From Saunders’s News-Letter, 11 October 1814:
“A few days since a Welshman of the name of Owen Thomas, came to lodge at the White Cross Inn, Pill Lane, where a Mr Donald McKay, from Aughnacloy, likewise took up his abode. They had been but a few days residents of this Inn, when the North Countryman found his cash diminished upwards of ten pounds.
On investigation, some circumstances were disclosed which led to a suspicion that Owen Thomas knew something of the matter; he was accordingly taken into custody, and brought before the Magistrates of Ormond-Quay Office, where he confessed that he came from Wales to try his fortune, and having a few very useful keys, he opened the trunk of his neighbour Mr McKay, and borrowed the cash missing.
A Rev Mr McFerran, who was also a lodger at the Inn, missed five guineas in gold, which the prisoner acknowledged that he could give the best account of. He returned four of the guineas, and produced a parcel of English Bank Notes, which he stated he had bought with the plundered Notes. He returned them all, in the hope that there would be no prosecution; but the proprietor of the Inn conceived in his duty not to allow him to escape, consequently he was fully committed to Newgate to abide his trial.”
Posterity does not record the sentence received by Mr Thomas!
Nor is it clear from the story whether the hostelry involved was the old White Cross Inn at No. 65 Pill Lane or the New White Cross Inn a few doors up at No. 72. You can see both premises on the map below.
One of the new clubs formed by the United Irishmen after its proscription in 1794 was the Friendly Club (later the United Society of Pill Lane) which met in the old White Cross Inn. The Club, also known as the Committee, was reputed to consist of seventy members, many of them men of great property, and to exercise a supervisory or leadership role within the organisation. William Drennan (whose grandson William Drennan Andrews and great-grandson James Andrews went on to become noted judges), Oliver Bond and Henry Jackson were all members.
Ghosts of United Irishmen aside, another spectre who may haunt the location of the old White Cross Inn is the Reverend Mayne, a clergyman from Northern Ireland, who died after throwing himself out of one of its windows some time in the 18th century.
Both the old and New White Cross Inns were acquired by the Wide Street Commissioners in the 1830s and now form part of the Four Courts.
Can you work out what is located on their respective sites today? This may help!