Crimes, Court and Legal Affairs

Finn’s Leinster Journal, 11 Feb 1801, p. 2

A few days since, Mr. Barlow, of North Great Georges St., returning to town from Navan, accompanied by one of his clerks and attended by a servant, was stopped at Dowdstown near Navan by 2 armed ruffians, and robbed of half bank notes, cash and etc., after which the villains mounted the servant’s horse and rode off.
On an alarm been given Philip Barry, Esq. of Navan, two of his sons, Richard Ledwidge, miller and a servant pursued the offenders for several miles and afterwards divided, when fortunately Mr. Barry and Mr. Ledwidge came up with and after exchanged several pistol shots, succeeded in apprehending one of them, who has been identified by Mr. Barlow and others and committed to prison.


Extracts below are taken from The Times at the dates specified

Magistrates meeting in Navan 20 Oct 1825:

A meeting of Magistrates was held in Navan on Friday last, for the purpose of adopting measures to prevent the recurrence of outrages similar to those which have occurred in County Meath.

Lord Killeen was in the chair.

There was nothing particularly interesting in the proceedings.  The gentlemen present entered into a subscription

“ for the purpose of rewarding persons who shall give either public or private information, tending to the discovery of the perpetrators of the murder.”

It appears that the outrages have been perpetrated by a gang from the Commons of Navan- a place which has been long famous as the resort of the worst characters in the county.

After the Chief Constable of Police, Captain Henderson, had made his statement, Mr. Corbally (one of the wealthiest and most respectable magistrates in Meath) rose, and, in allusion to that part of Captain Henderson’s statement which attributed apathy to the peasantry, denied that such was the cause. In the instance of Mr. Hackett’s robbery, one of the peasantry got up and shot one of the people on the watch.  He did not think it right to run away with the character of the peasantry, and he wished in some measure to vindicate them.

Mr Tisdall differed in opinion from Mr Corbally, and observed that when the lower orders were found in a particular instance as Mr. Corbally stated, they deserved credit for it; but when in general it was notorious that they acted as Captain Henderson described, the general disposition did not deserve praise.  It was well known that the generality of the people were disposed on all occasions to shield and protect offenders.

This Mr. Tisdall is a great Biblical, and therefore his testimony with regard to the character of the people is not to be depended on.  The County of Meath has long been distinguished for quiet and good order, and it is really too much to hear this man impugn the character of an entire people, because some outrages have occurred, the perpetrators of which can be traced to s single gang.

The meeting concluded with an attack made by Rev. Francis Hamilton upon strictures appeared in the Patriot.  The editor of that journal replied to the Parson, and his reverence was silenced.


The Rathkenny Murder 4 Sept 1834

Meath Assizes Trim Tuesday July 20 1834:

The prisoners charged with these appalling murders were brought into the dock to be arraigned while the sentence was passing.

On Wednesday Judge Burton took his seat in the Crown Court at half past 9 o’clock, when Thomas Baily was again brought to the bar, and it was intimated to him the latter part of his sentence would be dispensed with, and his body be buried within the precincts of the goal.

Michael Devine, James Slevin and Patrick M’kenna were then arraigned, the first for the murder of Thomas Cudden and James Brown at Rathkenny, on the 5 March 1833, and the other two for inciting him to commit the act.  Devine, a miserable looking man, upwards of 70, apparently labouring under much anxiety, and Slevin a young well looking man, of about 30, without any visible symptoms of mental suffering, were first put on their trial, and formed a strange contrast.  He is reported to be a wealthy and well conducted farmer.  He seemed throughout confident of his acquittal.  Patrick M’Kenna was ordered to stand aside for a separate trial.  The following facts were elicited during the examination: -

James Slevin was a tenant of Edward Thomas Hussey Esq., on his estate of Rathkenny, where he held 100 acres at a rent of something above £200, which he paid punctually.  In 1827, he was given a lease of the demesne, house and garden, by Mr. Hussey which it appeared he had not a right to do without being joined therein by his son, who on his part desired that he and his father should retain a part of the house, the orchard garden, and some land about the house.  Slevin was dissatisfied with this “renewal with reservations”.  Mr. Hussy offered him some other land instead at a distance that would be soon out of lease.  Slevin refused, and in 1833 accepted the second lease, which left the Hussey family in possession of part of the house and garden, where they occasionally (and Slevin constantly) resided on terms of a continual bad understanding.  To increase it they had a quarrel about rent, and Slevin paid it up to the day on an implied fear of his cattle being driven to the pound for sale to discharge it.

