Chapter 6: 1B1D John Hamilton Crawford Magherafelt 1841-1916

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

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1B1D  John Hamilton  Crawford Magherafelt 1841-1916

John Hamilton Crawford would have been around 11 or 12 yr.o. when his brother left for Victoria.  We know nothing about the family’s life in Ireland until 1865, when John killed Mary Duffy.  Mary was a live in “servant”.  The Irish newspaper reports are included in the chapter about Robert and Mary Crawford in Ireland.  Here are the reports in the Australian press:

Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW : 1856 - 1861; 1863 - 1889; 1891 - 1954), Saturday 15 July 1865, page 2 A young man, named Crawford, is in custody at Magherafelt, Londonderrry, on the charge of beating Mary Duffy—one of his father's servants—to death}

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Saturday 16 September 1865, page 7

The other case was one in which an application was made to the Court of Exchequer for a writ of habeas corpus under the following circumstances: About the end of March last, John Hamilton Crawford, of Magherafelt, in the county of Londonderry, was committed for trial on a charge of killing a servant girl. One of the witnesses against him was his niece, a young girl of twelve or thirteen years, who lived in the house with her grandfather, Robert Crawford. Her name is Mary Chesney; she was bound over to prosecute in the usual way; but it occurred to the constabulary authorities that, if the girl were allowed to remain with her grandfather, she would not be forthcoming at the trial, and they had her removed, first to the police-barrack at Magherafelt, and secondly to the "depot for Crown witnesses" at Ballybough, in the suburbs of Dublin. The grandfather wished to liberate the girl, and applied for a writ of habeas corpus to be directed to" the constable in charge of the depot; and in support of his application he swore that Mary Chesney was the child of his daughter and her husband ; that the parents had sailed for Australia in 1855 ; that the ship had been lost, with all the passengers; that the girl was left in his charge by the father before leaving ;and that he had since nurtured her and taken care of her as his own child. He claimed to be her natural guardian, as well as guardian by her own election ; and cited the provisions of 10 Charles I., stat. 3, chap. 17, which makes it a criminal offence to take away any female child under sixteen years of age from the custody of her father or mother, or any person to whom the father or mother had entrusted her, by will or act. ' Applicant's counsel (Messrs. Dowse, Q.C., and Hamilton) submitted that the grandfather was " guardian by statute." In reply to an objection that this statute was repealed, counsel rejoined that it had been enacted in larger terms by one of the Acts of. the 24th and 25th Vic. On the part of the Crown, the application was opposed, the Attorney-General substantially contending that there was no legal guardian of the child, and alleging that the object of the applicant-this the grandfather deemed upon oath, and offered bail to produce the child at the assizes-was to " keep her away from the trial of her uncle. The applicant's counsel argued strongly against the Attorney-General's view, which, it was reasoned, amounted to this : that, if a child's parents were dead, anybody who liked might seize it and keep it without any legal means of suing out an effective writ of habeas corpus for the child's liberation. When judgment was delivered yesterday, it appeared that the Court was divided in opinion, the Chief Baron being for restoring the child to her grandfather if she so desired, and the other judges holding that the guardianship had not been made out.

Apart from his name appearing on legal documents and newspaper reports about the Court cases challenging his fathers will, there is no mention of him other than in a “History of Magherafelt” book, published in 1916.  He must have played a significant role in his community to have warranted the following entries:

“The Bier at present in use was presented by  the Rev. James Hogan in 1874, and in 1877  he induced the Salters' Company to make a  gift of the clock to the Church, which was  supplied and erected in that year by the late  Mr. Brien Galway, sen. Magherafelt, at a  cost of £105. So great a benefit has the clock been to the townspeople, that in 1902, through Mr. J. H. Crawford's influence, an annual subscription of £1 10s 0d has been given by the Market Trustees to the Church- wardens towards keeping it in order”


A “Bier” is a stand to hold coffins.


