Russell v Pigott – Times Commission, 1889 – On this day – 10 November, 1832 the birth of Russell

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Born plain Charles Russell, in Newry, Co.Down, the man who would become Baron Killowen and who would torment Richard Pigott in the witness box in his defence of Charles Stewart Parnell, was one of five children. He was also the only sibling in the Russell family who did not enter the religious life. His three sisters all became nuns, his brother a Jesuit priest.

He was a highly successful QC in London, a moderate nationalist MP, and rose to become Lord Chief Justice of England, the first Catholic t hold the office in centuries. However, it is for his forensic grilling of the dubious journalist, turncoat and pornographer Richard Pigott at the Times Commission hearings in February 1889 that he is justly celebrated.

Pigott had sold the Times a pup … at least twice over.  He had passed on, for payment, a letter that suggested Parnell supported those who carried out the brutal Phoenix Park murders of Chief Secretary of Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and Under Secretary Thomas H.Burke in May 1882. Parnell vehemently denied the veracity of the letter. A Commission was established which, in essence, pitched the Times newspaper against Parnell and most of the senior members of his party.

The letter in question, published in facsimile by the Times in April 1887, was one of a number that had been forged, quite cleverly, by Pigott himself.  He had, however, left a couple of hostages to fortune in the material he had supplied to the Times. Pigott was not quite as literate as one might have expected a former newspaper editor to be. He was a dreadful speller.  Observers who closely examined the cache of correspondence he had provided to the Times noted a couple of howlers.  In one case, for example, he had spelt the word ‘hesitancy’ as h-e-s-i-t-e-n-c-y.

When he began his cross-examination of this crucial Times witness Russell puzzled the onlookers by handing Pigott a sheet of paper and asking him to write a number of words on it. One of those was ‘hesitancy’. He then casually took back the paper, glanced at it, and ignored it for most of the next two days.

It was only after reducing Pigott to a gibbering wreck and catching him out in his elaborate system of lies, that Russell returned to the mysterious paper. After a few more barbed questions he pointed out that in one of the letters retained by the Times the word hesitancy had been misspelt. The erroneous spelling, he demonstrated, was precisely that chosen by Pigott the previous day when asked to do so by Parnell’s counsel. Pigott went a couple of stages beyond gibbering wreck and no one in the court had any doubt but that he had forged all the letters upon which the Times depended to make its case.

Pigott fled shortly after the court adjourned, admitted his guilt in a letter to the tribunal and shot himself dead in Madrid. Parnell subsequently sued the Times for defamation in a London libel court and won £5000. In future years at public meetings when a heckler wished to suggest that a platform speaker had ‘sold out’ or betrayed his cause, the aggrieved party would yell ‘spell hesitancy’ at the top of his voice.

Charles Russell, inquisitor extraordinare and nemesis of the hapless Richard Pigott was born 181 years ago on this day.

Bring out your old police photos, artefacts or memories – Dublin Castle, 16 November.



Saturday November 16th at the Bedford Tower Dublin Castle sees the Garda Historical Society hosting a unique event!!   We want you to bring along your old Police photos and artefacts of your DMP, RIC and early Garda relatives. We can photograph them, you can tell us a little about your Police relative and you then bring all your stuff home.

 We will also have free lectures beginning at 12 noon by Mr. Padraig Yeates on ‘The Lock Out’;

at 2pm by Dr. Myles Dungan; ‘The Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels’

& at 4pm by Prof. Eunan O’Halpin; ‘Spying on Ireland – The Intelligence War during WWII. 

This is a free event and runs from 10am until 6pm!

Please see or email .  You can follow us on facebook, just look for ‘garda historical society’.

‘If you want to know who we are’ Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society 1913-2013: A centenary history


From the Introduction … 

It could almost be an examination question. ‘Account for the survival and continued artistic success of the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical society between 1913-2013?’ (History, Leaving Certificate, 2013)


In his or her response on why this organization has outlived two world wars, a war of independence, a civil war, a cold war and more than a few invasions of Afghanistan, the discerning and well-informed student might be expected to refer to the ‘three C’s’ – not lower, middle and upper on the piano keyboard – but, ‘continuity, competence and camaraderie.’


Readers who persevere to the end of this volume will come across a number of recurring names. It would be tedious now to anticipate their introduction into the narrative but it was their constant presence and guidance that gave the R&R the kind of continuity that secures permanence.


What this commemorative record sets out to establish is that it was by no means inevitable that the fledgling musical society that began its life in Rathmines on 23 April 1913 was destined to last at least a hundred years. Had a number of dedicated people not brought the professionalism of their workplace into their hobby the R&R, as it soon became known, would have gone the way of the Austro-Hungarian empire.


However. No amount of administrative stability or aptitude would have sustained the R&R had the whole project not been approached with a certain joi de vivre. Companionship and laughter have been at the heart of this one-hundred year odyssey. Continuity and competence may have shaped the structure and the engine of the vehicle but camaraderie provided the propulsion.


Up to the date of publication, and including the centenary Mikado at the National Concert Hall in November 2013, the R&R has staged 292 separate productions, compilations or entertainments at the Queen’s, Olympia or Gaiety Theatres, and the National Concert Hall over a one-hundred year period. That oeuvre has included critical and financial flops, deficient productions that have still managed to avoid deficits, as well as acclaimed and exceptional shows worthy of many professional companies.


What follows is an attempt to record the triumphs and disasters and to convey some sense of why the Rathmines and Rathgar musical society remains in existence and continues to offer outstanding entertainment and the (very) occasional letdown. While it has become an institution on the Dublin music scene it has refused to atrophy and has always managed to re-invent itself when the urgent need for change has arisen. 

ON THIS DAY, 8 NOVEMBER 1847 – The Birth of Bram Stoker

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While he was the author in 1879 of that truly fascinating page-turner The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland – the definitive work on the subject – posterity has chosen to recognize Bram Stoker for his fiction based on an obscure Transylvanian tyrant Vlad Dracul.

Stoker, born Abraham Stoker in Clontarf in 1847, was theatre critic for the unionist Dublin Evening Mail in his 20s. A favourable review of a Dublin production of Henry Irving’s Hamlet led to a meeting between the two men in 1876. The rest was history. Irving was taken with the young Dubliner. Stoker would become his personal assistant and eventually run the Lyceum theatre in London for the famous actor-manager. Stoker also became Irving’s biographer and called his only child after him.

Stoker, who was distantly related to Arthur Conan Doyle, also had an interesting relationship with Oscar Wilde. He had proposed the future playwright for membership of the Trinity College Philosophical Society when he was president. Later they both wooed the same woman, the aspiring actress Florence Balcombe. Wisely, she chose Stoker. After Wilde’s fall from grace in the wake of his infamous libel action against the Marquis of Queensberry and his jail term for sodomy and gross indecency, Stoker stood by him and visited Wilde in his final years on the continent.

Notwithstanding his momentous early triumph with the publication of The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland  it is for his fiction that Stoker will be remembered. In addition to Dracula, published in 1897, Stoker also had considerable success with works like The Lady of the Shroud in 1909 and The Lair of the White Worm in 1911. In all he wrote 18 novels before his death in 1912 at the age of 64.

It appears that his most famous work might well have gone by a different title but for a last minute change of mind. The original manuscript for Dracula was lost and didn’t turn up until the 1980s. While the manuscript was typed the title page was handwritten with the words ‘The Undead’.

Bram Stoker, creator of the most famous gothic horror novel of them all (with the greatest of respect to Mary Shelley), was born in Clontarf on the northside of Dublin, 166 years ago on this day.

On this day – 8 November 1847 – Birth of Bram Stoker