02 -- Fr. Austin O'Dwyer

(CC Skehana 1849 - 1850)

Gerry Costello

The final resting place and headstone for Fr Austin O'Dwyer in Dunmore Cemetery.
© Gerry Costello Photography
Headstone for Fr Austin O'Dwyer in Dunmore.
© Gerry Costello Photography
Headstone inscription for Fr Austin O'Dwyer in Dunmore
© Gerry Costello Photography

Fr. Austin O’Dwyer  1849 – 1850

After Skehana Fr O’Dwyer spent some time in Athenry where he was instrumental in building a new Church. In 1863/1864/1865 he was PP in Killeen. He spent a total of 17 years in Killeen. By 1876 he had became PP of Kilkerrin/Clonberne and later on a Canon of the Cathedral of Tuam and was also appointed VF. VF is a Vicar Forane, also known as an archpriest or dean, is a priest entrusted by the bishop with a certain degree of leadership in a territorial division of a diocese or a pastoral region known as a vicarate forane or a deanery. It means that the priest is currently a dean of the diocese and that he presides over other priests in the surrounding parishes when they periodically meet. It also means that while the pastor is dean, he is actually entitled to be called “The Very Rev. ____.” This is usually a term for several years, after which the title moves to another priest.

In July 1883 he was transferred from Clonberne to Newport. In 1892 he was transferred as PP to Kiltullagh and also set about erecting a new Church in Ballinlough. By November 1893 the new Church was opened. In January 1894 he became PP of Dunmore. Fr. Austin O’Dwyer passed away on April 24th. 1898.

 

A Report from The Ballinrobe Chronicle, Saturday, October 28, 1899

Canon Hosty, executor of the will of the late Canon O’Dwyer, v Patrick O’Dwyer.

Mr M J Kelly, for plaintiff, said the late Canon O’Dwyer was the tenant under Mr Moore O’Farrell of a, farm of land situated at Levallyroe. The deceased canon not requiring the use of the land, and anxious to oblige and assist his family, he permitted his brother, Michael O’Dwyer, to occupy one half of the farm, and his brother-in-law, a Mr Hosty, to occupy the other half. They were allowed to continue that way down to the date of Canon O’Dwyer’s death, the 24th April. 1898. Through the death of Canon O’Dwyer his nephew, the defendant, came Into possession. Mr Hosty also died and left a son The Plaintiff with the intent in carrying out the provisions of Canon O’Dwyer’s will spoke to Mr Hosty about surrendering the portion held by him, and he, raising no objection, gave It up. On the other hand Patrick O’Dwyer refused to comply.

Canon Hosty cross-examined by Mr Kelly, stated that the late Canon O’Dwyer was his uncle, and was PP amongst other parishes during his lifetime; He was tenant of the entire farm at Levallyroe. Mr O’Dwyer, the late canon’s brother, grazed one half of the farm, and witness’s brother the other half.. Both had since died. The Late Canon paid the rent. Witness demanded possession, and the defendant refused to deliver it up for the half be occupied.

Mr Mannion, for the defendant, said his case was that the late Canon O’Dwyer handed over half the farm for good to bis client, and that he had always contributed towards paying the rent and taxes. Canon Hosty (cross-examined by Mr Mannion:—This division of the land was made over 30 years ago. He allowed them merely to graze the farm without giving any title.

Patrick Dwyer, defendant, examined, deposed he was a nephew to the late Canon O’Dwyer; when the division was made, over 30 years ago, it was he and not his father who got the land from the deceased canon, and he was in possession of it ever since. To his Honor:—I got It out and out, and used lo pay the rent twice a year. The canon used to pay the rent to the landlord. I used to got allowance for poor rates and public access; I built a herds house there and fenced and drained the land.

His Honor—A more ungenerous or a more audacious defence I never heard during my whole time at the bar. Nice thanks this deceased Rev. gentleman got for kindness. I give a decree for possession.

