Castletown postmaster who was transported for life

Looking through the file of Ireland-Australia database recently we found the name Eugene O’Sullivan, who was aged 25 years and was tried on 19/ 3/ 1844. His trial took place in Cork and he was sentenced to transportation to Australia for life. The prisoner had been postmaster at Castletown Berehaven.

On following up this story, we did some further research which unearthed the following fascinating story.. Eugene’s trial took place in Cork Spring Assizes County Criminal Court on the March 25th, 1844. Eugene O’Sullivan was given in charge for feloniously embezzling letters deposited in the post office, he being postmaster of the Castletown Berehaven.

Mr. Bennett stated the cases in brief terms to the jury: The charge, he said, was preferred against a person employed in the post office, the postmaster of Castletown. The letters were conveyed by the Bantry district, and that he did embezzle letters which contained valuable securities. It was the duty of the postmaster when he received letters not to open them, but to forward them to their destination and the charge of opening the letters formed another count in the indictment; for the indictment charged him with doing so, and with appropriating the money to his own use.

To prove
To prove that the letters were sent to the post office, evidence would be given which should satisfy the jury of the truth of the allegation; and further, to prove that the prisoner was the party who abstracted them. A person by the name of Coffey, who was the clerk of a Mr. O’Sullivan, a butter-merchant in the city, remitted a sum of £78, and Coffey, by way of security in forwarding the money, cut every note into halves, put them into separate letters, and directed one parcel to “Daniel O’Sullivan”, whilst the others he directed to “Eugene O’Sullivan”, who was the part who expected to get the remittance, and he accordingly went to the post office in Castletown and made enquiry after the letter, but the prisoner told him that there was no letter for him; neither did the other gentleman receive the letter directed to him.

Enquiries were accordingly made, and things put into a train for the purpose of discovery. The result was that the Crown was enabled to trace the matter to the prisoner, on whose person several of the notes were seen, and as persons were to be produced who would distinctly prove that he offered them to be changed in various places.

That was the general nature of the case; and he felt bound to state it to them, that they might be fully enabled to understand the evidence which he was about tog o into mail which left Cork at nine o’clock in the morning and arrived in Bantry at five in the evening, whence they were forwarded by a mail car from Bantry to Castletown.

The charge against the prisoner was that he, being postmaster of Castletown Berehaven, embezzled the money. Patrick Coffey, who was examined by Mr. Keane, stated that the was in the employment of Mr. Morty O’Sullivan, that he knew Mr. O’Sullivan of Castletown, and he recollected getting directions from Mr. O’Sullivan to remit £78 to Castletown, which he did. He said that he entered the dates, numbers and amounts of the notes forwarded, and he directed half of them to Mr. Dan O’Sullivan, and the other half to Mr. Eugene O’Sullivan.

He cut the notes in halves, and he sealed the letters, put post office stamps on them and gave them to the porter, Con Donovan, to have them placed in the post office. (The notes here were then handed to the witness, who identified several of them, their numbers and amounts coinciding with those entered on his list.) He stated that he was in the habit, for nearly a year, of transmitting sums of money in a similar way.

Philip Shanahan was next witness sworn, and stated that he was in the employment of Mr. Michael O’Sullivan and that he saw Mr. Coffey write two letters on the 5th of October. He gave them to Mr. Shanahan to put in the post office; and that he took them to Corneliius Donovan.

Cornelius Donovan was next sworn and said that he remembered getting two letters from the last witness on the 7th of October; put them in the post office; and he told him one was was for Mr. O’Sullivan.

