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Riot started after rumour of ‘attack on chapel’

27 July 1936

Irish News (On This Day 27/07/2005) 
By Eamon Phoenix

Armagh Courthouse was crowded on Saturday for the continued hearing of the charges against 26 men arising out of riots in Maghery, Co Armagh, on May 23 last.

While the defendants represented the two parties who had come to blows at Maghery, they mixed amicably in the courtroom and on the adjournment were seen laughing and talking together.

District Inspector Kenny prosecuted.

Mr JB Fox appeared for the Belfast men and Mr W Gallery, Lurgan, represented the Maghery defendants.

Constable Michael Gubbins said that when he arrived in Maghery that night there was a crowd of local people round the chapel gates.

“While I was there,” said witness, “Patrick Robinson was trying to get past Constable Goan and to get down to the crowd at the bus outside Mackle’s Hotel. Joseph Campbell (one of the defendants) was urging the crowd to go down to the bus and James Robinson was shouting “We’ll kill the .........”

P Robinson then shouted: “They won’t wreck our chapel. We will not let them get away with it. We’ll give them what we gave the funeral in 1894.”

Asked by the magistrates what the historical allusion was, witness said he understood a funeral passing through Maghery in that year was attacked.

Opening in defence of the Belfast men, Mr Fox said that the whole occurrence, regrettable as it was, was not as severe as it was represented to be at the time.

As far as his clients were concerned there was never any intention to act other than as peaceful, ordinary citizens. Before the depression there were many excursions to Maghery, where there were many facilities for enjoyment.

He suggested that, on the evidence of the bus driver, the trouble started by a scrimmage with members of the party when playing football.

The scrimmage then extended towards the chapel and stones were thrown.

The rumour spread that an attack was being made on the chapel while these missiles were being exchanges.

Counsel said he could imagine how the locals became alarmed after this rumour.

They seized every implement they could get hold of – sticks and farm implements – and undoubtedly did make a violent attack on the excursion party.

It was established without doubt that no attack was made on the chapel or school, and the rumour had no foundation.

Four or five of the Belfast party were seriously injured.

Mr Watson, the organiser of the Belfast party, who had come with his mother, did everything possible to avoid trouble. They had thrown stones but in defence and he submitted that that was no crime.

The regrettable feature of the attack, Mr Fox said, was the use of firearms.

He could forgive the use of farm implements but the use of firearms against the excursion party was the serious feature of the attack upon them. It must be remembered that when DI Kenny searched the Belfast party no firearms were found on them.

Mrs Georgina Watson, mother of defendant David Watson, said she saw a man draw a gun and fire at the bus. She heard two shots. At hearing.


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