banister, Thos Thompson, John London, William Henry Cade, Michael Russell, Peter Allen, Henry L Young, Captain Anthony Morgan, Robert Julian, Thos E Holland, William Moore Hodder, Richard Mason Croffis (?), Francis Herd, William Welland, John Sherlock, John Reid Kilner, B Creagh.

The following were ordered to stand by: Myles Regan, John McCarthy BL, Grand Parade; Peter O’Neill, James Wise, Michael Daly, Richard Lombard, Thomas Ryall, Abraham Adams Hargrave, Patrick Moore, James Lane, Jeremiah Carey, Thomas Walsh, Robert Rice, Daniel Arnold, Patrick Walsh, David Saunders, Michael Buckley, Joseph W Hitchey, Daniel Flynn, Wm J Kelly, John Richardson, Ruben Harvey Jackson, Wm Ahern, Patrick Daniel Hogan, John Byrne, Patrick Cronin, John Banks, Simon Bowen, John O’Brien, Edmund Connors.

Mr Murphy, in opening the case for the prosecution, said the jury had heard the charge that had been preferred against the prisoners at the bar.  It was that of wilful murder, or what he might call the assassination of a man named Browne in a place in the county Kerry near Castleisland  third day of October last.

He was sure it was unnecessary for him to tell gentlemen of their intelligence that the highest order of intelligence is as necessary in the consideration of this kind on their part as it was necessary on the part of the distinguished judge who presides here to aid and direct the jury so far as he could by his legal experience and skill.  They (the jury) had been selected under special circumstances as special jurors for the trial of criminal cases in this country at present.  There should be a selection used on such an occasion in order to get men qualified to sit as special jurors and also for those who are qualified by their position in life to discharge that duty; and further, selection had been made so far as those who conduct the prosecutions on behalf of the public are enabled to do so to have men of intelligence, firmness and independence and men who, they trusted, would discharge their duty with conscientiousness and intrepidity.  But, as he had said just now, it was he was sure unnecessary for him to say that it required eminently careful consideration on their part as well as the evidence that will be offered on behalf of the prosecution as any that can and may be offered on behalf of the prisoners and that they would bestow on the case that would be made for them or would be urged on their behalf and he was sure that everything would be urged that ability and ingenuity could suggest by his learned friends, who he was glad to see conducting their defence in the case.

They would give due weight and consideration to all that would be urged on the prisoners’ behalf as well as on behalf of those who would conduct the prosecution and if, after having heard the evidence in the case, and applying the best judgment and consideration that they were endowed with to it, they arrived at a satisfactory conclusion with respect to the guilt of the prisoners, they were bound to declare that conclusion on their verdict and if they entertained a reasonable, manly and honest doubt on the question, they were called upon to bring in a verdict of not guilty in favour of the prisoners.  He now wished, first, to state to them some facts that would be established to their satisfaction beyond doubt with respect to the circumstances under which this murder took place.  This unfortunate man, Thomas Browne, had been with two other tenants named Fitzgerald, tenant to a gentleman to whom he believed they had each to pay a rent of about £40 a year.  The land was subject to some head rent, and Browne some time since became purchaser from this gentleman who was the immediate landlord of him and the others, for some £1,500 and so he became the landlord of his ex-tenants.  Now save that he had put himself in that position, and that having got into that position, it might be supposed that he had acquired some unwarrantable status in the country, they (the Crown) knew of no other reason to account for Browne’s assassination.  He was, he believed, a man who was on kindly terms with his neighbours, ready to do acts of kindness towards those who were poor about him.  But there is no doubt that the order went out for the assassination of Browne, and that it sprang from some secret organisation or confederacy, which had he regretted to say, exhibited their power and their dispositions too often before with impunity in assassinations committed in the broad noon day in that same district and rendered the place as it had been called by one of his learned friends, and very properly designated, a blood stained district, that seemed to be almost accursed from Heaven from the way that the demon of assassination ranged there with impunity.  When a terrible degradation of that kind or demoralisation arose in a district when humanity itself seemed to be effaced and a vast proportion of the inhabitations – God forbid that they did suppose for a moment that in a large district the whole population were ready at once to be aiders and abettors in fearful crimes of this kind, and that they became so suddenly lost to a sense of religion, morality and humanity itself, or to take part in those deeds – are placed by a few bad men, a mere handful of assassins, in a state of terror and alarm that utterly deprived the public and those connected with the public peace and order of the country from any chance of obtaining information that might lead to the successful prosecution or pursuit of those criminals, and they would be satisfied in this case that the assassination of poor Browne, which took place between 4 and 5 o’clock, near to 4 perhaps, in clear daylight, in the afternoon of the 3rd October, was perpetrated by some persons who considered that they had a position in the district and that they had it so completely under their control and terror that no matter who might have been the spectators of the deed they would not on the peril of their own lives dare so utter a word against them.  It would be idle to suppose that strangers could come from a distance from circumstances they would [page torn illeg]

… home before two o’clock and then went out a little distance from the house himself in order to collect some hay in the meadow that had been scattered about by a storm that had taken place a day or two before that.  There resided tolerably close to his house a very poor and aged woman.  She lived by herself.  She was one of the old women in the country going about occasionally from house to house.  She knew well and was known to everyone in the neighbourhood.  He believed that they would find that she was blameless in life, she was very aged, about seventy years.  She had frequently been indebted to Mrs Browne for little acts of kindness, and there was no doubt that this woman Brosnan apprehended that day from what she had seen, as he should describe to them immediately, some danger to Browne.  She felt that murder was in the air!  In the early part of the day, and this would be beyond all doubt, she had seen going into Scartaglin together three persons – the two prisoners, Sylvester Poff, who was comparatively a stranger in the place, his cousin the other prisoner Barrett, and a man named Dunleavy.  So far as they could see they had no regular business that day in Scartaglin.  They had no, he was going to say, joint occupation or pursuit unless the plan to assassinate Thomas Browne, which he thought they would be satisfied was their joint occupation and pursuit on that day.  They had no other so far as they could ascertain, legitimate business there.  In the town of Castleisland on the same day there were two men named Fitzgerald.  Their names would necessarily be drawn into the case.  They were the other two tenants that had been joint tenants with Browne.  When he became landlord it was well known that an unfriendly feeling existed between Browne and them.  Dunleavy, Poff and Barrett remained in Scartaglin during the day knocking about.  Poff and Barrett left Scartaglin together and beyond all question they were at the place where the murder took place and substantially at the time that it occurred.  When the three men were going in the morning into Scartaglin, old Mrs Brosnan had seen them and they knew her.  She conversed with them before they entered the village.  It so happened – and he thought one might certainly be allowed to use the term that it providentially happened – that just before the time of poor Browne’s assassination, some little business – he believed cutting rushes – brought the poor creature from her house.  She had been engaged in a fence trying to get a bundle of rushes on her back when she observed two persons whom she knew coming along the road and crossing a fence into one of Browne’s fields.  She knew poor Browne was in the meadow and, apprehensive of danger to Browne, she rushed to his wife and her house.  Mrs Browne would describe to them the appearance of the old woman Brosnan.  She was pale and terrified and while yet they were speaking, shots were heard fired from the meadow or from the field where poor Browne was.  Those were the shots that had caused instantaneous death to poor Browne.  He lay a murdered man on his own field while the woman Brosnan was yet speaking to his wife.  The old woman knew then her mission was in vain.  When she had run to the house she had some hope that help was at hand but it was soon put an end to and what followed was the wail and cry of the children when they found their father lay a murdered man in the field.  An inquest was held.  This old woman was before the coroner, paralysed of course with terror.  She concealed what she knew.  She afterwards sought her priest and after that she made known what she knew about the men she had seen crossing the fence and who were undoubtedly the persons who perpetrated the foul crime that had been committed on that day.  They knew that in any district which had become overspread – as this unhappy region had been – with crime, a place where there had been as much peace and security until recent times, as could be found in any other country perhaps in Europe.

