When John Twiss was arrested on 25 April 1894, within days of the brutal murder, at Glenlara, of caretaker James Donovan, he explained to officers that he and his sister Jane were financially dependent on the tolls of a local Kerry fair. The fair, he informed them, was imminent, and he asked if he could be released temporarily, and re-arrested after the event.
This was hardly the response of a man accused of bludgeoning a caretaker to death with the butt end of a firearm in the presence of a child. Indeed, Twiss’s response to his apprehension was that of an innocent man, who attached little importance to it because he had played no part in the attack.
Twiss was denied the freedom to attend the fair, and the precarity of his situation, the prospect of being used as a scapegoat, fell upon him. He protested to Major Anthony Richard Hutchinson, Resident Magistrate, that he was ‘made suffer for some other downright blackguard’s doings.’
This indignation, from arrest to scaffold, over a period of more than eight months, never ceased. His was the voice of an innocent man.
James Donovan of Ballineen
James Donovan was assaulted in his bed at Glenlara, in the house of evicted tenant, James T Keneally, on the night or early morning of Friday 20/Saturday 21 April 1894. Donovan, native of Ballineen, Cork, where two of his brothers still lived, had been installed at Glenlara as caretaker, or ‘emergency-man.’
Donovan was himself an evicted tenant but had been in the employment of the Cork Defence Union for about five years, most of which time he had spent as caretaker of an evicted farm in the neighbourhood of Coachford.
James Keneally and his wife Abina, and their eight children, had moved in with his bachelor brother, John Keneally, who occupied rooms in the same property. It was an uncomfortable arrangement for all concerned.
The Keneallys heard the late night attack on Donovan within the house and as it continued in the yard outside. The Keneallys suspected a moonlight raid, and did not get involved. John Keneally discovered the dying Donovan at about 5am when he rose to tend to cattle. Donovan had somehow managed to make his way from the yard, to where he had been dragged and beaten, back to his bed where the bleeding, dying man lost his life at about 8am. Nobody arrived in time to hear uttered any dying words.
One of the earliest accounts described the full horror:
Donovan was a man of the easy-going type, and without fastening either the hall door or the door leading into his bedroom, he went to bed with his son. The apartment was most scantily furnished, and the bed simply consisted of a shake-down upon the floor. About two o’clock in the morning, according to the statement of Donovan’s youngest son, a lad aged six, two young men of the farming class appeared in the bedroom. They wore greyish clothes and soft hats, and made no attempt at disguise. One of the men carried a double-barrelled gun, and without making any remark whatsoever, he stooped to the side of the bed and struck Donovan several times on the head with the butt end of the instrument. His companion then stepped forward, and catching hold of Donovan both men dragged him out of the bed. The child, who had remained untouched, jumped up in the bed and cried out, when one of the men struck him a light blow. The unfortunate caretaker was then dragged into the yard where the men beat him again with the gun upon the head, and almost every portion of the body. The child ran to the door, and he attempts to describe the terrible struggle that took place. Unfortunately, the lad is not possessed of the average intelligence of his class, and he utterly fails to give any clue to the identifying of his father’s murderers, or even to give an accurate description of what occurred. The bedclothes and pillows are torn and saturated with blood, while the floor of the room is also blood-stained. Outside his door were found several pools of blood. The walls were also besmeared. It appears that after the attacking party left, the unfortunate man struggled back to his bed, for along the walls leading to the door imperfect impressions of his hands are stamped in crimson.
Information given by John Keneally at the inquest suggested that James Donovan had cried out to him for what can only have been for help:
I was disturbed out of my sleep on Friday night by noise. I was called, and I heard the noise. I considered it was Donovan who called me, but my brother told me it was himself called me. I remained in bed listening to the noise until I understood it was moonlighters, and I got up and opened the door to save the man. I saw one man, but my brother told me it might be dangerous to go out, and told me to stop inside, so I went back to bed again. After that I remained listening, and the moonlighters came back again. I heard them as if they were slapping Donovan’s door. One of them said, ‘That will do now; that will do now.’ I considered then that I heard three revolver shots fired in the air, and I thought they were frightening the man. I heard several voices then up in the room with him. I was afraid to go out for fear he would blame me for not giving him assistance, or that I would be prosecuted in connection with it.
This was corroborated by Mrs Abina Keneally, wife of the evicted James T Keneally, during a later examination. She deposed that she was awakened on the 21st April by a noise, and she heard screeching in Donovan’s room. There appeared to be quite a large number in the yard. After a time she heard the voice of Donovan at the door crying, several times, ‘John Kenneally’ after which the door was struck. She afterwards heard three strokes as if an empty box had been struck, and a voice saying, ‘Come on number one, that will do.’
