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THE PRESS REACTION TO THE MANCHESTER EXECUTIONS OF THE FENIANS
extracts from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
from Monday 25th November 1867...two days after the executions.
Also included are extracts from other Sunday and evening papers, some
with opposing views to the Courier. These other extracts were
republished by the Courier.
By way of interest Robert Scarr Scowler was the
eldest son of Thomas Scowler, the founder of the
Courier. Robert was editor of the newspaper from 1844-1867. By
profession, however, he was a lawyer. In 1866 he became a full Queen's
Counsel and in 1867 he was one of the counsel for the prosecution in the
Fenian Trials, although his role was relatively minor.
The Courier was not noted for not having a liberal editorial stance, and was in constant battle with the Manchester Guardian. In fact it was rather right of centre and not very sympathetic towards views other than those offered from their own pages. The minute details are reported in a hard and cold manner, but even so they are a reflection of what people in certain quarters felt. It must also be remembered that this was only the second such public execution at the New Bailey Prison, the first being about 12 months before this one. That execution was also reported in minute detail and similar measures were taken to barricade the streets around the New Bailey.
This publication was not aimed at what were referred to as the working man, but this event had far reaching effects throughout Britain and Ireland and I think worth taking a look at. It was a fairly long and difficult process to transcribe these details. The quality of the microfilm I was using was in poor condition, as was the original newspaper, so every now and then there words that were not possible to read. Please note the views expressed are the views of the reporters of the day, and are NOT mine. I have used the punctuation and spellings as they appeared in the paper. Other newspapers of the day can be viewed on the Internet and provide a different angle of the events.
See the Manchester Collection at this link Find My Past
THE EXECUTION OF ALLEN, LARKIN AND GOULD
The Tragic scene was enacted, and a terrible lesson conveyed to the lawless and the disaffected at the New Bailey Prison, Salford on Saturday morning when three of the Fenian prisoners, condemned to death for the murder of Sergeant Brett, expiated their offence by a violent and ignominious death on the scaffold. Our readers are already aware that five men were originally condemned to death, but one of them, Thomas Maguire, subsequently received an unconditional pardon, and another Edward Shore, received on Thursday, a reprieve. The men who suffered to-day the extreme penalty were Wm. O'Mara Allen (or as he called himself Wm. Philip Allen), Michael Larkin, and Wm. Gould, alias Michael O'Brien. The history of the crime of which the prisoners were convicted and all the attendant circumstances of the case, are too well-known, and have so recently been recounted in various ways, that only a brief review is necessary here. An attempt has been made to convert the offence into a political demonstration, and to make the prisoners martyrs to their political and patriotic devotion, but the authorities refused to regard the crime as anything short of murder, pure and simple, and for this murder they have paid the penalty of the law.
On the 11th of September two men named, Kelly and Deasey, Otherwise White and Williams, were taken into custody on suspicion of being Fenian leaders, who were "wanted" in Ireland on charges of treason-felony. The prisoners were remanded for further inquiry, and they were sent back to prison for a week. On the 18th September they were brought up on remand, a policeman produced a warrant requiring the presence of the prisoners in Ireland; and the men were sent back to gaol again. The usual warrant to the gaoler was made out, but the officer in charge, in consequence of the men having escaped, thinking it no longer of consequence, tore it into small pieces. The prisoners, however, were removed along with others, at about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, in the prison van to the city gaol, but when the van arrived at the railway arch in Hyde-road, it was attacked by a number of men waiting there, the spot being selected with military judgment and skill for the purpose of the attack and subsequent retreat. A considerable number of men, among whom the prisoners who have suffered were certainly there, set upon the van. Some of the men were armed with revolvers, and the first thing they did was to discharge them, and the two horses attached to the van were shot. Larkin and Gould were the men who were sworn to as having shot the horses, and at that moment fired at the officers on the box. Immediately after, a policeman named Bromley was wounded. Several shots were fired, and the police officers were driven from the spot, though they repeatedly made charges, aided by other persons, to prevent the breaking of the van. One of the policemen was slightly wounded by a shot; and then a pistol shot was fired by a man whom a very large number of witnesses declared to be Allen, which resulted in the death of Brett. It was proved during the trial that the keys of the van were demanded from Brett, who expressed his determination not to deliver them up, and thereupon received the fatal shot. Large stones were thrown at the van, and in the turmoil that prevailed Kelly and Deasey escaped, and have not since been recaptured. All the three prisoners executed today were taken into custody on the spot; and to that part they severally took, it appears that Allen was the most conspicuous of the whole. He was sworn to with accuracy corroborated to an indisputable extent by the largest numbers of witnesses, and there is reason to believe from their testimony that his was the hand that fired the fatal shot that killed Brett.
