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Daniel O'Connell And The Doneraile Conspiracy: Page 1


The Doneraile Conspiracy of 1829 had its origins in the Whiteboy movement, a secret oath-bound society, which for about seventy years had plagued the authorities with intractable problems in rural Ireland.

The Whiteboy disturbances first broke out in Clogheen in Co. Tipperary, in the year 1761, when groups of men assembled by night to level ditches which landlords and graziers had erected around the common land on which, until then, the people had enjoyed free grazing rights. At first they were called Levellers, but soon additional grievances with regard to rent and tithes were added. As the movement spread they began wearing white shirts, and soon became known in the Irish language as Buachailli Bana or Whiteboys.The purpose of the white shirt was so that they could recognise one another in the dark.

Whiteboys in North Cork.

The Whiteboy movement quickly spread over parish and county bounds, and soon reached the neighbouring counties of Waterford, Limerick and Cork. In the 1820's, during the economic slump following the Napoleonic wars, the Whiteboys were very active in North Cork. One of the most disturbed areas in Ireland was that from Shanballymore to Buttevant in an east west direction, and from the Ballyhoura Mts. to the Blackwater river to the south, and this includes almost the entire parish of Doneraile. Within this area nocturnal marauders struck again and again.

In 1822 the police station at Churchtown was burned. In the same year there were attacks on big houses at Ballyellis, Ballyhoura,Clenor, Clogheen, Lough Eagle and Wallstown. In 1823 disturbances spread to other areas. Glenosheen Barracks, just over the border in Co. Limerick, was attacked and burned. The Whiteboys also raided houses at Graigue, Flowerhill, Kilclousha, Kildorrery and Oldtown. Carker Lodge was burned. In 1824 there were attacks at Grange and Quartertown. In 1825 a mill at Ballygriggan, Castletownroche, was burned, and there was also a raid at Springfield near Buttevant.

Intelligence reports to the authorities indicated that the principal places where the " insurgents " assembled to the east of Mallow, were Killavullen, Torpey's Cross near Clenor, Grandy near Annakissa, Ballyvorisheen near Lissaniskey, Ballygriffin, Carrig on the banks of the Blackwater and Drumroe Commons.Frequent meetings of armed "insurgents" were alleged to take place in these areas, and nearly the whole population of the "lower class", including a great number of cottier farmers from Monanimy, Clenor, Carrig and Annakissa, were said to have been sworn Whiteboys.

So it was not surprising that as this troubled decade drew to a close, the large ascendancy landowners in the Doneraile area had every reason to be fearful for their property and their lives.

Doneraile Events.

In the year 1829 the Whiteboy movement around Doneraile had come to a peak, and there was said to be a conspiracy among them to assassinate three important local members of the Establishment. One of these was George Bond Lowe, a magistrate who lived at Clogher House, Shanballymore; the second was Michael Creagh, a landlord who resided at Kilbrack Cottage, Doneraile; The third was Rear-Admiral Henry Evans whose abode was at Oldtown, Shanballymore. Bond Lowe was unpopular because of his activities as a magistrate, and seems to have been particularly hated by the Whiteboys. While reading in his house at Clogher, his lamp had been broken by a bullet through a window, giving rise to the popular comtemporary ballad with the lines:

" Three cheers for the man gave the blow
That broke the pate of George Bond Lowe"

Michael Creagh was unpopular because he was severe on his tenants. The reason for the animosity to Admiral Evans was that he had spoken against Catholic Emancipation in the House of Commons.

Start of Conspiracy.

The first shots in what was to develop into the Doneraile Conspiracy were fired on the 20th. of January, 1829. On that evening Dr. John Norcott, M.D., of Newpark Cottage in the townland of Park North, Doneraile, and his neighbour Michael Creagh, of Kilbrack Cottage, were invited to a dinner party at the home of Admiral Evans in Oldtown. On the way home later that evening, near Ballinamona Bridge, shots were fired at Dr. Norcott's carriage. The gunfire, however, was not intended for Dr. Norcott, but for Michael Creagh for whom he was mistaken. The footman and coachman were wounded but Dr. Norcott and his daughter were not harmed. Shortly after the attack, Michael Creagh , who was also High Sherrif of the County, presided at a meeting of magistrates in Doneraile. At this meeting a large reward of £732 was offered for any information about the people who shot at Dr. Norcott's carriage.

