An advert for Schultze Gunpowder.

Arva’s Gunpowder Plot in 1869

At Arva’s petty sessions held in June 1869, what was described as a daring outrage came before the magistrates. Three characters, Patrick Brady, Michael Stokes and John Rorke were ‘brought up in custody’ charged with carrying out a ‘most daring’ robbery, attempting to burn down the property of John Cosgrove, shopkeeper and publican in Arva. Late into Sunday night, May 30, the attack on Cosgrove’s property was observed by an employee named Dennis Hughes. On seeing smoke pouring from the building he wasted no time, and with the assistance of Mary Comiskey, a house servant, they managed to gain access through a trapdoor to the hallway and extinguish the flame. Hughes noticed ‘scraps of paper’ strewn about the floor and his ‘master’s’ desk broke open and the cash box gone. The loyal shopworker wishing to do nothing without his master’s consent, patiently awaited his return.

By one o’clock in the morning, Cosgrove had not returned. Being anxious, Hughes decided to take another look accompanied again by Mary Comiskey.

They searched the premises, noticing a handkerchief with something wrapped inside it which Hughes examined. It then exploded with a ‘fearful crash’, injuring both Hughes and Comiskey to such an extent leaving their lives in what the newspaper said was a ‘precarious state’.

On the Monday morning, a search of the premises revealed an ‘extinguished coal in one of the rooms and a paraffin jar with its neck broken, its contents scattered on a pile of coals, in an attempt to ignite the house. One of the prisoners, Stokes, was only a lad of fifteen years, an apprentice to Cosgrove. Stokes had stolen the cashbox and handed it to Rorke, after pouring paraffin around the shop to cover his tracks before setting it alight.

Young Stokes, the newspaper wrote, may have been worked on by the older prisoners to do the crime.

A follow up report, inThe Anglo-Celton June 12, told readers that on Cosgrove’s return the following morning, he found his shop in the possession of the police, the interior damaged by an explosion caused by ‘gun powder’, it emerged. Hughes and Comiskey were now ‘lying dangerously injured’ from the explosion. While the search of a box belonging to Stokes revealed an invoice for the sale of one pound of gun powder, bought a month earlier from W.D. Diggins.

Solicitor H.P. Kennedy, appearing for Patrick Brady and John Rorke at Arva, said he knew Brady, considering him to be of good character, likewise, Rorke, having been in the employ of Cosgrove, was of good conduct and character, married, and father of a big family, all dependent on him. Brady and Rorke were acquitted and Stokes was given a date at Cavan Crown Court, in July.

In the Crown Court, it was further learned that a large amount of whiskey had been lost on the night, a tap been turned on, allowing 12 gallons on to the floor. The case was proven against Stokes who was found guilty, although a plea for mercy was requested considering his age. The judge recommended him to be send out of the country to begin again as soon as he’d served his 12-month sentence. Stokes’ father had relatives in New York to whom he said his son could go when released.


The fair green at Crossdoney, where the ‘prettily situated’ village held fairs periodically for selling cattle, was in October 1877 labelled ‘a disgrace’. The fairs were well-attended and considered to have been of much importance to the surrounding district and to the village. However, the Cavan Weekly News wrote, the green was an absolute disgrace to the village and to the ‘boasted civilisation’ of our ‘northern province’.

The problem was holes, the ground had so many holes, that ‘a perch of level ground’ could scarcely be found in one place throughout the entire green. It occurred to the columnist that the green looked as though, someone was trying out the ‘celebrated’ Dr Barrett’s method of disposing rubbish by digging holes and burying it, except for the fact that the holes were left empty craters, devoid of waste.

The truth was that they were a real danger to the sellers who congregated around them of a fair day. From all sides, great holes yawned, said the newspaper, ‘to receive’ the hapless creatures that fell into them, leaving the farmers unable to ‘preserve them from accident’ during the ‘jostling’ of the crowd.

Mr A. Nesbitt, the landlord, came in for some flack. An absentee he could not know the state of the green but, by his reputed character, it was felt that he might speedily apply measures to fix matters as it was in his ‘interest as well as his credit to do so’.


Dr Connell of Bunnoe could have been a character from a horror novel, except that he was a real person and the following story is true. In Foster’s Irish Oddities, by Alan Foster, there is an account of the good doctor at work. The story concerns a 14-year-old girl by the name of Anne Mulligan of Roxberry who, while on a visit to her neighbour’s home, had ‘completely lost her voice’. She remained in that condition for four years.

In May 1777, her friends took her to Bunnoe, Co Cavan, to see the eccentric doctor.

Known to all as the ‘mad doctor’, Connell had peculiar methods for solving medical conditions.

Anne, by now aged 18 years, was not all that optimistic. Taking her friends’ advice, she would give the ‘mad doctor’ a go.

Dr Connell’s treatment, described in Foster’s Irish Oddities must have been a hair-raising experience, as Foster explained: ‘The doctor heard her story and examined the girl, then brought her into his dining room and locked the door.’

At this point, you might expect something dreadful to have happened and it did.

Connell started distorting his features in a ‘shocking manner’, frightening the girl witless for a period of time before leaping from his chair, grabbing a dagger and going for her.

The girl screamed loudly, having regained her voice, which she never lost again.

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