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Too much whiskey, too little coffee ...

Continuing with my trawl through a range of local papers in the Omagh area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I have come across a series of articles relating to James Condy, a Drumquin publican, and (we suspect) either the younger brother or the nephew of Sarah Jane Buchanan (nee Condy), my great great grandmother who featured in an earlier post. James would appear to have been a man dedicated to his trade, and to the regular provision of first rate service to his customers, as this appearance at the Omagh Perry Sessions in April of 1904 begins to hint:

Ulster Herald, 30 April 1904, p. 7.


Sergeant Reilly summond Robert Marshall for being on the licensed premises of a publican named Condy, from Drumquin. The publican was also summoned.

Mr Orr defended.

Complainant said that on Sunday morning the 17th inst., about 10 o'clock, he went to Condy's premises, and after knocking for a considerable time was admitted by the bar man. Witness asked him if there were any persons on the premises save members of the family, and he said no. Witness found the bar open, and presenting the appearance of drinking having been going on during the night. The kitchen table was full of bottles. Witness found no person around the premises or in the bar. The barman said positively that there was no one on the premises. Witness went upstairs and in the bedroom found Marshall lying in bed with Condy. Marshall appeared in a drunken state.

Chairman: Was he drunk then?

Witness: No, about quarter drunk. On the mantel piece were a number of ginger-beer and soda water bottles. Marshall when asked to explain his presence on the premises said he stopped all night with Mr Condy. He denied that he was too drunk to go home. He also stated that he came up to the house at 11 o'clock the night before and was let in by Mr. Condy at the front door.

Chairman: In what way do you allege a breach of the licensing Act?

Witness: I allege that Marshall was there the previous night and that he was not able to leave and was put to bed. He was in a drunken state. Marshall is a servant living at the end of the village, and that it was not right if publicans could keep these boys from their master's places.

Mr Orr said Marshall was employed by the Rev. Mr Stack.

Cross-examined: Witness was not aware that Marshall suffered from asthma or that the doctor recommended him to take whiskey for it. When witness asked the barman if anyone save the members of the family were on the premises he positively denied it twice. Condy did not say Marshall was there as his guest.

Constable McHugh corroborated, and said he waited outside and heard steps inside as if some persons were going up and down stairs.

Mr Orr said his case was that Marshall was a guest of Condy.

Rev. Mr Stack said Marshall was employed by him, and was working at Drumquin Creamery on the 16th inst. Witness remained up until a quarter to 12 that night waiting for him. The boy was a little delicate but was in better health now than hereforeto.

Cross-examined: Witness would be surprised to hear Marshall got sick that day and did not know whiskey was a cure for asthma, but on the contrary considered it the curse of the country. Witness urged the police to prosecute for the young man's benefit, and the case would have been in court even if his (witness) eldest son was in Marshall's position.

The Chairman said there was no evidence of the sale of drink but there was a halo of suspicion about the case.

Complainant said he alleged that while he was being kept knocking at the gate, Marshall was put to bed.

District Inspector Wall said that the clause in the Act of Parliament showed that if the magistrates, upon hearing the evidence, were satisfied that anything in the nature of a sale or consumption had taken place they were justified in convicting.

The Chairman said he considered the police had done their duty remarkably well, and conducted the case very intelligently.

District Inspector Wall said that upon Mr. Condy's own statement the man went into the house at 11 o'clock at night.

After some further evidence was given, the Chairman said the majority of the bench decided to dismiss both cases.

So, what does this tell us about Drumquin in 1904? Well, it suggests the presence of a doctor after my own heart, want to prescribe whiskey as a cure for any and all ills, and it further suggests a Church of Ireland minister who was fond of throwing his weight around. Indeed, a letter appeared in the Ulster Herald one week later, (7 May 2014, p. 8) bemoaning the fact that the Reverend gentleman was perhaps overly inclined to use his high position to see the law used to prosecute a particular moral code, rather than for the welfare of the public in general (Thomas Lindsay Fitzgeorge Stack (1847-1933) was the son of local landed gentry, and doubtless held considerable sway in the local area). If, as the author of the Letter to the Editor suggests, the Rev. Stack would, on occasion, go unnecessarily out of his way to look after his neighbour's business, I imagine we must presume that he had his flock's best interests at heart.

Whatever this first article tells us about the publican James Condy, he doesn't seem to have been a man to learn his lesson or change his ways without a fight, given that he was up in front of the same court just three months later, on a similar charge:

Donegal News, 23 July 1904, p. 7.


Sergeant Reilly prosecuted James Condy, Drumquin, for a breach of the Licensing Act on Friday 8th July. Andrew Fyffe was summoned for being on the premises.

Mr King Houston defended.

Complainant said his attention was directed to the premises at a quarter to twelve at night by the defendant's back gate being opened. Witness went in and saw parties disappearing through the garden. Witness found that the bar was lit up and men inside talking. Witness heard drink called for and supplied to Fyffe. When witness rapped the light was put out and he was not allowed in for some time. When the police got in no explanation of the matter was given. Witness found Condy and Fyffe in the bar. Condy, as an explanation, said he would say nothing. Fyffe said he was going to stop there all night. The barman and Condy declined to give any explanation as to Fyffe's presence.