But in any district of the kind, no matter how careful and intelligent the police might be, who would go to investigate and endeavour to track out crimes of that kind, if the people surrounding the place were not ready to give aid and assistance, and to supply them with information, all their efforts were likely to be vain; but if they were aided by the sympathy of the people, if there was once enlisted on the side of order, on the side of justice and humanity, the feeling of the people in a district of this kind, the wretched paltry few of the assassins who kept it in a constant state of hellish terror and alarm, would be eventually destroyed in the course of one week.  The aged and the young in a district – and in no country could there be found more intelligence than in their own – if they choose to assist those who are in pursuit of crime, and if they availed of the inculcations received from priest, or any other source that it was a crime, it was a sin, and there would be guilt on their own soul to be privy to or witnesses of outrage and crime, and not make known the perpetrators, they might believe him that the country would soon be peaceable and property and life rendered sure without much aid from military and police.  The woman, Mrs Brosnan, should come forward.  Her soul was burdened with the guilty secret.  Browne and his family had been benefactors of her.  She had, he might say, witnessed the slaughter – at least she saw the murderers go towards the place where Browne was slaughtered.  She determined to relieve herself of the guilt that was on her soul and she came forward and gave evidence against the prisoners.  The murder was almost more closely witnessed by a little boy who would be examined – a sharp boy, perhaps, prematurely – sharp and shrewd, perhaps unfortunately too shrewd; for alas, it was one of the evil effects of the demoralisation that comes on in a district where crime and outrage flourish, that the very young, on entering the threshold of life, had their lives polluted and corrupted by being made familiar with outrages, with slaughter, and other foul crimes.  In all probability the jury and his Lordship would be satisfied when that little boy was produced, that he may know more than he would choose or perhaps would be allowed to tell.  But they would be satisfied that he saw two men go into the field in which Browne was.  The field that adjoined the road was not the meadow field.  There was a gap leading from it into the one in which Browne was at work.  They were perfectly undisguised and that fact was of vital importance in the case.  They must have been well known to Browne himself.  They could not have been strangers.  The poor fellow had reason to be apprehensive but perhaps no reason to be apprehensive of any danger from the prisoners.  He knew them well and they were not strangers.  It would be shown that they called the poor victim towards them at a distance and he approached, and it was perfectly evident he must have seen them producing the revolvers with which he was shot, perhaps at the time telling him his doom was sealed, for he was seen to raise his hat as if uttering to them or to Him who was over them a prayer for mercy which he did not receive.  He thought, perhaps, they had some friendly message for him, and he went towards them but if they were strangers he would at least have remained where he was.  It was perfectly plain they were not disguised for if they dressed in any unusual way it would at once have excited his alarm.  The evidence of Mrs Brosnan was clear as to the men having no disguise and the evidence of the boy, Horan, if truthfully given, would satisfy them of the same fact.  His learned friends (the counsel for the prisoners) could examine and inquire into the whole life of that woman for the purpose of seeing whether she had any possible earthly motive for making false accusations against the prisoners or any other living being in relation to the matter.  If the jury saw she had none, that she gave her evidence merely as a duty towards her religion and her God in order that she might not be sent to the grave with the sin upon her being of being an eye-witness – he might call her – if the assassination and not having brought home their understanding.  The men who commit crimes of this kind rely on the sympathy of the people in the district or the terror that they might have inspired in the neighbourhood which had become so familiar with deeds of that kind as to consider it an act of virtue or heroism in the country to commit an assassination and who acquired their importance and position by being the perpetrators of foul deeds and who deemed it necessary for perhaps very trifling motives to continue on in the way of their trade – what they had made a trade of themselves.  Persons who commit crimes of that kind of course arranged beforehand for some sort of a defence, and of course the one most likely to suggest itself to them would be an alibi and an alibi was the defence in the present case.  It would be very strange if strangers knew Browne was in his meadow and when he returned from Scartaglin that he was [page torn illeg]

… act of committing the foul deed they think it very hard that those who are the chief instigators should not be involved in the same difficulty as themselves, and perhaps it was one of the chief securities they had and one of the most healthful symptoms of the times tending to the discovery of crime that any unholy league or alliance struck up between persons like the prisoners had not the stability or fidelity that true friendship had, and they would have no doubt that that was the position of the prisoners.  Poff, one of the prisoners, on the 25th Oct, when he was in custody, requested to see the resident magistrate, who was conducting an investigation in that case for the purpose of making a statement of the circumstances under which the murder was committed.  His voluntary statement was taken down in writing and read over to him by the resident magistrate.  He says, ‘On my way to Scartaglin on Tuesday morning, the 3rd of October, I met James Barrett and John Dunleavy in Pat Fitzgerald’s haggart.’  Now, they had Poff and Barrett and Dunleavy at Fitzgerald’s house that morning.  On his own statement, Fitzgerald’s house was not far from theirs.  Fitzgerald was not there that day, but perhaps Fitzgerald thought he ought to be.  ‘I asked them to come down to Scartaglin and they went down a bit of the road.’  Dunleavy said, ‘This is a bad place to be today, because I was told the night before to keep out of the way for Browne was to be shot.’  There were the miracles.  Mrs Brosnan knew nothing of this.  The three were together and murder was in the air.  They met in Fitzgerald’s haggard.  Fitzgerald was a tenant who had not been on good terms with Browne.  The statement continued, ‘Paddy Fitzgerald and his cousin have gone to town (Castleisland) and perhaps after all he may not be shot at all.  We would have some conversation but that we met Mrs Brosnan.’  Very significant all this, and if ever the term providential could be applied to any concurrence of events unexpected, that established the guilt of the perpetrators of that foul crime, it may be applied to the mere casual circumstance that this poor creature at the time these two men were going over the fence to commit the deed of slaughter got up on the fence to place the bundle of rushes on her back, for had she remained down where she was, or had she even had time to have gone out on the road, she would not have had them in view as she had.  Only for meeting Mrs Brosnan the deed might have been done earlier.  And notwithstanding that the place was ‘a bad place,’ they returned to it in the nick of time, and Dunleavy had been left after them in Scartaglin to arrange about an alibi.  Poff and Barrett are first cousins, and they perhaps were chosen for the deed for the very reason that they were first cousins, and that one might not break on the other, and perhaps for that reason they were both anxious to point to Dunleavy or Fitzgerald, thinking that their guilt could be established and that they might be substituted in the charge for themselves.  The good boys who were warning each other in the morning about the ‘bad place’ are at that ‘bad place’ at a quarter or twenty minutes past four o’clock as Browne is shot.

They were true prophets, and there was no prophet so true as the man who takes care to carry out the prophecy he makes.  Dunleavy was like many another commander in such circumstances; he kept as much as possible out of the range of danger, and perhaps that was the very reason that Poff and Barrett made the statement above referred to.  The counsel at the other side might say that if a man was guilty of such an offence he would not say so and so, but, fortunately, criminals were not always prudent and discreet, and they saw every day hundreds of things that convict criminals, when they think they are laying down an excellent plan for their own escape out of the difficulty they are in.  It so happens, by fate and providence, that the most terrible criminals are not the most ingenious, and that when they are making provision for their own security or safety against being discovered, they say or do things which make more manifest their guilt perhaps than anything else that could be adduced against them.  Those prisoners were in the charge of Constable Dallas in the bridewell, and being put a little in front of them, Poff was heard to say across to Barrett, ‘Dunleavy could hang us if he liked.’  What did that remark point to?  They were taken, and he was taken also.  A word from him would do it all, ‘but if he does it he will be shot.’  Dunleavy directed the affair and they perpetrated the deed.  Putting those statements together there could be no question that they were, even on their own admission, parties to this assassination.  When the jury would have heard the evidence of the poor old woman, and when they had heard as much as they (the Crown counsel) and be able to extract from the little boy Horan, he (the learned counsel) thought there would be a case made out before them manifest and palpable, that Thomas Browne, a decent honest farmer, who had done wrong to no man, whose only transgression was that he was prudent, well-behaved, and perhaps thriving in the world, was, on the 3rd October, no matter who instigated and put them on, assassinated by the prisoners at the bar.

Mr Robert Denny CE was then examined by Mr De Moleyns QC and deposed in the accuracy of the maps of the locality he had prepared.  He also deposed to the direction and distances of various places to be referred to in the evidence from the point at which the body of the murdered man was found lying.

The court then adjourned for half an hour for luncheon and on resuming,

Bridget Brosnan, the principal witness for the prosecution, was examined by Mr O’Brien QC.  Her evidence was precisely the same as given on the first trial and published some days ago.  Briefly it was that on the evening of the murder she was cutting some rushes near Browne’s field when she saw the two prisoners go into the field where Browne was working.  When she saw them she said to herself, ‘Oh Lord, Tom Browne is shot now if ever he is.’  She ran to Browne’s house and saw Mrs Browne there.  She told her about the two men she saw going up to her husband and Mrs Browne said she supposed ‘they were some people coming from the funeral.’  Just then there were two shots and Mrs Browne said ‘they were fowlers’.  ‘They are so,’ said the witness and she went away.  Soon after she saw Browne’s two daughters on the road crying.  She asked them what was the matter and they said their father had been murdered.

On cross-examination by Mr Sullivan, the witness said she lived alone by herself and that her husband had gone to America 31 years ago.  She was not sure whether the prisoners wore the clothes they now wore but she added several times, ‘They are the men; they are the men.’  She admitted that she had on the first occasion when examined at the inquest swore that she did not know who the men were.

On re-examination by Mr O’Brien QC, the witness said that after the inquest she went to confession to Father Scollard and a few days after that she went before the magistrate and told the names of the prisoners.

The next witness examined was Maurice Horan, a boy about twelve years of age and a cousin of Barrett’s.  He saw two men go into the field and up to Browne.  Heard Browne before the shots were fired, say ‘Oh God’ three times.  He did not know who the men were.  Never said that he knew well who the men were.  He was stopping in the house of a person named Mary Lyons since he came to Cork but was not talking to her about the trial.  He told her that his father had some glebe land.  Did not tell her, however, that Browne was striving to be landlord over him, nor that his father had bet Browne £1 that he would never see such a thing.  He admitted having mentioned to Mary Lyons a rather curious incident which he now repeated.  Browne was hunting him with his dog one day and he had a little penny gun with which he fired at the dog.  He was severely examined and at considerable length by Mr Murphy QC as to various other statements he made to Mary Lyons.  After the murder he told his father all he had seen and heard.  Yesterday he was speaking to Mary Lyons and gave her a sheet of ballads.  Did not tell her to say nothing about what he had said to her.  Did not remember telling Mr Considine RM that he had seen the men fire several shots at Browne.  When he heard the shots he put down his cap over his eyes because he was afraid.  He never told Mary Lyons (who was here confronted with the witness) that the murderers were Poff and Barrett.  He admitted further that after he was taken before the magistrate and examined his father directed him what he should say; that he could not know the prisoners because he had his cap over his eyes, &c.

In answer to Mr Lawrence, the witness said that all his conversations with Mary Lyons took place the previous day.  They were lodging in the same house and a number of police were there also.  It was she began the conversations.  The men whom he saw go up to Browne wore long black coats.

