Ireland Old News
August 2, 1820
Wm. Wilson, a pensioner from the 8th Foot, and Lucy Gardner, stood indicted for conspiring, with Francis Cunningham, a pensioner from the 101st Foot, to charge and capitally convict several persons with forming a conspiracy to murder the Rev. George Spaight, and by such conviction to obtain a reward.
Francis Cunningham, an approver, sworn. - Deposed that he knew the prisoners at the bar, and identified them; he had a conversation with Wilson in his (Wilson's) house, in the town of Cavan, on the 13th of May last; Wilson told witness that a party was formed against Mr. Spaight, and asked him to join in frustrating it, and that by doing so he would get a large sum of money: that the party of con- spirators consisted of Father Magrath, Terence and Charles Maguire, - Gordon, and Quin, and he wanted witness to make oath of the existence of such conspiracy, which witness declined. After that conversation, Wilson came very often to witness who de- clined to join in swearing against these men. Wilson urged him to do so, and said that, by swearing to the conspiracy, he would get a large sum of money, and pressed him to go and inform Mr. Spaight of it. Witness at last consented, and went to Mr.Spaight, and in- formed him that such conspiracy existed; he then went and swore informations before a magistrate that such conspiracy was formed by Magrath, the Maguires, Gordon, and Quin: he had no conversation with Lucy Gardner respecting it. Wilson came above twenty times to him before he consented; he sometimes came two and three times in the day.
By the COURT - Knew nothing of Wilson previously to the 13th May, except that he once saw him in Granard, about 12 months since; does not know where he lived; heard him, when he saw him in Granard, say he was a pensioner, he was then a pedlar selling soft goods, and witness bought a handkerchief from him in Granard; did not then tell Wilson that he was a pensioner. The 13th of May was the day he first came to witness. Knew the day by the day he took the house: it was the day after the fair at Cavan. First told Mr. Spaight that Wilson and he were the conspirators about 2 or 3 days ago. Swore informations against the men and swore falsely in such informa- tions; swears he never knew the men, before; he was promised by Wilson for so swearing a large sum of money, which would make him rich all his life. Wilson lived in lodgings; witness never slept in his lodgings; never slept in the house; he swore he did so, and swore falsely. Did not know Magrath, never saw him; sore MA- grath was to shoot Mr. Spaight; swore falsely; the devil tempted him. Was induced to disclose the conspiracy to Mr. Spaight, as he would not assist in taking away their lives. [Gordon and the two Maguires were then in gaol on the informations of the prisoners, and Cunningham, but the bills against them were thrown out by the grand jury.] After this witness had terminated his evidence, the learned Judge ordered the gaoler to take him into custody; the depravity of his conduct struck horror into the whole auditory.
Joseph M'Gwire, Esq., examined - Is a magistrate of this county: (the informations of the prisoners were produced to Mr. M'Gwire) - he took those informations; knows the persons who swore them; they were the prisoners in the dock; they were sworn in the usual way. Here Mr. M'Gwire mentioned to the bench, that when taking the prisoners' informations he strongly doubted their truth, but feared that the prisoners' conduct was so depraved, that if he did not arrest the Maguires and Gordon, the prisoner, he feared, might assas- sinate Mr. Spaight, for the purpose of acquiring credit for himself, and attaching guilt to the men he swore against. The conduct of Mr. M'Gwire throughout the transaction evinced considerable penetra- tion, and was a great means of defeating this abominable conspiracy. The informations of the prisoners were read.
Rev. Patrick Rielly, parish-priest of Cavan, examined - Is the Roman-Catholic clergyman of this parish; heard his name mention- ed in the informations now read; what was then read referring to him was quite false; never heard of any conspiracy against Mr. Spaight till he heard of this transaction;
Mr. M'Gwire first told him of it.
Terence Maguire, one of the persons sworn against, examined - Lives in Edgworthstown; lived previously in Cavan; is learning the saddling business with his brother; knows Mr. Spaight; knows Charles Maguire and Gordon; never spoke to C. Maguire or Gor- don respecting taking away the life of Mr. Spaight; never heard of it; if any person said he did, it would be very false.
Rev. Geo. Spaight sworn; examined by the prisoner - Knows prisoner since 17th of May, or thereabouts; gave witness information of a conspiracy which he stated to exist; required no money from witness; never saw the Maguires and prisoner together; kept the Maguires and Gordon in separate cells; prisoner had no conversation with them after their arrest till confronted before witness; does not re- collect Maguire saying he could have you thrown into the Lough, or banished; had some contradiction.
Molly Wilson (or Judge) sworn - [This witness, who was mo- ther to the prisoners, at first refused to take an oath, having, as she said, never taken one, though past 70 years of age: she was called on by the prisoners.] - Examined by prisoner - Knows Francis Cun- ningham; saw him in their house; he got shirts washed there; knows him to have slept with prisoner; saw other persons in the house with them; does not know what they did in the house; Cun- ningham had got out of bed when they were going away.
Cross-examined by MR. DEERING - Lives in Cavan a few weeks. Lived 19 years in Ballymahon; her son lived with her; he was in Trim about 3 years next August; heard of a gentleman named John Rothwell; recollects her son prosecuting men there for conspiring to take away Mr. Rothwell's life.
The learned Judge recapitulated the evidence, reminding the jury that they were entirely to discard from their minds the testimony of that degraded and infamous wretch Cunningham, who came there to swear that his solemn oath was not to be believed, and that he had but a short time before falsely sworn to informations which had for their object to deprive three innocent individuals of their lives.
The jury, without retiring from the box, returned a verdict against both the prisoners of Guilty.
JudgeJEBB immediately proceeded to pass the sentence of the law. Addressing himself to the prisoners in the most feeling manner, he remarked on the horrid depravity of the minds which could form and mature so base and horrid a conspiracy; their crime, he declared, was far more flagitious than that of two unfortunate men whose lives were to be sacrificed to a violation of the laws for the crime of burglary and robbery; they had stolen the property of their prosecutors, but the prisoners sought to deprive three innocent individuals, with whom they were even unac- quainted, of their lives, for the hope of a trifling reward; they sought by their death not only to plunge their families into poverty, but also to attach to them the ignominious stain which would result from such a death. He should be happy that the laws would enable him to exchange their sentences, and gladly would he do so, and pass on those unfortunate men, to whom he could not afford the slightest shadow of hope, that more mitigated punishment which he was obliged to pass on them, while he would assign to the prisoners that punishment which was even too lenient for their abominable de- pravity. As the laws would not allow him to punish them in such manner, he would, however, take care to punish them in the most ex- emplary manner the laws would permit.; the sentence of the law therefore was, that they should be each imprisoned for three years, and William Wilson be three times publicly whipped through the streets of Cavan on three market-days in the next three months.
Submitted by: County Cavan Newspaper Transcription Project
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