James Hally and Margaret Casey ...

James in Ireland

Griffiths Valuation of 1851 shows most Hallys were congregated in the south west of County Tipperary, with others scattered around south Tipperary. There are only two in the area almost certainly to have been the place where James came into conflict with the authorities, the parish of Carrick: John, from the townland of Ballylynch, and Bryan from Townparks. There are a number of James in other parishes and six more in neighbouring Waterford.

In the Clonmel Chronicle of 31 October 1848 is a list of 48 prisoners who had been tried at the Cashel Sessions. They included “James Hally, burglary, ten years’ transportation.” An examination of 4 newspapers of the area for October and November 1848 has revealed no reporting of James’ trial. Nor does his crime rate a mention in The Outrage Papers held at the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin.

Various prison registers record James’ progress through the Irish justice system from 1848 to 1852. The Clonmel General Register 1848-1849 names 20 October 1848 as the date he was committed to gaol by R. P. Coulson Esquire. His “specific crime” was “having in possession a waistcoat knowing it to have been stolen from Eden Roche”. On 25 October he was sent to the Cashel Sessions. A further entry in this Register changes the crime to burglary, indicating the authorities accused James of breaking into Roche’s house.

Anne McMahon, in Convicts At Sea: The Voyages of the Irish Convicts Transported to VDL 1840-1853, (Artemis Publishing Consultants, Hobart 2011) says “the famine offences for which convictions were recorded between 1846 and 1849 indicated the chronically disturbed state of Irish society.” In 1846, there had been 3 008 cases of simple larceny; in 1849, the figure had risen to 10 534. For sheep and cattle stealing, the numbers had grown from 195 to 2 740. “Robbery and burglary proved to be commonplace during these four years with an increase registered from 107 to 679 convictions.” (page 4) McMahon quotes Thomas Redington, the Under-Secretary for Ireland 1846-1852 and a Galway landlord and Poor Law Commissioner:

The character of the Irish convicts differs widely from that of the English. They are not hardened offenders…The offences of the Irish are usually thefts to which they are often driven by distress.” (page 87)

James’ Prison Report was “good”, indicating he had not proved difficult. He may very well have been relatively relieved to be in a situation where he could expect to receive adequate nourishment.

The trial, presided over by a Sergeant Howley, was held on 27 October 1848, when James was recorded as 21.

James spent almost four years incarcerated in Ireland before leaving on the Lord Auckland on 29 September 1852. About 35 of the 246 prisoners landed in Hobart were from Tipperary. Some received 7 years and some 10. Most were tried in 1849 or 1850, with nearly 50 in 1848 and 2 in 1847 even. So, James’ wait for transportation from his trial on 27 October 1848 to the Lord Auckland’s departure from Ireland on 29 September 1852 was not unusual.

There was a “temporary cessation of transportation” from November 1846 to the end of 1848 and “policy required that (the prisoners) serve the initial period of punishment in the country in which they had been convicted.” (Anne McMahon, Convicts At Sea: The Voyages of the Irish Convicts Transported to VDL 1840-1853, Artemis Publishing Consultants, Hobart 2011, page 89)

After his trial, James would have been taken from the Cashel Courtroom back to Clonmel Gaol. From here, he was discharged on 4 December to go to Kilmainham Gaol, 5 kilometres west of the centre of Dublin.

The Dublin-Kilmainham Prison General Register 1840-1850 shows James stayed there until 2 November 1849 when he was sent to Newgate Prison, a few kilometres east and across the Liffey River.

The Dublin-Newgate (Richmond) Prison General Register 1849-1858 shows James stayed there until 30 January 1851. Wikipedia says Newgate had become, by the 1840s, solely a holding place for male and female prisoners on remand, with incarceration lasting from a few days to three weeks. It may be that, as James was noted as well-conducted in the gaol, he was chosen to spend time there to help alleviate overcrowding in other prisons. Perhaps, he was simply being kept there until the opening and settling-in of a new, purpose-built prison at Mountjoy in 1850.