Daniel O’Sullivan was then sworn and then examined by Mr. Keane. He stated that he lives in Castletown and he was related to Mortimer O’Sullivan. He sends him butter and he in turn sends him money; he had previously sent him butter but he could not say exactly how much. On Monday the 9th he expected the remittance; a letter posted on the 7th should reach castletown on the 9th.
Another witness, John Cahill was next to be

sworn, and stated that he is uncle to Mr Daniel O’Sullivan. He was sent to the post office to see if there were any more letters than those received; the prisoner told him that all the letters received he put into the letter-carrier’s bag. Witness was cross-examined, but nothing contradictory was elicited.
Robert O’Callaghan was then examined by Mr. Keane and he said that these are provincial notes; and the bank does not issue duplicates of them. When Daniel O’Sullivan sworn, he identified one of the notes the prisoner sent him to get it changed; the person that changed it should put his name on the back. After production of a host of evidence clearly establishing the prisoners guilt, James Kennick was sworn, and said that it was his business to visit post offices; and he put the prisoner in the appointment and he saw him acting in it. Mr. O’Rea, then addressed the jury for the defence.
After deliberating for about a half an hour, the jury entered the court with a verdict of guilty.
His Lordship the Judge said, the law left him no discretion, and he sentenced of the prisoner to be transported for the period of his natural life.

In reply to Mr. O’Rea, his Lordship said the postmistress in Castletown Berehaven must
be discharged

The following notice appeared in the Cork Examiner of May 17th, 1848. Important to the public: Hotel, Castletownbere, Mrs. Harrington respectfully invites the particular attention to her friends and to the public to her establishment, which has been fitted up in superior style for the accommodation of those who may be pleased to favour her with her patronage. She wishes to draw special notice to her sitting rooms, as well as her large and thoroughly aired bedrooms; the accommodation in this respect is not surpassed if equalled in any Hotel in the south of Ireland.

To those who wish to avail of the sea bathing the situation is most inviting within a few perches of the open to the magnificent harbour of Berehaven, and on the verge of this lovely basin, where every facility is afforded to those wishing to avail of water excursions.

A well-appointed pinnace, a side-car and covered car are always in readiness, with ponies if required, for those who wish to witness the grand and sublime scenery of the South West.

Mrs. Harrington finds it her duty to caution the public against the malignant and sinister reports which have been for some time industriously put forward against her establishment.

This has been the work of a few malicious and interested individuals, as appears from the following remarks made in her book of visitors, and unsolicited by her, by J.Redmond Barry . Esq., Inspector of Fisheries: “Under strong but unfounded prejudice against the house, produced by causes unjust and unreasonable, I arrived here quite unexpected, and accompanied by two friends. I have seldom been more comfortable or satisfactorily accommodated, never more kindly or more attentively. I pronounce it to be a right excellent house. J.Redmond Barry. Since writing the above I paid my bill nothing could be more reasonable - J. R. B.” Mrs. Harrington begs leave to add that she has three cottages to let for those wishing to avail of them during the bathing season, one at the present in a finished state, the others can be fitted up a few days’ notice; every article of furniture, etc., can be supplied, combining comfort with economy. A trial is merely required to secure approbation.

This would appear to have been what was afterwards known as the coastguard Station and, later still, The Berehaven Hotel. Who the Harringtons were we could not find out, but we had heard that at one time the hotel was owned by Harrington from the mines who had a public house. It was later sold to become the Coastguard Station with a terrace of houses which were separate to where the coastguards lived.

The big house, which is the high house near the gate of St Peters Church, was the officers house. There was a captain Allen there, and later on a captain Butler. This Coastguard Station was sold when a new station was built on the site where the present St Joseph’s Hospital now stands.
We understand that a Mrs. McSweeney, who was a daughter of these Harringtons, married a doctor who died as a young man. This doctor was a student with Dr. John Lyne’s great-grandfather. It would be interesting to find out more about this family.

Readers may be interested to note who were subscribers to Cusack’s ‘The History of Cork’, 1875, Castletownbere and district: Downing, Mortimor, Castletownbere, O’Sullivan, Mrs. Cathrine, Castletown Bere, Hanley, Richard, Castle Bere. O’Sullivan, Rev. M,PP, Allihies, The mines, Allihies. Kelly P., Castletown-Berehaven. Power, Frederick, Munster Bank, Castletown Berehaven. Lynaght, Thos., RIC, Castletown Berehaven. Puxley.

Courtesy of the Southern Star