Secret Service Under Pitt



Another man there was of the same type as Turner, who posed in impenetrable disguise, but unlike Reynolds and Armstrong, spied in secrecy and on the express condition that he should not be asked to give public evidence and thus damage his social status.

An historian often quoted in these pages is not safe in suggesting that we may find behind the mask of Lord Downshire’s visitor the betrayer of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The utterly distinct quarter to which the Geraldine’s arrest is due will presently appear. Lord Edward had the command of Leinster. Turner had mainly to do with Ulster. Guiltless he was of Lord Edward’s betrayal in Dublin, for the simple reason, no doubt, that living abroad himself he knew nothing of his hiding-places. All other sensational incidents of that stirring time paled before the sorrow by which Lord Edward’s arrest and death oppressed the people. A Dublin ballad expressed the fierce anxiety felt to discover and destroy the veiled betrayer–

May Heaven scorch and parch the tongue by which his life was sold,
And shrivel up the hand that clutched the proffered meed of gold.

Whilst, on the other hand, ballads inspired by loyal ardour did not hesitate to regard as a holy work the annihilation of Lord Edward Fitzgerald.[285]

In 1830, when continental thrones trembled and others fell, Moore published his interesting ‘Life of Lord Edward’–a work which, however popular and opportune, will not bear a critical scrutiny as regards historic exactness. ‘From my mention of these particulars respecting Neilson,’ writes Moore, ‘it cannot fail to have struck the reader that some share of the suspicion of having betrayed Lord Edward attaches to this man.’ Moore’s book attained a wide circulation, and the descendants of Neilson naturally felt the wounding words. A letter of his daughter strongly protests against them, and expresses a hope that allowance will be made ‘for the indignant feelings of a child who has always been proud of her father’s character.’ Colonel Miles Byrne, a shrewd head which narrowly escaped the axe in ’98, failed to endorse the imputation on Neilson, but hesitated not to declare that Lord Edward had been ‘betrayed, and discovered by Reynolds, a United Irishman, to the agents of Government.'[286] In this random shot the Colonel missed his mark. The flaming patriot, Walter Cox, often states in his magazine that Laurence Tighe had shadowed to death the Geraldine chief. Thereupon Dr. Brennan, in the ‘Milesian Magazine,’ broadly charged Cox with the perfidy. Murphy, an honest, simple man, in whose house Lord Edward was taken, has not been exempted from suspicion. ‘Lord Edward’s concealment,’ observes Patrick Brophy, ‘became known through a soldier who was courting Murphy’s servant girl;’ forgetting that Thomas Moore, in his account of the arrest, incidentally remarks: ‘an old maidservant was the only person in Murphy’s house besides themselves.’ Maxwell, in his ‘History of the Rebellion,’ said of Neilson, ‘Thou art the man.’ Mark O’Callaghan, in his ‘Life of O’Connell,’ brands John Hughes as having received 1,000l. for Lord Edward’s blood, thus endorsing the indictment previously framed by Dr. Madden.[287] The son and biographer of Reynolds flings suspicion on Murphy; while Murphy, in his own account, says: ‘I heard in prison that one of Lord Edward’s bodyguard had given some information.’ Again, Felix Rourke was suspected, and narrowly escaped death at the hands of his comrades. Suspicion also attached to Mr. Ogilvie, who, as a near connection, visited Lord Edward in Thomas Street a few days before the arrest, and transacted business with him. Interesting as it is, after near a century’s speculation, to know the name of the real informer, it is still more satisfactory that those unjustly suspected should now be finally acquitted.

‘On the 18th of May’ [1798], writes Mr. Froude, ‘Major Sirr received communications from a quarter unhinted at in the most secret letters of the Viceroy, telling him where Lord Edward could be found.'[288] I proceed to point out ‘the quarter.’

In 1841 Dr. Madden obtained access to a book in which Mr. Cooke, formerly Under-Secretary at Dublin Castle, had made secret entries of various payments to informers. Amongst these items is: ‘June 20, 1798, F. H. discovery of L. E. F. 1,000l.‘ Although Cooke disclosed merely the initials ‘F. H.,’ he gave the name in full when recommending the informer for a pension. Writing to Lord Castlereagh in 1799, Mr. Cooke says: ‘Francis Higgins,[289] proprietor of the “Freeman’s Journal,” was the person who procured for me all the intelligence respecting Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and got —- to set him, and has given me much information, 300l.‘ This 300l. was an annual stipend.

The ‘Freeman’s Journal’ at this time was the organ of Dublin Castle, and it is stated in a memoir of Secretary Cooke that he had written for that paper. Hence a frequent intercourse subsisted between Cooke and Higgins; and the evidence is conclusive as to Higgins having received the Government reward. But the person of whose good name Cooke is so careful that in writing to Castlereagh he considerately puts a blank for it, was not so easily traced when first I took up this inquiry. Mr. Ross, editor of the ‘Cornwallis Papers,’ who was allowed to ransack the archives at Dublin Castle, writes: ‘The man who gave the information which led to his [Lord Edward’s] arrest, received 1,000l., but his name has never transpired.’

The point is now to prove that Francis Magan, M.A., barrister-at-law, a man traditionally described as one of the most unsociable of men, was the private friend and political ally of Higgins.

Thomas Magan, of High Street, Dublin, was the father of Francis. The leading journal of that city, in its issue of June 30, 1787, records how, on the previous evening, ‘Mr. Magan, of High Street, entertained Mr. Francis Higgins’ and others. ‘The glass circulated freely, and the evening was spent with the utmost festivity and sociality.’ The editor concludes by styling him ‘Honest Tom Magan.’ On November 5, 1789, he returns to the charge:–

Mr. Magan, the woollen-draper in High Street, in conjunction with his friend Mr. Higgins, are preparing ropes and human brutes to drag the new Viceroy to the palace. It was Mr. Magan and the Sham Squire who provided the materials for the triumphal entry of Lord Buckingham into the capital.[290] … Mr. Magan is really clever, and never has flinched in his partiality and attention to the cause of Mr. Francis Higgins–Mr. Magan has the honour, and that frequently, to dine Higgins.[291]

From an old Directory it appears that Tom Magan’s loyal zeal was acknowledged about this time by his appointment as ‘Woollen Draper and Mercer to His Majesty'[292]–one of the few paltry boons to which, in penal days, a slavish Catholic trader dare aspire. In 1793 a Catholic Relief Bill passed, and the bar was opened to Papists–a concession due to the menacing attitude of the United Irishmen and the boom of the French Revolution. Tom Magan’s son, Francis, entered Trinity College, Dublin; graduated in 1794; and became a member of the bar–probably on the suggestion of Higgins, who was an attorney. In 1795 Francis Magan left the parental roof-tree in High Street and took house for himself at 20 Usher’s Island, where he continued to live until his death in 1843. This house having been the residence of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Carpenter, who died there a few years previously, was regarded reverentially by the survivors of his flock.

‘Will no one urge Lord Edward to fly–I pledge myself that every port in the kingdom shall be left open to him’–said Lord Chancellor Clare. But money was to be made of his blood; and vampire instincts must needs be sated. The arrest was not effected until Saturday, May 19, although a proclamation promising 1,000l. as its price had been out since March.

Higgins, who constantly transmitted the result of his espionage to Dublin Castle, was now more than ordinarily on the qui vive. At Moira House, Usher’s Island, Pamela, wife of Lord Edward, sometimes stayed. In March, Leinster House, Kildare Street, was searched by soldiers–on which occasion Major Swan said to Lady Edward: ‘This is an unpleasant duty for any gentleman to perform.’–‘It is a task which no gentleman would perform,’ was the reply.[293] She little dreamed that men whose friendship she valued were playing a part still more ungentlemanly. On this occasion Lord Edward narrowly escaped; thenceforth he avoided both Leinster House and Moira House, unless for stealthy visits, and for weeks he remained hidden at Portobello near Dublin.

Thomas Moore, when engaged on the ‘Life of Lord Edward,’ had an interview with Major Sirr, and learned from him that on May 17,[294] 1798, ‘he received information that a party of persons, supposed to be Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s bodyguard, would be on their way from Thomas Street to Usher’s Island that night.’ Their destination, Moore adds, he had failed to discover. I am in a position to show, however, that the party were on their way to the house of Francis Magan and his sister, in Usher’s Island. Mr. James Moore, of 119 Thomas Street, had given Lord Edward shelter when 1,000l. lay on his head; but a carpenter named Tuite–who worked in Dublin Castle, and knew Moore–having overheard Cooke say that Moore’s house should be searched, gave a timely hint to Moore, who therefore fled to Meath, previously telling his daughter to provide for Lord Edward’s safety. Francis Magan and his sister were well known and respected by Miss Moore. She conferred with Magan on the subject, and an arrangement was made that Lord Edward should move that night from Moore’s in Thomas Street to Usher’s Island and occupy a bedroom in Magan’s house.[295] But it was suggested that, as two or three people knocking at his hall door on Usher’s Island might attract attention, it would be safer to admit them by his stable in Island Street, which lay immediately at the rear. The biographer of Lord Edward knew nothing of Miss Moore’s arrangement with Magan; but he casually mentions that the Government received information of his lordship’s intended visit to Usher’s Island. Major Sirr, attended by a guard, proceeded to the quarter pointed out; a conflict between the parties took place; ‘and,’ adds the biographer, ‘Sirr in defending himself lost his footing and fell; and had not those with whom he was engaged been much more occupied with their noble charge than with him, he could hardly have escaped. But their chief object being Lord Edward’s safety, after snapping a pistol or two at Sirr they hurried away.'[296]

Several volumes containing the original correspondence of Major Sirr are now preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Amongst them is the following letter:–

Lord Edward will be this evening[297] in Watling Street. Place a watch in Watling Street, two houses up from Usher’s Island,[298] another towards Queen’s Bridge;[299] a third in Island Street, at the rear of the stables near Watling Street, and which leads up to Thomas Street and Dirty Lane. At one of these places Lord Edward will be found, and will have one or two with him. They may be armed. Send to Swan and Atkinson as soon as you can.[300]


Cooke, with due consideration for the feelings of Magan and Higgins, does not tell Sirr from whom the information came; but the plot now thickens, and will be soon made clear.

