From the 1850s to the 1880s, the population of Cleator Moor expanded rapidly as rich veins of haematite were exploited. From a settlement of 763 in 1841, the town grew to house 10,420 souls by 1871, thirty-six percent of whom were Irish.
The Irish in Cleator Moor were predominantly Roman Catholic but the general influx into the mines and industry of West Cumbria also brought others of a different persuasion from the same country and with them a particular sectarianism to add to the anti-Catholicism of Victorian England.
During the late 1860s the Irish Protestant preacher William Murphy led anti-Catholic meetings throughout the country inciting mobs to attack Catholic targets. Near Chelmsford in Essex they burnt down a Catholic convent. In May, 1868, two chapels a school and over one hundred houses and shops in Ashton-under-Lyme were ransacked. This led to the Catholic populations defending themselves and their buildings and when Murphy visited Whitehaven in April, 1871, the Catholic iron ore miners of Cleator Moor were determined to confront him.
The local authorities requested Murphy and his Orange Order backers to cancel his talks but they would not. He was heckled and threatened at the first meeting in the Oddfellows Hall, Whitehaven and eventually had to be escorted from the place. The following evening there was more concerted opposition as 200 - 300 Cleator Moor miners marched to the Hall and assaulted Murphy before the meeting began. Five men were sentenced for the attack.
Murphy died in March 1872 and his death was attributed to the injuries he had received in Whitehaven.
Disturbances in the area were regular during the years that followed, particularly, when Orangemen assembled on 12 July 1884, the most serious of incidents occurred.
This was the year the local Orange Lodges decided to hold their annual gathering at Cleator Moor, a deliberately provocative move: "as if to court disturbance the Orangemen... decided they would this year hold their annual demonstration in the stronghold of the enemy."
The marchers including eight bands paraded past the Catholic church and held their assembly at Wath Brow. As the gathering broke up and the Orangemen made their way back to the train station, trouble broke out. They were attacked by groups of local men throwing stones and then rushing them.
Some of the marchers carried revolvers, cutlasses and pikes which they used. A local postal messenger, Henry Tumelty, a 17-year-old Catholic was shot in the head and killed while others were listed as having received injuries from these weapons.
The local Catholic priests defended their parishioners saying they had been provoked beyond measure by the foul sectarian tunes and the weaponry. Fr. Wray expressed serious regret: "It has thrown us back at least twenty years."
The shooting and rioting at Cleator Moor made the national press, and was also discussed in the House of Commons over several months.
Here, a transcript of discussions that took place in the HoC is provided:
14 July 1884
MR. SEXTON gave Notice that tomorrow he would ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, What information he had respecting the Orange riots in Cumberland; whether there had been more than one death, and how many persons were dangerously wounded; whether a large number of men had assembled armed with pikes and other weapons; and, what steps had been taken to prevent a collision between the Orangemen and the Catholics?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT With the permission of the House, I will answer the hon. Member's Question at once. I have received the following Report from the Chief Constable at Carlisle, dated the 13th of July: — Sir, — I have the honour to report that about 1,500 Orangemen assembled in a field at Wath Brow, near Cleator, at 11 A.M. yesterday, the 12th instant, to hold a meeting by previous arrangement. Speeches were made, and a great deal of excitement existed during the day.
The Orange party was armed with pistols, swords, spears, &c. They were dressed in the Orange costume, with flags, banners, and bands of music. Large numbers of the Orangemen were taken to Cleator Moor from Workington and other towns by special train. The Orangemen on their way back to the railway station were hooted by a large crowd of the Roman Catholic party. One of the Orangemen thrust a flag in the faces of some of the crowd, whereupon the crowd, which consisted of about 6,000, rushed in upon the Orange party. Several blows were struck on both sides.
The Orange party fired several shots, and struck with their swords and spears. One young man, named Henry Tumelty, aged 17 years, who till recently was a letter carrier at the Cleator Moor Post Office, was shot dead on the spot; six others were wounded seriously by pistol shots. Several others were cut by swords and spears. No further deaths have occurred.