Further, he had spoken against the tithe system at one of the then popular meetings;  His speech had been “misreported” to Mr. Hussey, who thereupon told him his mind, and informed him moreover that he had reported him to Mr. Blackbourne, a neighbouring magistrate, who had in his turn reported him to the Attorney General (Blackbourne).  Thus the differences of these joint tenants of one house grew wider every day.  The details were all adduced in evidence by the Messrs. Hussey (father and son), evidently with the with the view of convincing the jury that there was a substantial deadly “landlord and tenant” feud between them and James Slevin, the prisoner at the bar.

Devine was a poor under tenant on the same estate, who, it was sought to be proved, had been employed by Slevin with others to assassinate Mr. Hussy.  The later was secretely aware of his existence on the estate.  The murdered James Bunn was steward, and his unfortunate companion under tenant to Mr. Hussey.  They met their fate in a mistake under the following singular circumstances:- Mr. Hussey was leaving Rathkenny on a short visit to England unknown to his tenantry, and on the fatal 5 March had driven in his gig with James Bunn to reach the Monaghan coach at a cross roads about a mile and a half from his house, where he intended to have left the gig to be brought home by his steward, and to proceed to Dublin on the coach.  It appeared both from the testimony of the approver John M’Kenna, a tenant on the estate and from the confession of Michael Devine (written while in gaol under the hope of pardon, held out by a fellow prisoner, an apothecary) that these two wretches, together with a third named Anthony Callon (escaped to America) had lain in wait behind a hedge for Mr. Hussy, on his expected return in the gig, to shoot him with a blunderbuss, which they say they got with the requisite ammunition from James Slevin, the unfortunate joint-tenant with the landlord.

Mr. Hussey had, however, missed the coach at the cross-roads, and had driven on with his steward three miles and a-half further to Slane, where he overtook the coach and proceeded to Dublin, leaving the gig to the care of James Bunn, who returned in the dark of the evening to the house at Rathkenny, taking with him for company the tenant, Thomas Cudden, whom he called for at his house as he passed.  The assassins seeing two men returning in the gig who they had no doubt were the same that went in it a few hours before (though the darkness prevented them from distinguishing their faces) fired the blunderbuss at them loaded with slugs and at one shot killed both their victims, conceiving they had thus destroyed the obnoxious landlord and his no less hated steward.  The alarmed horse dashed on with the gig and the murdered men to the house, where Slevin and the servants found them both quite dead.  Bunn pierced with 14 slugs and Cudden with 5 (which were subsequently extracted by Dr. O’Brien and exhibited in court) besides others lodged in the lining and cushions.

The principal circumstances which appeared to connect James Slevin with the transaction besides the already mentioned, were;

- 1st, his positively denying (at the time he was arrested, and gave up his arms to George Despart, Esq., (stipendary magistrate) having had at any time any other arms than what he gave up a list of all together, concealing the fact of the fatal blunderbuss having been even in his possession, though it was afterwards proved that he purchased it at the Truelock’s shop in Dublin, sent it to the Navan coach-office, and finally lent it to Andrew Callon, the escaped assassin, by the hands of John M’Kenna (the approver), whose son afterwards gave it up to the magistrates.  This latter fact of the loan, however, rests on the testimony on the approver alone.

2nd anxiety displayed by Slevin respecting Mr. Hussey’s return in the gig or otherwise.  Carney (Mr. Hussey’s driver) stated relative to this suspicious circumstance, that he saw James Slevin in the course of the day; he came to the door of Rathkenny House, and asked him if he could see Bunn.  Witness called Bunn.  Slevin asked him when he came, could he see Mr. Hussey.  Bunn asked Slevin would he tell Mr. Hussey that he wanted to speak to him.  Slevin replied that he had heard among the men that Mr. Hussy was going to England, and all he wished to know was he to come back in the gig that evening.  Bunn told him that Mr. Hussy would come back that evening and that he was not going to England.

