Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

The Belfast Scandal, 1890


4 February 1890

PAINFUL SCANDALS IN BELFAST.
The Belfast police have arrested a number of young men on a charge of committing and conspiring to commit unnatural crimes. Details of the scandals are unfit for publication; but it is alleged that the parties were in the habit of meeting in a house in the North end of the city, where these practices were carried on. The circumstances are freely talked about among all classes of society, and have caused an immense sensation in Belfast. (Dundee Evening Telegraph)

4 February 1890

A BELFAST SCANDAL.
At Belfast Police Court yesterdeay, twelve young men, mostly clerks and artizans, were charged with the commission of unnatural offences and conspiracy to commit the same. The Crown Solicitor prosecuted, and the prisoners were defended by three local solicitors. When the case was called the public and reporters were sent out of Court, and the proceedings were conducted in camera. Four witnesses were examined, and the prisoners were remanded in custody, except two, who were admitted to bail. Other arrests are expected to be made, and it is believed the evidence will prove the existence of a criminal conspiracy of unusual magnitude. (Dundee Courier)

4 February 1890

SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST TWELVE YOUNG MEN.
IN the Custody Court yesterday, before Mr. Richard J. Eaton, R.M., twelve young men named William Bracken, Thomas Gibney, James Adair, James Almer, Peter Trolland, Francis Feeley, alias William Feeley, David Bateman, James Warnock, alias Warwick, James Smyth, Daniel Faloon, Joseph Anderson, and Samuel Gray were charged at the suit of District-Inspector Seddal with the commission of unnatural crimes, and with conspiracy for the commission of crimes.
          Mr. James M'Lean, S.C.S., prosecuted, and the prisoners were represented by Messrs. Wm. Harper, Frank Kerry, and Andrew M'Erlean.
          The greater part of the evidence was unfit for publication.
          The three witnesses examined were Detectives Regan, Allisson, and Cassidy, who proved the arrest of the prisoners, the overhearing of certain conversations carried on by some of the accused, and the finding in the house of one of the prisoners of a number of photographs, procured, it was alleged, for the prosecution of immoral purposes. The crimes to which this evidence applied were committed in the neighbourhood of Corporation Square, but it was also alleged that a house in Eldon Street, off M'Tier Street, was used for similar purposes.
          Mr. M'LEAN applied, at the conclusion of the evidence, to have the prisoners remanded until Saturday, pending further inquiries by the authorities.
          Mr. HARPER and Mr. KERR applied to have bail accepted in the case of Feeley and Gray.
          Bail in these cases was accepted – the prisoners in £50 each, and two sureties of £25 each. The other prisoners were remanded in custody. (Belfast News-Letter)

8 February 1890

A BELFAST SCANDAL.
ALLEGED FRIGHTFUL IMMORALITY.
At Belfast on Monday twelve young men, chiefly clerks and shop assistants, were charged with crimes similar to those alleged to have taken place in Cleveland-street, London. It appears that the Detective Department getting wind of affairs, watch was kept on certain resorts, and various acts of immorality are preferred against the accused between the 5th and 13th December last. The prisoners were all arrested on Saturday night last, and other arrests are impending. When the cases were called on[,] the public and reporters were sent out of court, and the proceedings were conducted in camera. Prisoners were remanded in custody, except two, who were admitted to bail. Other arrests are expected to be made, and it is believed that the evidence will prove the existence of a criminal conspiracy of unusual magnitude. (Cardiff Times)

