MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 26adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Thursday, 26th September, 1935.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
Deputy Dowdall. —I move: That Deputy John Good, in the absence of the Chairman, take the Chair.
DEPUTY GOOD took the chair.
Acting-Chairman.—A communication has been received from the Chairman stating that he cannot be in attendance to-day. We shall continue the evidence of Senator Comyn, who has been already sworn.
Senator M. Comyn, K.C., further examined.
3105. Senator Comyn.— Before continuing my evidence I should like to say, that looking over the report of my evidence of yesterday, published in the Press to-day, I find I was asked the question by the Chairman: “Were the shareholders in Risberget to benefit by Heiser’s proposal that he was to get £10,000 in cash and £50,000 shares in a £200,000 company?” and again I was asked a question are all the shareholders in Risberget to benefit by the £10,000 that Heiser was to get; and to that I gave the answer “yes.” Then I was asked: “Did anyone ever approach you about that agreement?” and the answer was “No.” If that has reference to the £200,000, the answer is right. In any case I think the answer is right, but I would like to say that in regard to the Wicklow gold mine I had chats and conversations. I remember a conversation with Mr. Nunan, who was genuinely interested in working the mine and was most anxious that it should be worked. I was anxious to find out whether they were doing anything in Wicklow. I brought him to Mr. Briscoe, and Mr. Briscoe said Heiser might think it was desirable for him to send in another proposal. I also said in a casual conversation with Mr. Smyth that it might be well to have a talk, and that he might have somebody else with him. I was of opinion, and am still of opinion, that Mr. Smyth knew nothing whatever about the transaction at Woodenbridge that I mentioned yesterday. There is another matter, and it relates to a thing I forgot yesterday. I forgot the evidence of Mr. Clarke. I was present when that evidence was given, and he said three or four people went to Lord Edward Street and were there told by some of the officials that Mr. Briscoe and Senator Comyn said nobody could get a lease except through them. As far as I am concerned that statement had no foundation whatever, and, I believe, so far as Mr. Briscoe is concerned, it has no foundation whatever. I never heard him make use of any words that could be construed as meaning anything of that kind. I wish to give that plain emphatic contradiction.
3106. Deputy Costello.—What transaction at Woodenbridge do you refer to?— The transaction about the alteration or change of name of the company.
3107. From Risberget to Crusaders?— Yes.
3108. You think Mr. Smyth had nothing to do with that?—Nothing whatever.
3109. Except they are two different companies. Are not the underlying interests in both precisely the same?—I do not know.
3110. If it turned out that they are, would you think there is something sinister in what Heiser suggested?—If they are precisely the same I do not see what he meant by asking us to change the name. I would be glad to think they are the same, and if you think they are the same I accept it.
3111. Oh, I do not know. You produced here yesterday a Prospectus for a company calling itself the Wicklow Gold-fields Limited?—Yes.
3112. Where did you get that Prospectus?—Mr. Briscoe handed it to me.
3113. When?—I think a few days ago, and he stated that it was a Prospectus brought by Mr. Harrison on his second or third visit to Dublin. I did not meet him on that occasion.
3114. That is what I wanted to know. You did not get this Prospectus from Mr. Harrison?—I did not get it at all from him. I did not see Mr. Harrison on the second occasion. I left that to Mr. Cox and to Mr. Briscoe, but Mr. Briscoe informed me that he got that document.
3115. That was the statement he made in the Gresham?—Yes, Mr. Briscoe will tell you about that when he comes to be examined.
3116. I understood yesterday that was the only conversation you had with Harrison?— The only conversation I had with Harrison was at the Gresham Hotel.
3117. I deduced that he produced that Prospectus and that it was at that conversation it was produced?—No. I said Mr. Briscoe handed it to me.
3118. You had only one conversation with Mr. Harrison and at that time you repudiated him?—I had only one conversation with him and I gave you verbatim that conversation yesterday.
3119. I accept that. Am I correct in saying that what you said was that you repudiated this suggestion for the formation of a public company with a quarter of a million capital?—Yes, the effect was as I said.
3120. Is not that the effect? Am I not securately construing what you said?—I said I would not accept the sale, or pretended sale, by Heiser of Mr. Briscoe’s lease and mine.
3121. Notwithstanding that, I gather from you, that Mr. Briscoe continued negotiations with him and had conversations with Harrison which resulted in this Prospectus being given to him?—I do not think that is the meaning of it.
3122. What other meaning can there be?—The meaning I would attribute to it is that it was prepared before his first visit.
3123. Why should Mr. Briscoe have continued negotiations after you had repudiated him?—I do not know.
3124. Had you known that this Prospectus was in existence on the date of your conversation with Mr. Harrison at the Gresham Hotel?—I did not know.
