Newgate Calendar - JOHN PURCEL, ESQ. OF HIGHFORT, NEAR CHARLEVILLE

JOHN PURCEL, ESQ. OF HIGHFORT, NEAR CHARLEVILLE

Extraordinary Defeat of a Desperate Gang of House-breakers

            On the 24th March 1811, the following gallant defence made by John Purcel, Esq. of Highfort, near Charleville [Co. Cork, Ireland], cannot fail of exciting a considerable degree of interest, particularly as Mr. Purcel is upwards of 70 years of age:—
            It appears that Mr. Purcel had determined to set apart the evening of the 24th March, for the purpose of arranging some of his accounts; and, as he foresaw that he would be hereby employed until a late hour, he caused his servant to provide supper. The room in which he had supped and slept was inside his parlour, the windows of which latter, after a short interval, were beat in; and scarcely an instant elapsed before he heard several persons, he believed twelve or thirteen, leap in the room in rapid succession; he had but a moment to deliberate; and, although he found himself totally unprovided with any other weapon than the knife which he recollected lay on the table, he, with the most astonishing and unparalleled bravery, resolved on defence.

            As there were two doors connecting his bed-chamber with his parlour, he was a while in suspense at which the robbers would enter; but was speedily relieved from his doubts, by hearing them remove a garde du vin, which obstructed one of the passages; and thereupon seeing the door thrown in by a violent blow of a sledge, Mr. P. now put his back close against the wall, immediately contiguous to the door. Although the darkness of Mr. P's room rendered him invisible to those without; yet the moon shining brightly through the windows which had been broken, and through which the party entered, gave him an imperfect view of his assailants, and discovered two men abreast, approaching him by the door. Mr. P. at this moment only hesitated to decide whether a back hand, or a right forward blow would be most powerful; and, on preferring the former, he plunged his knife far into the breast of the nearest man, who immediately fell back with a horrible scream, and expired. The captain of the party gave orders to fire, and a musket was thereupon presented at Mr. P. and actually lay against his belly; but, as from its oblique position Mr. P. saw it could not injure him, he pressed against the barrel in order to induce a belief that it should prove mortal, and permitted it to be fired. He then gave this ruffian also a terrible wound, when he retreated; a third fellow, undeterred by these examples, had the temerity to attempt an entrance, but met with a like repulse—the expulsion of the entire gang from the house it was imagined was, by this, effected, with the exception of one powerfully strong villain, who, more successful than his comrades, forced his way into the bed-chamber, which the ruffian presently notified in the loudest and most exulting tone.

            During the whole of this most terrific proceeding, Mr. P. had not felt the influence of apprehension, until this, that when greatly fatigued his destruction seemed inevitable; but yet, as a hopeless effect, he determined on continued resistance—he closed on his assailant, and a very fierce struggle ensued—Mr. P. finding that although he frequently stabbed the fellow in the side, he nevertheless persisted in repeating a demand of Mr. P's money, dreaded the point of his knife had been turned and blunted; and such, on feeling it, he found to be the case—he was thus bereft of his only weapon; however, in the encounter he discovered a sword suspended to his opponent, which he now strove to gain; but, during the exertion, the wretched man expired in his arms, and thus Mr. P. found that his knife had not failed, until, guided by Providential interposition, it had miraculously and faithfully secured his deliverance.

            The remainder of the party were now contented to depart, carrying off the dead and wounded, and Mr. Purcel, dreading the renewal of the attempt with increased numbers, prudently concealed himself between two heaps of culm in an adjoining yard, from whence he issued in the morning completely coated with blood, and whatever else this clammy matter caused to adhere to his body and limbs. It seems a third fellow named Joy, who composed one of this party, died in Newcastle, County Limerick, his wounds not having permitted him to escape further than that town.

 

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