A guide to trace your ancestors from Lurgan, County Armagh and from the County of Armagh

The Lurgan Riots 1887

The Lurgan Riots.

Magisterial Investigation.

The Belfast News-Letter,
Monday, March 7,


LURGAN, SATURDAY. РThe magisterial inquiry into the recent Lurgan riots was resumed in the Courthouse here today before Messrs. William Liddell, J.P.; Claude Brownlow, J.P.; George Greer, J.P.; C. E. B. Mayne, R.M.; Samuel Bell, J.P.; F. Watson, J.P.; and J. McNally, J.P.  

The following sixteen prisoners were charged with riot :-

Samuel Brancken, James McAtasney,
Joseph McStay, Patrick Furphy,
Peter Donnelly, John McGinniss,
James McCann, Patrick Creaney,
John Gribben, David Murray,
Charles Lavery, Thomas Molloy,
Patrick Burns, Hugh Spillman,
James Morrow, Edward McCloskey.


County-Inspector Cary prosecuted; Mr. J. C. O’Reilly appeared for eleven of the prisoners, and Mr. Menary for five.

Constable Doyle was the first witness examined. He described the way in which the police were stoned. The mob fired shots at the police. He saw one bullet striking the ground and driving the gravel against witness. It was after the shots were fired at the police that the latter fired on the mob. He did not identify any of the persons.

By Mr. O’Reilly – He would swear that shots were fired, but as he did not see the bullets he could not swear that there were bullets. At the time the riot was going on there was no opposing crowd, and the stones must have been thrown at the police. When he heard shouts of “Shoot them” at the corner of Waring Street, he believed the shout was¬†directed against the police. The stones that were thrown across Shankill Street houses were thrown at the police. He did not believe the persons behind the houses could have seen the police.¬†

By Mr. Mayne РIt was at the time he heard the two shots fired that the bullet struck the street.

Constable Curran was the next witness. He said he was stationed in Lurgan, and was on duty in Hill Street about eight o’clock on the evening of March 1st. A drumming party passed down Edward Street in the direction of Church Place. The party, with a band, returned afterwards in the direction of the Manor House. They afterwards returned in the direction of Hill Street. There were about a dozen policemen at the head of Hill Street at this time. Witness was between thirty and forty yards from the end of Hill Street. When the band and drumming party came to Hill Street there were shouting, yelling, stone-throwing, and breaking of windows. The stones came from the party following the band. Two shots were fired and he saw the flashes. The shots were fired from Edward Street direction up Hill Street. Witness and another constable went to Church Place, where they heard a row was going on. When they got as far as Waring Street he saw a large crowd which had been charged by the police. They were still throwing stones at the police. Witness was struck several times with stones from the crowd. The police under Mr. Bigley charged the crowd in the direction of Shankill Street. In that charge he arrested the prisoner, Peter Donnelly, with the assistance of Constable Dempsey. Witness returned from the police barrack, and after a short time Mr. Bigley ordered the police to go into some houses over which stones were thrown at the police. Sergeant Ballagh was there at the time, which was about half past ten. The sergeant ordered a number of police to go in the direction of Waring Street. He saw stones thrown there and heard shouting. Witness went there with Constable Reilly. John Gribben and James McCann, whom witness identified, were arrested. The prisoners were part of the riotous crowd from which the stones were thrown. Witness assisted in the arrest of McCann.

By Mr. O’Reilly – Peter Donnelly was amongst the crowd who were stoning the police. That was why witness arrested him. For the same reason James McCann was arrested at Waring Street. He did not see John Gribben doing anything in the crowd.

Constable Reilly was examined. In reply to County-Inspector Cary, he said he was stationed in Lurgan. He was on duty at Edward Street on the evening of the 1st inst. He was there at half-past seven. A drumming party passed from the Manor House in the direction of Church Place. It returned some time afterwards, accompanied by a band and a crowd. That was about an hour later. When they came up near Hill Street he heard glass breaking. Witness was struck three times with stones which came from the band and the crowd which followed the band.
After that the crowd went in the direction of the Manor House. They returned again to Hill Street, and stones were thrown and a shot was fired from the centre of the crowd. About five yards from where he saw the flash of the first shot a second shot was fired out of the crowd. Stones were thrown, and when the crowd got out of Hill Street a third shot was fired. That also came from the crowd. The police remained in the vicinity of Edward Street barrack until after ten o’clock, when they heard shouting from Church Place. Witness went there with several constables. They met two men carrying a big drum and running. When they got as far as Waring Street stones were thrown in showers. The mob shouted “Lay on old Bigley.” Witness was struck with a stone, which knocked a tooth out of his mouth.
The streets were crowded with a very disorderly mob. He subsequently assisted in charging the crowd up Shankill Street. Stones were thrown than more fiercely than before. Mr. Bigley sent some of the police to the barrack for the rifles. He then warned the people to leave or he would fire. Then a shot was fired from the mob. Mr. Bigley ordered the police to load, and put three constables in front to fire. He ordered the crowd away in a loud voice, but the stones still came. The police then fired down Shankill Street on the mob. Witness went into a house, out of which he believed stones were thrown, and two of the prisoners were arrested in the yard. One was McStay, and the other was Brancken. After that he went with sergeant Ballagh to Waring Street, and charged a stone-throwing crowd there. He arrested Gribben. McCann was arrested at the same time. The prisoners were coming up Waring Street singing and shouting. He believed they belonged to the stone throwing mob. They were coming up from the crowd that the police had charged.

