The Whole Truth

"My Lady was gasping, sir."

Of John, Viscount Ballybryan
Of Bryanscourt in the County of Down
For Criminal Conversation with
Harriet, Lady Clonallon
Wife of George, Lord Clonallon in the same county
Which was tried in the Trinity Term 1788
At the Court of King’s Bench
Before Lord Mitchelstown 

Printed for Thos: Walker
79 Dame Street



If a man’s wife betray his trust, he may yet find comfort in the Society of his friends.  What then must a man do if not only deprived of the love, harmony, and companionship of the woman who had sworn to cleave to him forsaking all others, if her fall takes place at the hands – (not to mention other Parts) – of his lifelong Friend, the man who stood at his shoulder even at the Hymeneal altar?  Such however is the sad case of Lord Clonallon and his Lady, who after some ten years of domestic felicity, have had all bliss destroyed by her seduction by Viscount Ballybryan.  We will not try the patience of the reader with the usual lawyer’s cant and jargon attendant on these occasions but will endeavour to put before him the Facts of the Case – namely the most incontrovertible evidence of the guilt of the adulterers.  Charged with criminal conversation with Lady Clonallon, the Defendant made the usual plea, namely, not guilty, rendering it incumbent on the accusing party to prove the affirmative.


The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Curran, opened his case by bringing to the attention of the jury the fact that Viscount Ballybryan and Lord Clonallon had been friends since the School room, a tie of affection and trust of which the Defendant took most cruel advantage when he cast eyes of lewd appetite on Lady Clonallon.  Thus the poor husband was doubly betrayed.

Following the discovery of the Defendant and Lady Clonallon in flagrante, the Lady fled Castle Clonallon and is believed to be in Viscount Ballybryan’s keeping at an address in Dundalk.  There being no doubt as to the first part of the case, namely the commission of adultery, the next consideration was to the extent of the damages.  As is customary in these cases, neither Plaintiff, Defendant nor the Lady concerned took the stand, but there was no want of witnesses nevertheless.

* * *

‘Please give your name and occupation.’

‘I am Brigid Magennis, chambermaid to Lady Clonallon.’

‘And your age?’

‘I believe I am about eighteen years old.’

‘How long have you been in her Ladyship’s service?’

‘Five years, sir.’

‘Are you acquainted with the Defendant, Viscount Ballybryan?’

‘I am.  He has called regularly, at least once a month, since I started at Castle Clonallon, but lately more often.’

‘Was your master always present at these visits?’

‘To begin with, yes, but over the last twelvemonth he would oftener call when my master was away from home.  The bogtrotter – that is, my little brother that takes all the messages for the Big House – he would convey at my Lady’s request news of the master’s absences to Lord Ballybryan.  Then my mistress would receive him alone without annoyance…before that when Lord Ballybryan called then he and my Lady would go out riding sometimes, and my Lord Clonallon would laugh and wish them good sport.  Only often my lady would come back complaining of a fall with her clothes all muddied and damp down the back –‘

‘Go on.’

‘But her tirewoman told me my Lady would laugh as she was undressed by her and said that she had not been hurt overmuch…indeed Bessie told me she never saw no bruising nor injury to her.  But when the master was absent my Lady and Lord Ballybryan showed no interest in riding though they had been so keen before –‘

‘Hold your noise up there or yous’ll all be thrown out!’

‘Please continue.’

‘Instead, they were closeted in my Lady’s chamber giving instructions they should not be disturbed.  Afterwards, when he had quit the house, my Lady would send word that I was to change the bedlinen.  There was marks on it, so there was.’

‘What kind of marks?’

‘Wet ones, such as a man and a woman make when they are together.’

‘Thank you.  Mr. Atkinson, your witness.’

* * *

‘Are you married?’

‘I am not, sir.’

‘You described to my honourable colleague the marks you observed on Lady Clonallon’s bed-linen.  How, pray, did you know what those marks signified, if, as you say, you are not a married person?  Might not Lady Clonallon simply have overturned her tea-cup?’

