February 9th Marks the 125th Anniversary of John Twiss Hanging

The roadside monument in Ardmona and a photograph of the ill-fated John Twiss c1894. The 125th.anniversary of his hanging will fall on the coming Sunday, February 9th. The politicians involved in the campaign for a pardon for Twiss will face their own trials on Sunday during the count to establish the make-up of the 33??? Dáil. Image courtesy of Paul Dillon, UCD.

Life is littered with irony. Mix in present day events with those of history and you find yourself literally tip-toeing through the tulips in earnest.

Today, Sunday, February 9th marks the 125th anniversary of the hanging of John Twiss on a conviction which has been found to be fundamentally unsound and undermined to this day.

February 9th.1895 fell on a Saturday.

More recently, the findings have been backed up by a forensic examination on the BBC television series Murder, Mystery and My Family.

This is a dramatised production where two criminal barristers, Sasha Wass and Jeremy Dein, re-examine real historical murder cases that sent men and women to their deaths at the time.

Modern Forensic Techniques

Many of the cases they examine do not stand up against the forensic techniques of today and the John Twiss case has been included in that category.

The Castleisland based Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project has driven the campaign for a presidential pardon for John Twiss after all these years and based on overwhelming evidence – from that time and ever since.

Co-Incidence of February 9th Date

Ironically, the politicians at the centre of the joint effort in gaining that pardon, Kerry Fine Gael Minister, Brendan Griffin, TD and his party colleague, Co. Laois  based Charlie Flanagan, TD and Minister for Justice are, today, facing their own trials on this anniversary as the count for the 2020 Dáil Éireann elections are being held throughout the country.

Below, the O’Donohoe project manager keeps the Twiss case to the fore inspired by her findings in the papers of the late Michael ‘The Master’ O’Donohoe. N.T. 1936 – 2008.

Michael O’Donohoe project manager, Janet Murphy finding history and inspiration among the volumes of O’Donohoe papers. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Kerry in a Frenzy of Rage

In the wake of the hanging of John Twiss on 9 February 1895, the county of Kerry was described as being in ‘a frenzy of rage.’

By: Janet Murphy

The comment came from the president of Sinn Féin, John Joseph O’Kelly as he recalled a football tournament played in Killarney which he could ‘never forget.’

It was some short time after the execution of John Twiss of Castleisland who was sentenced by a ‘packed jury’ in Cork.

Kerry was in a frenzy of rage. As we walked from the railway station to the late genial Jim Courtney’s Home Farm, where the matches were played, the people in the doorways shouted: ‘Give it to the Corkonians today! ‘Give it to them with a vengeance!

An Indirect Revolt

The rage against the Corkonians was an indirect revolt against a ‘justice system’ that had failed to adequately respond to appeals for leniency in the case of John Twiss, even in the face of some 40,000 signatures for his reprieve.

Twiss, widely held to be innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted, had protested his innocence in a powerful speech from the dock. There, he declared his lineage as being from ‘the blood of gentlemen.’

Not Without Foundation

The words of Twiss were not without foundation as Burke’s genealogical records show that he traced his lineage to Richard Twiss, JP of ‘Killintierna’ – Killeentierna and agent to Herbert, Earl of Powis, who lived in the castle of Castleisland, the first of the family settled in Ireland at the close of the reign of Charles I.

John Twiss was descended from Martin Twiss (d1745) of Killinteirna – a son of Francis Twiss and Jane Parsons.

Molahiffe Castle

Martin Twiss married Catherine Williams of Gortatlea and had six sons and two daughters.

John, the sixth son, married Eliza, daughter of Arthur Bastable Esq of Molahiffe Castle.

They had a son, William, who married Catherine Chute of Ballyaukeen, near Currans, in about 1802.

William Twiss and Catherine Chute had four children including Robert, born c1811 in Currans, who married Elizabeth Hely of Dunmore.

Robert and Elizabeth had five children, including John, the subject of this document.”

The Outcome is Awaited

On the 125th. anniversary of the execution of John Twiss his descendants, Helen O’Connor and Denis Sayers are currently pursuing the ‘Presidential Pardon’ with the support of the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project.

The coincidence of historical dates won’t be lost on them and, for that very reason, the outcome is still awaited.