Mrs Johanna Browne, widow of the murdered [page torn illeg]

… men’s clothes whom she saw running away appeared to be dark.

Bartholomew O’Brien deposed that he met the prisoners with Dunleavy in Scartaglin about one o’clock on the day of the murder.  They had some drink in O’Leary’s public-house and afterwards went playing cards at the post office and about three o’clock the four went to John Horan’s public-house where they remained for about half an hour.  Poff and Barrett went away about half past three, Dunleavy remaining behind, and he did not see them after.  Heard of the murder about five o’clock in the public house.  Dunleavy remained in the house all the time.  Did not hear Dunleavy ask anyone to see what o’clock it was when they heard of the murder.

To Mr Lawrence – There was a large funeral passed through Scartaglin that day.  Poff had a large dog with him in the village, which was continually jumping up on him.  Did not notice anything peculiar about the dress of the men.

Honora Moynahan deposed, in answer to Mr Murphy, that she knew Barrett and Dunleavy but did not know Poff.  She remembered the day Mr Browne met with the accident.  On that day she was in Pat Fitzgerald’s house getting some milk, when Barrett and Dunleavy came in.  None of the Fitzgerald boys were at home.  She asked them did Mr Poff come home yet for he had been taken under the Coercion Act.  They made no answer, but she believed they laughed.  Afterwards she saw Dunleavy and Barrett going with a third man in the direction of Scartaglin.  She did not know who the third man was but she asked a person named Healy was not he Mr Poff.

Michael O’Leary deposed to seeing the prisoners and Dunleavy in his public-house on the day in question.

To Mr Lawrence – They had a large black sheepdog with them.

Michael Mahony deposed that he carried the post between Farranfore and Scartaglin and he usually passed Mrs Brosnan’s house between a quarter to four and four o’clock.

Mr Heffernan Considine RM was next examined by Mr Murphy and deposed to the statements made by the prisoners to him and which are given in Mr Murphy’s address.  He had cautioned the prisoners before they made the statement.

Mr Murphy QC – I may give you and others connected with the administration of justice this advice – that there is no need to give a caution in such cases.  There is a wrong supposition that it is necessary in the country to give such a caution.  It is usually a very great obstruction to the police.

On further examination the witness said that the police had been looking for Dunleavy for the past ten days but had failed to find him.

On cross-examination by Mr Lawrence, Mr Considine said that from the beginning Poff was denouncing Dunleavy who, he said, could tell all about the murder and who committed it.

The witness gave some further evidence as to distances and the time it would take to go from one place to another.

Dr Wm Nolan, Castleisland, was next examined, and deposed he made a post mortem examination of the body of Browne the day after the murder and found a bullet wound behind the left ear; the bullet passed through the brain; found another bullet wound on the left side of the chest, and a bullet would appear to have passed through the body; there was a sign of powder on one of the ears.

The court then adjourned until half-past ten this (Thursday) morning.[12]


Day 2, Thursday 21 December 1882


His Lordship, Mr Justice Barry, sat in the City Court at half-past ten o’clock (yesterday morning) and resumed the hearing of the Castleisland Murder.

Messrs Murphy, De Moleyns, and O’Brien QCs instructed by Mr Alexander Morphy, Crown Solicitor for Kerry, conducted the prosecution on behalf of the Crown and Messrs D B Sullivan and G Lawrence instructed by Mr Horgan, Solicitor, for the prisoners.

Sub-Constable John Dallas was the first witness examined.  He deposed – I formed one of the escort of police who accompanied the prisoners to Tralee gaol on the 19th October; I was in the waiting room at the gaol in Tralee with the prisoners.  The prisoners were sitting on a form, and I was on another form about a foot away from them.  Dunleavy was there also.  He was about three yards from me.  I heard the prisoner Poff say to Barrett in an undertone – but I caught what was said distinctly that ‘the smallest thing in the world could hang us and Dunleavy could do it if he liked but they would shoot him if he did.’  Barrett made a motion to get near Dunleavy.  I said I could not allow any talking.  In about a minute Poff said to me, ‘It would be no harm for you to allow Barrett speak to Dunleavy.’  I said I was cautioned by my officer, Mr Holmes, not to allow the prisoners speak.  Made a communication to my officer the same night and subsequently wrote what I heard.  Made a copy of this writing afterwards.

By Mr Sullivan – There were ten persons in the room altogether – seven constables and the two prisoners and Dunleavy.  I made a second copy and a third copy.

Sub-Inspector Holmes deposed Dallas made a communication to him which he repeated afterwards to Mr Considine RM on the evening the prisoners were brought to Tralee gaol.

Sub-Inspector Davis, Castleisland, deposed he knew the scene of the murder and the place pointed out to him by Horan where he stood when said he heard the deceased cry out, ‘Oh God.’  Horan could not have heard the words at that point unless they were shouted.  Witness then gave measurements from one place to another, similar to those given by him on the last trial.

By Mr Lawrence – My inquiries failed; I traced the bottle I found to Scartaglin.  Bottles, similar to the one I found in the field, are not as a rule to be found in the Scartaglin public-houses.  To my knowledge the Fitzgeralds were not arrested at all.  Their absence was accounted for.  They spent the day in a public-house opposite my lodgings in Castleisland (laughter).

Head Constable Huggins, in cross examination by Mr Sullivan, said the distance from the place where the men left the road to the scene of the murder is 60 yards.

Mary Lyons examined by Mr Murphy – I have been in Cork some time back and stopping in the same house with the little boy Horan.  He was speaking to me on last Saturday night; was also speaking to me on Tuesday about the trial.  He said he would be going home soon as his own trial would not take place any more.  He said the old woman was a great rogue.  He said he saw the two men that shot Browne going down the field.

Did he say who they were?  Silvey Poff and James Barrett.  Did you know the name of Silvey Poff before that?  No.  I am not in that part of the country at all.  What did he tell you about his father’s land and Browne?  He said they had two acres of land from a Protestant, and that the Protestant died about eight years ago, and that Browne was going to become a landlord over it – that his father went to Browne and asked him was he going to be landlord over the glebe.  Browne said he would let him know in a fortnight who would be landlord.  He said his father pulled a pound out of his pocket and bet him the pound that he would not be landlord over the land.

Until he said this you knew nothing about a glebe or a Protestant?  No.  What did he say after that?  That Browne summoned his father for rent but did not go any farther with the law.  Did he say that he told his father what he had seen on the day of the murder?  Yes.  What did he say his father told him?  Not to say much.  Did he say anything about his cap and his eyes?  He said he pulled his cap down on his eyes when the men were passing by his side.  Did he say anything about any man standing or getting up on any thing?  He said they went up after passing down and one of them stood and looked about him.  He said he was not afraid of the men when he knew them.  What did he say he heard Browne say?  ‘Oh God’ three times and that he fell across the path.  Did he say he saw him fall?  He did.  Did he say anything about the number of shots?  Yes, he thought two of the shots missed fire.  Did you hear any word about shots until you heard it from this boy?  No, your honour, sir.  Do you recollect him saying anything afterwards about not telling?  Yes, not to tell a word about it to the old rogue of a woman as she would tell every word of it to the police.

To his Lordship – The old woman was living in the same lodgings with us.

Examination continued – He said his father would come to Cork with him but would not be paid his expenses and he would not be allowed up for fear he would be talking to him.  He told me that on Saturday and on Tuesday.  He told me he would not say any more then as a policeman was coming into the parlour.  He said he had a good deal to say but did not say much at the trial.

Cross-examined by Mr Sullivan – Young Horan is in Cork today; my father and two brothers are in Cork with me; we are living in the same house; there are police in the house.

Are the police supporting you?  No, sir.  Did you get money to bring you to Cork?  No, sir.  Do you mean to say he is not supported as a Crown witness by the police?  He paid his own expenses coming up.  Did he get any money since he came to Cork – or you?  No, sir.  Are the police living in the same house with you?  Yes, there are three constables there; John Dineen is the name of one – I don’t know the names of the others; I did not know Dineen until I saw him in the lodging-house; I am about a fortnight in Cork.  How many assizes have you attended?  Four.  Were you examined as a crown witness at each of these assizes?  I was examined about my own case; was examined in no other case except about the moonlighters that came to us; can’t remember whether or not I was examined at the last Summer Assizes or at the Spring and Winter Assizes.

His Lordship – Was it this year you were examined?

Witness – This last time here, sir.

His Lordship – Was it in Cork you were examined?

Witness – I was examined here and in Kanturk, sir.

By Mr Sullivan – How often was Ellen Doherty tried?  Twice here and once in Kanturk?  You know Ellen Doherty, the girl whom you stated took part in this attack on your house?  I do sir; can’t remember whether or not she was tried three times.

His Lordship – The girl was tried here before me.

Mr O’Brien – This witness was brought before you on two occasions, my Lord.

Mr Sullivan (to witness) – Did you on each of these trials swear that you saw Ellen Doherty when the attack was made?  I did, sir.

Mr O’Brien – She swears it again for you.

