[Home] [Introduction] [Family Gateway] [South Armagh] [County Down] [Song and Story] [Local News] [Site Map] Guestbook [Links] [What's New?]

Trial of Thomas Russell

EXTRACT FROM: Walker's Hibernian Magazine (October 1803)
Downpatrick, October 20, 1803

YESTERDAY morning, at ten o'clock, the court met pursuant to adjournment, when Thomas Russel [sic] was put to the bar, charged with high treason, under the statute of 25 Edward III.

The prisoner and the crown mutually waving their right to challenge, the following gentlemen were sworn of the jury, viz.

Sir J. Bristow, foreman.
T. Douglas, esq.
T. Waring, esq.
H. Kennedy, esq.
R. Thompson, esq.
E.S. Ruthven esq.
J. Cleland, esq.
J. Moore, esq.
C. Skinner, esq.
C.H. Moore, esq.
A. Crawford, esq.
T. Potter, esq.

The attorney general opened the case, in a very eloquent and able speech of considerable length, recapitulating the crimes with which the prisoner stood charged. [...]

Wm. Cosby, of Saintfield, county Down, sworn. Is a yeoman in capt. Price's corps; recollected hiring a horse on the Friday of the last races, 22d July, to James Drake, to go to Annadown [sic], or the Cross-roads; identified the prisoner, whom he saw same day; Drake promised to pay him; Russel paid him for the horse; it was 10 o'clock in the morning. Cross-examined. He thinks it was the prisoner paid 3s. 3d.

Judge. Are you certain as to the prisoner?
I think he is the man who paid me, but am doubtful.

Robert Nelson sworn. Is acquainted with James Drake; saw him on the Friday of the races coming Ballinahinch road; knows James Smith's house at Annadown; it was about 400 perch from Smith's house, he saw Drake riding with another man; Drake's horse was brought back by a little boy.

James Keenan sworn. Lives at the winning post on the race ground, he recollected the Maze races; heard that there was to be a rising on the 23rd July; on the Friday of the races heard of a meeting to be at Smith's of Annadown; was at the meeting; saw some whom he knew; there were about nine men there drinking whiskey; and among them James Drake, James Corry, and Hugh M'Mullen; M'Mullen told him of the meeting; saw some he would not know; saw the prisoner there; he sat down; the prisoner asked him what he could do in respect to rebellion; he said that there were about ten men in his village, but that if he spoke to them about rebellion, they would hit him in the face; the prisoner then said that he believed he might go out of the country as that was the case, but that the rebellion must go on in other places, as he could not stop it. The prisoner said, that he did not doubt but the French were fighting in Scotland at that time. He saw an uniform of green cloth, with epaulets and lace; the prisoner desired Drake to put on the uniform, but he refused; the prisoner put it on himself for a few minutes, and then took it off himself, and thinks it was tied up in a cloth. He recollected a stranger coming in at that time to the room, and the prisoner asked the stranger what he could do about raising men for rebellion? the stranger said he could raise about 150 men; recollects Corry saying on leaving the room, that he would go and try what he could do in Downpatrick. The prisoner wanted a map of the county, and he thinks Corry alluded to the map, when he said he would do what he could in Down; recollects a boy named Harvey Smith, bringing in spirits; he is son to Smith the owner of the house.

Cross examined by counsellor Bell. Recollects drinking whiskey, about five half-pints, he has told all he knows about it; was about twenty minutes drinking there; he did not know all the persons; thinks there are some he would not know: lives about four miles and a half from the house of Smith; Smith keeps a house, or did at that time, at Annadown; never saw Russel at that time; he only drank a little whiskey, and went away; there might something more be said or done without his knowledge. Mr. Hawthorn sent for him; has been in confinement two nights; it was about 8 days ago he was sent to by Mr. Hawthorn; he raised no men, nor did he attempt it; was at the Maze races, but did not tell any one at the races of the rising, he did tell some neighbours of the rising; Mr. Hawthorn was the first magistrate he communicated it to, and did it when he sent for him; Mr. Hawthorn told him that he was implicated, and he told him all he knew; he took care to have evidence of his being in bed when the rising was to be on the 23d of July; went to Smith's to hear what was going on; would have assisted in the rebellion if he had such notions; knows it was treason to be in the company of conspirators: that it is not the part of a good subject to hide treason; knows he was not a good subject: was never threatened with a prosecution: thinks he would not be prosecuted; did not hear of any harm done at the meeting more than he told: does not believe he would be prosecuted if he did not give evidence; thinks he was imprisoned for fear he would not come forward: was two nights in goal; slept in a little room in the goal, it was rather a good room, does not believe that he would be prosecuted, but that he might be imprisoned for some time; says that he thinks they could not hang him, for he thinks there was no evidence against him. He was told that he would be confined if he did not come forward, but not until after he gave information; he thinks he would be liberated; but would not, he thinks, be liberated if he had not given evidence: never saw Russel before that day, he might know the other strangers who were at the meeting if he saw them.

