Journal Volume 7 2013

The genuine trial of Hugh Woolaghan, yeoman … on Saturday, October 13, 1798, for the murder of Thomas Dogherty (Dublin, 1798) (continued/3)


George Kenny, Corporal of the Newtownmountkennedy yeomen, then gave evidence of orders issued by Captain Armstrong of the King’s-county Militia, in command at Mountkennedy: these were that any body of yeomen meeting with those they knew or suspected to be rebels ‘need not take the trouble of bringing them in, but … shoot them on the spot.’ However, he denied any knowledge of the events of 1 October, as he ‘was confined to my bed on that day.’ He described the prisoner as ‘a sober, faithful, and loyal yeoman’, who acted in accordance with his duty. Thomas Dogherty ‘was always considered as a rebel’ and, given this reputation and the orders received, he himself would have felt justified in shooting him.

John Fox of the Newtownmountkennedy Yeomen confirmed Captain Armstrong’s order to shoot rebels on sight. Like Kelly, he had not been present during the raid on the Dogherty house, but considered Thomas, his father and brother to be rebels, and would have felt justified in shooting them himself. He knew of no quarrel between Dogherty and the prisoner, and considered the latter ‘a good and loyal subject.’ He added that, while he could not swear to it, he had heard and believed that Dogherty senior was now with the rebels.

Nathaniel Heyes of the Newtownmountkennedy Yeomen testified to the prisoner’s good character and loyalty, and confirmed the orders given by Captain Armstrong. Lieutenant W Tomlinson of the Rathdrum Yeomen Cavalry confirmed that ‘it was generally understood that orders were given to the corps, not to bring in any prisoners, but to shoot any that were known to be rebels.’ Lieutenant George Audaun of the Mountkennedy Yeomen gave evidence of Woolaghan’s loyalty and ‘that he never knew him cruel’ or to ‘act with inhumanity’, and Captain Archer, of the Mountkennedy Yeomen, who had known him since he was a child and for whom he had worked in his trade as a mason, described him as ‘sober, diligent … ready to obey the orders of his officers … and … a good and loyal subject.

Lieutenant Richard Gore, also of the Mountkennedy Yeomen, testified to Woolaghan’s good character, his obedience to orders, promptitude, zeal and courage, and further offered ‘that it has been the practice of the Corps to go out to protect themselves and the property of their well-affected neighbours.’ Captain Gore, commander of the Newtownmountkennedy yeomen, similarly testified to the prisoner’s excellent character: he ‘knew him to be a loyal and brave soldier and never knew him guilty of any act of inhumanity; and that it was the practice of the corps, to scour the country without any officer … that they understood it was their duty, to shoot any rebels they met with, or suspected to be such’, and that he had heard ‘that the other corps had similar directions, in other districts.

This closed the defence, although the prisoner did inform the court that he could produce ‘more evidence … to the same purport, if thought necessary.’ He then handed in his address, which was read to the court. In this he protested his lifelong loyalty to King and Constitution: ‘every thing like treason or disloyalty, filled my mind with indignation and abhorrence.’ He had left another yeomanry corps some months previously because it was tainted by disaffection, and the outbreak of rebellion and the ‘savage outrage and cruelty’ which it unleashed had prompted in him ‘a degree of resentment, which, perhaps could not be justified in less agitated times.’ The deceased and his family, he claimed, were ‘notorious rebels’; Thomas Dogherty had returned to the county without a Protection and without taking the oath of allegiance, and was certainly prepared to rejoin the rebels. Those who had testified to the circumstances of the killing were ‘persons to whom the Court will hesitate to give implicit credit … The mother of the deceased gave her evidence in a manner highly suspicious, and palpably contradicted herself in two or three instances. She denied having ever seen the written paper produced to her, and yet it was proved to have come out of her pocket, so that she is not that kind of witness upon whose testimony the life of any man should be forfeited.’ His own good character, meanwhile, had been attested to by ‘respectable witnesses.’ He cited Captain Armstrong’s orders as authorising his action: ‘the deceased was universally known to be an active and dang-erous rebel; he and his family were fomenting disturbances in the county at the very time he lost his life, as appears by the paper produced.’ He concluded by denying that he acted out of ‘private malice’: the evidence showed, he said, that he ‘did not even know him [Thomas Dogherty] by sight.’ He had acted in accordance with the orders given to him, ‘and was influenced by no motive but my anxiety to do my duty, and to preserve my own life and property, and the lives and properties of my neighbours.

The Court then asked to see the record of Thomas Dogherty’s General Court Martial. Dated 18 July 1798, this showed that Thomas Dogherty, along with fifteen other men, had been tried at Slane, found guilty of rebellion and sentenced to death.

The Court, having taken into account all the evidence, found that Hugh Woolaghan had shot and killed Thomas Dogherty as a rebel, but acquitted him of the charge of murder.


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