Mr Sullivan – And the last time she was tried was before a special jury?  Yes, sir.  She was not convicted either time on your evidence?  No, sir.  Did you swear distinctly that you saw the man Sweeney there?  I did, sir.  Was he not acquitted?  He was.  Now, tell me when did this conversation with the boy take place?  On Saturday, about eleven o’clock in the morning.  There was nobody with us.  I said nothing at all to him but he asked me when would we be going home.  Did he tell you who the prisoners were?  He said they were Silvey Poff and James Barrett; can’t say when he was speaking to me on Tuesday.  Who was the constable you told this on Tuesday?  John Dineen.  Had he the whole conversation you mentioned, with you on Saturday?  No, sir.  How much of it took place on Saturday?  He told me everything on Saturday with the exception of the conversation about the land, and about the £1 on Tuesday.  I told the conversation to the old woman first and the constable asked me then about what the little boy was saying to me.  Had you spoken to the policeman from Saturday to Tuesday?  No, sir.  Did you know on Tuesday that the prisoners were to be put on trial on Wednesday?  No, sir.  The little boy told me on Saturday he expected to be going home on Sunday.  Did you learn afterwards …[page torn illeg]

When did you tell the conversation you had with the boy to old Mrs Brosnan?  On Sunday.  Was the old woman living in the same rooms with you?  Yes, sir.  Did you know that she was a witness against Poff and Barrett.  I never asked the woman.  Did not the little boy tell you that she was a rogue of an old woman and that she was in his case?  It was on Tuesday he told me that.  How long is Mrs Brosnan in that house with you?  About a fortnight.  Do you mean to tell the jury that you did not know the business of Mrs Brosnan who was living in your company for a fortnight and with the police?  I did not ask the woman and no one told me; I never heard what she was in Cork for.

His Lordship – Are there many lodgers in the house?

Witness – There are, my Lord.  There is a great deal of them there.

Mr Sullivan (to witness) – You have been talking to the old woman off and on since you came to live in this house?  Yes, sir.  And as two women gossiping together you never had the curiosity to learn what she was here for?  She did not tell me.  She only told me that the little boy was not telling one word of the truth.  Never put a question to the little boy; never said a word to him on Saturday and Tuesday when he was making this statement.  On Tuesday he told me not to tell a word of it to the police.  And you listened in perfect silence?  I did.  I don’t know how often before my evidence was taken down by a policeman.  Were you friendly with the police?  No, sir, no more than any other man (laughter).  I was summoned to Cork.  My father, two brothers, and the sergeant came with me.  Was it the sergeant provided the lodging for you?  No, sir.  We went there ourselves.  And the police went to live with you there?  Yes.  I don’t know anything about the old woman.  I was there before she came.  Is not it in this house the Crown witnesses are lodging?  It is in the same house I was living always.

His Lordship – Do you know whether there are Crown witnesses living there?

Witness – I do not, sir.

Mr Sullivan (to witness) – What did the little boy tell you about the old woman?  He said she was an old rogue.  Did you say anything to him about rogues of policemen?  No.  The boy told me that there were five policemen outside his own house and two inside in it.  He did not know any of the police but the acting-constable, and it was hard for his father to give him any advice.  I can’t say whether or not I was speaking to the boy that day before Saturday.

Mr Murphy –You said there were three police at the house and one of them is named John Dineen.  Was he one of the men that came with you from the place you live in?  No, sir.  He was a Castleisland policeman.  Until the boy spoke to you about it did you know anything about this murder?  No, sir.  You were asked how often you were examined.  Was there an attack made at night on your father’s house by what they call Moonlighters?  Yes, sir.  Now any time that you have been brought to Cork and examined by the police it was arising out of that attack that you were examined?  Yes, sir.

Mrs Browne recalled and examined by Mr De Moleyns – Formerly my husband used pay rent to the Fitzgeralds but he bought the lands and the Fitzgeralds became his tenants; on the morning of the murder my husband got rent from Fitzgerald; Horan’s land bounds ours.

This closed the case for the Crown.

Mr Sullivan then opened the case for the defence and said this was the second occasion on which he had the misfortune to address a jury on behalf of the prisoners.  He used that word entirely in a personal sense, for that was the first case in which, however, indirectly or remotely the life of a human being had been dependent on any poor effort of his, and he would be a callous man indeed, no matter how wide his experience, if so great a burden did not cost him many anxious hours by day and perhaps some sleepless ones during the watches of the night.  He was comforted and sustained in his task by the knowledge that the learned counsel who would next address them and who was happily associated with him in the defence, would supply the defects of his arguments and atone for his shortcomings.  It was a matter for gratification that this second investigation took place before a tribunal so competent, so experienced, and before a judge of whom he ventured to say that he adorned the bench, and sat there with the applause and confidence of his countrymen.  This was a case that required from the jury calmness and fortitude.  The enormity of the offence was very great and it was almost impossible to regard persons upon whom even the breath of suspicion rested without a feeling of detestation.  Upon this day, within pistol-shot of his home, almost under the eyes of his wife and children, Thomas Browne was ruthlessly murdered, in a populous neighbourhood, when engaged in his peaceful avocation and it was not possible to hear the recital of the evidence disclosed without shuddering, without horror, and without reprobation.  But he prayed them not to let the terrible nature of the crime to sway their judgment or hasten them to an adverse conclusion.  He implored of them not to be influenced by the vivid, graphic description which had been given of the offence or by the heated words that would be used in the endeavour to fix guilt upon the prisoners.  They would best discharge their duty by refusing to be carried away by vehemence of speech, and by applying their minds to the solemn task with coolness and well-balanced judgement.  This, as they were aware, was the second trial of the accused, and happily for them, it was so.  It was an anomaly and a curious fact that in a dispute in a matter about the litigants may have a case tried twice or even three times.  There were appeals and appeals for them but the verdict of the jury who took away and destroyed a life was final.  The jury were to single out the perpetrators of this crime and how were they described by the counsel for the prosecution?  They were friends of the deceased, neighbours of the deceased, known to the whole population of Castleisland.  ’Twas only to the friends of Thomas Browne they looked in order to identify his assassins.  No dispute occurred between the parties, living close beside each other in terms of amity and friendship, and these were the hands the Crown asked them to say took away this poor man, Thomas Browne, and destroy his life.  If they were men who were so well known in the locality, who were known and would be recognised by every neighbour and neighbour’s child, who were committing that deed, would they not at least take the slight precaution of disguising their features and their bodies?  They had heard, it was true, of cases of murderous outrages being committed by men who were undisguised, but let them search their memory and they would find in each case where such circumstances arose the perpetrator of the deed was a stranger to the locality.  If this murder was, as he believed it was, the result of some conspiracy against Browne, they knew that the unfailing rule in such cases was to import the assassin into the district.  That, indeed, well accounted for the absence of disguises, for taking no precautions for their own safety, and the last men who would venture in the broad noonday, undisguised, to commit this crime would be Poff and Barrett who lived hard by and who were well known to every individual in the locality.  What was the case for the prosecution?  What was the case upon which they were asked to come to this dreadful and improbably conclusion that Thomas Browne was murdered by his friends? The evidence of that woman Brosnan.  With the exception of one other bit of evidence – on which he expected to satisfy their minds completely before he concluded – there was no testimony against the accused except the statement of that woman.  Now, was she such a character upon whose word or upon whose oath they could take away the lives of these two men?  She lived in a hut by the roadside and depended on the charity of the neighbours.  Gold was not scarce and in a case of this kind money was profuse in the detection of the crime and this woman was a mendicant.  They did not know much about her antecedents but thirty-one years ago her husband went to America and during that time he never returned to her or asked her to rejoin him.  That was not in character with what they knew of the affection and fidelity of the Irish emigrant to those he left at home – especially when a wife was in question.  Left by her husband for thirty-one years she appeared on the table to admit that she had committed deliberate perjury and they were asked to take away the lives of these two men on the evidence of a woman who came there unblushingly to confess that she had sworn falsely on God’s Gospels.  Sitting in that witness chair she had to admit that she perjured herself at the coroner’s inquest and at these assizes, on the first trial of [page torn illeg]

… some length and argued that the reason she fixed on these two men was that she saw them about in the morning – had been speaking to them, and that they must have been there.  After these she went to Mrs Browne in no state of excitement or alarm, handed her a reaping hook, making some observation about the edge on it.  When Mrs Browne observed the men crossing the fields Mrs Brosnan accepted the excuse that they were coming from the funeral and when shots were heard Mrs Browne said they were fowlers and ‘I suppose so’ said Mrs Brosnan, who then walked quietly away.  It was only afterwards, when she heard of a man being shot, that all this reverted to her mind, that she came to the conclusion after her hasty distant glance that the men she saw and had spoken to in the morning must be the men and on this evidence the Crown said these two men must die.  In considering this old woman’s evidence the jury should also consider her age and infirmities and consider whether they could rely upon the hasty glance of probably a short sighted woman in a case where the lives of these two men were in the balance.  The boy Horan swore that the men wore long black clothes, but was unable to identify them beyond that and he was sure they jury would believe that boy after passing, as he had passed, through the vehement – he had almost said passionate cross-examination to which he had been subjected by Mr Murphy.  Now, it was endeavoured to impeach that boy’s evidence upon the testimony of a woman whom he would ask to regard as a police spy.  He directed attention to the manner in which she – the experienced Crown witness – worked round this innocent child, beginning by telling him that her own father told her to tell only half the truth and then she deposed to a number of statements which should be received with the deepest suspicion.  The Crown never resorted in any case to more unfair means to convict a prisoner and he asked the jury to regard with horror the plan employed by this woman to warm herself into the confidence of this little child and give any version she chose of what passed between them.  Some statements she did leave him into making out.  She unhesitatingly asked the jury to believe that boy on his oath when he said he did not know these men and to regard as a fabrication the testimony of Mary Lyons, whose antecedents as proved in the witness chair would not warrant them in believing her.  She was examined on four trials, with the result that one of the persons was acquitted and the jury disagreed two or three times as to another person whom she sought to incriminate.  The last link in this broken down case against the accused men was the statement by Poff to Barrett in the room in the jail.  That statement was pressed, and properly pressed against the prisoners but there were other statements made to Mr Considine by the accused when they were in jail and they were suppressed until this second trial.  Why were not these statements before produced?  They were in possession of the Crown and the resident magistrate was sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Yet he kept these statements in his pocket though the lives of these men were trembling in the balance.  Was that fair to the accused.  That poor little boy Horan was impeached by the Crown and subjected to the most stringent cross-examination because in reply to new questions he stated new facts.  But what did Mr Considine do?  The lives of these two men were in imminent peril.  Before the New Year’s bells had ceased to toll their spirits might pass away but he kept their statements which completely explained the whispered words in the gaol room securely and silently in his pocket.  Poff’s statement was, ‘the least thing would hang us now.  Dunleavy could save us if he liked but they would hang us if he did.’  That clearly showed that Dunleavy was in possession of the guilty secret but they were in the neighbourhood.  ‘The least thing would hang us now,’ said Poff, ‘Dunleavy could save us if he liked but they would shoot him if he did’ – that was, if he revealed the names of the assassins.  Clearly Poff felt the position in which they were placed by being in the locality and naturally it occurred to him ‘the least thing would hang us now’ unless Dunleavy saved them.  That statement was made in the presence of seven constables and would they audibly declare guilt in such circumstances?  Was it not as he submitted an appeal that they as innocent men should be saved by Dunleavy who knew the assassins if he liked to disclose them.  The learned counsel then detailed the evidence which would be submitted for the defence, and concluded by impressing upon the jury the seriousness of the responsibility imposed upon them, and confidently asking them, upon hearing the clear evidence they would adduce, to acquit the accused.

