Testimony of Johnny O'Connor, Eyewitness, 1880


21st February, 1880.

JOHN O'CONNOR-My name is John O'Connor, I live in Lucan with my father and mother, my father's name is Michael O'Connor; I was acquainted with Mr. James Donnelly and his family, they lived in Biddulph; I went to Mr. Donnelly's house the evening before the murder; I went with Mr. Donnelly and Thomas Donnelly, they wanted me to feed the pigs and things while they went to Granton; old Mr. Donnelly and Thomas came to the house for me, I went with them; I got to Donnelly's before dark; John and Thomas put in the horses, when they got them in they came into the house and sat down and eat some apples; John hitched up the horse to go to Will's to get the cutter; I went out to feed the pigs with Thomas, he gave me a whip to whip the pigs; we fed the horses and did the chores; we came into the house and eat some apples; me and the old man then went to bed in the front room; besides me and the old man and Tom there were in the house Bridget and the old woman; Bridget and the old woman stayed in the kitchen; when I went to bed I think Jim Feehely came in and talked with them in the kitchen; the old man and I went to bed together, Bridget and the old woman used to sleep in the middle room next to us; Tom slept in the kitchen; there is a bed there; I went to sleep when Jim Feehely was talking; there was some talk as to whether I was to go to bed with Tom or the old man; I went with the old man; I was wakened up between twelve and two o'clock; the old man getting up woke me up; the old man got up; I saw James Carroll holding a candle at the room door for the old man to dress himself; the old man asked him what he was arresting him for now; he said he had another charge against him; the old man got himself dressed and was looking for his coat, he came into the room to look for it; I said here it is and he took it from under my head, then the old man went into the kitchen and asked Tom if he was hand-cuffed. Tom said yes, he thinks he is smart; Tom then asked him to read the warrant; then a whole crowd rushed in and started hammering them with sticks; I was still lying in bed when they came in; I got under the bed; I saw Bridget run up stairs; I ran to go up stairs after her; I could see out into the front room from where I was lying under the bed; the bed is opposite the door against the wall and I could see out into the front room; Bridget ran from the kitchen through the front room towards the stairs; I got out and followed her; the crowd were in the kitchen; there was no one in the front room when I ran through; I could see a couple of the steps; I saw her when she got to the stairs door; I followed her, she shut the door after her; I ran back to the bedroom and got behind a clothes basket under the bed; it was light in the frontroom, someone had a candle in the kitchen, when I got under the bed again; Tom ran out of the kitchen and got out of the front door, when he got out of the door they started beating him with sticks; some of them followed him outside; I don't know how many; I heard them hammering him; they carried him in and threw him down; I could hear the hand-cuffs rattle; one of the them said, "hit that fellow on the head, and break his skull open"; then some one hit him three or four times with the spade; I saw some one carrying the spade; one of them said, "fetch the candle here," they were doing something to Tom; I peeped out and saw Thomas Ryder and John Purtell; I had known them well before; I know Carroll well; they were all standing around Tom; I saw one in woman's clothes; some had their faces blackened; Carroll, Ryder and Purtell, had not their faces blackened; then one asked, "where is the girl?" another answered, "up stairs;" then they went up stairs-a lot of them; I heard no noise up-stairs; they came down and got a lamp, and threw coal oil on the bed: one of them said, the coal oil would burn off, and would not set fire to the beds at all; I head them say it was coal oil; I saw the lamp, and heard them lay it down on the window; when they had set fire to the bed under which I was lying, they all ran out; then I got out from under the bed, and put on my pants; I got my coat and tried to quench the fire; I did not quench the fire; I ran out and saw them laying dead: the old woman was near the kitchen door; I tramped on her as I went through the door from the front room to the kitchen; I saw Tom lying near the front door; they were breathing: I did not look to see what state they were in; I ran out and ran across the road to Mr. Whelan's, his house is about fifty yards from Donnelly's house; I rapped at the door, and Mrs. Whelan asked who it was; I told her it was Mr. Connor's boy; Mr. Whelan got up; I whispered in his ear that Donnelly's house was on fire; I shoved the door open; Mr. Whelan got up and told me I was dreaming; I told him a lot of men had come and hunted them out of the house, and that I thought the old woman and Tom were killed; I did not know at that time that the old man and Bridget were killed; I can't think of the things that I told them; I told them a loy of things; I was frightened; I told them to call up the boys, Whelan's boys, Joe and William; she said, no, if they went over there they would get killed: then old Mr. Whelan put on his boots and went down to Jack Whelan's; he lives not very far from the old man Whelan's, on the same side of the road: I stayed there while he was gone, when he came back he went over the fire and John went: I and Joe Whelan then went over: Mr. Whelan gave me a pair of boots and stockings: I had ran over there barefoot: when I got over there the whole place was in a blaze: I stayed there for a while;:Mr. Whelan said he thought he saw one of the bodies inside: then we went over near the front door, and saw a big patch of blood: then we went back to Mr. Whelan's then Mrs. Whelan put me up to bed: it was before daylight: I stayed in bed till eight o'clock, I think: when I got breakfast I went over to Donnelly's again: when we got there we saw the burnt bodies: I saw four: I could not distinguish them: then I and Joe went and got a horse, and went to Lucan: I found my father and mother there, and two brothers: I saw my two brothers first: they took the horse to put it up: I went into the house: I saw my father and mother and three sisters there; my mother started laughing at me, when she saw me with a big hat on: Teresa Whelan gave it to me: she asked me where was my overcoat? I told her it was burned. She asked me if the barns were burnt; I told her that the house, and that Tom and Bridget, and the old man and all were killed: my father then went up town: he came back and got me then: he told it all around town: when I came back I told my mother the three names: I was with my father when I was in Lucan; I went into Mr. John Fox's coming home: that is the only place I was that he was not with me: I think I told Carroll's name to Mr. and Mrs. Whelan; my mother aksed me if I knew any of them: I would not tell her for a long time: I asked her if she would tell any one if I told her: she said should wouldn't: I told her then: when my father came in she told him: the reason I did not wish to tell was because I did not want to get into trouble: when I heard the fellows go out I could hear their voices as if they were going towards the school-house: I saw one of the sticks that they had from under the bed: it was a cord-wood stick, split fine, with three sides chopped at the end, and the handle whittled.

