1846 - A GENERAL ELECTION IN DUNDALK

 

 

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The following is taken from The Dundalk Examiner, 21 December 1935 and appears to be a reprint of an earlier 1881 article. Footnotes and image have been added by the webmaster. (The image is taken from Tempest's Centenary Annual 1858-1959, Dundalk 1959)

 

The article gives some idea of the volatile political climate in Dundalk town during the General Elections of 1846, 1847 and 1852 and indeed, the dubious way in which elections were conducted. The total number of electors in Dundalk Constituency in 1841 was 538 when Thomas Nicholas Reddington was elected. The number for 1847 is 488 and the number of electors in 1852 was just 267. (source: BM Walker, Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922, RIA Dublin 1978).

 

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STORMY ELECTION OF 1846

 

WILD STREET SCENES: PARISH PRIEST PURSUED BY MOB

 

From the passing of the Reform Act 1832, the Borough of Dundalk was successively represented by William O’Reilly, William Sharman Crawford, Thomas N. Reddington and Daniel O’Connell, junior, until the ever-memorable election of 1847 when the battle of 1826 had to be fought over again in the person of Charles Carroll McTavish.

 

In 1846 the Liberal electors of Dundalk determined to take the representation of the Borough out of the hands of Mr. Reddington who had been its representative from 1837. Mr Reddington was in every respect a good member and a charitable man, but he was a Unionist and that was, at the time, sufficient to disqualify himself from the representation of Dundalk[1]. Consequently he was replaced by Daniel O’Connell, junior. The death of the Liberator following soon after, Mr. O’Connell resigned the representation of Dundalk and Charles Carroll McTavish, Esq, of Maryland, was introduced as a candidate for the Borough, under the personal influence of Maurice O’Connell, Esq. Mr. McTavish was a representative of a very ancient and respectful family, and was related to some of the highest families in England. His aunt, The Marchioness of Wellesley, placed an unlimited amount of funds at his command and was anxious that he should be returned as a member for Dundalk; but unfortunately these political differences and legal dissensions which have always resulted in placing the county  in a worse position that it has been before, prevailed on this occasion to an extent hitherto unequalled in Dundalk.

 

A coalition was formed between the Catholic and Protestant Tories of the town, and under their influence was introduced William Torrens McCullough, Esq., the opposing candidate. It must be admitted that Mr. McCullough was in every way a highly efficient candidate, but his introduction to Dundalk at such a time was rather impolite, and proved sadly disastrous to the peace and harmony of the town. The Very Reverend Dr. Coyne, the then Parish Priest of Dundalk, took a leading part in the candidature of Mr. McCullough, a powerful mob was skilfully organised, and nothing was left undone so secure for the support of Mr. McCullough and uninterrupted canvass.

 

 

NOT SO SMOOTH

 

But matters did not go so on slowly with the Conservatives as was expected. The Liberal party was determined that the power of the people should be again felt as in 1826 and although the rabble, what is sometimes erroneously supposed to be the influence of rank, was arrayed against them, they fought with a vigour and determination never surpassed, and a success little expected by their opponents as the result will show.

 

After a lengthened and careful preparation for the contest the Conservative Party at last commenced their canvass. The party was numerous and respectable, and included Major Stratton, Very Reverend Dr. Coyne, John Haig, Thomas Coleman, John Lawless (harbour master), Samuel Jackson Turner, Laurence Cahill, etc., followed by an escort of men, military and police, in all about 1,000. Everything for so far bid fair for an uninterrupted interview with the constituency. In the meantime the Liberals were actively preparing for the reception of their opponents, and on the morning of the canvass, which indeed was an eventful one, they marched into the town, a body of men numbering 1,200 and in a short time after another detachment of 400 came in, both detachments joined, and falling into a body of six deep, with a string band in front, marched through the town, and swept all before them. They all wore green ribbons in their hats and were chiefly railway labourers and all able-bodied men, so that their appearance was most imposing as they marched through the town, and did not fail to produce a great consternation in the enemy’s camp. It would be difficult to describe the condition of the town at this time.