Mr Patrick J Meade sworn, examined by Mr Lawrence, stated he was on the reporting staff of the Herald and reported the previous trial of these men.

Mr Lawrence – Do you remember in the evidence of Mrs Brosnan reporting the following passage – ‘When she saw the prisoners in the morning they were dressed in their everyday clothes just as they are now in the dock?’

Witness – Yes.  That is correct.  She did not say ‘in the dock’ but ‘just as they are there’ nodding her head towards the dock.

Mr Lawrence (reading) – ‘They were dressed in the same manner when they entered the field?’  That is correct.

His Lordship – I have a note of it, and it is critically accurate.

To Mr Murphy – Reported the evidence of the young lad Horan. Mr Murphy [reading from the evidence] – ‘I knew Barrett well.  He was my cousin; I did not know Mr Poff.’  That is correct.

Mr Murphy – It is stated in another part of the evidence ‘He did not see Browne fall’?  I am sure that is quite correct.  Do you recollect the Sub-Inspector stating that he could not have seen Browne fall, and gave as a reason that Browne was on lower ground?  Yes, and he added that the boy could see the men going away.  Did he say this, ‘I did not see the men firing at all.  I only heard the shots.  After the shots the men ran away’ and at a subsequent stage he is reported to have said, ‘I know Mr Considine and I said to him that I saw the men fire several shots.’  I am sure it is correct if it is stated in the report.  I remember having remarked at the time the inconsistency of the statement.

His Lordship said he had one thing in his notes that was not stated in the report and that was with reference to the boy seeing the smoke.

Mary Browne said that she lived between Scartaglin and Browne’s house.  About 4 o’clock on this evening she saw the prisoners pass her door.

In cross-examination by Mr Murphy she said that she was talking to a man named John Harold just as the prisoners came up the old road.  They stood at the gate until Harold went away.  She told the prisoners who Harold was.  He did not go the same road as the prisoners.  She was not produced as a witness at the last trial.  She was asked if she could swear to having seen a black dog with the prisoners and she replied that she could not.

To his Lordship – The prisoners went towards Browne’s and Harold towards Castleisland.

Cross-examination resumed – Harold is a respectable man and brother to a doctor in Castleisland.  The prisoners waited at the gate until Harold left and then they asked who he was.  I went down to them at the gate.  I did not take any particular notice of the prisoners’ dress.

Maurice Healy said he knew where Mary Browne lived.  His house was nearer Thomas Browne’s than hers.  He saw the prisoners going to Scartaglin about 12 o’clock on the 3rd October.  Poff wanted to buy some cabbages from him but he had none to sell.  They were dressed in their working clothes.  In the evening he saw them on the old road and they had a dog with them.  After going a short distance up the road they turned in a southerly direction and went through O’Connor’s land.

In cross-examination he said that Poff had a black suit of clothes on him.  He had not seen Poff for six years before.  He took no notice of Dunleavy or Barrett.  He believed Poff was living in Dunleavy’s house at the time; he came to it about May last.  The eyebrows of the dog were brown (laughter).  It was O’Connor’s field they went into.

Mr Daniel O’Brien, teacher of Kilsarkin school, gave evidence to the same effect as he had done at the former trial.

Redmond Connors, in reply to Mr Sullivan, said he met the two prisoners (on his way home from school) on the evening in question, three fields from the road.  He saw Browne in his field take off his hat when the two men went up to him.  They fired two shots, and Browne ran away and then they fired two more shots, and Browne fell.  Browne had his back turned to the men when they fired.  When Browne fell the men ran away towards the road leading to Castleisland.  The men who fired the shots wore long black coats; he distinctly saw their coats.  He did not go into the field where Browne was but he went into Mrs Fitzgerald’s house at the side of the road and from that to Mahony’s house.  He told Mrs Fitzgerald that Browne was shot.  When the police came to him that night he said that the men wore long black coats.  Poff and Barrett when he met them were going towards Cud Brosnan’s.   After meeting them he ran part of the way by a near cut and got at the scene of the murder just as the shots were fired.

Cross-examined by Mr Murphy – The first house I went to after seeing the shots fired was Ellen Fitzgerald’s.  She didn’t ask me who the men were who fired the shots, nor did she express any surprise.  She did not ask me which way they went although I knew that Browne was shot I did not go into his house.  I saw Maurice Horan that evening pass out of the field on to the road but I did not speak to him.  I did not tell the police that I ran part of the way from school nor did I tell them that I met Barrett and a strange man with him.  I live about a mile from Barrett’s.  I did not hear Browne say to the men before they fired the shot, ‘Oh God.’  He appeared to be speaking to them and when he raised his hat the shots were fired.  When I met Barrett and the other man previously going in a different direction from Browne’s I did not know that the other man was Poff; I had not known him at all; I ran away from my brothers going home that evening but I can give no reason for it except that I was in a hurry.  Come, sir, did you run to see what Barrett and the strange man were about?  I did not.  So you cannot assign any reason why you ran away from your brothers and was just up in time for the shots?  No, except that I was in a hurry.  But after Browne was shot you did not hurry home, for you went into Fitzgerald’s and Mahony’s houses?  I did go into the houses.  I was speaking to Barrett’s father after his son was arrested, and it was then I found that Poff was the name of the man who was with his son on the day in question.  Barrett’s father did not ask me what the men were like who murdered Browne.  I told him they wore long coats.

Maurice Connor, brother of the last witness left school with him.  He gave corroborative evidence.

Bryan Connor, another brother, also gave similar evidence.

To Mr O’Brien – He forgot having met those men almost at the moment of the murder until after they had been arrested which was nine days after the occurrence.  He made a mistake the last court day when he said it was he who went to Castleisland to get the watch from Jerry Nolan.  It was his brother Maurice who did so.  He had sworn to every particular about the watch but it was all a mistake.  It was not he who gave the watch to Jerry Nolan.  He swore the last day that it was he who did it but ’twas all a mistake.  Maurice Murphy of Castleisland was not with him since at his house.  He did not see him at all.  Did not see Jerry Nolan at Castleisland.  His brothers did not tell him they were there.

His Lordship said that on the day of the last trial the witness repeatedly swore, though pressed several times on the point, that he himself got the watch from Nolan.

Cross-examination resumed – Do you remember on the last day swearing that you got the watch yourself from Jerry Nolan without any one telling you?

Witness – ’Twas a mistake sir.

His Lordship – Oh, that was a mistake too.

Mr O’Brien – Do you remember on the last day hesitating ten minutes after I put the question to you about the watch?

Witness – I was confused and frightened.

Hugh Brosnan deposed that the prisoners came into a field in which he was working.  They had a big black dog with them and were hunting for rabbits.  They came a little before that for heifers.  That was on the evening of the day of the murder.

To Mr Murphy – The dog was too small to get into the holes after the rabbits – he meant that the holes were too small for the dog to get into them (laughter).  He (witness) had a greyhound.  They did not catch much rabbits (laughter).  He had never seen Poff before but Barrett might have been hunting rabbits.  That was a mile from Browne’s place.

Poff here interposed and said that there was not a word the witnesses had sworn that he had not told in his statement to Sub-Inspector Davis who had taken it down before ever he saw one of the witnesses.

Dr Harold sworn, said he was with Dr Nolan at the post-mortem examination.  He was of opinion that the bullet entered from behind his chest, passed through the body, and came out in front.

To Mr Murphy – The wound in front was larger than at the back.  He had known instances where a bullet was broken by contact with the bone and it was smaller coming out of the body than when it entered.  If the bullet struck in front the floss of the shirt that was torn would point inwards (the shirt was produced and handed to witness who examined it and said that the mark there appeared as if the bullet had entered from the front).

Mr Sullivan – Sure that shirt was handled by numbers of people since.

Mr Murphy – Yes, and we have the waistcoat here fortunately.