Cross-examined - It was about five minutes after he returned with Mr. Hussy to Rathkenny that he heard the conversation between Bunn and Slevin.  There was no one present then but Slevin, Bunn and himself so that if he were telling lies, no one could contradict him.

Devine made no defence.  Slevin produced E. Grainger and A.H. Pollock Esqs., magistrates, who gave him an excellent character.  Two solicitors, one, that employed by Slevin gave Andrew Carney, the chief witness against him, a very bad character, and said he was unworthy of credit upon his oath.

Mr. Hussy sen., was re-examined - Had had frequent opportunities of knowing Carney’s characteras any other man in the country of his condition.

The chief-approver, John M’Kenna, was a singular being.  On his cross-examination by Serjeant O’Loughlin, he acknowledged that he heard of money being offered for information.  Heard there was £1,000 offered.  It would be a fine thing to a man losing his land, and to save his neck into the bargin.  It would be if he had it.  Would rather shoot Mr. Hussey than get £1,000.  Would shoot six men to save his land.  Would not kill 1,000 men to save his own life; (after hesitation) would kill 500 men to save his own life.  Believed there was a God.  Knew he had forbidden to commit murder, and yet he would kill two men at all events to save 17 acres of land.  Would not swear falsely against anyone, but would commit murder to save his 17 acres of land.  Would rather take a false oath than be hanged.

Judge Burton began to charge the jury at a quarter to 9’clock, and did not conclude until a quarter before 12.  He particularly impressed on them, that Devine’s confession was only admissible as evidence against himself, and that in considering the evidence against Slevin, they should dismiss the other prisoner’s confession from their minds.

The jury retired, and returned in about half an hour into court, and said they agreed as one of the prisoners, but could not agree as regards the other.

The learned judge, who after some observations, sent out the jury; and they again returned in a quarter of an hour, saying there was no likelihood whatever of their agreeing.  They were then locked up in the jury room, and Judge Burton observed that he would at 10 o’clock the following, again take his seat on the bench, when they might have made up their minds.  He then left the court at between 1 and 2 o’clock.


At 1 o’clock the jury, which was locked up all night, came into their box, and Slevin and Devine were placed at the bar - the jury found the former not guilty and Devine guilty.  Devine being asked what he had to say for himself, why sentence of death and execution should not be passed upon him? He replied “The doctor is a perjured man” he subsequently explained, that the apothecary Cudden had induced him to make the statement contained in his confession, urging him to do so with a view to save his life and saying, that if he made such a statement, captain Despard would get them both off.

Judge Burton addressed the prisoner with much pathos, and concluded with passing sentence of death, naming Saturday for the execution, and appraising the culprit that his body would be buried within the precincts of the gaol.

The unfortunate man seemed in the deepest affliction, very unlike Baily, who was executed to-day at half-past 3 o’clock.

Dreadful Murder at Dunderry, 28 Dec 1843

Thursday a most inhumane murder was committed on John Sherlock, a respectable farmer, holding, in conjunction with his brother, 200 acres of land in Crealstown, a few miles from Trim in the Athboy district.  This man came to Navan to consult Dr. Byron on the case of his wife, who was extremely ill.  The doctor being absent on a medical call, the poor man waited his return.  The doctor gave his advice, and medicine being prepared agreeable thereto the man proceeded home; on his way beyond the village of Dunderry-bridge (a short distance) he was waylaid and fired at; the shot took a sure effect; he dropped, and survived only a few hours.  This Dr. Byron has communicated this day.  The doctor was sent for, but the man expired long before his arrival.

From another correspondent

Trim, 23 Dec 1843:

Yesterday, about 6 o’clock a cold blooded murder was committed at a place called Rathean, about five miles from this town.  The victim, a respectable man named Sherlock, holding a snug farm, was on his return from Navan with his wife, where they had been marketing.  He complained of being cold and got down off his car to walk, when a man came up and shot him.  He survived about five hours.  Had he been fired at on the car it is more than probable that the two lives would have been sacrificed instead of one.  Ribandism has spread to a fearful extent through this county.  The alleged for shooting Sherlock is for dispossessing some tenants on the estate of Lord Trimblestown.

