Fenians in Newtownhamilton

There was one recorded incident of the Fenian Rising in the Newtownhamilton area of South Armagh.  This concerned a meeting held in a public house on Newry Street in 1867.  The Fenian leader John Turley of Drumnahuncheon was there to administer the oath.  It was appropriately a fair day.

Assembled with him were Felix McParland, Newtownhamilton, ‘The Vicar’ McKeown, Ballymoyer, and Shane McDonnell, and Edward McParland, both of Camblyball.

Turley was in the act of initiating one of the company when suddenly the door was forced open and the Constabulary rushed in.  With considerable presence of mind, Turley pressed the declaration into his mouth and attempted to swallow it.    One of the police grabbed his beard and attempted to withdraw the page from his mouth, but failed.  McKeown escaped by forcing the window of the room and dropping twenty feet into the yard.  The others were all arrested. 

A young man named Coughlan from Armagh defended them in court.  The Crown case was that the four could not have assembled there for any legitimate purpose.  They were all dressed in their Sunday best and Felix McParland had in his possession a prayer book that clearly was being used to swear an oath. 

The proprietor disclaimed all knowledge of wrongdoing on his part, and on the men’s part.  In fact, as well as patrons, they were all – with the exception of McDonnell – also his tenants as he owned a number of rented houses. 

Coughlan argued a lack of evidence against the men.  It was not unusual for Catholic men to be well dressed for a fair day.  And any decent Catholic man carried his prayer book in his Sunday suit!  They were assembled as friends in a public place.  Turley’s reaction in eating a page was understandable as it was the police who had acted aggressively.

They were all acquitted, due to Coughlan’s eloquence and persuasiveness.

… start of Crossmaglen series ? …

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