The waistcoat was here produced and witness said the cut seemed to indicate that the bullet had entered the body in front.

To his Lordship – The wound on the head caused instantaneous death and the deceased could not run after the bullet had passed through the brain.

To Mr Sullivan – Any gunshot wound would cause a greater aperture where it leaves the body than where it entered.

To Mr Murphy – A hundred accidents would regulate that and if the bullet struck a bone at entering it would make a much larger hole than otherwise.

Mr Lawrence said it now became his duty to address to the jury the last observations that they would hear directly on behalf of the prisoners.  It was alleged that the prisoner Poff made use of a very remarkable expression, ‘The least thing in the world could hang us.’  It seemed as if a prophetic mantle had fallen on him when he made use of those words; because this trial and the trial before it had shown that the prisoners stood now surrounded by an atmosphere of suspicion enveloped on every side by prejudice that rendered their fair trial almost an impossibility.  There was an unhappy period in this country when it was feared that the powers of law had been exhausted.  That period had passed away and it had been succeeded, as all periods like it inevitably were, by a reaction as violent almost as the movement from which the reaction had come.  There was now a determination that every element of disorder in the country should be stamped out, that all the dying embers of agrarian crime shall be stamped under foot.  There was not merely the vehement determination that the law should prevail and be most powerful, but everything which interfered between the officers of justice and those whom they denounce was regarded with distrust.  It was manifest that witnesses who were produced by the prosecution and for the defence did not now in the court of justice stand upon an even footing.  One came forward and was heard with every disposition to listen attentively to their tale, but when the others came forward they were regarded with suspicion – not for anything that they had done or any impeachment that lay against them but from the recollection of the jury that on other occasions and in other trials testimony had been given which had not been regarded as trustworthy.  He asked them in this most solemn and terrible case to guard their judgments against being influenced by such recollections or such suspicions.  He asked them to draw their conclusions not with reference to the unhappy past, to free their minds from the taunt and bias of suspicions and not be influenced by past events, but to try the case strictly according to the testimony given before them and the character and antecedents of the witnesses.  Trying it on that basis he would confidently submit the issues to them.  What was there in the case to criminate those men?  There was nothing in their antecedents or relations in the district to suggest that they would be the men guilty of the crime.  The Crown could assign no motive except that Browne had become a landlord of the two Fitzgeralds.  But the prisoners were not connected with those men, and there was no motive whatever for their committing the frightful crime, there was nothing to connect them with the crime except the evidence of the old woman Bridget Brosnan.  Up to the time of her statement no suspicion attached to the prisoners, suspicion being turned to other persons.  The case stood or fell on the evidence of Bridget Brosnan, a mendicant verging on dotage, over 70 years of age.  She had given no evidence for nine or ten days after the occurrence.  Her own story was that she saw the men go up to Browne to murder him and what did she do?  She went and spoke to Mrs Browne about some turf, and when a shot fired she said nothing of what she had seen.  She stood over the body of Thomas Browne.  She spent the night of the murder by the side of the unhappy widow and not one word escaped her lips even to suggest that she knew the murderers.  If she had that knowledge would it not have escaped her then?  An attempt had been made to support her testimony by references to the confessional.  The veil of the confession was not to be put aside by irreverent hands and those who made this suggestion knew that they were safe in so doing.  Let her statements on the subject be the blackest of lies the priest would not and dare not contradict them.  The boy Horan could not say that the men were the prisoners and here they had an example of the efforts made by the Crown to secure a conviction.  The woman Mary Lyons, who tried to get Ellen Doherty convicted, but twice failed to get a jury to believe her, brought him aside and tried to sound him, it being suggested that he knew more about this than he cared to tell, but that showed the character of this person, and the way in which the prosecution was being pushed forward.  Then, there was that affair of the stipendiary, which would explain the statement of Poff about Dunleavy, that he could do that if he liked, ‘that’.  They were left in mystery about the meaning of the expression while the stipendiary had the key to the enigma in his pocket and he would not produce it.  He was sworn to tell the whole truth and yet he kept that important document in his pocket while two human lives were hanging in the balance.

Mr Lawrence then went through the evidence that had been given on both sides.  They had it clearly shown by witnesses for the Crown that the murderers were dressed in dark long coats, that they escaped in the direction of Castleisland, and the only traces of their presence ever presented to human eyes were in the direction of Castleisland.  The only persons who had any interest in the death of this man were that day in Castleisland.  All the evidence was that those men were not at the scene of the murder.  Near it, no doubt, they were, but at the other side of a hill and wholly out of sight of it.  They had this on the evidence of three witnesses, whose testimony, if they believed, made it physically impossible that the prisoners could be the men who committed the crime.  They were seen at places where they had a right to be.  They had with them this big black dog, and that they were dressed in white.  They had evidence that the murderers had no dog, and that they wore long black coats.  It was not for them to demand an acquittal merely because there was a doubt of the guilt of the prisoners.  They had given proof to demonstrate that the two men in the dock were innocent.  It was wholly impossible that they could have any part in that deed of blood and upon the evidence he claimed from the jury a verdict of exculpation on behalf of the prisoners.

Edmond Connor was recalled, and in answer to his Lordship, said that when the men fired upon him Browne had his face towards them.  He was standing and took his hat off.  He did not turn or go away until they fired the two shots, then he turned his back to them and ran.

Mr H F Considine recalled, in answer to his Lordship, said that when Poff spoke of Dunleavy as a man who could clear it up one way or the other, it was after the prisoners had been committed for trial.  I was asked whether at the time of Poff being committed he made any statement to the effect that Dunleavy could clear him, and I said not.  I was asked whether he made any statement any other time to any other person and I said he had.

A Juror – How long were they in gaol before they made the statement?

Witness – About a week.

His Lordship – When you asked the boy Horan about the coat, did you ask him about both coats, or the coat of one of them only?

Witness – I understood that they both wore longish coats.  In consequence of the remarks of counsel I think it was necessary to state that I went to Dunleavy and stated to him –

Mr Sullivan – You can’t state that.

Witness – A very unwarrantable attack has been made upon me.

His Lordship – Don’t mind it now.

The court then adjourned till half-past ten o’clock (this) morning.[13]


Day 3, Friday 22 December 1882


His Lordship Mr Justice Barry entered court at half-past ten o’clock and resumed the hearing of the Castleisland Murder Case.

Messrs Murphy QC, De Moleyns QC and O’Brien QC instructed by Mr Alexander McCarthy (sic) Crown Solicitor for the Co Kerry, conducted the prosecution on the part of the Crown.

Messrs D B Sullivan and G Lawrence, instructed by Mr M Horgan, solicitor, appeared for the prisoners.