John Twiss was arrested within days of the savage attack while evidence was sought against him. The ‘evidence’ subsequently gathered would include that of informer, John Brosnan, said to be the grandson of Bridget Brosnan, the woman whose ‘evidence’ helped to hang Sylvester Poff and James Barrett in 1883.
It was generally believed that the police apprehended Twiss in an attempt to procure information from him about the perpetrators. Police were under pressure to arrest and convict. Political capital was being made out of the case in parliament.
However, notwithstanding the politics of the day, there can be no doubt that the brutal slaying of James Donovan was fuelled by local events in which John Twiss of Castleisland played no part.
It can only be hoped that, 125 years on, the protestations of John Twiss may at last be heard in the form of a Presidential Pardon, and that the double tragedy of Glenlara may be, to some degree, reduced.
 On Friday 27 April, Twiss was conveyed to Newmarket by train. John Horan of Glounthane near Kingwilliamstown was also arrested and both men were taken to the scene of the crime by an escort of police on the afternoon of the 27th. Others questioned early in the affair included Alexander Duffy and Richard Kelly (or Shelly) described as ‘tramps.’ They were apprehended at Buttevant and detained in Mallow Bridewell from Monday 23 April and released on 27 April.  Irish Examiner, 5 May 1894. The fair was Currans, held in May: ‘His grandfather on the father’s side was William Twiss, who married Catherine Tuite of Ballackery, and through this woman John Twiss inherited the custom tolls of the Currans, Castleisland Fair forming some of his means of existence in Kerry … these tolls did not amount to much, perhaps not more than £8 a year’ (Flag of Ireland, 16 February 1895). Twiss estimated the income at twice that figure.  Irish Examiner, 5 May 1894. The Resident Magistrate assured Twiss he would be fairly treated. Anthony Richard Hutchinson (1841-1911) eldest son of John Hutchinson Esq of Kiltorkan House, Co Kilkenny, married Sophia Margaret (Daisy), youngest daughter of Rev Joseph Marshall of Baronnecourt, Co Tipperary, in 1883. Sophia Margaret Hutchinson died on 2 November 1884. He married secondly, in 1894, to Elizabeth Caroline, daughter of Rev Edmond Francis Knox. He died on 27 March 1911 at Monkstown, Dublin. Twiss had already explained to District Inspector Rice that he had spent Friday 20 April 1894 at Castleisland fair, and had returned home with Constable Byrne and another policeman who had overtaken him on his way home. When Twiss reached his home, the police went in with him ‘to light the pipe.’ Twiss rose on Saturday morning, ‘some time after breakfast I went with the donkey to the churchyard for sticks’ (Cork Examiner, 21 May 1894).  ‘As far as I know the three men on the raid were a local man, a Meelin man, and a man from Kileedy, near Broadford in Co Limerick. The reason the Kileedy man was in Glenlara, Donovan as a bailiff had done an eviction in the area. The Meelin man was a near cousin of local people’ (‘The Glenlara Murder,’ The Footprints in a Field in Glenamuckla, Newmarket, Co Cork (2013) by Donie Murphy, p67).  James Keneally had owed about ten years rent at the time of his eviction.  Freeman’s Journal, 23 April 1894. Regular police patrols afforded Donovan some protection: ‘Owing to the disturbed state of the district, and the frequent moonlight raids that took place there, the police both from the Newmarket and the Tower [Taur] barracks were in the habit of engaging in a good deal of patrol duty’ (Dublin Evening Mail, 23 April 1894).  Evening Herald, 21 April 1894. The report in full: ‘At an early hour on Saturday morning what must be described as a cold-blooded murder was reported to the Newmarket police. Acting upon information, District Inspector Monson and several police set out for the townland of Glenlara, some five miles distant from Newmarket, and found that James Donovan, who had been caring an evicted farm for the Cork Defence Union, had been cruelly murdered. The scene of the crime is upon the Earl of Cork’s estate. Two of his tenants were brothers, named John and James Kinnealy, and they each held about 40 acres of land at Glenlara. The country here is of a hilly and somewhat sterile nature and the brothers’ holdings adjoining each other they resided in one house. Last October, James Kinnealy was evicted for non-payment of about eight years’ rent and a caretaker was put in possession of the farm by the Cork Defence Union. The evicted tenant and his family then went to live in his brother’s portion of the house and the caretaker was accommodated with the portion that was vacated. After remaining there for a month, the caretaker left and emigrated to America. His place was then taken by the murdered man. As might be expected the arrangement by which the caretaker was lodged in the same house with the evicted tenant, led to unfriendliness between the parties but the Kinnealys now state that the most cordial relations had