“The Rev. James Hogan died in October, 1878, and the Rev. Dr. Jordan was appointed about December of that year. He afterwards became treasurer of Armagh Cathedral, a position which he held till his death in 1908. During his tenure of office the old system of heating the Church by stoves was abolished, and the present one — by hot water — was substituted in 1896, at the" suggestion of Mr. J. H. Crawford, at a cost of £123 17s 10p.”


“The 1st Glenbrook Boys' Scout Troop was inaugurated in the summer of 1912 by Miss  Cassidi, Glenbrook, and she became "Lady  Scout Master." Mr. Burton, cashier of the Belfast Bank, was appointed Hon. Treasurer.  Mr. Hugh M'Master, The Diamond, was asked to become Scout Master, which be consented to do, and has held that position ever since.  It may be interesting to note that this troop was the first Scout Troop raised in South Derry. It flourished so well that it became necessary to appoint an Assistant Scout Master, and, Mr. Ernest Ritchie held the post for some time, being succeeded by Mr. W.  Grey.The first year the Troop had a membership of 24 boys, and of that number 10 are serving their King and Country at the Front, and two have gone into the Bank service — a very creditable record for a Troop three years in existence.There are 26 members at present, and although many of them are quite young, quite a number have taken proficiency badges, and altogether they are most keen in their work. They have three meetings in the week — one evening for Scout work, one evening for football, and one evening (Sunday) "The  Scouts' Own," as it is termed, is held in the  Scout Master's home, and takes the form of a  short bright service of religious instruction,  etc. Botli Senior and Junior Scouts take part in it in their turn, and a short address is given by Scout Master. The great event in “Scout Life" was the inspection of the Ulster Troops at Belfast by the Chief Scout, Sir It.  Baden-Powell, in the month of August, 1915, and the inspection and rally will be remembered as ono of the greatest events in the history of 1st Glenbrook Troop.The gentlemen who have supported the movement since its inception are — Rev. G. \V".  Lindsay, M-A.; Rev. George Gillespie,  M.A. ; Rev. E. Ritchie, B.D. ; Dr. Hunter,  M. B. Redmond, James Brown, solicitor;  District-Inspector 'Wilbond, John Boden,  J. P. ; Wilson Gamble, J. H. Crawford,  "Walter Bell, and J. Stewart, N.T.The Troop has been most fortunate in having as its founder Miss Cassidi, who has placed Glenbrook at its service, and in Mr. M'Master they have an ideal Scout Master, while the present Assistant Scout Master is all that could be desired.”

Isabella McEldoon was a 60 year old live in “servant” in 1911 census, and he passed away in 1916.

Northern Whig - Thursday 03 August 1916

 STATUTORY NOTICE TO CREDITORS. the Goods of JOHN HAMILTON CRAWFORD, late of King Street, Magherafelt, in the County of Londonderry, Gentleman, Deceased. Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the Statute 22 and 23 Vic., chapter 36, that all Creditors and other Persons having any Claims or Demands upon against the Estate or Assets of the above-named Deceased, who died the 2nd day of June, 1916, are hereby required, on or before the 15th day of September, 1916, to furnish (in writing) the particulars such Claims or Demands the undersigned, Solicitors for the Reverend W. Lindsay, the Executor, to whom Probate of the Will of the said Deceased was on the 21st day of July, 1916, granted forth of the District Registry at Londonderry of the King’s Bench Division (Probate) the High Court of Justice Ireland. And Notice is Hereby Further Given, that after the. said 15th day of September, 1916, the said Executor will proceed to distribute the Assets of the said Deceased, having regard only to the Claims and Demands which he shall then have had Notice as aforesaid. Dated this 1st day of August, 1916. VENABLES BYERS, Solicitors for the said Executor, 60, Dawson Street, Dublin, and Cookstown, County Tyrone. 