Miss Moore–afterwards Mrs. Macready–died in 1844. To her son, she said:–‘The Government got timely information that we were going to Usher’s Island. Now this intention was known only to Magan and me; even Lord Edward did not know our destination until just before starting. If Magan is innocent, then I am the informer.’

On the day after Magan’s apparently humane arrangement with Miss Moore he called at her house, anxiously inquiring if aught had happened, as he had waited up until the small hours, and yet Lord Edward did not come! Miss Moore, not suspecting Magan, replied: ‘We were stopped in Watling Street; we hurried back to Thomas Street, where we providentially succeeded in getting Lord Edward a room at Murphy’s.’ Mr. Magan, satisfied by the explanation, leisurely withdrew, but, no doubt, quickened his gait on reaching the street. That evening, at four o’clock, Murphy’s house was surrounded by soldiers, and Lord Edward, after a desperate resistance, was secured, and conveyed in a sedan-chair to the Castle.

Higgins claimed, and received, 1,000l. as the price. How much was given by him to the ‘setter,’ or what precise agreement subsisted between them, I have no document to show. A pension was bestowed upon Magan, and I find in the Secret Service account the following entry: ‘September 11, 1800–Magan, per Mr. Higgins, 300l.

The name of Thomas Magan, the father of the betrayer, disappears from the Directory in 1797–from which I, at first, inferred that his death occurred about that time. But it now appears that he subsided into bankruptcy. On May 2, 1798, the assignees of Thomas Magan, woollen-draper, a bankrupt, grant to John Corballis, for the consideration of 690l., some house property belonging to Magan.[301] This date is worthy of attention; it is one fortnight before the arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The difficulties of the Magan family had been gathering for some years. They commenced in 1793, when Higgins lent Thomas Magan 1,000l.; and three years later, as will be seen, another thousand. ‘The borrower is servant to the lender,’ saith the proverb. Further search in the Registry of Deeds Office, Dublin, discloses two additional mortgages from Thomas Magan, senior, to Francis Higgins–one for 2,341l., another for 1,000l. The ‘witness is Francis Magan.'[302] Their date is July 7, 1796, when very serious embarrassments threatened the family. How closely Shamado’s toils[303] grasped father and son is now clear; and let us hope that when Francis Magan was persuaded by his tempter to sell Lord Edward’s blood, he muttered, not without emotion, ‘My poverty, and not my will, consents.'[304]

The name ‘James Dixon’ appears in the private list, supplied by Mr. Froude, of those who constituted the executive Committee of the United Irishmen in 1795, and ‘by whom the whole organisation was managed.’ Dr. Madden does not seem to know this, and says merely[305] that ‘James Dickson hospitably treated and succoured on all occasions the families of the State prisoners.’ The late Mathias O’Kelly told me that one of the few persons with whom Magan lived, in early life, on terms of intimacy was ‘James Dickson, of Kilmainham,’ and that he had repeatedly met Magan at Dixon’s house. ‘Dixon was deeper in the confidence of the rebel party than many more prominent leaders,’ adds O’Kelly. ‘He took the chair at the meeting of United Irishmen which had been convened to thank Napper Tandy for challenging Attorney-General Toler, afterwards Lord Norbury; and he was twice imprisoned for alleged complicity in the rebellion.’ But the Government treated him with a consideration extended to few others; and, on the grounds of ill-health, he was permitted to leave Kilmainham Gaol daily on short riding excursions.[306]

Undemonstrative in his habits, it is not easy to trace him in the scanty reports of contemporary newspapers. On May 17, 1797, a meeting of barristers was held urging the Government to ‘yield to the moderate wishes of the people, and thereby defeat the designs of any party dangerous to the country;’ and amongst the seventy-three signatories, with Francis Magan, were T. A. Emmet, H. Sheares (afterwards hanged), Robert Orr, B. B. Harvey (commander at Vinegar Hill in ’98, and also hanged), W. Sampson, Robert Holmes, J. Philpot Curran, L. McNally, and many other popular men, some recognised as members of the United Irish Society, such as Joseph Huband, and W. Newton Bennett, afterwards a chief justice.[307] The subsequent Baron, Smith, is there too with Robert Johnson, dismissed from the bench in 1806, and George Ponsonby, afterwards Lord Chancellor. In 1797 they stood upon a pitfall, but by a miracle escaped.

Francis Magan posed through life as the pink of propriety. Before the last century closed he had strong claims for secret service; but I cannot doubt, knowing his quiet and somewhat nervous nature, that whatever information he gave must have been communicated through Higgins. The latter owned a newspaper, which was the openly subsidised organ of the Government. He constantly assailed the popular party with invective; so that, unless through Magan, he could have had no opportunity of approaching the patriots, much less sucking their brains.

My contention as regards Magan was first expressed in a ‘Note on the Cornwallis Papers’ printed thirty years ago,[308] and it is with no small interest that I now find all my suspicions confirmed by Magan’s own letters. The letters of Higgins to Cooke claiming blood-money for Magan form the crowning proof of that which at first was mere theory. Magan was an informer of the most mercenary type–constantly tendering his services, and withholding information when coin ceased to clink.

The earliest mention of Magan by name is in 1797; the reports of Higgins are specially full at that date, no doubt the fruit of intercourse with Magan, who was completely his creature. One, undated, says: ‘On Wednesday last, Jackson, Dixon, Magan, and a large party dined at McKinley’s, opposite Kilmainham Gaol. The two first went into the prison, and distributed money which the prisoners had wrote for.’

Many letters follow. Higgins told enough to show how important a spy Magan could become if betrayal were made worth his while. On December 29, 1797, he writes: ‘You have not, dear Sir, determined as to M. At such a momentous and critical period … every intelligence should be obtained for Government.'[309]

But is the proof certain that ‘M.’ means Magan? Higgins four days later returns to the charge, adding: ‘You have said nothing about Magan, and will let his information slip through your hands, as he is about to go down to Belfast, and thence to England.'[310]

Higgins and Magan, strange to say, did not know that the democratic barrister, McNally, was already in pay as a spy. Part of the information furnished concerns McNally’s movements, which may have made Cooke indifferent as regards some of the letters. Higgins, on January 3, 1798, reports that at the pillorying of Finnerty, Lord Edward, O’Connor, Bond, Sheares and McNally attended the rebel as a mark of sympathy. Magan was hungry for Lord Edward’s blood; and Cooke must needs be brought at once to business. On January 5, 1798, Higgins says he will ‘fix Magan to meet Cooke at dinner,’ and ‘shall in the course of to-day or to-morrow give you a hint of his terms.’

The dinner did its work. The ill-fated priest O’Coigly–or Quigly–was now ‘wanted,’ but meanwhile other wants must needs be satisfied.

M. wants money, and I am sure will serve your intention [Higgins writes]; let him have it, and I will bring you his receipt. I shall also send him in quest of Quigly.[311] Permit me, however, to mention that you have not half sufficiently examined M. I shall, therefore, set down an outline for you, or obtain him to attend when you can be more particular.[312]

Four days later he writes:–

M. dines with Jackson,[313] etc., to-morrow. He promises to have many particulars. Two days before O’Connor sailed for England, M—-, Emmet, and Lord Edward Fitzgerald dined with Fallon on settling a plan as to Galway. Fallon is a man of property.[314]

A bundle of letters covering six weeks follows. Magan feigned to be the attached friend of his victims, and was so entirely trusted that they resolved to give him higher office in the rebel executive.

M. wishes you to send wt [what] was promised on the 28th. He is to be elected into office.[315]

A letter dated March 7, 1798, contains a long account from Magan, through Higgins, regarding persons from Belfast and Wexford, recently forming deputations from their committees. ‘He is to be with me at 12 o’clock to-morrow. I request you will be so good as to recollect sending to me for him as promised.’ Magan was duly pumped, and Higgins, on March 15, writes: ‘M. was with me this day, and seemed as if I had received a second 100l. for him. For God’s sake send it, and don’t let me appear in so awkward a situation.’ And on March 23, 1798, Higgins writes:

M. became quite offended that I did not send wt was promised. He has not communicated anything to me for the ten days past, tho I know he must have much information to give in.

The money was sent, and Magan’s tattle was resumed.

This night there is to be a meeting at Lawless’s.[316] I shall learn to-morrow the nature of it. I would wish to put you in possession of something M. knows of, that you may ask and interrogate him about them, and let him agree to come to a fixed point of information. I know it is (or will be from his late election) in his power.[317]

Raised to a post of trust and authority in the organisation, Magan’s power of betrayal became, of course, largely increased. He had hitherto communicated solely through Higgins. Stimulated by reward, he now addressed Cooke direct, but anonymously. Cooke, however, has endorsed the letter ‘Mag.’ It is dated not from Usher’s Island, where he lived, but from Higgins’ house in Stephen’s Green, and the handwriting is the same as that in a later document with an acknowledged signature.