Mounjoy was erected in the suburb of Phibsborough, about three kilometres north of the Liffey. It was based on the design of London’s Pentonville, with wings and separate cells; isolation and silence were features of what was considered more modern treatment of prisoners. It was originally meant to be a first stop for men awaiting transportation.

The Mountjoy Prison Convict Classification 1848-1850 – Convicts under sentence of Transportation gives no new information about James except that he had added reading to his previously noted skill of writing. Unfortunately, columns headed Time supposed to have lived in a career of crime, Whether any and what persons have manifested an interest and Whether parents and connections bear a respectable character and what is their situation contained no information that could throw light on James’ family and experience.

Nevertheless, the prison records give a consistent summary of his physical characteristics. He was of average height – five feet seven inches – with a dark or fresh complexion, dark brown hair and blue eyes. He was 21, a Catholic, single, a smith and could write.

By the time he had arrived in VDL in 1853, his Conduct Record showed him as 26, his native place as Tipperary, his trade as blacksmith, his eyebrows and whiskers as well as his hair dark brown, with a round head, oval face and high forehead, a small mouth and medium chin and nose. He had marks of scurvy on his face. His height was perhaps more precisely measured at half an inch lower than it had been in Ireland. The only real discrepancy was that he now had eyes described as grey.

Another VDL record, a Description List, showed his native place as Carrick on Shannon. That was surely an error committed by the scribe, probably from a mishearing of Carrick on Suir (pronounced Shoor). The former Carrick is in County Leitrim and about 90 kilometres north of the northernmost border of Tipperary. Carrick on Suir is about 20 kilometres east of Clonmel, the largest town in southern Tipperary.

Suspicions that James was retained in Ireland because of illness are probably unfounded. It seems more likely that the marks of scurvy on his face, as noted on his Convict Record, arose from his experience on the voyage rather than in the Great Famine or the prisons. Bateson, in The Convict Ships, wrote (page 57) that “although it had been proved that scurvy could be prevented, there was still astonishing ignorance on this subject and scurvy remained a common complaint in convict ships until a later date.”

At some stage, James was transferred to the convict depot on Spike Island in Cork Harbour, perhaps not long before the departure of the Lord Auckland in September 1853.

The Cork Constitution carried a report on the arrival of the Lord Auckland in Queenstown, as the Cork port of Cobh (or Cove) had been renamed in 1850. It noted the convicts soon to head for VDL would carry tickets of leave “granted for good conduct during imprisonment”. The tickets would “enable the prisoners to go where they please(d) in the colony, and work for whom they (chose), without restraint.” They would be accompanied by “an escort of the 11th Regiment of Foot, consisting of one major, one subaltern and fifty rank and file”. The new position of Government Inspector was to be held by Lieutenant Molloy, who would “act as moral instructor over the convicts; and in the event of neglect, or any appearance of insubordination, report such to the superintendent surgeon.” The transportees were “comfortably provided with wearing apparel, and (would) be liberally supplied with good food during the voyage.”

It’s almost as if James and his fellow prisoners were being rewarded for their good conduct with a sea voyage and the prospect of economic opportunity.

Research in two areas may reveal more of James’ life in Ireland:

§  The parochial records of St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in Carrick-on-Suir are computerised at the Waterford Heritage Centre. The unindexed originals are held in the parish. They include the baptisms for James’ presumed birth year of 1826 and marriages for preceding years.

§  The newspapers of the area and the time, while not recording the details of his trial, may make some mention of his crime in the months preceding the trial. There are copies in the Irish National Library of 9 different newspapers circulating at various times in Waterford from 1848 to 1853, and 3 more in Clonmel.

Table of Contents

  1. James Hally in Ireland
  2. James' Journey
  3. James in Hobart
  4. Margaret Casey in Ireland
  5. Margaret's Journey
  6. Early Married Life
  7. The Family
  8. Life in Pontville
  9. James Hally the Activist