Tag Archives: Sibling of Daedalus

Gustavus Cornwall right): accused of homosexuality in Victorian Dublin

Eminent Victorian figure with Irish connections accused of homosexuality; sues for libel and loses.

A criminal prosecution ensues.

No, not Oscar Wilde, silly.

Sibling of Daedalus, of Tales of Old Dublin, writes:

Gustavus Cornwall, head of the Dublin Post Office, was accused in Parliament by MP William Smith O’Brien of engaging in frolics with other men in the hothouses of the Botanic Gardens, Dublin, and at musical dinner parties in Raglan Road [Ballsbridge, Dublin 4].

His co-accused were Captain Martin Oranmore Kirwan, known as ‘Lizzie’ and Malcom Johnston, known as the ‘Maid of Athens’, after the poem by Lord Byron: “Maid of Athens, ere we part, give o give me back my heart’. Mr Cornwall himself was known as ‘the Duchess’.

William O’Brien was protected by parliamentary privilege; however, when he repeated the allegations in his journal United Ireland, the Duchess sued for libel.

The jury found against him after a number of men came forward to testify in support of Mr O’Brien’s allegations.

Like Wilde, not one, but two, criminal prosecutions subsequently ensued, but a sympathetic judge at the later trial not only encouraged the jury to find against Mr Cornwall, but also recommended that the press exercise their ‘discretion and Christian forbearance’ against publication, allowing Gustavus, unlike Oscar, to retain his reputation.

He was ultimately acquitted on the merciful, if unimaginative, testimony of three doctors that it was physically impossible to commit sodomy within the confines of a hansom cab.

Tales of Old Dublin

Gustavus photo via National Portrait Gallery, London

Forgotten Irish Tricksters is an occasional series where historian Sibling of Daedalus unearths the inventive Irish con men and women lost to time.

Number 3: Mary O’Neil

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Bridget Connell, of 35 Cook Street, Dublin, was an elderly lady with only one thing of value: her life, which was insured with the British Life Assurance Company for the sum of £8.

On March 16, 1904, her niece, Mary O’Neill, with whom she shared a tenement, told Mrs Connell, who was ill in bed, that she was in financial difficulties and going out to get money, to lie very still with her eyes closed and not to be annoyed with her.

As instructed, Mrs Connell lay very still all day. She must have known there was trickery, for her niece had left her covered in a shroud and surrounded by candles, but she did not realise that the trick was on her.

The penny dropped, however, at 4 pm. that evening, when a little girl, passing down the stairs, told her that Mary was up on nearby High Street in a cab with a coal porter and a Royal Fusilier, having a merry old time.

Mrs Connell might have been 83 years old but was not slow at putting two and two together. She headed promptly to the nearest British Life Assurance office, only to find that she had been declared dead by her niece earlier that day, for the purposes of obtaining payment under the policy.

The revived corpse was still very much alive at the trial of Mary O’Neill in the Southern Police Court, Dublin, which took place later that year. Mrs O’Neill’s defence that her aunt was expected to die any time was not accepted by the court.

Bitter after having been sentenced to two months’ hard labour, she informed the court that she was sure Mrs Connell would be dead and buried before she came out. It is not clear if this happened.

What is clear, however, is that old habits die hard…

….Three years later, Mary O’Neill was again before the Southern Police Court, this time as the ringleader of the famous Dublin Mammies Insurance Scam – a complicated bit of trickery involving four middle aged women, six insurance companies and not-so-dead corpses too numerous to count.

This time, her husband, William O’Neill, whom she had described, when registering his death, ‘as fine a man as you could wish to see, and now he is gone’, who came back from the dead to give evidence against her….

illustration: ‘The Spectre of the Hall’ by JM Rymer

Previously: Forgotten Irish Tricksters 1: Mary Kate Hodges

Forgotten Irish Tricksters 2: Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee

They’re a little needy.

For the Bloomsday that’s in it.

A swarm of Sirens selected by historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus.

Sibling writes:

Episode 11 of Ulyssess takes place in the Ormond Hotel where Leopold Bloom reimagines two barmaids and a lady of the night as the mermaids inducing men to their deaths in Homer’s epic, Odysseus.

