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I found brief mention of 5 people killed in Kanturk, Ireland in this 22 March 1833 edition of the Brookville Inquirer and wanted to know more, and now that I do, I thought I'd share an interesting story I found. This is regarding the incident that would later be called the 'the Kanturk Massacre'.

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There's very little on the web about this incident. Most of what I do know comes from the newspapers of the day; however, it is mentioned briefly in the Google Books preview of 'Riotous Assemblies: Rebels, Riots & Revolts in Ireland', but it is called the 'Thernagree Affray'.

The first mention of it (seemingly anywhere) is in the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier of 8 January 1833 (PAYWALL), page 2, column 4. This paper was published on Tuesday and the account printed in it is from Monday, so this means the 'Saturday last' mentioned in the article is 5 January 1833. Now, you will find some papers, and the aforementioned book, claiming it happened on 6 January, but I believe this arose from one paper printing an account of the incident, but it (mistakenly, I believe) gave the day as early Sunday morning.

This incident happened during the context of the Tithe War. The most important thing to know about the Tithe War is that everyone in Ireland, including the Catholic majority was forced to pay tithes for the upkeep of the English-backed, Protestant state church. Wiki calls it mostly non-violent, but there was PLENTY of violence to be had, this incident including. So, what happened was, a tithe collector went to collect his debt, and found the debtor's wife wearing an expensive cloak which he took as payment. In response, the debtor, Linehan, found the tithe collector and took back the cloak via force, and instead payed the owed tithe. In response, a warrant was put out for the arrest of Linehan and the rest of his party for 'assault and rescue'. It being night and 1833, the police didn't find him. Now, what happens next is a matter up for debate.

The inhabitants say that the police came in all upset and accusing everyone of murder, because a constable was missing. However, the missing constable, according to the two witnesses involved, was intentionally being hidden from the police group, at the missing constable's behest, because he was drunk and did not want his superiors to find out. Then, the police arrested 5 people and were marching them somewhere when one of the policemen noticed four people laying in a ditch hiding. The people say the police immediately fired killing one. Then two ran away. One was shot in the back as he fled. Then, a fourth was resisting arrest when the chief constable stood back, and blew his brains out. One of the men in the ditch said they were hiding because they were scared of the police. Now, before anyone thinks they must have been guilty, this is not necessarily the case. I have read several stories of the era during which the police exhibit a SHOCKING lack of concern for the wellbeing of people. And, I have also read stories where police make the conclusion that if you're outside late at night, you're guilty of something. So, the fear says nothing about whether or not the person was guilty of some crime. That being said, one of the witnesses said they heard a policeman say they took a pike off one of the men, which may have been used to stab the police earlier.

The police say that when they found the men laying in the ditch, they were attacked and had to defend themselves, only firing at the very last second. Either way, the result was three dead men. Personally, after spending the last few weeks reading about police abuses at Castlepollard in 1831, this incident in 1833, the Gortroe/Gurtroe/Rathcormac in 1834, Ennis and Skibbereen in 1842, and Ballinhassig in 1845, I think the police were initially accosted after taking the cloak. Then, they were upset and blaming all the locals. This is a scenario I am familiar with in Afghanistan. And before anyone says that's irrelevant, I think if you look at the resistance offered by Irish to English from the 17th-century onwards as a low-intensity insurgency, it's easier to understand. And, the tactics adopted by the Irish Constabulary closely resemble that of counterinsurgency. But that is for another post.

The end result was that the coroner's inquest returned the following unanimous decision for two and a split decision on the third victim. It is: enter image description here

Despite this, charges were never brought for lack of evidence.

So, the Kanturk Massacre happened, probably 5 January 1833. And, if several witnesses are to be believed, it was a police slaughtering of maybe not innocent people, but definitely not-deserving-of-death people. The victims were John Saville, 24, shot through the back and stabbed through the face and neck/spinal column; John Meade, 20 shot through the head at close range; and Denis Leary, 30, shot through the back. What I believe to be original coverage of the incident can be found in the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier and the Cork Constitution which can both be found on the British Newspaper Archive (SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE). A word of caution, the Constitution represented landed interest and SUPPORTED the union with England. You can definitely discern an elitist tone. That paper tends to cover issues regarding the police in a light always favorable to the police, which makes sense because the police are the instrument of the landed gentry's power. The Southern Reporter is a more populist type publication. While I encourage everyone to draw their own conclusions, I have found the Southern Reporter more reliable, though absolutely biased, so you usually have to read both in order to come to a more foreign conclusion. Also, there is a third 'local' (within the same county) newspaper that covered the incident, the Cork Mercantile Chronicle but this appears to have never been digitized, but can be found as microfilm here. The reason I know that paper also covered the incident is because I find other papers outside of Cork (the county Kanturk is in) quoting the 'Cork Chronicle', and the Cork Mercantile Chronicle is the only newspaper I find in Cork at the time of this incident. This is just one of MANY violent incidents throughout the Tithe War, but I believe this pattern extends forwards and backwards in time, as a generally unhappiness of the Irish people with what they perceived as English dominance and exploitation of Ireland.

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    One quibble: coroners return "a finding"; only a jury or judge can return "a verdict". Aug 7, 2022 at 15:33
  • Thanks for posting this (following up from the screenshot about "Saturday night"). I think the answer/post could be improved by changing the language to a slightly more formal tone.
    – BurnsBA
    Aug 8, 2022 at 16:13
  • @PieterGeerkens I don't believe I said the coroner returned a verdict, but rather the coroner's inquest in which the coroner acts as a judge, while two different lawyers (or teams of lawyers) 'try' the case for the 'prosecution' and 'defense' in front of a jury, returned the verdict. Aug 11, 2022 at 17:20
  • @BurnsBA I plan on editing this answer with more screenshots of the actual newspapers, but I've just been busy. I will fix up this answer eventually, though. Sorry for the delay. Aug 11, 2022 at 17:41
  • Incorrect. See here re What is a Coroner's Inquest: "It is a common misconception to think of a Coroner’s Inquest as a form of trial. ... inquest juries are prohibited from making any findings of legal responsibility. Their role is not to assign or free from blame but rather to make recommendations based on the evidence with a view to preventing such deaths in the future." Note that none of the five questions listed, to be answered, comprises a verdict - or determination of legal responsibility. Aug 11, 2022 at 19:27

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