The ‘Hard-Swearers’ of Henrietta Street, 1844 

From Saunders’s News-Letter, 1 November 1844:


A young lad, named Michael Geraghty, was charged by Sergeant Fry, 1D, with stealing a gown, the property of Mrs Hawkins, of Henrietta Street.

The Complainant stated that he saw the prisoner upon the previous day running down Kings Inns-street with a great crowd following him, when he stopped him, and asked him where he was going.  He replied that he was running away from his father, who beat him; however, not considering his statement to be true, he took him to the station-house, where he searched him, and found concealed inside his shirt, and wrapped around his waist, a rich velvet gown, which he had ascertained since to belong to Mrs Hawkins, of Henrietta-street, and which was worth eighteen shillings.  He then asked the prisoner where he got it, and he replied that it was his father’s and that he had run away with it.

Mrs Hawkins identified the stolen property to be hers, and deposed that she sent the dress in a bandbox upon the previous evening, by her coachman, to Suffolk-street, and had not seen it since until that moment.

The Coachman was then examined, and proved that he gave the box with the gown in it to a boy who was going to the country with a cart, to leave on his way at Suffolk-street, and he had not seen it afterwards until he entered the board-room.

Two carmen from the stand in King’s Inns-street stated that they could prove ‘on oath’ that the boy charged had ‘neither hand, act or part’ in the transaction, and knew nothing of the velvet dress.

Mr Duffy asked one of them, named Palmer, if he heard the policeman swear that the boy told him that the dress belonged to his father, and that he ran away with it?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – Did you hear the boy tell the policeman that?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – Did you see the sergeant take the dress from the prisoner?

Palmer – I did.

Mr Duffy – And are you now ready to swear that he had neither ‘hand, act or part’ in the transaction?

Palmer – I am.

Mr Duffy – I have a very great notion of sending you for trial along with Geraghty, for I think you are all concerned in the robbery; however, as the evidence is only against him, I will fully commit him now for trial at sessions, and I advise you to be cautious as to what you may undertake to swear to.

The prisoner was then removed.”

‘Hard swearing’ was a term used to refer to swearing, as a witness, persistently to that which was false.

It certainly sounds like these witnesses satisfied the definition!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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