‘No, sir, I know what they are, for I find them only when a bed has the impress of two bodies.’

‘I am Joseph McNamara, Lord Clonallon’s ostler.’

‘Kindly describe to the court the events of 21st March last.’

‘I had been asked to saddle my Lady’s cob and to rub down the mare on which had come Viscount Ballybryan.  Lady Clonallon then sent me on messages to the chandler in Downpatrick and was quite insistent that it was I should go and not the boy, saying that it was urgent and to take a horse, though I couldn’t myself see the matter of the thing and nor could the merchant himself.  When I returned it was coming dark so I went to the stables for to see had they returned from their ride.  I heard sounds from an empty stall.’

‘Of what nature?’

‘My Lady was gasping, sir.’


‘As though she couldn’t get her breath.  The Viscount could speak, though – just what you might call endearments, sir, not that I can remember them exactly.’  I heard him clear enough: “Oh what a well-buttered cunt!  And you have me as hard as a board still!”

‘Did you observe them?’

 ‘I took care not to, sir, not with my own eyes, for such would be an occasion of sin, and I knew what them sounds signified and such was enough for me especially as they fouled the day of our Lord’s crucifixion which should be a time of fasting and repentance –‘

‘Please confine yourself to the facts, McNamara.’

‘The facts, sir, was that them horses was saddled and ready as I had prepared them more than an hour before, but it was not they as had been ridden.’

* * *

‘I am Patrick McConaghy, footman to Lord Clonallon for the past twelve years, and husband to his cook.’

‘Indeed?  Will you please describe what happened on the afternoon of 17th April last?’

‘My Lord before his departure for Belfast the previous day gave me strict instruction that at 4 o’clock the following afternoon I was to enter my Lady’s chamber to recover a novel he was sure she had borrowed of him – to his annoyance as he hadn’t finished the reading of it.  I was to knock and enter without waiting for permission.  He was quite particular on that point.’

‘What did you think of his Lordship’s request?’

‘With respect, sir, nothing.  My Lordship does not pay me to think.  He pays me to do his bidding.’

‘I see…  How would you describe the Plaintiff’s manner when he spoke to you?’

‘He was dark in the face, as if angered.  He made me repeat his instructions and corrected me in every way until he was sure I had them right.’

‘He had his suspicions, then?’

‘Oh, as to that I cannot say.  I obeyed him to the letter.  I knocked, but on account of the noise my Lady was making within, I do not think I could have been heard, but I proceeded as my master had told me to do.  My lady lay on her bed, on her side, facing Viscount Ballybryan.’


‘Ah, no, sir, peeled but for her stockings and slippers.  The gentleman’s shirt lay on the floor and though he still wore his britches these were unbuttoned and pushed down and he was embracing my Lady as does a husband.  When he heard the door close – I confess I made more noise about that than I have been trained to do, for the business made me feel uncommonly uneasy – my Lady cried out in confusion and he cursed me to hell and rolled my Lady so that she was hid under him although her limbs was all wrapped around him meaning he could not rise.  I saw the volume my Lord wanted lying open on a chair, just where he told me I was like to find it, so I seized it and made my exit.’

‘The last item of evidence I will present to the jury will be the letter discovered by the Plaintiff, and of which he immediately recognised the hand for it is one familiar to him from when he first held a pen himself, though the writer had not the courage to sign his own name to it.  In the interests of delicacy, I will not read this aloud as I should be forced to omit too many words, but will allow all interested parties full sight of it…’

My beloved Francesca,

Two days ago I fucked you to the height of pleasure, and fucked and fucked till I was fit to dissolve with the joy of it.  I wager your sensation was as great as mine, from the pinking of your dear diddies and the sweet cries I sought to muffle that we be not discover’d and find our embraces brought to an end.  I grow warm again now when I think again of my pego in your quim where he was grasped with such ardour that at the memory of it he raises his head hopeful for more sweet moist burrowings.  I have done no more than bathe my hands and face since I left you, despite the dust of the road back to my house, for I want to keep by me the sweet scent of your dear skin as long as I decently may.