I did not receive your promised favour till Easter Monday last, and on reading your letter requested Mr. H. to know your leisure for an interview…. He wrote me a most pressing letter not to leave town…. At the risk of my personal safety I accompanied him in a carriage to your door…. I have all along had in contemplation to put you in possession of some act that would essentially serve the Government as well as the country, and it may not be very long till such is effected. At present perhaps you may not know that Lord Edward lurks about town and its vicinity; he with Nelson was a few days ago in the custody of a patrol in the neighbourhood of Lucan, but not being known and assuming other names, they were not detained for any length of time.[318] Nelson is now the most active man, and affects, if he really does not hold, the first situation. For my part I sometimes imagine he is the person that communicated with Government; however, suspicion has not pointed at him.[319] His absence, I know, at the present moment would be considered as very fatal to the cause in Dublin. I have just this moment heard Lord Edward has been mostly in Thomas Street.[320]

On May Day 1798, when boys and girls were rejoicing, and the May-pole at Finglas was the scene of a festivity in glad welcome of the coming flowers, Higgins writes in great fuss to Cooke that a more formidable rising was at hand, adding: ‘If you can see M. this night, you can bring out where Lord Edward is concealed.’ ‘What hour shall I bring M. this night, if your leisure will permit? Remember to bring him to a point–I mean about Lord Edward.’ But his lordship’s frequent change of abode baulked the projected capture. Mr. Lecky considers that the search must have been made with singular languor to produce such little fruit. It should be remembered, however, that no police force deserving the name existed in Dublin; and that arrests were usually made, as eventually in Lord Edward’s case, by detachments of military.

On May 15 Higgins wrote to Cooke:–

M. seems mortified that when he placed matters within the reach of Government the opportunity was neglected…. Lord Edward skulks from house to house–has watches and spies around who give an account of any danger being near. It is intended he shall go into the country (it is thought Kildare) and make a rising. Give me leave to remind you of sending to M.

Magan is shown to have met Lord Edward at council at this time, but it was not easy to seize the chief on such occasions. Higgins was the Castle journalist, and could throw off letters with ease. Mr. Lecky says that his missives to Cooke would be found most useful material in illustrating the history of his time; and, no doubt, they are destined some day to see the light. Higgins uniformly writes of Lord Edward as a monster of evil, but it is due to the ill-fated Geraldine to say that men whose testimony ranks far higher record a different estimate.[321] Lord Holland, a Cabinet minister, thus writes of him:–

More than twenty years have now passed away. Many of my political opinions are softened–my predilections for some men weakened, my prejudices against others removed; but my approbation of Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s actions remains unaltered and unshaken. His country was bleeding under one of the hardest tyrannies that our times have witnessed.[322]

If he had personal ambition to gratify, the powerful influence of his family could easily have fed it to repletion. His life was one of sacrifice and attests the sincerity of his soul.

Higgins thought that Cooke was not sufficiently alive to the importance of Magan’s hints. He now tells Cooke that an attack on Dublin Castle had been proposed and adopted, but this information may have been embellished to rouse the Irish Government. ‘M. thinks it is on the ensuing Tuesday or Wednesday, but will be certain for your information,’ he writes. ‘He says the 300l. promised should have been given at once…. However, I have given him leave to draw upon me, and fully satisfied him of the honourable intentions of Government where service was actually performed, and of your kind attention if he would go forward among the meetings, communicate what is transacting, and, if found necessary, point out the spot where they may be seized, etc. This he has at length agreed to do.'[323]

The reader will remember Magan’s arrangement with Miss Moore that, for Lord Edward’s greater safety, the noble fugitive was to shift his quarters from James Moore’s house to Magan’s. The latter, to screen himself from suspicion, felt anxious that Lord Edward’s capture should be made in the street.

… I also mentioned your kind promise of obtaining 1000l. for him (without the mention of his name or enrolment of it in any book) on having the business done, which he pointed out before the issuing of the proclamation. He, therefore, puts himself on your honour not to admit of any person to come and search his house (which I ventured to promise you would have observed), but to place watches after dusk, this night near the end of Watling Street or two houses up in that street from Usher’s Island … [here the pith of Mr. Cooke’s letter, see p. 122 ante, is given], and at one of these places they will find Lord Edward disguised. He wears a wig and may have been otherwise metamorphosed, attended by one or two, but followed by several armed banditti with new daggers. He intends to give battle if not suddenly seized.[324]

The ‘armed banditti’ consisted merely of Mrs. and Miss Moore, Gallagher, a clerk in Moore’s employ, and a man named Palmer.[325] This is the account furnished to me in a most circumstantial statement by the late Mr. Macready, the son of Miss Moore. She had been educated in Tours; Lord Edward always conversed with her in French, and he usually passed as her French tutor. The hour was 8.30 in a lovely May evening. Palmer and Gallagher walked some yards in advance, and were the first to come in contact with Sirr’s party at the corner of Island Street. Sirr gave Gallagher an ugly wound which afterwards favoured identification. The latter, a powerful man, made two or three stabs at Sirr, who fell in the struggle, but, as he wore a coat of mail, he was able, after a few moments, to regain his feet. Lord Edward was also in handigrips with one of Sirr’s guard; both came to the ground, but with no more ill result to his lordship than some unsightly daubs of mud on his coat. In the confusion the ladies hurried back with their noble charge to Thomas Street, leaving Palmer and Gallagher to hold Sirr at bay. The party abandoned their design of going to Magan’s, though not from any distrust of his fidelity, and obtained shelter for Lord Edward in the house of a faithful adherent named Murphy with whom he had previously stayed. Miss Moore told Magan next day the whole adventure, and how the retreat had been safely effected. Lord Edward was lying on his bed in Murphy’s attic, after having drunk some whey to relieve a bad cold, when Major Swan and Captain Ryan peeped in at the door, exclaiming that resistance would be vain. At once Fitzgerald started up like a lion from his lair and rushed at Swan. Revolvers were as yet unknown and his pistol missed fire; he then drew a dagger. The account furnished by Swan to a Government print states:–

His lordship then closed upon Mr. Swan, shortened the dagger, and gave him a stab in the side, under the left arm and breast, having first changed it from one hand to the other over his shoulder (as Mr. Swan thinks). Finding the blood running from him, and the impossibility to restrain him, he was compelled, in defence of his life, to discharge a double-barrelled pistol at his lordship, which wounded him in the shoulder: he fell on the bed, but, recovering himself, ran at him with the dagger, which Mr. Swan caught by the blade with one hand, and endeavoured to trip him up.[326]

Captain Ryan then came upon the scene, but his flint lock missed fire; and thereupon he lurched at Lord Edward with a sword-cane, which bent on his ribs. Sirr had been engaged in placing pickets round the house, when the report of Swan’s pistol brought him upstairs.

On my arrival in view of Lord Edward, Ryan, and Swan [writes Major Sirr, in a letter addressed to Ryan’s son], I beheld his lordship standing with a dagger in his hand as if ready to plunge it into my friends, while dear Ryan, seated on the bottom step of the flight of the upper stairs, had Lord Edward grasped with both his arms by the legs or thighs, and Swan in a somewhat similar situation, both labouring under the torment of their wounds, when, without hesitation, I fired at Lord Edward’s dagger arm, and the instrument of death fell to the ground. Having secured the titled prisoner, my first concern was for your dear father’s safety. I viewed his intestines with grief and sorrow.

Lord Edward, in fact, had completely ripped him open. Although Sirr had lodged several slugs in his lordship’s right shoulder, he continued to fight furiously until the soldiers, of whom more than 200 were present, overwhelmed him by pressing their heavy firelocks across his person. They had brought him as far as the hall, when he made another desperate effort to escape, and a drummer from behind stabbed him in the neck.[327] Previous to this scene Higgins plied Cooke with gossip from Magan, as the case about to be cited will show.

The nickname applied to Pamela in the following extract was due to a popular rumour that her parents were Madame de Genlis and Philippe Egalité, Duke of Orleans: ‘Lady Egality complains dreadfully about Lord Castlereagh ordering a short passport. She will have letters sewed or quilted in her clothes, and goes to Hamburg. I shall send you particulars.'[328]

Lady Fitzgerald was at this time at Moira House, within a few doors of Magan; and the concluding words go to show that he had access to the house, and was entirely conversant with its domestic doings; the status, politics and attainments of so near a neighbour would facilitate access to its gilded salons.[329] Lord Edward probably sent, through Magan, messages to Pamela. Magan acted his part so plausibly that on the very night Lord Edward lay a bleeding captive in Newgate, he was raised by the votes of United Irishmen to a still higher post in the organisation.

Lord Edward had been arrested in Murphy’s house; and Mr. Lecky remarks[330] that there is no mention of the place in the letters of Higgins. The latter, to save time, may have given the hint orally. Higgins resided within twelve minutes’ walk of Cooke’s office. Mr. Lecky states:[331] ‘He [Higgins] was accustomed to go openly and frequently to the Castle.’ Cooke told Sirr that if he would go on the following day, between five and six P.M., to the house of Murphy in Thomas Street, he would find Lord Edward there.[332]

On May 20, when Lord Edward was dying of his wounds in Newgate, Magan furnishes through Higgins fresh hints, and promises further information ‘to-morrow.’ ‘He was elected last night of the committee,’ adds Higgins. ‘I had a great deal of exertion to go through to keep him steady, and was obliged last week to advance him money.’ On June 8 Higgins writes: ‘I cannot get from M. a single sentence of who assumes a Directory. I have so frequently put him off about the payment of the 1,000l. that he thinks I am humbugging him.'[333]

It will be remembered that, according to a secret entry of Cooke’s, 1,000l. was paid on June 20 to ‘F. H.’ for the discovery of ‘L. E. F.,’ and he observed the compact that Magan’s name should not appear. Magan thought that there was an effort to ‘humbug’ him as regards the blood-money which he earned, but he knew how to ‘humbug’ a little himself. Higgins, setting forth his own claims, tells Cooke, later on: ‘By your interference Mr. M. obtained 300l. for expenses; give me leave solemnly to assure you that I paid every possible expense he was at, and more than I can mention.'[334]

Magan was one of the first Catholic barristers called after the Relief Bill of 1793, and wore an aspect highly demure and proper. He was a trump card in the hands of Higgins, which, if adroitly played, could not fail to clear the board. But with what a small share of the winnings Magan was content is consistent with all we know of his crawling career.[335] Arthur O’Connor, writing to Dr. Madden in 1842, says: ‘So far as I could learn, no one betrayed Lord Edward’–a striking testimony to the secrecy with which the thing was done.[336]

Magan, the better to cloak his treachery, and to command that confidence the fruit of which was distilled into dainty drops for Cooke’s ear, continued to manifest popular sympathies. He went further, and on December 9, 1798, is found taking part against the Government in a debate and division, where his feeble voice could carry no influence, unless to deceive democratic friends. It was on the occasion of the bar meeting, in Dublin, convened to discuss and oppose the Legislative Union. Francis Magan’s name may be found on the patriotic side, in company with Bushe, Burton, Barrington, Burrowes, Curran, Fletcher, Plunket, Ponsonby, and Leonard McNally.