To give these much-maligned, femmes fatlales their due (Siren’s Day?) behold a hand-picked collection of virtually irresistible, shore-based temptresses captured by painters through the years.

As Bloom later notess: “Beauty: it curves, curves are beauty. Shapely goddesses, Venus, Juno: curves the world admires.’


From top: Henrietta Ray; Leon Auguste Adolphe Belly; William Etty; Gustav Wertheimer; Gustav Moreau; Otto Greiner; Peter von Cornelius;  JW Waterhouse; Norman Lindsay; HJ Draper and Otto Greiner.

From top: Mayo-bound German parachutist?l The Evening Herald, November 28, 1945

Or did he?

Forgotten Irish Tricksters‘ is a series by historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus exploring the absolute chancers that brought acting the maggot to an artform but are now barely remembered.

Number 2:  Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Throughout the Battle of the Atlantic, the bodies of dead German airmen washed up with regularity onto the rocks of the coasts of the west of Ireland.

Occasionally it was rumoured that, like the sailors of the Spanish Armada, some of them survived, hidden in remote cabins, awaiting a more formal invasion by their countrymen.

No one was entirely surprised, therefore, when, in 1944, two teenage girls, Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee, reported the presence of foreign parachutists in the Ballina area.

But, after an apparently thorough search by army and Gardai failed to uncover any trace of foreign men, the girls were charged, convicted and sentenced to several months for wasting official time and general trickery.

According to the judge hearing the case, Corrigan and Brownlee were thoroughly bad, their actions prompted by exhibitionism, the wish for their photographs to appear in the papers, and the desire to be interviewed at length by high-ranking army officers.

However, the following year, Sergeant Michael Cavanagh, a Mayo-born soldier in the American Army, disclosed to the Evening Herald the existence of Nazi documents designating North Mayo as a leading airfield base in the event of an invasion of Ireland.

Nothing has been heard of the girls since their conviction and sentence.

High-level trickers or lowly victims of a Churchill-deValera cover-up?

YOU decide.

Previously: Forgotten Irish Tricksters: Mary Kate Hodges

Pic: Frj2


An 18th Century dwarf; Killakee Housee Restaurant, Rathfarnham, County Dublin


The secret of a very small sacrifice in the Dublin mountains.

Paddy asked:

There is a story, and it could be just that, that a plumber found skeletal remains in the Hellfire Club in 1970. It is said that they were “dwarf-like” and it is believed a dwarf may have been sacrificed there in the 18th century. There seem to be no official reports from the time of a skeleton being found there. It’s probably just an urban myth but the accounts that a plumber found the remains is quite specific.”

Historical contributor Sibling of Daedalus reports:-

There was indeed a skeleton found in 1970. It was not found at the original Hellfire Club at the top of Montpelier Hill but at a building nearby to which the Club relocated following the famous fire of 1740.

The premises in question is now the Killakee House Restaurant at 12 Kilakee Road, Rathfarnham (see above).

There are numerous reports of hauntings associated with the house, which is widely reputed to be haunted by a large black cat with poltergeist tendencies, a portrait of which, by artist Tom McAssey, hangs in the house to this day.

However it was only in 1970 that a plumber carrying out work to the house discovered a tiny skeleton under the kitchen floor. First thought to be that of a child, the size of the skeleton’s head led to the conclusion that it was more likely the remains of a dwarf.

No dating was carried out on the bones of the skeleton before it was buried; however the presence of a statuette of a miniature devil found under the same floor raises the possibility that its remains could well have been associated with Hellfire Club activity.

There have been no recent reports of ghosts in Killakee House. Perhaps the second exorcism, carried out after the skeleton’s discovery, laid them to rest?

Sibling of Daedalus

Pics: Huntsearch/ South Dublin Libraries



From top: 14, Windsor Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6: Justice catches up with Clara Whiteley

Diamonds are forever.

Even in Rathmines.

She thought.

Irish Historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus writes:

In 1917 the landlady of 14 Windsor Road, Dublin, let lodgings to a young, smartly dressed and affluent woman, whose husband was said to be in the American Navy.