The Roman Catholic crowd became furious on hearing of the death of one of their party. They made several attacks on the Orangemen with sticks and stones; many were cut and wounded, but this was after the firing, and the death of Tumelty. The police succeeded in separating the two parties, and by forming lines across the streets the crowd attacking the Orange party were cut off from pursuing them. The Orangemen were at last got to the railway station without further fighting; but while at the station waiting for their train the attack was renewed by large numbers of men and women who had got there by circuitous routes. A body of police were moved on to the railway bridge, from which place the attack was being made. Several shots were fired by the Orange party from the railway station at the attacking party on the bridge, but no persons were wounded there.
Two magistrates, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Ainsworth, and 45 officers and constables of police were on duty to do everything that could be done to preserve the peace; and it was entirely owing to their great exertions that a most serious loss of life and destruction of property was prevented. I had previously applied to the Petty Sessions of the district to arrange for a magistrate to be present to read the Riot Act if necessary. The Riot Act was not read, as the peace was restored without resorting to that extreme measure. I was present myself during the latter part of the disturbance, and took command of the police. I kept a large body of men on special duty during the night, as it was feared that the houses of some Orangemen who reside in the district of Cleator would be wrecked; but up to 8 P.M. this evening all is quiet and orderly. That is all the information I have at present.
MR. SEXTON I would say from the Report that adequate measures were not taken. It appears that only about 50 police were opposed to a large armed party of Orangemen. I beg to give Notice that I shall call attention to the inadequate steps which were taken by the authorities to prevent this collision and loss of life.
MR. MITCHELL HENRY Arising out of this Question I beg to give Notice that I will repeat the Question which I have put to the Home Secretary on a former occasion — namely, Whether the Government will not consider the propriety of bringing in a Bill dealing with the possession of revolvers in this country as well as in Ireland?
MR. SPEAKER I would remind the hon. Member that this is not the time for Questions. These are Notices of Motion.
15 July 1884
MR. T. P. O'CONNOR asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether any arrests have yet been made in connection with the rioting at Cleator Moor; whether he is aware that several persons declare that they are able to identify the man who fired the shot by which the lad, Tumelty, lost his life; and, whether, if these persons send in their evidence, the police will take precautions for preventing the escape of the person accused?
The hon. Member further asked whether the attention of the Home Secretary had been drawn to a statement of the Rev. Father Burchall, one of the Catholic clergymen of Cleator Moor, that the Orange procession, when passing the Catholic place of worship, danced frantically, and played Party tunes, and that this took place while Divine worship was going on in the Catholic church; whether several of the processionists shook orange lillies in the faces of young girls; and was it a fact, as stated by Father Burchall, that a letter was written to the Home Secretary some days before the procession, stating that there would be danger to the public peace, and calling his special attention to the fact that processions of members of the Church of England, and of the Methodist and other persuasions, had been held in this district without the smallest attempt at a breach of the peace; and, finally, he asked whether, in a case where the Home Office had been forewarned of the intention of large bodies of men to come into a district, armed with revolvers and playing Party tunes, there was no power in the Home Office to prevent a breach of the peace?
MR. SEXTON asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, What was the strength of the force assembled by the Government at Cleator Moor on Saturday last; what were the arrangements made by the Government for prevention of conflict and of loss of life; were the swords, spears, and revolvers used entirely by the Orange party, and was any effort made by the police to disarm the Orangemen before they began to use their weapons; have there been more deaths than one; how many persons have been wounded; have any arrests been made; and, will the officers and constables who accompanied the procession be examined as to their ability to identify those who made use of revolvers and other deadly weapons?