“The year 1836 dawned in an air permeated with an element of tension arising from the seething unrest that existed between the Catholic laity and the Protestant clergymen of the day. The Clergymen of the established Church were placed in the unenviable position of augmenting their income by the collection of a Tithe Rent on all the land occupiers. The Tithe proctor went around immediately before the harvest, estimating the number of barrels of corn, tons of hay, hundredweights of potatoes or flax on each farm, and calculating by the market price, ascertained the amount of tithes to be paid by the owners. The parson was left with the headache of devising his own means of collection. No doubt, he had the full benefit of legal assistance with writs, subpoenas, etc., and the aid of magistrates, sheriff and armed police should the occasion demand it. The Tithe Rent was an impost that the Catholic laity could not see their way to pay. It was a state of affairs which could not continue. Eventually, it developed into a state of riot that became known in Irish history as the Tithe War. The incursions on private property to make seizures were resisted by the people with little display of resentment. Armed with stones and farm implements, they frequently defied and attacked the armed forces of police and bailiffs.
Around this period there lived in the parish of Inniscarra one Parson Beresford. Like many other Protestant clergymen of his day, he was receiving a poor response to his demand for payment of tithe rent. He saw very poor prospects for collecting it under the demand notes. Early in September, he applied to the magistrates at the Petty Sessions to know, in the event of bailiffs seeking protection, that the magistrates would attend the seizures with the police. The magistrates told him quite bluntly that they would not attend. Thereupon Parson Beresford submitted their refusal to the Government. One month later, he received a reply from Dublin Castle stating that “the assistance you require in the serving Exchequer Processes will be afforded, and this force must be under the guidance of a magistrate”.
Armed with this letter, he instructed his law agent to have the subpoenas issued. Again, he applied to the magistrates, but again they would not budge: neither would the sheriff. Parson Beresford was left with a number of subpoenas on his hands and was faced with a dilemma as to how he could effect service. He thought of getting an order to substitute service, but at this point, he was told by two eminent lawyers that the court would be slow to make such an order. Therefore, his best plan would be to effect the best service he could. Twice he sent out his bailiffs: twice they were beaten off. Parson Beresford was undaunted. The position for him was nigh desperate. There was little help from the Government and little money coming in. He was determined that, at least, the subpoenas would be served.
He called his bailiffs together again on the night of the 7th January. Most of them were city men, some residents of Blarney Lane. They set out from Cork by “jingle”. Having purchased some bread at a bakers and “spirits” at Langley pub, they arrived at Parson Beresford’s at one hour before midnight. The Parson supplied them with orders, charged each man’s pistol with powder and swan-drops, and instructed them to have the orders served by dawn. The area of operation was Courtbrack, a district about seven miles north-west of Blarney. The tithe-defaulters were Brennan, Barrett, O’Mahoney, and two families of Regans, all resident in the vicinity of Courtbrack. The bailiff’s, a party of eight, arrived at Courtbrack at about 3 am, – four hours before they were scheduled to start. They delayed a short while at the cross-roads and whiled away the hours walking up and down. As dawn broke one of the bailiffs, Abraham McCann of Blarney Lane, a cotton weaver by trade, called at Mahoney’s house. He knocked at the door. When the door was opened, he rushed in, placed the order on the table, and walked briskly out again. On looking back, he noticed a man in a menacing attitude, attired only in his shirt, standing in the doorway.
Despite the early hour, news spread quickly that the bailiffs were on the prowl. As the bailiffs were chatting in the laneway that led to Mahoney’s house, they saw a number of people gathering. As clouds herald a storm, the gathering crowd portended anything but a good omen for the bailiffs. They moved quickly on towards the roadway, without bidding “good-day” or “good-morrow” to the growing crowd. It was not long until the storm broke. As they passed Burn’s house, stones started to pour in on the bailiffs. So dense was the barrage, that none escaped injury. “We all ran as fast as we could” stated McCann, “some of us faster than we were able”.
