Galway Advertiser 2010/GA_2010_02_18/GA_1802_E1_115.pdf 

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Galway Advertiser 2010/GA_2010_02_18/GA_1802_E1_115.pdf

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February 18 2010



Distillery House, Newcastle
TOM KENNY Mathew. The town had 4 very extensive distilleries in active operation and possessed sufficient consumption for all they could possibly distil, but how wonderfully changed have the times become: such is the benevolence of sobriety that 3 of these distilleries have actually discontinued working for some time. The only distillery now in town at full work is that of Newcastle, and as we believe there is not another in the Province at present manufacturing spirits, the extensive concerns of Newcastle, now the property of Thomas Moore Persse, must enjoy a very excellent and extensive trade, as the high character of the establishment and the superior quality of its spirits must insure a preference and a demand in the Irish market." In 1846, Roderick O'Flaherty wrote "In the same parish is the chapel of St. James at Newcastle by the Galway River near the town, which was wont to be visited on St James' Eve and Day which was made about 40 years ago by Messrs Henry & Robert Persse, the proprietors of the just mentioned establishment before Burton Persse, the present proprietor. The well was 50 or 60 yards to the south of the chapel." Distillery House was also known as Newcastle House or The Tea House. It was a two storey cream coloured late 18th century building. In 1921, Elenor Persse sold it to Patrick Hynes. It was owned for a time by Francis Dillon, and he sold it to Margaret O'Halloran in 1943. The O'Hallorans lived there until 1968, when they sold it to UCG. It was a big house and they occasionally leased parts off it to other families. The building is gone now. Our photograph, which we show courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square, Dublin, shows the back of the building and what was presumably the remains of St James' Chapel. You can see a bridge over the tail race on the right. A drum tower from the extensive gardens still stands in the college grounds.


istillery House was at the end of Distillery Road in Newcastle. It was so-called because Burton Persse was operating a distillery behind the house in 1815. The distillery was a big success, and continued there for more than 40 years before it moved to larger premises in Nuns Island, where it availed of a lot more waterpower. In 1906, Persse's had 125 staff, but sadly, in 1910, it was in the hands of the receiver. A report in The Connaught Journal in November, 1840, stated "Provision to the rapid and extensive aspect of Temperance in Ireland under the happy auspices and influences of the great Apostle and Advocate of Sobriety, The Rev Theobald

yearly by the people of Galway for devotions." In that wonderful new book The Ordnance Survey Letters of Galway edited by Michael Herity, we read "The chapel of St James is as yet (1838) entire in its wall and roof.

It stands within the concerns at the distillery of Burton Persse.... The distillery is at Newcastle and within a mile of Galway town. The chapel has been converted into a stall for feeding cows. Its extent is about 30 feet

by 15 feet. There is a pointed window of cut stone on one of its gables, and a recess in the side wall. The roof is a slated one which threatens to fall into ruin in a short time. St James' Well was destroyed by a Mill race,


Maamtrasna - The truth at last
Week IV im Harrington MP wasted no time in proving the charade that passed for a trial of the 10 men accused of the John Joyce family murder. Yes among the 10 were some guilty ones, but the majority were innocent forced to declare their guilt to escape the rope. He tackled the evidence of the Maolras' Joyces head on. They claimed to have identified the 10 accused from behind a bush on the night in question. With two RIC constables and Fr James Corbett, Harrington visited the exact spot where the Maolras claimed to be. Not one of Harrington's witnesses could identify anyone from that distance, other than the broad outline of body shapes. The Maolras' evidence was even more absurd as it was based of sightings made at night, and the faces of the murder gang were blackened*. Harrington confronted the two `approvers', who had substantiated the Maolras evidence, Anthony Philbin and Tom Casey. With Fr Corbett at his side, he asked Philbin what did he think of himself for


Timothy Harrington MP easily showed that the trial was a charade.

sending Myles Joyce to the scaffold? Or for keeping innocent men in gaol? `Philbin bent his head over the wall, his face in his hands, and wept. But refused to answer questions.' The other `approver', Tom Casey, however, spoke at length. He admitted he was one of the murder gang, but, understandably, played down his role in the crime. He told Harrington in detail of how he tried to tell George Bolton, Crown Solicitor, the truth, but Bolton waved his confession aside; warning him that if he wanted to

escape the rope he must substantiate Philbin's evidence, even if he knew that it was untrue. Of the five men in Mountjoy, under life sentences, Casey assured Harrington that four were innocent. These were John Casey, Martin, Patrick, and Tom Joyce. Talking to witnesses and taking alibis for these men Harrington amassed ample proof to show that they knew no more of the crime than Myles Joyce did. All their wives showed letters from their husbands in prison telling their stories which matched that of Tom Casey. The remaining convict Michael Casey was guilty. His wife showed letters from him containing a full statement of the crime, declaring the other four men in prison and Myles Joyce were innocent. She, however, did not reveal the name of the organiser of the murder, even though he became known to Harrington.

Casey, he was alone. He was polite. Admitted that he had paid the legal costs of some of the accused, but would not discuss the murder, nor why he didn't meet the costs of all the accused. Every question of Harrington's was deftly brushed aside, and after a while, he heaved the `brath' onto his back and moved on.