Later, on the 2nd. of March,1829, at Johnsgrove near Skenakilla, shots were fired at George Bond Lowe, as he returned from Mallow Shrove fair with his servant. Bond Lowe's attackers missed the man himself, but wounded his horse. Lowe, with great difficulty brought his horse under control, got local assistance to follow his attackers, and captured one of them, Patrick McGrath of Wallstown. McGrath was taken to Cork gaol, tried and hanged on the 11th. of April 1829.

The Fair at Rathclare.

The capture and execution of Patrick McGrath fomented furthur action by the Whiteboys, and it was at this point that the Doneraile Conspiracy started to take shape and gather momentum. The plot was said to have been hatched at the fair of Rathclare, between Buttevant and Ballyhea, on the 27th. of April 1829. Rathclare fair was one of those rural fairs which were quite common in Ireland at that time. It was held four times a year,- on April 26th., July 1st., November 1st. and December 17th. As April 26th. fell on a Sunday the fair was transferred to the following Monday the 27th. A man named Patrick Daly attended the fair that day, but had other things on his mind besides the selling and buying of animals He was a spy for Col. Richard Hill, who lived at Clogheen, between Doneraile and Buttevant.

Patrick Daly gave two depositions before Col. Hill and Michael Creagh. The first was about a meeting held in Duane's pub in Doneraile, at which there was said to have been talk about shooting George Bond Lowe. The second document described a meeting in a tent at Rathclare fair, where, according to Daly's later oral testimony, a paper was produced for signature by all who were willing to shoot George Bond Lowe, Michael Creagh and Admiral Evans.

Lord Doneraile's Letters.

From his Georgian mansion, Doneraile Court, on the banks of the Awbeg river, Lord Doneraile, the 3rd. Viscount, told the government of his unease about the local situation. In a letter dated 5th. June 1829, to William Gregory in Dublin Castle, he said it was his intention to apply for authority to send the principal informer (Patrick Daly ) to Dublin where he could be examined. The Viscount hoped that, as a result, a good case against John Leary of Rossagh, could be established. In a second letter to Gregory, dated June 8th., he said he feared that the conspiracy had taken deep roots in the area, but that he hoped he would be able to get to the bottom of it.

Writing to the Lord Lieutenant, on June 14th., Lord Doneraile referred to the excitement which the recent arrests had caused in the whole country, and the difficulties of seeing informers, without suspicions being focused on them. The magistrates had asked him to state that the principal informer, Patrick Daly, might either be killed,or otherwise interfered with to stop him giving evidence. Doneraile went on to ask for authority to send Patrick Daly to Dublin, under the charge of Chief Constable Crossley, so that he could be examined by Crown lawyers, and could be kept safely, where no other influences could be used to stop him coming forward as a witness.

Lord Kingston's Fears.

Over in Mitchelstown, George the 3rd. earl of Kingston, also expressed his anxiety in a letter to Wm. Gregory. In this he stated that there could be no doubt that the conspiracy existed, and added that the state of the country about Doneraile had been very bad for some years past, and was getting worse. He also stated that if stronger measures were not taken, he feared that many would be assassinated in the neighbourhood. It was a matter for the government to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, "as the whole country around Doneraile was demoralised". He recommended only one of the informers ( Patrick Daly ) as he was most explicit in his informations. Mitchelstown was not the place for the investigation, but Doneraile was. In all his experience he had never known anything so bad, and he could recall the rebellion of 1798.


The informations of Patrick Daly were enough to move the magistrates, and in the summer of 1829 twenty one so-called 'conspirators' were arrested. In May 1829, when one batch of prisoners were being transferred from Mallow to Cork, four of them, Timothy Barrett, Michael Wallace, John Magner and Charles Daly escaped from their police escort at a public house called the " Six Mile House" on the old Mallow to Cork road.

Barrett and Wallace were subsequently recaptured, but not in time for the Summer Assizes, where only 17 prisoners appeared. As not enough jurors were available, the judge, Chief Baron O'Grady, postponed the cases to the following Assizes. This, however did not allay the fears of the Doneraile gentry, so they applied to the government for a Special Commission to try the accused. The government agreed to this request, and the trial by the Commission was fixed to commence in Cork, on Thursday, Oct. 22nd., 1829. Baron Pennefather and Judge Torrens were nominated as judges and Mr. John Doherty, Solicitor - General was directed to conduct the prosecution.