By Mr. O’Reilly – He could not swear that the stones came over the house in which two of the prisoners had been arrested, but he believed they did.

Constable Bracken stated he was on duty on the night of the 1st March. He described the occurrences already detailed in evidence. He identified the prisoner, David Murray, as having been in a stone-throwing crowd. He saw the prisoner throwing a stone at the police. He afterwards saw him rushing at Constable Dunbar. Witness went up and then the prisoner ran away. A shot was fired at the police from Shankill Street.

Sergeant Farey said he was stationed in Union Street, Lurgan, and was on duty on the night of the 1st March. He new a boy named Thomas Baxter standing near him. A stone was thrown from the crowd, and Baxter fell. Witness saw that he had been struck on the side of the head, and the blood was flowing from the wound. Witness saw Constable Scott struggling with a prisoner, and he went to his assistance. That prisoner was Patrick Creaney. The conduct of the mob at that time was very riotous. Stones were thrown from all directions. Next day witness examined the houses and found the windows of about thirty houses Рin North Street, Edward Street, and Church Place Рbroken.

Constable Pepper proved that, while on duty in Hill Street, he heard two shots fired from the crowd. He heard the sound of a bullet striking the street after each shot. There was no opposing crowd in Hill Street at that time. Witness was subsequently struck several times with stones.

By Mr. O’Reilly – Some of the stones that were thrown over the houses struck the ground, but it was because he heard the hard sound against the ground that he knew bullets had been fired, and because the sounds came when he heard the shots.

Thomas Baxter said on the night of the 1st March he was standing near the police at Church Place, and he was struck with a stone on the right side of the head. That stone came from the crowd. The blow of the stone knocked him down. He did nothing to cause a stone to be thrown at him.

By Mr. O’Reilly – He saw no stones thrown at the crowd.

Head Constable Michael Green proved that he was on duty at Church Place, and he described the way in which the mob stoned the police. A constable was struck with a stone, and badly cut on the face. He heard three shots fired from the crowd with the band. In the evening he told Mr. McGlynn, J.P., that he did not like the attitude of the band, and asked him to come to the head of Edward Street, as his presence might have a good effect. He said he would do so, and he did come, but witness did not see him until about two hours afterwards, when witness again spoke to him. He reported to him the conduct of the mob at Hill Street, and stated that Constable Cullen had been injured. After ten the crowd went down North Street, and stones were thrown all the time at the police. Witness was struck several times. The stones were thrown by the mob accompanying the band. The mob attempted to force their way up Market Street, and witness, with some police, endeavoured to put them back. The mob then furiously assailed the police with stones. Mr. Bigley was there, and he ordered the police to charge the mob. They succeeded in putting the mob into Shankill Street. Witness was much injured, and was now under the doctor’s care. Stones were thrown over the houses in Shankill Street, and a shot was fired as if from a blunderbus. The police then fired by Mr. Bigley’s orders. Witness arrested two men in a yard.

By Mr. O’Reilly – he had been speaking to three magistrates that evening – Mr. McGlynn, Mr. Carrick, and Mr. McNally. Mr. Carrick remained. Mr. McNally said he had come off the train and was going home, but he remained some time. Mr. McGlynn was speaking to Mr. Bigley about ten o’clock. The police had not been ordered to charge before this. He did not see any magistrate present when the charge at North Street was made. The police had much difficulty in keeping the mob from going up Market Street. Witness saw a drummer and a drum lying on the ground. Mr. Bigley was near the place at the time. He did not see Mr. Bigley standing over him with his stick raised.