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT The subject of the two Questions is of great importance, and I will ask leave to answer them fully, more particularly with reference to the points raised by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) as to the measures which the Government have taken in this matter. The series of Questions put by the hon. Member for Sligo is founded entirely on a misapprehension of the province of the Executive Government in such matters. In England the Executive Government is not the conservator of the peace. The conservation of the peace is intrusted to the magistrates in the different localities for which they have jurisdiction. They are the conservators of the peace, and the Executive Government and the Secretary of State have no authority to give any orders whatever to the magistrates in this matter. The Government and the Home Secretary have no authority over the local police either in the counties or in the boroughs; that is a fundamental proposition which seems sometimes not to be understood. So firmly is this principle established in the Constitution that the Secretary of State is not even a magistrate or a conservator of the peace in his Office. That was laid down by Lord Camden in the case of General Warrants. I have no magisterial authority as a conservator of the peace in any county or borough in England, or even in the Metropolis. That being the case, the magistrates who have the knowledge of the state of affairs in a district have the responsibility of dealing with it and the authority to do so. They may, under the Army Regulations, apply directly to the Secretary of State for military aid, in the event of the police force at their disposal not being sufficient. They may also, and they have done so in former days, consult the Secretary of State and ask for advice as to how they should act in difficult circumstances; and, of course, I need not say the Secretary of State is only too happy to place at their disposal any advice which he can give with the help of the Law Officers of the Crown, for in matters of this description there is no question more difficult for the authorities on the spot to deal with than the question of meetings which are likely to lead to a breach of the peace. That question is acted upon sometimes by the Government in a method which is now before the House in a Paper which I laid on the Table in 1882 with reference to disturbances connected with the Salvation Army at Basingstoke. In the year 1867 there were Orange riots apprehended at Liverpool. The Home Office was consulted by the local authorities, and this message was sent from the Home Office to the Clerk of the County Justices, Liverpool: — 13th Dec, 1867. Issue proclamation similar to that by the borough; collect county police; ask assistance of borough police; swear in special constables; give notice to military authorities; apply to Orange leaders to stop their meeting and procession; apply to Roman Catholic clergy to dissuade the people; do everything in your power to prevent a collision and broach of the peace; to do this you are justified in preventing meetings and stopping processions; let the people know that they are stopped on these grounds. Magistrates are not to be bound by this, but must exercise their own discretion, depending on locality where a meeting is held and numbers attending, force they have at their disposal, and other elements that cannot be known to the Secretary of State. Note. — This telegram was sent after a personal consultation with Sir John Karslake, who attended at the Home Office and settled it. This shows the principle upon which the Home Office acted in 1867 and down to 1882. It was, I think, confirmed by successive Law Officers of the Crown down to 1882. In October, 1881, I wrote a letter founded upon the same principles, and sent it to the Town Clerks and Clerks to the Justices of various places where disturbances were expected in connection with the proceedings of the Salvation Army. The ground upon which we acted seemed to me to be a reasonable ground. It was this — that it is easier to prevent processions from forming than to deal with an excited mob after a collision has occurred. That was the principle on which we advised the magistrates and on which they acted, and with the best effect. It was adopted with the advice of the English and of the Scotch Law Officers of the Crown, and it prevented collisions in a number of cases in Liverpool and Glasgow in connection with Orange processions, and it was also useful in preventing disturbances arising out of the proceedings of the Salvation Army. But unfortunately the doctrine on which it was based was challenged. In a particular case the magistrates ordered that a meeting should not be held, on the ground that information had been sworn that there was danger of a breach of the peace; and the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court declared that the magistrates had no authority to stop a meeting in these circumstances. Consequently, it was not possible to tender the same advice to the magistrates in these matters. We had, therefore, to write to the Rev. E. Husband, of St. Michael's Vicarage, Folkestone, in these terms on the 22nd of January, 1883 — With reference to your letter of the 16th instant, in which you comment on the proceedings of the Salvation Army at Folkestone and inquire as to the state of the law with respect to the processions of the Army, I am directed by Secretary Sir William Harcourt to acquaint you that the law has been recently declared by the Courts in the matter of these processions, and that the duty of administering it rests with the local magistrates, who are responsible for the preservation of peace and order within the limits of their jurisdiction. The matter is therefore one which does not belong to the cognizance of the Secretary of State. Therefore, I say, since that decision the power to stop processions on these grounds seemed to be put an end to, and they could not be prohibited; and then the question arose, what are the magistrates to do? It seemed to have been proved in the case referred to that the magistrates were informed that the meeting was likely to lead to a breach of the peace. I have not the full particulars of the Cleator riots. I have written to the magistrates, and I expect a full account from them. I cannot say that in anything brought to my knowledge the magistrates appear to have failed in their duty. They got together a large body of police for the occasion.
