Lady Day In The North.
Serious Rioting In Lurgan.
The Police Firing On The Processionists.
One Person Killed And Three Wounded.
The Belfast News-Letter,
Saturday, August 16,
It is several years since the 15th August passed off so peaceably in Belfast as it did today. Marked by no demonstration whatever within the borough, and by very few indeed who considered it worth their while to join those in the neighbouring towns, the day passed over without any recognition whatever of the anniversary. Beyond the fact that the police seemed to be keeping a more than usually sharp look-out for any demonstrative display in the shape of band playing through the streets, their services were not further drawn upon than usual. It was rumoured throughout town that contingents had left by the early morning trains to take part in the processions held at Lurgan, Cookstown, and Dundrum, and in consequence the different railway stations were eagerly watched for their arrival. The assumption, however, was erroneous, as few, if any, parties left town for the purpose, and the expectants, being much disappointed, returned quietly to their homes. Up till a late hour at night the town was perfectly tranquil, and the streets were completely cleared at the usual hour. Other places were not so fortunate, as the subjoined details will show.
During the last few days people were assured that Lurgan was to be the scene of a “monster procession” on Lady Day, and that it was to be swelled by large contingents from Belfast, Portadown, and the entire surrounding district. Numerically these anticipations were very far from being realised; but the demonstration was attended with the most lamentable results, which are likely to be long remembered by the inhabitants of this town and neighbourhood. The sad events which occurred in the course of the day, and which have cast a gloom over the district, were not preceded by any circumstances calculated to give rise to serious forebodings, although outbreaks of a trivial character were not unlooked for. In case, however, matters should threaten to come to the worst, the authorities had taken all due precautions to suppress any ebullition of party feeling, and preserve the peace of the town. Two hundred extra police were imported into Lurgan. Of these fifty were detached for duty at Derryadd, and the remainder were kept in town. During the early part of the day nothing occurred to mar the general tranquillity, and the duties of the police appeared to be of the lightest description. The majority of the constabulary were stationed beside the railings which enclose the parish church, and many of them were congratulating themselves that everything was going to pass off peaceably. But for the presence of this large force of police and the crowds of people who assembled chiefly in the central part of the town there was little to denote that anything unusual was astir.
However, in the course of a few hours the general aspect of matters underwent a complete change, and the town became the theatre of disturbances the like of which fortunately have not been witnessed for many a long day. The programme of the Home Rule party consisted in marching from town to the Moyntaghs, where they were to be joined by some contingents. On returning to town again they were to proceed to Milltown, on the borders of Lough Neagh, where it was arranged to hold a meeting. Although there was a large turnout of the party their numbers did not attain the proportion which it had been foretold they would assume. The principal attempt, and, indeed almost the solitary one, at street decoration was in Edward Street, where an arch of evergreens, with significant emblems attached, had been erected. But little occurred worthy of remark in the early part of the day. A contingent from Portadown arrived by train at ten o’clock, and were accompanied by a flute band. There was some marching through the streets prior to setting out for the Moyntaghs, but no attempt was made to interfere in any way with the parties who were preparing to take part in the procession. Having at least formed into marching order, the procession passed from Shankill Street into Edward Street and out by the long plain to meet the contingent from the Moyntaghs. Everything was orderly and peaceable in town during their absence. Large numbers of people congregated in the principal streets to witness the arrival of the processionists in town. They returned about one o’clock, bearing several green banners, on some of which were conspicuously displayed the words, “Home Rule,” and the majority of them wore green scarves. They were accompanied by two bands, and had a number of drums, which were operated upon in the most vigorous manner. Some idea of the extent of the procession may be formed when it is stated that it took about seven minutes to pass a given point.
