The Knocklyon Murder of 1883

The reason I became interested in this local trial was that

  • the road the murder took place has since disappeared and was never shown on any maps.
  • The victim’s house was not named but I wondered where it once stood.
  • The house where the inquest took place was named but is absent from all local maps,
  • the RIC station and the court house in Rathfarnham Village have also disappeared (although I had a fair idea of where they were).

In addition,

  • the RIC station at Rockbrook was closed down in 1919 and the RIC station at Tallaght has been demolished.

This lecture pieced it all together and I was able to reconstruct a local map with elements from the event and subsequent legal proceedings.  All these missing placenames / facts needed to be re-discovered.

I was amazed to discover that, in 1883, there were no less than 1,103 articles relating to murder in The Irish Times … and 873 of them were in Dublin !  This included both City and County and the Irish Times reported on:

  • Reported murders
  • Alleged murders
  • Conspiracy to murder
  • Murder inquests
  • Murder trials (as they progressed)
  • Murder trial verdicts
  • Executions (for murder)
  • and articles relating to “mis-reported” Murders                  late 19th C Dublin was more than just a little bit dangerous, it seems

After some initial research, I uncovered a series of 10 articles in The Irish Times and 6 in The Freemans Journal covered the murder, the inquest, the initial trial at Rathfarnham Petty Sessions Court, the Winter Assizes at Green Street Court and the eventual execution at Kilmainham Gaol.  It was also covered intermittently by provincial newspapers such as the Belfast Newsletter, the Kildare Observer, the Westmeath Examiner and the Nenagh Guardian.

An old man named Patrick Quinn, aged 70, was murdered on Saturday evening, 27th October 1883 outside his home on Beech Park Avenue – also known as Walsh’s Road, Knocklyne Lane – off Knocklyon Road.  This avenue has long since disappeared and the Dargle Wood estate now occupies the ground.  Mr Quinn and his wife were originally from the townland of Gortlum, SW Co Dublin, near the present day village of Brittas (on the way to Blessington).  Their landlord there was a Mr Bagenal – a well-known local farming family up until recently.

The Irish Times reported:

  • The main suspect, Peter Wade, was arrested early on Sunday morning, 28th October at his home in Tymon North
  • where, it was reported, he had blood-stains on his clothing, abrasions to his face and had shaved off his moustache.
  • He was “well known” to the police
  • He had recently been released from prison, having served 12 months hard labour (for horse theft, as it was later reported)
  • He was found to have articles “not usual for a man of his class” to have in his possession
  • He was known as ‘Garibaldi’ and was said to be feared by many in the area

The newspaper then went on to spice the case up for the readership with the following tantalising snippets of information:

  • Motives for the murder unknown
  • Mr Quinn was first employed by Miss Croker as a gardener
  • Recently employed as gate keeper and took over the cottage at the back gate
  • The man who formerly held this position (+ the cottage) had been dismissed

Peter Wade (the defendant) first called on Mr Quinn last Tuesday

  • Claiming to be a bailiff working for Miss Croker
  • Claimed to have a revolver (to help a farmer to pay grazing fee for his cattle)
  • Accused a Mr James Malone of making off with half a year’s rent
  • Mr Malone, it was reported, did in fact leave his rented house and lands a week later (an alternative scenario was hinted at)

Wade then called back at Quinn’s house on Saturday 27th October at 7pm

  • Saying there was some work for Quinn with a Mr Byrne (his previous employer)
  • Mrs Quinn heard screams, ran to neighbours calling for help
  • Mrs Quinn & Mr Malone found Mr Quinn dying nearby

On the same morning that Wade was arrested, Sunday, 28th October, a Post-Mortem Examination was held at nearby Knocklyon Cottage. The inquest jury (all local people and named) found that the old man had died a violent death and the police initiated a murder enquiry.  The widow of Mr Quinn identified the suspect from a line up of three, adding that he had shaved off his moustache and was not wearing the muffler he had on him the evening before when he called to her house.