Passing on to 1802, we find a round sum of 500l. slipped into the hands of Francis Magan on December 15 in that year, as appears by ‘an account of Secret Service money applied in the detection of treasonable conspiracies.’ This is the same amount which was given in 1848 for the discovery of Smith O’Brien, and again in September 1865 for Stephens, the Fenian head centre; while in 1798 only 300l. was offered for Neilson and General Lawless. The discovery which earned the reward of 500l. in December 1803 must have been esteemed of importance. What that discovery was has been hitherto involved in mystery; but the succeeding chapter, devoted to William Todd Jones, may help to make it clear. The 500l. is given to Magan direct, nearly eleven months after the death of Higgins, through whom Magan’s information had been previously conveyed to Dublin Castle. He was now thrown on his own resources, and seems to have been less squeamish than of yore. Were Higgins then living the refresher might have been less, for ‘Shamado’ had no objection to a lion’s share. And one is not surprised to read in Plowden that Higgins, originally a pauper, died worth 40,000l.[337]

Magan continued successfully to preserve his mask. A great aggregate meeting was held on December 18, 1812, to protest against acts of the Irish Government, and among the signatures convening it are those of Daniel O’Connell and Francis Magan. This fact is brought out in a memoir of the Liberator by his son, who, however, does not suspect Magan.

It was a national crisis. Meetings in aid of Catholic Emancipation had just been forcibly dispersed. Lords Fingall, Netterville, and Ffrench were dragged from the seats in which, as chairmen, they presided. Other signatories who, with Magan, convened this meeting, were the three Catholic peers just mentioned, Dr. T. Dromgoole, Bernard Coyle, Sylvester Costigan, Con McLoughlin, and Fitzgerald of Geraldine–the latter five having been, as well as O’Connell, United Irishmen.

I was not surprised to hear from Mathias O’Kelly,[338] an old member of the Catholic Board and at one time secretary to the Catholic Association, that Magan possessed the respect and confidence of those bodies. He seemed to prove the sincerity of his sympathy in the most practical way, and rarely gave less than ten pounds as a subscription to their funds. It is, no doubt, to Magan that Wellington refers in his letter to Dublin Castle, dated London, November 17, 1808: ‘I think that, as there are some interesting Catholic questions afloat now, you might feed —- with another 100l.‘[339]

Dr. Dirham, who from his boyhood had resided on Usher’s Island, heard it rumoured, he told me, that Magan during the troubled times kept frequently open the door of his stable in Island Street to facilitate espionage.[340] Moira House, now the ‘Mendicity Institution,’ is situated within a few doors of No. 20, Usher’s Island, the residence for half a century of Francis Magan. As already mentioned, Pamela, the beautiful wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, received in the stormy period of ’98 hospitable shelter from Lady Moira. To my surprise I find, in a manuscript life of Dwyer the outlaw, by the late Luke Cullen, a Carmelite friar, that two of Emmet’s most active emissaries, Wylde and Mahon, lay concealed in Moira House while a proclamation offering 500l.[341] for their capture was being widely circulated. Before this curious fact came to my knowledge, it will be seen, from a former work of mine dealing with informers, that on utterly distinct circumstantial evidence I sought to trace Magan as on the track of Wylde and Mahon at Philipstown during the same eventful year.

Major Sirr made a private note, which remains duly on record[342] that the retreat of Wylde and Mahon ‘is sometimes at the gaoler’s in Philipstown, who is married to Wylde’s sister.’ The following entry appears in the ‘account of secret service money employed in detecting treasonable conspiracies per affidavit of Mr. Cooke’: ‘April 2, 1803. Francis Magan, by post to Philipstown–100l.‘[343]

In the State Papers of the time I can find no letters bearing on this transaction, and therefore I must seek to trace it on circumstantial evidence.

Who can doubt that Magan, when a refresher reached him at Philipstown, was in hot scent after Wylde and Mahon? Later on, during the same year, we find Captain Caulfield and a party of military laying siege to the house at Philipstown in which Wylde and Mahon were suspected to be concealed. An account of a skirmish is supplied by Captain Caulfield in a letter, dated December 17, 1803, also preserved in the Sirr papers: ‘Captain Dodgson was killed, and,’ adds Caulfield, ‘we were obliged to retire, while the villains made their escape.'[344]

Luke Cullen, the Carmelite already referred to, spent his later life gathering from the peasantry their recollections of the troubled times. His manuscript life of Dwyer has been placed in my hands by the superior of Clondalkin monastery. Folios 595 to 597 describe Wylde and Mahon’s refuge at Philipstown, the abortive efforts to catch them there, and afterwards their concealment at Moira House, Dublin. The governor of Philipstown Gaol, we learn, was a near connection of both. They are stated by Cullen to have at last effected their escape from Moira House, Usher’s Island, in a boat which rapidly passed out of the bay. Having reached the United States, Wylde and Mahon joined the army, and found speedy promotion. The statement that two proscribed men, most active propagandists of Emmet’s plans, lay under Lord Moira’s ægis seems startling; but this statesman and his countess had very popular sympathies, and liked to succour rebels. The late Mr. Thomas Geoghegan, solicitor, informed me that two uncles of his named Clements, who were United Irishmen, obtained refuge at Moira House while warrants were out for their arrest, and finally succeeded in escaping all pains and penalties owing to the precautions taken by Lady Moira.

It is not a little singular that General Lord Moira, who, later on, was offered the Viceroyalties of Ireland and of India, and who in 1812, on the death of Percival, sought to form an administration, should have performed the perilous task of harbouring men who loved Ireland ‘not wisely, but too well.’ Portland, in a letter to Camden, dated 11 March, 1798, classes with ‘the disaffected,’ ‘Lord Moira and his adherents.’ This impression was partly due to his indignant protest in Parliament against that policy of torture by which the people had been daily goaded to rebel.

Magan’s life involved some strange contradictions. Proud, and even haughty, he yet hesitated not to commit base acts; with the wages of dishonour he paid his just debts. An interesting letter, in reply to a query, was addressed to the present writer by the late John Fetherstonhaugh, of Griffinstown, Kinnegad. His grandfather, Thomas Fetherston, of Bracket Castle, was, he states, in the habit for years of lodging in High Street, Dublin, at the house of Thomas Magan, a draper, ‘and departed this life in his house.'[345] Fetherston’s son, on inspecting his papers, found a joint bond from the draper and his son, Francis Magan, for 1,000l., and on speaking to the former respecting its payment, he declared that he was insolvent.

So my father [adds Mr. Fetherston] put it into his desk, counting it waste paper. Some years elapsed and the son came to Bracket Castle, my father’s residence, and asked for the bond. ‘For what?’ said my father. To his astonishment, he said it was to pay it. I was then but a boy, but I can now almost see the strange scene–it made so great an impression on me. Often my father told me Magan paid the 1,000l., and he could not conceive where he got it, as he never held a brief in court; and he was always puzzled why the Crown gave him place and pension.[346]

James Dickson of Kilmainham has been more than once mentioned in these pages. As soon as he had been discharged from gaol, in the absence of evidence to convict him in a court of law, he opened his house for the entertainment and solace of the families of the State prisoners. But his guests were not confined wholly to the United Brotherhood. My informant, the late Mathias O’Kelly, often met there William Todd Jones, of whose arrest in 1803, on suspicion of complicity in Emmet’s treason, volumes were published; Lord Kingsland, famous for a career of marvellous vicissitude; Mrs. Neilson, wife of the rebel leader, then imprisoned at Fort George; and Plowden, the popular historian, who gathered at Dickson’s table much valuable information. The house was quite a centre of liberal opinion in Dublin, and no man shared Dickson’s confidence more fully than Magan. Mathias O’Kelly greatly respected Magan, and thirty years ago, when I first started my suspicion, he laboured hard to convince me that I was entirely wrong. Magan told O’Kelly that he had been a member of the Society of United Irishmen, but withdrew from it when he saw it drifting into dangerous courses. The reverse is the fact. He played his part so well that at the time of his betrayals he was promoted to a high post in the rebel executive.[347]

In 1832 a brochure was ‘printed for the author by William Shaw, Dublin,’ which must have quickened the sluggish pulse of Mr. and Miss Magan. It was ‘An Impartial Enquiry respecting the Betrayal of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,’ by Joseph Hamilton. No charge was preferred against the Magans in this pamphlet. But conscience makes cowards; the probing given to a sore spot, and Hamilton’s mention of ‘Mr. Magan and his sister,’ with others who knew of Lord Edward’s movements previous to the arrest, proved distasteful at 20 Usher’s Island.

Hamilton’s labour was undertaken with the avowed object of clearing Neilson from a suspicion which Moore, in his Memoir of Lord Edward, ventured to start. Whether Moore, in gathering facts for his book, had been referred to the Magans, I know not, but he certainly returned to England strongly prejudiced against the incorruptible Neilson, and straightway framed an indictment bristling with innuendos.[348] Hamilton prints, with other vindicatory papers, letters from Hamilton Rowan and Dr. McNevin, also a touching protest from the daughter of Neilson. Hamilton knew Lord Edward well.