© The Ballinrobe Chronicle, Saturday, October 28, 1899

 

In July 1894 Fr. Austin O’Dwyer was one of the witnesses to sign the will of Archbishop McEvilly. The will was contested at a later date and below is a report of the case.

ARCHBISHOP’S WILL

SISTER SEEKS TO REVOKE PROBATE

REMARKABLE CASE IN DUBLIN  –  THE WILL UPHELD

Taken from The Connacht Tribune, Saturday, December 18, 1909

In the Nisi Prius Court, Dublin, yesterday (Thursday), Mr. Justice Madden and a city special jury, the probate suit brought by Miss Mary McEvilly against the Rev. Jeremiah O’Toole was taken up. The plaintiff is a sister of the Most Rev. Dr. McEvilly, Archbishop of Tuam, and the action was brought by her to revoke probate of the will of the Archbishop, which was dated July 2nd, 1894. The defendant, the Rev. Jeremiah O’Toole, is a nephew of the Archbishop and sole legatee and executor under the will. Miss Mary McEvilly alleges, as a ground for setting aside the will, that it had not been executed in accordance with the Wills Act.

Messers. Campbell,, K.C., M.P., Fetherstohaugh K.C. , M.P., and John McGonigal (instructed by Messrs. Kelly and McGonigal) appeared for the Defendent. Serjennt Moriarty, Mr. J. B Powell K.C:, and Mr. E. Coll (instructed by Mr. J. C. Robertson) appeared for _the Plaintifl. Mr. Campbell, stating the case on behalf of the executor, said it was a short and simple, although a very extraordinary one. The suit was really brought to set aside the will of the late Archbishop of Tuam, who was a great and distinguished ecclesiastic of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a man who had a long career in the Church; because so far back as 1857 he was appointed Bishop of Galway, and from that position he was made Archbishop of Tuam in 1881, which position he occupied until his death on the 26th. of November 1902. He was, therefore, a Bishop of the Church for over 30 years. The will now in question was written by the Archbishop himself on the 2nd. July, 1896, and it was in these terms:—

“This is the last will and testament of the Most Rev. John McEvilly, Archbishop of Tuam.”

“I, John McEvilly, in full enjoyment of my faculties, do will and bequeath to my nephew, Rev, Jeremiah O’Toole, of Newport, all I am possessed of or entitled to at my death, and I do appoint the Rev. Jeremiah O’Toole*s my executor. (Signed) John Mc.Evilly, Archbishop of Tuam, ‘ That document was witnessed by two priests, Canon O’Dwyer, P.P., and the Rev. .John P. Canning, also a parish priest of the Diocese of Tuam, who signed in the presence of the testator and in presence of each other, with intimation given that it was testator’s will, and also signed in their presence. The document was dated Sunday, July 1st, 1894. That will (said council), drawn up by a layman, was as perfect a will as if it Had been drawn up by the best lawyer in the court. On the 2nd July there was a retreat for the clergy at the Archbishop’s house. There was a large number of priests there, and among them was his nephew, Father O’Toole. He went into the library and spoke to the Archbishop, and the Archbishop asked him if he had made his will. He replied that it didn’t much matter, as be had nothing to leave. His uncle said that it was always better to make a will, even if there was nothing to leave, and he added: ‘”1 have made mine yesterday. I have it here in my safe, and when the priests come to-day I’ll get it witnessed. 1 am leaving you anything 1 have, and, therefore, you cannot be a witness. Some time during the day the will was signed and witnessed by Canon O’Dwyer and the Rev. John P. Canning. It was then given to Father O’Toole, and it remained in his possession until the death of the Archbishop, when he gave it to Mr. Glynn, solicitor. Mr. Glynn took out probate in common form a year after the death of the testator, and now six years after probate had been granted and the executor had been acting, the validity of the will was questioned on the ground that one of the witnesses had not signed it. The plaintiff in this case was a sister of the Archbishop. There was not a relative of his in the whole world that he could ferret out that he didn’t assist, promote, and encourage in every way he could. Over and above these be was a most charitable man. His donations to the Church were Large. He gave £5,000 to Maynooth College, £4,000 to St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, £1,000 to the parish of which Fathor Canning was pastor. He had practically disposed of the bulk of his property, so that only about £2,000 came under the operation of the will. Sixteen years had elapsed since the will was executed, another eight years had passed since the death of the testator, and now his sister had come into court to try to set the document aside on the allegation that Father Canning never signed it. Counsel hoped that Father Cunning, for his own sake; and for the sake of his profession, would not deny the signature. He might have forgotten that he signed the will, but that was a different thing from saying that he never signed it. Canon O’Dwyer, the other witness was dead. There was also a plea on the file that the testator did not know and approve the contents of the il, but surely that was not a serious plea. Serjeant Moriarty: we don’t suggest that he did not know It. .