Cross-examined by MR. MACMAHON.-I had been in the habit of going there a few times to sleep; the last time was when they were in Granton about a week or so before; I slept with the old man and Jack on that occasion; there was a bed in the kitchen at that time; I don't know when Feehely went away; I went to sleep a short time after going to bed; the old man got into bed first; I slept next to the wall, the head of the bed is towards the front of the house; it was a four-post bedstead without curtains; the old man woke me when he was getting up; he never said anything to me when he was dressing; James Carroll had the light at the door; he was standing in the front room and the old man asked him to hold the light till he dressed himself, he did not address him by name: Tom and Mrs Donnelly were in the kitchen talking: I think she got up to start the fire: she called Bridget to get up and start the fire; she went to start the fire: I think it was the Donnellys who lit the candle: they used to keep the candle on the table in the kitchen when it was burning: I saw the light in the front room from the kitchen: the old man had not gone out of the room before he got dressed: he had not been speaking to any one in the other room: James Carroll is the only one I knew at that time: I knew him very well by sight: while the old man was dressing the man with the light was in the front room whistling; when the old man called him he came to the door with the light: the old man never told me to get up: I never said that the old man asked me to get up: I don't remember telling the Coroner and the jury that he told me to get up and dress myself: while Carroll was standing at the door, I was looking at him and recognized him: he was at the door when the old man asked for his coat; Mrs. Donnelly said she did not know where it was; he went out to the kitchen looking for his coat when he come back; I did not know that it was under my head: when I raised my head I found out that it was there; when I gave the old man his coat Carroll was in the front room; the old man went out when he got his coat; Carroll was in the front room when I told the old man that his coat was there: Carroll had on a soft felt hat; I don't know whether he had an overcoat on or not, he had a black coat on but I don't know whether it was an overcoat; he had a grey pair of pants; they were the trousers he used to have on, grey flannel; Tom and the old woman were up when the old man got up; I don't know whether the old man was tied or not; some one told me that they tied the old man's hands; I can't remember who it was; a couple of days after the murder I was told; I did not say that that was the case; I was told it at my father's and mother's house, can't tell who told me; they were talking in our house, and some one asked me it was true that they had tied the old man's hands; I swear that I don't know who told me; I think my mother and sisters 13 and 15 years old, and my brothers 12, and one younger than I am; it was down stairs in the day time I think that the conversation took place; my mother never mentioned it to me; can't say whether it was Wednesday or Thursday that this conversation took place; when the old man went out from the bed room he said Tom are you hand-cuffed; Tom said: "yes, he thinks he's smart"; I had never seen a pair of hand-cuffs in my life before this; the old man said; "Jim what have you got against me now," and Carroll said I've got another charge against you; Tom told Carroll to read the warrant; I did not know what a warrant was; I can't remember whether there was anything said about a warrant at the time of the conversation in our house; I just went into the house to get some water and then went out again; when I lifted my head to give the old man his coat I don't think I saw Carroll, I think he was in the front room; I just said here it is, when the old man asked for his coat; I knew that Carroll was a constable, he had been at our house with a warrant for my sister; I did not see him on that occasion; the old man just went from the bedroom to the kitchen, when the crowd rushed in; the candle was not in the front room then, it was in the kitchen; I think there were about twenty came in; I saw them from under the bed when they were looking at Tom; I saw one of them dressed in woman's clothes, only one; I had not been under the bed for five minutes when Bridget ran up-stair; I did not come out from under the bed until I saw Bridget run up-stairs; she was in the kitchen and ran from there to the stairs; when I came from the bed-room and ran towards the stairs there was no one there except Bridget in the room; I ran right back to the bed-room after she had closed the door; the basket was not as high as the bed cord; there was a space of about six inches; I did not see anyone in the front room when I ran back; there was no candle or lamp light; there was a candle lit in the kitchen; they had two lamps; I was peeping out and saw Tom running out; I saw his feet, that is the way I recognized him; the others ran after him; I don't know how many of them; they hammered him outside and then carried him in; some one had a light in the front