Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 28,1854 --- An Irish Romance

John Carden, Deputy-Lieutenant of County Tipperary, stands trial for a foiled plot to abduct a wealthy young heiress for his bride.

Nothing else was talked of across Ireland, nor in much of England. Such crimes, once common in the untamed West country, are now rare. Miss Eleanor Arbuthnot, her fortune put at £30,000, was staying with the Goughs, her relatives in Clonmel. Carden, a man of fearsome local reputation, had approached Mr. Gough to request permission to present himself as a suitor but he was "rejected with indignation."

On 2 July, few noticed when Carden left early from Sunday services at Rathronan Church. He had to set his trap. As Eleanor and her sisters returned to Gough House, Carden and several ruffians ambushed their carriage. A frantic melee ensued; Carden's men were armed with "skull-crackers" while the Gough servants fought back with stones, one well-aimed rock hit the amorous Carden in the throat. He was also kicked in the chest by his would-be bride and his nose was broken by another young miss. He fled, leading his pursuers on a 20-mile chase which ended when his mare dropped dead.

The Attorney-General, who came down from Dublin to head the prosecution, tells the jury that Miss Arbuthnot avoided a "fate which no one can contemplate without horror." In Carden's carriage, police found a vial of chloroform (Sensation in court!). In her tearful testimony, the 20-year old maiden insists that at no time had she ever encouraged Mr. Carden's attentions. During Miss Arbuthnot's testimony, heard with "unmingled admiration", Carden sits with his hands over his still bandaged face, sobbing. Carden's lawyer admits an "outrage of a deep and aggravated kind" had been contemplated, but not accomplished. The jury agrees, finding Carden not guilty of "abduction with intent to ravish."  He does receive two years hard labor for "attempted" abduction and a lecture for his "pre-eminent audacity and turpitude."

The lighter sentence drew cheers, especially from the many Irish ladies in the courtroom. The Cork Examiner notes a strong pro-Carden feeling; Miss Arbuthnot is an outsider, after all, a "fair Saxon" (an Englishwoman) and "only the daughter of an Army clothier." A crowd of "Amazons" outside the courthouse gave three cheers for "the Carden of Bardane," expressing regrets that "such a fine man should be put away for the like of her."

According to Arbuthnot family lore, "During the years after his release from prison, Carden systematically followed Eleanor, often appearing unexpectedly in neighbourhoods where she was staying."

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