HL Deb 16 June 1881 vol 262 cc628-31

rose to call the attention of the House to the circumstances attending the death of John Gateley at Solihull in Warwickshire, on Sunday, 5th December 1880, the coroner's jury having brought in a verdict of wilful murder with reference to the same. The noble Earl, in bringing the matter before the notice of their Lordships, disclaimed the wish to cast any reflection on the conduct either of the Warwickshire police or of the Home Department. As a resident employer of labour in the Midland Counties, however, he felt he was not going beyond his province in calling attention to the facts of the case, which he regarded as a very strong one. On Sunday, the 5th of December, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, there were assembled in a beershop called the Gardeners' Arms, in the village of Solihull, some six miles from Birmingham, a number of Irishmen and others, drinking. John Gateley, the man whose name was mentioned in his Notice, was of the party. John Gateley was in the employment of a Mr. Graham, of Yardley. Mr. Graham stated at the inquest that Gateley had been in his employment for about two years, that he was an honest, trustworthy man, and very much liked by everyone who knew him, and very much respected. He never heard that he had enemies in the neighbourhood. Mr. Graham, who was a horse dealer, and was naturally anxious to know the business of persons whom he saw hanging about his premises, noticed on one occasion a stranger talking to Gateley, who, in answer to an inquiry about the man, stated he was a friend of his. While Gateley was drinking in the beer-shop there came in three men, apparently Irishmen, one of them having on a long Ulster coat, which was an unusual dress for an Irishman to be seen in in that neighbourhood. John Johnson, the barman, stated at the inquest that he went into the parlour and saw there Gateley and the strange men standing behind the door drinking together; but he noticed that the man who was supposed to have done the deed, and who was sitting close against the door, drank very little. The man was dressed in a gray Ulster, and he heard him say to Gateley—"You must do something in this." Gateley and the men then got up and whispered together, and talked in Irish, which the witness could not understand. Shortly afterwards Gateley and the man in the Ulster went out in the yard, and the man followed. In a few minutes afterwards the witness heard the report of a pistol. He went into the yard, but saw no one except Gateley, who was lying on his back. The man in the gray Ulster had passed through the house, saying as he went that there had been an accident, and he went in the direction of the railway station. The jury did not believe that it was an accident, but brought in a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. The man in the gray Ulster and his friends disappeared then and there. Gateley being found in a dying state, a priest and a doctor were sent for, and the police endeavoured to get some of the Irishmen whom they met on the road to help to carry the dying man to the workhouse, which they finally did, by order of the Rev. Canon O'Sullivan, a Roman Catholic Canon of the Cathedral of Birmingham. The evidence of Thomas Morton, a waggoner, went to show the effect that was produced by the occurrence, and which he believed it was intended to produce. Morton said that he was in the taproom, writing, when the pistol was fired, and he had just finished writing when Gateley was brought into the room. He asked no questions, because a policeman was there. The policeman was in private clothes, and arrived about a quarter of an hour after the explosion. Asked if the landlady appealed to him to follow the men who had left, the witness said he did not hear anything of the kind; and though he thought it a bad job he did nothing, considering that it was no business of his. Mrs. Gibbs, the landlady, stated that she asked which way the men had gone, and one of the men in the house said they had gone towards the railway station, and she appealed to them to follow; but they would not, and one of them said—"Not me; there's danger about." The constable gave evidence that after the shot he got two Irishmen, and asked them to help the injured man to the Union; but they said it was no business of theirs. Any resident in the Midland Counties, as he was, had a right to say that this outrage was perfectly unparalleled and unprecedented. No clue had been found to the man in the gray Ulster. Of course it was impossible to say what the motives for this cold-blooded murder were; but one might gather from the evidence before the Coroner's jury that it was intended to strike terror into the unfortunate Irishmen in the neighbourhood, and perhaps to punish the unfortunate man himself. He could not forget that about the time of this outrage there were seven attempts to blow up public buildings, including the attack upon the Sal-ford Barracks, on which occasion an innocent woman and boy were killed, and that there were apprehensions of attempts upon Volunteer armouries. Though he did not wish to impute motives to anyone, those who remembered the strong expressions used during the Election campaign in Lancashire and Mid Lothian would not fail to think that there might be some persons in the Sister Island who believed that outrage and violence might produce an effect in the direction of bringing certain questions within the range of practical politics. As the case of Gateley was a very strong one, he thought he had not done wrong in bringing it under the notice of their Lordships, and he thanked them for the attention with which they had heard his remarks.


said, he had some difficulty in making a reply to the speech of the noble Earl, as, he could not discover the object of his remarks; but it appeared to be a most ingenious attack upon the speeches of Mr. Gladstone when in Mid Lothian last year. He must congratulate the noble Earl upon his great ingenuity. The noble Earl had referred to the evidence; but he (the Earl of Dalhousie) would read a letter which had been received from the Coroner, and in it he found it stated that the evidence at the inquest was equally consistent with murder or accident. The extraordinary part of the story was that, considering it was midday on a Sunday and many persons about, no attempt was made to arrest the man who was seen with the pistol in his hand. The noble Earl had referred to other outrages which had occurred, and seemed to connect this one with them; but he had not produced—nor was he (the Earl of Dalhousie) aware that he was able to produce—any arguments in support of such a view. He thought it right to state that the dying depositions of Gateley were to the effect that he himself believed he had no enemies; and he had the best authority for saying that Gateley also told the priest that he believed the affair was an accident. There was nothing whatever in the evidence to lead to the conclusion that it was a murder beyond the fact that the man who fired the pistol walked away towards the railway station—he did not even run. The dying man himself was of the opinion that his death was caused by accident, and was not a murder. He did not consider that the noble Earl had succeeded in his attempt to connect the death of Gateley with the attempts made to cause explosions in some other parts of the country, any more than he had succeeded in connecting them with Mr. Gladstone's speeches in Mid Lothian.