Convicted of Abduction, 1822/1823
Miss Goold Carried off by A Ruffian
IT was the opinion of Dr. Johnson that many of the romantic tales of the middle ages had their origin in truth, and that the absolute distress of females might, in all probability, have called for the institution of "knight errantry." To protect the defenceless is a natural impulse, which has its foundation in the sympathies of our nature; but when a female, young, beautiful, and innocent, is the victim of oppression, there is no man with common feelings, who would not risk his life to snatch her from despair and misery. In this happy country there are few instances of abduction; but in Ireland this unmanly crime is too prevalent. The distracted state of certain parts of the country gives aid to the schemes of unprincipled ruffians, acting on the presumption that injured females, when degraded and dishonoured, would of necessity save the violators of their innocence from ignominy by a marriage -- the only means, they suppose, left them to escape from unmerited shame. The persons thus forcibly carried away are generally the daughters of opulent farmers -- a fact which clearly shows the mercenary views of those who commit so base and cowardly an outrage on the most defenceless part of the creation.
Among the many outrages of this nature was one on the person of Miss Honora Goold, a young lady remarkable for her personal beauty. She lived in the house of her mother, at Glangurt, in the county of Cork, and had two sisters older than herself, she being scarcely sixteen, and a brother. On the 4th of March, 1822, about twelve o'clock at night, their dwelling was attacked by an armed banditti, who, on threatening to burn the house, were admitted. One of the ferocious ruffians burst into Miss Honora's apartment, and asked if she was the eldest Miss Goold. She replied in the negative, and said that her sister was on a visit in Cork. The inquirer then withdrew, and, having searched several other apartments, returned, followed by five or six others, and repeated his interrogation, which he, however, answered himself in the affirmative; and then desired her to arise and dress herself. At the suggestion of one of the party they withdrew outside the door, to allow a compliance with their orders.
The young lady had no hesitation in obeying their mandate; for she very naturally preferred being up and dressed in the presence of such ruffians. She had scarcely put on her clothes, however, when one of them re-entered, seized the screaming girl in his arms, and bore her out of the house, where a horseman was waiting to receive her. Before this stranger she was placed, in spite of all her cries for mercy; and the party, having obtained their prize, set off at full speed, bending their course towards the Galties, a range of mountains between the counties of Cork and Limerick. At the distance of several miles they halted and procured a pillion, and then compelled her to ride behind the leader of this atrocious band. In her eagerness to escape she fell several times during their progress; and having continued her screams all the time, one of the ruffians threatened to murder her unless she desisted.
By daylight they had entered the recesses of the Galties, and several of the party having occasionally dropped off, she was conducted by the few that remained to the house of David Leahy, a substantial farmer.
The leader of this outrage was a young man named Brown, of a respectable family, and who had received an education which should have rendered him incapable of such base and unmanly conduct. The elder Miss Goold was entitled, on her marriage, to a large fortune; and Brown, hoping to possess himself of it, resolved to carry off the young lady. Being disappointed by the precipitancy and mistake of his assistants, he determined to make sure of the lovely victim who had fallen into his power, knowing that the opulence of her family could make him independent, provided he could insure the consent of the astonished girl he had forcibly carried off. With virtuous indignation she repulsed his fulsome advances, and begged the protection of Mrs Leahy, in whose parlour she now was; but, strange to say, this mother of children connived at the ruin of her unprotected guest.
Foiled in his direct attack, Brown had recourse to an expedient, which, for the honour of human nature, we would wish never to record, did not impartial justice demand an honest discharge of our duty as faithful narrators of criminal occurrences. It was proposed, and immediately after breakfast, that Miss Goold should take some rest. A bed was in the parlour, and she was directed to repose upon it. This, indeed, after the fatigue of the night, was most desirable; but to her utter astonishment, the family, in which there were two females, left the room, at the same time locking the door upon herself and Brown. The monster, in spite of her entreaties and screams, proceeded to undress her, and insisted on sleeping beside her. The reader need not be told the rest -- the purity of female innocence was grossly violated in the person of this young and lovely creature; and her destroyer arose from his bed of lust the polluter of one whose peace of mind neither the world's sympathy nor the world's wealth could restore.