Dearer to me was Edward’s life than Neilson’s memory [he writes]. Dearer to me is Ireland than are Neilson’s children and his friends. If I thought he was the man who could betray his generous friend and noble chieftain, I would leave his memory and his bones to rot together. I took up his vindication, not as a partial advocate; and in thus conducting his defence I will not endeavour to suppress a single fact which might go to justify the accusing passage in Lord Edward’s ‘Life.’

Mr. Hamilton proved Neilson guiltless, but he fell into the error, which a man blindfolded at play commits, in very often making a grasp in the wrong quarter. He suspects Reynolds; Captain Armstrong, who betrayed Sheares; ‘a Mr. Hatton, one of the rebel Executive, who unaccountably escaped.'[349] Even Sir Jonah Barrington; nay, the estimable philanthropist, Mathias O’Kelly, who lived with his father at Galway’s Walk, near the scene of Lord Edward’s tussle with Sirr, was also mentioned in a suggestive way. ‘On the 17th May,’ writes Hamilton, ‘Armstrong met both the Sheares, and on that evening Major Sirr was seen looking towards the rear of Miss Magan’s house from Mr. O’Kelly’s stable door in Galway’s Walk. I know five different places where Lord Edward was concealed,’ he adds. The secret which, like the sword of Damocles, had long hung over the heads of Francis Magan and his sister, now seemed on the point of falling; but their names were not used in this pamphlet more freely than those of Miss Moore, Murphy, and a few other persons amongst whose haunts the Geraldine flitted during his last days in this world. Hamilton thus closes the first stage of his inquiry:–

My documents and anecdotes are every hour increasing. I have received communications from the wife and son of him with whom the Major had the struggle near the house of Miss Magan. I call on Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Dixon,[350] Mrs. Rowe, and Miss Magan; I call on Mr. Magan, Mr. Murphy, their families, and all those individuals who either visited or served them or their noble guest, to tell all Ireland all they are acquainted with respecting the last week Lord Edward had his freedom. I know what some of them can say; I know what more of them might say; and I pause for their full and faithful declarations.

A promised second part never appeared; but it were almost better for the feelings of Magan and his sister had the dreaded charge been boldly fulminated, than the agony of suspense to which they were doomed. I had not seen this scarce pamphlet when I first expressed my suspicions of Magan.

When the present century was in its teens, the aristocratic section of Irish Catholics sought to give the Crown a ‘veto’ in the appointment of their bishops, and started in opposition to O’Connell, who had been demanding unfettered emancipation. In the ranks of this troublesome schism, the records of which would fill a library, I find Francis Magan, Lords Fingall,[351] Trimleston, Kenmare, Gormanstown, and Southwell, Wolfe,[352] Shiel,[353] Bellew, Lynch, Donellan,[354] Wyse,[355] Ball[356] and others anxious to reach by a short cut the good things of the State.

The gentleman into whose hands Magan’s papers passed tells me that he found a letter addressed to him in 1834 by Sir W. Gossett, Assistant Secretary of State at Dublin Castle, asking under what circumstances he claimed a pension from the Crown, and requesting information as to a small office he held. A copy of Magan’s reply was appended, saying that the Viceroy of the day had promised him a county chairmanship–or, as it would now be called, a county court judgeship; but, owing to the disabilities then affecting Catholics, he was found to be not eligible for appointment, and the emoluments in question were given as compensation.[357] Gossett had succeeded Gregory in 1831, and having come in with the Whigs sought to administer a more liberal form of government. Cornwallis, Castlereagh, Cooke and Marsden had been long gone to their account, and dead men tell no tales. Whether Gossett viewed Magan’s reply as quite satisfactory does not appear. In 1835 Earl Mulgrave deprived Watty Cox of his pension, but I cannot say whether the same high-handed course was extended to Magan.

Magan was said to have filled some small legal office long since abolished, though of its precise character even his relatives could afford no information. A gossiping missive is subjoined, the less reluctantly because Magan, having often stood in misanthropic isolation, it is pleasant to find any person who came in frequent contact with him. Moreover it is one of the last letters of a not undistinguished man. Sir W. Gossett, who wrote to Magan for information as regards the sinecure he held, might have been glad of the dates which are now supplied. The late Huband Smith, M.R.I.A., served with Magan as a Commissioner for Enclosing Commons. This was rather an unpopular appointment. The disturbances of 1766, ending in the execution of Father Sheehy, all originated in the resistance offered to a similar measure. From 1821 to 1827 Mr. Goulburn filled the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he was a very likely man to have recognised the claims of any person who had rendered secret service in ’98. The same remark applies to the Premier, Lord Liverpool, who provided so munificently for the family of Reynolds the informer. On the death of that peer in 1827 his successor, Mr. Canning, earned popularity by refusing to employ in his departments any of the spies of ’98, or even to ratify the appointments of Lord Castlereagh or Lord Liverpool.

Huband Smith’s letter runs:–

I deferred replying to your note and queries till I could lay my hands on some documents which I had preserved respecting the Commission for inclosing Waste Lands and Commons in Tallaght, Killsillaghan, &c. The Act was passed in the 2nd of George IV. session of 1821. The original Commissioners were Morgan Crofton, James Clancy, and Francis Magan, all barristers. The lands to be inclosed were:–In Tallaght, 783 acres; Killsillaghan, 150 acres; Luske, 320 acres exclusive of the racecourse. The Act recited the owners of the adjoining lands, lords of manors, and also the General Inclosure Act of 43 George III. The earlier meetings of the Commissioners were held in the Royal Exchange, and the later ones at the house of William Duffield Rooke, an eminent solicitor, in Molesworth Street, well known also in the musical world as an accomplished violinist, and member of the ‘Beef-Steak Club.’ Mr. Morgan Crofton having died in 1830, it became necessary for the surviving Commissioners under the Act to appoint a third in his place, and in February 1831 I was sworn in as a Commissioner at the meeting held on March 11, 1831, and this was the first time I met Magan. Mr. James Clancy was a barrister of some eminence well known to the profession by able legal treatises, amongst them one of considerable authority on the law of husband and wife.

In regard to your query, what was the average amount of the fees which constituted Magan’s salary–he was entitled to receive three guineas per diem for every day on which the Commissioners sat in furtherance of the Act. Magan and his brother Commissioners were armed with large powers, such as examining witnesses on oath, awarding costs, and enforcing payment by distress warrant, &c. In point of fact they held a sort of court, and constituted a tribunal from which the appeal lay to the Superior Courts by action at law, under certain restrictions. The Commissioners were directed to hold perambulations, and authorised to sell such parts of the lands as, in their opinion, were necessary to defray the expenses of passing the Act and of carrying it into execution, and to execute conveyances of the fee-simple.

It is on the commons at Lusk that the admirable Irish convict system, which has worked so well, has been fully carried into operation.

With regard to Magan’s manner, it appeared to me very unobtrusive, and, as one would say, undemonstrative. He was then an elderly man sufficiently gentlemanlike in appearance, tall, yet rather of plain, and even coarse exterior; perhaps a little moody and reserved at times, and something may have been pressing on him of which he said little.[358] As to his private income, there were no data for coming to any conclusion…. He resided at Usher’s Island, near the Four Courts, a neighbourhood at that time inhabited by a better class than now, and it formed no part of the Commission to inquire more minutely into his affairs.

Mr. Magan was socially described as a person who ‘held his head high,’ and with a nice sense of honour. In later years he seemed unduly sensitive and, at times, retiring. Possessing few friends through life, he continued staunch to these few, beginning with Francis Higgins and ending with ‘Master’ Clancy. ‘I hold Magan in such esteem,’ the latter said, ‘that only for his advanced age I should like to appoint him my executor.’ Some other men who remembered ’98, its horrors, and its gossip, rather recoiled from Magan without knowing well why. There was something of a ‘Dr. Fell’ about him. He occasionally went the home circuit, but got no briefs. When hailed by juniors with a deference which put to flight all misgivings on his part as to whether acquaintanceship was likely to be valued, his hauteur softened into a dignified affability, and this relaxation was often taken as a gracious condescension. His white locks made him venerable, and by some he was regarded as a father of the Bar.[359]

Another man who viewed him with respect was the late Judge Corballis, who in reply to a letter wrote:–

I never, directly or indirectly, heard anything of the alleged charge against Frank Magan during his life. I was on habits of intimacy with him to the day of his death, and was with him on his death-bed. He always bore a high character, as far as I could ever learn, either at the bar or in society.

Mr. Corballis lived in the country and knew not what Magan’s neighbours said. In their eyes a black cloud seemed to hover over his house.

For forty long years, as the neighbours declared,
His abode had ne’er once been cleaned or repaired.[360]

But in personal appearance he was neat enough, and might be daily seen, in the stiff high cravat of the Regency, emerging from its precincts. Dr. Atkinson and Charles Kernan say that, though Magan was a familiar object to them all the year round, they never saw him accompanied by mortal in his walks. He never married, would sit in solitude, or stalk from room to room like Marlay’s ghost. Perhaps the voice of conscience muttered, ‘You are said to have sought the confidence of men in order to betray it; show the world by your frigid attitude that such is not likely to be true.’ He was reported to have wealth: how he acquired it seemed a mystery.

In 1842, Dr. Madden, when engaged on his ‘Lives of the United Irishmen,’ had interviews, as he tells us, with Mrs. Macready, who, as Miss Moore, had been with Lord Edward the day before his arrest;[361] but her son informed me that as Magan was then alive and residing near at hand, she did not mention his name to Dr. Madden. Magan, however, cannot fail to have heard of the inquiries being instituted around him by Madden, and his nervous temperament was not calmed by that knowledge. He died in 1843, during a period of great popular excitement and when fears prevailed that the events of ’98 were about to be renewed.