As to the part the prisoners severally took in the fatal affray, Allen was sworn to as having presented two revolvers at the ventilator of the van; it was he who demanded the keys from Brett; and it was he who exclaimed- addressing one of the prisoners whom they had determined to release-"Arrgh, Kelly, I'll die for you before I deliver you up." Allen was also stated to have followed the two prisoners, and to have been captured while watching their departure. Whatever difficulty there may have been in the tumult in identifying the prisoners, Allen, from the prominent part he took, was certainly the most implicated, and took the most determined part in the affray. He with a revolver protected those who were breaking into the van and throwing stones at the police; it was he who fired the first shot which wounded a man named Spronson, in the foot; and it was he who was seen on the step when the fatal shot was fired, and who threatened to shoot those who attempted to follow the fugitives. As to Gould and Larkin, they were also caught red-handed in the affray. It was they that shot the horses; who threw stones at the police; who sought to break into and demolish the van; and followed Allen in his determined and desperate rescue and defence of the released prisoners, and perhaps there is scarcely a more daring and defiant instance of lawlessness on record. As pointed out by Mr. Justice Blackburn, as casting light on the intentions of Allen after Brett's death he continued to use the same sort of violence. He tried to escape across the open ground, and was caught with a revolver which had been used. Two of the barrels had sapped fired, and two chambers were still loaded, though without caps. The fact of his being taken in hot pursuit was not a condemnatory circumstance against him, as also against the other two convicts. An attempt was made at an alibi for Gould, but it significantly failed, and the prisoner with the rest was included in the list of the guilty.
Our readers are familiar with the ingenious exceptions taken to the indictment for murder, on the grounds that the arrest of Kelly and Deasey was illegal, and that there was a justification on the part of those who attempted their release. A case was carefully prepared on the subject, both the learned judges who presided at the trial decided against the objection, and without difficulty or reservation; but they were so scrupulous about the matter that, although declining to make the point one for the consideration of the Court of Criminal Appeal, they consented to consult their brethren of the bench, and the result has been as decisive as the learned judges themselves arrived at. Efforts have also been made with more or less discrimination and temper to excite sympathy for the unhappy culprits. Petitions have been signed, and public meetings have been held, and all the arguments that could be adduced in such a hapless case have been urged with a view to a mitigation of the sentence. The strongest of these is the pardon of Maguire and the reprieve of Shore; but the remaining evidence was too conclusive against the three remaining prisoners to admit of a loophole of their escape, and they have suffered accordingly.
The history of the prisoners has been furnished by themselves. They spoke their autobiography when awaiting their awful sentence. Allen said (and his words are worth quoting as showing the character and calibre of the man):
"No man in this court today regrets the death of Sergeant Brett more than I do and I positively say, in the presence of the Almighty and ever-living God, that I am innocent, aye, as innocent as any man in this court. I don't say this for the sake of mercy: I want no mercy-I'll have no mercy. I'll die as many thousands have died, for the sake of their beloved land, and in the defence of it. I will die proudly and triumphantly in defence of Republican principles, and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people. Is it possible we are asked why sentence should not be passed upon us, on the evidence of prostitutes of the streets of Manchester, fellows out of work, convicted felons-aye, an Irishman sentenced to hung when an English dog would have got off? I say, positively and defiantly, justice has not been done me since I was arrested. I feel the righteousness of my every act with regard to what I have done in defence of my country. I fear not, I am fearless-fearless of the punishment that can be inflicted on me: and with that, my lords, I have done. My name, sir, might wished to be known. It is not William O'Mara Allen. My name is William Philip Allen. I was born and reared in Bandon, in the county of Cork, and from that place I take my name; and I am proud of my country and proud of my parentage."
