Sunday, 17 February 2013

Major Poppleton and Captain Doherty

To me local history is the most interesting of the species of legend. Sometimes evidence and reliable testimony shines through the patination of likely stories. Great events and famous personages leave their traces in the most obscure locations. I very often in my rambles pass the graveyard at Killanin where the the Martins of Ross have their family tomb. The most famous of the Martins was Humanity Dick Martin who got his nickname from Prince Albert on account of his initiation of the movement for the humane treatment of animals. He was also known as 'Hairtrigger’ Martin having engaged in over 200 duels and disposed of £10,000 the proceeds of a criminal conversation trial by firing the money to beggars out of the window of his coach as he progressed from London to Dublin. He’s not buried there but the husband of his daughter is. He was a Major Poppleton who as Captain of the Guard on St.Helena had Napoleon in his charge. They used to go out riding daily but Napoleon as a cavalry man outrode the artillery office on his ambling pad easily. They had an excellent relationship and Napoleon gave him many mementoes among them being a snuff box. Mary Kyne in the local newsletter gives the details of the legends attaching to this keepsake.
Napoleon's Snuffbox
She doesn’t mention the lock of hair which came up for auction recently:
lock of hair
and though the collecting Major is not named it can only be him.

As an honourable man and surely with a father-in-law like 'Hairtrigger’ you are likely to be punctilious, he did not accede to the instruction to spy on his captive resigning his commission instead and returning to Ross.

Rambling through the cemetery in Sligo town I often stood before the family grave of the Dohertys of Castle St. ironmongers mentioned in the 1870 list of businesses. Captain Doherty was described on the stone as ‘the brave avenger of President Lincoln’ though not actually the one who shot Booth but the officer in charge of the detachment in pursuit of the assassin. I’d assumed that he was buried there but it is just a mention as he is in fact buried in Arlington. On Irish gravestones mentions usually designate the place of internment. The 'brave avenger’ was engraved at the behest of a General Kavanagh who was part of Doherty’s detachment that surrounded the barn. The rank of General may have been a courtesy one extended to the man who paid for the work. Print the legend!

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