Dr Freddie Stock and threats
On September 6th 1883 under the nome de plume Heel Metal a man wrote a vitriolic attack on a fellow local man in the Clonroche area; the latter has to be Henry Hugh O’Neill. The most astounding part of the attack relates to a scurrilous mini newspaper circulated about the area:
“The sensational items appearing in a little sheet, having a limited circulation in the townland of Clonroche, are always taken et cum grano solis when it is known that the author is a man, who piqued at his own nothingness, assails the character of people, who were once his best friends and who put him in the way of making a good thing of his patriotism. He attacks these people because they, like himself, have not fallen so low as to be beneath contempt. Such a man would be more dangerous in a locality than a canine rabbie, if it were not for the fact that no nome de plume is able to conceal his identity. No person, not even the worthy parish priest, would be safe from his treachery and vindictiveness. He would be a Poor Law Guardian if he could.”
The writer then added this visceral but informative P.S.:
“The Land League, Labour League and all the other Leagues are now to be about set aside at Clonroche and in their stead a League for legalising marriage with a deceased brother’s wife is about to be established. Such a League would be certain to receive some support, as there is no good reason why we should not have the same laws here that already exist and work most satisfactorily in
and other cities
of the great Western world.” Pittsburgh
Henry Hugh O’Neill’s brother Dan had been a newspaper editor and public representative in Pittsburgh.
Henry Hugh did actually get elected as the Clonroche Electoral District to the Enniscorthy Board of Guardians later on.
The writer of this missive was exasperated by the publication of letters from Enniscorthy Watchman of letters from Henry Hugh. I presume that the letters referred to were those signed Pro Bono Publico in which the writer stated that the pump in the village was out of order for over two months; the people depended on a spout “which contains sewerage and other deleterious matter.” Then he had a crack at Euseby Robinson the opulent farmer and landlord living in Clonroche House: this man had a splendid well on his farm “whose acres are broad and scarcely inhabited by man or beast and yet like the dog in the manger ‘he will neither use it himself nor allow others to use it’”
Henry Hugh’s hostility to certain locals echoes the remarks made by Dan O’Neill in the Wexford Guardian circa 1854.
At the petty Sessions in Clonroche in July 1876 “Henry Hugh O’Neill, shopkeeper and John Kehoe, farmer were charged by the police with having been concerned in May last in the writing and posting of a threatening letter to Frederick Stock M.D. of Coolaught. Dr Stock is the medical officer of the district and the letter contained the following passages:
“What will you do when the tyrant is gone how is it the poor people allowed you to go on so long, one of the greatest Orangemen in Ireland, I wonder you have not poisoned lots lots of Catholics, by all accounts you have done so with a good many of them. Your career is nearly at an end and there will be peace and ease when you are gone.”
Dr Freddie Stock was a most dedicated doctor and these charges are ludicrous but then Dr Stock reacted calmly to this notice.
The case was dismissed and O’Neill then embarked on a libel case against the police Sub-Inspector Irwin and caused great amusement by his proceedings. Pender who lived in a little house at Colaught was told by Jack Sinnott, the blacksmith and publican in Clonroche that O’Neill and Kehoe of Tomfarney wrote the note. Pender told Dr Stock who went to both men. Kehoe merely denied the accusation but as one would expect Henry Hugh “received the news in a violent manner and used very impolite language.” Dr Stock told both men that he did not believe that either O’Neill or Kehoe had written this missive. Dr Freddie Stock in his letter to the Resident Magistrate Mr Ryan stated that he was not sure if Mr Ryan would think it worthwhile to take any further action in the matter.
A threatening notice was placed on Lord Carew’s gate about the same time.
In October 1876 at the Assizes, presumably at New Ross, Henry Hugh O’Neill sued Dr Freddie Stock of Colaught, near Clonroche for forty pounds damages due to libel by the latter on him. O’Neill’s complaint was that Dr Stock had written to the Resident Magistrate outlining the facts, as he saw them, regarding the placing of threatening notices on Dr Stock’s gate. As pointed out above, Pender who lived in Colaught had heard Jack Sinnott who had a forge and pub in Clonroche say that O’Neill and John Kehoe of Tomfarney had put the notices there. Pender told Dr Stock of this conversation and Dr Stock went to both men but indicated that he did not believe that either of them had anything to do with it.
In his letter to Mr Ryan Dr Stock doubted if he would deem it worthwhile to proceed any further with the matter. My impression all through is that Dr Stock, a most unflappable man under pressure, wished to minimise the import of the threatening notices. As a member of a minority (if ruling community) he may have deeded it imprudent to escalate such a matter; despite his conscientious discharge of his duties and his passionate commitment to ensuring that the sick poor (as he called them) got their meagre pittances from the Poor Law Guardians he was often subject to spurious complaints of negligence in his medical work. After his death in 1886 a member of the Enniscorthy Board of Guardians described him as a good and faithful servant.
It was most unbecoming of O’Neill to have taken this libel action.
The rest of the case is a matter of who to believe. Mr Ryan wrote (then in Lisdoonvarna, in Co. Kerry) to the Sub-Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary, Mr Irwin and enclosed Dr Stock’s letter. Henry Hugh’s case was that he and Kehoe were—as a consequence of Dr Stock’s missive to Mr Ryan—brought before the Petty Sessions in Clonroche on the charge of writing the threatening letters. The case was dismissed.
Sub-Inspector Irwin told the Assizes that he “had given instructions to the Police at Clonroche to bring the case forward and that he never had communication with Dr Stock on the subject whatever though he had endeavoured to see him frequently—and further that his instructions had been given, and informations sworn in the case, before he had received Mr Ryan’s letter enclosing Dr Stock’s.”
The Justice advised the Jury “that if they believed Mr Irwin’s evidence they must find for the defendant which the accordingly did.”
The confounding issue here is: if Mr Irwin had given his instructions to Constable M’Hugh in Clonroche before he got Mr Ryan’s letter then on what basis were O’Neill and Kehoe brought before the Petty Sessions in Clonroche? The only basis for taking such an action was Jack Sinnott’s conversation with Pender.
When Henry Hugh applied for the post of registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the Clonroche Dispensary area in June 1869 he produced testimonials from the Rector the Rev. Mr E. Bailey, Rev. John M. Furlong, Cloughbawn –and Dr Freddie Stock. He got the job but lost it after he turned up drunk at the offices of the Enniscorthy Board of Guardians. On the 15th of February of 1873 the Enniscorthy Watchman reported:
“That Mr Henry Hugh O’Neill came to the office yesterday to register a birth—that he was under the influence of drink and was so unruly that the clerk was obliged to order up the reporter to remove him.
Ordered—That report to be sent to the Registrar-General”.