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Co. Antrim Assizes 1831

Transcribed by Jane from The Belfast Newsletter 1 April 1831.

County of Antrim Assizes.

Crown Court, Carrickfergus – Friday, March 25.

Trial for a Rape.
John HAGAN, for a rape on the body of Catherine MORRISON, at Finvoy, near Ballymoney, on the 12th
of April, 1830. — This trial was put off at last Assizes.

Catherine MORRISON, the prosecutrix, said she has been married to Robert MORRISON about 17 years – had seven children at last assizes, and one since – was in Ballymoney on 12th April last, and left it about six o’clock evening – saw prisoner in James MITCHELL’s house, and they left Ballymoney together – on the road home, they were joined by a man named James CUNNINGHAM – witness went to a house to get some nails for her husband’s shoes, and prisoner and CUNNINGHAM stopped at the door till she came out – when witness came out she went forward, and prisoner and CUNNINGHAM were behind – was taking a bottle of whiskey home to her husband and another man, who were
engaged in making bricks, to treat the brick men, as it was Easter Monday, and gave the bottle to prisoner to carry – After she had passed GRAY’s house, prisoner and CUNNINGHAM came up and told witness they were going back to get half-glasses of whiskey each, which would do them no harm and she went back with them – saw Wm. TOMLINSON and a great many more in GRAY’s public house – went up to a room, and CUNNINGHAM brought the spirits – sent for TOMLINSON to take share of her glass, and witness drank what was left — witness was pregnant at the time, and was rather weakly — CUNNINGHAM went for more whiskey, and pressed witness to take it – when witness put it to her mouth her heart turned and she refused to take it, when HAGAN said, “what need you refuse, sure you are as safe with me as with your sister or brother” – took some more – drank about a British glass in all – they left GRAY’s about seven o’clock – witness was very weak, and stumbled coming out of the door, and complained that the whiskey was very bitter — When witness had gone some distance on the road home, prisoner and CUNNINGHAM trailed her off the road into a field – witness begged them not to do anything to her, as she was weakly and dauncy – prisoner used her very indifferently, as did also CUNNINGHAM — (Here witness described the manner in which she was used) – this took place against her will – after this they both went off, leaving witness nearly dead, and HAGAN carried away her cloak and bonnet – Robert THOMSON was the first person came to her in the field, and with the assistance of Archd. M’NABB, John BOYD, and another, carried her into BOYD’s house – Some time after her husband came to BOYD’s to assist her home – when on the road, prisoner joined and assisted her also – when on the road, in company with prisoner, told her husband of the treatment she had received, but did not say who done it, for fear he and the prisoner would dispute and kill each other – saw prisoner the next day in her own house – he told witness a mob had gathered after him, and it was them abused her, and said he would go and swear against TOMLINSON and HENRY – witness had not seen TOMLINSON from the time she left GRAY’s – she suffered for a week after this – swore informations before Mr. HUTCHINSON on the Monday after it occurred. – Cross-examined – Saw prisoner and several of her neighbours in Ballymoney that day, and drank some spirits and wine there – was not a bit the worse of what she had drank when she went into GRAY’s – CUNNINGHAM and prisoner had not to help her on the road – never saw CUNNINGHAM since – heard he had run off – her cloak and bonnet were sent to her from her brother’s – saw prisoner three times in her house the week before she swore the examination – BOYD’s wife sent for witness’s husband – witness told prisoner’s wife that she would put it as far as law would go — never told James M’KEOWN that she would not have prosecuted prisoner, only that prisoner’s wife and sister abused her.

William TOMLINSON – Was in GRAY’s public-house on 12th April last – saw Catherine MORRISON, James CUNNINGHAM, and prisoner there – Catherine MORRISON called witness up to the room where they were, and reached him her glass of whiskey to drink – when witness had taken a little of it, prisoner reached his glass to him, and witness laid Catherine’s down – prisoner at this time put his foot on witness’s – Catherine MORRISON was not drunk when she left GRAY’s – saw her again that night in John BOYD’s, where witness went to attend a Masonic lodge. – Cross-examined – Witness did not see Catherine our of doors that night – It was the second time she reached witness her glass, that prisoner put his foot on his – when witness saw Catherine at BOYD’s, she appeared in a bad state, and witness thought she was tipsy – prisoner and CUNNINGHAM, when in GRAY’s, pressed Catherine MORRISON to drink the whiskey.

