Saturday, 11 June 2016

Looking for trouble – Miles McGrane


Genealogists researching their family tree face a constant risk of uncovering some unsavoury truths about their ancestors. But, up until now, for me, it has always been possible to distance myself from such would-be wrongdoers, by labelling them as in-laws or even as relatives on a collateral line. Now, though, on this occasion, we are talking about my third great-grandfather – on my mother’s side.

It seems Miles McGrane probably had a tendency to overindulge in alcohol, which, when he was in his thirties, got him into trouble more than once.

The first incident occurred on 31 March 1865, when Miles was in his thirty-fifth year and at a time when his wife was five months pregnant with their eighth child. There were two men named Miles McGrane living in Dublin city then, but the second Miles was a businessman and far more ‘well-to-do’ than my labouring-class ancestor. So, I strongly suspect this case involved my Miles McGrane, at a time when he was supposedly working.

On the day in question, there was a fire-escape stationed at Nelson’s Pillar in Sackville Street, Dublin. Miles McGrane came along driving a horse and dray and crashed into the fire-escape, knocking it over. One of the shafts broke, causing £3 worth of damage to the appliance.

During the resulting court case, the fire officer on duty claimed he had shouted a warning as the cart approached, but the driver was ‘under the influence of liquor at the time and took no notice.’

Luckily, Miles McGrane had the £3 necessary to cover the damages and lodged it with the court. The judge then closed the case, and Miles avoided a prison sentence. He was not as lucky the next time he ended up in court, though the circumstances of this second incident were entirely different. 

One Sunday night in July 1867, Miles McGrane and a man named Edward Denis were fighting at Mulligan’s Court, off Moore Street, in Dublin city, in front of a large unruly crowd. 

When a police constable attempted to arrest the two men, Miles McGrane became 'exceedingly violent'. He tried to draw his sword from the scabbard for use against the constable. (Presumably, the police officer wore the sword, not Miles, though the account is unclear.) A second police officer came to assist with the arrest. The crowd started rioting and throwing stones and launched an attack on the policemen. Edward Denis escaped their custody.
‘Both police constables lost their hats in the tumult, and constable 105 also lost his baton and gloves. Both officers were knocked down and kicked most unmercifully by the prisoner McGrane, and the crowd generally.’

The following morning, Edward Denis was rearrested, and he and Miles McGrane soon found themselves before the courts. Denis, who had not assaulted the police officers, got away with a five shilling fine. Miles McGrane got to serve two months in prison, with hard labour.

In this instance, the prisoner was my third great-grandfather, no doubt about it. There was no mention he’d been drinking again, but really, what else might explain his actions that night?

Hard to know what to say! :-} 


Our McGrane lineage


Source: Saunders's News-Letter, 3 April 1865, p. 3; Penny Despatch and Irish Weekly Newspaper, 27 July 1867, p. 8.

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© Black Raven Genealogy

12 comments:

  1. I have this Martin Rooney that shows in the prison registers at least five times and included in the images apparently summary court abstracts. In one of those, he claimed Daniel Rooney as next of kin(B). Daniel did have a son named Martin, born about the same time, but "this" Martin says he is from Clara. Daniel's son was born in Custom Gap Moate. Hey! I dodged a bullet, nothing but the clean living Rooney's so far.

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  2. That's funny Joseph, :-) I'd like to say better luck next time!!! Huge numbers of my Dublin family found themselves in trouble with the police, often for being drunk in public and becoming obstreperous. Even my second great-grandmother was locked up twice. And, I LOVE finding a record of their 'crimes'. But, kicking a police officer when he was down is on the nasty side, don't you think.

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  3. Miles was quite a character wasn't he? I often wonder what the reaction would be from ancestors to know that decades or more later their descendants would uncover their misdeeds, lol.

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    1. They'd probably think there should be a statute of limitation, Ellie!

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  4. You never know what you'll find when you start digging! :)

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    1. So true, and I'm happy to find anything at all, Dana.

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  5. Sadly the ones that cause a little bit of trouble are the easiest to find. My 3rd great grandfather can hardly be found at all, but he had a couple of siblings with a nose for trouble and I know so much more about them as a result!

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    1. Still, isn't it great to find them! In Dublin, the majority of men fell foul of the law at some point, apart from my most elusive ancestors, and I dearly wish they too had drunk one too many, just once in their lives, and ended up in jail for the night.

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  6. It sounds like he accepted his punishment anyway. If he were REALLY bad, he might have run.

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    1. I doubt he had any choice in the matter, Wendy, but it was the last time he ended up in jail. Maybe he learnt his lesson.

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  7. Now that is a coincidence! I’ve just discovered a relative who got into trouble through alcohol. I’ve yet to work out exactly how closely related we are and when I do I’m not sure I will blog about it. The crime he committed is no longer punishable by death, but it was back in 1830, and he was hung. I’m not sure I have the ability to write his story, so I’ve just made a few notes and am mulling it over. His mother died when he was a small boy, and his father was described as an illiterate pauper. Very tragic but he did commit a very unpleasant crime. I'm so enjoying reading your blog posts.

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    1. Thank you. This sounds like a fascinating story, Barbara, I hope you change your mind about telling it.

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