William Smith O’Brien’s trial was expected to be quite lengthy: over 40 depositions were sworn against him, and the names of 60 witnesses are on the bill of indictment. Unfortunately the trial records do not appear to have survived the conflagration in the Public Records Office in 1922. It has therefore been necessary to piece together information from various surviving records in the National Archives and the National Library. In preparing this information I have relied heavily on The Dublin Evening Post, and The Freeman’s Journal.
The Freeman’s Journal on 19th September 1848 reported that the Special Commission judges appointed for the trial of the Young Irelanders, were Chief Justice Blackburne, Chief Justice Doherty and Judge Moore. The jury selected for the trial comprised both the grand and petit juries for the county of Tipperary. Initially the crown solicitor served notice on all the Young Ireland leaders with the exception of Charles Gavin Duffy; these were William Smith O’Brien, Francis Meagher, Terence McManus, Patrick O’Donoghue and Maurice Leyne, all arrested for treason.
On 22nd September, 1848 the jury was sworn in before Chief Justice Blackburn of Rathfarnham Castle. The combined petit and grand juries of North and South Ridings of the county of Tipperary were named as:
Lord Viscount Suirdale, of Knocklofty Castle, foreman
Hon. Cornelius O’Callaghan of Shanbally Castle
Hon. Francis Aldborough Prittie, of Corville
Hon. Richard Hely Hutchinson, of Knocklofty
Sir Edmund Waller, of Knockree
William Ponsonby Barker, of Kilcooly, Esq.
Stephen Moore, of Barna Esq.
John Bagwell, of Marfield , Esq.
Ambrose Going, of Ballyphillip, Esq.
Mathew Pennefather, of Newpark Esq.
Lieutenant – Colonel Ralph Paliser, of Derryluskey
John Bailey, of Debsorough, Esq.
Thomas B. Barton, of Grove Esq.
John Trant, of Dovea Esq.
John Carden, of Barnane Esq.
William Quinn, of Loloher Castle, Esq.
James Butler, of Park Esq.
Stephen O’Meagher, of Kilmoyler, Esq.
Henry Trench, of Sopwell Hall, Esq.
Caleb Going, of Traverston, Esq.
Thomas Lawler, of Gregg House, Esq.
James Lanigan, of Castle Fogarty, Esq.
Joseph Cooke, of Cordangan, Esq.
The trial began on 3rd October. On 8th October the jury found Smith O’Brien guilty of High Treason, but recommended clemency. Before the sentence was announced, Smith O’Brien is reported to have said:
I have done only that which, in my opinion, it was the duty of every Irishman to have done, and I am now prepared to abide the consequences of having performed my duty to my native land. Proceed with your sentence.6.
On 10th October 1848, William Smith O’Brien was sentenced to death by hanging. The judge undertook to forward the jury’s recommendation to the Lord Lieutenant. A transcript of the sentence held in the National Archives of Ireland reads:7.
Crime description High Treason
Recorded To be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution on the 13th, Nov, and there hanged until he be dead, his head then to be cut off and his body to be cut into four quarters then disposed of as her Majesty shall think fit. Respited until further order on 28th October, 1848
On 14th October, The Dublin Evening Press reported that counsel for William Smith O’Brien had given notice of their intention to apply for a Writ of Error. Smith O’Brien and the other prisoners were sent to Kilmainham pending their appeal to the Queens counsel. The judgement was postponed until Hillary term January 1849, at which time it confirmed the judgement of the Clonmel court.
- Church of England, Common Worship, (London, 2000).
- William Smith O’Brien to his mother Lady O’Brien, September 1819, Smith O’Brien Papers, NLI MS 8655 (2)
- Freeman’s Journal, Thursday 28th June 1849. Reported that the Transportation Act in the transporting of William Smith O’Brien and his associates is now the law of the Land.
- Richard Davis, Revolutionary Imperialist, William Smith O’Brien (Lilliput, 1998), p. 366.
- Richard Davis, Revolutionary Imperialist: William Smith O’Brien, (Dublin, 1998) pp. 157-8.
- Cf. Tipperary Vindicator, 11 Oct. 1848, in Davis, Ibid., p. 287.
- NAI Ref T.R.8., P148
- Limerick Reporter, 25 May 1849, Cf. Davis, Ibid., pp. 290-91.
- National Archives of Ireland, CRF 1848 O 16/2/2, 3, 51 pt1, 51 pt2, 95, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 121, 148, 158, 160, 164, 165.