THE LURGAN RIOTS AND THE MURDER OF THOMAS GALLAGHER
Compiled by Ken Austin
Lurgan has had many disturbances in it's long turbulent history, one of the biggest being The Lady Day Riots of 1879, but as the 1880's wore on, life settle into a time of peaceful coexistence. Then in 1885 Liberal Prime-minister William Gladstone brought in a number of acts that would stir up sectarian violence once again. His Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act 1885 was to be introduced alongside a new Land Purchase Bill to reform tenant rights, but it was his Government of Ireland Bill 1886, commonly known as the First Home Rule Bill, which was the first major attempt made by a British government to enact a law creating home rule for Ireland, that really put the cat among the pigeons.
The Bill was introduced on 8 April 1886 to create a devolved assembly for Ireland which would govern Ireland in specified areas. The Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell had been campaigning for home rule for Ireland since the 1870s. The Bill, like his Irish Land Act 1870, was very much the work of Gladstone, who excluded both the Irish MPs and his own ministers from participation in the drafting of it. The vote on the Bill took place after two months of debate and, on 8 June 1886, 341 voted against it (including 93 Liberals) while 311 voted for it. Historians have suggested that the 1886 Home Rule Bill was fatally flawed by the secretive manner of its drafting, with Gladstone alienating Liberal figures like Joseph Chamberlain who, along with a colleague, resigned in protest from the ministry, while producing a Bill viewed privately by the Irish as badly drafted and deeply flawed.
When the news of the defeat of the Bill reached Lurgan, there was much rejoicing by the Loyalists of the town and marching bands were soon parading along its streets. Large groups of Home Rule supporters gathered and riots ensued, by the end of that night, 8 June 1886, many were wounded on both sides and one man lay dead.
A Dublin newspaper takes up the story:
10 June 1886
ARREST FOR THE MURDER OF GALLAGHER
A despatch from Lurgan says: Matters here have been a very bad state since yesterday evening. Indeed it is a very long time since in this town, in which party feeling runs so high, there has been such rioting. Last evening a bonfire and a good display of fireworks bad been prepared to add to the general rejoicing on account of the Home Rule defeat. Loyalist bands, with drums, marched to and fro during the afternoon, passing round the parish church. An exasperated crowd of Home Rulers remained collected in Edward street. Cheers and counter cheers were repeated. Several Protestants were attacked in the Pound, whereupon some Roman Catholics were assaulted by the Protestant crowd. Some windows were broken, and people commenced to put up shutters. Owing to some interference with the shutters of Mr. Arthur Donnelly, some persons in his establishment fired into the Protestant crowd, and one man was shot in the hand. The excitement then became intense. Desperate rioting and housebreaking were the order of the hour. Some desperate assaults were made by the Roman Catholic mobs, and firing from Roman Catholic shops became quite general. The police were powerless, and from 8.40 pm till an advanced hour this morning almost continual fire from revolvers and rifles was kept up in Church place. One man named Gallagher, who had displayed an orange sash during the day, was shot dead in North street. Three other Roman Catholics were admitted to hospital suffering from bullet wounds.
As the night advanced the people left the line of fire as much as possible, but refused to leave the streets until the persons who fired from Donnelly's shop had been arrested. This the authorities declined to do. Police and soldiers had been sent for, but as none arrived, and innocent persons were being shot down, the Protestants became exasperated, some called upon the crowd to make a general and combine assault upon the Roman Catholic houses. Mr Joseph P. Mathers. D.G.M, then addressed the crowd, and said he would give the authorities a few minutes to do their duty, and if they failed he would at once raise one thousand armed Orangemen and protect the town. Matters now became terribly in earnest. The poor man lay dead, none daring to approach him; and messengers were actually being despatched for Orangemen and arms when, at about 11.30, some forty men of the 87th Regiment, from Armagh, appeared. This afforded some little confidence, and prevented the terrible alternative which remained; but the presence of the soldiers had no deterrent influence on the Roman Catholics, who continued to pour murderous fire from their houses all night.