[MR. SEXTON: How many?] I gave yesterday all the information I had. They stated that the force was sufficient to separate the parties — that is, after the collision had occurred. The Orange meeting appears to have taken place peaceably and without disturbance; they were on their return to the railway when they were attacked. The collision, as I gather, occupied a very brief time, and the deplorable results were due to the practice of people going to these meetings armed with firearms. If it had been a meeting of two ordinary mobs without these firearms, as far as I can see, it would have been stopped by the police; it was after the firearms were used that matters got beyond control. The magistrates had the Chief Constable there, and it seems to me they had made due preparation. Another part of the Question refers to what will be done hereafter. I have written to the magistrates to urge, although I am sure it was unnecessary, that they and the Chief Constable should make strenuous efforts to bring to justice the parties to this outrage, so that they may be punished as they ought to be. I have written to the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who, I am sure, will see that every measure is taken for that purpose. As to any more deaths beyond the one already mentioned, I have no further Report today, except a short one, which does not add anything material to that read yesterday. I have to say, with great regret, that the letter of the Rev. J. Burchall, addressed to myself, by some accident I cannot understand, did not reach me till yesterday. I have written to him to say that it was from no want of respect on my part that it was not acknowledged sooner.
MR. SEXTON When was it dated?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT It was dated the 8th, and must have arrived on the 9th. I deeply regret that any delay should have occurred in its reaching me; but that did not affect the circumstances the least in the world. The Rev. J. Burchall says — Cleator Moor is a rural town in the neighbourhood of Whitehaven, which has rapidly sprung into existence within a few years owing to the discovery of extensive beds of iron ore in the district. It numbers some 10,000 inhabitants. Of these 5,000 are Roman Catholics, all Irish or of Irish extraction. The presence of such a large proportion of Catholics has hitherto prevented any hostile demonstration on the part of Orangemen on their favourite anniversary, July 12. Those belonging to the different Lodges have hitherto preferred to join with others at some distance in relieving their religious or political feelings. But there has existed for some years a desire to walk over Cleator Moor, to beard, as they say, Catholicism in its stronghold. Up to this fear or prudence has deterred them from attempting to carry out their design. This year, however, placards have been issued for Saturday next, and a hostile demonstration will be made on July 12. It seems to be designed to revive those embittered religious animosities, which we had thought had been happily buried in the past, by the display of insulting banners and the playing of Party tunes — things which would only excite a passing pitying smile in Englishmen, but which seem capable of rousing all the concentrated passions of excitable Irishmen, embittered by centuries of more or less open warfare. As the priest in charge of the mission of Cleator Moor, I cannot view without alarm the excitement that will be caused and the ill-feeling that will be engendered. An attempt, I fear beyond my control, will be certainly made to prevent the design of the Orangemen being carried out now for the first time. I have therefore appeared before the bench of magistrates, and stated I was prepared to make an affidavit that peace would be endangered, that probably bloodshed and murder would be the result, that Orangemen had been advised to come armed, &c. The Clerk of the Court advised them that they were powerless to interfere. I have therefore deemed it my duty to trespass upon your kindness, and appeal to you as Home Secretary, and to direct your attention to what I conceive likely to lead to very serious breaches of the peace and good order, and to request you, if it lies in your power, to prevent this procession over Cleator Moor, which I am sure will be regarded merely as a hostile demonstration, and which will lead to riot and disorder, and probably bloodshed. If I had received that letter, all I could have done would have been to say that I had no power to prevent the meeting. No doubt, it is extremely to be regretted that these processions should take place, and should give rise to bitterness of feeling, and the conduct which follows; but I have shown that, under the circumstances, neither the magistrates nor I could have done anything to prevent the procession. There has been little experience of the carrying of firearms, at all events, in England; and, therefore, protection by the law has not boon contemplated, as it might have been had such occurrences been common.
MR. SEXTON The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a very detailed reply; but he has not touched the most important paragraph in my Question — namely, whether the swords, spears, and revolvers were used entirely by the Orange Party; and was any effort made by the police to prevent them bringing those weapons into use? To bring the matter to a practical issue, I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman, considering that there are two sets of statements put forth — one, that witnesses can identify the man who shot the unfortunate youth; and another, that witnesses can identify a member of the Police Force who suggested to the men to fire upon the crowd — whether the proceedings to be taken by the Government will include a public inquiry on oath into all the circumstances of the case, so as not only to secure the punishment of those who broke the law, but also to ascertain the exact measure of responsibility incurred by the local officials and police?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT Certainly; that is the duty of the magistrates. An inquest is going on now, in which, I hope, all the circumstances will be brought out. But if there should be any attempt to keep back anything necessary for the vindication of the law, the hon. Member may rely on it that the Government will use every effort to bring the offenders to justice. As to the other Question, I have no information except that which I read yesterday, to the effect that the only persons armed were the Orange Party. I have told the hon. Member that I have written to the magistrates to request that they will send me a full and accurate Report of the whole of this transaction.