John BOYD – Remembers prisoner coming into his house on night of 12th April with a cloak and bonnet – he said he had been abused, but could not tell who did it – he said the cloak and bonnet belonged to MORRISON’s wife, and that she was abused also – witness observed that prisoner’s knees and elbows were covered with clay, and that he had lost a button off his small-clothes – witness pointed this out to prisoner, and told him that if any one had abused her it was himself, and that he ought to be kicked – witness bid him go with the bonnet and cloak and take the woman home – prisoner went away, and witness sent some persons to watch if he would take her home – after this, witness sent for men to bring Catherine MORRISON to his house – prisoner came to the door after she was brought in, but witness would not let him in, told him when her husband came he would open it – prisoner replied that Jimmy WALLACE, Catherine’s brother, was there – witness then opened the door and saw WALLACE with a gun, and prisoner with a pitchfork. – Cross-examined – When the rap came to the door, witness did not hear Catherine MORRISON say that was HAGAN, and she would go home with him — witness never saw her the worse of drink.

Robert THOMPSON – Remembers prisoner coming to BOYD’s house on Easter Monday night – witness and three or four others went to the door, and prisoner bid them run out as there was a woman in a ditch and a person abusing her – witness went out with the others, and found a woman lying at her length along the ditch in a field, about seven perches off the road, but found no other person – witness did not know who it was, but prisoner came up and said it was Robin MORRISON’s wife – witness spoke to her, and she asked if that was Robin MORRISON – witness replied, it was Robin, but not Robin MORRISON – witness did not lift her, but went back to the house and told John BOYD about her – at this time witness observed prisoner’s clothes to be dirty, and BOYD telling him to look at his arms and knees, and the button off the full of his small-clothes, ordered him out of the house – BOYD then sent witness and three others, who took her to his house – her brother came afterwards, and her husband took her home – she appeared in a bad state, her clothes all torn and dirty, and she was scarcely able to sit alone. – Cross-examined – the reason that witness did not take her to BOYD’s at first was, that there was a Masonic lodge in it, and he did not like to take a woman to a house that was not his own.

Robert MORRISON, husband to Catherine MORRISON, said his wife went to Ballymoney to get some money for him – at night a message came to witness that she was in BOYD’s – went there, and saw his wife, HAGAN, and others – BOYD caught prisoner by the arm, and said, “Robin, say nothing to your wife about this, for here is the villain and the traitor,” at same time pointing to prisoner’s clothes – prisoner made no reply – on the road home, witness’s wife told him she was badly abused, and HAGAN and CUNNINGHAM were the traitors who did it – next morning, she told the same story to witness – she did not go to a Magistrate for a week, as she was distant and did not like to go – the prisoner was taken the Monday following – spoke to him on Easter Tuesday about it, when he said witness’s wife had got no abuse – witness replied she had, when prisoner said, “well, Robin, let me swear against James CUNNINGHAM and David HENRY, and that will save me. – Cross-examined – Prisoner assisted witness in getting his wife home – she had told witness who had abused her before prisoner joined them – CUNNINGHAM is reported to be off to America – witness did not think she had any appearance of drink on her – prisoner did not say he was abused by CUNNINGHAM and others – prisoner went voluntarily to the magistrate’s to meet witness’s wife and swear against others – did not accuse prisoner of the offence in his conversation with him.


John GRAY – Keeps a public-house about two miles from Ballymoney – on last Easter Monday, prisoner, CUNNINGHAM and prosecutrix, came in and asked for some spirits – cannot say whether they had two or three rounds – CUNNINGHAM called for the whiskey – prosecutrix appeared to be drunk when the party left the house – BOYD’s house is about 50 perches from witness’s – prosecutrix has called at witness’s house at times, and he has heard she was fond of a glass. – Cross-examined. – Witness had only lived there about a fortnight – prosecutrix appeared to be sober when she came in – witness put a whole glass into one, and half-glasses into the other tumblers – when prosecutrix was going out of the room door she tripped and fell forward, and witness therefore thought she was drunk. Hugh O’BRIEN was at GRAY’s house on Easter Monday evening and saw CUNNINGHAM, prisoner and prosecutrix there – when they got outside, prosecutrix fell – saw the three pass BOYD’s house – prisoner fell back in the rear, and CUNNINGHAM and prosecutrix walked on and witness saw them go into a field – prisoner went off the road – CUNNINGHAM and prosecutrix were off the road about 10 or 12 minutes before prisoner left the road – they were about four perches off the road – witness looked through a thorn hedge and could see what they were doing – prisoner came up and asked witness where the man and woman went – witness told them they were in a brake of furze or whins – witness saw her throw her cloak and bonnet off, and did not see her struggle – prisoner went to look for them, and some time after prisoner left the road witness saw other persons on it – prisoner was in the field, and was not out of witness’s sight all the time, and he could have had no connexion with her – when the men came up he was striving to fetch her out of the field – they asked prisoner what he was doing there, and he replied that he was assisting her home – the men d–d him – one of them knocked prisonner down, another jumped on him and took a bottle of spirits out of his pocket – prisoner cried out, “are you going to murder and rob me” – the woman and other men then came out of the field and went towards the house – prisoner staid behind, and witness asked him if he was not going on his journey – he said he was not, for he had a cloak and bonnet belonging to the woman under his arm. – Cross-examined – Lives in Belfast, and is a dealer in various articles — Knows Captain SKINNER, and was taken before him on a charge of felony – was on his road from Ballymoney to Dungannon when he called at GRAY’s – never saw the parties before – witness was tried for the felony and acquitted.

