John Twiss of Castleisland: A Postscript

In May 2019, Castleisland District Heritage contacted the National Archives of Ireland in respect of material held there relating to the case of John Twiss.  At that time, application had been made for the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss.


However, due to Covid-19 and a series of unfortunate events, information about the material was not forthcoming until February 2022 – the Pardon of John Twiss occurring on 16 December 2021.


Notwithstanding, of particular interest in May 2019 was photographic material of the crime scene at Glenlara that was believed to exist, notably the Keneally cottage where James Donovan was murdered, and the nearby Glenlara police barracks then in operation.


It can now be confirmed, following a recent inspection of material held in the National Archives, that a number of crime scene photographs were indeed taken in 1894 in the aftermath of the murder.  The following document outlines same, as well as the growing importance of photography in police work:


Crime Department – Special Branch 9 June 1894 Dist: Newmarket

Subject: Photography.  Copies of photos taken in connection with the Glenlara Murder

Submitted – Annexed copies of photographs of the scene of the Glenlara murder as well as of the leading suspects whose movements were inquired into in connection with it.  Owing to the large number of persons (14) that it is now known were concerned in the murder, and the probability that some of them might attempt to leave the country, fearing they should be made answerable, it became necessary to make a large number of copies of the photos of the men suspected for transmission to the principal departs in order that they might be intercepted should they attempt to leave the country before our enquiries connecting them with the murder were completed.  In addition to this the officers engaged in the investigation of the case were also supplied with copies of the photographs of all the leading moonlighting suspects in the Newmarket and Castleisland districts and these have proved an ____able service in assisting them in tracing the guilty persons because a great number of people observed suspicious strangers in the neighbourhood of the scene of the _____ before the murder and an examination of the photos by these persons was the quickest and most _____ way of determining whether any of them resembled the strangers.  In this connection the wonderful assistance to be derived from the use of photography in the investigation of crime may be pointed out.  Certainly in this case it has proved to be our most useful ally, and the more its advantages are realised the more useful will it become – in cases proper for its employment in helping to elucidate difficult and complicated cases whose little or no direct evidence is available to point un____ingly to the criminals.  Holt B Stolles (?) DI[1]


Unfortunately, the corresponding photographs cannot be located in the National Archives.


A brief outline of additional material held there is given below; the first is of particular interest to those conducting research into the Cork side of events of 1894.



Documents and photographs.  File contains ‘Further photos of Glenlara’ 27 July 1894.  Includes images of Foley’s cottage, and individuals, including Ben, John and Dan Quinlan, Meenteragh (brothers); Jim and James Cotter, Meenygorman and Phil Browne.



Document from CSO contains discussion about ‘better prospect of fair trial in Cork with city jurors.’



Document regarding the reprieve of John Twiss, includes report of meeting in this respect from the Irish Daily Independent, 4 February 1895, ‘Seeking a Reprief for John Twiss’ which provides great detail of the ‘formidable lists of signatures’ to the petition for reprieve.  A copy of this newspaper report is also held in IE CDH 54 (Castleisland District Heritage).



Document, anonymous threatening letter to the Lord Lieutenant, in an envelope marked ‘in great haste’: ‘In Twiss case you refused his reprieve, in spite of all the constabulary or army you have at your command your life will be taken before the ninth March next.  Grant his reprief at once  Wire’



[1] National Archives of Ireland reference CBS/8618/S. Document ‘501S’: Secret/South Western Division/Co of Cork/Dist of Newmarket.  The corresponding photographs are not present in CBS/8618/S and no record can be found of them; they must therefore, at this juncture, be considered lost.