District Inspector Bigley was the next witness. He stated that he was stationed at Lurgan, and was in charge on the 1st. inst. He was on duty at eight o’clock in Union Street, and hearing a report he went to the police barrack at Edward Street, and there saw Constable Cullen suffering from a wound on the face. After that he went to the head of Edward Street at Church Place, and remained there for some time. He was talking there to Mr. McGlynn, J.P. A band or drumming party came up and played on the street. They marched on as if wanting to come towards Miss O’Brien’s. He went over to one of the drummers and forced him on the usual route, along Church Place. Witness received a violent blow of a stone at the back of the right ear, cutting his hat. Several other stones were thrown at him, and some of them struck him. The band went on as far as the head of North Street. The mob following it continued to be disorderly. He directed some of the constables to draw their batons. The band proceeded down North Street. Witness’s name was mentioned several times by the mob. Stones struck him there. Some glass was broken in the windows of houses they were passing. At the head of Ulster Street witness halted, and some of the band went further on towards the chapel.
While he was halted stones were thrown. The band retraced their steps. Stones continued to be thrown and glass broken until the mob came to the head of North Street. Seeing that they wanted to force their way towards Market Street some of the police prevented them.¬† Witness went over to one of the drummers. He wanted to force him round by Church Place, and he believed he fell. A stone was thrown at witness. He saw the man whom he believed threw it, and made a blow with his stick at him, but missed him and struck the drum. He told the police to charge the mob, which they did. Witness received several blows of stones. He followed some persons whom he suspected. One of them struck him as he was about to catch a rioter. Witness struck the man who had struck him with his stick. The police put the mob down Edward Street and then halted. Stones were thrown from some persons near Magee’s public-house. He went into Magee’s public-house and requested him to use his influence to put the people down Edward Street. He said he could not do anything.
Witness then told him it was better for him to clear his house of persons who came in. When he came into the street and saw the state of the mob further down he took the police with him, and ordered some men to get their rifles. Stones were thrown at them again, and the police went to the head of Shankill Street, where there was a mob. He found the lamps there put out. Stones were thrown over the houses at the police. He left some police there, and took others with him towards the Manor House. A man ran into a house there, and the police followed but did not find him. The stone throwing at the police continued, and immediately after he heard the sound and saw the flash of a weapon that was discharged at the police. It was a very loud report, like that of a blunderbus. Witness then ordered three men to load with buckshot and fire. After that the mob down in Shankill Street shouted “We don’t care for blank; put in ball.” There was another fusilade of stones at the police. Witness then ordered one of the three constables to fire a second shot, which he did. After that witness went to a house, knocked at the door, and got in. The back door was opened for them by some person, and witness went into the yard. They made two arrests there. Their names were McStay and Brancken. They were taken to the barracks. Witness produced his hat, which was cut with a stone. His body was blackened in several places with stones.

By Mr. Cary Р Witness repeatedly shouted to the crowd that he would fire on them if they did not cease their riotous conduct. Immediately before he ordered the men to fire he shouted to the mob to get off the streets or he would fire.

By Mr. O’Reilly – He had received information during the day that bands were likely to go out that evening, but he was told by a magistrate that they would not; that nothing would occur. He communicated with magistrates in regard to the course to be adopted. Anything that occurred was in the presence of the magistrate to whom he had already referred. He made further inquiries, and could not ascertain that the bands would go out. They were liable to go out any night. He had told the head-constable in the early part of the day to see Mr. McGlynn. Witness would have been glad had there been more magistrates there. He received no orders nor instructions from Mr. McGlynn. He did not ask Mr. McGlynn to accompany him down North Street, but he was there, and saw what occurred. He thought as a matter of course, that Mr. McGlynn would have done so, as¬†had been done from time to time by other magistrates. The police were at the head of North Street to prevent the mob going up North Street. He could not say how many stones were thrown at him, but he was struck several times. Stones were thrown at him by people who were talking to him and a magistrate present.
He would not say¬†that when the mob were in North Street they were in their own ground. The police followed the mob there to preserve the peace and protect property, as stones were thrown and windows broken at the time. When the man with the drum was going up Market Street he had got as far as the second house when he fell from the push which witness give him. Stones were thrown violently before the police fired. He was sure the shots fired by the mob were fired at the police. He could not say how many times he had warned the people, he did it son often. He shouted loud enough for the people to hear him. This was about a quarter to eleven o’clock. He was not excited on that occasion. The blows he received himself did not influence him in ordering the police to fire. Shankill Street was a Roman Catholic district. There was no Riot Act read. Mr. Carrick was not with Mr. McGlynn when witness met the latter.

By Mr. Cary – At the time he called to the people to leave, or he would fire, someone in the mob shouted “Come on, we are ready for you.”

By Mr. Mayne – When he sent the police out first he only sent them with batons, and did not anticipate a riot.

Mr. Cary asked the Court to return all the prisoners for trial to the forthcoming assizes.

Mr. O’Reilly addressed the Court on behalf of the prisoners.

Mr. Menary also addressed the magistrates.

The Chairman said the magistrates had decided to return all the prisoners for trial. Mr. McNally did not vote.

In reply to Mr. Menary. The Court declined to accept bail.

The prisoners were then removed by the 5.23 train to Armagh. As the train moved out of the station they sang “God Save Ireland,” and were cheered by a crowd of sympathisers.


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