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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rev. John Pennefather/The Clonmel Assizes

The following events occurred in 1822 and were widely reported in the papers of the day.

'CLONMEL ASSIZES , Tuesday, March 25th
    (From The Clonmel Herald)

    ABDUCTION OF HONORA RYAN

All the records having been gone through early on Wednesday, the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE, was occupied during the remainder of the day in the criminal trials. Before his Lordship
JAMES COFFEE was indicted for that he, on the 9th of March, in the 3rd year of the King, at Clonbonny, did feloniously assault Honora Ryan, and with others, did carry her away, with intent to marry or defile; he was also charged in another indictment with similar offences, on the 13th June following, at Lackland, in this county.
  

Honora Ryan being sworn, deposed, that between twelve and one o’clock on the night of 9th of March, in the year aforesaid, a party came to her mother’s house, and were breaking the door with a sledge, when she (the witness) arose from her bed, and began to dress herself in her brother’s clothes;  when she had got his greatcoat upon her, her brother got up, placed her behind the door, and opened it, which, when he had done, they rushed in, and she stole out;  but one of them observing her, they followed her, took her and brought her to Cragg.  Coffee was one of them, but she did not know him at that time. At Cragg, the men went to drink;  on leaving it, they put her on a horse behind one of the party, but that man got so drunk that two men failed to hold him up.  They then brought her to Castlenock, where, being fatigued, she begged to be allowed to get a bed. Being suffered by these desperate fellows to retire for the purpose, she influenced a woman in the house to go out and try to get her some assistance for her release:  the woman accordingly went to Mr. Parker, a magistrate, of Castlelough, who soon came to her with assistance:  those who had carried her off immediately ran away, save one, who being drunk was taken,  and witness was restored to her friends in a few hours after having been taken away, without other injury than the fatigue of the journey.
   

In about a fortnight afterwards, when witness was on her return from Clonmel assizes in the Limerick coach (where she had been to prosecute the man taken by Mr. Parker),  the coach was stopped near Mount Catherine by the prisoner Coffee, with four or five others, who dragged her off the coach. It was then she first remarked him, as he said the coachman: ‘I ventured my life for her once before, and it’s the least I can have her now.’  Coffee had a pistol;  in carrying her away from the coach, he told her he would not take her if he was rich, but he would have her on account of her money.  She was taken from the coach in the day-time,  and her brother being in it, he ran off to Mount Catherine, from whence he brought the military, who soon overtook her, and Coffee and his friends ran away. This, however, having occurred within the bounds of the County Limerick,  was not charged in the indictment.
    

After this, the witness, for her security, went to live at Lackland, near Newport, the residence of the Rev. Mr. Pennefather, where she remained nearly three months, when one day, while talking to her mother in the yard, leaning on a gate, she was seized by Coffee around the waist;  but she, catching fast hold around the gate, would not let it go, till one of Coffee’s assistants came up and dragged her from it,  tearing her hands and pulling off her cap with the violence of dragging her away. Coffee, then with another man, one of them under each of her arms, forced her across the river that was hard by, while another man held down her mother, till they dragged her in a creel across a bog, for fear the mother would go for assistance;  they then mounted her on a horse, , before Coffee, but from which she soon threw herself off, on which Coffee threatened her, that if she would do that again, he would make a show of her before the whole country.  In a short time afterwards, the horse was taken by one of the party, and witness was brought on foot a little further - when, fortunately, Mr. Ryan of  Ballymackeough, with some others, came up, and immediately Coffee and his friends ran off, and witness, for the third time, happily escaped, without any personal injury, but fright and fatigue. Upon these occasions, witness had a full opportunity of seeing the prisoner. On witness being asked on her oath if she was taken off on these occasions by force and against her consent, she replied most determinedly in the affirmative, and declared, that sooner than consent to marry Coffee she would cheerfully suffer to be torn to pieces.
   

Catherine Ryan, mother of the last witness, was next sworn, and corroborated her testimony regarding her daughter’s having been taken from her house on the 9th of March, and from Mr. Pennefather’s on the 13th of June.
    

Thomas Ryan, son of the last witness, and brother of Honora, deposed that he knew Coffee;  that in the month of April the prisoner and some other persons came into his cow-house:  that when Coffee came in, he saluted witness and said he knew it was assuming in him to come to witness:  but he said he had heard witness had raised part of his sister’s fortune from Mr. Pennefather.  Witness said he had taken only the interest, which he and his mother were authorized to take.  Prisoner then said, that if the witness would not give his consent to have his sister married to the prisoner,  that he would suffer for it, if it were seven years after, for there was no one preventing the marriage but him. To this the witness replied,  that he and his mother were determined to withhold his sister’s fortune, till they got a suitable match for her.
    

The case having ended there, MR. HATCHELL, prisoner’s advocate, said they would leave the case with his Lordship and the jury,  and called no witnesses for the defence, nor as to character.   The prisoner was convicted on one of the indictments, but as both are capital, that sufficed to determine his fate.’
The Mr. Ryan of Ballymackeogh, who rescued Honora Ryan, was William Ryan who had married Anne, the daughter of the Rev. John Pennefather - in the 1870s, William Ryan owned 1,352 acres in Tipperary;  the Ryan estate was close to Newport where the Rev. Pennefather lived. 
It is mentioned above that Rev. Pennefather had given money to Honora Ryan’s family as part of her marriage dowry - why did he do that, I wonder?

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