I was searching through old newspapers recently, trying to discover the earliest local murder (i.e. local meaning in the Portglenone, Kilrea, Maghera area) that was referenced in the media.
On the first of July 1773, a Gauger by the name of Edward O’Hagan, from Portglenone, was shot by John Hinds, a bar owner from Killymuck. Killymuck is a townland which is roughly four miles from where we lived.
A Gauger is a revenue officer who inspects bulk goods subject to duty, in other words, a tax collector.
Gaugers, according to many media reports of the time, were not the nicest of folk and were often despised by local people. One would imagine that poor rural folk usually didn’t care to see a gauger in their area. Poverty and their efforts to make a living and raise a family, were enough to be getting on with.
On that mid-summer day, O’Hagan met his demise at John Hind’s house. He had been trying to levy a fine on the bar owner. The publican evidently didn’t much fancy the fine and shot the gauger. The victim died later the same afternoon from his injuries. John Hinds didn’t hang around and fled the scene.
Reward for Capture and Conviction of Portglenone Gauger Killer
The authorities in Dublin were aghast and offered two hundred pounds for the capture and conviction of John Hinds. They placed details of their reward in many newspapers across the country.
I cannot find any further references in the media to the case. One imagines if caught, he would have been hung.
The British exchequer, via it’s affiliates in Dublin, always sought it’s pound of flesh. There are many stories of the unscrupulous nature of gaugers in Ireland. I will endeavour to post a few such stories in the future on this website.
One can imagine the running battle between local poteen (the Irish spelling is ‘poitín’) makers, and the men from the revenue, in rural areas.
It was infamous for the manufacture of spirits. Many a still was to be found there, even until as recently as the 1920s and 30s. Local cops from Innisrush and Gulladuff police stations would regularly be out on their pedal bicycles, keeping a watchful eye, looking for any signs of smoke coming from Eden moss.
My favourite story is that of a Mulholland wake in Eden in August 1900, and a cop bust of poteen makers in Eden moss the same night. Long late night Irish rural wakes and poteen drinking. The two go hand in hand, a marriage made in heaven. I’ll recount that story, and subsequent court case, in a future article.