Juror. Did M'Mullen tell you what the meeting was for?
He did, it was for rebellion, and that there was a stranger to be there; is sure M'Mullen said the meeting was for rebellion.

Henry Smith being sworn, says that he lives at Annadown, about four miles from Downpatrick, at James Smith's his father's; he keeps a public house there; about nine miles from Saintfield; remembers the last Maze races; there was company at his father's: the prisoner and James Drake were there [] heard them talking of a rising of the people; there was to be a general insurrection over Ireland on the 23d July, Saturday night following, about nine or ten o'clock. Prisoner asked witness if there were any arms in the country? he said there was, the yeoman had them. Prisoner said every parish was to take their own arms from the yeomen and loyalists, or orangemen; and that they should rise to redress themselves; that they should take Mr. Ford, the high sheriff, prisoner, and Wolsely; they should go round by Clough and Seaford and bring in the loyal gentlemen prisoners; that prisoner said there were plenty of good fellows at Belfast. Witness asked prisoner if the French were to come? He answered that they were not, but that they were to send thirty thousand arms to be landed at Kilheel [sic]; they were joined in this room by others; he saw Keenan, Corry, Doran and Maguire there; similar conversation took place when those persons came in; Doran got up and observed, that none but madmen would join them; Russel then got up and said in a passion, 'this won't do;' he saw Russel take a green military coat, with epaulets and lace, and put it on, and said it was the dress of the French generals; that he told him that he and eleven others came from France upon the business; that he was to be a general, but if better would come forward he would resign and walk as a common man; that Dublin was to be taken that night, that there were as many in Dublin as would take it; that there were 30,000l in some bank in Dublin, to carry on the war or rebellion; says that he went and listed on the Monday after for fear of being concerned more in this business; knows Mr. Ford the sheriff; went to him of his own accord, but there had been a guard looking for him in his absence, and he then disclosed the matter to Mr. Ford, heard threats held out, that if the king's party killed any of them they would retaliate: that the people were threatened and forced to rise likewise; saw prisoner take out a case of pistols, or three pistols; prisoner left his father's about three o'clock [] prisoner went towards Downpatrick with James Drake. Cross-examined. Never saw Russel before that day with Drake; was the boy who attended and brought in liquor; he did disclose the plot to witness; did tell prisoner where the arms were, and that they were in the country: was not willing to join prisoner until he spoke to him so about the business; thinks the prisoner was aware of the consequence of being a traitor; prisoner was not afraid to tell of the rising, and told him, the witness, freely, and asked him to join him, he refused to go; he got afraid, which induced him to comply with prisoner's demand; prisoner asked him where the arms were? witness told him the yeomen and orangemen had arms; it was fear induced him to tell this; says he paid the smart money after he enlisted; that Mr. Coslet gave the money for it; that the first time he saw prisoner after he did not recollect him. Saw him after in Kilmainham gaol. No one endeavoured to make him swear against the prisoner; no inducement was held out, never was threatened to be confined, nor was he promised liberty if he swore against him, but he expected liberty after evidence, as he volunteered to go and see the prisoner [] was kept in gaol since he came to Down, as an evidence.

Q. by a juror, Did you know the prisoner the second time you saw him in Kilmainham goal?
A. 'I did, perfectly well.' []

Rev. Pat. M'Carton [sic] sworn. Says he lives in the parish of Loughlin-island; is a Roman catholic priest in that parish. He was on the 23d July in his chapel with his parishioners; his chapel is about two perch from Fitzpatrick's house; that about three o'clock in the day (Friday) he saw, he thinks, the prisoner, about two minutes. He heard murmurings among the people that day, thought from it that the French were on the coast. He endeavoured to quiet the minds of the people, but on Saturday he heard of the intended rising []