existed between them and Donovan. They, however, give it as their opinion that the reason he was so brutally murdered was to be found in the fact that latterly he had assisted the sheriff’s bailiff, Andrew Shannon, at several seizures. On Friday he accompanied the bailiff to Clonbanin, where some head of cattle and a horse were seized in satisfaction of a decree, and towards evening, with the assistance of his eldest son, he drove the animals into the pound at Newmarket. This was the last occasion upon which he was seen alive in the town. Having left his son in Newmarket to assist the bailiff, he started for home at nightfall and it is stated that he was in his house shortly after nine o’clock with his younger son. Donovan was visited in the usual way by the police patrol shortly after he reached home and the police remained with him until close on midnight, when they took their departure. In a couple of hours afterwards, the murder was committed. Donovan was a man of the easy-going type, and without fastening either the hall door or the door leading into his bedroom, he went to bed with his son. The apartment was most scantily furnished, and the bed simply consisted of a shake-down upon the floor. About two o’clock in the morning, according to the statement of Donovan’s youngest son, a lad aged six, two young men of the farming class appeared in the bedroom. They wore greyish clothes and soft hats, and made no attempt at disguise. One of the men carried a double-barrelled gun, and without making any remark whatsoever, he stooped to the side of the bed and struck Donovan several times on the head with the butt end of the instrument. His companion then stepped forward, and catching hold of Donovan both men dragged him out of the bed. The child, who had remained untouched, jumped up in the bed and cried out, when one of the men struck him a light blow. The unfortunate caretaker was then dragged into the yard where the men beat him again with the gun upon the head, and almost every portion of the body. The child ran to the door, and he attempts to describe the terrible struggle that took place. Unfortunately, the lad is not possessed of the average intelligence of his class, and he utterly fails to give any clue to the identifying of his father’s murderers, or even to give an accurate description of what occurred. The bedclothes and pillows are torn and saturated with blood, while the floor of the room is also bloodstained. Outside his door were found several pools of blood. The walls were also besmeared. It appears that after the attacking party left, the unfortunate man struggled back to his bed, for along the walls leading to the door imperfect impressions of his hands are stamped in crimson. John Kenneally stated to a reporter that he went to bed early that night in his own portion of the house, and some time about midnight he heard a row going on within the house. His brother James was up reading by the fireplace. Hearing roaring and scuffling, he jumped out of bed and was going to the door when James advised him not to interfere, thinking it was but a drunken row. He remained inside, believing the elder son was with Donovan, and that if it was serious he would let them know. The noise and scuffling went on for some time. He went to bed again. Asked as to whether he heard shots fired, he said he could not be sure. At five o’clock in the morning he went into Donovan’s room and found him lying in bed in a terrible condition, he was bleeding profusely, the bedclothes being all blood stained. He turned him over, and asked what happened, when Donovan said ‘Leave me alone.’ He and his brother James attended Donovan and gave him drinks to revive him but he died three hours later. They sent for a priest and a doctor. Dr Verling having been summoned arrived some time after Donovan’s death. Upon a cursory examination he found four severe fractures of the skull, one of which, extending about two and a half inches along the left temple, would have been, in his opinion, sufficient to cause death. This wound was inflicted by some sharp instrument. He also found bruises all over the body and particularly upon the right arm. These were signs that the deceased put up his arm to protect his head. District Inspector Monson, Newmarket; District Inspector Cosgrove, Kanturk; and a number of policemen were most active in investigating the occurrence and towards evening the scene was visited by County Inspector Gibbons, Cork. Two youths who live close to the scene of the murder received letters warning them not to stop in their houses on Friday night and it is stated that they acted upon the warning and slept in Newmarket. Upon examining the yard outside the caretaker’s house the constabulary found the triggers and lock of a gun which they believe is a portion of the firearm used on the occasion and which must have been broken in the struggle. It is stated that two men, strangers in the locality, on Friday night went through Freemount, in the direction of Glenlara, and forced several cottagers to supply them with their meals. Throughout Saturday, the police photographer was busily engaged obtaining pictures of the deceased and of the locality of the crime. The murder has created great sensation in Newmarket and the surrounding districts. It is remarkable that Donovan himself was an evicted tenant from Ballineen, near Bandon, in the south-west of the county, but had been compelled by distress to accept the position of emergency caretaker on this farm of Lord Cork. The deed has caused the most painful sensations all over the district, and the greatest sympathy is felt for the poor bereaved child.’  