10 February 1890

THE SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST YOUNG MEN IN BELFAST.
THE investigation into charges at the suit of District-Inspector Seddall against a number of young men for the commission of unnatural crimes, was resumed on Saturday in the Summons Court before Mr. Richard J. Eaton, R.M. Their names are Wm. Bracken, Thomas Gibney, James Adair, James Aylmer, Peter Troland, Francis Feeley, alias Wm. Feeley, David Bateman, James Warnock, alias Warwick, James Smyth, Daniel Falloon, Joseph Anderson, Samuel Gray, and Thomas Ward. The last-named was arrested since the other prisoners were before the Court on Monday last.
          Mr. James M'Lean, S.C.S., prosecuted, and Detectives Regan, Allison, and Cassidy had charge of the case against the accused, who were defended by Messrs. Wm. Harper, Andrew M'Erlean, and Frank Kerr.
          The proceedings were conducted in private.
          At the sitting of the Court,
          Mr. M'LEAN complained of the presence of the reporters. He understood it had been decided by his Worship that they should not be present during the inquiry. He had argued at length on the last day to this effect, and he now asked that the members of the Press should be requested to retire.
          Mr. HARPER protested against such a proceeding. It led the public to believe that the charges against his clients were of a very serious character, whereas nothing had been proved against them of a criminal nature up to the present.
          Mr. KERR was at one with Mr. Harper as to the necessity for having reporters present. He was sure that nothing would be allowed to appear in the newspapers which anyone could object to.
          Mr. M'ERLEAN, on the part of his clients, strongly objected to a Star Chamber inquiry of the kind proposed. There could be no doubt that it would lead the public to believe the offences of the most serious kind. In England charges of the nature preferred against the prisoners now before the Court were heard in presence of representatives of the Press. Besides, there was no law, he contended, which gave his Worship authority to turn reporters out of the court whilst hearing such a case.
          Mr. M'LEAN agreed contra, and
          Mr. EATON decided that he had authority for doing what he did on Monday last, when the entire matter was discussed, and when he decided that it was right that reporters should not be present.
          The representatives of the Press then withdrew, and the case was proceeded with in private.
          Detective Allison and two civilians named Dowling and Garvey, we understand, were examined. The last-named gve evidence against Troland. Dowling gave evidence against Batemen and another. The evidence only affected three of the accused to any serious extent.
          Mr. KERR, at the conclusion of the examination of witnesses, applied for the release of Smyth on bail. There had been nothing proved against him beyond having been seen in the company of some of the other prisoners.
          Mr. M'LEAN objected, stating that he would have a strong case against him at the next sitting of the Court.
          Mr. M'ERLEAN applied for the admission to bail of Bracken, and
          His LORDSHIP agreed, fixing the amount at – himself in £10, and two sureties of £5 each.
          On the application of Mr. M'LEAN,
          The remainder of the accused were remanded until Friday next, when it was arranged that Mr. Eaton will take up their hearing in the Custody Court. (Belfast News-Letter)

13 February 1890

THE ALLEGED SCANDALS IN BELFAST.
THE ADJOURNED MAGISTERIAL INVESTIGATION.
The adjourned magisterial investigation into the charge preferred by District-Inspector Seddall against a number of young men – viz., the commission of a conspiracy for the purpose of committing unnatural crimes – was resumed in the Summons Court on Saturday morning, before Mr. R. J. Eaton, R.M. The names of the accused are – Bracken, Gibney, Adair, Almer, Trolland, Feeley, Bateman, Warnock (alias Warwick), Smyth, Falloon, Anderson, Gray, and Martin, the latter having been arrested in the interval since the remand of the prisoners on Monday last.
          Mr. James M'Lean, S.C.S., prosecuted, and Messrs. Harper, M'Erlean, and F. Kerr defended.
          At the sitting of the Court,
          Mr. Eaton said that when the case came originally before him it had been decided to conduct the proceedings in camera. The representatives of the Press would, therefore, require to leave the court.
          Mr. M'Erlean questioned his Worship's authority to excude the Press, and certainly in the interests of his clients he was most anxious that the utmost publicity should be given to the proceedings.
          Mr. Eaton said that the question had been carefully considered by Mr. M'Lean and himself on the last day of the inquiry, and they had decided that in the interests of public morality the charge should be investigated privately. The reporters present must, therefore, leave the court.
          The reporters then left the court, and the inquiry was conducted in camera.
          Further evidence having been given, the accused were all again remanded until Friday, Bracken being admitted to bail. (Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet)

15 February 1890

THE SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST YOUNG MEN IN BELFAST.
THE investigation into the charges of commission of unnatural crimes and conspiracy for the commission of unnatural crimes, preferred at the instance of district-Inspector Seddall against Wm. Bracken, Thomas Gibney, James Adair, James Aylmer, Peter Troland, Francis Feeley, alias William Feeley, David Bateman, James Warnock, alias Warwick, James Smyth, Daniel Falloon, Joseph Anderson, Samuel Gray, and Thomas Ward was resumed yesterday morning, before Mr. Richard J. Eaton, R.M., in the Custody Court.
          Mr. James M'Lean, S.C.S., prosecuted. Detectives Regan, Allison, and Cassidy had charge of the cases against the prisoners, who were defended by Messrs. William Harper, Andrew M'Erlean, Joseph Carr, and Frank Kerr, solicitors.
          As at the previous investigations, the proceedings were conducted in private.
          Several witnesses were examined, but much of the evidence was unfit for publication.
          Richard Archer, publican, stated that he had a public-house in Milford Street, in which a minstrel troupe named the Emerald Troupe had met occasionally for practice. He had seen some of the prisoners present who were members of the troupel. Witness then gave full particulars as to his recollections of their conversation and other matters, and was cross-examined at length by the gentlemen representing the prisoners.
          A young man named Fitzpatrick, who was next examined, stated that he was a member of the minstrel troupe, and was present at a ball which was attended by some of the prisoners, and at which one of the prisoners officiated as master of ceremonies. He then entered into detailed evidence as to the conduct of the prisoners at the ball.
          John Fannon, another witness, gave evidence as to seeing several of the prisoners in company.
          Mr. M'LEAN applied to have the further hearing of the cases adjourned until Friday week, copies of the depositions to be forwarded in the meantime to the Attorney-General for further directions.
          On behalf of the prisoners, Mr. HARPER, Mr. M'ERLEAN, Mr. KERR, and Mr. CARR vigorously opposed the appilcation. They demanded that Mr. Eaton should sit from day to day, and hear the charges until they were disposed of, istead of keeping men in custody who, they held, should not be so detained.
          Mr. EATON said he was prepared to accede to any application that was reasonable.
          The application of Mr. M'Lean was ultimately granted, and
          The prisoners Smyth, Gray, Feeley, Troland, and Falloon, against whom the evidence was not so strong, were admitted to bail – themselves in £10 each, and two sureties in £5 each. (Belfast News-Letter)