Larkin said: "I do not want to deny that I did go to give aid and assistance to those two noble heroes who were confined in that van-Kelly and Deasey. I did go for to do as much as lay in my power to extricate them out of their bondage; but I did not go for to take life, nor my lords, did anyone else. It is a misfortune there was life taken, but if it was taken it was not done intentionally, and the man who has taken life we have not got him. I was at the scene of action, when there was over-I dare say-150 people standing by there where I was. I am very sorry I have to say, my lord,, but I thought I had some respectable people come up as witnesses against me; but I am sorry to say, as my friend says. I will make no remarks concerning that. All I have to say, that so far as my trial went, and the way it was conducted, I believe I have got a fair trial. What is decreed, a man in the page of life he has to fulfil it, either on the gallows, or drowning, or a fair death in bed, or on the battle field. So I look to the mercy of God. May God forgive all those who have sworn my life away. As I am a dying man I forgive them from the bottom of my heart. May God forgive them."
Gould said: "I shall commence by saying that every witness who has sworn anything against me has sworn what is false. I have not told a story, to my recollection, since I was a boy. I had no pistol in my possession on the day it is alleged this outrage was committed. You call it an outrage-I don't. I say further that my name is Michael Obrien. I was born in the county of Cork, and have the honour to be a fellow-parishioner of Peter O'Neal Crawley, who was fighting against the British troops at Michelstown last March, and who fell fighting against British tyranny in Ireland. I am a citizen of the United States, and if Charles Francis Adams had done his duty towards me, as he ought to in this country, I would not have been in this dock answering your questions now. Mr. Adams did not come though I wrote to him. He did not come to see if I could not find evidence to disprove this charge, which I positively could if he had taken the trouble of sending or coming to see what I could do. I hope the American people will notice that part of the business."
The following is a copy of the letter to which Gould referred, as having been sent to the American minister: -
I would most respectfully request your serious attention to the following statement of facts. I am a citizen of the state of New York, and whilst crossing a field on the 18th September last, I was knocked down, cruelly beaten, and taken into the custody of a gaol officer. When I arrived at Belle Vue gaol, I was stripped naked, searched, and my clothes torn. I was chained by the hands and legs and taken to Albert-street police station, where I was locked in a cell with nothing but a board to be on. The chains were kept on my hands and feet all night, and the most important part of the next day. During the time persons were going round the prison to point out any person who took part in rescuing two men respectfully named Kelly and Deasey, out of the prison van. There was a policeman killed at the same time. If fair play was intended why make an exception. It was impossible for me to escape, being pointed at by having on, as I have already described. It was not until I was about being brought before a magistrate the chains were temporarily removed. A removal was ask for by the police officer, which of course was granted, for a week. In the meantime I had to wear prison clothes, full of filth, which I had to change as often as three times in one day. At the end of the week I was again brought before the magistrate with several others, chained by the hands. These chains caused me mental and physical pain, and cut my wrists. my counsel repeatedly requested they would be taken off. The request being refused he returned to his brief, and left the court, after saying he would not be a party to what was evidently unfair if not illegal. He thereby left me undefended. I did not, nor do I now, blame Mr. Ernest Jones for his actions. Being undefended, I applied to the chairman of the magistrates to have some police officers, jail officers, and a cab driver produced as witnesses, when I would be called on for my defence (which he is empowered to do since the 1st of October). He paid no attention to the application, though it was often renewed, and those witnesses were under his control.
With reference to the evidence, about ten out of forty to fifty have sworn I was present when the van was attacked. One, a policeman, swears I was the person who shot the horses; another policeman swears he saw another shoot the horses, but he saw me throwing stones. Two others swear that I had a pistol in my hand, but they did not see me use it. All the others swear I was there, but they saw me do nothing. This is all the evidence against me. Now the fact is, I was not nearer than a third of a mile of the place, and that I was talking to three ladies and two men when the cab with the policemen in it passed for assistance. I, on my way to my lodgings, walked in the direction in which this riot had occurred, and saw about 15 to 20 persons running across some fields, and apparently not in any particular hurry; but when I got near the place, there was a lot of stones from the direction I was going, which compelled me to get into a field. I walked part of the way across it, but shots and stones being fired from behind, I ran and got over a wall, and was walking quietly when I was knocked down with, I since heard, a blow of a brick. When I got to my feet again I was knocked down several times. There are twenty-three accused of the same offence, nearly all of whom are in a position to prove alibis, over thirty more having been discharged for want of evidence; and some, though they were identified, because the authorities found out that they could bring any number of witnesses to prove they were not within miles of the place.
The Hon. Charles Francis Adams,
United States Legation, London.