James M’KEOWN – Had a conversation with prosecutrix concerning this business about three weeks ago – witness asked her what made her swear against prisoner, when she said he might blame his wife and daughter for it, as they had abused her – witness advised her to settle it, but she said she would not, as she would get more money for the prosecution than she could get from prisoner.

Michael HAGAN, father to prisoner, gave similar evidence.

Robert MORRISON, being again called, said he never got the bottle of whiskey.

John M’ALEESE – Had a conversation with prosecutrix in her own house on the Wednesday morning after the offence was committed – when witness went in she was spinning – she turned round from her wheel, and bursting out crying, said “Oh, Johnny! I would rather than all Glengad that you had been with me, you would have helped me home” – she said she could not tell what passed from the time she left GRAY’s till she was carried into BOYD’s.

Hugh MAWHINNEY gave prisoner good character for honesty.

The case having closed here, the learned Judge recapitulated the evidence to the Jury, who then retired,
and in a short time returned with a verdict of Not Guilty.

Counsel for the prosecution, Messrs. HALL, MURRAY, and MOODY; agent, the Crown Solicitor.
For the defence, Counsellor SCRIVEN; agent, Mr. M’PEAK.

Carrickfergus, Saturday, March 26.

Petit Jury — Mr. Conway B. GRIMSHAW, Foreman; Messrs. Francis MURRAY, Morgan JELLETT, Robert EWING, George M’INTYRE, Thomas WALLACE, Charles CREEK, Robert NELSON, John HOUSTON, John SMYLIE, James BOYD, and Hamilton CHICHESTER.


James KERR was indicted for wilful and corrupt perjury, in swearing before a Magistrate an information, charging William and John DAVISON with the murder of Saunders ROSS, a deaf and dumb man.

James M’AULAY, Esq. Magistrate, identified the prisoner, as having sworn the information before him – it was read over to prisoner after swearing, and he made a verbal alteration in it – he put his mark to it in attestation. – the information, which was taken before Mr. M’AULAY, was then read. Deponent described most minutely the alleged murder – and stated that he saw the Messrs. DAVISON drag the body of the murdered man across a field, in the neighbourhood of Crumlin, on 6th December last.

Allen ROSS, brother of the dumb man. – His brother disappeared on 5th Dec. – he was absent for nine weeks – he was discovered in the county of Derry, the first week in February – identified prisoner as having come to him in Crumlin, while posting hand-bills, offering a reward for the discovery of his brother – when prisoner told him of the murder, witness bade him go before the Magistrate, but cautioned him against the danger he ran, and the punishment he should incur, if he had not truth to support his allegation – he asked him also if he had heard of the reward that had been offered, and he replied, that he had heard that he (witness) had offered a reward of £10. – [Saunders ROSS, the alleged murdered man, was here produced on the table. He is a little thin old man, apparently about 60 years old.

Mr. Wm. DAVISON, surgeon – Lives in Crumlin – recollects 6th Dec. last – was on that day in Crumlin – was not in the direction of the scene of the alleged murder on the day in question – nor was he in company with his brother or any other person on the road leading to that place.

The jury, without a moment’s hesitation, returned a verdict finding the prisoner guilty of wilful and corrupt perjury. Sentence was deferred. The prisoner is a very ill-looking fellow, and blind of an eye.

George WHITE, for stealing two sheep, the property of John MONTGOMERY, Esq. – Not Guilty.

John M’MULLEN, for stealing, on 27th Sept. last, two sheep, the property of Daniel KENNY. – Not Guilty.

Alex BUNTING and Malcom BUNTING, for a burglary in the house of Ann STEENSON – Lives in a house by herself – her door was burst open by the prisoners, on the night of 17th Dec. while she was in bed – having lighted a candle at the fire, and covered her head with the bed-clothes, they took 3s 4 1/2d. in money, a quarter-of-a-pound of tea, and a bottle of whiskey – their coats were turned inside out, and a white cloth was tied round each of their heads. Witness was strictly cross-examined by Counsel for the prisoners, to show that the prosecution was raised in revenge for having been ejected from a house which she had occupied belonging to the father of the prisoners. She did not swear information till a week after the robbery. -In defense, Marjorie MURPHY, and a sister of the prisoners, were produced, to prove an alibi – and Mr. DARCUS was examined as to character. – Guilty, but recommended to mercy, on account of their good character.

