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 Leinster Leader 22nd April 2010

Bottles fly at Punchestown affray
Punchestown has always attracted its share of colourful characters to the environs of Naas. Certainly the pages of the Kildare Observer newspaper of a hundred years ago, in late April 1910, reveal an intriguing insight into the fringe events of the festival week. A number of court cases are reported in which the constabulary charged individuals for assault and for vagrancy. Our first case relates to a charge brought by Sergeant Ryan against a woman named Margaret K. of no fixed residence who was charged with having unlawfully assaulted James Hayden at Punchestown by striking him on the head with a bottle occasioning actual bodily harm.  In evidence James Hayden said he was the son of Loftus Hayden, and assisted him in his business as a publican in Naas. On the Wednesday of Punchestown (then just a two-day meeting) he was assisting his father in his tent at the races serving beverages when the defendant came in and asked one of the girl assistants for drink. The assistant refused to give her the drink as she was under the influence of alcohol. The defendant responded to the refusal by throwing three bottles at the staff. The first one, according to Mr. Hayden’s vivid description, struck a girl who was assisting in the tent; the second struck him in the forehead and the third one fortunately missed any of the personnel and struck the side of the tent. It seems as if Mr. Hayden was concussed because he said he did not know what happened afterwards until he was attended by Dr. O’Donnell Browne who dressed his wound. His father, well known Naas vintner Mr. Loftus Hayden, said he was standing on a barrel where he could see all that happened in his tent. He saw the defendant throwing the bottles. He immediately ran to grapple with her before she could throw any more but she made an attempt to trip him up. Mr. Hayden, Snr. said he then called the attention of a constable near the tent.  Constable McLaughlin of Ballitore said he was passing Mr. Hayden’s tent when he heard the sound of bottles breaking. He said he stood for a minute at the opening of the tent when he heard someone shout that his son had been killed. The constable said he saw Mr. John Hayden lying on his back and bleeding from a wound on the side of his head. There were two people holding him up and he appeared to be in a fainting condition. The constable arrested the defendant who appeared to be excited and under the influence of drink. At the hearing the constable’s observation was not contested by the defendant who said she did not remember what happened being under the influence of drink. Col. Wogan Browne, Justice of the Peace, remanded her in custody to the next sitting of Naas Petty sessions. Another court hearing gives an insight into the story of the many wanderers and vagrants who congregated in and around Naas for the race week. At a sitting of the Petty Sessions Court at the beginning of Punchestown week three men who had taken straw from local barns and made a bedding for themselves in a vacant house were charges with vagrancy. Sergt. Clarke of Naas barracks the court that at five o’clock in the morning he found Patrick D., James D., and Laurence B., all of no fixed residence, in an old house used as a stable and owned by a Mr. Donnelly. He found one of the defendants asleep while the other two emerged out of a bundle of hay. In court Patrick D. asked the Sergeant: ‘Was I asleep?’ to which the policeman replied ‘I don’t charge you with having been asleep, but with sleeping in an occupied house.’ The sergeant told the court that the police had received many complaints from farmers about hay being stolen and fences broken down. He added: ‘It was the people from the town that were blamed for it, and it was men like the accused that took them.’ Patrick D. told the court that he was a tailor by trade and he never had recourse to sleeping in such a place before. He was on his way from Celbridge to Newbridge the previous day where he expected to get work. He could not get lodgings in Naas, and he met a man who told him to go to the unoccupied house at Punchestown. The judge, Lord Mayo, quipped: ‘You got lodgings anyway!’ He took a dim view of the trio’s behaviour and gave them a week in prison with hard labour remarking that ‘they had missed their Punchestown and were silly men.’

In his regular feature article in the Leinster Leader "Nothing New Under the Sun" Liam Kenny comments on intriguing events at Punchestown from the pages of the Kildare Observer of one hundred years ago.  Our thanks to Liam.

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