THE NORTHERN WHIGMONDAY, OCTOBER 30. 1916 LEGAL NOTICES. NOTICE OF CHARITABLE BEQUESTS. Goods of JOHN HAMILTON -CRAWFORD, late of Magherafelt, in the County of Londonderry, Gentleman, Deceased, Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the Statute 30 and 31 Vic,, Cap. 54, Sec. 19, that the above-named JOHN HAMILTON CRAWFORD, who died on the 2nd day June, 1916, his Will dated the 16th day of April, 1914, gave, devised, and bequeathed, subject to the Life Interest therein of Mrs. Mary Gillespie, his House Property the Diamond, in the Town of Magherafelt, with the Premises thereunto belonging, his Garden off Union Road, Magherafelt, and his Lands in the Townparks of Magherafelt, to the Representative Body of the Church of Ireland; Upon Trust to apply the income, arising therefrom or from the proceeds of the Sale thereof, annually towards, in aid the Sustentation Fund of the Parish Magherafelt, and said Testator thereby also gave, devised, and bequeathed. to the Representative Body the Church of Ireland one-third share his Residuary, Real and Personal Estate; Upon Trust to apply the income thereof annually towards or in aid of the Sustentation Fund the said Parish Magherafelt. And Probate of said Will was granted to the Reverend George W. Lindsay, one of the Executors, the 21st day of July, 1916, forth of the Londonderry District Registry, King’s Bench Division (Probate) of High Court of Justice in Ireland. Dated this 27th day of October, 1916. VENABLES BYERS, Solicitor for the said Executor, 60, Dawson Street, Dublin; and Cooks town. the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests in Ireland, and all others concerned.

Once again, I am left speculating about the destiny of Mary Chesney, John Hamilton’s niece.  There is no mention of her in Robert Crawford’s will, when she would have been approx. 16 years old.  I had thought that the court’s having ruled that Robert wasn’t her legal guardian, that she might have been institutionalized or given over to the care of her Chesney grandparents.  Then again, she may have lived on in the care of Mary Crawford until married.  Now I wonder if Mary wasn’t Mrs Mary Giullespie, as I cannot see why John Hamilton would have left her the house.


The two most detailed accounts of the events of 1865 are these:

Belfast Morning News - Monday 03 April 1865

SHOCKING OCCURRENCE IN MAGHERAFELT. a Correspondent.) On Thursday evening last, about nine o'clock p.m., Head-Constable Rogers received information that a young man, named John H. Crawford, Magherafelt, had killed, his father's house, an old woman named Mary Duffin, who had been in the employment his father for the last 21 years. As soon as Mr. Rogers received the intelligence, at once proceeded the scene, where he found the body of the old woman lying on the floor in a pool blood. He then arrested the prisoner, and conveyed him to the police station to await the result the inquest. This was held on the body on Friday, before David Kelly, Esq., coroner, and a most respectable jury. William M'Graw, a lad about 14 years of age, servant to the father of the accused, deposed that the prisoner had come into the house about ten o clock Thursday night. He accused the deceased of using some improper language towards his mother, and, lifting the tongs, struck her the head, from the effects of which she fell to the ground. Witness then stated that the accused put one foot her chest, took hold of her by the hair, and kept knocking her head on the ground till she was dead. He then told M'Graw that if would say a word he would give him the same sauce. Witness then gave him a dishcloth, by means which he wiped the blood off deceased's face and his own hands. Mary Chesney corroborated M'Graw's statement. On examination of the body it was found that nine of her ribs were broken, that a deep gash was above one of her eyes, and several other wounds.  The jury, after twenty minutes' deliberation, found a verdict that deceased died from the effects wounds received at the hands of John Hamilton Crawford. The prisoner was then removed in custody of the police. He seemed deeply affected throughout the investigation at the awful position which was placed. Mr. Crawford is a most respectable young man, and was highly respected by all who knew him.