Ballywalter Shootout.

In the interval between the two trials, John Magner and Charles Daly were still at large, but George Bond Lowe, as a zealous magistrate, had not forgotten about them. He heard that the two of them were hiding at the farm John Blake of Ardleagh, near Ballywalter, Shanballymore. So early on Saturday morning, August the 8th. 1829, he left his residence at Clogher, with a large force of police, and went to Ballywalter to search the house of John Blake and arrest Magner and Daly.

When he arrived a shot was fired, then a second shot, and then he saw Magner and Daly, both armed, running across a field. He called on them to surrender. They said "No" and pointed guns at him. Then they leaped off of the ditch and ran away. He came on them again after running through three fields. Again they refused to surrender and disappeared across the river. Next Daly and Magner got out through a plantation and onto the road. Magner fired at Police Constable Woodley, while Daly fired and wounded Police Con. Delmere. They ran off again, pursued by the police. They fired again. Bond Lowe dismounted and fired at Magner, who fell and died, at Ballyhinnock. In an extraordinary chase that ranged through Kilquane, Monanimy and Ballygriffin, Charles Daly eluded his pursuers, and eventually escaped to America.Dr. James Blackhall Wall, M.D. examined John Magner's body, and found that he had died from a gunshot wound in his left shoulder, which went through his lung.

Tribute to Bond Lowe.

As a result of this exploit, and his earlier one of capturing Patrick McGrath at Johnsgrove, Bond Lowe became something of a hero amongst his own class. A special meeting of noblemen, magistrates and gentlemen of the area was held in the Sessions House, Doneraile, on Aug. 16th. 1829. Viscount Doneraile was in the chair. A very laudatory motion to Bond Lowe was passed by the meeting for the intrepid discharge of his duties as magistrate. To this flattering address Bond Lowe suitably replied, saying he placed a firm reliance "on that mysterious Providence which had protected him up to now".

The Special Commission.

On Wednesday October 21st., 1829, the Cork city Sherriffs, accompanied by a number of gentlemen, left Cork to meet the judges of the Special Commission, who were on their way to the city via Fermoy. At about half past seven in the evening the cavalcade returned, escorted by a troop of the Scots Greys regiment, and numerous police. The whole exercise was probably expressly designed to impress the public with the power and majesty of the law.

On ther next day, Thurs. Oct. 22nd., the County Courthouse at Cork was packed for the trial. In the body of the court, along the galleries, in the Grand Jury box, and in all the aisles,country gentlemen clustered, thick as bees in a hive. As Thomas Sheahan of Clonakilty, one of the reporters at the trial said "There was as great a gathering of aristocrats, as if the country was in a state of rebellion" But the ordinary people were noticeable by their absence; not a friezw coat to be seen.

The Commission opened in the morning, when Baron Pennefather and Mr. Justice Torrens entered the court, accompanied by the High Sherrif. They were followed shortly afterwards by Mr. John Doherty, Solicitor General, and by the usual Crown Prosecutors on the Munster circuit, Sergt. Gould and Mr. Bennet K.C., who were associated with Doherty in the case.

The Grand Jury.

The writ for the Special Commission was read, and the following Grand Jury was called and sworn:

Sir Augustus Warren, Bart., Warrenscourt, Foreman

Charles D. O. Jephson, Mallow Castle,

Major General Sir Robert Travers, Gortgrenane,

William Wrixon-Becher, Ballygiblin, Mallow,

John Smith-Barry, Fota, Carrigtwohill,

Savage French, Cusquinny, Cobh,

Wm. Henry worth-Newenham, Coolmore Carrigaline,

Major General H.G. Barry Ballyclough,

George Courtney, Ballyedmond, Midleton,

John Travers, Garrycloyne Castle,

Simon Dring, Ringrove,

William H. Cooke-Collis, Castlecooke, Kilworth,

John Pyne, Cottage,

Charles Colthurst, Clonmoyle,

William Henry Moore Hodder, Hoddersfield,

William Coppinger, Barryscourt, Carrigtwohill,

Garret Standish Barry, Leamlara Midleton,

Henry Braddle Mallow,

Alexander O'Driscoll, Clover Hill.

The Grand |Jury is to be distinguished from the Petty Jury. The Petty Jury considers the evidence at a trial, and decides on the guilt or innocence of the accused. The Grand Jury was a system of local administration, controlled by landlords and the legal profession.
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