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Cotter of Anngrove & Rockforest

Hanged Sir James Cotter

Early Life

Sir James was raised a Catholic by his father's Protestant friend, John Galwey of Lotta, M.P. for Cork City during King James’ Parliament. For this, charges were brought against him with the following entry recorded in the House of Commons’ Journal, 29th September 1707;

Resolved. That it appears to this House that John Galwey hath been greatly instrumental in taking James Cotter, a minor, out of the custody of William Netterville, his Protestant guardian and marryoing him to a daughter of George Matthew esq., a Papist, without the consent or privity of his Protestant guardian, and thereby hath evaded the Act to prevent the further growth of Popery.

Ordered. That John Galwey be taken into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms attending this House.

Order. That the sate of the case relating to the to the children of Sir James Cotter be printed.

Thankfully for him, the orders were rescinded when John Galwey expressed his regret for his action and paid his fines, as recorded within the same journal, 2nd October 1707.

James married, 1706, Margaret, eldest daughter of Major George Mathew, of Thurles, and uncle of Nano Nagle.

Trial & Execution

Pue's Occurrences of Dublin,
3rd March 1719

Many accounts incorrectly state Sir James was, “for his devotion to the cause of the Stuarts, executed the 7 May 1720”. This idea is repeated within Bernard Burke's, ‘A General and Heraldic Directory of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire’, 1865, claiming, “… fell a victim to his devotion to the cause of the house of Stuart, and was executed…” John Burke, his predecessor, under the same title of 1832 does not make this claim, and both publications dropped his title. Whereas, he was in fact hanged, having been accused and convicted of raping a young Quaker, Elizabeth Squibb, though she repeated denied any attack had taken place. There may well have been political undertones in the background driving the case; for as governor of Cork, Sir James is said to have had a hand in the assassination of exiled John Lisle, on behalf of Charles II (who regained the throne 1660), in revenge of Lisle’s participation in confiscating Quaker Charles 1st property for use as prisons.

The Pue's Occurrences of Dublin published following notice, 3rd March 1719, here transcribed for ease of reading;

"Whereas Mr. James Cotter stands indicted for rape, supposed to have been committed on the body of Elizabeth Squib a Quaker, and whereas it has been reported by several Quakers, and particularly by Joshua Fennel, of the County of Tipperary, and Edw. Fenn of Cork Brewer, That the said James Cotter, or some Body in his behalf, made proposals to the said Fenn of 1500l. to compound the matter; and that no prosecution might be. Now the said James Cotter doth herby certify, that he never directed or intended any sum or consideration whatsoever should be offered in his behalf to prevent the said prosecution, neither does he believe there was any grounds for a report of this kind, but that the same was invented by his prosecutors to better commence their proceedings against him, and now the said James Cotter doth hereby advertise and give notice to the said Elizabeth Squib, Edward Fenn, and all others concerned in the said prosecution, that he (with God’s assistance) will stand tryal at the next assizes to be held for the City of Cork."

To further complicate the story, nearby Midleton was the seat Lord Lieutenant Alan Broderick, whose son, St John was the prosecuting judge of the rape trial. Broderick’s wife was also the granddaughter of John Lisle.

Then on the 26th May, the Caledonian Mercury included the following two statements from the condemned man on the day of his execution.

According to one unqualified source, Sir James Cotter was executed 'at the corner of Broad Lane’, and is assumed Sir James Cotter was laid to rest at Carrigtwohill, but is impossible to know for certain, as no record, or grave marker exists. It is also possible he was interred at Rockforest, but considered most unlikely.

Cotter’s execution sparked riots and public outrage towards the Quaker communities who were continually abused. All Cork burst into a wail of rage, with the Friends being marked for retribution. Particularly targeted were their young ladies who were mobbed in the streets being accused of being ‘Cottered’. This hatred rapidly spread throughout the country; eventually reaching Dublin, where a girl who was mistaken for Elizabeth Squibb, was beset by a mob of several thousand people, who would have been torn to pieces had it not been for the timely arrival of a troop of soldiers.

Caledonian Mercury - Edinburgh, Midlothian, 26th May 1720