Funeral of the Murdered People.




At the funeral to-day, Father Connolly preached the sermon. His remarks, of which were strongly condemnatory of the assassins, has created almost as great astonishment as the tragedy. Prior to these remarks it was generally supposed that Father Connolly was a bitter enemy of the Donnellys, and ugly rumors were circulated concerning his connection with the Vigilance Committee. A feeling of relief is now experienced, and it is quite probable that the explanation of the Priest exonerating the Donnellys will go a great way to restore confidence and materially aid in making peace between the opposing parties.

The address of Father Connolly, at the conclusion of High Mass, was a lengthy one. In speaking of the terrible tragedy, he said: Dear friends, you are in the presence of one of the most solemn scenes which I have ever witnessed, but I have witnessed many a solemn scene, but never any like this. I am heart broken. (Here the rev. father burst into tears and, overcome by his emotion, turned away from the people.) Having somewhat recovered he proceeded: I never expected that such a scene as this would be enacted. In coming to Biddulph I left a quiet place - a Christian place - and a place were the laws of God and man were observed and respected. I came to a district where neither the laws of God or man have been observed, and hence the consequence, terrible and fatal, which we have before me to-day. Yes, dear friends, the laws of the land, founded upon the eternal laws of God, have not been observed in this county and district, and those who have been entrusted with the execution of these laws have neglected to carry them out, and they will have to answer for the lives of these five people at another place. Before I came here I did not know of the fires and terrible destructions which have taken place here, and I could not believe that there was an Irish Catholic in Biddulph that would bring such disgrace upon himself and upon his church by committing these scenes of blood, which would not have disgraced the community had the law been properly enforced. There are two things whch must be observed in every society, no matter of what religion that society may be composed. Men may have their own opinion upon the Gospel and their individual opinion of its teachings; there can be no second opinion that in the interests of Christianity - of society - all should endeavor to observe that law, and have it enforced. That has not always been done in Lucan and Biddulph, and those entrusted with the administration of our laws have not fulfilled their duty, and have prostituted it; and it is owing to this prostitution that we are called together on this solemn occasion. The guilty men who imbued their hands in innocent blood will have to answer for this awful crime before the living God. The scenes which have been enacted here have disgraced the district and those who live in it. I feel sorry, and particularly for the whole family. It may be thought that I was not in friendship with that family. I was in friendship with the old people, but of the young people I did not know much. Particularly with the old woman I was friendly. [...]

It was the taking out of a horse from Kelly's I first had trouble with them about. I met the boy and wanted to speak to him as a priest, and after this Mr. William Donnelly sent me a sharp, incisive letter, which might be a good one to write to a politican or a business man. He was naturally a talented young man, and capable of writing a good letter - if he were a newspaper editor it would be a good reply, but it was not a good letter for a priest. I did not make any mention of this letter to any one until I heard that William talked and said that he was going to drive me from the country. Another thing was the Ryan's threshing. Ryan came to me and wanted to get me to influence the young men to allow this threshing. I used my endeavors with a friend of mine at Quebec, a Minister, to get the young man out of Kingston. With regard to the old people, I never had any hard feeling, in fact, I never had with any of the family, but the boys had a hard character. These are the only troubles I have had in the world with these two men. And now with regard to the formation of that Society. I had nothing to do with that Society. I was never at their meeting, but I have unbounded faith in the men who were in that Society. I believe that they were most incapable of doing such a terrible thing as this. I believe that this thing took place outside of this committee. As far as the old people were concerned, I esteemed them as much as any people in the parish. Since the death of Mike Donnelly they have been to communion. I never dreamed of an occurrence like this. I thought that the whole thing would wear away. The driving away of horses, and the shaving of horses tails were things which people did not like. It is a failing with all Irishmen that they have no faith. No man is anything without a character, but with it he is everything, and if he doesn't respect that character we have no peace whatever. I have been delighted, and especially since I became acquainted with Patrick Donnelly, who I have found to be an an honest, respectable young man, to have had him to speak to and consult with, and perhaps had he been here things would have been different. The old woman was a sensible sort of a woman whom I could talk to and consult, but the old man, although a good old man, whom I liked, was not the sensible sort of a man that I could talk to like I could to the old woman. The last words I had with the old woman she said, "Father Connolly, I have been trying to get the boys to be good." The priest's voice again failed him here for a moment, after which he continued: I cannot understand how this has taken place. I did not believe that there was a man capable of doing anything like that in Biddulph. I believed that there were men who would give a man a clout when half drunk, or waylay him upon a road, but I never thought that they could make such a butchery as this. It is a disgrace to Biddulph and everyone who lives here. However, my beloved brethern, all that remains for us now, and for the family, is to pray for those that are gone, and those that are left must reform, for, no matter whether by the hand of God or by the wicked hand of man, we must all stand before a Living God, and the hour and time we know not of. Think then of those unfortunate people who have been called without a moment in which to pray, to appear before God and answer for their sins. It is an awful thing for those people. Man is but a shadow. He has but a few years here. What will your position be after they have gone by? Will your society be that of thieves, reprobates and murderers, or will your society be that of the Son of the Living God? [...]


Yesterday morning, at an early hour, an ADVERTISER reporter, accompained by Mr. J. S. Thoms, photographer, visited the house of Mr. Connors, where the body of John Donnelly was lying, and a negative of the deceased was taken. He was a fine built fellow, his physical development being complete. In death he wore the same smile that usually played about his face in life. He was, for some time past, a strict temperance man. The medical gentleman who made the post mortemsaid that he had never seen a man with so large a heart, whilst his lungs were perfect models. During the taking of the picture his brother Robert, the youngest was completely overcome and wept bitterly. The other brothers, with the exception of a momentary falter of the voice or stray tear, were firm as rocks, but the settled determination to discover the perpetrators of the deed were planly to be read in their faces. The inscription on John Donnelly's coffin was, "John Donnelly, died February 4th, 1880, aged 32 years and 11 months." As the brother Pat read this he remarked, "Poorfellow, 'Died!' It should have been murdered." [...]

Source: Unknown, "The Tragedy - Funeral of the Murdered People," London Advertiser, February 7, 1880.

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