A YOUNG man named Lynch had been arrested, reported the News Letter during this week in 1890, on suspicion that he had been involved in a “most determined and desparate character” on two stonemasons in October 1890 on farmland owned by Mr J B Storey at Ballyholan near Clogher in Co Tyrone.
The two stonemasons who were named as Bernard McBride and James McCallum had been working on a house being erected on Mr Storey’s land from which a tenant had been evicted some time before the attack.
The News Letter’s correspondent from Clogher noted: “Since the perpetration of the outrage the police have been untiring in their efforts to discover the guilty persons and it was not until Saturday, [November 8], that their zeal in prosecuting a search was rewarded, on which date Sergeant John Kidney, who is in charge of Clogher station, arrested a man named Lynch in Rosslea fair, and who was pointed out to Sergeant Kidney by one of the masons, Mr McCallum, as the man who had so grievously assaulted him.”
The prisoner was brought up at Clogher Petty Sessions before Messrs J K Anketell (chairman), T W French, RM, and Captain Ferrall, and was charged with “being one of a number of men who had on the 14th of October 1890 did assault two men named James McCallum and Bernard McBride while engaged in erecting a house on an evicted farm, the property of Mr J B Storey”. Head-Constable Moffatt of Aughnacloy, who attended in the absence of District-Inspector Hume who was unable to attend the hearing that day, conducted the prosecution on behalf of the Crown while the defendant was represented by Mr Henry Murphy, solicitor, of Clones, Co Monaghan.
James McCallum, stonemason, on being put in the witness-box, stated in reply to Head-Constable Moffatt, that on the morning of the October 14 he had gone to work at the house in question accompanied by Mr McBride at about eight o’clock.
The two stonemasons had been taking the tools out of the outhouse when they were attacked by two men, one of whom was the defendant. McCallum said: “He had a stick in his hand and the other man had a gun. He asked me if I was the mason who was building the house. I said I was and the prisoner drew his stick and knocked me down and kicked me. He [the defendant] then turned to the men who were standing behind him and said, ‘Boys, join your work’. I thought that they were going to murder me. I then heard someone say to McBride, ‘Throw down the grape’.”
McCallum said that he was “up and down” several times and that he had kept his face against the wall to try and keep off the blows. He said: “For God’s sake let me go, I have a wife and small family. That man [pointing to the prisoner] told me to get up off my knees and look in his face and see if I would know him again. I replied: ‘No, James I would not’. He said: ‘What are you calling out my name for?’ And again knocked me down. “ They eventually let McCallum go but as he was fleeing across the field several shots were fired after him.
Cross-examined by Mr Henry Murphy, Mr McCallum had replied that he knew the gun was loaded as it had been fired over him when he had been knocked to the ground. He said that he believed that he had seen the defendant before that date, but could not call the time to memory. He added that when he gone home after the attack he had not been able to leave his bed the next day and the injuries he had sustained in the beating meant that he was unable to work four or five days after.
Bernard McBride corroborated the evidence of McCallum as to being beaten by a party of men at the house on the day in question. One man only attacked him, from whom he got away, and on arriving at Clogher gave information to the constabulary there with regard to the occurrence.
Sergeant John Kidney deposed as to the arrest of the defendant at Rosslea fair, after being pointed out to him by McCallum, and stated that while they were travelling along the road near Fivemiletown two men overtook himself and the prisoner – one man being the boy’s father and the other his uncle. They told him that the intended to come over to Clogher but Sergeant Kidney told them to go back and bring any witnesses they had on the bench day. The prisoner then asked him the date of the outrage, when he was told he prisoner had shouted back to his father, “That’s all right; I was in Atty [Patrick] Bannon’s that day”. The evidence for the defence being reserved, the prisoner was committed to Armagh Jail to stand trial at the forthcoming winter assizes.
The News Letter’s correspondent noted: “Considerable excitement prevailed in the little village of Clogher during the hearing of the case and on the removal of the prisoner to the Clogher and Finn Valley tram conveyance under a large escort of police he was most enthusiastically cheered.”
Lynch was tried at the Ulster Winter Assizes which were held at the County Courthouse in Armagh before Mr Justice Gibson on Wednesday, December 10, 1890 where he was acquitted of the charges.
Before the jury retired to consider their verdict Mr Justice Gibson had remarked that the prisoner and his father appeared to “occupy a respectable position in society” but that unfortunately “it was only in this country, for some reason, that decent people are sometimes involved in transactions of a very regrettable kind”.
He added: “If the jury are not satisfied that the prisoner had been at the place on the occasion in question they should acquit him.”
After lengthened deliberation the jury found the prisoner not guilty and His Lordship ordered his discharge.