Celebrity Lion Hunter Arrested for Indecent Exposure on Sandymount Strand, 1858

View of Irishtown from Sandymount, by James Arthur O’Connor (1792-1841), via Wikiwand

From the Freeman’s Journal, 27 February 1858:

“Mr Gordon Cumming, the celebrated lion hunter, was brought before the magistrate at College-street police office on Tuesday last, charged by a young and interesting looking female, named Margaret Jevans, and a number of other young girls, belonging to the neighbourhood of Sandymount, with having indecently exposed himself to them and in their presence.

Mr EA Ennis appeared for the prisoner and stated that the charge preferred against his client was unfounded and called upon the bench to dismiss the complaint.

Margaret Jevans was sworn and examined.  She deposed that she is about eleven years of age; that she resides with her father, who is a smith by trade, and also follows the business of a licensed vintner.  Witness was in the habit of going every morning to the Convent School at Sandymount.  Between the hours of 10 and 11 o’clock in the forenoon of Thursday last she was going to school on the road thither the prisoner met her; he had his clothes open (The young girl here described facts not fit for publication).  Witness did not go near him, as he retreated into a corner; he then went away in the direction of Balls’s bridge; witness went to school and did not say anything of the circumstances to any one; but she heard other girls in the school speak in her hearing about what had been done to themselves by a man on the road; she also heard them describe the kind of person who had so acted; witness, on hearing these remarks, said ‘That is the man I saw.’ The other girls then brought witness to the schoolmistress, to whom she detailed and described what she herself had seen and observed.

Mr Ennis, on behalf of the prisoner, examined the witness at considerable length.  The Magistrate decided on remanding the case for further examination to Thursday. His worship consented to admit the prisoner to bail in two sureties of 50l each and in his own recognisances of 100 to appear before the bench on tomorrow to answer the charge preferred against him.

On Thursday, after the morning cases had been disposed of, Mr Stronge said that he was ready to hear evidence in the above charge.

Mr John Adye Curran, who appeared as counsel for Mr Cumming, stated that Mr Ennis had just then received a letter from Mr Gordon Cumming stating that he was so ill that he was unable to attend in court that day, but would be prepared to do so on the following day.  Under these circumstances he (Mr Curran) would ask the magistrate to postpone the further hearing of the case to one o’clock tomorrow.  No inconvenience would arise by this course being adopted, as Mr Cumming was out on bail for a large amount.

Mr Costello said, as he appeared for the prosecution, he should object to this arrangement, in consequence of information which had come to the knowledge of the police.

Mr Stronge – I cannot postpone this case, unless I am furnished with an affidavit and a medical certificate stating that Mr Cumming is so ill as not to be able to attend.

Mr Costello – What hotel is Mr Cumming stopping at?

Mr Curran – I do not know what hotel he is stopping at.  All I know is, that there is a letter in court from Mr Cumming, stating that he is ill and will be here tomorrow at one’ o clock.

It was finally decided that the case should be allowed to stand adjourned till two o’clock. At that hour the court was crowed to excess, and on the case being called on for hearing Mr Gordon Cumming did not answer to his name.

Mr Stronge called for the bail books and said that he felt it his duty to entreat the two securities.  It was very strange Mr Gordon Cumming had not appeared to answer the serious charge which had been brought against him. At the examination on Tuesday last, he only required a sufficiency of evidence to justify him in remanding the case for hearing to this day.  He would now require additional evidence before he would issue a warrant for the apprehension of Mr Cumming.

The first witness was examined by Mr Costello, an exceedingly clever child, of about twelve years of age, named Catherine Clarke.  She deposed that on Shrove Tuesday last she was in company with two other children, named Anne Mathews and Mary Ryan, on Sandymount Strand near Cranfield Baths. She saw a gentleman there but did not know him or know his name; he wore big whiskers and green plaid trousers, and had a red book in his hand.

To Mr Stronge – I saw the gentleman I met on the Strand on Shrove Tuesday two days ago in this office standing in the dock; he is the gentleman I was speaking of

The witness resumed her direct evidence – Saw the gentleman in the station house; saw the gentleman for the first time at the corner of the baths on the Strand, he did not say anything to her then, but he did at the Watery Lane, where she afterwards met him.

The witness, in reply to Mr Costello, described the offence which Mr Cumming is charged with having committed on Shrove Tuesday last on the Sandymount Strand.  There were two girls with her at the time this offence was committed, and they saw what the gentleman did as well as she did; in about a week after she met him on the strand she met him in the Watery-Lane; there was no one with her at the time except her little brother, who is about six years of age.  This lane is not near the place where she saw the gentleman for the first time; it is a public thoroughfare.   She met the gentleman when she was going to school in the morning. (Here the child described the offence which she says Mr Cumming repeated in the Watery Lane).

Anne Matthews sand Mary Ryan, two children aged respectively ten and twelve years, corroborated the testimony of Catherine Clarke, relative to the offence alleged to have been committed on the strand.

Mr Stronge said that he would grant a warrant for the apprehension of Mr Gordon Cumming, founded on the information made by the witnesses.

 A further warrant was granted by Mr Stronge in the goods of Mr Cumming, which were in the concert room of the Rotunda, where he was in the habit of giving his entertainment, to recover the sum of one hundred pounds, on which Mr Cumming was bound by his own recognizance to appear at College-Street police office, which had been forfeited by his not appearing.”

Roualeyn George Gordon Cumming, via Wikipedia.

The famous Roualeyn George Gordon Cumming had been appearing for several months previously at the Rotunda in his popular dramatic, tragic musical and pictorial entertainment illustrative of his adventures and exploits in South Africa.

An advert for Mr Gordon Cumming’s show in the Rotunda, via British Newspaper Archive.

Now, it seems, the Lion Hunter had left Ireland, never to subsequently return.

 On 15 March 1858, it was reported that an Irish constable had been in London looking for Mr Gordon Cumming, but he does not appear ever to have been subsequently apprehended. His brush with the law in Dublin remains unmentioned even in the obituaries of him published in the Irish press following his death at Inverness in 1866. 

Regarding that death, according to the Kilkenny Moderator, some ten days previously he had ordered his own coffin, and prior to that he had made his will, leaving all of which he died possessed to his only daughter, a girl in her 12th year.

Mr Gordon Cumming’s cousin Sir William Gordon Cumming, 4th baronet, achieved far greater legal notoriety as a result of the case of Cumming v Wilson & others, arising out of the Royal Baccarat Scandal of 1891.

Did the Gordon Cumming family connections allow Roualeyn the lion-hunter to escape justice?

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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