People present at the Inquest

  • Strong-King, Charles (foreman)                         JP, Cypress Grove, Templeogue
  • Blayney, Constantine                                       Grocer, Rathfarnham
  • Bourne, Charles H.                                          Collector of Rates, 57 Dame Street, and 3 Belmont Terrace, Terenure
  • Byrne, Laurence                                              Grocer, Rathfarnham
  • Custiss, William                                              Post Master, Rathfarnham
  • Delaney, Richard                                             Grocer & Spirit Dealer, Rathfarnham
  • Dempsey, Richard                                           Miller, Rathfarnham
  • Forde, John                                                    ??? 121 Leinster Road, Rathmines
  • Fox, William                                                   Tea, Wine & Spirit Merchant, Rathfarnham
  • Mahon, Patrick                                               ???
  • Muldoon, Timothy                                           Smith & Farrier, Rockbrook
  • Murphy, Charles J.                                          JP, Templeogue House
  • Pentony, John                                                Victualler, Rathfarnham
  • Rock, Patrick                                                 Grocer, Rathfarnham
  • Shannon, John                                               ??? 29 Anglesea Street
  • Guinness, Mr                                                 JP, Tibradden House, Rathfarnham
  • Hodgens, Henry                                             JP, Beaufort, Rathfarnham
  • Croly, Dr Albert                                              Physician & Dublin County Coroner, Greenfield, Rathfarnham
  • Harty, Dr Allsopp                                            Physician, Casino, Milltown
  • Talbot, Inspector                                             Acting as pro tem. County Inspector
  • Quinn, Mrs                                                     Beech Park Avenue (widow)
  • Malone, James                                               Knocklyon Cottage

Later on that same afternoon, at a Special Court Sitting in Rathfarnham Barracks, Mrs Quinn and various police officers were cross-examined and the prisoner was remanded in custody.

Patrick Quinn was buried in St Nathy’s cemetery in Dundrum on Tuesday 30th October 1883.  His grave is now unmarked – as are many of the graves from this period.

The Irish Times went on to cover another 7 sittings of the Rathfarnham Petty Sessions Court regarding this case.  This included a review of the Inquest, additional information re witness statements, statements from new witnesses re the movements and corroborated sightings of Peter Wade on the afternoon, evening and night of the murder.  Throughout this trial, the prisoner was not legally represented and there was no jury – the local JPs, a mixture of local legal professionals, local landowners and business people made the decisions here.

As the trial progressed in Rathfarnham, it would appear that several witnesses changed their statements or, perhaps, the newspaper changed its interpretation of what was said.  At a time when you lost your home when you lost your job, and your business could suffer badly from being associated with a convicted criminal, it is clear that many of the witnesses were distancing themselves from the accused.

Local witnesses more or less corroborated each other’s statements but there were some discrepancies – out of fear of the accused, or out of loyalty to their class, or maybe they were friends of the accused.  The local police, however, were certain they had got their man for no one else was arrested or charged.

Michael Doran, labourer from Newtown deposed :-

  • I know the prisoner well by sight
  • I saw him at Clifton’s public house last Saturday at about 6pm
  • He had a moustache

James Toole, labourer from Templeogue deposed :-

  • I know the prisoner, he was at my house last Saturday night at about 8-9pm
  • Tom Maginnis was there too and he shaved off his moustache
  • Then Peter Wade shaved but I am not sure if he shaved off his moustache

Sergeant John Burke, Tallaght RIC Barracks deposed :-

  • I arrested the prisoner at his own house at about 8am
  • He had no moustache when I arrested him
  • I have known him for the preceding 9 years and he always wore a moustache
  • When I saw him on Thursday last, he had a moustache

Dr Edward Crolly, deposed :-

  • I have not got my notes from the post mortem examination

Mr Morphy, Crown Solicitor stated that

  • This was “a case that required very careful sifting”
  • The constabulary officers deemed it necessary to have a remand
  • Items of clothing belonging to the prisoner were sent for chemical analysis

Witness statements were examined and the witnesses were cross-examined, including:

Thomas Monks (Labourer, Firhouse)

  • Denied he had met Wade on the Tuesday prior to the murder
  • He went on to claim that he had not seen him for a month prior to that date

Bessie Smith (Firhouse)

  • She saw them standing together on the Tuesday in question (outside Monks’ house)
  • She said she remembered the prisoner because she saw him so seldom
  • She said she had no other reason for remembering him
  • When she heard about the murder, she remembered seeing him with Monks

Thomas Reilly (Labourer, Firhouse)

  • Deposed that he was in Clifton’s public house on Saturday 27th Oct at 5:45pm
  • He remembered Peter Wade being there and leaving at about 5 past 6 o’clock
  • When cross-examined, he stated that Wade had a moustache when he saw him
  • He went on to say that he had not seen the prisoner until he appeared in court