Derry Journal - Wednesday 26 July 1865


John Hamilton Crawford was indicted for the willful murder of Mary Duffin, Magherafelt, on ‘30th March last. The prisoner pleaded not guilty,” and was defended Mr. Dowse, Q.C., and Mr. Hamilton, advised Mr.Maturin. Messrs. Major, Henderson, and Richardson prosecuted.


The following jury were empaneled to  try the case: Messrs. Henry J. Walker, Thomas Young, Robert Wilson, James Thompson, Oliver Stewart, Hugh Stevenson, Thomas Robinson, James Pachell, Wm. D. Porter, Matthew M'Clelland, James M'Corkell, and Jolm M'Adoo.


Mr. Major stated the case for the prosecution. He said the circumstances of the case were very few indeed. The prisoner who stood in the dock charged with this awful crime, had resided with his parents at Magherafelt up to the time of the murder. The deceased, who was hired servant, lived in the same house. On the 30tb of March last some controversy took place between the prisoner’s mother and deceased. The prisoner was absent during the unpleasant altercation. On his return home in the evening, little niece of the prisoner's, who resided with them in the house, told the prisoner what had taken place. and that deceased had called his mother opprobrious names. The prisoner, hearing this from the little girl, perpetrated the act for which stood charged. He (the learned counsel) would ask the jury to be guided solely the evidence which they would hear, and if any reasonable doubt existed in their minds, would ask them to give the prisoner the benefit of it. William M‘Grath, examined Mr. Henderson, Q.C. —I recollect the 30th of March last; was living in the house with the Crawford family that lime; the prisoner also lived in the house; witness knew the deceased; she lived in the house with the Crawford’s; I was in the house when the deceased and prisoner's mother had the dispute; heard the deceased call prisoner’s mother whore; the prisoner's mother went to bed early that night; recollects when the prisoner came in; witness and Mary Chesney and the deceased were sitting the fire; Mary Chesney related to the prisoner all that bad taken place between his mother and deceased ; the prisoner, on hearing this, said if he knew it was true he would knock her (the deceased's) two eyes into one; the prisoner then beat deceased with his fist severely; the deceased took up the tongs to save herself, but the prisoner took them from her and gave her a blow which knocked her down, dashing her head against the grate stone; be afterwards dragged her to the foot of the stairs, where be kicked her with his feet; the deceased, in the struggle, bit the prisoner's finger, whereupon the prisoner leaped on her, putting one foot on her neck and another on her abdomen, when be crushed her very severely; after this the prisoner went to bed and left deceased lying on floor; prisoner said before going to bed that would give deceased as much more beating the next morning; witness and the girl Chesney went to bed at the same time the prisoner did, and there was no person left in the kitchen with the deceased; prisoner and witness came down stairs after some time, and after examining the woman they found that she was dead ; prisoner then awoke his father to consult what should be done ; the father, after praying for some time, told prisoner to apprise the police and doctor of what had taken place ; the prisoner went immediately to the barrack and brought the police to the house; the doctor also came, at the request of the prisoner. Cross examined Mr. Dowse—The deceased was addicted to drink; she was half drunk on the night she was murdered ; she was quarrelsome and abusive; the prisoner was what might be termed ‘‘half drunk,” and a good deal excited that night; only the prisoner took the tongs from the deceased she would have given him severe beating; when deceased and the prisoner were struggling she caught bold of one of his fingers in her mouth and bit it severely, so to cause it to bleed profusely; prisoner bad to press her mouth open so as to get his finger extricated ; police barrack was opposite Crawford’s house; witness was in the crown witness depot in Dublin since the time of the murder; was brought several limes to the Four Courts to see witnesses examined and cross-examined by counselors ; had a shilling a week while in Dublin, with his meat and clothes. Mary Chesney was next examined by Mr. Richardson, but her evidence was merely repetition of that given by the previous witness. Cross examined by Mr. Dowse—Was in Dublin in the crown witness depot since the time deceased was murdered ; the police never told witness what evidence she should give on this trial; was brought the Four Courts frequently with the lost witness, to bear the trials going ; the deceased was drunk almost every day; deceased had a plaster on her breast from some injuries she had received previous to the 