THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Priest’s ‘ill-luck’ as he is prosecuted for carrying gun

From the News Letter, July 30, 1924

An old photograph of Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
An old photograph of Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

For being in the illegal possession of revolver the the Reverend Peter Ward, a Roman Catholic priest of Tempo, Co Fermanagh, was fined £10 at Enniskillen the previous day, reported the News Letter.

He was also bound over in £100 and two sureties each. The fine was paid, and the bail was forthcoming.

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Constable McMeekin of No 11 Platoon, Newtownbutler, said that on Monday morning, 21st inst, Father Ward came from the direction of the Free State at 9.55am.

He said that he held him and brought him into the guardroom, with the two constables accompanying him.

He noticed that the priest had something bulging out in his pocket, remarked upon it.

The defendant had said: “It’s all right; it is only a bottle of whisky.”

Taking out the parcel, the witness found that it was a Webley revolver, “in good, serviceable condition”.

He then detained the priest.

The defendant said that he had meant no harm - “that it was only a joke”.

Constable Pine corroborated the evidence given. He said that the defendant has been in a motor car coming from the direction of Clones.

Captain Murray, DI, said that this serious offence was reported to him and on charging the accused with having arms illegally in his possession the priest had made to statement. He then took him into custody.

Captain Robinson, DI, prosecuting, said that he could give evidence of the character of Father Ward. He said that the Crown looked upon the case “as a very serious one”.

He added: “This gentleman came from the Free State with a Webley revolver – with what intention, I would like to know.

“I know nothing good about him, I regret to say,” added Captain Robinson.

Mr Herbert, solicitor for the accused, said that the defendant had been in Co Monaghan collecting some things, as he was about to leave the country. This was the first time he had ever been searched crossing the border, and on this occasion it was his ill-luck to have the revolver.

The defendant was sorry he took the revolver, he said.

Mr Herbert said that he would give an undertaking that the defendant was going to a foreign country and was not coming back, and that the court might take that into consideration. He added that Father Ward was very sorry he brought the revolver out of the Free State.

Captain Gosselin, RM, said: “To have a revolver is not allowed in the Free State.”

To which the chairman, Mr Clarke, RM, added: “And even if he is going to Canada via Liverpool he would not be allowed to have the revolver in his possesion.”

After consultation, the chairman said that they had taken into account everything Mr Herbert had said.

The chairman said: “Owing to the defendant’s sacred calling, we will only impose a fine. Personally, I think that anything that tended to lower the status and respect of the cloth at the present time is to be deplored, and we are very sorry that this case has come before us.”

He concluded: “We have had several cases before us, and we must differentiate between farmers having shotguns, hoping for better times, a man having a service Webley revolver.”