Mr. Joseph A. Glynn, Tuam, said he was for a number of years solicitor to the !ate Archbishop. He was intimately acquainted with him and with his writing. The will was his. he was acquainted with Father Canning and had seen his signature and was familiar with it. He believed the signature to the will was in his hand writing. The Archbishop’s funeral was on a Sunday, and on Monday he met Rev Father Canning. By Mr. Fetherstohaugh:- What did he say to you?—1 told him he was one of the witnesses to the will. Then he said he had no recollection of signing it, and that he ought to remember a less thing than signing his own Archbishop’s will. I said to him there was no doubt that he had signed it. To Serjeant Moriarty:- It was after he got the will he saw Father Canning. He told him he was one of the witnesses but had no recollection of having told him the contents. Father Canning did not leave him under the impression that he was denying that he signed it. It was that he had no recollection of having signed it. replying to Mr Fetherstohaugh witness said that the letters handed to him were, in his opinion, signed by Fr Canning.

Mr Henry Concanon. Solicitor and district registrar deposed that he received a communication from Mr. Mannnion, solisitor, some time after the death of the Archbishop, in consequence of which he agreed to allow Father Canning to inspect the will. Subsequently the latter called at the the office and said * “It certainly is my signature but I have not the slightest recollection of having signed it.” Witness said, “Now that you have seen it and have turned over the matter in your mind, you will be able to remember it.” That was all that happened and witness heard nothing more during the past five years until the litigation arose. He knew the Archbishop’s writing and looking at the will, he declared it to be in his writing. Mr. Henry Turner, now manager of the Camden Street branch of the Ulster Bank, formerly in the Westport branch, who had been very familiar with the Archbishop’s signature said the will was in his writing. Very Rev. Dr. Higgins, President of St. Jarlath’s College, deposed that he had been acquainted with the Archbishop and was about a year and a half curate of Canon O’Dwyer. He was acquainted -with the handwriting of both. The body of the will, he believed was in the handwriting of the former, and the signature that of Canon O’Dwyer. He had seen letters written by Father Canning and if he had not heard of this case he would have no difficulty in saying that the signature was his. He could not go further than that in presence of the denial.

Serjeant Moriarty:- Father Canning was a man. I believe, trusted by the late Archbishop? — Yes.

Mr. Campbell:- The sort of man whom the Archbishop would select as a witness to his will? — I think so.*

Rov. Jeremiah O’Toole, P.P. Kilmeena, deposed that he was a nephew of the Archbishop and on intimate and affectionate relations with him up to his death.

Mr. Campbell: I believe you were with him at the Palace up to the last? — To the moment of his death. Proceeding, witness said he remembered being, in July, 1894 at a retreat in the College at Tuam. He arrived there on Monday, 2nd. July, about 12.15 noon and saw the Archbishop who was accompanied by Father Greely, who was then his parish priest. After some time the latter left the room and the Archbishop had a conversation with him. What did he say? — He asked me had I made my will, and I said I had no money to dispose of. He said that he was very exact about priests making their wills. He then told me that he had disposed of all his property beforehand, and that he bad made his will yesterday, and that he was waiting to get two priests to witness it. He said that he would hare asked Canon Greely and myself to witness it, but that as I was to be his executor I could not witness it”.