 

 

PARK STREET SCENE

 

The Conservative Party, after a desperate struggle, succeeded in canvassing Earl Street, but when they attempted to go into Park Street, a scene ensued which baffles all description, sex and age, rank and religion, were dealt with indiscriminately. In the confusion, Dr. Coyne’s hat was knocked off and kicked in wild triumph through the streets, while he made his escape into the “Examiner” Office. Shops and all places of business were speedily closed, and an absolute reign of terror prevailed until the 6th Carbineers, under the command of Major Jocelyn, aided by an immense body of constabulary, at length succeeded in partially clearing the streets. Similar scenes occurred almost daily, until the day of the nomination. Dr. Coyne went out to Mr. Moore, at Thistle House, then an extensive railway contractor, and begged of him not to let the men working on his portion of the line into Dundalk during the election. But Moore replied that any interference on his part might cost him his life. On the day of the nomination McTavish was proposed by Dr. John Coleman and seconded by Mr. Cartan, “Democrat”, and McCullough was proposed By Mr. John Haig and seconded by Mr. Nicholas Martin, the poling being fixed for the Friday following. It was then indeed, that the trial of strength really commenced. Doubtful voters on both sides were captured and conveyed to some convenient limbo, where they were carefully concealed, until the election was over, and only then liberated with a caution as to how they should conduct themselves in future. Some idea of the zeal and energy with which both sides worked may be gathered from the fact the during the entire day neither party could poll half a dozen votes ahead of their opponent, and when the poll closed McTavish was declared to have a majority of three. The announcement was responded to by deafening cheers and an immense torchlight procession celebrated the event, many of the house being illuminated in honour of the victory. Subsequently a petition was presented to the House of Commons against the return of McTavish, a scrutiny of the votes recorded for him was gone into by a committee, who struck off four, leaving McCullough with a majority of one, and with this scanty proof of his being chosen member, he continued to represent Dundalk until replaced by Sir G. Bower in 1852[2]. The present (1881) Chief Justice Whiteside, has been assessor at the election in 1847, declared shortly after when in his place in the House of Commons that it was the most thoroughly Irish election he had ever witnessed.

 

 

SHOUT IN CHURCH

 

The unfortunate step which Dr. Coyne took seemed to have played upon his mind with sad effect shortly after the election. When addressing the congregation in St. Patrick’s he exhorted them to let the angry feelings die out, as all was now over. Someone in the congregation made answer, saying in a loud voice, “It’s too late for that now, you sold the fight at all events”. This shock was too much for him to bear, and in a few months afterwards he died of a broken heart. Dr. Coyne was Parish Priest here from 1837. He was decidedly a faithful pastor, and a truly excellent man in everything but politics. The election for the Borough in 1852 was very warmly contested by Major Jocelyn and, George Bower and Mr. Peter McEvoy Gartland. Each asserted his claim to the honour of representing Dundalk in the Imperial Parliament, and although Mr. Bower’s claim rested solely on his being introduced here by Dean Kieran on the recommendation of Cardinal Wiseman, it was evident that he could become the popular candidate, while in Mr. Gartland, they had a gentleman whose advocacy would be both an honour and a benefit to the town, and whose claim to represent Dundalk rested not only in his fitness for the position but on the many services which he rendered the Liberal Party here since 1832. This alone should have been sufficient to secure him a favourable reception as a candidate from those who had the best opportunity of appreciating his services, but it was otherwise. Numerous deputations awaited Mr. Gartland, and requested him to withdraw from the contest, as it was apprehended that in the event of two Liberals going to the polls, Major Jocelyn would most likely defeat both. This he firmly and very properly refused, as he considered that such a step would be an admission that Mr. Bower’s claims were prior to his own. And thus affairs went on in the usual electioneering style until the day of nomination, when Dean Kieran, in proposing Mr. Bower, referred to that celebrated passage in Roman history where Cariolanus threatened to besiege Rome until dissuade by his mother Ketura [sic]. “And now”, concluded the Doctor, “and now, Mr. Gartland, I put myself in the position of the mother and I beseech you to spare Dundalk as she besought her son to spare the city of Rome”. But the quotation thus adroitly said had the intended effect. Mr. Gartland resigned while stating at the same time that this was solely in deference to Dr. Kieran that he did so, declaring the Doctor to be the greatest public orator of his day. Fortunately, perhaps, for the personal safety of Mr. Gartland, the reverend gentleman did not carry the similitude further for readers of Roman history will remember that poor Cariolanus , when he returned to his troops, was stoned to death as a reward for his temerity. When Major Jocelyn had found that Mr. Gartland had resigned, he said with an air of unmistakable good humour: “Well, Gartland, when you resigned, I think I may safely follow suit”. This announcement was received with loud cheers, and thus ended the contest of 1852.

 

 

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[1] Reddington was appointed Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, this being the reason why O’Connell was elected on 31 July 1846.

[2] The Dundalk election took place on 06 August 1847. McTavish gained 124 votes and McCullough 121. On petition, as detailed above, McTavish was unseated and McCullough declared elected on 20 March 1848.

 

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