A man named Hart has been arrested, charged with the murder of Gallagher. The latter has been in the army, and was the only son of a widowed mother. He has two sisters whoso cries when the police carried in his dead body were pitiable. A woman named Rose Tugman, who was stooping over him when he fell, received a bullet in the hip. The town is in the hands of military and police, and is now comparatively quiet. The man shot dead is Thomas Gallagher, a local simpleton, who waved an Orange Sash in the face of the Home Rule mob when the Loyalist bands were passing round the parish church during the day.
11 June 1886
THE LURGAN RIOTS
Lurgan, Thursday. The funeral of Protestant, Thomas Gallagher, who was shot dead in Lurgan on Tuesday night, and for whose murder a man named Hart has been arrested, took place this evening, and guarded through the Pound by 100 military, and a large police force under Mr Hamilton and County Inspector Carey. The way to the parochial burial ground lies through 'The Pound' a district through which, Mr. Morley's representatives have said no orange colour shall pass. The powers that be determined to protect the procession and the preparations in which 100 military and 200 police (all armed) were involved, appeared more like a battlefield manoeuvre than anything else.
The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Ford who, in an impressive address, referred to the manner in which the life of the deceased had been taken away, and pointed out the great Christian duty of forgiving the man by whom that terrible deed was committed. After which the small body of Protestants had again to form procession and return through the streets of Lurgan under military protection.
On 16 June 1886 a local paper proclaimed:
A young man named James Hart was charged with the murder of Thomas Gallagher at the magisterial inquiry today. Mary Boyd said she had made deposition in which she stated that she was in company with the deceased. She saw Hart with something heavy in his hand. He went down William Street to the Free School, and there was a small crowd. She crossed the street, and then heard some one in the crowd shout “Firel” A shot was then fired by a man who stepped forward with white trousers. That man was the prisoner Hart. When he fired she heard some one shout, Well done! That’s another one down. Good, Hart!’’ the moment the shot was fired Gallagher fell. Inquiry proceeding.
Meanwhile, Andrew and Arthur Donnelly, were both on trial for inciting others to fire guns and rifles from their premises, a public house, into a protestant crowd on the same day.
1 July 1886
Yesterday, in the Queen's Bench Division, before Mr. Justice O'Brien and Mr. Justice Johnson, Mr. D Lynch Q C (with him Mr. T.L. O'Shaughnessy, instructed by Mr. P Gallagher, Armagh), applied on behalf of Arthur Donnelly and Andrew Donnelly to remove into the Court of Queen's Bench any indictments which might be found against them at the' approaching Armagh Assizes in connection with the Lurgan riots on the ground that in consequence of the state of public feeling in Armagh the trial could be more fairly and satisfactorily heard if the case were removed to Dublin. The Application had already been mentioned yesterday, but was allowed to stand till this morning for the attendance of the Attorney General.
January 22, 1889. To Mr. Livingston, Lurgan, Dear Sir. In reply to your inquiry we beg to say that we are quite prepared to put the sizes in inches on the cloth instead of the terms, 4-8, a and ¾ size, as is the custom at present. Yours truly, J. Faloon.
Mr. Justice O'Brien said. The court was already in possession of the facts of the case, but they wished to be informed on what grounds counsel asked for a change of venue. Mr. Lynch, QC said the facts disclosed in the affidavits showed that there was a riot raging in Lurgan from about half-past three o'clock on the morning of the 8th June until 11 or 12 o'clock at night, that there was a crowd outside Donnelly's shop that were fired upon. The assizes were fixed to commence, at Armagh on the 12th July, and the Orangemen were making preparations upon an unusually extensive scale to celebrate that anniversary, and from the state of excitement and rancour now existing in the North of Ireland, intensified by the recent political events, and by the coming elections, the accused felt they would not get a fair or impartial trial either in Armagh, Antrim, or, Down. Mr Justice O'Brien said that he thought this a very proper suggestion and a wise cause to adopt.