While you were conversing in that way do you remember anyone coming in? — Yes.

A messenger? — Yes, announcing that Canon O’Dwyer was down in the drawing room.

Did the Archbishop then leave tho room ? — Yes, he left the library and asked me to remain there.

Was he long away? — Perhaps ten minutes. When he came back he said that Father Canning and Canon O’Dwyer were there and he took the will from the desk and went down with it. About a quarter of an hour later witness said he saw Canon O’Dwyer and Father Canning leave the Palace together, and just as he saw them the Archbishop entered to the library.”

Had he anything with him? — He had his will.

What did ho do with it? — He gave it to me and said, “Read that. It will be a model to you in making your will. which you ought to do at this retreat.” In the meantime he stood at the desk, which was in the centre of the library, and wrote on an envelope the words. “Last will and testament of John McEvilly, Archbishop of Tuam.”

While he was writing that he had given you the will to read? — Yes.

This is it (handing)? — Yes.

Was it in the same condition as it is now? — The very self same

Had it the names? — Yes.

Did he give you particulars of the will? — Yes, then and afterwards.

Witness replying to counsel, went through the benefactions of the document. Mr. Campbell: Up to his death was his mind clear and his intellect sound? Witness: Yes, so much so that when it was announced to him by Surgeon M’Ardle on the Monday before his death that death was coming on — I was present — he asked me to send for his administrator and the President of the College. and his confessor to administer the Last Sacrament. Did he refer to his will in your presence and that of other people? — Yes in my presence and that of Dr. _McCormack, late Bishop of Galway, who arrived on Tuesday. He said, “I have already informed you that Father O’Toole is my executor.” Cross-examined by Serjeant Moriarty : He mentioned to him the names of the next-of-kin. Witness would come in as son of Winifred O’Toole, a sister. It was not true that plaintiff had to threaten him before she could get her share. He gave her the £600 in July. He was only bound to give her the money except as she required. “That was the reason you withheld it” — “1 did not withhold it”. “Take the letters which figure in this case in your hand. Where did you find them?” — “Amongst the waste paper”. “When?” — “Immediately upon his death after his burial”. “Do you remember the date?” — “Not the exact date, because I was two months in Tuam going through the papers and documents”.  “What was the name of the messenger who came into the library?” — “Patrick Wayne”. “Is be alive?” — “Yes, and living in Tuam”. “Is he here?” — “No”. “I put it to you on your oath did you say to Father McEvilly that so far as you knew the Archbishop had never made a will” — “No”. “Did you refer to it at all?” — “Yes I referred to his affairs”. “Did you state your belief that he had never made a will?” — “No”. “Did you ask him to go to the Archbishop and ask him to make his will?” — “I did”. “Did you know at the time that the Archbishop had made his will?” — “I did”. Mr. Justice Madden: “What was the date then?” — “In May — I can’t say the day — of 1902. I may say, my lord and gentlemen of the jury, that my reason for this was very simple. For every time I went to Tuam I was asked by the friends of the late Archbishop as to whether he had made his will I was bound to secrecy to anyone in his position, and I could not give them an answer. I desired that there should be some person who should find that out, as they were anxious to know, in case something happened to him suddenly. Besides he had already indicated to Dr McCormack that I was to be his executor”. “Did he tell that to Dr. MacCormack twice?” — “Yes”. This was to get a direct answer from the Archbishop himself”. “That was your reason for asking him to go and ask the Archbishop to make his will?” — “Yes”. “Give me the name of any living person, except Mr Glynn, to whom the Archbishop said he had made a will?” — “I can only give the two”. “You said that he mentioned it to Dr McCormack and several persons?” — “No I did not”.  Re-examined by Mr. Campbell: “Is there any foundation for the suggestion that you did not account for everything that came into your hands” — “No”. “Did you suppress shares in any bank and retain them for your own use?” — “No”.  _Serjeant Moriarty: “I have not said that. I asked the witness why those things did not appear in thw Schedule of Assets”. Mr. Justice Madden: But 1 think Mr. Campbell was justified in putting the question”. Mr. Campbell: “The income of the Archbishop was about £1,500?” — “About £1,300″. Is there a particle of foundation for the question that you suppressed a single shilling of your small assets?” — “No”. “You referred to the great sums that he gave by way of endowment for education and to his relations?” — “Yes, he never denied anything to anyone belonging to him. Serjeant Moriarty said that unless the jury were going to put the mark of ignominy on one of the best of men who ever lived they would not find in favour of this will. This was not a case of want of re collection. Father Canning’s intellect was bright and clear. He was in no confusion as to the central point in this case. He knew that he had not signed his will, and had no doubt now that the signature put to the will was a forgery. Counsel told the jury what in all probability happened. The will was put away and forgotten until the Archbishop died, and was then discovered. It was not a fact that the Archbishop hat provided boundlessly for his relatives. He must have had a large sum of money at his death, and what had become of it they knew not.

