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THE KINSALE INQUEST
Another thorn in the Admiralty’s side was the fact that the bodies of five of the Lusitania victims had been landed at Kinsale. The Kinsale Coroner was John J Horgan Jnr, a known Sinn Fein sympathiser, which of course did not sit well with those in London. Horgan would not release those bodies until he had discharged his official duty as Coroner. This meant he would have to hold an inquest. Horgan was now in the perfect position to cause maximum embarrassment to the Admiralty in London as well as to HM Government and was unlikely to waste such a golden opportunity. Or so the Admiralty thought. Horgan originally set the inquest date for Monday 10th May. His next task was to subpoena as many of the survivors as he could, including of course, Captain Turner. Upon hearing that a date had been set for the inquest, Admiral Oliver contacted the Crown Solicitor-General; Sir Frederick Smith, and quickly secured the agreement to hold the official inquiry in London. Lord Mersey, Receiver of Wrecks, had agreed to conduct it personally. This immediately made the whole Lusitania subject, sub judice. The press up to that point had widely reported that survivors had heard two explosions very close together. Now the press had to content itself with stories of British and American heroism or German dastardliness. Meanwhile, Sir Frederick Smith quickly contacted the Crown Solicitor for Cork and ordered him to stop Horgan’s inquest from going ahead. Once again, those in authority were too late. The wily Horgan had somehow heard of these machinations and quickly rescheduled his inquest for that Saturday afternoon at the Old Market House in Market Square, Kinsale. With a jury of twelve local shopkeepers and fishermen, Horgan’s inquest defiantly went ahead. Captain Turner gave evidence, referring to the second, internal explosion that had immediately followed the explosion of the torpedo, and that this second explosion rent the ship. Other survivors also gave similar evidence. Turner steadfastly refused to divulge the nature of his Admiralty instructions however, which Coroner Horgan completely understood. Captain Turner’s time in the witness box didn’t last too long. The stress he was under caused him to break down. Not only had he lost his ship and a good many of his passengers and crew, but he had also lost his best friend in the disaster, the ship’s Chief Engineer, Archie Bryce. At this juncture, Captain Turner was totally unaware of the goings-on at Admiralty House in London. The events of Friday 7th May 1915 would come to leave their mark upon him for the rest of his life. In the event, Coroner Horgan had merely wanted to be seen “doing his bit”. He got his headlines with a verdict that formally indicted the Kaiser on a charge of “Wilful and wholesale murder”. Just after the conclusion of his inquest and in true Admiralty style, a breathless Harry Wynne from the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Cork, arrived at the Kinsale Market House with instructions to stop the inquest. Coroner John Horgan wryly commented to the local press outside that “the Admiralty were as belated on this occasion as they had been in protecting the Lusitania”.
The Old Courthouse in Market Square, Kinsale. Photo: Mitch Peeke/Lusitania Online.
The Home Port of R.M.S. Lusitania Lusitania Online
Comments and suggestions to admin@lusitania.net
THE KINSALE INQUEST
Another thorn in the Admiralty’s side was the fact that the bodies of five of the Lusitania victims had been landed at Kinsale. The Kinsale Coroner was John J Horgan Jnr, a known Sinn Fein sympathiser, which of course did not sit well with those in London. Horgan would not release those bodies until he had discharged his official duty as Coroner. This meant he would have to hold an inquest. Horgan was now in the perfect position to cause maximum embarrassment to the Admiralty in London as well as to HM Government and was unlikely to waste such a golden opportunity. Or so the Admiralty thought. Horgan originally set the inquest date for Monday 10th May. His next task was to subpoena as many of the survivors as he could, including of course, Captain Turner. Upon hearing that a date had been set for the inquest, Admiral Oliver contacted the Crown Solicitor-General; Sir Frederick Smith, and quickly secured the agreement to hold the official inquiry in London. Lord Mersey, Receiver of Wrecks, had agreed to conduct it personally. This immediately made the whole Lusitania subject, sub judice. The press up to that point had widely reported that survivors had heard two explosions very close together. Now the press had to content itself with stories of British and American heroism or German dastardliness. Meanwhile, Sir Frederick Smith quickly contacted the Crown Solicitor for Cork and ordered him to stop Horgan’s inquest from going ahead. Once again, those in authority were too late. The wily Horgan had somehow heard of these machinations and quickly rescheduled his inquest for that Saturday afternoon at the Old Market House in Market Square, Kinsale. With a jury of twelve local shopkeepers and fishermen, Horgan’s inquest defiantly went ahead. Captain Turner gave evidence, referring to the second, internal explosion that had immediately followed the explosion of the torpedo, and that this second explosion rent the ship. Other survivors also gave similar evidence. Turner steadfastly refused to divulge the nature of his Admiralty instructions however, which Coroner Horgan completely understood. Captain Turner’s time in the witness box didn’t last too long. The stress he was under caused him to break down. Not only had he lost his ship and a good many of his passengers and crew, but he had also lost his best friend in the disaster, the ship’s Chief Engineer, Archie Bryce. At this juncture, Captain Turner was totally unaware of the goings-on at Admiralty House in London. The events of Friday 7th May 1915 would come to leave their mark upon him for the rest of his life. In the event, Coroner Horgan had merely wanted to be seen “doing his bit”. He got his headlines with a verdict that formally indicted the Kaiser on a charge of “Wilful and wholesale murder”. Just after the conclusion of his inquest and in true Admiralty style, a breathless Harry Wynne from the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Cork, arrived at the Kinsale Market House with instructions to stop the inquest. Coroner John Horgan wryly commented to the local press outside that “the Admiralty were as belated on this occasion as they had been in protecting the Lusitania”.
The Old Courthouse in Market Square, Kinsale. Photo: Mitch Peeke/Lusitania Online.