Irish Times, 15 June 1860: Court of Common Pleas - Yesterday

( Before the Chief Justice and a Commerce Jury )

Clarke v. Roberts

This was an action to recover a sum of £60 10 shillings, which was alleged to be due, with interest, on foot of a promissory note, bearing date 17th October 1855.  Mr. John Clarke, of Farganstown, farmer, county Meath, was the plaintiff, and the defendant was Mr. Benjamin Roberts, Navan.  The defence pleaded was payment.

The jury found for the defendant.

Counsel for the plaintiff - Sejeant Fitzgibbon and W. Pallas.

For the defendant - Mr. Battersby and Mr. Hamill.

Irish Times, 7 July 1860: Commission de Lunatico

In re James O'Reilly, an alleged lunatic.

Mr. Brewster Q.C. with whom was Mr. Sherlock Q.C. applied on the part of Miss Eliza O'Reilly, that a commission de lunatico inquirendo shoud issue to ascertain the state of mind of Mr. James O'Reilly, the alleged lunatic.  The petition, which was presented by the alleged lunatic's sister, stated that Mr. O'Reilly was a solicitor in the county Meath; that in 1852 he was attacked with a fit of apoplexy: that his intellect was so much impaired that he was utterly incapable of managing his own affairs, which had been under the control of other parties for several years.  It stated that he suffered from almost total loss of memory, and laboured under various delusions.  His property amounted to £140 a year, derived from land and houses in Navan and Athboy.

Mr. Sullivan Q.C. with whom was Mr. O'Driscoll, resisted the application on the part of Mr. J.D. Hinds solicitor for the alleged lunatic.  Mr. Hinds made an affidavit, which was supported by others, in which he stated that Mr. O'Reilly was perfectly sane, and in full possession of his mental faculties.  Letters recently written by the alleged lunatic were read, which, it was contended, proved that he was quite capable of transacting his own business, and it was argued that no case had been made to justify the issuing of a commission.

The Chancellor allowed the case to stand for further affidavits on both sides.

Irish Times, 9 July 1860: Grant's Clothes Shop

Michael Murray was brought up in custody of Inspector Fox of the G division, charged with stealing on the 10th ultimo, £36 worth of goods, shawls, dresses &c., belonging to a Mr. Grant of Navan.  It appeared from the evidence that the prisoner was in the employment of the prosecutor, and that it was his business to carry goods from place to place.

On the day in question he had the stolen goods in his possession, and absconded with them.  Information was immediately given to the police, and strange to say, on Friday the prisoner himself called to the G division, and stated that he had been robbed of the goods by a woman whom he had accompanied to Drogheda and who went from that place to Liverpool.  The police have not as yet been able to recover more than one item and the prisoner was sent for trial to the Navan Quarter Sessions.

The Times, 28 Oct 1864, Michael Matthews Law Bailiff:

At Drogheda yesterday, informations were sworn by Michael Matthews, of Navan, a law baliff against Mr. Samuel Cooper of Beamore, for having capped a gun and presented it at him.  It appears that Matthews was in the act of executing a decree on Mr. Cooper’s father at the time.  The bailiff swears that he was put in fear and dread of his life.

The Times, 1870/1, Franco Prussian War:

The sympathy for France is as intense as ever, and is becoming more hopeful of her ultimate success.  In some places the sympathy assumes a more energetic form than the collection of subscriptions.

At the last petty Sessions of Navan some persons were charged with assaulting two ladies, whose only offence was that they are German.  They live in the locality, where they follow the profession of teachers, and, until the war broke out, were held in general respect by the populace.  The anti-German fever now runs high, and a few days ago they were set upon by a mob and their windows were broken.  The magistrates sentenced the prisoners to two months imprisonment, and the justice of the sentence is so far admitted that no notice of appeal has been given.


Its People and Its Past

Journal of the

Navan and District Historical Society.

Volume 4.

Page 89.The Irish Peasant- Navan Petty Sessions-November 1887

"Patrick Tormay should receive six strokes of the birch rod ,Patrick Kerrigan three strokes" for stealing sweets.

The Times, 4 Feb 1895 and 9 Feb 1895:

Mr. Joseph Burke Irwin, Resident Magistrate Limerick has been transferred to Navan.