Rev. John Canning was called, and in reply to Serjeant Moriarty said he was 62 years old; was a priest 38 years ago; had spent all his life in the Archdiocese, and knew the late Archbishop very well indeed. In the month of July, 1894 he went to Tuam for the annual Retreat. It was the first Monday of July, which was the 2nd. “Were you in Tuam at all on the 1st of July”: — “No: 1 was in Ballyhaunis. I could not say at about what time I reached Tuam. I called upon the Archbishop”. “Would it be true to suggest that you called with Canon O’Dwyer?” — “No”. “Or that you left the Palace with him?” — “No”. “Did You, I ask you, witness the Archbishop’s will?” — “Never”.  “Have you a shadow of a doubt upon your mind?” — “Not the slightest”. “Take that will in your hand: Do you see what purports to be your signature?” — “Yes”. “Is it your signature?” — “It looks like it but I never signed it”. “It was not your hand that affixed your name to that document?”. “It was not my hand”. “Was the first time that it was suggested to you that you had witnessed the will made on the occasion of the funeral?” — “It was”.

“Mr. Glynn said your name was to the will as a witness ?” ~ “Yes; I told Mr. Glynn that I had no recollection of it”. “Did you intend to convoy to him that it fact you had never affixed your name to the will?” — “I said: “I have no recollection of signing it. It looks like my writing”. “Are you a man of clear memory ?”. — “Of very clear memory”. “Would it be possible for you, in your judgement, to forget this transaction?” — “It would be impossible for me to forget it”. “Have you any interest in this matter direct or indirect, except in the interests of truth ?” — “None whatever”.

Cross-examined by Mr. Campbell: I observe that with your excellent memory you do not remember at what hour you reached the Palace?”. — “I reached it before dinner”. “You can’t remember more than that?” — “Not to a nicety. It must have been after 12 o’clock”. “Have you any positive recollection”. “Soon after 12 o’clock”.  “At what hour?” — “Some time before four o’clock. It was a long drive”. “I am not asking you that?” — “I reached between 1 and 4 o’clock”.  “In whose handwriting is the body of the will?”. — “The late Archbishop’s, I believe”.  “What do you think he wrote it?”. — “As his last will”.  “Do you think he intended it to be his last will?”. — “I take it he did”. “Would he have had any difficulty in getting priests to witness his will?”. — “None whatever”.  “Now, if this is not your handwriting, someone must have forged, it – what do you suggest ?”. — “I suggest nothing”.