All passed off peaceably until the processionists reached North Street, when a most desperate place of rioting broke out in a moment, and without any premonitory symptoms that could have led to its anticipation. The processionists came into collision with some factory operatives who were assembled in North Street and the vicinity, and in an instant matters assumed the most threatening appearance. The police, under Captain Redmond, R.M., immediately interposed between the opposing parties, and exerted themselves in a very active manner to clear the street and quell the disturbance. In the meantime several hand-to-hand encounters had taken place between the combatants, but stones were soon afterwards resorted to. The stone-throwing was of the fiercest possible character, and several persons on the streets took refuge from the missiles in the adjoining shops. The police had a most difficult and perilous duty to perform. Having got between the parties, they endeavoured to the utmost of their power to restore order. The scene in North Street was one of the greatest confusion and excitement, and matters quickly reached a most painful climax. Showers of stones were discharged by the processionists at the police, many of whom were struck. Captain Redmond, who was in command, received several blows, and Head-Constable Henderson, of the local force, had the misfortune to be very dangerously wounded on the forehead by a large stone. Other members of the constabulary also received injuries of a more or less serious character. The processionists, in fact, appeared now to confine their attentions to the police, at whom they threw stones in the most vigorous and determined manner. The police followed on rapidly after the processionists, who continued as they retreated to harass the constabulary with stones. Orders were then given to the police to fix their bayonets, and, as the state of matters had now become most serious. Captain Redmond read the Riot Act. The police then received the command to fire upon the rioters, and about a dozen shots were discharged, a young lad named Furfey, whose parents reside in Kilmain Street, and who was standing about ten yards from the door of his father’s house, being shot dead. The ball entered close above the right eye and emerged behind the ear, so that death must have been instantaneous. The sister of the unfortunate lad Catherine Furfey, was shot through the arm, and the wound bled profusely. A man of about 55 years of age, named John Smith, from Seapatrick, was shot in the right leg above the ankle. The blood flowed freely from the wound, and he was allowed to remain lying at the roadside where he fell for some time without receiving any attention. The wound was of the most dangerous character, and as he was not expected to recover a Roman Catholic clergyman was sent for and came and administered the last rites of the Church. A man named Henry McCavin had a remarkable escape from being shot dead, a ball grazing his cheek and passing through the lobe of his ear. The stone throwing immediately ceased after the firing, and the processionists proceeded to Milltown.
The news of the tragic occurrences spread with the greatest rapidity over Lurgan, and created considerable excitement. The riot, fierce as it was, and attended with such deplorable results, took many by surprise by the celerity with which it progressed through its several stages, lasting only a few minutes. The body of the deceased was removed to the house of his parents, where it awaits an inquest. Smith was subsequently conveyed to the grounds of the Roman Catholic chapel, where his wounds were dressed by Dr. Gribbon, but on being taken at a later period to the union hospital amputation was found to be necessary. He is in a most dangerous condition, and his recovery is regarded as almost hopeless. During the disturbances the rioters wrecked one of Lord Lurgan’s gate lodges and the home of Mr. McClinton, a Protestant. Besides Captain Redmond, R.M., of Dungarvan; Captain Peel, R.M., Letterkenny; County Inspector Ramsbottom, and Sub-Inspectors Fulton (King’s County), Barry (Leitrim), and H. B. Lynch (Roscommon) were on special duty for the occasion. After the firing the procession marched to the place of rendezvous on the shores of Lough Neagh. Upon arriving at the residence of Mr. Campbell a meeting assembled, when the chair was taken after some delay by Mr. John McCombe, who condemned the conduct of the magistrates and police in firing on, as he said, an unoffending crowd. Two resolutions were proposed, one of which condemned the conduct of the police in firing on the processionists, and called for a searching inquiry to be held into the circumstances.
LURGAN, FRIDAY NIGHT – Great excitement prevailed up to a late hour to-night in the portion of the town which is chiefly inhabited by Roman Catholics. Firearms were discharged repeatedly in Edward Street and Shankill Street, and a party of police, who were patrolling through Edward Street, were attacked by a mob, and obliged to fly precipitately, shots being fired after them. The wounded man Smith is sinking rapidly, and little hope is entertained of his recovery.
This Newspaper Article has been reproduced by the kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive Limited, (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).