Saturday 20 April 2019

Michael Byrne & that charge of animal cruelty

I wrote about this case before. My great-grandfather, Michael Byrne of Malahide, Co. Dublin, was taken to court on a charge ‘did cruelly abuse or torture a dog, contrary to the law’. What shame! But, to my relief, he was not actually found guilty. In October 1907, the case was ‘dismissed on merits’, whatever that really means. Anyway, the whole sorry business left a sour taste in my mouth.

It turns out, a local newspaper reported verbatim what was said in court that day. So, now I know the full story and am happy to conclude my great-grandfather did not torture his dogs.

In court, Sergeant Tyndall of the Malahide police testified he had found two men on the platform, at Malahide train station, arguing over a greyhound.  One had the dog by the head and the other by the hind legs and both were trying to take possession of it. The brave Tyndall said, until he intervened, they were tearing the dog in two and subjecting it to excessive cruelty. Poor puppy!

Mr. Dickie, a solicitor, appeared in court on behalf of my great-grandfather. When cross-examined, Tyndall admitted Michael Byrne had gone to him complaining Patrick Mahon had taken his dog. But, Tyndall did nothing to help. He advised my great-grandfather to take out a summons against Mahon for the dog. When my great-grandfather said he was afraid he would never see the dog again, if it went to Dublin, Tyndall advised him to go to the platform and try to get it back himself. Which is obviously exactly what my great-grandfather was trying to do when Tyndall then arrested him.

The dog wasn’t injured during the incident, thankfully, and was healthy and present in the court a couple of weeks later. It was a young dog belonging to my great-grandfather. When it was a pup, it had been promised to Patrick Mahon, and Mahon thought he had a right to come and take it back to Dublin.  

The case was dismissed and, with Mahon’s consent, the dog was returned to my great-grandfather. 

So, Michael Byrne might not have covered himself in glory that day, but at least he loved his dogs.

Boy with greyhound, Malahide, Co. Dublin

This barely visible picture probably features one of my great-grandfather's beloved greyhounds. It was found at his home in Malahide. The boy may even be my grandfather, James Byrne, Michael's eldest child, born in July 1893.

Source: Drogheda Independent, 26 October 1907, p. 7; Findmypast, ‘Irish Petty Session Order Registers 1828-1912’, Swords Court, accessed 25 November 2013.