Serjeant Moriarty: “Why should this witness be asked to make suggestions?”.  Mr. Justice Kenny: “He has said he makes none”. Serjeant Moriarty: “Should that not be left there?”.  Mr. Justice Madden: “I think so. I mean that particular question”.  Mr. Campbell: “Tell me, sir, do you suggest that that is a forgery?” — “I make no suggestion”. “I must have an answer. Do you suggest that your signature is a forgery ?”. — “I make no suggestion”.  Mr. Justice Madden: “I think this question should be answered yes or no”. Witness: “It looks like my writing, and I never wrote it”.  Mr. Justice Madden: “Say yes or no”. Mr. Campbell: “Do you suggest that the signature purporting to be yours is a forgery?” — “I never wrote it”.  “That is not an answer to my question”. Witness: It is not a direct answer”. Mr. Campbell: “Give me then a direct answer?” — “The writing is not mine”. Mr.-Justice Madden: “I have indicated that if you refuse to answer that question I shall not take any action. You can say whether you will answer the question or refuse to do so”. Serjeant Moriarty: “What can any witness do more than say that he did not write the signature?”. Mr. Justice Madden: “The question is clearly a legal question, and one that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” I take it that he practically decides not to answer”. Mr. Campbell (to witness): “Come now, “I will give you one more chance. Do yon suggest that this signature is a forgery ?” — (No answer). Mr. Justice Madden: “You can say you decline to answer that question, “Yes” or “No.” You can take you own course. I take it you decline to answer it ?”.  (No reply). Mr. Campbell (to _witness): “Very well. Look at the signature of Canon O’Dwyer — you knew him well?” — “Yes”.  “ls that his handwriting?” — “I believe it is”.  “When did Canon O’Dwyer die?”. — “I could not say”.  “Ah, then where is your most excellent memory now; He was a priest of a parish adjoining you. In what year did he die?” — “I could not say”. Mr. Campbell: “Were you in this matter an unwilling witness? —I would not be surprised. How long have you had it in for Father O’Toole?”.

Serjeant Moriarty objected. Mr. Campbell: “You said you had no ill feeling against Father O’Toole?”. — “Yes”. “Do you regard him as an honourable man ?”. — “I do”.  “Did you hear the charge of Serjeant Moriarty that he forged this will practically ?”. — “Yes”.  “Having heard that, do you still say you believed him to be an upright, honourable gentleman”.’ “If he forged it, I will certainly draw the line then” (laughter). “You do believe him to be an upright, honourable gentleman ?”. — “Yes”.  “After listening to Serjeant Moriarty’s charge?” — “Yes”.  Serjeant Moriarty: “I did not say that he forged the will”. Mr. Campbell: “I think you did”. Serjeant Moriarty: “I said someone put Father Canning’s name to it”. Mr. Justice Madden: “The charge is that the signature was forged”. Mr. Campbell: “Yes; I must say it is a courageous way in which to meet a case of this kind”. Serjeant Moriarty: “In what other way would 1 meet it”. Mr. Campbell: “He is not the sort of man who would forge a will”. — “I expect not”.  “Can you, suggest anyone in the whole community who would have the slightest interest in forging your name to the document?” — “I could not”.  “You do not suggest the Archbishop forged it?” — “No”.  “Or Canon O’Dwyer?”. — “No”. Between you and me and the wall, whom do you suggest did it”. — “I do not suggest”.  “You can not give me the slightest assistance?”. — “Not the slightest”. In further cross-examination by Mr Campbell, witness said that he heard the Archbishop died worth large sums of money which were not accounted for. “Do you believe it?”. — “I think some of it was true”.  “Yet you believe him to he a thoroughly upright and honourable man?”. — “Yes”. “Let us understand the charge that Miss McEvilly was making against Father O’Toole”. — “She made no charge. She made a statement”.  “What was the statement?”. — “That he was in receipt of a large sum of money from her brother”.  “But he got everything in the will?”. — “Yes”. “Then did it not convey any imputation”. – “No”. “Did You hear Father O’Toole being cross-examined”. — “Yes”. “Do you think that conveyed no imputation?” — “I would prefer not being asked all these questions” (laughter). “I would prefer that you would answer them. Did you understand these questions as conveying the suggestion that he had misappropriated the money of his uncle – The Archbishop?”. — “I decline to answer”. Did you hear the suggestion that Canon O’Dwyer’s signature was a forgery?”. — “It looks very like the signature”. “You would have no hesitation in acting upon that if you saw it elsewhere as his signature?”. — “I believe it is his”.  “You do not agree with the suggestion that it is a forgery?”. — “I believe it is his signature”.