On the back of Gould's notes was the following, which, however, was not spoken by him when he was sentenced to death: "I believe I would not be subjected to these indignities were I not a citizen of the United States. It is quite plain that every citizen of that country is bound to feel the cruelty and cowardice of the Government of this country, as soon as they find him out." In another part of the same document the words "conscience do not make cowards of us all," and "conscience (do not) make cowards of us all," is written in Gould's handwriting. The documents seem to have been well handled; and many notes are written down on different matters which transpired at the trial, in strong legible handwriting. On another document Gould had written, after dwelling on the so-called wrongs of Ireland:- "feeling these things as men ought to feel outrage and wrong...on each other is it a wonder that men plot and plan, that there is room for nothing else in their heads but how to right the wrongs of their country; feeling intensely the injustices done and being done, is it a wonder that thousands are ready to, if necessary, sacrifice themselves to serve their dear old Ireland, and act as an example to the rest and to future Ireland." And in another place he says, referring to the misery in Ireland, "How many has that cowardly scoundrel who talks about other people, how many has he placed in a position that starvation was their certain doom."
The rest of the prisoners who were tried on the capital charge also took copious notes during the trial, which they handed to their counsel. The prisoner Allen probably took the fewest notes, as his excitement and anxiety seemed to have the effect of almost hindering him from paying particular attention to the hearing of the case which the other prisoners manifested. Gould, however, who sat very near to him, frequently passed notes to Allen's counsel, after conversing with Allen as to any fact which had been spoken to by the witnesses. Condon, alias Shore, occupied himself after his conviction in writing an analysis of the evidence given on the trial against him. It is a shrewd, skilful presentation of his own case. The principal paragraph in it is the following:-
"It was not fair to bring me up on trial in the first batch, Allen having over 30 witnesses, Larkin 20, Gould 15, and Maguire 10 against him, and while others (Nugent and William Martin) had 10 or 12 against them (each), and others had as many against them as I had. There can be no doubt but that, in the absence of sufficient proof against me, the prosecution brought me up for trial with those that I have named, in order that the overwhelming testimony against them would prejudice the minds of the jury against me, who was brought up in their company. And I believe that, had I not been an American citizen, this would not have been done." After remarking upon the evidence, he concluded:- "Therefore by every principle of fair play and justice, I, too, should be discharge from custody." A copy of his statement was forwarded to London.
PRECAUTIONS TAKEN IN THE CITY
The threats held out by the Fenians that they would take revenge for the execution of the condemned men by setting fire to the warehouses and other buildings in the city necessitated extra precautions being taken. At many of the warehouses the employees were armed by their employers and set to guard the premises. At some of the warehouses half a dozen men were thus armed, and relieved at regular intervals by others belonging to the establishment, and in this manner the watch was kept through the night. We believe this system of private watching by bodies of employees will be carried out for some time. All the public buildings in Salford were placed under protection; and to avoid any attempt to carry out the that had been made to [fir]e both Manchester and Salford, men were stationed to watch the sources of water and gas supply. Similar precautions were made by the mayor and chief constable of Manchester. The whole of the fire brigade were on duty at all the fire stations, and adopting similar steps to those taken during the Chartist disturbance here, many of the warehouses were lighted up, and guarded by men armed with revolvers. In short, between midnight and six o'clock in the morning, a walk through the streets produced the impression that the city was in a state of siege.
PREPARING FOR THE EXECUTION
All day on Friday, New Bailey-street, Salford, presented an extraordinary scene of excitement, thousands of people passing along it to get a glance at the gallows, which is erected in the street about midway in front of the prison wall. Passage along the street was most difficult, as huge barricades were erected at distances of about 20 yards, the footpaths only remaining open. As the paths were not wide enough to accommodate the throng of persons passing, there was ceaseless ducking under the barricades, and awkward collisions, often painful, but more often ludicrous, occurred.
The prison wall fronting New Bailey-street, is a long, blank, brick wall, about seven or eight yards high, and machiolated (sic) at the corners. The gallows, as we have before stated, was erect in the street about midway, and the upper portion of the wall had been taken down, so as to give easier access to the gallows from the prison. The gallows itself is so strongly built that it appeared to the spectator as if it was intended to be a permanent, instead of, as it really was, a temporary structure. At the far side of the prison, and crossing the street on lofty arches, is the Lancashire and Yorkshire line of railway, which was taken possession of by the military, giving them a commanding position, from which they would be able to sweep the whole street, should any demonstration or attempt be made which should render it necessary for then to be called into action. The adjoining railway station, which is immediately behind the prison, was occupied by the military, and in other buildings near a detachment of cavalry was placed. Altogether Colonel Warre, C.B., had a large military force under his command, consisting of the 57th Regiment, the 72nd Highlanders, the 8th Hussars, and the Royal Artillery, the last-named having two batteries of guns. Altogether the arrangements made were so complete that scarcely any fear of a hostile demonstration was entertained. More apprehension of a disturbance was felt in London and distant towns, as we gathered from reporters who were in Manchester from those places, than we actually felt in Manchester itself.