30tb of March last; deceased made a wicked blow at the prisoner with the tongs ; witness saw deceased fall frequently while under the influence of drink. Dr. Patterson, examined Mr. Major—Witness had made post mortem examination of the body of deceased ; the left side of her head was greatly bruised and mutilated; there were abrasions of the skin on different parts of the face ; her chest was quite elastic, and her ribs were broken ; witness also examined her lungs, chest, and abdomen, and found them in healthy state. Sub Constable Hannigan gave evidence as to the prisoner coming into the police barrack to inform them of all that had occurred between himself and deceased ; when the police went to the house deceased was lying dead on the floor with flesh wound on her forehead ; there were marks of blood on different parts of the floor. This closed the ease for the Crown. Mr. Dowse, in a powerful appeal, addressed the jury in defense of the prisoner. He said there were only two classes of offences against the laws of this country equal in enormity to the one for which the prisoner in the dock stood charged. One was treason, and the other murder, cold blooded murder, actuated with malice aforethought. The first offence did not now occur in this free country, and when the other unfortunately occurred, it differed greatly from what had been set up counsel for the Crown as murder in the present case. He asked the jury for a moment to consider the difference between murder and manslaughter. The one was perpetrated by the midnight assassin, who, with malice in his breast, planned and plotted the life of his victim. The other was perpetrated on the spur of the moment, while its actor was animated with all the passion and rage to which our human natures were prone. He would ask the jury could they class the offence for which his client stood charged as murder *” He then proceeded to show the provocation which the prisoner had received from the deceased. Let them search the whole vocabulary of the English language from beginning to end, and they would not find single word so gross or insulting what the deceased had made use of to the prisoner’s mother on that unfortunate occasion. He would not for moment deny that the deceased had met her death from the hands of the prisoner, but it was not until he had beard of the opprobrious language that had been used by deceased to his mother that committed the act. What the prisoner bad done was unmanly, ungenerous, and inhuman, but be would ask them was it murder, and was it actuated by malice aforethought? He next referred to the witnesses examined for the prosecution, and denounced the authorities for having acted in manner which was unworthy of a free country. The witnesses had been trained to give their evidence in Dublin; they had been brought regularly to the Four Courts to learn the art of examination and cross-examination, and he would ask the jury not to attach much importance to their evidence. Several witnesses were examined for the defence, including the father of the prisoner, the tenor of whose evidence principally was that deceased had been of intemperate habits; that her language was most abusive; and that frequently, when under the influence of drink, she met with accidents which enfeebled her so much that it would take very little violence on the part of the prisoner to put an end to her existence. It was also proved that the prisoner and the deceased had been on the very best terms up to the period on which this terrible outrage took place. Mr. Hamilton briefly addressed the jury on the evidence tendered for the defence, when His Lordship charged the jury. He said that no one, even the Counsel for the prisoner, could for a moment question but that the deceased had met her death from the bauds of the prisoner. The language and opprobrious names made use of by the deceased to the prisoner’s mother were no justification for him to forget his manhood so far as to commit such an act. The jury had the power to acquit the prisoner of murder and find him guilty of manslaughter. He considered that the charge of malice on the part of the prisoner bad not been sufficiently proved. On the contrary, the prisoner and deceased appeared to have been on the most intimate terms up to the time of this unfortunate occurrence. He saw nothing in the demeanor of the Crown witnesses to make the jury doubt their evidence, which remained uncontradicted. In conclusion, be would ask them to be satisfied in their minds that the prisoner was guilty of murder before they would bring in verdict to that effect. The jury, after a short deliberation, found the prisoner Not guilty of murder,” but Guilty of manslaughter.” His lordship acquiesced in the verdict, and sentenced the prisoner to ten years’ penal servitude.

Submitted: March 21, 2020

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