Mr Peter O’Brien QC in replying on behalf of the Crown said if the prisoners were found guilty of the murder of Thomas Browne and if they had a particle of candour remaining, they could find no fault or impute no blame to his two friends who defended them because he thought the jury would agree with him in opinion that they had defended them with a zeal, energy, eloquence and devotedness which were worthy of that great circuit which had given to the Bench its proudest ornaments and to which he was proud to belong.  But he submitted to them that the facts of this case were too unrelenting and too implacable even for the eloquence and the energy of his friends.  Mr Lawrence last night had said in a short and energetic speech that there was nothing in the antecedents of these men which would induce them to believe they had committed so foul a crime.  They (the Crown) could give no evidence as to their antecedents or character.  By the rules of law the Crown were precluded as to giving evidence as to their character but his learned friends, not at the expense of the prisoners, but at the expense of the Crown, under the rules of this winter assize procedure could have called any man they liked.  Priests were in court and so were doctors, and they could have asked them what was the character of these men.  Their life was trembling in the balance; another jury had disagreed as to their guilt or innocence and though that was the privilege of his friends to ask as to their character, they had abstained from doing it in the exercise perhaps of a very wise discretion.  But he would now tell them what character these men had given of themselves.  His friend, Mr Sullivan, gravely misunderstood his distinguished and learned leader, Mr Murphy, when he said he represented them as the friends of Browne.  Upon their own showing what had they known and what had they abstained from doing?  They had known that Browne was to be shot.  They had seen him in Scartaglin, they had passed by the house of the widow that was to be, and they never gave this man any intimation of his coming doom.  Upon their own showing they walked up to Mrs Brosnan’s and they had only to speak five or six words to Mrs Browne, the mother, the wife.  No.  They had seen him in Scartaglin and gave him no intimation of his coming doom.  These were the men whose antecedents would not lead the jury to believe that they were anything but respectable men.  Their own account of themselves he was taking now.  He would now invite their attention to it again.  His learned friend said that statements had been concealed and an attack had been made upon Mr Considine who, he would take the liberty of saying, was a gentleman of as pure an honour as any man in Ireland and from what he had seen of his clearness, quickness and ability, he believed that he would be a success at the profession to which he himself belonged.  And that he concealed – concealed what?  Was it the evidence of a third party?  No.  The statement that they were told they had made themselves, that he (Mr Considine) had sworn that he had read over to them and which they knew he had read over to them, and that he concealed from them what they knew better than anyone else.  This was simply a license, if not licentiousness, on the part of the prisoners’ counsel; but with the experience that they had derived at the last trial the Crown had regulated their action.  When they saw how elaborate were the appliances for a fraudulent defence, and when they saw perhaps too, that the struggle of the counsel was to prevent the prisoner at the bar (Poff) from opening his lips, they determined to give in those statements; and he would now invite their attention to the statements which his learned friend said were concealed, because forsooth they were in favour of the prisoner.  This was Sylvester Poff’s statement – ‘On my way to Scartaglin on Tuesday morning, 3rd October, I met James Barrett and John Dunleavy in Pat Fitzgerald’s haggard.’  He would ask the jury what had brought them to Fitzgerald’s haggard?  What had brought them to the Fitzgeralds who, according to the insinuation of prisoners’ counsel, were at the bottom of this murder, but, forsooth, according to his learned friends the murderers had come from Castleisland.  In Limerick, wherever there was a murder, the murderer came from New Pallas.  In Clare, whenever there was a murder, they came over the Broadford hills from Tipperary.  In Kerry, they came from Castleisland.  He was surprised they had not described them as some meteoric existence dropped from the moon (a laugh).  Would men from Castleisland know the Browne was at work in his field just then?  They had four miles to run back to Castleisland, and no one had seen them going back.  Now, what had brought them to Fitzgerald’s?  Fitzgerald, the other side suggested, had some motive for doing away with Browne.  They were at the rendezvous.  If they remembered the evidence of Bridget Brosnan they would see that she had seen, very near to Pat Fitzgerald’s house, James Barrett gauging down at Browne a fortnight or a month before she went to Browne and made a communication to him.  They [the Crown] could not show them the contents of it.  His learned friends could have asked her what that communication was but they dare not.  They had the rendezvous at the place of those people who had a motive to dispose of poor Thomas Browne – God help them.  They had seen the dreadful exhibition that had been made by the production of the clothes last night and when he handled them his blood ran cold.  He should mark the marvellous coincidence that one of the Fitzgeralds had paid his rent that very day and they themselves were accounted for in Castleisland.  They should also mark the statement of Hanora Moynihan.  She said she had seen them at Fitzgerald’s house – Dunleavy and Barrett – and she asked them where was Mr Poff or had he come yet.  ‘Where was Mr Poff?’  Was there murder in the air, and was this leader of this band of brigands expected for this foul deed?  What character again, he asked them, had they given of themselves?  What was their statement – that Dunleavy, who was deep in this confederacy of guilt, could save them by pointing out the true assassins.  Who was living at the time with Dunleavy?  Poff.  They had heard of the murder that was to be from him, and they had given no intimation though they had passed by the wife’s door; nor did they go to the victim when they saw him at Scartaglin.  In reply to the woman, Honora Moynihan, when she asked for Poff, they said nothing but they laughed.  It was an ironical laugh; it was a scoff.  She heard he had been in under the Coercion Act.  Coercion Act or imprisonment had no terrors for him.  They were laughing at a baby upon the floor!  Dunleavy was now gone.  Mr Considine had described to them that they were looking for him for the past ten days.  He would again invite their attention to a passage in Barrett’s statement – ‘We went to Fitzgerald’s and he was not at home; we were told he was in Tralee; we then went into Fitzgerald’s haggard.  There was a man there named Michael Moynihan putting crosses on a rick of hay.  He would not give the ladder to Dunleavy.’  Forsooth Dunleavy went there for a ladder.  Why was not Moynihan here?  Their subsequent conduct would show whether these men were intent on legitimate business that morning.  They were drinking and playing cards in Scartaglin during the day.  These were the men that wanted a ladder for some purpose of business.  What was Poff’s statement?  ‘I asked them to go to Scartaglin, and when we went down a bit of the road Dunleavy said this was a bad place to be today because he was told to keep out of the way for Browne was to be shot.’  He added, ‘Paddy Fitzgerald and his cousin have gone to town and perhaps after all he might not be shot.’  They were trying to make that it was the Fitzgeralds that did it but what brought Poff and Barrett to Fitzgerald’s house?  The men then went into Scartaglin and remained drinking there until the time came when Dunleavy, at half-past three, gave them the final bumper to stimulate their arm to commit the crime.  He then said, ‘we would have had more conversation but that we met Mrs Brosnan.’  He would now refer to Barrett’s statement – ‘On the morning of Thomas Browne’s murder, Dunleavy came to my house and asked me to go as far as Paddy Fitzgerald’s with him.’  Why should he require Barrett to accompany him?  Was it for the sake of his conversation or was it to carry the ladder, why did they go drinking to Scartaglin?  Mr O’Brien, having commented on the evidence, referred to the evidence of the old woman, Brosnan, as being conclusive as to the guilt of the prisoners.  The girl Mary Browne was terrorised and paralysed by the terrorism that had been caused in the district.  It was manifest that she had given her evidence in a most extraordinary fashion on this trial and every witness that had been examined by the Crown gave their evidence in a most reluctant manner and it was not until the old woman Brosnan came forward with the sanction of the confessional that she told the truth.  On the morning of the murder the prisoners had asked the girl Browne if she had seen a stranger with a black cloak and who was he.  How anxious they were to know!  Mr O’Brien then took up one of the maps of the scene of the murder and asked the jury’s attention to some matters that he wished to allude to.  The learned counsel then referred to the evidence of the boy Horan, and submitted that he concealed a good deal of the truth with regard to the girl Lyons who had been examined yesterday and who had been described as a police spy.  He would ask the jury to disbelieve that.  She had never been examined in this court except with reference to an attack by moonlighters on her father’s house and then the jury disagreed in the case of a girl to whose identity the girl Lyons had sworn.  The jury had disagreed for the prisoner had elicited their sympathies and they were not anxious to consign her to the degradation of imprisonment.  They were asked to believe that Lyons was a perjurer.  With reference to the evidence of the old woman Brosnan, the counsel for the prisoners had said that the Crown was dealing irreverently with the confessional.  He (Mr O’Brien) had as great a regard for the confessional as any human being in the court and had as much regard for the religion in which he was reared and which his father professed before him; and as a Catholic in the land he knew well that sooner than disclose the secret of the confessional Father Scollard would go to the scaffold or to the grave.  He (Mr O’Brien) would himself put his head upon the block rather than ask a priest to disclose the secrets of the confessional.  But there was one course his learned friends could have pursued.  They might have asked Father Scollard the question, ‘Is it true or false that the woman was at confession with you?’  There was no privilege as to the fact of the confession though no power on earth could, and he hoped would never, be exercised on the priest to tell what had been told to him by the penitent.  Now, some of the jury were Protestants and some were Catholics and all of them that were Catholics knew the solemn awe with which they regarded the confessional and he put it to them as Protestants and Catholics alike, was it possible that the old woman upon the table with the prospect of the grave near at hand and eternity close to her would have told her priest and said – and the Catholics of this country, though they may have erred in many respects, had never failed to feel a deep devotion for their religion and it was an honour to their Irish nation – substantially that when she told her story at the confessional she would not get absolution if she did not reveal what she knew?

Mr Sullivan – I beg your pardon, she did not say that.

Mr O’Brien – She said that substantially, and we can draw our own conclusions from what she said.

His Lordship – Oh, of course she did not say that exactly.

Mr O’Brien continued to say that such of the jury who were Catholics could not but believe that the old woman after having got the sanction of the confessional would not, and in the presence of her priest, have told a deliberate falsehood.  In conclusion, he hoped that if they had any reasonable doubt on their minds as to the guilt of those men, they should let them free but if they had no reasonable doubt, they should do their duty and let not the assassins – and he submitted they were the assassins of poor Thomas Browne – go back scot free to Castleisland to what he submitted was the scene of their slaughter and their crime.  The very blood of the victim, the tears of the wife, and wail of the children appealed to them; their country and their God appealed to them, and the principles of common Christianity appealed to them, to smite with the sword of their justice this monster of crime, which was feeding on the blood of their countrymen, and with viperous fangs had desolated the once happy homes of their country (loud applause).