3125. When did you hear that the £10,000 was to be paid to Heiser?—At the Gresham Hotel from the lips of Harrison.
3126. When did you hear anything about the remaining £52,000 that was to be allotted to some people after purchase?— I took down and read out yesterday the actual words used by Mr. Harrison. I asked him to repeat what he said at the time and here is what he said: “£10,000 in cash; £52,000 in shares fully paid up for the assignment of the lease, subject to 6¼ royalty; £200,000 in cash would” —That is all I took down. I presume the “would” meant would be forthcoming, but, as I say, that is all I took down.
3127. Who was to get the £52,000 fully paid up shares provided for in the Prospectus, to be allotted as part of the consideration for the purchase of the lease?—I did not ask that, but we were to get £12,000.
3128. Who was to be allotted the £52,000 fully paid up shares?—It was a purchase consideration. Heiser was to get £10,000 in cash; and as to the £52,000 it was to be by allotment of 520,000 shares of 2/- each, to be credited as fully paid up capital in the company. We were to get £12,000 in shares. The balance, as I take it, was to go to Harrison or Risberget; that would be £38,000. There was then £38,000 in shares; £10,000 in cash; £11,000 preliminary expenses and £8,000 underwriting expenses, leaving in all for the working of the mine £69,000 cost of plant and equipment, and £50,000 working capital. That was not the way to begin.
3129. Now in that Prospectus, or draft Prospectus, whatever it is, there is a report set forth from Mr. Dunn. In answer to the Chairman yesterday, you said that you had no reason to doubt the accuracy of Mr. Dunn’s report?—I had no reason to doubt it, except this. I think I would not be acting with due care until I knew what the boring was.
3130. You went on in answer to the Chairman to make a remark I did not quite follow. You seem to qualify the possibility of the 41 per cent. by some change that might occur in reference to the depth of the gravel. Unless the deep gravel turned out to be as rich there might be some change?—That is so.
3131. Professor Dunn had not examined the deep gravels?—He had gone down, had he not, 12 ft. there?
3132. You said that if by any chance the deeper gravels which you had not tested were not rich, then the profit would fall?—Yes.
3133. Then Mr. Dunn made a report which might have been inaccurate because he had not tested the deep gravel —is that the position?—That prospectus was handed to me some few days ago. It was only when I saw it I read Mr. Dunn’s report. I believe in that report he only values 8 ft. of gravel.
3134. The fact is that he made a report, not having tested the deep gravel? —That is so.
3135. And the whole effect of his report, because he did not test it, might have been nullified?—No. He valued only what he saw.
3136. You told us yesterday, Senator, that you regarded Mr. Harrison as a truthful person, whose word you would accept?—I do. He is a man with a large business in London, a good reputation in London and an able man.
3137. Did you believe his word when he told you that he had a report from Professor Holman, President of the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington, that the gold deposits in this concession you had were worth £17,000,000? —He did not tell me that. The way in which that came out was in an interchange between Mr. Harrison and Mr. Heiser where Mr. Harrison said: “You are a nice fellow, going and selling a rich gold mine worth seventeen millions of money and you have no title to it.” That is how it came out. Mr. Harrison said: “And you bringing me over here.” He was told it was not Heiser who brought him over, and he said: “Then what brought me over here?” and I said: “The report of Mr. Dunn and Professor Holman brought you here.” “Well, that is right,” said he. Then the relations became more amicable and it was then he said to Heiser that we were inclined to be fair.
3138. That rather supports the suggestion I put to you yesterday, that Mr. Harrison was pulling a bluff on you?— I do not think so, because he was an old and a substantial solicitor.
3139. Who had not investigated the title of the person who proposed to sell the mine?—He had, sufficiently. He was not going to part with money until he saw the title. I do not think he would pull a bluff; I do not think he would bluff me. At least he might have known it might not be easy. In any case I believe a man until I find him out to be wrong.
3140. And I think you have found him out?—I would not say so.
3141. You and Deputy Briscoe put a joint statement in the Press explaining your connection with this gold mine concession after Deputy McGilligan raised the matter in the Dáil?—We did.
3142. In the course of that statement the following paragraph appeared: “Last May, Mr. Harrison, a member of an eminent firm of London solicitors, came to Dublin and informed us that his clients, a firm of underwriters, acting on reports from two mining engineers of very high international repute, Mr. Dunn and Professor Holman, President of the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington, proposed to float a public company with a capital of £250,000 on the basis that the deposit contained gold to the value of £17,000,000.”?—Yes, that is the basis.
3143. So Mr. Harrison must have told you?—No. That communication is literally true, every word of that is true.
3144. If that is so, Mr. Harrison must have told you he was acting on a report of Professor Holman’s that the gold was worth £17,000,000?—No, he told me what is stated there.
3145. He told you he was going to form a public company on the basis of the report?—No. This has been scanned by lawyers like you and me. It has been scanned already to try and twist and distort something out of it—I do not mean anything offensive.
