From the Freeman’s Journal, 30 June 1838:
“A man named John Cowan was brought before the magistrates on a charge of having stolen a fawn in the Phoenix Park, on the preceding day.
Police Constable 97D stated that he met the prisoner on the King’s Inns Quay, with a suspicious looking bundle under his coat; on searching him he found a live fawn concealed on his person.
The prisoner said he was returning from the review, with a number of other persons, and saw the fawn lying beneath a hawthorn tree; imagining that it had been deserted by its dam, he thought it was no harm to bring it away.
Alderman Tyndall said it was most necessary to have all similar offences severely punished. He would, accordingly, inflict a penalty 5l on the prisoner, in the present case, which he hoped would be a warning to the public on future occasions.”
The above was only one of many incidents of fawn-stealing from the Phoenix Park resulting in criminal charges in the 1830s.
In June 1830 two ‘respectable mechanics’ were taken up at Arran Quay with a young fawn tied up in a handkerchief and concealed under one of their coats. They were also fined 5l each, and the fawn restored to the woods and wilds.
In July 1835 George Godden, one of the rangers of the Phoenix Park, swore informations against a man named George Callaghan, for attempting to steal a fawn the previous Monday. Mr Godden gave evidence that he observed Mr Callaghan, through a telescope, running away with the fawn, who had since died, in consequence of the injury received by the pressure in carrying it off. Mr Callaghan was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, in default of paying the usual fine of 5l.
In June 1837 Mr Godden appeared at Arran-Quay Police-office yet again, to give evidence against Dennis Keogh and Daniel McGordon, whom he had again observed, through his telescope, taking up a fawn and tying it in a handkerchief. He arrested them at Knockmaroon-gate, with the fawn still in their possession. The magistrate, Mr Hitchcock, said, in consequence of the many instances of fawn-stealing, and the depradations which had recently occurred in the Phoenix Park, the Magistrates were called upon to exact the maximum penalty of £30, or, in default of payment, six months’ incarceration to each of the prisoners.
There were no more prosecutions for fawn-stealing after 1838 – the purchase of black-market fawns must have gone out of fashion or perhaps the high financial penalties being imposed served as a disincentive?
I hope Mr Cowan’s fawn made its way safely back to its family. It may be that its descendants still live in the Park today!