From the first day of her arrival, she took a great interest in the garden of the house, and kept her own pet flowerbed below her window. The lady subsequently left, and her carefully tended chrysanthemums fell into disarray.

One day, two gentlemen called to the house, and asked the landlady for permission to dig in the flowerbed. A spade was produced, and a small box, wrapped in brown paper, containing diamonds of considerable value, found buried under four narcissii.

The lodger had been the famous jewel thief, 19 year old Clara Whiteley. otherwise known as the Girl with the Diamond Eyes.

She had, without any assistance, stolen the diamonds from from a jeweller in Great Portland Street, London, by pretending she wanted to show them to her husband, who was in another room. In fact, there was no husband, only Clara, long gone when the jeweller went looking.

Clara’s subsequent conviction and deportation to South Africa did not deter her from a life of crime. She was last heard of in 1934 when (as Cecilia Beresford) she was sentenced to 13 months’ hard labour for stealing a cigarette case.

That’ll learn her.

Tales of Old Dublin

Previously: Sibling Of Daedalus on Broadsheet

grosvenor cheetah

From top: Grosvenor Square, Rathmines, Dublin 6; A Cheetah


A huge, exotic, hungry cat prowls Dublin 6.

Only Cecil can stop him.


Sibling of Daedalus writes:

No one expects to meet a Big Cat in the leafy suburbs of south Dublin, but that’s what happened to Mr Cecil A. Graves at Grosvenor Square, Rathmines on March 3, 1913.

Mr Graves, described in contemporaneous news reports as a very important official in the Customs House, encountered the stray cheetah in the course of his evening constitutional.

Fortunately the customs official was also a man of action and – ably assisted in his defence by his loyal terrier – clubbed the feline interloper with a stick before stabbing it to death with his penknife.

No satisfactory explanation as to how a cheetah came to be prowling around Dublin 6 was ever forthcoming, although some suggested it might have been a pet of one of the soldiers stationed in nearby Portobello (now Cathal Brugha) Barracks.

The animal’s unclaimed carcass was ultimately appropriated by Mr Graves himself either as a trophy of the field or an illegal import. He subsequently sent it to a taxidermist to be stuffed.

The Natural History Museum in Merrion Square contains a very fine specimen of a cheetah. Perhaps it’s the same one?


Tales Of Old Dublin (Sibling of Daedalus)

Pics: Google Maps, pbase



From top: Leprechaun postcard, 1900; Nottingham Evening Post item on the Killough Leprechaun

Room for a little one?

Historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus writes:

We all know that Ireland is the home of the leprechaun but when was one last actually seen? Recent leprechaun sightings are few and far between in the newspaper archives, with the most recent one being almost one hundred years ago.

On Monday, 20 April 1908, the Irish Times reported a sighting at Killough, County Westmeath, of a little man of dwarfish proportions in a red jacket, suiting the traditional description of a leprechaun.

The news occasioned great excitement in the district, and a wholesale hunt for the man in the belief that his discovery would lead the finder to a crock of gold.

This search proved unsuccessful, and a subsequent letter-writer to the Times suggested that what had in fact been seen was a blue baboon which had recently escaped from a travelling circus in the neighbourhood.

However on August 13, 1908, it was reported that a ‘little man’ had in fact been captured in a wood near the town of Mullingar, and admitted as a (presumably non-simian) inmate to the local workhouse.

He was described as eating ‘greedily’ and communicating only in ‘a peculiar sound between a growl and a squeal

Very quickly thereafter, a representative of an American museum and theatre of varieties in Glasgow visited the workhouse, and, following an agreement with the supposed leprechaun and his father, took him to Glasgow by the midday train, apparently with a view to his appearing in a music-hall.

Although both parties were described as leaving ‘in the best of spirits,’ there are no further reports of the Killough leprechaun either in a music-hall or elsewhere.


Tales of Old Dublin (Sibling of Daedalus)


Sibling of Daedalus writes:

In 1913, a tenant farmer in Tullamore was taken to court for having a filthy residence. It was stated in court that he was the leprechaun’s father and had sold him for £10. Some disapproval of this was expressed in light of the fact that the leprechaun had been ‘hardly tamed‘ at the time of his sale.