The hearing was adjourned to 11 o’clock on Friday morning.

FRIDAY.

The hearing of the case was concluded before Mr. .Justice’Madden on Friday, (when the will was upheld).

FATHER JOHN MacEVILLY’S EVIDENCE.

Rev. John _MacEvilly, examined by Mr. Powell, K.O.

I am a curate at present in Crossboyne in the Archdiocese of Tuam. I knew, the Archbishop. he was some relation of mine. I know Father O’Toole very well. I met him from time to time. I knew, him intimately since a boy — we were companions together in fact. I remember when the Archbishop died in November, 1902. Some time previous to the Archbishop’s death I saw Father O’Toole in my own room in Claremorris. Father O’Toole was in my room that day for several hours and indeed I think ha stayed overnight with me. I had some conversation with him. He said that the Archbishop was breaking up; That he had just come directly from Tuam; that the Archbishop’s affairs were very much muddled: that he (Father 0’Toole) believed that the Archbishop had made a will, and he asked me to go to Tuam and ask the Archbishop to put his affairs in order, as his end was not far off. I refused to go point blank. I remember the month of June or July of the present year.

I again saw Father O’Toole — that was in the Presbytery at Westport, and he either invited me or signified his desire by a gesture to go into a room. Father O’Toole then said to me: “We are going to have a fine week in Dublin.” That was referring to the lawsuit. The conversation went on for half an hour or so. He told me that Canon Canning said that he had not witnessed the Archbishop’s signature to the will as a witness, and Father O’Toole said that Canon Canning would be swearing what was false it he swore that; and Father O’Toole then related what had happened in the library of the Archbishop’s Palace on the 2nd. July 1894, when the will was stated to have been signed. Father O’Toole described it thus: He said he was in the library on the first day of the Retreat, and that a servant came in and announced that Father Canning and Canon O’Dwyer wished to see the Archbishop, and that the Archbishop said: “This is a good opportunity of getting my will witnessed.” He then took from the drawer in which he had it the will, took it downstairs, got it witnessed, returned again with it, and pointed out to him where he was putting it.

Mr. Justice Madden: That is absolutely the same account as he gave here.

Witness then said to him: “How in the light of that could you come to me six months before the old man died and tell me you believed he had no will made, and ask me to go to Tuam and get the Archbishop to make a will?”.

Mr. Powell, K.O.:  What did he say to that?

He said nothing. He turned the conversation. I was not satisfied, and 1 repeated my question.

Did he make any reply to that?

No. He gave me no satisfaction.

Mr. Justice Madden: Did he say anything?

No. he said nothing. That is my recollection.

Cross-examined by Mr Fetherstonhaugh, K.O.: Up to the time you turned upon him in that way were you “friendly?

Like brothers.

You knew that this will suit was coming on ?

Yes.

Did it occur to you that at a certain point in the conversation he thought you were “pulling his leg”?

Mr. Justice Madden: Do you understand that expression—it is not an ecclesiastical phrase? (Laughter.)

Witness: I suppose that he was drawing me ?

Mr. Fetherstonhaugh: Yes?

Witness: It did not. . .

Or that you were drawing him in order afterwards to tell Miss McEvilly or her legal adviser?

No.

Did you afterwards tell them?

When I was invited I repeated freely amongst the large number of priests who were there what had happened, because I felt it very keenly.