Michael Boyle (Labourer)

  • Deposed that he had clipped the prisoner’s moustache about 2 months ago
  • When cross-examined, he replied he did not think it was a week before the murder

Mrs Mary-Louisa Clifton (Firhouse)

  • Swore that she saw the prisoner in her public house at about 6pm on Sat 27th
  • When cross-examined, she deposed that he had left by himself some time after 6
  • She went on to say that Wade was not in the habit of drinking much in her house
  • She stated that he did have a moustache on the evening of the 27th
  • When asked later, she said she did not notice any mud on his clothing

Mr Norton (Newtown)

  • Deposed that he had seen the prisoner leave Clifton’s at about 5 mins. past 6 o’clock

Teresa Guilfoyle (Templeogue Cottages)

  • Deposed that the prisoner was in her house between 8 and 9 o’clock that night
  • When cross-examined, she said that there was mud on his jacket and trousers
  • She said he had a moustache
  • He asked where her sister was and she replied she was in town and had not returned

RIC officers from stations at Rathfarnham, Rockbrook and Tallaght were also involved in the proceedings.

Sub-Inspector Robinson corrected a number of mis-reports by the press

  • No stolen items of property were found at Wade’s house
  • Wade was not suspected of being a member of a secret society (the Invincibles)
  • This secret society was not suspected of any involvement in this case

Sergeant Sands added

  • that Wade had refused to allow a sample of his whisker be taken for comparison

The Prisoner (Peter Wade) was then strictly cautioned.

  • He replied “All I have to say is that I know nothing at all about what I am being charged. Not a ha’porth worth.”

Mr Morphy then asked that “the prisoner be committed for trial at the next Commission on the capital charge”

The verdict was that the prisoner be tried at the next Dublin Winter Assizes, at Green Street Court in Dublin, on the capital charge of murder.  In the days of capital punishment, being found guilty of a capital crime meant death by execution (hanging).

The Irish Times also covered the 2-day trial at Green Street.

Many of the same witnesses were called and the Green Street trial had a twist insofar as Peter Wade tried to seek leniency by implicating others in the murder.  Prisoner – said he had 4 witnesses (and was asked to name them).  He named 3 men and said there was up to 8 others involved in the murder.  Was he trying to save his own skin, or was there really others involved?  Wade deposed that:

  • John Gibbons gave me a pistol on the Sunday before the murder
  • and told me to go over to Quinn’s house and to shoot himself and his wife
  • Paddy (the wrecker) Ratigan and Peter (the tailor) M’Dermott were there when Gibbons gave me the pistol
  • I went over to Quinn’s house on the Monday before the murder
  • Mr Quinn was not there and Mrs Quinn invited me in to wait
  • When Mr Quinn arrived we talked for a while. I knew in my heart that I could not kill them and I walked out of the house
  • On the Saturday night of the murder, I met Gibbons, Ratigan and M’Dermott.
  • They were not pleased when I told them I had not done what I was supposed to do
  • They told me to come with them. I told them I had to go home for my supper
  • They told me “you will be time enough with your supper. We will not be so long”
  • I feared for my own life if I did not go with them.
  • I also feared for my mother and sister’s life if I did not go with them.
  • We went across the doctor’s field, and in through Mr M’Grane’s ploughed field, to Miss Croker’s gate
  • Gibbons said to Ratigan “you stand there until we come back”
  • Gibbons then told me to “go into Quinn’s house and tell Mr Byrne wanted him up at Beech Park”
  • Gibbons and M’Dermott (who was wearing a cloak) waited for him up the avenue
  • They knocked him down – Gibbons lying on his legs and M’Dermott at his head
  • They left him lying there and told me that “Byrne will be the next one to fall”
  • I was given half a crown going back and the others were also given money
  • That is all I know about this

The police refuted his allegations and, under cross examination, RIC Constable Sands said

  • that there were such individuals living in the neighbourhood.
  • He added, Ratigan was known as “the racker”
  • There was also a M’Dermott but he was known as Frank G. M’Dermott
  • On the 16th April last, Gibbons had lost his job at Templeogue Paper Mills

Constable Sandes went on to say:

  • The avenue is no more than 6 feet wide and that if more than 2 persons were involvedin the struggle,
  • the marks on the ground would have been more extended

The judge refused to discuss it further, stating that these men were not suspects at the time of the murder and that there was no evidence of their involvement.  He went on to state

  • that Wade had been sighted at Quinn’s house,
  • he had blood on his clothing (shirt, handkerchief and coat),
  • he had scratches to his face and hands, part of his whiskers appeared to be torn off,
  • he had mysteriously shaved off his moustache on that particular night (something he had never done before),
  • and his coat and boots were covered in mud – all consistent with a violent struggle.
  • His known movements placed him at the scene of the murder
  • and there seemed to be only one person involved in the fatal assault on Mr Quinn.