‘Magan’s remains lie in our vaults’ writes a local priest.[362]

‘By his will he requires a perpetual yearly mass to be celebrated by all priests of this church for the repose of his soul, so that I have been praying for him once each year since I became attached to this parish, without knowing anything of his antecedents.’

Dr. Dirham had been residing within a few doors of Magan’s house, and on the death of that gentleman it occurred to him to move to the more ample accommodation it afforded. His account, though wholly unimportant, is curious in its way. For years Miss Magan kept constantly promising to vacate in his favour, stating that some small cottage in some rural spot would be much more suitable to her lonely life; but an irresistible fascination bound her to the dingy rooms in which she had vegetated since the dark days of ’98. Francis Magan, by a will of ten lines, had left all his property to Elizabeth, his sister, and directed that his funeral might be private. The rooms were now all shut up, and Miss Magan herself ate, drank, and slept upon the landing. For twenty years the drawing-room had not been opened, owing to the fact that a younger sister had died there; and the other apartments of the house were locked up for reasons equally odd. A strange indisposition to permit the humblest visitor to enter the place, was shown in various ways. A quarter of a century seemed to have elapsed since the dust-pit had been emptied, and boards were erected round it which enabled the Magans to add daily débris, until at last they became dust themselves. When Dr. Dirham came into possession of the place[363] he found the garden covered from end to end with some feet deep of cinders, through which rank nettles struggled like the stings of the self-consciousness that made life with Magan the reverse of roseate. In a retired nook stood a bottle drainer, the wooden bars of which had fallen in from decay, smashing in its descent the emblems of conviviality it once enshrined, and through the aid of which profitable secrets may erst have been gained. The sewers and gratings had become choked; and the deep area at the rear of the house was filled with eight feet of stagnant water. A subterranean cell, adjoining this fosse, and by courtesy styled the ‘coal-vault,’ opened on another dark chamber; and a feeling of awe crept over the Doctor when, impelled by curiosity to gauge its depth, he cast a stone into the pit, and listened until its descent terminated in the sound of splashing water below. The hinges of the hall door were so stiff during Miss Magan’s tenancy, that Dr. Fleming, who as a cousin once ventured to visit the moneyed recluse, had to call at a neighbouring chemist’s for sweet oil ere he felt safe in crying ‘Open Sesame.’ Seated on the cold landing, in the midst of chests of mysterious treasure, this ‘unprotected female,’ trembling in every nerve lest friends should wrest it from her grasp, gloomily passed the closing years of a hidden life. Once, on a false alarm of fire, her anguish was pitiable, and, to the surprise of everybody, she relinquished the custody of some chests to a neighbour,[364] Mr. Cotton, who, however, detained them only a few hours. At another neighbour’s, Miss Flanagan’s, who kept an old established bakery, Miss Magan always got her bank-notes changed; but, fearful of being waylaid between the covered car she occupied, and the door at which it stopped, Miss Flanagan was always obliged to get into the vehicle and place in the hands of its shrinking occupant the metallic equivalent for the crisp new note. Some arrears of rent had accumulated at the time of Miss Magan’s death, and a term of years in the lease remained unexpired; but her property was so left that the landlord’s claim could not be satisfied. The house was in such a ruined state that the landlord, Colonel King, was glad to accept half the former rent. Although an extremely old house, only one tenant, Archbishop Carpenter,[365] occupied it before Magan. In its back parlour had been ordained Dean Lube and many other old priests well known in Dublin during the struggle for Catholic Emancipation; and so searchingly severe was the operation of penal law, that students for ordination had to be smuggled into the Archbishop’s house by the stable in Island Street, afterwards turned to ignoble purposes. An altar stood in a recess of this parlour, which the Magans changed into a cupboard.

William Allingham would seem to have had the house in his eye when, some years later, he wrote:–

Outside, the old plaster, all spatter and stain,
Looked spotty in sunshine and streaky in rain;
The window-sills sprouted with mildewy grass,
And the panes from being broken were known to be glass.

Within there were carpets and cushions of dust;
The wood was half rot, and the metal half rust;
Old curtains–half cobwebs–hung grimly aloof:
‘Twas a spider’s Elysium from cellar to roof.

But they pried not upstairs, through the dust and the gloom,
Nor peeped at the door of the wonderful room
That gossips made much of, in accents subdued,
But whose inside no mortal might brag to have viewed.

Full forty years since turned the key in that door:
‘Tis a room deaf and dumb ‘mid the city’s uproar.
The guests, for whose joyance that table was spread,[366]
May now enter as ghosts, for they’re every one dead.

On consulting the records of the Probate Court early in this inquiry, I was puzzled to find that the sum which Miss Magan appeared to have died worth was quite nominal. This discovery disturbed, and for some time retarded, the completion of the chain of evidence. On inquiry, however, it was stated that, in order to save the legacy duty, she transferred, when almost in extremis, a considerable sum to the late Very Rev. Dr. Taylor and a respected physician[367] still living; and she made a will ratifying that act. Orally, she expressed a wish as to its bestowal for some useful purpose, but leaving details entirely to their discretion. With the bulk of this money a refuge for penitent females and an asylum for the insane were built.[368] Miss Magan died worth 14,000l., not to speak of a fee-farm property known as Hartstown, held under Lord Carhampton, and not far from the Devil’s Mills, near Dublin, which, local tradition states, his lordship built in one night by demoniac aid.[369]

It seems strange that Magan, who was insolvent before the rebellion, could amass so much money. His secret pension was merely for 200l. a year[370] (a sum insufficient to pay the rent of his house), give good donations to the Catholic Board, pay off Fetherston’s bond, and support himself, his sisters and his horse–for in early life Mr. Magan did indulge in that luxury. His pension, there is reason to think, from the letter of Sir William Gossett in 1834, ceased to be paid about that time. His fees as a Commissioner for enclosing commons were enjoyed by him for a few years only; and as the ‘S.S. Money Book’ records but three payments to him–namely, on September 11, 1800, April 2, 1802, and December 15, 1802–it is evident that he must have derived income from other sources. There are payments of secret service money to the informers of ’98 and their representatives which obtain no record in the book ostensibly devoted to that purpose. Captain Armstrong, who betrayed the Sheares’s, is known to have received, throughout sixty years, about 29,000l. in recognition of that act; and yet no trace of his name appears in the book of Secret Service Money expenditure. Money was also obtainable under a clause in the Act of 39 George III. cap. 65, by which a sum of 2,910l. was allocated to the Under-Secretary in the Civil department (Dublin Castle) for the time being, in trust for payment of secret annuities. A letter from Dr. Ferris suggests another source. He states, on the authority of a clerk in Gleadowe Newcomen’s Bank, then dead, that an annuity had been paid from that house to Francis Magan, and that the clerk had seen Magan’s receipts. Dr. Ferris suggests that the books of the bank might be still accessible for examination.[371]

An Act of Parliament provided that the Secret Service Money placed at the Viceroy’s disposal should pass confidentially through the hands of the Chief Secretary; but this arrangement has not always been adhered to, as is evident from the fact that the 1,000l. reward for the discovery of Emmet was lodged to the credit of the informer in Finlay’s bank. The hint of Dr. Ferris is not uninteresting, but the books of Newcomen’s bank do not seem to have been preserved. Barrington states that Sir W. Gleadowe Newcomen, who voted for the Union, received a reward of 20,000l. with a peerage, and the patronage of his county. It is a strange irony of fate that Lord Newcomen died poor. For years he lived alone in the bank, gloating, it was wildly whispered, over ingots of treasure, with no lamp to guide him but the luminous diamonds which had been left for safe keeping in his hands. Moore would have compared him to ‘the gloomy gnome that dwells in the dark gold mine.’ Wrapped in a sullen misanthropy, he was sometimes seen emerging at twilight from his iron clamped abode. La Touche’s bank stood on the opposite side of Castle Street, and Dublin wags compared the street to a river because it ran between two banks. Jokes soon gave way to sobs. One day Newcomen’s bank broke,[372] and prosperous men perished in the collapse. Lord Newcomen had previously retired to Killester, where he died by his own hand. No claimant appeared for his coronet, and the line became extinct. This was the twenty-seventh Irish peerage which had failed since the Union. Gleadowe had been M.P. for Longford when he voted for the extinction of the Irish Parliament. Richard Lovel Edgeworth, a betrayed constituent, regarded this vote as an act of treason, and in anger shot forth the following bolt:–

With a name that is borrowed–a title that’s bought,
Sir William would fain be a gentleman thought;
His wit is but cunning, his courage but vapour,
His pride is but money–his money but paper!

What was a pointless sarcasm in 1800 became a stubborn fact in 1825–Newcomen’s notes were waste paper. The Hibernian Banking Company soon after began business within the walls.


[284] I leave unchanged some of the circumstantial evidence which had convinced me of Magan’s guilt, adding in brackets the criminatory letters subsequently found (January 1891).

[285] Thus, in ‘Croppies lie down,’ to the tune of which, as Moore says, ‘more blood had been shed than often falls to the lot of lyrical ballads’–

‘The ruthless Fitzgerald stept forward to rule, His principles formed in the Orleans school.’

[286] Memoirs of Miles Byrne, iii. 247. (Paris: Bossange, 1863.)

[287] ‘Dr. Madden,’ writes the Rev. James Wills, ‘mentions a train of circumstances which seems to fasten the imputation on Hughes.’–Lives of Illustrious Irishmen, vi. 51. Years after, in his new edition, Madden suggests suspicion against one Joel Hulbert (i. 85; ii. 443). Eventually, however, Dr. Madden wrote: ‘And now, at the conclusion of my researches on this subject of the betrayal of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, I have to confess they have not been successful. The betrayer still preserves his incognito; his treachery, up to the present time (January 1858), remains to be connected with his name, and once discovered, to make it odious for evermore…. Nine-and-fifty years the secret of the sly, skulking villain has been kept by his employers, with no common care for his character or his memory.’–See Lives of the United Irishmen, by R. R. Madden, ii. 446, 2nd ed.