Constable McHugh corroborated.

James Condy, the defendant, remembered the 8th July, and said he returned to Drumquin from Omagh Assizes at 8 o'clock in the evening. Witness then went out to the country and on his way home met Fyffe. Fyffe asked could he stay the night, and witness said he did not know, but witness invited him in to have a drink. They went in by the back gate and got the drink in the bar. It was then understood he would remain all night. Fyffe then stood, and both drinks were over when the police came. Fyffe remained for the night.

Andrew Fyffe said he spent the day in Castlederg, and returned back at night about 11 o'clock. Witness overtook Condy on the road, and they went to his house, where witness got permission to remain for the night. They had two drinks in the bar and were there for half an hour when the knock came. The police were admitted when they knocked.

Cross-examined: Witness had told the police on the first occasion that he was in the village from 8 c'clock, but that was incorrect. Witness was not in Drumquin that evening at 8 o'clock, nor was he at the band practice.

Mr Houston said he could produce witnesses to prove that Fyffe was not in the village not at the practice that evening.

Archie Moore, the barman, said that Condy and Fyffe came in at 11 o'clock that night. Witness served two drinks before the knocks came to the door. The police were admitted about two minutes after the knock. That was the first occasion on which witness saw Fyffe that day.

Cross-examined: Witness admitted the police immediately he heard the knock. Witness put out the light as he did not want to have it in the bar. When asked for an explanation by the police witness said nothing. Witness heard Condy say to the police when asked for an explanation of Fyffe's presence that he would say nothing. Witness lit the candles subsequently.

Complainant said he would go no further.

The Chairman said it was painful, too awful to think of it. They convicted both men without hesitation. The publican's case was a gross one and disgraceful, and he was fined 20s and costs. Fyffe was fined 5s and costs. It was painful to hear such perjury in such wretched cases.

Now it needs to be said here that, one incident coming close on the heels of the other, it is tempting to think that the ever vigilant Sgt Reilly and Constable McHugh were keeping a closer than usual eye on the pub when the second incident occurred - sour grapes make for unsellable wine, after all. In any event, the fact that Condy landed in front of the self same presiding magistrate, J. W. E. Dunsterville RM, as had acquitted him two months earlier, cannot have helped him to appear sincere in his defence.

It may well have put an end to Condy's trade as a publican, for a notice on page 7 of the Ulster Herald of 29 January 1905 noted that "Michael Donnelly was granted a transfer of Mr Condy's licnsed premises at Drumquin." It wasn't quite the end of his attempts to serve drink of one type of another, however. Three months later, in April 1905, almost exactly one year after his first court appearance, James found himself back in front of the bench, in company with a number of relatives and fellow merchants, charged with an altogether different sort of a crime.

Ulster Herald, 29th April 1905, p. 8.


Constable Sadlier, Inspector of Food and Drugs, prosecuted James Condy, Drumlin, for selling to the prejudice of t he complainant as purchaser thereof one tin of "chicory and coffee," same not being of the nature, substance, and quality of the article demanded.

Mr Dickie, C.S., prosecuted.

Professor Parklie certified that no coffee was found in the sample which appeared to consist of chicory and some undetermined vegetable substance.

Edward Woods, Drumquin, was prosecuted for a similar offence.

Professor Barklie certified that no coffee was found in the sample.

Jane Bradley and Arthur Bradley, of Drumquin, were prosecuted for a similar offence.

Professor Barklie certified that no coffee was found, and that the sample appeared to consist chiefly of chicory and some other organic substance, probably dandelion.

Constable Sadlier having given evidence of purchasing the articles in the prescribed manner, said that a traveller who sold the "coffee" to the shopkeepers, and who was in town on the day he purchased it, told him that his firm would be responsible for it, and that they would hold the manufacturer liable for it.

Mr Dickie said Constable Sadlier had similar prosecutions in Omagh, but the sale was not yet stopped.

Mr Woods, one of the defendants, said he immediately withdrew the coffee from his shop when he heard what it was.

Mr Clements said the article was now withdrawn from the market.

Mr Woods said he bought the article as chicory and coffee, and in the invoice it was stated to be coffee.

Constable Sadlier said as a rule in such samples there was 5 per cent of coffee and 95 per cent of chicory. The Act of Parliament required about 30 per cent of coffee. If a fine was imposed the shopkeeper could recover it at Quarter Sessions from the manufacturer.

Mr Kirk said it was the poor people that suffered in such cases.

Mr Dickie said the defendants were most respectable people and that they were not in fault at all.

A fine of £5 with £1 costs was imposed in each case, and one month was allowed for payment.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this last tale is that we think the various shop owners, or at least the majority of them, were related to one another. The Woods and the Condy families were certainly related by marriage, and while Jane and Arthur Bradley don't appear on any of our extended family trees, Margaret and Andrew Bradley do, suggesting a possible like there as well.

And if the whole sorry year taught the good people of Drumquin only one thing, you have to hope that it was to be careful around their cups in company with James Condy, if only because bad luck seemed to have a habit of following him around!


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