In 1875, a woman called O’Brien ended up beating an officer after accosting another police officer on the street. All but one of the jury was convinced of her guilt. This juror queried the fact that the police officer was not able to identify the woman as the person who attacked him. The Dublin Express states that the presiding judge, Judge Keogh, responded ‘Neither could you if your eye was full of blood’. The juror refused to convict the woman and the judge dismissed the jury, calling a mistrial.
On retrial, the jury found O’Brien guilty. Judge Keogh sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour. The judge also later directed that the unconvinced juror from the first trial should ‘never be summoned to sit on a jury again’. Another case brought to the courts occurred on a night in March of 1862, when John Sheehan, while drunk, attempted to show a police constable how to arrest another drunken man. In the process, he tore the constable’s coat. As a result, he received a fine of 10 shillings.
In 1877, a strange spectacle lit up the night sky in the city. Reports from the night suggest the light was witnessed as far away as Glin. The light emanated from St Mary’s Cathedral, where some unknown persons took two barrels of tar to the top of the tower and set them alight. This was supposedly done to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the reign of Pope Pius IX.
Unsurprisingly the staff of the Protestant Cathedral knew nothing of this until they were alerted to the sight, along with the rest of the city. The Freeman’s Journal states that ‘two Catholic young men – baudouges, most likely – carried the barrels to the top of the tower in the twilight, before the sexton had locked up, and waiting there till night, they placed them on the parapet, and having applied the match, slid down on the outside by a rope’. Coincidently, Pope Pius IX died the following year.
On 21 April 1882, Judge Clifford Lloyd imprisoned Miss Anne Kirk, of the Dublin Ladies’ Land League, for three months in Limerick City Gaol. She was convicted for convincing the tenants in the district of Tulla, Co. Clare to not pay their rents. She had arrived in Tulla from Dublin to erect temporary wooden shelters for those who had been unfairly evicted. She was initially given the option of bail and to be bound to the peace, which she refused. She spent six weeks in gaol before being unconditionally released by order of the Lord Lieutenant. While she was imprisoned, her friends would visit her and spoke to the press about the treatment of Kirk. They stated that she is only allowed two hours a day to exercise and can have visitors daily but they have to speak to her through the bars of her cell, which they deemed a gloomy apartment. Anna was the first cousin of George Harley Kirk, MP for Louth.
In August 1850 a report from the Irish Examiner covered the story of the poor who were travelling from Limerick to America in an attempt to escape the aftermath of the famine that ravaged the country, and how they were exploited at every turn. One case was that of the schooner, the Hornet, that left Limerick for New York. The ship was owned by the Sidley Brothers of Henry Street and captained by a man called Wells. Several of the 82 passengers had paid for beds during the crossing but on boarding, they found that they had to sleep on deck. During the voyage, Timothy Carty from Hospital queried Wells for his bed and was told ‘go and sleep there with the women’. On his arrival in New York, Carty pleaded with the Commissioners of Emigration, the Police and the Mayor’s Office before hiring a lawyer to get his £3 16 shillings returned.
In 1848, the Sidley Brothers sent the Heather Belle to New York with 110 passengers. On 17 September 1850, on a return journey from Quebec, the ship, which was laden with timber, was wrecked. The crew were saved and the vessel and cargo was insured. In 1854, the Sidleys chartered two more ships, transporting 380 poor women and girls from the Limerick workhouse to Quebec. In 1858, their ship, the Triumph, became waterlogged after being caught in a hurricane on her return journey from St John’s in Canada to Limerick. The crew, which consisted of Bartholomew Stapletton of Kilrush, Clare; Daniel McCarthy of Castlegregory, Kerry; Jeremiah Dillon, P Baker, J Connelly, William Levers, P Peek Beale, all of Limerick, were rescued on Christmas day by the American ship, the Cordelid. Later, on 14 May 1860, their ship the William and Joseph sailed for Quebec with 109 passengers on-board. These passengers received the following rations during the crossing: ‘3½ pounds of biscuits; 1 pound of flour; 1½ pounds oatmeal; 1½ pounds rice; 2 pounds potatoes; 1½ pounds beef; 1 pound pork; 1 pound sugar; 2 ounce tea; 2 ounce salt; ½ ounce mustard;+ ¼ ounce pepper; a gill of vinegar and 3 quarts of water daily’.
The Sidley Brothers were Isaac, John and Richard, and they had at least one sister called Anne. Their parents were Richard and Anne, who are buried in St Mary’s Cathedral. Isaac became a freeman of Limerick in 1852 through his wife Annie (Gertrude) Myles, who he married in St Munchin’s Church of Ireland on 3 July 1849. The couple moved to Australia, where Isaac died on 23 November 1864, in Geelong. John operated as a shipping agent from at least 1846 until 1861. Richard died in January 1860 at his home in Richmond Terrace, aged only 36. As a mark of respect, all the ships in the docks had their flags at half-mast.
Though not a sibling, another member of the Sidley family in Limerick was Joseph William Sidley, whose father, Henry Sidley, married Louisa Adams on 15 May 1856 in St Michael’s Church of Ireland Church at Pery Square. Louisa was the eldest daughter of John Adams of H.M. Customs, living at Queen Street (Parnell Street). Louisa stated on the 1911 census of England that she was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1865, they had a son, Joseph Nelson, who died as an infant. In 1867, they had a daughter Emma. In 1869, they had another daughter Kate, who also died in infancy. By this time, they were living at 121 George Street. In 1870 their daughter Helena Gray was born, followed two years later by Grace. In 1874 their last child, a son, Francis was born.
Joseph William became a jeweller and shopkeeper, but in 26 April 1867, he filed for bankruptcy. His business also operated as a fancy warehouse, a china, glass and earthenware dealer, a jewellers, an optician, a perfumers, a picture frame makers, a stationers and a watch and clock makers. In 1868, he travelled to London to purchase items for his store; he then bounced back and returned to his feet.
By the time of Slater’s trade directory of 1870, he had moved his store to 121 George Street and the business had been refined to a fancy warehouse, jewellers and silversmith, perfumers and a watch and clockmaker. His troubles were not all behind him though, as between 1876 and 1881, Sidley was in court seven times for non-payments of rates. By 1891, Joseph William Sidley had left Limerick and moved permanently to England.
By 1891, Joseph, his wife, and their children Emma, Grace and Francis were living in Lancashire and his occupation was recorded as a stationer. Joseph died on 14 February 1895 in 390 Edge Lane, Liverpool. He was buried in West Derby cemetery.