[288] Froude, iii. 342.

[289] Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 320.

[290] The Viceroy, whose carriage Magan and Higgins hired a mob to draw triumphantly through the streets, was Lord Temple, afterwards Marquis of Buckingham, twice Chief Governor of Ireland, and of whom Mr. Grattan writes: ‘He opposed many good measures, promoted many bad men, increased the expenses of Ireland in a manner wanton and profligate, and vented his wrath upon the country.’

[291] Dublin Evening Post, No. 1767. The same journal adds:–‘It was in Mr. Magan’s house in High Street that the creditable certificate of the clergy of Rosemary Lane Chapel was written and obtained.’ It may be explained that when the moralist, Magee, denounced Higgins as one who had defied the laws of God and man, an advertisement, purporting to come from the priests of Rosemary Lane Chapel, said that they had no official or other knowledge of an imposture alleged to have been committed twenty-three years previously by Mr. Francis Higgins, and adding that, during his residence in Smock Alley, his conduct had been marked by benevolence. ‘This sprig of Rosemary,’ commented the Post, ‘may serve to revive the fainting innocence of the immaculate convert of Saint Francis!’ Magan, as a leading Catholic parishioner, had much weight with the clergy.

[292] Dublin Directory, 1790.

[293] It was during this anxious period that Lord Edward, venturing out at night, had an interview with Pamela in Denzille Street, when their little child was taken from its cot to see its father, and a servant suddenly entering the room found the parents in tears.

[294] It should be Friday, May 18, as appears from Sirr’s original memorandum.

[295] Statement of Mr. William Macready, the grandson of Moore, furnished exclusively to the present writer.

[296] Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, by Thomas Moore. Paris ed. p. 160.

[297] May 18, 1798.

[298] Lest he should arrive at the hall door.

[299] Dirty Lane, now Bridgefoot Street, was another route by which Lord Edward could come from Moore’s. The Queen’s Bridge is at the foot of Dirty Lane. Island Street runs parallel with Usher’s Island, a suburban quay; and Magan’s is the second stable from Watling Street.

[300] Major Swan was the assistant town major. Atkinson will be remembered as the chief constable of Belfast. See ante, p. 8.

[301] The premises were on Wood Quay (then known as ‘Pudding Row’), Wine Tavern Street, and Fisher’s Alley; they also included the ‘Dog and Duck’ inn, north side of Thomas Street, with a rear extending to Marshalsea Lane.–Registry of Deeds Office. Traces of other property held by Thomas Magan crop up in unlooked-for places. By the settlement of Philip Whitfield Harvey with Miss Frances Tracy, dated September 16, 1802, it is recited that Thomas Magan, having become a bankrupt, his properties at Blackstaheny and in Britain Street were sold by auction to Samuel Dick and a Mr. Halpin for the sum of 4,830l. Higgins had property of his own at Blackstaheny, for I find a conveyance of lands there in 1806 from the Harveys and Tracys to Andrew Rorke of Clonsilla; consideration, 1,084l. 12s. 6d.

[302] Magan’s seal displays a boar’s head, with the motto ‘Virtute et probitate!’

[303] A nickname by which the popular journalist, John Magee, satirised Higgins.

[304] It was whispered that Francis Magan may have been the godson of Francis Higgins, and baptised Francis in compliment to him. The Catholic baptismal registries of the parish do not go back sufficiently far to throw light; but, inasmuch as Thomas Magan married, in October 1770, the daughter of Francis Kiernan, merchant, their son would be very naturally called after the grandfather.

[305] United Irishmen, iv. 25.

[306] This would give Magan an opportunity of meeting and discoursing with his old friend.

[307] Dublin Evening Post, Tuesday, May 23, 1797.

[308] Dublin: W. B. Kelly. Long out of print. The Rev. Dr. Stokes, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Trinity College, Dublin, in the Mail of October 14, 1885, stated that this pamphlet ‘may be found in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, Gallery H. 10, vol 92.’ The brochure had been printed mainly for the purpose of correcting a mis-statement made by the Athenæum, when reviewing the Cornwallis Papers. The Athenæum, then edited by W. Hepworth Dixon, far from resenting my correction, reviewed the book in terms which stimulated further efforts, and, if any excuse for them were needed, it is supplied in that too favourable judgment. See No. 1649 p. 744. ‘This biography reads like so many pages out of Mr. Lever’s Con Cregan, or the Irish Gil Blas; but Mr. Fitzpatrick quotes several legal and literary documents to authenticate his text. Facts in abundance are produced. As illustrative of the state of Irish political society in those days, this tract is extremely curious. With extraordinary power of social research, an intimacy is established between the hateful Higgins and Magan; … most curious circumstantial evidence, to criminate Magan. This tract merits preservation. The mass of social and personal knowledge accumulated by Mr. Fitzpatrick is very striking. He writes like an ex post facto Boswell, and the research with which he amasses minute particulars is a speciality with him. It is for want, heretofore, of detailed and accurate domestic knowledge, that Irish history is so crude and colourless; and works like those of Mr. Fitzpatrick have value.’

[309] Higgins to Cooke, December 29, 1797.

[310] Idem, January 2, 1798.

[311] O’Coigly left for London on his luckless mission, and Magan lost sight of him.

[312] Higgins to Cooke, January 12, 1798.

[313] Henry Jackson, a very active member of the Rebel Directory, and father-in-law of Oliver Bond.

[314] John Fallon, Esq., J.P. and D.L., born April 6, 1767. Higgins to Cooke, January 16, 1798.

[315] Higgins to Cooke, February 26, 1798.

[316] Lawless was Professor of Physiology in the College of Surgeons; but, on finding that a warrant was out for his arrest, got safely to France, where he rose to the rank of General, and lost a leg at Leipzig.

[317] Higgins to Cooke, March 28, 1798.

[318] Moore mentions that Lord Edward and Neilson were stopped, at midnight, by the patrol at Palmerstown; but the former having personated a doctor hurrying to the relief of a patient, both were suffered to resume their journey.

[319] The accurate information on other points which daily reached Cooke convinced not a few United Irishmen that treachery was at work.

[320] Magan to Cooke, April 22, 1798.

[321] It is also due to Lord Edward’s memory to remind the reader that Higgins was a man of leprosied reputation. Nearly thirty years ago, I gave some account of him in Ireland before the Union. Meanwhile, the reader might see what an English historian, Mr. Plowden, says of him, vide chap. xiv. ‘Father Arthur O’Leary,’ et seq. p. 213. I printed in the Sham Squire the original informations against Higgins for the basest fraud, the true bills found against him by the Grand Jury in 1766, and the records of his committals to Newgate.

[322] Memoirs of the Whig Party.

[323] Higgins to Under-Secretary Cooke, May 18, 1798.

[324] Idem.

[325] Afterwards known to Turner at Hamburg, p. 14 ante.

[326] The Express, May 26, 1798.

[327] Mr. Froude says that ‘Lord Edward was naturally a powerful man’ (iii. 343). This impression is not accurate. Jasper Joly, LL.D., son of Lord Edward’s godson, tells me that ‘he was a small, wiry man.’

[328] Francis Higgins to Under Secretary Cooke, May 18, 1798.

[329] John Wesley visited Moira House in 1775, and has described the splendour of its rooms, one of which was inlaid throughout with ‘mother-of-pearl.’ The spiritualised philosopher adds, ‘and must this pass away like a dream?’ But he did not live to see, as Magan did, Moira House the refugium of hunger, rags, and dirt–a ‘Mendicity Institution.’

[330] Lecky, viii. 44.

[331] Ibid. vii. 211.

[332] Life of Reynolds, by his Son.

[333] Francis Higgins to Cooke, Stephen’s Green, June 8, 1798. Quoted by Lecky. For curious facts about Higgins, see chapter xiv.: ‘Father O’Leary.’

[334] Higgins to Cooke, June 13, 1801.

[335] The writer will be excused if he seems to linger on this theme; but from childhood ‘Magan’ has been to him a familiar household word. His grandfather, John Brett, lived next door to Magan’s house at Usher’s Island. Voices, long since hushed, often described their strange, silent neighbour, of whom it might be said, ‘still waters run deep.’ Brett, though not a rebel, had popular sympathies, and several patriots, including James Tandy, visited at his house. One day Major Sirr created a great scare at Brett’s by instituting a search for pikes and papers. The hysterics of the young ladies and the protests of their brothers served only to stimulate his ardour. No nook was left unexplored, no stone unturned. The intruders even uprooted the flower-beds in the garden, hoping to make a discovery, but all in vain; and Sirr, with drooping plumage, at last withdrew.–See James Tandy’s arrest, Appendix, infra.

[336] United Irishmen, ii. 234.

[337] Historical Review, ii. 256.

[338] O’Kelly held, from a close personal knowledge of the man, that he would be incapable of treachery.

[339] Correspondence of the Duke of Wellington (Ireland), pp. 485-6.

[340] Two gardens belonged to Moira House: one in front of Island Street, the other at its opposite side. These gardens are separated by Island Street, which runs parallel with Usher’s Island. A subterranean passage under the street communicates with both pleasure grounds. Usher’s Island was formerly called Usher’s Garden.

[341] The monk names this figure, but I think overstates it.

[342] The Sirr MSS., Trin. Coll. Dublin.