It appears that the purchaser was Mr Pickard, of the Panopticon Music Hall, Glasgow, who exhibited an Irish leprechaun there between 1908 and 1914. Also part of the show for some of this period was the young Stan Laurel, later to become famous as part of the double-act Laurel and Hardy. Perhaps the Leprechaun ended up in Hollywood too?

More as we get it.


The Evening Telegraph, April 8. 1902

Meet Paddy.

Dublin’s can-carrying Kerry Blue.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Kerry Blue Terriers were the favourite dog of General Michael Collins and perhaps he was influenced in his choice by Paddy, the famous Edwardian Dublin terrier, whose defiance of British-imposed licensing laws featured in a number of national and international papers in the Spring of 1902.

The previous year the Child Messenger Act 1901 – following on earlier legislation of 1872 and 1886 which prohibited the consumption of spirits and other alcoholic drinks by persons under 16 and 13 respectively – had prohibited the well-established – and often financially lucrative – practice of children collecting drink for adults from public houses.

Paddy’s young owner – not wanting to lose his profitable delivery service – decided to take advantage of the absence of any similar prohibition on dogs and train his ‘remarkably intelligent’ pet to carry out the work for him instead.

The method, as outlined by the Northants Evening Telegraph, which carried the above sketch of dog and master, was as follows:

“When twopence is put into a can off runs Paddy to the nearest licensed house, enters it, and shakes the can so that the vintner may hear the jingle of the money. The twopence is taken out, the can filled with porter, and off starts Paddy to his home, carrying the can in his mouth.”

With Chompsky on the staff, perhaps this scheme might also prove useful for the Broadsheet morning pints coffee?


Tales of Old Dublin


From top: 1911 Canadian dollar; Luke Flanagan

Did you know about ‘Dublin’s Newsboy Millionaire’?

Read all about it.

Esteemed historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Young Luke Flanagan (no relation), summoned before the Dublin Children’s Court on February 8, 1911 looked just like any other Dublin tenement boy – undersized – looking 4 years younger than his actual 15 years.

Without a shirt and with a threadbare coat pinned across his chest, his crime was also typical of many tenement boys – that of selling newspapers without a licence.

But Luke differed from the average such boy in one important respect.

According to Police Constable 86C (one of Dublin’s famous Tall Constables), who had summoned him to court, he was generally known as the ‘Dublin Millionaire Newsboy’, having inherited a large sum of money from a relative in Canada, which he would come into when he reached the age of 21 years.

Giving evidence in court, Luke’s mother, Mrs Rooney, said that she had married Frank Flanagan, the son of a Dublin solicitor who had subsequently emigrated to Canada. Frank was now dead, and she had remarried.

Luke, their only surviving child, lived with his mother, her new husband, and a ‘foster brother’, also a newsboy, in a tenement flat off O’Connell Street.

Some years before, her deceased brother-in-law, John, who had gone to Canada with his father, returned bringing news of Luke’s grandfather’s death, and a legacy of £1500 (a substantial sum in 1911) left to Frank and passing to Luke as his surviving heir.

The question was, where was the money?

Mrs Rooney – described by all sources as a woman of excellent character – thought perhaps it might have been paid into the Court of Chancery in Ireland.

This caused consternation among Dublin citizens, who were outraged at the thought of a young man of such expectant fortune – described by one paper as a thin, weakly youngster with a wistful face – being neglected by the Court and left to fend for himself on the streets of Dublin.

British newspapers took up the cry of outrage, and soon the story spread as far as Canada itself, and San Diego, Texas. In fact, Luke’s was perhaps the first Irish news story to go viral.

Matters quietened down however, when the Irish Court of Chancery released a statement saying that no money had ever been lodged with it on behalf of either Luke Flanagan or his grandfather’s estate.

Luke Flanagan was convicted of trading without a licence and obliged to pay 2s 6d to the poor box. It is not clear whether he ever got his legacy.

Was the Court of Chancery being entirely honest? Did wicked Uncle John make off with the money? What happened to Luke’s newspaper business in the Rising of 1916?


Tales of Old Dublin

Luke Flanagan pic: Evening Herald