room; then they had it where Tom was thrown down; I was looking out at that time I could not see up to see if they were carrying the candle or not; they were doing something to Tom; I peeped out and saw Purtell and Ryder; I do not know what they were doing; I think they were taking off the hand-cuffs; I can't say whether they were bending down or not; I could not see the light; I swear positively that I don't know how high the light was; when they were around Tom I thought they were taking off the hand-cuffs; no one talked to me about taking off the hand-cuffs when I went to Lucan; Purtell and Ryder were standing up straight around where Tom's body was; I know Purtell and Ryder and well; just as well as I did Carroll; Purtell was dressed in black clothes; Ryder had on a peaked cap; don't know what color it was; it was a cloth cap; the lugs were cloth, but don't know whether the rest was or not; the laps were up tied over the cap; I had seen him wear it when he was in Lucan; I recognized the cap; it was a very cold night; I was not cold in bed; I knew Tom Ryder by his whiskers and hair and face; I am positive that I saw him there; I did not see Carroll there, (at that time they were around Tom Donnelly); there was not very much light and so I thought it was a candle: one of them asked where was the girl: I did not hear Purtell or Ryder speak at all: I swear that I can't tell whether it was a candle or a lamp: I just saw Purtell and Ryder once: I just looked out and immediately drew my head back: a lot of them went up stairs when they heard where the girl was: I saw one with his face blackened: I think I saw two but am positive to one, the one of them with the blackened face was middling tall: I think without whiskers and a long overcoat very near his heels: I did not recognize him: the overcoat was gray: I did not see his trowsers or hat: I think I only saw one with a blackened face: I went to bed before it was daylight after coming home from the fire: I slept with Joe Whelan: I don't think I spoke to him in bed about it; I spoke to Mrs. Whelan about it in the morning; I think I mentioned Carroll's name at Whelan's but am not positive at the time I mentioned Carroll's name I knew that Purtell and Ryder had been at Donnelly's; I was not afraid to mention Carroll's name; it was for the purpose of having Carroll punished; I wanted them all punished;I was afraid to tell about Purtell and Ryder but not Carroll; I was not afraid of any of them; I was afraid that if I'd tell they wou'd do something to me; if I told Mr. Patrick Whelan or wife that there was a lot of them with blackened faces, it was not the truth; on the road home I met Bill Simpson and I stopped with him for about five minutes; I told him that Tom, the old woman and the old man and Bridget were burnt and that Jack had been shot; I told Simpson that I did not recognize anybody; I told him that I was behind the basket; I did not tell him that because I was behind the basket and could not recognize any of them, if I did it was a lie; when I went to Lucan with my father we went to Port's; never told them about it; we went to Cranigan's; never told any one there; I then went alone to Fox's, my father stayed at Cranigan's; Mr. John Fox asked me where I was that I escaped; I told him that I was under the bed behind the basket; I swear that don't remember any other question that he asked me: I don't remember any one asking me if I knew any of the parties: if I told them that I did not know any of them it was a lie; I stopped a little while at Stanley's talking to Mr. William Stanley; I told him that I did not know any of them; it was a lie; my father told me when I was going up to Lucan not tell anything that I knew; I told my father that I did not know any of them when I got home; he wanted me to tell him if I knew any of them; I said I did not know them; after leaving Stanley's I went home; I stopped at the crossing for a little while; I told my mother about it about fifteen minutes after I went home; she asked me if I knew any of them; I aksed her if she would not tell my father, she said she would not; then I told her the names of the three fellows; she had asked me before and I told her that I did not know them; I had heard Mr. Donnelly speaking about Carroll the day that he arrested Mr. Whelan, he said that he saw him with Mr. Whelan in a buggy; I saw three or four who were not disguised; I saw a couple of their faces with their heads turned; I don't think I ever saw any of them at church; if they had been in the habit of going to that church I would have known them; I told my mother about Purtell and Ryder the same time as I told her about Carroll; on Thursday morning Patrick Donnelly asked me if I knew any of them, I told him I did not know; I told Pope and Hodge the names of the fellows; on Wednesday afternoon they told me not to say anything about it. [...]


Taken and sworn before before me this 21st day of February, 1880.

J. Peters, J.P.

Source: Public Archives of Ontario, Irving Fonds, F1027, Volume 82 08 (MS6500), Court Cases, Unknown, Testimony of Johnny O'Connor, Eye Witness, February 21, 1880.

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