Petit Jury. – Mr. Charles THOMPSON, foreman — Messrs. Samuel ARCHER, jun., James B. GILMER, John LENNON, John COLEMAN, Samuel JOHNSTON, Alex. TAYLOR, Samuel COWAN, Thomas GARDNER, John TOPPING, John BRYSON, and Thomas O’NEILL.

Wm. M’CARRIL, for stealing, on the night of 26th Feb. last, a gun, property of Edward DEMPSEY, in the parish of Rasharkin – and upon another indictment, for stealing, on the same night, a gun, the property of Sarah BLACK. It appeared in evidence, that on the night in question, a party, consisting of six armed men, entered the house of prosecutor, DEMPSEY, and while two of them held him with his back to the party, searched for fire-arms, and took away a yeomanry gun. A woman, who was in the house at the time, swore that the prisoner stood sentry at the door, armed with a musket and fixed bayonet, during the time the others were in the house. An alibi was, however, proved, and prisoner was acquitted.

Samuel BONAR, for feloniously receiving a gun, the property of the Earl O’NEILL, previously stolen by some person unknown. – Guilty.

Daniel KELLY, for taking from Roger GLOVER , on 1st Nov. last, a gun, the property of the Earl O’NEILL. – Guilty; seven years’ transportation.

Catherine M’CANN, for stealing four table spoons, property of David WILSON – also for receiving the same, knowing them to have been stolen. – Guilty of the receiving. One month’s imprisonment.

The first Jury having been again impannelled, the following trials were proceeded with: –

John and Sam. CAMLIN, for a burglary in the house of Alex. DOWDS, near Ballymena, 17th Jan. last, and stealing linen cloth, yarn and pair breeches. – Guilty of receiving.


James THOMSON, for violating, on 5th June last, the person of Bridget WATSON, near Ballymena; and John LAVERTY and John MURPHY, for aiding and abetting in the same. – This revolting crime was alleged to have been perpetrated at five o’clock on the morning of Saturday 5th June, in a bog, about five miles from Ballymena, where the young woman, Bridget WATSON, was sent by her mistress, to gather heath. On her return home she told her mistress of the abuse she had received, and on the Monday following went before a Magistrate and swore informations against the prisoner THOMSON. As there were doubts as to the extent of the injury she received, the Magistrate, Mr. MOORE, advised her to prosecute THOMSON, for the assault only. At the ensuing Ballymena Quarter Sessions, however, she was prevailed upon to prosecute him capitally, and the other prisoners for aiding and abetting in the perpetration of the crime. This trial, at these Assizes, was the consequence. After several witnesses were examined, his Lordship stated, that the evidence against the prisoners, LAVERTY and MURPHY, was so slight, that they should never have been placed in the dock; he, however, allowed the case to go to the Jury. The Jury retired at seven o’clock to consider their verdict, and, after being enclosed nearly two hours, they returned into Court, and their Foreman requested of the Learned Judge to withdraw a Juror, as they were not likely to agree. His Lordship said, that as it was a capital case, he could not permit any such thing. They then enquired how long they would be confined, and they were informed, that if they did not come to a decision they would not be liberated until he left the county, which would not be, in all likelihood, before Tuesday morning. This seemed to puzzle the Jury sadly; and one of them asked if they would not be permitted to attend church next day? “No;” said his Lordship, “nor shall a clergyman be even permitted to visit you.” – (A laugh) The Jury again retired, and returned in about twenty minutes, with a verdict of Not Guilty. They stated also, that in returning this verdict they did not wish to throw any discredit upon the testimony of the young woman, but they had doubts upon the subject, and they gave the prisoners the benefit of these doubts. The prisoner THOMSON was ordered to be detained in custody, to answer, at the next Assizes, the charge of assault with intent to ravish.

Edward CAMPBELL and Anthony GRIFFIN, for passing base money, at Lisburn, 24th Aug. last; and CAMPBELL upon another indictment, for the same crime. CAMPBELL guilty; GRIFFIN acquitted, on account of a flaw in the indictment.

William FORSYTHE, for having a base sovereign in his possession, with a fraudulent intention. Not Guilty.

Hugh SIMPSON, for stealing a yarn reel and spade, the property of Eneas BLACK, on 3d July last. Guilty; seven years’ transportation.

Samuel M’KINLAY, for stealing a clasp, the property of Barbara DAVIS, at Dunadry, 1st March inst. Guilty; six months in the House of Correction at hard labour.

Mary GAIR, for stealing four coins of money, the property of Samuel COOPER, at Belfast. Not guilty.

Sandy PARIS, for stealing £4, the property of John BARRY. Guilty; six months’ imprisonment, and hard labour.

Alexander M’ALLISTER, a blind man, for a robbery on the person of James LENAHAN, at Lisburn, and for an aggravated assault. Guilty of the assault.