His Lordship then delivered his charge to the jury.  He said that after the attention they had manifested and the intelligent appreciation of the case they had exhibited during the progress of the trial, it would be mere pedantry if not impertinence on his part if he were to commence his observations which it would be his duty to address to them by begging their earnest and attentive consideration to the momentous issue committed in their determination.  Nor should he make any observation upon the enormity of the crime into the circumstances of which they were empanelled to inquire, further than to remind them, as they had been already reminded by the eloquent and able counsel for the prisoners, that they should not allow themselves to be hurried into an ill-considered verdict in their desire to bring to justice the perpetrators of so foul a deed.  The more enormous, the more terrible the crime, the more hesitation should they feel in fastening the infamy and the consequences of such a crime upon any individual or individuals and he thought they were rightly warned by the eloquent counsel for the prisoners that they lived in times when it was necessary for jurors to calm all passion and bring to the determination of cases the most unqualified impartiality and the absence of sentiment in their desire to stamp out, as the eloquent counsel suggested it, the career of crime throughout the country.  The prisoners at the bar were charged with the wilful murder of Thomas Browne.  It had been suggested that no motive could exist in the mind of the prisoners for committing that crime, but unfortunately the history of what was passing around them, the contemporaneous history of the country, pointed out that they were living in an era when the absence of motive was too often apparent in the perpetration of crime – he meant the absence of any motive that could be proved to the satisfaction of a jury.  There was a reason suggested in that case – that of Browne having purchased out his interest in his farm, the fee simple of it, so that he became not alone the proprietor of his own part but the landlord of people who held other portions of the farm, and that to this was to be traced the dreadful crime.  It was perfectly obvious that in the statements of the accused themselves to Mr Considine, there was a pointing out, an indication of the persons connected with the land as, at all events, having some complicity with that terrible deed.  He had referred to the statements made by the prisoners themselves, and before he commenced calling their attention to the evidence in the case – for the evidence on both sides presented most material and serious matter for their consideration – before he approached that, he wished to make an observation respecting the suggestions – they were more than suggestions; they were assertions – couched in very strong language with respect to the conduct of the resident magistrate about these statements.  It was suggested that Mr Considine, having statements in his possession which, he thought, or knew might be material for establishing the prisoners’ innocence, did not disclose them.  His Lordship had no hesitation in saying and he would not be doing common justice if he hesitated to say it, that there was not a single shadow of imputation reflecting upon as honourable a man as any in the country.  Mr Considine laid the statements before the Crown; they were printed, and the prisoners knew all about them themselves.  It was an everyday occurrence for such statements to be made, and it was for the gentlemen who conducted the case for the prosecution to determine whether or not they would give those statements in evidence; and Mr Considine had no more concern with the withholding or not withholding of these statements than the jury had.  It was for the able men conducting the Crown case to decide whether the statements should be used or not; and there was not a shadow of imputation that Mr Considine was guilty of anything unfair, unjust, or untruthful in the whole of the case.  He did feel some regret that the brilliant defence which had been made by the two distinguished advocates who presented the case for the prisoners – he did regret that the brilliancy of the defence had been at all sullied by an episode he regretted to observe.  But in the heat of discussion and the zeal of advocacy many things were said that perhaps cooler reflection would withdraw.  His Lordship then proceeded to deal with the evidence given by the witnesses for the Crown and said that on the testimony of Bridget Brosnan the case of the Crown must stand or fall.  There was said to be some discrepancy between her evidence on the present occasion and that on the last trial; but the jury were to say if she had varied much.  Mr Meade, a respectable gentleman attached to one of the papers, had sworn to what she had said on the previous occasion about the clothes which the men wore, and Mr Meade was critically accurate.  It had been said with regard to Bridget Brosnan that she told her story now because she knew the priest would not get up and contradict her; but his Lordship thought it would be a curious state of relations between priest and penitent if this woman would commit perjury in the presence of the priest because she knew that he dare not disclose it.  It exhibited very little influence produced in the mind of the people if this woman would only turn the priest into an agent for her own perjury.  Another theory was that she was mistaken.  His Lordship would offer no suggestion of his own to the jury on any questions of fact.  He left the credit to be attached to the witnesses, and the inferences to be drawn from their testimony entirely to the jury and their unbiased judgment.  Having gone through the evidence in detail, his Lordship said there was no doubt the prisoners were the persons to whom it was disclosed that Browne was to be shot that day, and they did not tell the woman who was to be made a widow or the children who were to be made orphans, anything about it.  Such a state of things as was disclosed by the evidence showed a state of demoralisation in the district that was absolutely appalling to any mind –

The prisoner Poff here said that he made the same statement to Mr Ware as he had done to Mr Considine.[14]

His Lordship then read the statements of the prisoners to Mr Considine and again commented on the fact that they gave no word of warning to either Mrs Browne or her children or to Browne himself whom they saw in Scartaglin –

The prisoner Poff – I was only a month in the place.  I knew nothing about Dunleavy, or Browne or Fitzgerald.  It would be a queer thing if I were to leave my little family and go and shoot a man I didn’t know.  What I knew about it I gave it to the policeman.

His Lordship continued and again referred to the brilliant defence made for the prisoners, and concluded by leaving the case to the determination of the jury, hoping that God would direct them to a right conclusion.

The Foreman (Mr I Banks) asked Mr Considine RM when was Dunleavy discharged.

Mr Considine said about three weeks ago.

A Juror asked if the witness Redmond Connor, when he went to Castleisland along with Barrett’s father, had an interview with the prisoners.

Sub-Inspector Davis said he did not know.

His Lordship – You may assume that there was no interview.

The jury retired at half-past two o’clock and at three they returned into court.

The Clerk of the Peace (Mr O’Keeffe) – Have you agreed to a verdict gentlemen?

The Foreman – We have.

The issue paper was then handed down when the Clerk of the Peace read out the finding of ‘guilty’ against both prisoners and asked them what they had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them?

Poff – I am sure that I am not any more guilty than Our Saviour, thanks be to God, I had neither hand, act, or part, nor did I encourage it, thank God, and it is well known to the gentlemen who were in the case that I am not guilty.

Barrett – I own before God and man that I never handled a gun or revolver, or fired a shot, or knew anything of it.

Poff – There is not a man in the world could say that we had one in our hands, thanks be to God.  And Mr Horgan knows we are not guilty of it.

Barrett – We are under sentence of death for no reason in the world.

His Lordship, in passing sentence, said – Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, you have been convicted by a jury of your fellow countrymen of the crime of murder – a murder committed under circumstances of peculiar audacity and peculiar atrocity.  Apparently without any personal ground of hostility against unfortunate Thomas Browne you shot him in the broad noon-day on his own land, almost within sight of the woman whom you made his widow and the children whom you made orphans.  The details of the crime have been discussed so fully and with such distress to all who heard them in this court during the progress of the two patient trials which you have had that I shall not now harrow my own feelings by any attempt to recapitulate them.  I have only to say that for the life which you have taken your lives are forfeited to the law.  You have had, and you shall have, an opportunity which you denied your victim, of endeavouring to make your peace with the God against whose laws, as well as the laws of man, you so grievously offended.  I shall not attempt, by any words of mine, to recall you to a sense of the only reparation you can now make to that offended Maker.   Words of mine would be feeble to describe the awful position in which you now stand.  I feel the awful duty which devolves upon me.  In this world you can expect no mercy.  The only mercy you can look for will be the mercy of that God whom we are told hearkens to the repentant prayer even of the greatest offender.  For me, it only remains to pass on you the dreadful sentence of the law.

His Lordship here assumed the black cap, and in the usual formal manner sentenced the two prisoners to be hanged in Tralee Gaol on Tuesday, the 23 January.

Poff again asserted that he was as innocent of the crime as the judge was.

Barrett – I was not there at all. I do not blame the jury but those who swore against us.

The prisoners were then removed, and as Poff was going down the steps of the dock he made use of some words which could not be heard distinctly by the reporter, but it is stated that he said, ‘This will not put a stop to the work in Castleisland.’

It may be mentioned as a somewhat unusual circumstance that several ladies were in court while the death sentence was being pronounced.[15]


[1] Submission was made the same day that John Twiss of Castleisland was Pardoned by President Michael D Higgins,  Twiss was wrongfully hanged in 1895 for the murder of caretaker James Donovan at Glenlara, near Newmarket, Co Cork in 1894.

[2] Letters from the West of Ireland (1884) by Alexander Innes Shand (1832-1907), p194.

[3] Kerry Evening Post, 29 Oct 1890.  His Honour John Adye Curran QC, speaking at the Tralee Quarter Sessions.  Surprisingly, despite this crime-ridden period in Kerry, John Adye Curran (1837-1919) has remarkably little to say about the cases brought before him in Reminiscences of John Adye Curran KC Late County Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions (1915).  He does offer some insight into the case of John O’Connell Curtin who was murdered in 1886, and discusses the role he (Curran) played in reduction/removal of rent arrears among the tenantry of extensive landed proprietors. 

[4] The song is attributed to Daniel O’Brien, a national school teacher who was a witness at the trial.  See Songs of Agrarian Strife by Pat Feeley.

[5]  IE CDH 57.  A copy of Songs from the Past is held by Castleisland District Heritage, IE MOD-A29. The song John Twiss of Castleisland can be heard on this link

[6] Extraordinary precautions are taken for the safety of the judges and others engaged in the administration of justice at the Cork Winter Assizes.  A guard consisting of an officer and a dozen soldiers is stationed night and day at the judge’s lodgings on the Mardyke.  A police guard is placed at the Imperial Hotel where the Crown counsel are staying, and police sentries are on duty around the Bridewell where the informer Connell and other Crown witnesses are lodged (Freeman’s Journal, 9 December 1882).

[7] Maurice J Horgan, solicitor, 28 Denny Street, Tralee (formerly had offices in 24 The Mall, Tralee and 4 (and/or 48) Nelson Street, Tralee) died at age 32 in early January 1889.  He was born near Ballyduff and educated at Queen’s College Cork.  He was admitted a solicitor in April 1881.  He was described as of striking physique, genial and warm-hearted with a strong sense of what was upright.  He was buried in the family burial place at Rattoo (obituary Kerry Sentinel, 5 January 1889).  He had a brother, Thomas T Horgan, solicitor, Tralee and a sister Margaret who was married to James Bunyan.  Margaret Bunyan died in Listowel in 1940.

[8] Kerry Sentinel, 15 December 1882.

[9] Cork Examiner, Friday morning, December 15 1882.

[10] Cork Examiner, Friday morning, December 16 1882.  It would seem that nine were for a conviction, three against (Morning Post, 16 December 1882).

[11] Cork Examiner, Monday morning, December 18 1882.

[12] Cork Examiner, Thursday morning, December 21 1882.

[13] Cork Examiner, Friday 22 December 1882.

[14] 20 October 1882 Deposition of Sub Constable Alexander Weir ‘I have reason to believe that I shall be able to obtain evidence to connect the said John Dunleavy with said offence if a reward be granted.  I was informed by Sylvester Poff on the 13th of this month in Castleisland that John Dunleavy knew all about the murder of Thomas Browne.  Considine Papers.

Deposition of Sub Constable RIC John Dallas I have read the deposition of sub constable Alexander Weir on which the last remand in this case was made and I say that in consequence of a further statement made by the prisoner Sylvester Poff in reference to John Dunleavy I have reason to believe I will be able to produce further evidence against the said John Dunleavy if a further remand of eight days be granted.

[15] Cork Examiner, Saturday morning 23 December 1882.