A bailiff named Hudson was about twenty yards behind McCann. Hudson was severely battered with stones and could not continue running. He shouted “murder” several times in the hope that his companions would come to his aid. The bailiffs were now very much scattered. Hudson’s cries of “murder” were answered by the crowd with shouts of “Boulhe! Boulhe!”! (Strike him, Strike him.) By this time, the crowd of men, women and children had numbered about one hundred. Hudson drew his pistol and shouted: “if ye don’t stop back, I’ll shoot ye.” He uttered no other word, for he was charged by Mahoney. Hudson fired, and Mahoney fell mortally wounded. The infuriated crowd rushed in on Hudson. The injuries he received, as described by Dr Barter, were horrifying. Hudson’s head was so badly battered that identification was possible only from the clothes that he wore. Many of the attackers were “stripped” so as to avoid being recognised.
On the following day, an inquest was held in a farmhouse at Courtbrack. In attendance were Parson Beresford and the parish priest, Fr. Cahill. Parson Beresford asked on which body the first inquest was being held. The Coroner, replying, stated on which ever died first.
Parson Beresford: “it is now a matter of notoriety, that Hudson died antecedent to Mahoney” Juror: We have no evidence of it: we cannot take your word, sir.”
Parson Beresford: “I don’t require you to take my assertion, – yet I doubt whether any person will contradict me.”
Father Cahill” You’re not a witness, Mr Beresford.”
As a result of prior agreement between the Coroner, Parson Beresford and Father Cahill, it was agreed to withdraw councils, and carry on with the inquest in the hope of speeding up the proceedings. At the opening of the inquest, Fr. Cahill addressed the Coroner. He appeared, he said, on behalf of the people. He had no other object than to get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The occurrence he stated, arose out of a “legal impost “which the people were unable and unwilling to pay. “There is no quieter parish “he stated. I have been parish priest for the past fourteen years, and never heard of a riot in the parish.”
The first witness called was the Bailiff, Abraham McCann. He gave a minute account of their movements from the time they left Parson Beresford’s until the double tragedy occurred. McCann, being half illiterate, was scarcely able to read. He stood as a very poor witness under the satirical cross-examination of the parish priest.
“Come on, now my good fellow.” Said Father Cahill, “I know you will answer me”
McCann: “To be sure I will”
Father Cahill. “What is your name?”
McCann: “Abraham McCann, sure I told you before.”
Father Cahill: “Yes, but I am inquisitive. Well, Mr McCann, you took an oath.?”
McCann: “You needn’t Mister me, sir. Call me by my name”
Father Cahill “Oh, I’d rather Mister you. Do you know what an Oath is?”
McCann: “If I swore false, I’d be dammed.”
Father Cahill: “That’s not an oath; that’s the consequence of a false oath.”
The Coroner and the magistrates were growing impatient at this form of cross-examination.
“Oh, I must stop this cavilling,” interjected the Coroner, “the man has given a sufficient answer”
The remark led to further exchanges between the priest and the Coroner. The priest renewed his cross-examination and confounded McCann into a state of self-contradiction that was most embarrassing to the Crown representatives.
On the following day the second inquest was held on the body of O’Mahoney in a public house at Matehy. The jury visited the cabin of Daniel O’Mahoney on the farm of Loughane, about a quarter-mile from Courtbrack, to view the body. A number of men and women who had been in the cabin, bolted and ran up the hill at the sight of the approaching party. Mahoney’s body showed several slug wounds in the chin and mouth, lacerating the tongue and roof of the mouth. He was married and father of three children. His wife had been missing from the district since the day of the tragedy.
The above excerpt was taken from a much larger article titled ‘Loughane Blarney Tithes Tragedy 8th Jan 1836’ by Michael Dorney and published in Issue No 12 ‘Old Blarney’ Journal. A limited number of ‘Old Blarney’ back issues are still available by contacting 087 2153216, or www.blarneyhistory.ie
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