The ealiest document about my great-great-great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, is the record of his trial for murder. The manuscript is in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.
In November 1799, at the courthouse in Wicklow, he was charged with the abduction (in June 1798) of John Hope and John Brady and, with Edward Neil, of the murder of Richard Twamley and George Heppenstall in July 1798. If found guilty, he would be hanged.
My mother, Patricia, first heard of Nicholas’s trial when she was back in Australia researching her family history. The people in the Post Office in Little Hartley, NSW, showed her a folder compiled by our distant cousin, Antoinette Sullivan, a noted family historian. It included a typed transcription of the trial document. Mum visited Antoinette, who gave her a photocopy.
We were inspired to find out more and in 1994 we went to Dublin and found the original MS and some related papers. I can still remember the thrill of sitting in that huge, quiet room, reading the vivid words and carefully writing every one down (including abbreviation signs) with the pencils we were given – ink was forbidden.
It turned out that Antoinette’s copy, made by a researcher, contained quite a lot of mistakes, and indeed the MS wasn’t always easy to read. We were delighted to send her a correct transcription. We owe Antoinette so much for starting us on the trail of the trial – and of Nicholas.
There’s a photo of a page of the original trial transcript on p34 of our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798: from Ireland to Australia.
I’ll talk about the trial in my next post.