‘Where is Glenlara? John Twiss of Castleisland – From a Cork Perspective

The monument in Ardmona and a photograph of the ill-fated John Twiss c1894 – image courtesy of Paul Dillon. News of the overdue pardon of John Twiss is awaited.
Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project Manager, Janet Murphy reflects on the Cork perspective on the John Twiss hanging revealed in new work by Newmarket author and musician, Paudy Scully.  ©Photograph: John Reidy

As the descendants of John Twiss and the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project await the outcome of the application for the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss, project manager Janet Murphy reflects on the other victim in this affair, the murdered James Donovan, widower and father of two.

The Ardmona, Cordal born, John Twiss was hanged in 1895 for a crime he always maintained he did not commit.

In fact, when he was arrested and the charges read to him he asked, in bewilderment, ‘Where is Glenlara.’

The Dogs on the Street

It was also prominently expressed at the time of the hanging of Twiss and afterwards that ‘The dogs in the street knew John Twiss was innocent.’

The Cork side of events of 1894, when bailiff James Donovan (1851-1894), native of Ballineen, West Cork, was bludgeoned in the yard of the evicted premises he occupied at Glenlara, was thoroughly portrayed in a recent work of historical fiction by Newmarket native and musician, Paudy Scully.

Scully described how James Donovan died in his bed after the beating.

John, Donovan’s eight-year-old son, exonerated Twiss of the crime in the identification of others for the offence.

I Forgive Them All

In his work, Paudy Scully introduces the reader to the Cork neighbourhood of Glenlara and people of interest in the period in question, including informers, spies, the evicted family of ‘Connely,’ and, most importantly, The Bard – otherwise known as John Sullivan.

Sullivan, born in Ivy, Charlottesville, Virginia in 1853 of Cork of Schull parents, is the supreme head of the Moonlighting movement in the Cork, Kerry and Limerick border areas, having returned to Ireland during the Land War.

A Shadowy Figure

He casts a shadowy figure, contactable via Philip Francis Johnson of the Egmont Arms Hotel, Kanturk.

In Sullivan’s efforts to assist the evicted Jim Connely and his family, he gives orders to the ‘Cummer cell’ to remove emergency man, Denis Keating.

The cell consists of three men: Ned Kane of Moloney’s Glen, Cummer, Meelin, a farmer and water well-digger ‘six foot two and built like a barrel’ and one of the few receiving payment from The Bard for ‘rough jobs’in the area; Ger Cogan of Meelin and Dan Murphy – who having emigrated to America was replaced by 19-year old Morris Sullivan of Rowels.

The Removal of Donovan

After dispensing with Keating, their next assignment at Glenlara is the removal of Donovan.  On the evening of the murder, Kane, Cogan and Sullivan are under orders to give Donovan a violent warning to get out of Glenlara.

Kane, however, does ‘not seem to know when to stop during such missions and Donovan died from the injuries received.

Warrant to Arrest John Twiss

The subsequent warrant for the arrest of John Twiss of Castleisland, issued by Inspector Harte, Cork City, elicited the response from Inspector Samuel, RIC Kanturk: ‘We have no evidence.’  To this, Harte replies, ‘Twiss will be held on remand until evidence is acquired.’

Scully describes how John Twiss does ‘not have a clue’ what is happening when he is arrested and asks, ‘Where is Glenlara?

Fate of the Cell Members

Scully includes the fate of the three ‘cell’ members. Young Morris Sullivan escaped to America and died there after a fall from a horse but left a last confession.

Kane and Cogan remained in the area until 1915 when Ned Kane robbed and murdered Con Ben McCarthy in Meelin, witnessed by Cogan.

Cogan reported the matter to the police and Inspector Samuel subsequently questioned Kane.  Asked if he killed McCarthy, Kane replies in the affirmative, and adds: ‘I killed James Donovan, the emergency man in Glenlara too.’

Can of Worms Opened

This opened a can of worms for Inspector Samuel, a man on the eve of his retirement.  Kane’s confession will serve the inspector’s reputation no good.

Twiss was hanged for the crime – with the assistance of paid informers.

A deal was struck.  An order was issued for the arrest of Ger Cogan in Meelin, amid rumours that Cogan may have been the murderer of McCarthy – and Cogan was never seen again in Meelin.

Kane Enlisted in the Dublin Fusiliers

Kane was escorted by armed guard to the Curragh where he was obliged to enlist in the Dublin Fusiliers.

He served in the First World War and ended up in a convalescent home for wounded soldiers in Tipperary.

He remained in that county where he married and had three children. And there he died in 1960 at the age of 89.