Limerick - At the city Petty Sessions today, Mr. Joseph Burke Irwin stipendary magistrate, sat for the last time previous to his removal to Navan.


Meath Chronicle,
28 Oct 1899


Before Mr. Burke-Irwin, R M (presiding)

Others present were: - Sir John Dillon, Messrs T. Gerrard, F Sheridan, H Cullen and W N Waller.


The Navan Board of Guardians prosecuted John Clarke, Patrick Coyle, Thomas Kennedy, and Terence Newman for failing to have their respective children vaccinated as required by the Act of Parliament.Mr. Sullivan prosecuted. - Dr. Ryan, registrar, examined by Mr. Sullivan, stated that in these cases there was no registration of vaccination.

In the case of the boy Henry Newman, Mr. Davis, C P S mentioned that since the issue of the summons a certificate from Dr. Finnegan had been handed in.

Chairman: In the case of vaccination by an outside practitioner should not notice of it be given to the registrar.

Mr. Davis: Yes.- Mr. Sullivan said he would ask for costs of 10s in each of those cases and £1 is the Doctor's fee. He did not think the guardians should be put to expense in the matter.

The Chairman said those people should be taught that they should comply with the law; John Clarke would be fined 1s 6d and 6s 6d costs; Patrick Coyle, 5s and 15s costs; Thomas Kennedy, 1s and 5s costs; Terence Newman, 3s and 17s costs.


The Navan Urban District Council prosecuted Mr. Keappock for breach of the Public Health Act in not providing proper sanitary accommodation in the billiard room, situated in Trimgate street.  Mr. J Taylor appeared for the Board.  MR. J M'Donnell S S Officer deposed that he visited the premises and in consequence of what he saw he drew the attention of Dr. Ryan to it.  Dr. Ryan deposed to having examined the house in question.  It was kept as a Billiard room.  There was no sanitary accommodation in the place, and thus it caused a nuisance.  There was no water closet or ash pit. Mr. James Lawler, Town Clerk deposed that he was executive sanitary officer, this case had been reported to him and he caused the notice dated the 10th July to be served.  Six weeks would be a reasonable time to make the sanitary accommodation.  The usual order was made with £1 costs.

The same Authority summoned Mr. E. Sclater in respect of a house occupied by Mrs. Meleady, in Watergate Street.  Dr. Ryan stated that his attention was directed to this house, and he found a nuisance in the yard by reason of there being no drain, but there was a nice channel outside.  Mr. Sclater: Are there not two water closets in drain into the channel.  -I am not aware.-  Mr. Clarke: Is there any proper water supply to the house? No.-  Mr. Sclater mentioned that he had written asking a committee of the Commissioners should meet him and discuss the matter, and he was actually in consideration of the four of them when the notices were served on him.-  Mr. Lawler: The instructions to the Solicitor to proceed were issued long before.-  Dr. Ryan replying to further questions stated that there was no nuisance in the house and in his opinion a channel would be better than an underground pipe.-  The Bench dismissed the case.

Mr. R H Metge was summoned at the instance of the same Authority for a like offense in connection with two houses his property situated in Trimgate Street.  The summons server stated that when he served the summons he was informed that Mr. Metge was away from home, and the cases were accordingly adjourned.


Constable Crotty summoned Michael Finnegan for being drunk and disorderly on the 18th October.  Complainant stated that defendant was making use of very bad language and was a common nuisance.  The defendant was sent to jail for one month.


Constable M'Cabe summoned Patrick Brien for being drunk on the public street of Navan.  Fined 7s. 6d.  Mary Goff at the instance of the same complainant was fined 5s for a like offence.  Joseph Goff was fined 5s, the Bench intimating that if he came up again he would be sent to jail.


Constable Joynt summoned a man named Peter M'Govern for interfering with him in the discharge of his duty.-  Complainant deposed that on the day in question he had occasion to go to Mrs. Turner's about dogs which were fighting on the street.  Defendant was present and asked what right he had to interfere, stating at the same time that witness had as much to drink as three men.  He also caught him by the tunic.  The latter part of the statement was denied, but the bench convicted and fined defendant 7s 6d.


