Magherafelt Quarter Sessions 28 June 1873

Magherafelt Quarter Sessions
The Belfast News Letter
(Belfast, Ireland)
Saturday 28 June 1873
Issue 55677

Magherafelt Quarter Sessions

(from our Reporter)
Magherafelt, Friday
Charles, J. Coffey, Esq. QC, Chairman, for the County of Derry, opened the Magherafelt Quarter Session here to-day at twelve o’clock.

The following magistrates occupied seats on the Bench: Col. Robert Peel Dawson, DL; Robert Stokes, Esq., RM; Andrew Spottiswood, Esq.; John Hill Esq.; J.J. Clarke Esq.; Henry S. Cartwright, Esq.; Col. Cassidi, Hugh Walker, Esq.; David N. Moore, Esq.; Francis Quin, Esq.; Samuel C. Gunning, Esq.; Robert H. Dolling, Esq.; and Robert Dymond, Esq.; J. Chambers, Esq., Sub-Sherriff, was also in attendance.

The following gentlemen were sworn as a Grand Jury: – Messrs. John Givin (foreman), Wm. Black jun, Samuel Coleman, James Morrison, Henry Sloan, James Connor, James Hemple, James Carr, David Smith, John Archibald, James Cooper, T. Glasgow, Joseph Archibald, Hugh Bradley, John Cowan, John M’Aneery, and John Smith.

The Chairman addressing the Grand Jury said he was very sorry to inform them that the Crown business on the present occasion appeared to be much heavier than they had been accustomed to for some time at these Sessions. It was somewhat singular that there did not appear to be one solitary case of stealing, pilfering, or any case of that description; all were for assaults, riots, striking at with knives, firing shots with intent to kill, waylaying, and cases of that serious character.  There were sixteen such cases, but there was not a single case for theft, larceny, or any petty offence of that description; all were for outbreaks against the peace of the community.  His worship then dwelt for some time upon the lamentable state of the district that produced such disgraceful results, and remarked that the largest barony in the County of Derry was at present under the Peace Preservation Act by reason of the conduct of a few idle, thoughtless people getting up perfectly ridiculous demonstrations.  These demonstrations resulted first in riot, then in tumult, and invariably ended in bloodshed.  Then the law stepped in, and the quiet and peaceable inhabitants of the barony were now suffering from the serious inconvenience arising from the enforcement of a highly penal enactment.  He deeply regretted such a condition of things, but hoped that there would shortly be a cessation of hostilities and an entire absence of the despicable party feeling.  His worship then gave the usual directions to the Grand Jury, detailing and explaining their duties more minutely than usual, as the majority of them had been up to the present unaccustomed to serve on the Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury then retied to consider the bills.  His Worship afterwards took up the hearing of the applications for


The following is a list of the applications, with the ruling of the Court in each case: – Jas. Corey, jun., Magherafelt, refused; Robert Dollas, Hall Street, Maghera, refused: Patk. Donnelly, Draperstown, granted; John Kearney, Magherafelt, refused; John Kelly, Drumsillio, refused; John Magilligan, Swatragh, refused; John McKeefry, Swatragh, refused; Rose Mullin, Gulladaff, refused; John O’Kane, Magherafelt, granted.

Messrs. Glover, A.F. Henry, and B.H. Lane appeared the the applicants.


Mr. Dolling opposed the granting of this license on the ground that there was a sufficient number of public houses in the locality.  He also remarked that houses of this description had a great deal to do in bringing about the disgraceful state of things his worship had just drawn their attention to.  Rows were originated inside the house, and finished outside.  Besides this, more public meeting were go up by publicans than other men in the neighbourhood for the purpose of drawing grist to their mill.


His Worship, in announcing the ruling of the Court in the above cases, said he was requested by the magistrates to state that they had, after due consideration, resolved, while such a state of things existed as called for the extension of the Peace Preservation Act, not to grant any more licenses whatever.  He might also remark that the magistrates were unanimous in coming to that conclusion, and he (his worship) heartily concurred in the resolution that had been adopted.


Mr. Reid S.C.S. applied in consequence of instructions he had received from the Attorney General, to have the cases in which a number of persons stood indicted for riot in Magherafelt on the 17th of March last sent forward to the Assizes.  The riot was of a very serious character, having lasted for several hours, and one man having received wounds from which he died a few days afterwards.

Mr. Glover opposed the application on behalf of one of the prisoners.