MR. DAWSON As a great deal depends upon this letter of the Rev. Mr. Burchall, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether it was received at the Home Office before the 12th?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT I have no doubt that the letter of Mr. Burchall arrived in London in due course; but I cannot agree with the hon. Member in thinking that anything depends on it. The whole of the information was laid before the magistrates.
MR. J. LOWTHER said, that if he understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly, what he stated came to this — that though the authorities were certain that a meeting was likely to lead to a breach of the peace, they had no power to prevent it. Would the Government allow the law to remain in that state, or were they prepared to alter it, so as to empower the authorities to prevent a meeting in such circumstances?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT said, that the case to which he had referred was determined in June, 1882. The marginal note stated that the appellants assembled with others for a lawful purpose and with no intention of carrying it out unlawfully, but with the knowledge that their assembly would be opposed, and with good reason to suppose that a breach of the peace would be committed by those who opposed it. The Court said — What has happened here is that an unlawful organization has assumed to itself the right to prevent the appellants and others from lawfully assembling together, and the finding of the Justices amounts to this—that a man may be convicted for doing a lawful act if he knows that his doing it may cause another to do an unlawful act. There is no authority for such a proposition.
MR. J. LOWTHER said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not understood his Question. He asked whether he recognized the fact that the law was not in a satisfactory state, when there was no power vested in any competent authority to enable them, when information was laid before them, that a certain meeting was calculated to lead to a breach of the peace, to prevent it; and whether, if that was the case, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was prepared to bring in a Bill giving the necessary powers to the authorities?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT I am not prepared to answer the right hon. Gentleman on that point. What I should have to do is to introduce a Bill to negative the proposition laid down by the Court, and to provide that a man may not take part in a lawful act because other people might commit an unlawful act.
MR. GORST I would like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the fact that men assembled, armed with swords, spears, and revolvers, did not constitute an unlawful assembly?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT Yes, Sir; but it was not known that they would come armed.
LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL Oh, yes; it was stated in the affidavit.
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT I think not. The affidavit only said that the Orangemen had been advised to come armed. That is quite a different thing from saying that they would actually come armed.
MR. GRAY asked whether he understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to convey that if he had communicated his views to the local justices as to the propriety of taking steps to prevent armed men from assembling, that no action would have followed?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT If I had communicated with the magistrates I should have felt it my duty to send the same letter as I addressed to the Vicar of Folkestone in reference to the Salvation Army. I should have said — That the law has been recently declared by the Courts in the matter of these processions, and that the duty of administering it rests with the local magistrates, who are responsible for the preservation of peace and order within the limits of their jurisdiction. The matter is therefore one which does not belong to the cognizance of the Secretary of State.
MR. DAWSON Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the Salvation Army carried spears, swords, and revolvers? [No reply.]
17 July 1884
MR. SYNAN asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether the Catholic clergyman of Cleator Moor informed the magistrates some days before the 12th July that a large body of Orangemen were to assemble there on the 12th, armed, and whether he sent a similar communication to the Home Office; whether the large assembly of Orangemen, armed with swords, spears, and revolvers, on the 12th July at Cleator Moor, was a lawful assembly; whether the magistrates ought to have acted on the information they received, or called upon the informant to make sworn information's; whether the magistrates ought to have provided a sufficient force of police and military to deal with said assembly, and disperse it, if necessary; and, whether forty-nine policemen was a sufficient force for that purpose?