Head Constable Henderson prosecuted James Clarke for being guilty of cruelty to a horse y oked to a cart, loaded with coal at Academy street, on the 21st October.  Mr. Magee defended. The Head Constable stated that on the date mentioned in the summons he was coming from the railway and he saw defendant in the hollow of the road at Academy street in charge of a horse and cart, which was loaded with coal.  Defendant's back was towards the witness and he saw him rise his foot and give the animal two fearful kicks.  It was one of the most brutal things he had ever seen-  Mr. Magee: Was not this the second attempt that was made to get the horse up the hill?- I can't say.  He was just starting when I saw him.  He was not aware it was the second time defendant attempted to get the horse up the hill.-  Mr. Magee said he would not deny the fact the man kicked the horse, but he wished to point out that a certain amount of punishment was allowable--  The bench convicted and fined defendant 7s 6d.  The chairman remarked this was a serious offence and rendered the offender liable to two months' imprisonment.

Constable Michael Beirne summoned Thomas Fitzsimons for being guilty of cruelty to a number of cattle in his charge on last Monday at Navan Fair Green.  The Constable stated that on the day in question he found defendant in charge of a lot of cattle, the property of Mr. Sheridan.  He was beating them with an ash plant (produced) without the slightest apparent cause.  Defendant was fined 2s 6d. Before leaving the court defendant demanded the plant and on obtaining it asked the bench if he could hurt cattle with such a light stick- Mr. Gerrard:  If you got it laid across your own back you might not think it so light (laughter).


Sergeant Sullivan summoned two men named Christopher Clarke and Patrick Sherlock for being found in possession of 12 rabbits and 9 nets on the 20th of the present month.-- Mr. Magee defended,-  The Sergeant stated that on the date in question he found the defendants coming from the direction of Lismullen demesne, which was Sir John Dillon's place.  He asked them if they had permission to go on any land, and they stated they had liberty from Mr. Joe Kelly.  He sent a constable to Kelly, who informed him that he had given no permission.

Mr. Magee: Where did you take the nets? On the public road opposite the barracks.  You asked them for the permission to kill ground game?  Yes.  Did they tell you they were coming from any particular place? Yes, from Kelly's.  He might also mention that the men said Kelly had been with them that morning.  Witness said he had never seen the men passing the barrack before-- P atrick Sherlock deposed, in reply to Mr. Magee, that on the morning the sergeant met them they were coming from catching rabbits on Kelly's land.  He had permission from Miss Kelly (produced) to do so--

Chairman: This will not do; it is not evidence. The lady should be here-- Mr. Magee: Her brother is here and will verify the letter. By the Game Act of 1880 written authority is quite sufficient authority for anyone to kill ground game-- Chairman: Yes, but that should be proved on oath.-- Mr. Magee: We have her brother here.  I may mention that there is an arrangement with Miss Kelly by which my clients give a certain percentage of the rabbits they catch to the owner--  Mr. J Kelly stated that he never objected to anyone going on his land to kill game.  The written permission produced was in the handwriting of his sister.  The rabbits damaged his property--  Constable Trimble stated that he had a conversation with Kelly on the 21st and he then told him he had not given permission.--  Mr. Kelly, recalled, stated that he had not given permission in this particular case, but he had not objection to anyone hunting over it.--  The Bench dismissed the case and ordered the nets and rabbits to be returned to the men.


A man named Carr summoned his wife for assaulting him at their residence in Navan.  There was a cross case in which Mrs. Carr, who was ornamented on each side of the face, charged her husband in a similar way.--  Mr. Sullivan appeared for Carr.--  Carr stated that after the fair of Kells he had given his wife £1 and after Navan, 6s.  He went to her for something to eat the day after the latter fair, but she told him to go to his bad company and get it.  He again returned about one o'clock but there was nothing for him, and his wife got hold of a jug out of the dresser and only he pushed her aside she would have knocked the brains out of him. -- Mrs. Carr, in her evidence, stated that she was in dread of her life of her husband and claimed the protection of the law. -- Both cases were dismissed.


Lizzie Masterson summoned a woman named Kate Ryan for assaulting her. -- The defendant stated that she could easily bring rebutting evidence and the case was adjourned to enable her to do so.