The Attorney General then said, that he would make an application at the approaching assizes to postpone the trial and have it rescheduled to a time and place where all parties concerned believed a fair and impartial trial could be conducted. He continued. There is another case, that of the Queen verses James Hart which arose out of the same circumstances, but it was of a more serious nature. He said that it was imperative that both cases were heard in a fair and impartial manner and he would therefore suggest that the same course of action be adopted in Hart's case as that of the Donnelly's.
On 22nd July at the Armagh Assizes it was agreed in the interests of impartiality to postpone the trial of James Hart until December next and to hold it at the courthouse in Omagh.
11 December 1886
THE LURGAN MURDER CASE
Omagh, Monday - Mr Justice Lawson entered the Crown Court of the County Courthouse here this morning at half pest ten o'clock, and continued the business of the Ulster Winter Assizes. James Hart was indicted for having on the 8th June, 1886, at Lurgan, wilfully murdered Thomas Gallagher.
The Attorney-General M.P., Mr James Orr, Q.C., and Mr J. J. Shaw (instructed by Mr Kilkeely, Crown Solicitor. Armagh), prosecuted; and Mr Wm M‘Laughlin, QC., and Mr John Gordon (instructed by Mr Menery) were for the prisoner. William Clarke, surveyor, proved the maps of the portion or the town of Lurgan in which the murder occurred. He had marked the places of importance in the case as they were pointed out to him. The footpath was abort five feet broad. By his Lordship - l think there were no lamps lit in Lurgan in June.
Sergeant James Ballagh stated that he was stationed in Lurgan on the 8th June. On that evening from eight to eleven o'clock the town was in a disturbed state. He was in North street that evening for some time. There was a riot In that street about eight, but it was comparatively quiet near nine. He knew the prisoner at the bar and had known him for two years. He raw him at eight o'clock. He had moleskin trousers on him. He did not notice his coat. The moleskins were a gray colour, dirty looking. Witness saw the prisoner after that about twenty minutes to nine. He noticed no change in his dress.
Mary Boyd was the next witness. She stated she was living in Lurgan on the 8th June. Her house was in Castle Lane. She recollected coming out and going in the direction of North Street. That was about half-past ten o'clock. She saw the town clock which was on the church. The clock was illuminated. She had known Thomas Gallagher to speak to him. He was simple-minded. She saw him between Sloan's public house and McGeown's corner. That was in Church Place. She was speaking to him then. She went on into North Street and deceased came with her. A boy called Montgomery, Robert Walker and William Maxwell were in her company. There was a woman named Rose Tugman there. When she got into North Street she was standing on the side of the street on which McGeown's corner was. When she reached the corner she stood with the persons she had named for about five minutes. She saw a number of people down North street, A group was standing at the corner of Ulster Street. She saw no people at the time at the railings of the Free school. She went across the street. Gallagher and Montgomery went with her. They moved on, and when they had crossed they saw James Hart, the prisoner, coming out of a house was two doors from the corner. Witness was meeting Hart at the time. The prisoner turned down in the direction of Jackson's. He had a pair of moleskin trousers on him.
Head-Constable Green was called , and prodused clothes which he took out of the house of Mrs. McCann, prisoner's mother-in-law That was the pair of trousers produced and also the coat.
Examination of Mary Boyd continued - The pair of trousers produced by Head-Constable Green was like that worn by the prisoner. He was walking nearly close to the wall, and his left livid was next the wall. The prisoner had something like a stick below his coat and his hand was stiff. She could not tell what it was. She had known Hart, and she male an observation to him. She said, "That's heavier than the trowel you were using in the evening." He made no reply. She turned round and looked into his face. Montgomery was just behind witness at the time. Hart stopped at Mr McGeown's corner. Witness stood a minute or two. Witness tried to go between the prisoner and the wall and the prisoner shoved her and prevented her. When she got in front of him she made the remark to which she had deposed. Witness followed the prisoner with her eyes until he reached McGeown's. There was a group at the corner of Ulster Street at the time, but the prisoner stopped by himself. She stood there until the shot was tired. The house that be came out of was a good piece down the street. Gallagher was along side of witness at Jackson's. She then moved to M'Cormick's side of the street, and came in the direction of that house. Tt ey got within about thirty yards of M'Cormick's. She was looking all the time towards Hart. Two men or boys came up to Hart and spoke to him. They were dressed in dark clothes. Hart was standing with his back towards the paling and facing the witness. There was a group still at the corner of Ulster street. They did not come up to Hart and the two men. She had not heard a shot up to then, but at that time she did hear a shot. The shot came from James Hart. She was looking at him all the time. Someone said “fire” and he came out in front. She saw the flash and saw him raising something. She could not say what it was. The next thing she saw was Gallagher falling. He moved some distance towards M'Cormick's. He said “I'm shot”. When the shot was fired she heard one of the three men saying. Well done, Hart, that's one of them down." The three men then went as quick as they could down to the group at the corner of Ulster Street. From the time they came into the street until the time the shot was fired she heard no stone throwing. She only heard the one shot. The deceased's sister was the fist one that came up.