MR. SEXTON asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, What force, civil and military, could have been made readily available by the magistrates at Cleator Moor on Saturday last for the preservation of the public peace and the protection of life; whether the magistrates and the local police had been aware, for weeks, that a considerable Orange meeting would be held, on the 12th instant, at Cleator Moor, in the midst of an extensive Irish and Catholic population, and whether he will take official notice of the fact that the total force provided in view of such an occasion consisted of only forty-five policemen; and, whether it is understood that the coroner's inquest into the cause of the death of Henry Tumelty will include an examination of the conduct of all persons who used weapons unlawfully on the occasion, and of the statement that a member of the police force incited persons to fire upon the people; and, if not, whether he will cause the institution of a public inquiry on oath as to the questions specified?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT With great respect to my hon. Friend, I must decline, in so grave a matter as this, which must become a matter of judicial inquiry, to give any opinion on the legal bearings of the case. I have not the facts before me, nor have I authority to declare the law on the matter. I am asked, with reference to the magistrates, whether they should have done anything different from what they did? I have not received a full Report, and therefore I cannot pronounce any opinion on their conduct; but on the facts as they are, and as they appear to me, I do not see anything whatever to blame in the conduct of the magistrates. They provided a force adequate to separate the two mobs. One of the parties came with arms; but it is clear that a mob four times more numerous than the Orange party attacked them.
MR. SYNAN One party came with arms.
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT That is true; but the mere fact of men having arms is not in itself a ground for a violent attack. The carrying of arms in this country is not unlawful; and because I am walking along a road carrying a gun under my arm and not using it, that does not justify another man in unlawfully stoning me. I wish, as strongly as anyone, to condemn and deprecate the carrying of arms on these occasions. I have received a letter from the Chief Constable, stating that he is endeavouring to collect all evidence necessary to proceed against the criminals, and to identify all persons implicated in the attack. The letter also contains an absolute contradiction of the statement made that the police had recommended firing.
MR. SEXTON With the view of clearing up one important point, I beg to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman does he bear in mind the statement of the Chief Constable that the first collision was provoked by one of the armed faction thrusting his flag pole into the face of a Catholic?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT The possession of the flag pole would not constitute an armed faction. I have not yet got the full Report. This is a very grave matter. A man has been murdered. The transaction must necessarily become the subject of a judicial inquiry; and I am sure hon. Members will feel that in a matter of this kind I ought not to be pressed too much for particulars.
MR. HEALY The right hon. and learned Gentleman has stated that a man going armed does not entitle another man to attack him. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is aware that it was not until Tumelty was killed that the unarmed people attacked the armed body?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT All the facts are in the Report.
MR. SYNAN What is there to prevent the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying whether or not this was a lawful assembly? On Tuesday last the Home Secretary defended — ["Order!"]
MR. SPEAKER The hon. Gentleman is debating the question.
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT I should like to answer the Question, because it is important. There is no authority which can answer the Question except a Court of Law. I have pointed out the extreme inconvenience that occurs from an opinion upon that subject given by successive Law Officers, and acted upon by successive Secretaries of State for 20 years, having been proved by a decision of a Court of Law to be incorrect. Certainly, after that experience I am not going to lay down the law.
MR. O'DONNELL Can the Home Secretary state whether the magistrates were warned that a large body of armed men of the Orange Association intended to demonstrate in the centre of a Catholic population; and, were they warned of the consequence and took no precaution? And will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take this opportunity also of clearing away a misapprehension, as I trust it is, arising from one of his last answers? He now assorts that the conduct of the Catholic body, being more numerous, was worse than the conduct of the Orangemen. Will he state he had no intention of prejudicing the matter, nor of encouraging further bands of Orangemen to invade Catholic districts with the result of assassination?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT I think the House will agree that is not a Question which I ought to answer. I 1413have endeavoured, as far as possible, to avoid awarding the blame between one party and the other. ["No, no!"] I have endeavoured to do so.
12 August 1884
MR. T. P. O'CONNOR said, that he had received a telegram from Cleator Moor, stating that Mr. Ennis, President of the National League, Cleator Moor, who was the principal witness, who stated that Constable Hamil urged the Orangemen to fire on the Nationalists, had been arrested. He had not time to communicate with the Home Secretary on the matter and give him private Notice of a Question; but he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would make close inquiries into the circumstances attending the arrest.
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT If the hon. Member will forward to me any statement that he may have received, I will take care that inquiries are made.