His Worship said, unless some overwhelming reason for not acceeding to the application of the Crown was put forward, he would be bound to send up the informations to the Assizes.  He did not consider Mr. Glover’s objection sufficiently strong, and he would accordingly grant Mr. Reid’s application.

His Worship then took up the


James McKenna was indicated for a serious assault upon Wm. Bruce on the 25th March, 1872, and also for a common assault upon him at the same time and place.

Mr. Reid, S.C.S, prosecuted, and Mr. Lane defended the prisoner.

The following jury was sworn to try the case: – Messrs. Wm. Dempsey (foremen), James Dempsey, Wm. Pherson, Hugh Gilmore, Wm. Patton, Hugh Kelly, Edward Hasson, James Reid, James Sheals, Joseph Warnock, Samuel Alexander, and Andrew Barr.

Wm Bruce deposed that he was riding home in his cart on the night in question with a man named James Martin, when a man named Ward challenged him to fight.  He got out of the cart, and , when Ward and he were lying on the road in holts, the prisoner came forward and struck him on the head with a loaded whip, rendering him quite senseless.  He was unconscious of what happened afterwards.

James Martin deposed that he saw the prisoner strike Bruce three violent blows on the head with the heavy end of his whip.  He believed he had killed him, as the blood was running profusely from his head.

Dr. Carr deposed, in answer to Mr. Reid, that there were three serious incised wounds on Bruce’s head.  When he saw him first he was insensible, and for some time afterwards he remained in danger of his life.

The jury returned into court with a verdict of guilty

His Worship sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labour.


Robert Armstrong and Daniel Dobbin were indicted for a serious assault upon two men named Hugh Brittain and John Brittain on the 25th of June 1872.  Dobbin was further indicted for having stabbed Hugh Brittain with felonious intent.

Mr. Reid, S.C.S., prosecuted, and Mr. Glover defended the prisoners.

The following jury was empanelled to try the case: Messrs. Francis Lindsay (foremen), Hugh Thompson, James Gilmore, Isaac Fleming, Henry Hassan, Wm. Johnston, John Linton, Robert Patton, Hugh Watt, Torrens Alexander, Andrew Barr, and James Thompson.

Hugh Brittain said he was in Gulladuff on the 25th day of June, 1872, in a public house there.  He left it at ten o’clock, and when he got out Robert Armstrong told him to go home, and then struck him with a stone and killed him. (Laughter.) His brother lifted him to take him away, and then they collected to throw stones.  He could not say who “they” were, for he was kicked senseless.  He did not see Dobbin do anything.

The witness was cross-examined by Mr. Glover.  Edward Dillon deposed to having witnessed the assault upon Brittain.  Dobbin was in the company.

John Brittain deposed that he was in the public-house with his brother on the night in question.  They had no quarrel with anyone in the house.  He did not see his brother knocked down, but when he turned to take him away he was met with stones flung by Armstrong, Dobbin, and several others.  When he was taking his brother home, the party attacked them again.  Dobbin stabbed him (witness) with a sharp instrument.  His brother was then knocked down and flung into a dung-pit by Robert Armstrong and two or three others.

The witness was not cross-examined.

Daniel  McAterney deposed that he saw Dobbin throw stones on the night in question. He did not know at whom they were thrown, as it was dark.  He saw  Hugh Brittain struck by Armstrong with a stone; saw the stab that John Brittain received; and was present when Hugh was knocked down a second time.

The witness was cross-examined by Mr. Glover as to whether the Brittains had not quarreled with the prisoners before they left the public-house.

Dr. Henry deposed that he attended to the wounds that had been inflicted on the Brittains.  Hugh was suffering from a cut lip, and John from a wound that seemed to be caused by the ferrule of a stick.

Cross-examined by Mr. Glover – It was not a stab at all.

Mr. Glover examined several witnesses for the defence.  Their evidence went to show that the Brittains had been the originators of the row.

His WORSHIP then summed up, and told the jury that there was no evidence that a knife had been used, and they might safely dismiss that from their consideration.

The jury then retired, and after five minutes’ absence returned into court with a verdict of acquittal.

Mr. Glover, evidently not expecting such a verdict, asked his worship would he accept any evidence with regard to character?

His WORSHIP said – I do not wonder at your surprise, Mr. Glover; and I compliment the jury on their discrimination and mercy. (Laughter) I will excuse them from further service during the present Sessions. (Laughter.)

One or two of the jurors accepted his worship’s observations as complimentary, and bowed their acknowledgments.

His WORSHIP then discharged the prisoners with a caution.

The Court had not risen when this despatch was forwarded.