Cork Examiner, 24 April 1894. ‘I then made my mind easy, and went to bed, and my brother called me at five o’clock, as I wanted to go to Newmarket fair. I attended the cattle first, and I then said to my brother that I would go to see James Donovan, and see if anything occurred to him, and he said yes. I was horrified when I saw him. He was lying in the bed with his little son beside him. The place was full of blood, and his face was covered with blood, as well as the bolster and pillow. I asked him was he all destroyed, and he said to leave him alone. I then ran and told my brother the state Donovan was in, and sent him for a priest and doctor. A messenger went to the barrack, and I told him to have priest and doctor sent up … We prepared new milk for Donovan, and I fed him with a spoon. I had no notion that he would die that day. He said nothing during the time, except now and again he used say to me to leave him alone. He died a short time before eight o’clock in the morning. He died before the police arrived. I did everything in my power for his soul and body.’ The post mortem was conducted by Dr Walter Kavanagh Verling of Newmarket and Dr J J O’Riordan, Boherbee. Among those present at the inquest were Fr Jeremiah McSweeny (McSwiney) parish priest of Newmarket; Rev Fr O’Donoghue, CC, Newmarket; County Inspector Gibbons, RIC; District Inspectors John Cosgrove (or Cosgrave) and Morrison, and DI Thomas Monson, Newmarket.  Kerry Reporter, 27 April 1935.  The evidence had still not been procured a week later when District Inspector Monson, Newmarket, brought Twiss up for remand before Major Hutchinson, RM, at Newmarket Police Barracks. Twiss was not professionally represented. Detective Inspector Monson made a formal deposition that his inquiries ‘had not yet been completed and that he expected to get further information’ (Irish Examiner, 5 May 1894).  Southern Star, 14 July 1894. See also ‘The Glenlara Murder,’ The Footprints in a Field in Glenamuckla, Newmarket, Co Cork (2013) by Donie Murphy, p67, ‘The police got Brosnan of Castleisland and Lyons living in Taur to give evidence against Twiss … The same trick was used as was done in the Poff and Barrett case’.  ‘If it is not irreverent, it certainly is not irrelevant to compare yesterday's Parliament to a tavern where different and indifferent things are being swallowed. Looked at from this point of view Parliament was spirituous, for the Commons had nothing but Scotch, and the Lords nothing worth noticing except what was Irish … But even thus early there were not many there … Meanwhile the House of Lords was being galvanized. Lord Londonderry was the culprit. He is good-looking enough and not a bad speaker. But he does neither himself nor his House good by such speeches as he made last night. It was a resurrection of the case of the man Donovan, brutally murdered at Glenlara, county Cork, last Saturday. But it was not a case to indict a Government on, as Mr John Morley, standing at the Bar, seemed to think, for he left before the speech was finished. Outside one saw Mr Smith-Barry and an Irish deputation just at the end of the Lords' lobby. Inside, the Earl of Cork, on whose estate the outrage took place, sat indifferently interested on one of the crimson divans; and Lord Londonderry, saying he did not like to say anything behind a man's back, found he was doing so almost literally, for the Earl was sitting with his lack turned and his face on his hand. The Bishop of Chichester, with a hand clasped over a surpliced heart, seemed to be impressed. But no one could say the same of the Premier. He looked just as though he would like to whistle’ (Pall Mall Gazette, 28 April 1894).  ‘The police got Brosnan of Castleisland and Lyons living in Taur to give evidence against Twiss. It was police Sgt. Tom Burke of the police hut Taur which was near the house where Lyons the tailor lived, who got Lyons to make the statements against Twiss. The same trick was used as was done in the Poff and Barrett case’ (‘The Glenlara Murder,’ The Footprints in a Field in Glenamuckla, Newmarket, Co Cork (2013) by Donie Murphy, p67). See also Twiss’s own words about Mrs Lyons http://www.odonohoearchive.com/death-before-dishonour-john-twisss-speech-from-the-dock/  ‘Where is Glenlara?’: John Twiss of Castleisland, from a Cork Perspective (http://www.odonohoearchive.com/where-is-glenlara-john-twiss-of-castleisland-from-a-cork-perspective/) exonerates Twiss of the crime.