Joyce's ghost
During the five hour journey on the steamer back to Galway Harrington told his findings to the journalist from The New York Times, whom he met in the Carlisle Arms that morning. In the journalistic style of the day, the journalist sets the scene of the two men talking ` within sight of the estate which Lord Mountmorres owned, and on which he was shot down; within sight too of the gloomy grey mountain further north, at the base of which the Huddy's bailiffs were murdered, sewn in bags, and cast into Lough Mask, and on the bleak side of which the Joyce massacre was committed ..' The New York Times published its story October 12 1884; but it was also widely published, copied, and enlarged upon, including in a bestselling pamphlet by Harrington. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that the trial was a disgrace Dublin Castle refused to revisit the Maamtrasna Murder case. Two prisoners died in captivity. Michael Casey in 1895, followed by John Casey five years later. Both died of tuberculosis. Then without any fanfare or prior warning, unlike the Birmingham Six, freed in 2005 after 16 years' imprisonment, who ran out of the Appeals Court in London to be welcomed by a huge crowd of well wishers, the last three prisoners, Martin, Patrick and Tom Joyce were quietly released. They had served 20 years' hard labour. The three men took the train to Ballinrobe, and walked the last 18 miles to their mountain home**. But there was no peace for the spirit of Myles Joyce, a totally innocent man, hanged for a murder he knew nothing about. Within days

The `Gombeen' man
But the alleged mastermind for the murders was pointed out to Harrington. When he met this mysterious man he was coming out of one of his fields, bent under a big `brath' of grass. Harrington described him as `tall, athletic, elderly, with irongrey hair, dark complexion and rather prepossessing face.' His name was John Casey, the most wealthy man on the mountain. As well as farming he was the local `Gombeen man' the money lender, a powerful man in any community. He was respected, and referred to as `counsellor' meaning that he had a lawyer's smartness. On the surface he appeared to be well liked. He sometimes lent money without interest to help out an individual or a family who were particularly stuck. It is believed that he thought the murdered man, John Joyce, was a sheep stealer, and because sheep was the only source of revenue on the mountain, the crime was particularly despised. Had John Casey removed a common menace? His son, who often accompanied his father, had a vicious temper, and was feared. But when Harrington met John

of his botched hanging, and his anguished protests that he was innocent, his ghost was seen in the corridors where he was taken on his last walk to the gallows. His ghost was witnessed and seen by many people, prisoners, wardens, and the governor, and probably by Tim Harrington TD which prompted him to investigate the whole dreadful business of murder, informers, deadly enemies, and perjury, hangings and imprisonment. Galway gaol closed in May 1939, but its high walls continued to be a forbidding landscape in the centre of the town. Work on the new Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas began in 1958 (it was completed in 1965). As the wall came piecemeal, I remember standing with my father hoping to see the ghost of the unfortunate Myles Joyce in the grey prison buildings inside. NOTES: *Little Patrick Joyce, 10 years old, was the only survivor of the massacre. He was cared for by the Christian Brothers at Artane, but was available to be a witness at the trial. He had always declared that he could not identify any of the murderers because their faces were blackened. If his evidence had been admitted it would render ridiculous the evidence of the Maolras' who swore they recognised the murderers at a distance of some hundreds of yards on a dark night. Bolton absolutely refused to allow the boy to testify; and he also warned Tom Casey, the approver, not to mention that the faces were blackened. **Tom Joyce soon left for America. Martin died within four years of TB, while Patrick died in 1911 aged 75 years.

The truth comes out
Ten men were tried for the crime. They were convicted on the dubious evidence of the `Maolras' Joyces, a neighbouring family locked in a boundary feud with some of the accused . The Maolras were not liked. Their main spokesman, Anthony Joyce, had a wicked tongue, and would destroy a women's reputation with his gossip and false insinuations. The Maolras chose their victims well. They included their enemies among names of known rogues, or men most likely to be involved in crime. Some of them were guilty (I have indicated their guilt or innocence status). The accused were summarily punished. Myles Joyce (innocent), Pat Casey (guilty) and Patrick Joyce (guilty) were hanged in Galway gaol on December 15 1882. The rest, Martin Joyce (innocent), Patrick Joyce (innocent), Tom Joyce (innocent), Michael Casey (guilty), and John Casey (innocent), all pleaded guilty to be spared the rope for a life of penal servitude in Mountjoy gaol, Dublin.. . Significantly, the Maolras' evidence was substantiated by two of the accused, Anthony Philbin (innocent) and Tom Casey (guilty), who turned `Approver', or State's evidence, in a deal with the Crown Solicitor, George Bolton, to save their necks. Both men were released. Following a thorough investigation at the location of the crime, by a young Irish Party parliamentarian, Timothy Harrington MP, it was proved that the lies and false testimonies given at the trial, were well known, and in the great part, instigated by the Crown Solicitor who, nevertheless, allowed the trial to go ahead with its tragic consequences.

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 Galway Advertiser 2010 / GA_2010_02_18