[A troupe known as Charles MacEvoy's Emerald Minstrels performed in Dublin and Belfast in the 1860s and 1870s, consisting of 12 or 16 young men specialising in Irish National Entertainments, including short plays, singing Irish songs, dancing Irish jigs, cracking Irish jokes, for the delectation of Irishmen and Catholics – but I don't know if this was the same troupe. There was a nationalist theatre group in the 1890s called the Emerald Minstrels, which performed in Dublin, and in the twentieth century there was an Emerald Minstrels troupe actively supporting the IRA. "Emerald" of course means "Irish".]

17 February 1890

THE BELFAST SCANDALS.
At Belfast, on Saturday, 13 young men were again charged with committing unnatural crimes. The evidence showed that the accused belonged to a minstrel troupe, and testimony was given as to shameful proceedings on practice nights and what took place at a ball at which one of the accused was master of the ceremonies. The evidence was unfit for publication. The prisoners were again remanded. (South Wales Daily News)

22 February 1890

THE SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST YOUNG MEN IN BELFAST.
THE investigation into charges at the suit of District-Inspector Seddall against a number of young men for the commission of unnatural crimes, and conspiracy for the commission of unnatural crimes, was resumed yesterday in the Custody Court . . .
          Further evidence having been given by a man named Irwin and Constable Nulty,
          The prisoner Gray was discharged, and
          The other accused were remanded until Monday, Smyth and Troland standing out on the same bail as formerly. (Belfast News-Letter)

25 February 1890

THE ALLEGED OFFENCES IN BELFAST.
THE charges of the commission of unnatural crimes, and conspiracy for the commission of unnatural crimes . . were again before Mr. Eaton, R.lM., in the Custody Court yesterday.
          . . . At the commencement of the proceedings,
          Mr. M'LEAN asked for the discharge of the prisoners James Smyth, Daniel Falloon, Francis Feely, and Peter Troland. They had been out on bail, and the Crown now withdrew the charge against them.
          The prisoners were accordingly discharged.
          Mr. M'LEAN said, with regard to the other prisoners – Thomas Ward, James Adair, Jas. Aylmer, Joseph Anderson, Thos. Gibney, Wm. Bracken, David Bateman, and James Warnock – he asked his Worship to return them for trial on the depositions which had been made in the case.
          The eight accused were then returned for trial to the assizes, bail being refused for their appearance. (Belfast News-Letter)

25 February 1890

THE BELFAST SCANDALS.
[SPECIAL TELEGRAM TO THE "ECHO."]
Eight of the twelve young men charged with unnatural crimes in Belfast were yesterday committed for trial after a private investigation, which had lasted for some weeks. The others were discharged. The eight prisoners, who had previously been out on bail, were committed to prison, bail being now refused. (South Wales Echo)

26 March 1890

CHARGES OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT CRIME.
Eight persons, named respectively James Adair, Jemes Almer, Joseph Anderson, David Bateman, William Bracken, Thomas Gibney, Francis Ward, and James Warnock (or Warwick), were each indicted for having, in the mnth of September and at other times, conspired to commit crime, and on a second count for having solicited others to commit crime.
          Mr. Dodd, Q.C., and Mr. Gerrard, Q.C. (instructed by Mr. Greer, Crown solicitor), prosecuted for the Crown, and Mr. George Hill Smith, Mr. M'Inerney, and Mr. Whitaker (instructed by Messrs. Harper and M'Erlean) defended Bracken, Ward, Gibney, Bateman, and Warnock. The other prisoners were not professionally represented.
          The prisoners pleaded not guilty.
          Prior to the indictment being read by the Clerk of the Crown,
          His LORDSHIP asked the general public in court to leave it during the hearing of the case, and the appeal was responded to.
          Several witnesses were examined for the prosecution, the details deposed to in evidence being unfit for publication.
          The hearing of the case had not concluded when
          The Court adjourned at six o'clock till 10.30 this morning. (Northern Whig)

