1839. Case of Mr. Dillon, late of the Coastguard


1839. Case of Mr. Dillon, late of the Coastguard.

To the editor of the shipping and Mercantile Gazette.

Sir, in your paper of the 29th. inst. A statement of my case, made by an eye-witness, and connected with your establishment. I cannot find words to express my feeling of gratitude, as well as to you, for your kindness in advocating the cause of so humble an individual. My whole case could be summed up in 50 words and decided on- not allowed to speak in Court.

I commanded the Coastguard station at Cashin River, in the County of Kerry, when I received orders to proceed forthwith and take command of the Coastguard station at Milk Cove in the County of Cork. On my arrival I found out that of my two predecessors the first had been suspended and removed, the second had been dismissed from the service through the complaints and letters of my future crew. On the first night it blew so hard that I knew that no vessel would attempt to near the land. On the second night being very little moderated with a view to show the crew that I was not to be played with, I ordered six and four-oared boats to be manned, taking control of the six-oared boat myself, and my Chief Boatman to take command of the four-oared boat, and to proceed to sea. On my clearing the Cove the Chief Boatman who was in the best boat, got outside first: he pulled up alongside of me and I was in the act of giving him my orders, when he pointed out to me a sail to the southward, which at the time I did not see. On my seeing it I gave my orders to the crew of the other boat "To follow me" and pulled as direct as the heavy sea would permit for the sail. On my reaching close under her stern, I hailed her. The answer I received was "Come on you ----". I then pulled up alongside, and hooked on for boarding, when the vessel keeled over, I saw 40 to 50 men on her deck ready to receive me and not seeing my four-oared boat - which at the moment I thought had foundered - I judged it most prudent to sheer off from 15 to 20 yards of her sides. I made the signal for assistance and opened in on her decks as heavy a fire as I could, when I saw my four-oared boat to windward. Repeating my signal. A light from shore was made to the smuggler, when she filled and stood to sea. I followed her far out of the limits of my station, keeping up constant firing till she bore up for the river of Kinsale, when I lost sight of her.

I reported the occurrence to the Comptroller General, and inserted it in my journal: and the answer I received was, than an American brig laden with tobacco, a few hours after the occurrence I stated had run into Kinsale river, and was seized by the tide-surveyor of that part and directing me to proceed to Kinsale with one or more of my crew, to ascertain if it was the same vessel which I had attacked and prevented from landing her cargo. On my seeing the vessel, I recognised her to be the same, and reported her as such. A trial before the Commissioners took place. The defence set-up was, that she run into Kinsale river under a plea of distress from bad weather. When my journal and official letters were received in evidence, and corroborated by the testimony of one of my crew as being the same vessel which I had attacked and forced into that port, which two of her crew turned King's evidence stated, the vessel was condemned with an appeal to a higher court. She proved to be the Pero of New York laden with 2,853 bales of leaf tobacco, and 1.090 lbs. of manufactured, with a crew of 42 men, seven and the pilot made their escape on the arrival of the vessel in Kinsale previous to her being seized. The duty on the cargo and what the vessel sold for amounted to £53,252 , out of which the Tide-surveyor got £11,786, and I after refuting the charges alleged as an excuse against my claim, received the sum of £51., which was not paid until I was forced, by the words and advice of my late King, to abandon my profession, and make a determined stand which has cost me nearly £5,000. Now I stand fully and honorably acquitted through Earl Spencer's high sense of justice-etc.

April 5th.

John Dillon.

Reference: The Times 12th.April 1839.

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