Thomas Montgomery stated he lived in Lurgan, and remembered the 8th June. On that evening, about eleven o'clock, he was at McGeown's window. He knew the house of M'Cann & Heyburn. While standing there he saw the prisoner coming out of that house, which was three doors down on the left-hand side of the street. He had known the prisoner for seven years. When Hart came out of the house he heard the last witness saying. 'That's weightier than the trowel you were using this evening. The prisoner was walking close to the wall, with his left hand close to the wall. The prisoner replied that he would let some of the boys feel that that night. Mary Boyd followed him. He heard a shot. Witness did not go down the street. He heard that a man was shot, and he then went down the street and saw the deceased, who was then breathing. Hart had on the moleskin trousers and a coat. The coat and trousers produced were the ones worn by the prisoner.
Maria Gallagher, sister of deceased, said she left the house at half past ten to to look for her brother. She went down North Street and met a boy between McGeown's and Mrs. Jackson's. She found her brother there between M'Cormick's and the Free School. There were a good number of people gathered in the street. She was about ten yards from her brother when she called him home. A voice from he Free school shouted, “Fire Boys”. After that a shot went off she saw the flash. Her brother then staggered, and said 'Boys, I'm shot,' and fell. He fell on his face. At the time she heard the word. Fire, boys,' three boys came out in front, and the one in moleskin trousers and grey coat fired the shot, that killed him.
Robert Walker was the next witness. He stated, in reply to the Attorney-General, that on the 8th June be was in North Street, Lurgan, about eleven o'clock at night He heard the time that Gallagher was shot, and at that time he was standing at the head of North Street. After the shot he went down the street. He saw a number of people between Macoun's and the Free School. He saw three men together. The prisoner James Hart was one of them. He had white pants on him. He could not say how the two men with him were dressed. He heard Hart saying. ' There is one of them shot, boys: we will run.' He then saw them running away. He saw Thomas Gallagher lying on the opposite side of the street to that on which witness was. He looked at deceased and went away.
Drs. Moore and Agnew were also examined. Head-Constable Green stated that he went to the prisoner's house and made a search about half-past one o'clock in the morning. He found the double barrelled gun (produced) in a room upstairs. The gun was capped and loaded. He examined the gun, and it appeared to have been recently discharged. The marks of recently exploded powder were on it.
District Inpector Bigley said he remembered the 8th June. He received information about eleven o'clock that evening that a man had been shot in North Street. He went to Harkin's Court. the house of Mrs. McCann prisoner's mother-in-law. He knocked several times at the door, but did not get in. The Head constable went in. He then went to the house of the prisoner's father in Ulster street. He found the prisoner lying on a settle-bed in the kitchen on the ground floor. He was covered with some clothes. He was dressed in dark clothes. His mother, wife, and father were there. The prisoner was the only one in bed.
Mr McLaughlin addressed the jury for the defence, and the Attorney-General having replied for the Crown. His Lordship summed up, and the jury retired about seven o'clock. After an hour's absence they returned into court with a verdict of not guilty, and the prisoner was discharged. On the announcement of the verdict there was loud applause in court, which was immediately suppressed. The crowd outside the courthouse cheered for Hart and a Tyrone jury.