Patrick Lynch sworn. Says he is a professor of the Irish language: that he did reside nine years ago in Belfast, and for the two last years has a house in Loughlin-island, where his family principally resides; he knew the prisoner, and was sorry to see him there in the dock. He met the prisoner often at the library in Belfast; he seemed to have the care of the library; taught the prisoner some lessons in the Irish language. On Saturday before the insurrection he came down to Down, and next day he went to Loughlin-island, and saw the prisoner there on Friday evening, July 22, about sun-set [] prisoner went to him, and offered to shake hands with him, but he declined it, knowing him to be an outlaw [] Saw prisoner on Saturday the 23d, in a small room at Fitzpatrick's; he thinks Fitzpatrick told him prisoner was in bed with most of his clothes on; Fitzpatrick introduced him to prisoner, advised prisoner to desist from what he heard he designed; asked prisoner how he was? Prisoner said, wearied and tired, and told him he had been in Belfast; that some persons came into the room when he was there: He asked the persons if they wished to get rid of the Sassonaghs? (meaning Englishmen, or English government); he don't recollect the reply: he thought the people were in consternation and fear, and not settled in their minds. Asked prisoner if the insurrection was to be in Dublin as he had heard of it? He said there was to be an insurrection that night, in Dublin; that it was the best night as the trades-people would be about the streets and not observed; that it was doubtful about Belfast; that he was to take Down; that Down would go to Killinchy, and Loughlin-island was to take Downpatrick; prisoner did not give any arms about Lacale, where he mentioned to him; prisoner told him that there was another general like him in the county Antrim; prisoner told the people that forks, spades, shovels and pick-axes would do for arms; he heard them talk against taking blood; prisoner said he did not wish that any one should suffer, but that they must get arms; prisoner spoke of proclamations, and that they were to be posted on houses of public worship; did not see any, but expected them by a messenger with other things, such as a hat and a sword; a military hat; witness cautioned prisoner, and asked him if it could be withdrawn? Prisoner said no: saw James Fitzpatrick come into him and tell him that the people would not rise, and prisoner asked where were the men that were about the doors? Fitzpatrick told him he desired them to go home; that a man came from Clough (Pat. Renaghan) and said the people would not rise; witness asked Russel, or some other present, what he would do? He said he would go to where there would be fighting, in the county Antrim.

Cross-examined by counsellor Bell. Says there was no rising, and every thing appeared quiet, and so continued; he first gave information to the solicitor-general: was arrested in Belfast on Monday fortnight, and is in confinement: came from the gaol to the court; was to be tried for treason; says he was not conscious of being guilty; was told it was his duty to tell truth, has reason to think he was not in danger; thinks he will not be prosecuted, as he is an evidence; did not give information earlier, on account of the respect he had for Russel; he was a friend and benefactor, and he wished not to be his prosecutor.

James Fitzpatrick sworn. Says he lives at Loughlin-island, is a publican; remembers Friday the 22d of July last [] James Drake was at his house that day; a stranger was with Drake, as a horse-dealer [] Drake and the stranger went into his house, it was about four o'clock in the evening, and got something to eat and drink; the prisoner is the stranger; Drake told him that the prisoner was a horse-dealer; the prisoner and Drake went to his house about ten or eleven o'clock next morning; the prisoner got breakfast, and Drake came after, and a great many were moving backward and forward in the house; it was a public confession-day; the last witness was there; prisoner asked him how the people were affected? He said very loyal; prisoner said he was taught to believe otherwise; prisoner told them they should rise that night; that Killinchy and low Country would rise at any rate, and take Downpatrick; prisoner went to bed about two o'clock, and remained there till between five and six o'clock; asked the prisoner how could they rise without arms.

Cross-examined. Was in Dublin to identify Russel; did not identify him, though he knew him; nor did he say it was not Russel; gave information of it to Mr. Ford, on Monday after; was not a prisoner; went voluntarily; did not give information till then.

John Mulholland sworn. Remembers the 23d of July last; went accidentally to Loughlin-island; was told that there was a stranger there; saw Patrick Lynch, Bergy M'Pherson, and the stranger and others at Fitzpatrick's; James Drake was there; he got a message that evening, that there were threats held out to the people to turn out; he refused it; said he would die first, sooner that join the rebels. []

Patrick Renaghan sworn. Lives at Clough; remembers being at confession on Saturday the 23d of July; was at James Fitzpatrick's about 5 o'clock in the evening [] prisoner asked him if he heard of any rising; he said no, that no people would rise; that the priest cautioned them against it, as it was reported about the country that the priest said, they would be hanged like dogs if they attempted it: prisoner got up in a rage, and said, I find there will be no rising in this place; that he would go off to Antrim or Belfast, where they would act; that he said before this, he would take Mr. Ford, Captain Brown, and Mr. Wolsely, but would not injure them: that he would serve them in the same manner as the prisoners at the other side would be. []

