On this day, 1895: Robbery, polar exploration and a cryptic classified ad

The Irish Times covered war abroad and a ‘hare-brained’ balloon ride

At the police courts in Dublin, a case of “robbery with violence” came up in the northern division before Mr Wall. Three women – Julia Mulhall, Kate Kelly and Clara Gleeson – were accused of taking (“by force”) the purse of a man identified as Lowe. The purse contained more than £7 in gold, silver and copper.

The report, published on this day in 1895, gives little detail about the women – only that they resided at Dubin’s Montgomery Street – modern-day Foley Street. The Monto, as the area was commonly called, was a well-known red light district.

Prison register entries for the three women shed a little more light; Kelly (37) and Mulhall (23) were from Dublin, while Gleeson (24) was from Derry. “Pros” is the abbreviation listed in the occupation column for all three women, who were released on September 6th having each served six months of hard labour for the robbery.

Elsewhere in the edition, much space was devoted to new land legislation; the Land Law (Ireland) Bill was published, in full, on page 5 that day. Introduced by chief secretary for Ireland John Morley, it was an attempt to "further amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land in Ireland, and for other purposes thereto".The Irish Times, for its part, considered the Bill "to be of a very bold and drastic nature".


The paper that day expressed some scepticism over a “hare-brained” polar expedition planned by Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée, who intended to travel by balloon.

“To the public it will appear that this is a wreckless casting away of valuable life,” reads commentry on page four. “In the present condition of aeronautic knowledge a balloon is an unmanageable machine, not by any means one of those governable air ships of romance whereof we have heard so much recently in exaggerated fiction.”

‘Splendid meeting’

A telegram from Northamton warned of the threat of a great strike in the shoe trade, while the weather at home was shaping up to be rainy and windy. “Not settled weather” was the familiar-sounding outlook. On the same page, a “splendid meeting” of unionists in Aberdeen earned much space.

In foreign news, the latest updates from the First Sino-Japanese War indicated some 2,000 Chinese soldiers had been killed during the previous day’s fighting. In Britain, meanwhile, a petition had been signed by more than 400 “of the most influential and representative names among the Roman Catholic body of Great Britain” in a bid, said the report, to remove obstacles that prevented Catholics from attending Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The classifieds were, as was usual in those decades, plentiful and prominent. On page 2, a quite typical notice seeking employment was featured: “A young lady wishes to obtain employment as Companion or Lady Help: willing to assist in housework generally or take entire charge of young children.”

A small advertisement, issued by H Carrington Esq of Letterbreen, Enniskillen, promised the purchaser "a secret of success in life". The gentleman would, in one lesson by correspondence, share the "secret and art of easy, well-bred self possession on all occasions: sense of diffidence and awkwardness removed at once and for ever; no failure; fee 2s 6d."

The following notice, however, is the most interesting in the day’s edition – certainly the most cryptic: “Just learned accidentally your whereabouts. Does this explain your suggestion (if yours) to visit, which has puzzled me exceedingly? Surely all the efforts to make opportunities proved desire to speak; but when was the chance given? Illness, almost since Christmas, leaves us without strength or courage, but a chance to speak, with some encouragement, would be irresistible - L.”

Full edition: March 8th, 1895