The friends of Miss Goold, who comprised the wealth and respectability of Cork county, set instantly about recovering the injured lady. The pursuit was continued from day to day for three weeks, and the vigilance of her friends was only evaded by removing the poor afflicted creature from cabin to cabin, and from the house of one farmer to that of another. One day she was kept on the bleak mountain, and had the anguish to see her friends at a distance, while she was prevented from flying to them by a ruffian who stood sentinel over her with a loaded pistol.
Abused, insulted, and almost exhausted with fatigue, this delicate female absolutely refused to sanction the presumption of her destroyer; and at the conclusion of three weeks she was placed, by her ferocious guards, in a poor cabin by the road side, where her friends might find her. When discovered, she was in a deplorable condition, being literally unable to walk, stand, or sit. It took seventeen hours to remove her thirteen miles, the distance from her mother's house; but, when once restored to home and its enjoyments, her recovery was rapid, and in a short time her health was established as well as it was possible to be, under all the circumstances of her affecting case.
From the description of the banditti received from Miss Goold, several of the party were apprehended. Brown, the guilty contriver of the whole, escaped out of the country; and Walter Fitzmaurice, alias Captain Rock, evaded the pursuit of justice for a considerable time, but at length surrendered himself to a magistrate. The men whose names are mentioned above, with the exception of Costello and Fitzmaurice, were brought to trial at Limerick, on the 29th of July, 1822. Miss Goold appeared to give evidence, dressed in deep mourning, and her narrative which she delivered with modest dignity, procured her the willing sympathy of a crowded court. The prisoners were found guilty -- Death; but the three Leahys and Cussen were subsequently discharged, on a point of law operating in their favour.
On the 23rd of August following, Walter Fitzmaurice, better known at the time as Captain Rock, pleaded Guilty at the Cork assizes, and, along with Costello, who was found Guilty on the solitary evidence of Miss Goold's brother, who swore to having seen him on the night of the abduction, received sentence of Death.
On the ensuing Saturday, Costello underwent the awful sentence of the law, but Fitzmaurice was respited, something having arisen in his favour, principally on the ground of his pleading guilty in consequence of the judge refusing to put off his trial in the absence of a material witness. Costello, to the last, declared his innocence, not only of the crime for which he was convicted, but of any connexion whatever with the White-Boys.
The history he gave of his misfortune to persons who conversed with him in the gaol, previous to going out to execution, was this:-- He was a relative of Brown's, and was workman to him for five years, up to September, 1821; when he left him for the purpose of assisting his brother, whose wife then died, leaving him a large family. He continued in the practice of habits of industry, and, as he declared on the scaffold, knew nothing of Miss Goold's abduction till the morning after. He slept, he asserted, on that night, and it was endeavoured to be established on the trial, with his brother; and Fitzmaurice, who pleaded guilty, was frequently afterwards heard to declare the innocence of this unfortunate man. Before going out to execution, he observed to a person in the gaol -- "Are not these queer laws that make a man's life depend on the oath of one witness?" He also asked this person whether he thought there was much pain in the punishment he had to undergo, but being assured that there was not, and that it was only instantaneous, it afforded him great consolation. The only thing that he seemed to apprehend was the first sight of the hangman, and the tying up of his arms; but being reasoned with on these points, he acquiesced in their propriety, and assumed his usual firmness; and when the executioner came to tie his arms, he put them so far back that the tightness became extremely painful to him in his progress to the gallows. His manner of going to and at the place of execution was such as to awaken the sympathy and to excite the astonishment of all, even of those who guarded him, some of whom were observed to shed tears. He was firm to the last; and in him was observable that unpresuming confidence which could arise from no other source but the innocence of his heart, and his conscious freedom from the crime for which he suffered. His attention to the clansmen who accompanied him showed him to be impressed with the blessings of true piety: he died blessing his prosecutors, and begging the prayers of the people. He was a well-looking man, with rather a soft and open countenance, and had nothing daring or determined in his appearance.