THE Irish, though seldom successful on the stage, are nevertheless capital actors, but generally give to tragic parts a comic effect. The following case of successful adroitness is only one out of many such tricks played off through the prisons of that country. Similar cases have frequently occurred, and a few years before this period two convicts made their escape the same day, unknown to each other, out of Wexford gaol.
Thomas Carson, and his brother John, were tried at the Meath assizes in the spring of 1816, for the wilful murder of a man named Cassidy. The Carsons belonged to a corps of yeomen, that is, a kind of local militia, and, being Protestants, were thus privileged to carry arms. Of these, however, they made a bad use, and turned them against one of his majesty's subjects, named Cassidy, whose life they took away, through wanton cruelty, in 1800, in Kilmainham Wood, in the county of Meath. John was acquitted; but Thomas Carson was found Guilty, and ordered for execution on the following Friday morning, at one o'clock.
At five o'clock on Friday morning a brother of the prisoner went to see the unhappy culprit, and informed the gaoler that Mr. Wainwright, the clergyman would attend in a short lime to pray with, and administer the sacrament to, his brother. The judge had, from humanity, directed that his relations should have free access to the prisoner, so that his brother was permitted to go into the condemned cell to him. Some time after the gaoler entered the cell, and said that the time was very abort, and, if the clergyman was expected, they had better send for him. The brother offered to go for him, and accordingly did. Shortly after Mr. Wainwright came; and being shown into the cell, continued a long time in prayer with the prisoner. The time of execution approaching the gaoler came in accompanied by the prisoner's uncle. The clergyman told the prisoner he had no time to lose -- that his uncle had come, and would communicate with him in the administration of the sacrament. The prisoner entreated to be allowed to pray a little longer, and appeared absorbed in devotion. At length the gaoler becoming quite impatient, he rose from the straw on which he was kneeling, and welcomed his uncle. The latter instantly exclaimed, Good God! how grief has altered him! -- this cannot be Tommy!' and, looking nearer No, said he 'this is Anthony Carson!' The clergyman was amazed -- the gaoler ran down stairs, and discovered that the person whom he had sent for the clergyman was no other than the convict himself, who had not thought proper to return.
Coming back into his cell, the gaoler cried out in a rage, 'Your brother is gone off! what shall I do? I am ruined!' 'Gone off!' cried Anthony, with great surprise; 'Oh! he has taken away my big coat!'
The two brothers served in the same corps, and were so alike in appearance that Anthony came to the prison in a frieze great coat, which he gave to the convict, who, thus disguised, passed all the doors of the prison, and walked deliberately into the street, from whence, in great apparent affliction, he looked up at the preparation for execution, and passed on as if to Mr. Wainwright's house.
Diligent search was made for the fugitive, but without effect. The brother was detained, but the extent of his crime was a misdemeanour.