31 October 1884
MR. O'BRIEN asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the report, in The Carlisle Journal of the 28th October, of the evidence given, at the Cumberland Assizes, by John Douglass Sempill, superintendent of police and deputy chief constable, upon the trial of a man named France, who was acquitted of complicity in the dynamite explosion at Cleator Moor; whether Mr. Sempill stated that, while France was under remand at Whitehaven, a constable from Longtown, named Tomer, whom the witness described as "an experienced detective officer," was put into the prisoner's cell, in plain clothes, for several hours; whether the witness stated that Tomer was shut up with the prisoner for the purpose of taking care of him, but that "if the prisoner had made any statement, he should have inquired into it;" whether France states that the detective officer represented himself as a fellow prisoner, pretended to be drunk, swore at the police, and attempted to inveigle him into a statement respecting the charge against him; and, whether an inquiry will be held into the conduct of Tomer, and of the officers responsible for directing his visit, and admitting him to the cell of an untried prisoner?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT , in reply, said, he had had heard nothing of this matter until he saw the hon. Member's Question yesterday. He had sent it to the Chief Constable in Cumberland for inquiry, and he would answer the hon. Gentleman when he had received the information.
MR. O'BRIEN said, he would renew the Question on Monday.
03 November 1884
MR. O'BRIEN asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the report, in The Carlisle Journal of the 28th October, of the evidence given, at the Cumberland Assizes, by John Douglass Semphill, Superintendent of Police and Deputy Chief Constable, upon the trial of a man named France, who was acquitted of complicity in the dynamite explosion at Cleator Moor; whether Mr. Sempill stated that, while France was under remand at Whitehaven, a constable from Longtown, named Tomer, whom the witness described as "an experienced detective officer," was put into the prisoner's cell, in plain clothes, for several hours; whether the witness stated that Tomer was shut up with the prisoner for the purpose of taking care of him, but that, "if the prisoner had made any statement, he should have inquired into it;" whether France states that the detective officer represented himself as a fellow-prisoner, pretended to be drunk, swore at the police, and tried to inveigle him into a statement respecting the charge against him; and, whether an inquiry will be held into the conduct of Tomer, and of the officers responsible for directing his visit, and admitting him to the cell of an untried prisoner?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT , in reply, said, that he had got a long Report from the Chief Constable, and another from the Superintendent, which were too long to read to the House; but the substance of them was that the Superintendent did not say that this officer was an experienced detective officer. He was nothing of the kind; he was a common constable, and he was not put into the cell at all with the view or object of obtaining evidence from the prisoner. The Superintendent stated that he was applied to by Sergeant Graham, who was in charge of the lockup, that on account of the prisoner being in a low and depressed state of mind, which made it unsafe for him to be alone, another prisoner ought to be put beside him to prevent him doing harm to himself. It was found impracticable to place another prisoner with him at that time, and Constable Tomer, who was then at Whitehaven on duty, was placed in the cell for an hour and a-half. As regarded the two last Questions, there was also a statement from Constable Tomer, and he denied the allegations made in the Question. It was a mistake to suppose that Constable Tomer was brought specially from Longtown to Whitehaven for this purpose.
11 November 1884
MR. O'BRIEN asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to The Carlisle Journal, of November the 4th, with reference to the evidence of Superintendent Sempill at the Cumberland Assizes; whether he is aware that the Journal states that, on reference to— Another and perfectly independent report of the same portion of Mr. Sempill's evidence, as that impugned in the case of the Journal report, it was found to read as follows:— There was also a constable from Longtown named Tomer. Tomer was brought down because he was an experienced detective officer; whether he has observed that the learned judge in summing up the case showed that he was under the same impression as to the evidence in the following remarks in reference to Mr. Sempill's evidence: I think it would have been better if the Deputy Chief Constable had candidly admitted what the object of the proceeding was. Instead of that he somewhat insults our understanding by telling us that he got this experienced detective from a distance for the purpose of ascertaining the state of the man's mind, and whether he was likely to injure himself in his cell; and, whether, under these circumstances, further inquiry will be made into the matter?
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT , in reply, said, that he did not see how he could make any further inquiries that would lead to any different result than he had already stated. The Superintendent of Police, Superintendent Sempill, had informed him that the man referred to in the Question was not a detective, but an ordinary police-constable, and he had had a statement to the like effect from the man himself. That being so, he did not see that there was any use in making further inquiries.