Every precaution which could possibly be adopted to prevent any attack upon the prison, had been attended to. A number of the river Irwell police were stationed on the river, so that no strange "[boat]" could come up stream, and they thus formed a strong defence on that side of the prison which faces the stream. Stanley-street, immediately in front of the gaol, was "boarded" off by boardings 14 feet in height-one immediately in front of the street, facing the Albert Hotel, and at the other end of the prison. Immediately behind the "hoarding" facing the street a camp-fire was kept burning, and every half-hour a signal was sent around the prison by each watchman shouting "All's well", which was conveyed from man to man until it reached the governor in the inside of the prison. The various cries that were heard at a considerable distance from the prison, produced a very singular effect in the neighbourhood, and, to all intents and purposes, the prison presented the appearance of a fortified and well kept castle. The space in front of the prison wall was occupied by the military, and up to midnight a death like stillness prevailed, which was only broken by the occasional tramping of the river police on the banks of the Irwell. The porter's lodge presented a scene of a most painful character, as several of the relatives of the unhappy men were congregated there, and their sobbing was heard as they passed to and fro before the prison doors. The executioner, Calcraft, and another man, who was engaged to assist the former in carrying out the sentence of law on the three culprits, arrived at the prison on Friday. He will be paid the sum of �20 and his expenses for hanging the three men. The custom is to pay �10 and expenses for hanging one man, and �5 a-piece afterwards, so that the respite of Shore will deprive him of �5 which he was to have had under the original contract.
Towards midnight, the crowd, which the police had endeavoured to remove to the outside of the barriers collected in greater force immediately in front of the scaffold, and, generally speaking, their conduct might be said to be on the side of decorum. Several of the bystanders, however, appeared disposed to be somewhat rough, and a few pockets were lightened of their contents. The scaffold, which was draped with black cloth, presented an appearance, in the gloom, which was far from interesting, but both men and women anxiously fought to obtain a view of it, to satisfy a curiosity which is somewhat difficult to understand. As each batch of spectators came under the gallows they were only allowed to have a momentary view of it, and then forced on with the crowd, which kept up on onward march. All the public houses in the street adjoining the prison, more particularly where the barricades were erected, kept up a thriving business, and many jovial choruses broke from the bars, where a number of the spectators, who had come from a considerable distances, to witness the execution, had located themselves, and with a merry ghastly humour killed time until they deemed it wise to take up their positions near the scaffold, with the hope of obtaining a view of the execution of the men. Amid the noise and confusion in some of the bars, there were a few men who resonated their experiences of executions, with a minuteness that showed but too well that they had seen the last of not a few notorious murderers. The house in front of the scaffold were visited by the police shortly before midnight, [and] any stran[gers] who were in them called upon to give their names and addresses.
Father Gadd, who had attended upon the culprits from the time of their condemnation, and Father Quick arrived at the prison at a quarter to ten o'clock, and remained with the prisoners all night.
The services appointed to be read on the way to the gallows were the Litanies, and the Miserere Psalm; and the Litany of Jesus was read as the drop fell.
PROCLAMATION OF THE MAYOR
With a view of protecting the peace in the city of Manchester the Mayor issued the following proclamation:-
"Fellow citizens, --In order to avoid, or, as far as possible, to lessen, the danger of or disturbance from overcrowding or other causes, on Saturday morning next, I earnestly recommend all peaceable and well disposed citizens to abstain on that morning from being near the New Bailey Prison, or from assembling in the streets of the city during the existence of any excitement.
ROBERT NEILL, MAYOR
Dated the Town-hall, this 21st day of November, 1867."
On Friday evening Calcraft received a letter by post, addressed to him at the New Bailey Prison, which read as follows:-
"Sir,--If you hang any of the gentlemen condemned to death at the New Bailey Prison, it will be worse for you. You will not survive afterwards."
Calcraft seems to have been somewhat alarmed at this threat, and at once wrote to the visiting justices to this effect:-
"I have received enclosed letter. It seems a serious job, I hope you will look after it, and that I shall get home safe again. WM. CALCRAFT."
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