John Tate sworn. Lives at Downpatrick, knows James Corry in the town, a shoemaker, who is a prisoner; saw him on Saturday the 23d July; was out that night with Corry; they left town between ten and eleven o'clock; Corry brought him out to fight, as there was a rising to take place; went about a mile and a half off into a field; they had no arms; met in the field about 14 men in all, form 12 till 2 o'clock, and then parted; they were rebels; Corry told him they were to take Downpatrick; witness said, why did not they rise when there were plenty of soldiers in it, and they might have got their arms; that it was as well to wait till next day to take it; but Corry said, you must to-night, as the country would rise that night, and Dublin would be taken; they all waited for a signal from Seaford, near Loughlin-island, a fire; and that five or six thousand would join them, but in this they were all disappointed; Corry told him general Russel was to command them.

Cross-examined, says that Corry first asked him to take a walk, and then told him of the rising; Corry was his comrade and friend; told him he was to get a commission on the Monday following; was to be a captain; they got three pitch-forks in the field; he did not wish the cause well when Corry spoke to him; did not get the commission or pay since; gave the information to Mr. Trotter first, when Corry was taken.

Major Sirr sworn and examined; proved he arrested the prisoner in arms, and that he pulled out pistols on him.

The proclamation was then read as before, where hostages were to be taken, &c.

The evidence for the crown having been closed, the prisoner declined calling any witnesses in his defence, and allowed the case to go to the jury on such evidence as had been adduced on the part of the crown.

The hon. baron George, with his usual ability and precision, recapitulated the evidence which had been adduced; and the jury having retired only for a few minutes, returned a verdict of GUILTY, against the prisoner.

The prisoner having been asked, in the usual form, if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed against him? Addressed the court in an eloquent and energetic, though rather a somewhat unconnected speech of about twenty minutes, in which he took a view of the principal transactions of his life for the last thirteen years; and on a retrospective view of which, he said, he looked back with triumph and satisfaction; he endeavoured to vindicate his conduct from the criminality attached to it, by asserting, that in all he had done, he had acted from the conviction of his conscience; and anxiously requested that the court would make him not only the first but the only life which should be taken on the present occasion; mercifully sparing to their families and friends the lives of those men, whom it was asserted he had led astray. The hon. baron George, in an address on considerable length to the prisoner, most sincerely lamented, amongst a variety of other things, that the prisoner had not been endowed with better principles, and a better heart, than that which he had lately as well as on former occasions, manifested; and expressed his most anxious wish, that the prisoner would employ the little time he would have in this world, in making his peace with God, and in endeavouring to atone for the incalculable miseries his crimes and infatuated conduct have brought, and will yet bring, upon not a few of the members of that community, of which he himself was once a worthy and a deservedly esteemed member.

The learned judge then pronounced the awful sentence of the law, which the prisoner listened to with the greatest composure, bowed respectfully to the court, and then retired in custody of the sheriff.

The above trial occupied the attention of the court from ten in the morning till past eight in the evening.

[ Back ] to Thomas Russell

Proclamation issued by Thomas Russel, 24 July 1803


Member of the Provisional Government, and General in Chief of the Northern District.

Men of Ireland!--Once more in arms to assert the rights of mankind and liberate your country!--you see by the secrecy with which this effort has been conducted, by the multitudes in all parts of Ireland, who are engaged in executing this great object, that your provisional government has acted with wisdom.--- You will see that in Dublin, in the west, the north, and the south, the blow has been struck in the same moment. Your enemies can no more withstand than they could foresee this mighty exertion. The proclamation and regulations will shew that your interest and honour have been considered. Your general, appointed by that government to command in this district, has only to exhort you strongly to comply with these regulations. Your valour is well known; be as just and humane as you are brave, and then rely with confidence that God, with whom alone is victory, will crown your efforts with success.

The general orders that hostages shall be secured in all quarters; and hereby apprizes the English commander, that any outrage contrary to the acknowledged laws of war, and of morality, shall be retaliated in the severest manner. And he farther makes known, that such Irish, as in ten days from the date of this, as are found in arms against their country, shall be treated as rebels, committed for trial, and their properties confiscated.-But all men behaving peaceably, shall be under the protection of the law.

Head-Quarters, July 24, 1803.

[ Back ] to Trial

[ Back ] to Thomas Russell