Report on the Trial of John Little

Robert Little (1787-1859), a woolen and linen draper of Monaghan, had eight children including John Little (1808-1878) and Dr Robert Little (1814-1881). His son John had been sent to Demerara at age 21 and subsequently returned. In 1846, John fired a pistol at his father Robert, fortunately only injuring him. After being held in an asylum in Dublin, John was sent to Canada where he died aged 70.

Extract from the Newry Telegraph (dated 9 July 1846).


From Our Court Correspondent
MONAGHAN, Monday 6 July 1846

John Little was indicted for having, upon the 23rd May last, at Monaghan, wilfully and maliciously assaulted and fired at one Robert Little with a pistol loaded with powder and a leaden ball, thereby inflicting a wound upon his forehead, and doing him grievous bodily harm.

Sir T. Staples stated the case. He said that the prisoner, he had reason to believe it would be proved, was subject to fits of insanity. If the Jury would believe the evidence of the witnesses, who would be brought up to prove that fact, then it would be their duty to acquit him.

Robert Little, examined by Mr. Hanna, resides in Monaghan; on 23rd May last, about five o’clock in the afternoon, he was in a room adjoining the kitchen; the prisoner is his son; he dined with witness about four o’clock; he remained for some time in the room, but soon after went away; at about five o’clock witness was sitting at the window reading a newspaper alone; did not see anyone coming in, but the prisoner came in, and handed witness two papers, and said “here are your letters”, or something to that effect, at the same time handing the papers, and presenting a pistol at witness, he fired it at him; prisoner then walked away quietly; the pistol was pointed at his forehead; he thinks the prisoner said, after he had fired the pistol, “take that”; the wound was slight; a medical man attended shortly after.

Cross-examined by Mr. Holmes; he has another son and daughter; the prisoner is the eldest son; sent the prisoner to Demerara in the year 1829; he remained there about five years; he returned about nine years ago; when he came home he stopped in Dublin for some time; his mind was greatly injured; heard that while abroad he received a fall from a horse which fractured his skull; he went to England about six years ago, and he came back in the custody of a person named Stone, a keeper of an asylum; his mind was wrong at that time; he is subject to epileptic fits; his conduct from time to time indicated insanity; he was insane at intervals up to May last; sometimes he was worse than at others.

The Jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty, the prisoner being in a state of insanity at the time he committed the rash act.

The prisoner was ordered to be kept in custody, to await the pleasure of his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant.


This newspaper report raises an interesting genealogical question, when it states that Robert Little "has another son and daughter; the prisoner is the eldest son". Family records show that Robert Little also had a daughter Elizabeth and son Robert who respectively married a Bowman and a Colhoun and both went on to have a long string of descendants. So what about Robert's other children: Anne, Sarah, Mary, William and James? Did they all die in infancy or, at least, before the date of this trial in 1846?



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© Geoffrey H Henderson