27 March 1890

COUNTY OF ANTRIM.
CROWN COURT.
THE CONSPIRACY CASES.
James Adair, Joseph Anderson, James Aylmer, David Bateman, Wm. Bracken, Thos. Gibney, Francis Ward, and Joseph Warnock, or Warwick, were again put forward on an indictment charging them with having, at different times since 1st September last, unlawfully conspired with themselves and others to commit unnatural crimes.
          . . . Some additional evidence having been given,
          The Crown case closed.
          Mr. SMITH asked his Lordship for a direction in the cases of Bateman and Warnock, on the ground that there was no evidence to sustain the indictment.
          Mr. DODD pointed out that the indictment charged Bateman and Warnock with complicity with others for the purpose of committing unnatural crimes.
          His LORDSHIP refused to withdraw the case of Bateman and Warnock from the jury. It had been proved that the prisoners were seen together at different times, and if they were all in the same boat, so to speak, each was bound by the acts of the other.
          Evidence was then given on behalf of the prisoners, and
          Mr. Smith, M. M'Inerney, and Mr. Whitaker addressed the jury.
          Mr. DODD having replied for the Crown,
          His LORDSHIP summed up the evidence.
          The jury after consulting for an hour and a half, found a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners except Warnock, and recommended them to mercy, especially Ward, on account of his youth.
          Mr. SMITH submitted that, as the charge was one of conspiracy, the finding of a verdict of not guilty in the case of Warnock should also rule the case of Bateman.
          Mr. DODD held that this was a fallacy, as several others had been found guilty on the same indictment, and as the conspiracy was not between two but amongst all the prisoners.
          His LORDSHIP held with Mr. Dodd.
          Mr. SMITH then requested his Lordship to state a case on a point previously raised by him – viz., that the prisoners Bateman and Warnock should be examined on their own behalf.
          His LORDSHIP refused to state a case, as he was quite clear on the point.
          The prisoners were put forward for sentence, and
          His LORDSHIP, addressing them, said they had each been found guilty of these charges. The jury had recommended all to the merciful consideration of the Court on the ground of their not being aware of the enormity of the crime of which they had been found guilty. They had referred specially to Ward on account of his youth. The offence was one of a very grievous nature, affecting the whole of society, and it was a matter of the greatst consequence that if possible upon its first appearance in public the plague should be stamped out. He did not by these remarks at all mean to say that the Court, including the jury and the judge, should strain the law for the purposes of attaining any such object. The very recommendation of the jury proves that they have carefully and compassionately considered this grave and serious case. In the discharge of his duty he would also have regard to their recommendations, although acting counter to his own feelings. The case was one of conspiracy at common law, and the sentence he should impose would be two years' imprisonment; but, acting on the recommendation of the jury, he would sentence each of the prisoners, excepting Ward, to eighteen months' imprisonment, and Ward to twelve months', these sentences to take effect from the respective dates of committal.
          Warnock was then discharged from custoy, and the other prisoners were removed.
          The Court adjourned at half-past six o'clock until half-past ten this morning. (Northern Whig)

27 March 1890

THE BELFAST SCANDAL.
At Antrim Assizes on Wednesday, eight young men were found guilty of conspiring together to commit unnatural offences in Belfast last September, and were sentenced each to 18 months' imprisonment with hard labour. (South Wales Daily News)

27 March 1890

THE BELFAST SCANDALS.
At the Antrim Assizes Justice Harrison and a jury were occupied throughout yesterday investigating the Belfast scandals, eight young men being charged with conspiring to commit unnatural crimes. The Judge described the revelations as revolting, and the Court was cleared. Six of the accused were sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. The seventh, owing to his youth, got off with only twelve months, and the eighth was found not guilty. (Dundee Evening Telegraph)

29 March 1890

. . . The jury after an hour and a half's deliberation returned into court with the following finding:–
          Warnock not guilty on all the counts.
          All the other prisoners guilty of conspiracy.
          All except Bateman guilty on the second count.
          All except Bateman and Bracken guilty on the third count.
          The jury recommended the prisoners to mercy on the ground that they believed they were ignorant of the enormity of the crime they were committing, and Ward on account of his youth. . . . (Newtownards Chronicle & Co. Down Observer)


SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Belfast Scandal, 1890", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 13 August 2020 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1890belf.htm>.


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