Journal Volume 6 2010

A Greystones Miscellany (continued/2)

The Mysterious Death of Patrick Doyle - 1908

By James Scannell

Followers of crime dramas on television will be aware that there are specific methods by which the time of death of a deceased person can be estimated. Such methods were not known in 1908 and that the methods in use at that time were applied following the death of Patrick Doyle, 10 Strand Cottages, Greystones. His body was found on the railways tracks in Greystones railway station by Thomas White, a parcel man, following the departure of the 6.45 p.m. Down Wexford Mail on Monday 20th January 1908, who then drew his grim discovery to the attention of Andrew Martin the head porter. Present in the station at that time was Captain Fitzgerald of the Army Medical Department, who had just alighted from the train and on hearing of this discovery, jumped down on the tracks and after performing a cursory examination of the body stated that the individual concerned was dead. The station master was informed of what had happened and he in turn notified the local R.I.C. barracks from where Sergeant Barry was quickly on the scene followed by Rev. Fr. Farrelly C.C. and Dr. Price. Dr. Price confirmed that the man concerned was deceased as the result of some terrible injuries sustained. The body was subsequently identified as that of Patrick Doyle. The remains were removed from the track and conveyed to his residence where they reposed until the inquest into his death took place.

On Wednesday 22 January Dr. James Murray, Coroner for East Wicklow, opened the inquest into the death of 70 year Patrick Doyle whose body had been found in Greystones railway station the previous Monday. The jury consisted of Edward Beggs (foreman), Thomas Carling, Patrick Flynn, James Healon, Oswald Spurling, George Stevenson, James Withers, George Gilbert, Charles Evans, Andrew McFarland, Richard Huggard, James Doyle and Robert Evans. Also present were District Inspector Triscott and Sergeant Barry representing the R.I.C.

Greystones station and beach 1880 - 1914 (

After the foreman Edward Beggs was sworn in, he asked Coroner Murray if it was necessary for the jury to view the body of the deceased as he objected to doing this. He was informed by the Coroner that it was necessary to do this. Beggs then stated that several of the jurors objected to viewing the mutilated remains of the deceased and further stated that he had been told some time in the past by a gentleman who viewed a body that he had not been well for a long time afterwards. Beggs said that he had no objections to viewing the face of the body provided the rest of it was covered up. Coroner Murray said that he could not change the law to which Beggs replied: ‘No. Will the remains be covered up?’ and was then advised by Sergeant Barry that the remains were covered up except for the face. The Coroner went on to say that the jury would not have to look at any part of the body other than the face. With this obstacle out of the way, the jury was sworn in after which they were taken off to view the remains of the deceased and then returned to hear evidence from various witnesses.

(My father told me that sometimes in the 1930’s or 1940’s he was a member of an inquest jury concerning the death of a Dublin docker who had been killed by a crane hook which fell on his head when the cable snapped. He remarked that he was thankful that the coroner did not require them to view the remains of the deceased due to the nature of the injuries he sustained, so it appears that a coroner had some leeway in this matter. I am also aware that in 1888 when Thomas Bewley was killed in a Dublin industrial gas explosion, the coroner on that occasion did not ask the jury in question to view the remains due to the terrible mutilated state of the body which was covered up except for the face.)

The first witness called was Edward Doyle, son of the deceased, who confirmed that the remains were those of his father 70 year old Thomas Doyle whom he last saw the previous Monday evening. He said that his father, who was a labourer, was in good health and had worked for Mrs. Doyle for between 30 or 40 years.

Questioning then began from the various parties in the court:

  Beggs: ‘Where did you last see your father alive?’
  E. Doyle: Coming down the Burlington Road around four o’clock.The next time I saw him he was dead on the railway.’
  Coroner: Do you know where he was going?’
  E. Doyle: No. He told my sister he was going up around the railway station for a walk.’

The next witness called was Captain Fitzgerald of the Army Medical Department who testified that on Monday evening he was standing on the railway station platform when he was told by a small boy that a man had been caught by the train. He went to the spot indicated and found a body lying lengthways between the rails of the tracks with the head facing towards Wicklow. He placed his hand on the body which appeared to be cold.

  Coroner: ‘Was there a light at the place?’
  Fitzgerald: ‘There was a lamp by the signal cabin and a porter was there with a lamp.’
  Coroner: 'What time were you on the station (platform)?’
  Fitzgerald: ‘I came down on the 5.59 from Kingstown, arriving at Greystones at about a quarter to seven.’
  Coroner: ‘The body was in such a position that a person on the opposite side of the station could not see it?’
  Fitzgerald: ‘Yes and I would not have seen it if my attention had not been directed to it.’

The next witness called was Thomas White, parcels clerk at the station, who stated that on the evening in question he met the 6.45 p.m. train for the purpose of collecting the parcels on it for Greystones from the guard and that someone passed the remark that there was a parcel on the rails. He went with a lamp to the end of the platform and discovered that it was a dead body. He told a porter that there was a man on the line who in turn informed the stationmaster after which assistance arrived. He concluded his evidence by stating that the body was lying close to the platform and was shadowed by it.


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