Chapter 9: Ignorance is not Innocence; Intent is not Guilt

Posted on April 28, 2013


I’m going for  twofer as I think I posted so late last night nobody noticed it. Herein some actual historical facts are revealed which makes this whole story possible.  Between the Irish history, the currency, and the fly fishing history this story actually took a lot of research. Okay, well at least an hour on Google. This is the penultimate chapter! Thanks for sticking with it.

Image is from a little creek behind my house between two waterfalls. I actually had to swim with my camera bag on my head to get this shot, then extend the tripod all of the way up and sit with the camera just out of the water at chin level. Next time, I’ll nail it.

Chapter 8: Take the Bullet


Ignorance is not Innocence; Intent is not Guilt

That next morning the court was fuller than church on a Sunday. I was wringing my hands as me Bobby was brought in, still in hip boots, a trench coat, and a stocking cap. John Tompkins, Esquire didn’t look much better, in an old coat and slouch hat, with a purple bruise on his forehead. They looked like poachers sure as can be. There was a distinct murmur as they approached the bench. “John Thompkins, and Bobby Reilley, you are charged with trespassing and poaching on the waters of one Sire Roach. How plead ye?”

John held his hat in his hands and looked askance at Bobby who finally took her hat off and let her auburn mane free as it should be. I swallowed half in pride and half in fear. John looked at Bobbie and gave her a mighty wink, then looked at the judge and said, “Not guilty, your honor.”

“Not guilty?!” cried the lord, “You were on my land, stealing my fish! Ignorance of the law is not innocence!”

“Silence!” said the judge. “This is not a pub. I will silence this court or see it emptied, do you understand?” He glowered at the room from under his wig.

“And what, sir, is your defense. Clearly you were caught red-handed.”

“If it may please the court, I am a solicitor in the states, and as I confirmed at the county seat yesterday, my heritage is in this community. I have researched this case. I would like to represent myself and my codefendant.” Bobby looked up at him with adoration she used to reserve for me.

Again, murmurs rose like an autumn storm in the room.


“The court is not pleased, but it will allow this for a time.” The judge’s wig had processed onto his face and we all looked aside as he replaced it. “Make your case.”

“I came here under the guise of fishing with one Michael Kilkenny who offered to guide me on the local beats, for which I paid the sum of £21. I would like to enter this receipt into evidence.”

“So be it.”

“That scoundrel, that poacher, that thief!” The lord was fair apoplectic.

“Mr Roach,” warned the judge.

“Msr Kilkenney having died during my passage, I was told that I could not fish the beats as his license passed with him.”

“Michael Kilkenney was a thieving, lying, swindlous poacher who deceived you!” the Lord burst forth.

“Silence! You will get your turn, Mr. Roach.”

“As I was saying, Mr. Kilkenney dying intestate and owing me a tidy sum, I placed a lien against it at the county seat yesterday.”

A collective gasp went up and people began shouting down his temerity on the day of mourning.

“Last warning! I will have you all put upon the street!”

“I have here the death certificate, and the lien.” Again, he handed them up to the judge.

“Sir, despite what he may have told you, Michael Kilkenny was a man of little worth, and ill repute. He most certainly did not own a beat. If you are trying to defend yourself through ignorance of the law and false contracts, I’m afraid I must agree with the prosecution and cannot rule for you.”

Here he looked to the back of the courtroom where Michael’s red shock was ill-hid by the bandage that wrapped his head and the slouch hat pulled down low over it.

“Ah, but that is not my defense at all.” He looked directly at the lord. “I contest that that Michael Kilkenny did indeed have the rights to allow me and Miss Roberta water access,” here he bowed most genteelly to my girl, “and therefore I seek redress for the ill treatment we have received, the fines the late Mr. Kilkenny has paid, and also seek fines for Mr. Roach fishing waters to which he has no rights.”

“The audacity!” The lord was purple with rage. Michael was on the edge of his chair vibrating like a dog on point for something he wanted and could not have.

“For the last time! I will not have this in my court!” He pointed the gavel accusingly at Thomkins, “What is your reasoning sir?”

“Simply this,” he drew forth yet another document, “The assumption is that the person with the land rights also has the water rights. But,” here he gave dramatic pause, [JT(L1] “Per the Irish Act in 1877[JT(L2] , the water rights were often sundered from the land rights, by heredity, or sold outright for profit.”

He presented yet another document. “Here I have a document where the original owner of the estate presented the water rights to his ghillie, just before he passed. That ghillie being Thomas Kilkenny, Michael Kilkenny’s father. When Mr. Roach took over the estate he fired said ghillie, either not understanding or not caring about the severance of water rights, and took the waters as his own, but they were not, they passed to Michael on his father’s death. “

Here, he turned to Lord Roach. “If not knowing you are committing a crime is no defense, is meaning to commit a crime but failing to do so an offense? I maintain that Michael’s inviting me to fish here, whether he knew it or not, was legal: making our contract a binding contract.”

At this point, the courtroom exploded, and the judge did clear it excepting myself and a few other interested parties. The poor, dear, departed Michael Kilkenny being relegated to the street.

When it was all quiet, the judge begged him to continue, “Him dying and me being his largest debt owner I also, put lien against his holdings.” Like a magician he pulled yet another thick sheaf of papers out of his leather case, and handed them over to the judge, who mumbled to himself as he looked them over.” At this point, may I ask Sir Roach to take the stand?”

“Sir, you have my interest, and as your documentation appears sound, you may continue.”

I looked at the windows and could see faces pressed against them. The Judge met my eye, “Oh, blarney! Open the windows, but shut them if the wind is too loud!”

The lord took the stand, looking like he just swallowed the Christmas goose entire.

“And sir, how often do you reckon you fish your land?”

“At least twice a week, in season,” says he, thrusting his chin up.

“That being about six months a year?”

“That be,” says he.

“With guests?

“Nearly always.”

“And for how many years would that be?”

“Nigh on 25.”

The judge intervened. “Mr. Thomkins, I have given you leeway, but please, what is the point of your inquisition?”

“Sire, I reckon it like this: 25 years, times six months a year, times four weeks a month, times twice a week, times at least one guest per outing equals 25x6x4x2x2 = 2400 times the lord and company have fished these beats, does that seem correct?”

There was various scratchings going on with the judge conferring with his staff. “That does seem correct, sir.”

“And does that seem correct to you, sir?” John addressed the lord.

“I would never have guessed it, but when you do the math, that does seem about right.”

“And for each such similar encroachment on your ‘rights’ over the years you have prosecuted Michael Kilkenny for £20 each?”

“The ones I caught him for, yes.”

“But the record shows that he was not trespassing nor poaching, but only exercising his birthright. Sir, at £20 per episode, per your own admission, you would owe him £48,000,  excluding interest and the fines he’s paid over time.”

The lord turned to the judge. “This is preposterous! I had no idea the water rights did not come with the land rights! £48,000 plus interest would ruin me!”

John Thomkins leaned in and said, “Sir, I remind you that in your own words, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse.’ Further, as lienholder against his estate, rather than us,” And here he included me Bobby, “owing you, it is you who owe us.” He turned to the judge,” I rest my case. Further,” He presented yet more paperwork, “as the lienholder on the Kilkenny estate, I do hereby have a lien for the manor house and all surrounding lands.”

The wind of uproar was mighty indeed and the windows were closed again.