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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Commission of Inquiry 1869

This post concerns an enquiry into electoral malpractice in Dublin in 1869 which was widely reported in the papers of the day.  Many of my mother's immediate ancestors were called to give witness, and their testimony gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of cash-strapped middle-class Dubliners at that time. 

In 1868 Sir Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st Lord Ardilaun, was elected as the Conservative MP for Dublin;  his election was voided, however, when it was discovered that his electoral agent had used bribery to ensure the candidate's success - the subsequent Commission of Inquiry, which took place in 1869, came to the conclusion that Guinness was unaware of the corruption and he was eventually returned to office in 1874.  
The bribery itself consisted of Conservative canvassers offering cash or work to the Freemen electors of the Dorset Street area of Dublin - those who voted for Guinness, or who persuaded other to do likewise, were issued with a railway ticket which could be exchanged later for cash.   
Local Freemen, resident in the Dorset Street area, were called before the Commission to give evidence, amongst whom were several of our ancestors, namely William Yorke and his wife, Eliza Courtenay/Courtney,  their son Henry Yorke, Herbert Moore who was married to Mary Courtenay, and the elderly Francis Courtenay, who gave invaluable information about his older brother, our immediate ancestor, Frederick Courtenay.

The commission found that John Pennefather, our great-great-great grandfather, who was married to Emily Courtenay, and who had been admitted to the Freemen in 1845, had offered his services gratuitously on behalf of the Conservative candidates in the 1868 election.  John Pennefather died on 29th March 1869, so couldn't be called to give evidence at the commission. 
None of the following people, all called to give evidence to the commission, were found guilty of any illicit practice in regards to the election, although William Yorke comes across as slightly suspect!  Francis Courtenay's name was spelt as 'Courtney' but I'm using the spelling the family finally settled on, ie, 'Courtenay';  likewise, the commission report spelt William's family name as 'York', whereas the correct spelling was 'Yorke' which I use here.

Francis Courtenay, 27 Wellington Street:
Francis Courtenay was admitted to the Freemen of Dublin in 1845 by birth - his father, Thomas Courtney, had been admitted in 1789.  Francis Courtenay, who had been born in Dublin in about 1794, and who served with the 85th Regiment of Foot from Ist January 1817 until 31st December 1839. 
Francis Courtenay of 27 Wellington Street was called to give evidence. He was infirm and almost deaf. He had voted for Guinness and Plunkett at the last election.  This time Pim had canvassed him, not personally, but by sending him his card.  Francis confirmed that he lived in the house of William Yorke, ie, 27 Wellington Street.  Francis walked down to the voting station, using an umbrella as a walking stick.  He didn't see William Yorke on the way.  Feeling ill, he voted and returned home to bed.  (William Yorke was married to Francis's niece, Eliza Courtenay.)
Herbert Moore, was mentioned... did Francis Courtenay know of the house in which Herbert lived?  He did. It was the house beside the Temperance Hall. (The Temperance Hall on Halston Street was the location of one of the local polling booths.)
Francis, on arrival at the station, was asked by a young man who he wished to vote for;  Francis told him Guinness and Plunkett, so the young man showed him to what Francis presumed was the correct booth.  Francis didn't recognise the young man;  the young man didn't show him any railway ticket.
Francis had been living in William Yorke's house since 1843.  At that time, Yorke had been a member of the police force. Mentioned that, early on in his career, Yorke had been 'confined' following a minor argument with a colleague.
Yorke's son was employed at the committee rooms on Dorset Street. There was a suspicion, according to William Yorke, that Francis would not go down to vote unless he was paid £5 to do so;  Francis denied this.
Stated that he didn't speak too much to York, despite sharing a house wih him.
Francis had left his job for good in 1851 - he had been a staff officer's clerk and was now in receipt of a pension.  He did not receive any money at this election, nor at the last.  He didn't know if William Yorke had received anything, since Yorke was so reserved that he would not even tell his own wife if he had.
Francis was currently confined to bed, suffering from debility and weakness.  He had been discharged from the army for the same reason.  Every Sunday he would walk to Christchurch Cathedral for the 10 o'clock service.
His brother, Frederick Courtenay, had not been in Ireland for a long time - Frederick was also a Freeman;  he had had a job as a librarian of the Royal Barracks.

Mary Moore, née Courtenay, Halston Street:
Evidence of Mary Moore, née Courtenay (her sister, Emily Courtenay was married to John Pennefather; these were our great-great-great grandparents.):
On 27th July 1878, Mary and Herbert Moore had moved from 27 Wellington St to Halston St.  George Arthur Thompson had been lodging with them, on and off, in both houses.  He owed them 14s. in rent which he paid off on the day of the election, telling Mary that he had received £5 on that particular day - she didn't know where the money had come from.  She testified that she lived next door to the Temperance Hall (where the voting booth was) on Halston Street, and that there had been crowds of unruly people outside the Hall on the evening of the election; even the police were unruly.  
Mary testified she knew George Hall who worked for the railway. (George Hall was her brother-in-law, married to Mary's sister Adelaide Anne Courtenay.)

