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Folklore: Big Capture on Inismurray: A Small Distillery "King" sentenced in Sligo Court

Sligo Independent & West of Ireland Telegraph

Saturday, June 7 1924

The largest quantity of illicit spirit ever captured in the Sligo area was discovered on Innismurray Island in the early hours of Friday morning of last week, when a party of Civic Guard, under Inspector Hughes, accompanied by military, made a lightening raid on the Island. A "small distillery" is the description applied to the scene.

The distillers were taken completely by surprise, and one still was discovered in actual working order, while there was only a very poor attempt made to conceal the immense quantity of wash. Altogether, the Guards captured eight kegs of poteen, over one thousand gallons of wash three stills, several barrels of treacle and a quantity of dry grain. Three men were taken into custody, and brought before a special court that evening. Their names are Michael Waters, "King" of the Island; Dan Heraghty (Dan), and Dan Heraghty (Michael). Sergt. Kelly stated he found four barrels of wash just outside the graveyard, and inside found three further barrels. Sergt Marren gave evidence of finding a ten gallon keg of poteen In Dan Heraghty’s (Michael’s) house. Heraghty said, "If there was anything else to be got he would not be at that." Evidence regarding the finding of further quantities of poteen and wash was given by Civic Guard witnesses.

Inspector Hughes said the whole Island was literally studded with barrels – an eloquent testimony to the trade done in treacle – and that the three defendants now before the Justice were the arch-movers in the game and were men of means. He instanced the case of a woman who was about to give birth to a child, who had no less than three barrels of wash – in a state of fermentation – in her house. He explained that it was only on account of the woman’s delicate condition that he did not take her into custody.

Mr. Flattery, the District Justice, said the British Government might have closed its eyes – directly or indirectly – to the poteen traffic, but the Irish Government was certainly not going to close its eyes to it, and if there was not to be a man left on the Island he would do his part.

The idea prevailing that the people on Innismurray had a right to carry on this illicit distillation had got to vanish. It was a rotten industry, and ruining this country, and it must go. He sentenced the defendant Michael Waters to three months imprisonment with hard labour, in addition to a fine of 50 pounds, and in default of payment within one month a further term of two months imprisonment. The other defendants were each sentenced to three months with hard labour, and a fine of 25 pounds – in default a further month’s imprisonment.