Further witnesses and expert opinions were called.

Richard J. Moss (forensic analyst, Dublin)                 Fellow of the Chemical Society of London
Fellow of the Institution of Chemistry of Great Britain
Chemical Analyst to the Royal Dublin Society

  • Under cross-examination, he deposed that he had found bloodstains In several places on the prisoner’s braces
  • Also, on the prisoner’s vest there are several spots of blood
  • The prisoner’s handkerchief was also stained right through the fabric
  • His shirt was also stained around the collar and on the front – both inside and out.
  • His coat was stained outside the lapel, in front of the button holes and has torn lining
  • There was also significant amounts of mud on the coat

Constable Turner deposed

  • That on the night of the 27th he was patrolling in the direction of Millbrook (Willbrook?) and Ballyboden. Constable Mallon was with him.
  • At about 11pm they met 2 men named Browne who claimed a man had been shot
  • We went to the back avenue at Beech Park where we found the body of the deceased
  • We examined the scene and found boot prints (2 rows on edge, 2 rows in centre and heel plate).
  • This was similar to the boots the prisoner was wearing.

Constable Sands deposed

  • At about midnight he examined the scene of the murder and found clumps of hair
  • It had the appearance of being torn out by the roots and looked like whiskers
  • He afterwards looked at the beard of the prisoner, noticed it was of a similar colour and he was missing some whiskers on the left side
  • The deceased man’s hair was grey, so he assumed it was not belonging to him

Thomas Maginnis (Templeogue) deposed

  • I was in the house of James Toole that evening (Saturday, the 27th)
  • Wade came in between 8 and 9 o’clock and shaved himself there
  • He removed his moustache with his own razor which he had with him

Michael Mace

  • At about 7pm on Saturday 27th he and John Mulligan met Quinn and another person
  • The night was dark and they only recognised Quinn by his voice as he said “hello”
  • They continued on the road towards Rathfarnham when they heard men shouting
  • It sounded like drunks quarrelling and it lasted for about 10 minutes
  • The person with Quinn looked like a woman with a cloak on

John Mulligan

  • Corroborated the evidence given by Michael Mace

Matthew Byrne (Templeogue Mills)

  • On the evening of the 27th I was not at Beech Park
  • I did not send any message to the murdered man, Quinn, whom I knew very well
  • I knew nothing of the prisoner until I saw him in the custody of the police

James Malone (Farmer, Knocklyon Cottage)

  • On the evening of the 27th I was milking cows in the field behind Quinn’s house
  • Between 6:30 and 7pm we heard shouting from the direction of Beech Park
  • It lasted for almost 10 minutes
  • Afterwards, we went up to Beech Park Avenue and found the remains of Mr Quinn

The judge then charged the jury to consider the following:

  • What had become of the muffler worn by Wade on the evening of the murder ?
  • He suggested that it would (most likely) have been covered in blood
  • He also suggested that if more than one man attacked the deceased, it is unlikely that he would have lasted for more than 8-10 minutes, as it was proven he had
  • It was immaterial whether the prisoner or Maginnis had suggested shaving first
  • It was extraordinary that the prisoner would have his moustache shaved off on this particular night after having one for the past nine years without interval
  • Was there any doubt that the hair recovered from the scene of the crime came from the head or face of the murderer ?
  • Was it from the cheek of the prisoner ?
  • If not from his cheek, then from whose cheek ?