I have no regrets, my sweet cunnybun, only that we have been waited so long to make ourselves so happy.  ‘We read no more that day’ nor will, if I have anything to do with it, on many days to come – to come!  Send me word the moment George quits his roof next.

Your most humble servant and slave,


 * * *

‘So his Lordship has won his case, Packy,’ said McNamara.  ‘All that ruction, when honour could have been satisfied easier with a brace of pistols in Phoenix Park.’

‘And deprive the lawyers of their brief and the Quality of their spectacle?  Not to mention the scribblers and the printsellers.  Molly!  Fill these up for us again, would ye?’

‘To my mind, it was none other than a Smock Alley farce.  Your man up on the bench was stocious.  He kept losing his wig.’

‘Not stocious, Joe.  With that evidence, his hands were too busy to be bothering themselves with his head.’

‘Twasn’t right to treat poor Biddy that way, though.  It wasn’t her that made them stains.  And ‘tis a strange thing, that a servant must forswear and take the stand and answer to their questions when them as has done the deeds or complained of them is not compelled to speak their evidence and may be absent from the court altogether.’

‘But himself was there right enough – the master, I mean.  Sitting in the public benches wearing my second-best, with my collar turned up and my hat pulled down.’

‘Go on, Packy!  Well, he’s got back his expense, with them damages.  And he’s enough coin out of it to buy his divorce as well.’

‘Ah Joe, the divil a penny he’ll take of it.  What we saw in Dublin wasn’t the way of it at all, so it wasn’t.  They pretend they can’t see a servant, do the Quality, but he’s there for all that, and his ears aren’t stopped.  I heard ‘em, Clonallon and Ballybryan, I mean, confabulating the whole matter, one night when they had drink taken.  “That letter was a masterstroke,” says the master.  “Anyone would think you were truly in love with poor Harriet!”  There was a bit of a silence then, and I thought maybe they’d tumbled to me standing behind the door.  Then Ballybryan laughs and says, “Even if you don’t want her, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be loved!”  The master asks him then: “I hope you won’t take it amiss though if I prevail upon you for one more favour, to tie the thing up right: that you lie with my wife in her chamber in the afternoon two days from now, when I shall be in Belfast, and allow my footman to observe you in that situation.  By this stratagem, our case may be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.”  Something like that, anyway.’

‘You’re codding me!’

‘I am not.  Ballybryan laughs and says: “Gladly!  What position would you have me take?”  “Whichever pleases you and the lady most, so long as there is no doubt,” says the master, “but just don’t let her ride you rantipole, for I’d rather McConaghy sees no more of her than is needful.”  “I’ll be a gentleman and show him my bum instead,” says the other.  Ballybryan played his part but I’ll wager she never knew they were going to be broken in on; her distress looked real enough.  Women being the contrary creatures they are she mightn’t have agreed to it.’

‘So ‘twas the poor lady that was wronged, Packy.’

‘It was so.  I wonder did those lawyers know it.  Not that they’d’ve said.  If Ballybryan didn’t really want her at the start of this tarradiddle, but just wanted to help his friend out of a difficulty, I’d wager my shirt he wants her well enough now.  She’s a well-made little woman, though I didn’t get to see as much of her as I’d’ve liked.  And Clonallon has Biddy’s sister at Carlingford with their brood of bastards, and in Dublin that actress whenever he wants her.  Once he gets his Act of Parliament making him a free man, he’ll surely go after another heiress in the hope that this time she’s not a barren one.  But to my mind, it’s them that are fortunate, so they are – Powlow and Frunchesker I mean.  Just before I obeyed the master’s instructions and opened that door, I heard her cry out.  “Don’t stop, Jack, oh for the love of God, don’t stop!”  McConaghy paused, then took a long swig of his beer.  ‘Where’s my Molly away to?’

‘Will she not have gone to bed by now?’

‘It’s late, right enough.  You see, Joe, I’ve never got Molly to make that noise for me, the way my lady did for him, no matter how hard I go at her.’


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