[343] In library of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

[344] The Sirr MSS. This letter is quoted by Dr. Madden, who thinks that the information on which Dodgson and Caulfield acted came from Kildare; but it appears by the letter he himself prints (i. 522) that it came from Dublin. Caulfield’s letter, addressed to Major Sirr, says, ‘In consequence of your information, I reached Philipstown.’ On the two previous occasions when Major Sirr had laid hands on Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the information as we see came from Magan. Dr. Madden, in printing the letter referred to above, erroneously assigns to it the date 1798; but the original MS. displays ‘December 17, 1803.’

[345] How Mr. Fetherston came to patronise Thomas Magan’s lodgings, and otherwise to befriend him, was partly due to the fact that Magan had descended from a once opulent race in West Meath. Vide wills, in Irish Record Office, of Thomas Magan, Togherstown, co. W. Meath, dated 1710; and another, probably of his son, dated 1750. By a deed, dated May 2, 1798, it appears that James and John Fetherston had been trustees of the will of Mary Magan, the grandmother of Francis. The property of Papists in penal times was liable to discovery and forfeiture, and the help of friendly Protestants as trustees sometimes became a necessity. The first mention of the Magans, and of the Fetherstons as their trustees, is in 1763.

[346] Mr. Lecky has been kind enough to say (History of England, viii. 45) that I have ‘thrown more light than any other writer on the career of Magan;’ and he quotes the above as ‘a very curious fact,’ adding that it would be interesting to know if ‘the transaction took place shortly after the death of Lord Edward.’ As satisfaction of the bond might possibly have been ‘entered,’ I searched the records of the Four Law Courts, term after term, from 1798 to 1808, but no trace can be found.

[347] The deliberate and mercenary way in which the respected ‘counsellor’ set himself to spy could be shown by fifty letters. Father Quigley, or O’Coigly, who, it will be remembered, was arrested at Margate in February on Turner’s information (see chap. iii. ante), and suffered death soon after, escaped by a hair’s breadth the net which Magan had been weaving for his capture in Dublin. A letter from Higgins to Under-Secretary Cooke, dated ‘Stephen’s Green, 12th January, 1798,’ goes on to say: ‘When I saw M—- this day and just mentioned Quigly’s name, he gave me instantly a description of him. Met him before he went abroad often, and was sheltered in Dixon’s house. Will, he is convinced, find him out. But I beg to recommend a strict watch on Dixon’s and you will instantly discover him.’ Four days later, i.e. January 16, 1798, Higgins tells Cooke, ‘M—- went several times to Dixon’s, but found no trace of Quigly at his former residence. Neither has he been at Dr. McNevin’s. The only place that he can be sheltered among the party is at Bond’s, and which will be known by Thursday.’ Two previous letters, dated October 17, and October 30, 1797, report very fully Dickson’s conversations with Magan.

[348] Magan, to divert suspicion from himself, may have been the first to set the story going that Neilson was a base informer. Thomas Moore, after making inquiries in Dublin, returned home strong in suspicion that Neilson had betrayed Lord Edward. Magan, in his secret letters of 1798, sometimes seeks to convey that Neilson was giving information at Dublin Castle. One letter, dated April 22, 1798, says: ‘I sometimes imagine he (Neilson) is the person who communicated with Government; however, suspicion has not pointed at him.’ Higgins writes (May 15): ‘M. says Neilson is playing a double game.’ So faithful did Neilson prove, that Major Sirr discovered him organising a plot to rescue Lord Edward.

[349] P. 19. The italics are Hamilton’s. Hatton was one of the rebel executive at Wexford.

[350] James Dickson, at whose house Magan had been a constant guest, died a few years previously, and was buried beside the Round Tower at Lusk.

[351] Fingall before his death expressed deep regret for this policy. See Fagan’s Life of O’Connell.

[352] Afterwards Chief Baron.

[353] Afterwards Master of the Mint and British minister at Florence.

[354] Bellew, Lynch, and Donnellan had pensions; not for secret service, but to restrain them from clanking their chains.

[355] Afterwards a Privy Councillor, and British minister at Athens.

[356] Afterwards Mr. Justice Ball.

[357] The papers which set forth Magan’s real claims to his pension were not then accessible, even to the Irish Government. One of the many letters addressed by Higgins to Cooke, dated June 30, 1798, refers to the original intent of the United leaders to rise on May 14. ‘Lord Edward was then with Magan, who found means to prevail on him to postpone his purpose.’ The postponement would give time for the capture of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and others. This letter was written after the death of the chief, and informs Cooke that ‘the plan was to rise Garretstown, Naul, &c., and circuitously round the metropolis to Dunleary, &c. Lord Edward insisted on his Kildare men and those of Carlow being brought in, and he would take the field at Finglas, and march into the city, which was his great object to carry.’ The above is curious as showing how much Lord Edward’s views had changed since Reinhard described him as one ‘of the moderate party.’

[358] Some said of Smith that he was ‘cracked with larnin’,’ and his chat deserved that Irish compliment. ‘Your phrase “Still waters run deep” seems happy in its application to Magan. There is also an Irish proverb of which it reminds me:–

Well rendered by the Latin, seemingly a mediæval rhyme–

“Audi, vide, tace: Si vis vivere in pace.”

and almost literally translated by the French–

“Oys, vois, et te taise, Si tu veux vivre en paix.”

Magan was not dumb, but he knew well probably when to hold his tongue.’–Letter of the late J. Huband Smith, M.R.I.A., June 5, 1866.

[359] The only sense of humour that he is recorded to have evinced was in reference to Con Leyne, a wit often named in Moore’s Diary. The late Rickard O’Connell, of the Munster Bar, and satellite of the Liberator, wrote, in reply to some questions, that he had been introduced to Magan at the Four Courts in 1831 by Maurice King, who said: ‘Our young friend can tell you some good ones as to how Con got on at Darrynane’ (Dan’s seat); and from time to time after, as I met Magan in the ‘Hall,’ there was generally some allusion to Con, and a chuckle if any fresh story or point against the renowned gastronome turned up. ‘The only members of the Munster Bar I ever saw speaking to Magan were King, O’Loghlen (Sir M.), Con Leyne, and Howley–all men of high honour, who would shun him as a black sheep if they had even a strong suspicion that he was the character you assume him to be. Usually, he was rather starched and formal in manner.’

[360] William Allingham.

[361] See Lives and Times of the United Irishmen, 2nd ed. ii. 408.

[362] Canon O’Hanlon, author of The Lives of the Irish Saints, then attached to the church of SS. Michael and John. The vaults referred to were once the pit of Smock Alley Theatre. The coffin, inscribed ‘Francis Magan,’ reposes close to that of the venerable Father Betagh.

[363] This was written in 1866, though not published until now.

[364] Secretary to the Mendicity Institution.

[365] Dr. Carpenter preceded Dr. Troy in the see, and by great prudence guided the suffering Church through the quicksands which in penal days encompassed it. He deprecated public agitation on the part of his flock, lest the very clanking of the chains should arouse their keepers to renewed activity and vigilance.

[366] The brother of Mathias O’Kelly was betrothed to Miss Magan; but he broke away. Whether the bridal feast had been absolutely spread, is not stated.

[367] The late Dr. Fleming of Merrion Square, one of the next-of-kin, sought by legal proceedings to foil this arrangement, but failed. Mr. H. Fetherston, his attorney after the case had been decided against his client, said to the gentleman who partly represented Miss Magan: ‘According to Canon Law you are now free to keep this money, and none but a fool would reject it.’ Mr. Fetherston was right; but the other replied that there was also a law of honour and of conscience.

[368] Hartstown being a freehold, it could not go towards the endowment of the institution, and the executor says that this fee-farm has cost him more trouble than all the worry attendant on her complicated affairs.

[369] By a deed, dated December 10, 1797, Lord Carhampton, commander-in-chief, a leading terrorist of his time, grants to Francis Higgins part of his estate of Hartstown and Barnageath; but without mention of trusts or considerations of any kind. During a law suit which took place in 1802, as Mr. James Curran, great-grandnephew of Higgins, informs me, it transpired that Higgins, in this transaction, had been merely trustee for Magan. The freehold conveyed by Carhampton to Higgins is now in the hands of Magan’s legal representative. I long suspected, but, on full inquiry, have failed to satisfy myself, that Carhampton’s grant to Higgins, in trust for Magan, was part of an arrangement cunningly devised to baffle suspicion, and meant as an acknowledgment of private information regarding rebel doings, which Magan, it is certain, was giving to Higgins; but at least, it proves Carhampton’s friendly wish to promote the interwoven interests of both. On pursuing the labyrinths of the Registry of Deeds Office, Dublin, I find that the Magans had connection with the property so far back as 1780. On February 20, 1793, 1000l. was lent by Higgins to Thomas Magan, the father of Lord Edward’s betrayer, charged on Blackstaheny and Clonsilla, the adjoining lands. Three years later Higgins tightens his toils, and, as already stated, seeks to further secure this 1000l. charged on the same property. ‘Shamado,’ doubtless, well knew how to make his creature work. The consent to harbour Lord Edward, and the whispered information as to place and hour would be an easy way of wiping out the debt for 1000l., and of currying favour with the lender. I may add that the foregoing note was written long before I had found the criminatory letters of Higgins and Magan.

[370] Some of Magan’s receipts have been preserved. On these receipts the letters ‘S. A.’ are marked, a cipher implying that he belonged to a class of informers who, by special agreement, were never to be called upon to give public evidence. His pension was paid quarterly, and here is one of his receipts:–

‘Received from Wm. Gregory, Esq., by Wm. Taylor, Esq., fifty pounds sterling, for the quarter to December 24 last.

‘Dublin, January 22, 1816.


[371] Letter of Edward Ferris, M.D., Athy, June 21, 1867. He died, March 25, 1877.

[372] A run had been made on La Touche’s Bank, and great fears were expressed lest it should break. At last Lord Limerick, who as Sexten Pery had been popular, took his stand at the counter, and when people saw him paying out the gold, confidence became restored.–His kinsman, Aubrey de Vere, to the Writer.

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