The judge went on to add

  • The prisoner in his statement said there were three persons against him
  • There is not the slightest suspicion that they were the murderers
  • He also said that he had not laid a hand on the deceased, yet he had scratches on his face, shaved off his moustache, and had blood and mud on his clothing
  • When the Crown was asked why these men were not produced, it was clearly stated that it would be a criminal act in itself if these men were to be exposed to public exhibition
  • The men were not suspected of the crime at the time and it would be most improper to suspect them on the basis of the prisoner’s statement when he was seeking leniency

On the other hand, the Judge urged them to consider the following:

  • Wade was known to have been at Quinn’s cottage on the evening of the murder
  • He did entice the old man out
  • He did stand by while the old man was murdered (according to his own statement)
  • The judge urged them to disregard the statement regarding the others

The jury returned a verdict of guilty but some were against capital punishment.  The judge stated that this was out of his hands, donned the black cap and sentenced Wade to be hanged at Kilmainham Gaol on Jan 16th 1884.  Mary Ann Quinn was outside Kilmainham when Peter Wade was executed – by 1884, public executions had ceased.  He was hanged on a scaffold specially made for the 1882 Invincibles by the inmates of Mountjoy Gaol inside the precincts of Kilmainham Gaol.

During the trial Mary Ann Quinn said she had “no landlord or landlady and that she was under the protection of the police”.  By the time of the execution, she was homeless “a wandering maniac upon the world”.  She had lost her husband, she had lost her home – she would die anonymously and there is no record of her burial – this was the way of Victorian Ireland.

It is not clear whether Quinn was a Catholic or Protestant and there seemed to be no sectarian motive for the murder.  The ‘Invincibles’ were mentioned in the papers but the police dismissed this as ‘unsubstantiated’ rumour.  The landlord was a wealthy Catholic, and the nationalist Freemans’ Journal was even more scathing than The Irish Times when it reported:

  • The prisoner (Wade) who had been a week in custody, is a middle-aged man of the labouring class
  • He is tall, of slender build, wretchedly dressed, and of repulsive appearance
  • On being brought into Court, his manacles were removed and he stood between three policemen, listening attentively to the evidence but exhibiting no emotion whatever

The scandal greatly affected the locality:

  • two key witnesses in the trial + three of the wealthy neighbours moved out of the area that year.
  • Mr Malone quit his rented house and farm, and Mr Byrne quit Templeogue Mills
  • Three of the big houses were vacant in 1884 – apparently, no tenants could be found for them.

This would have had a major negative impact on the local economy because:

  • Three sets of domestic servants would not be needed
  • Three sets of outdoor servants or general labourers would not be needed either
  • This equals almost a 25% drop in local employment in the Knocklyon area!
  • The local shops would also notice a 23% decrease in local demand for groceries, wine and spirits.
  • Local service providers such as carmen, farriers, blacksmiths, casual labourers, etc. would also be hit.

Miss Croker eventually sold off half of her land and the back avenue fell into disuse, alongwith the beautiful tree-lined avenues, ponds and wooded walkways set down by Mr Moran three genrations earlier when he bought Sabinefields.  Under agriculture, the sidused back avenue gradually disappeared under grass and, in the 1970s, the entire four fields and wooded area known as The Dargle was replaced by the modern housing development, Dargle Wood.

Before he was hanged, Peter Wade admitted to the crime and said he was lying about others being involved, as previously stated in the court hearing at Green Street.  The Freemans’ Hournal reported:

In the early hours of yesterday morning the prisoner sent for the Governor of the prison and voluntarily made the following statement to him …

  • “I cannot leave this world and face my God without clearing the people I told Sergeant Sandes about”
  • “They know nothing about what happened, and had no hand in it”
  • “All I said in that statement was all wrong”
  • “I hope the men mentioned in my statement will forgive me”
  • “I would like this published and their characters cleared”

New information discovered:

Beechpark Avenue, Knocklyne Lane, Walshe’s Road = the back way into Beech Park

  • Beech Park was formerly known as Sabine Fields, now known as Ros Mór)

Knocklyon Cottage = Woodbrook (demolished in the 1990s, estate now known as Woodstock)

  • Knocklyon Cottage previously known as Sabine Cottage, Newbawn Cottage, Newbawn and Knocklyon Lodge.

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2 thoughts on “The Knocklyon Murder of 1883

  1. Thank you so much for this fascinating article. It has given me some intriguing information on a recently discovered branch of my family tree; I believe the murdered man to have been a close relation, possibly a brother, of my GGG grandmother.

    • Hello Mary,
      I would be very interested in hearing more about your family tree.
      I do not have any info on his siblings and I have no idea where his widow was buried.
      All of my posts are considered “work in progress” since I add snippets of information to them from time to time.
      Best regards

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