Evidence of Mary's husband, Herbert Moore:
He lived in Halston Street, and had come to Dublin from Cork.  He worked firstly, for seven and a half years, as a policeman with the Dublin police, then spent about nine years working for the penal service/prisons. Following his time with the prison service, he worked as a carpenter at Broadstone Station, repairing waggons there for about three years. He had had no formal training in carpentry, but had a talent for it.  After this, he worked for a few years as a carpenter at Todd, Burns & Co. in Mary St.   He had spent the previous four and a half years at Guinness's, working as a gate-keeper.
His wife, Mary, had taken the decision to move to Halston St. a few weeks before the election - Herbert left these matters to his wife; he was always home too late from work in the evenings to be bothered with such matters.
He had been on the election committee for Sir Arthur Guinness, and had visited the committee rooms accordingly on Dorset St a number of times. On the day of the election, Herbert was the 'personating agent' in Capel St. and spent the entire day of the election at the polling booth there.  Herbert testified that the only man he knew who worked for the railways was his friend George Hall, who would also go to the committee rooms on Dorset St.

George Hall, husband of Adelaide Anne Courtenay:                  
Evidence of George Hall, who had married Adelaide Anne Courtenay in 1851. Adelaide Ann was the sister of Mary Moore and Emily Pennefather;  their father was Frederick Courtenay, and their uncle was Francis Courtenay.
George said he was one of the senior clerks with the Midland Railway Company. The commission was primarily interested in a few of his colleagues, not him. George Hall was a Freeman himself, and had worked on the committee  on behalf of Guinness. George Hall lived in Little Mounjoy Street/Middle Mountjoy Street, and was a member of the local Orange Lodge.

William Yorke was married to Eliza Courtenay:
William Yorke testified that he lived at 27 Wellington Street, worked as a painter, and had been a Freeman for the past 6 or 7 years.  He had previously worked as a ship-joiner at Walpole, Webb and Bewley's ship-builders at the North Wall.
Said that he and his daughter, Eliza Yorke aged 16, had a small shop at 125 Dorset Street and a second one at 47 Phibsborough Road which was run by a younger daughter, aged 14.   Both shops were chandlers, selling soap, tobacco and other things.  He had taken both shops on recently, because of his ill health, and to give both of his daughters something to do during the day. He would accompany them both home to Wellington Street in the evenings.  He also had two sons, both coach-painters, one 24 and the other 21.  The younger one still lived at home;  the older one worked 'across the water' (ie, south of the Liffey).
William Yorke's father had died in about 1840. His son, Henry Yorke, had been employed in the election committee rooms at Dorset Street for a week during the election, and was paid £1. 
William's brother-in-law, the railway clerk, George Hall who was married to Adelaide Anne Courtenay, had lodged in apartments in 27 Wellington Street with them about 14 or 15 years ago.
In 1865, William Yorke had worked as a painter, for the Midland Great Western Railway Company, painting the rolling stock there.
William had taken out his freedom of Dublin in 1865 by virtue of marriage to Eliza Courtenay - her father, he testified, was Frederick Courtenay, currently a pensioner in the Chelsea Hospital in England.  Frederick had been in England for the previous 12 to 15  years. In 1869 he was believed by William Yorke to be about 80 or 87 year of age, born between 1782 and 1789. The committee at this stage of the examination confused Frederick with his brother, Francis Courtney/Courtenay (the report uses both spellings of the name).  William confirmed that Frederick's younger brother, Francis, a freeman, lived with him at 27 Wellington Street, and that Francis was unwell, spending much of the time in bed.
Canvassers came to his house and offered him a week's work for £1 4s.,  as well as transport - a car - to take him to the polling booth.  He declined this offer since he was already working.  A William J. Campbell then testified that, on the day of the election,  he had offered to get William Yorke £5 if he voted, and Yorke had promised to give him £1 of it, if this actually came about. Campbell then saw Yorke talking in Halston Street to a young man with a glass eye who gave a ticket to Yorke. Yorke later gave Campbell his £1.   Yorke vigorously denied this, saying he never carried money on him, but always passed it on immediately to his wife, Eliza. She had paid the rent sometime after the election, when she sold four pigs that she kept in the large yard of their house -  'There is a very extensive yard on the premises,' he said, 'and my wife manages to have these to meet this - like every other Irishman - a pig to meet the rent.' 

Eliza Yorke, néé Eliza Courtenay, was married to William Yorke, and was the sister of Adelaide Anne Hall, Emily Pennefather, and Mary Moore:
      Eliza Yorke came to Halston Street on the day of the election to see her sister, Mary Moore.  She had been at Mary's house a few minutes when she noticed her  brother-in-law, John Pennefather, who was married to another Courtenay sister, Emily, passing the door.  Said Pennefather was also a Freeman but had died since then.  Shortly afterwards her husband, William Yorke, arrived, and they went home to Wellington Street where he spent some time in the garden.  She stated that at the time of the election he worked at Walpole, Webb and Bewley's ship-yard on the North Wall, and was about to become ill at that time;  because of the cold weather he had decided also to start growing a beard.
Canvassers from both sides had called to the house to solicit a vote from her husband. One of them had made offer of a job to him, but she wasn't sure who it was who made the offer.
Rent and taxes on their house - 27 Wellington Street - amounted to £20 a year.  There was currently no direct owner of the property, as such, it being held under the courts due to the case of Gardner against Blessington which was currently in progress.  Eliza Yorke kept pigs in the yard which she sold on to make the rent money.
Eliza had heard nothing about a man offering railway tickets to people prior to the election;  her husband, William, had never been in receipt of either a ticket or a £5 note.
Henry Yorke, son of William Yorke and Eliza Courtenay:
Not a freeman, Henry was employed as a clerk/tallyman for the day of the election at the Dorset Street committee rooms, marking off the names of those who had voted.  He worked there for the one day and was paid a sovereign, not a £1 as his father had asserted to the commission.
Henry Yorke had been in Newry for several months, May till October 1868, working as a coachmaker for a Mr.Lawson there.


1 comment:

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