That was in July. When did you communicate with Mr. Robertson, the solicitor?

I never communicated with Mr. Robertson.

Did you communicate with Miss McEvilly herself?

I spoke of it in her presence, just the same as I did amongst the priests.

I am not suggesting that you were pulling his leg, but did it occur to you that he might have thought you were?

Never.

Not even when he suddenly shut up as close as an oyster?

No.

You were not one of the next-of-kin?

No

Your brother is married to a niece?

Yes.

She has an interest?

She may.

Did you hear him say that he was wanting to make a communication on the subject — tell me, is he an honest, decent man;

Yes, so far as I know.

Would you, in the circumstances be has described, talk about the affairs of the Archbishop?

No.

You would evade the topic?

Yes.

If anyone asked you about the document and you did not desire to say anything about it, what would you do?

Turn the conversation.

Or, perhaps, say: “You ought to ask the man himself”?

Yes.

Mr. Justice Madden: Yes, if the Archbishop told him there would be no breach of confidence?

Just so.

Mr. Fetherstonehaugh: Was not Father O’Toole much in the confidence of the Archbishop?

Yes.

Trusted by him?

Yes.

And gave him a great deal of power in the diocese during all these years? He was a sort or alter ego?

Yes.

The Archbishop, I believe, educated you

Yes.

He was a very bounteous man to relatives and charities?

Decidedly.

 

MISS McEVILLY’S EVIDENCE.

Miss Mary McEvilly was then examined;

Mr. Powell, K.C.: You are sister of the late Archbishop?

Yes.

And, I think, the only unmarried sister?

Yes.

Up to 1893 did you live with a brother of his. Canon _McEvilly?

Yes.

Then he died?

Yes.

And then did you come to live, and are you still living, with Mrs. Kelly, of Westport, a niece?

Yes.

When you were with Canon McEvilly at Dunmore and Westport with your niece were you and the Archbishop on friendly terms?

We were, indeed.

Used he come to see you at Dunmore and Westport?

Yes.

I believe you saw him a few days before his death?

Yes.

You got altogether a sum of £600 ?

Yes.

That was the arrangement made by the Archbishop?

Yes.

Have you no other means?

No.

Did it come to your knowledge some time after his death that there was a question about father Canning not having witnessed the will—did you go to Mr Mannion, solicitor?

Yes.

After you consulted him do you remember another priest, Father McEvilly of Headford, requesting you not at present to go on with the lawsuit?

Yes.

Mr. Justice Madden said he did not regard this as evidence.

Cross-examined by Mr Fetherstonehaugh KC: Were you at the funeral ?

Yes.

Were you present afterwards, when in the presence of the family Mr. Glynn read he will ?

Yes.

That is upwards of seven years ago?

Yes.

Was Father O’Toole there?

Yes.

Was Walter McEvilly, your brother present?

Yes.

Did he say anything blaming Father O’Too!e?

He said that he would test the will.

Did you take Father O’Toole’s part and say. “All the rest of you got more than he did” ?

No.

Did you get a farm of land, as well as the £600, which the Archbishop bought for you?

After his death I got it.

He bought it for you, and Father O’Toole recognised that and gave it over to you — a farm worth £800.or £000?

Mr. Powell, K.C.: You have only a life interest in that farm?

Yes.

Mr. Fetherstonhaugh, K.C.: Your niece gets it afterwards?

Her children do.

Mr. Powell. K.C: “What is the rent of the farm?

£16 a year.

Mr. Powell, K.C, addressing the jury, said he had no doubt this was the most remarkable case that had ever come before the jurymen. He appealed to them to cast aside sympathy with one side or the other. or the fear of consequences to anyone concerned in the action.

 

© The Connacht Tribune, Saturday, December 18, 1909

 

 

 

 

This page was added on 29/03/2015.

Comments about this page

  • What an incredible story. Thanks for all the research.

    By Michael Muldoon (23/08/2015)

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