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Law and Order in LondonCrime And Punishment: Gahagan and Conner
Posted on Sep 17, 2002 - 12:15 AM by Bill McCann

Usher Gahagan and Terence Conner were erudite Men, who were executed for High Treason, in diminishing the Current Coin of the Realm, one the 28th of February, 1749.


Usher Gahagan and Terence Conner were natives of Ireland. The former received his education in Trinity College, Dublin, and was intended for the honourable profession of the law, in which several of his relations had become eminent. He had been instructed by his parents in the Protestant religion, but falling into company with some priests of the Romish persuasion they converted him to their faith, which was a principal obstacle to his future advancement, in life; for as no gentleman can be admitted a counsellor-at-law without taking the Oaths of Supremacy, his faith prevented his complying with these terms and he was denied any further prosecution of his legal studies.

His parents and other relations were greatly offended with his conduct; and those who had particularly engaged themselves for the advancement of his fortune forbade him to visit them, through indignation at the impropriety of his behaviour. Thus reduced to an incapacity of supporting himself, he sought to relieve his circumstances by a matrimonial scheme; and having addressed the daughter of a gentleman, he obtained her in marriage, and received a good fortune with her; but, treating her with undeserved severity, she was compelled to return to the protection of her relations.

His conduct having now rendered him obnoxious to his acquaintances in Dublin, he quitted that city, and repaired to London, with a view to supporting himself by his literary abilities. On his arrival in the metropolis he made some connections with the booksellers, and undertook to translate Pope's Essay on Man into Latin; but, becoming connected with some women of abandoned character, he spent his time in a dissipated manner, and thus threw himself out of that employment which might have afforded him a decent support.

He now made an acquaintance with an Irishman, named Hugh Coffey, and they agreed on a plan for the diminution of the current coin. At this time Gahagan had a lodger named Conner, and, it being agreed to receive him as a partner in this iniquitous scheme, they procured proper tools. Having collected a sum of money, they filed it and put it off; and procuring more, filed that also and passed it in the same manner. Having continued this business some months, during which they had saved a sum of money, they went to the bank, and got some Portugal pieces, under pretence that they were intended for exportation to Ireland.

Thus they got money repeatedly at the bank; but at length one of the tellers, suspecting their business, communicated his suspicion to the governors, who directed him to drink with them, as the proper method to discover who they were and what was their employment. In pursuance of this order he, on their next appearance, invited them to drink a glass of wine at the Crown Tavern, near Cripplegate; to which they readily agreed, and met him after the hours of office. When the circulation of the glass had sufficiently warmed them, Gahagan, with a degree of weakness that is altogether astonishing, informed the teller that he acquired considerable sums by filing gold, and even proposed that he should become a partner with them.

The gentleman seemed to accede to the proposal, and, having learned where they lodged, acquainted the cashiers of the bank with what had passed. On the following day Coffey was apprehended; but Gahagan and Conner being suspicious of the danger of their situation, retired to a public-house called Chalk Farm, a little way out of the road from London to Hampstead, where they carried their implements for filing; but Coffey having been admitted an evidence it was not long before the place of their retreat was known; on which they were apprehended, and lodged in Newgate.

Terence Conner also was a native of Ireland, and had received a most liberal education. It is recorded of him that he was so perfectly well read in Roman history as to be able to turn to any part of it without the assistance of an index. He was, by birth, heir to a considerable fortune; but, his father dying without a proper adjustment of his affairs, some intricate lawsuits were the consequence; so that the whole estate was only sufficient to discharge the demands of the gentlemen of the long robe. Conner, being reduced in circumstances, came to London, and, becoming acquainted with Gahagan and Coffey, was concerned in diminishing the coin, as above mentioned.

On their trial the evidence of Coffey was positive; and, being supported by collateral proofs, the jury could not hesitate to find them guilty, and they received sentence of death. They were hanged on 28th of February, 1749.

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