3146. I am sure you do not?—It is just one lawyer talking to another, just as if we were talking amongst ourselves. Now, as regards this statement, it is right down to where it mentions a public company with a capital of £250,000. Now, as regards the remainder, “on the basis that the deposit contained gold to the value of £17,000,000,” that is Harrison’s and ours. We do not say that that is Holman’s report or Dunn’s report. We do not say that that last line is in the report of either Professor Holman or Mr. Dunn. But we say that that is the basis, that Harrison came over with his offer of £250,000, and that has been scanned and debated ad nauseam.
3147. It was scanned and debated to such an extent by the lawyers for the Irish Press that they were unable to face a libel action by Professor Holman? —I ask you now for the terms of the letter sent to Professor Holman.
3148. It is on the records?—I would like to read it now.
3149. Shall I read it for you?—Do, please. You will find it means what I have just said.
3150. I am afraid I have not got the Irish Press containing it. I have the correction and apology inserted by a paper called the Northern Whig. Would that do?—We were going to issue an action against the Northern Whig.
3151. For putting in the correction?— We were going to have a regular blizzard of actions.
3152. On the 3rd September Deputy Norton, the Chairman of this Committee, referred to a letter received by the Secretary from Messrs. Little, O hUadhaigh & Proud, Solicitors, which is as follows:—
“Professor Holman v. the Irish Press, Ltd.
“We understand that you are Secretary of the Joint Committee appointed to investigate certain matters relating to a mining concession in County Wicklow, granted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe.
“We act for the Irish Press, Ltd., which is involved in a matter which appears to us to concern your Committee.
“On the 15th June, 1935, our clients published a statement submitted for publication by Senator Michael Comyn and Deputy Robert Briscoe, in the course of which they attributed to a Mr. Harrison, Solicitor, of London, a statement which might be read as meaning that Profesor Holman, President of the Royal School of Mines, London, had made a report to the effect that the deposit contained gold to the value of seventeen million pounds.
“Professor Holman took violent exception to this publication on the grounds that he had never made the report alleged, and that the attribution to him of such a report reflected gravely on his professional position. After a long correspondence between the parties concerned, a form of apology for publication in our client’s newspaper has been agreed to by Professor Holman’s Solicitors, ourselves and the Solicitor for Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, and we enclose a copy of this document......
A copy of that document was then read by the Clerk of the Committee, and this is what the Irish Press proposed to publish:—
“Our attention has been drawn by Professor Holman of the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington, to our issue of June 15th, 1935, in which we published a statement given by Senator M. Comyn and Mr. Robert Briscoe, T. D., as follows:—
The statement was there set out, and the document proceeded:—
“We are informed by Professor Holman that he objects to this statement in so far as it might tend to suggest that he had given a report to the effect that the deposit contained gold to the value of £17,000,000. We understand from him that in the actual report which he gave he described the nature and extent of the deposits which he had actually examined, the samples which he had taken, and the results he had obtained, and that he gave no values whatsoever in his report, and that he expressly stated that no estimate of quantities was possible from the examition which he had made.
“On referring to Senator Comyn and to Mr. Briscoe we have been informed by them that their statement was expressly a statement of which they had been informed by Mr. Harrison, a member of the eminent firm of London solicitors, acting for the firm of underwriters concerned. Mr. Harrison informed them that the reports had been obtained from these eminent engineers, and that his clients proposed to float a public company on the basis that the deposits contained gold to the value stated. Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe did not intend that their statements should read that Professor Holman had made a report that the deposits contained gold to the value of £17,000,000, and they do .not, in fact, think that the statement which they made was capable of that construction.”
That is the document that was read to the Committee?—That is what I say now.
3153. Your statement is that Professor Holman did not say there was £17,00,000 worth, but that Mr. Harrison did?—Yes, and that we did not attribute it to Professor Holman. On a fair construction of that, we did not attribute the statement to Professor Holman.
3154. I will accept that. If Professor Holman did not make the statment that there were £17,000,000 worth of gold deposits in this mine, Mr. Harrison made that statement to you?—In the way I mentioned.
3155. And he is the man whose word you are accepting?—I do accept it.
3156. Do you accept it that there is £17,000,000 worth of gold in this mine? —I do.
3157. I did not think you were so credulous?—There is no use in disparaging this mine. I am perfectly certain that you hope it will succeed, not like some of the others.
3158. I will be candid; I have no hopes in relation to it?—At least you do not wish that it would fail?
3159. I do not. At all events, whether there are £17,000,000 or not in this mine, you are satisfied, I gathered from your answer to Deputy Norton yesterday, that your shares would have been worth £12,000 in the proposed company?—Not my shares.
3160. Well, the shares of Deputy Briscoe and others?—Yes.
3161. When you were considering your position before Heiser appeared on the scene, did you ever put a value on your share in this concession or on what you hoped to find?—No, I never put a value on it.
3162. Be careful now?—I know what you want to talk about. You want to talk about this little company we were trying to start.
3163. I do not know anything about a little company?—You want to refer to the arrangement about the £750.
3164. Yes, that is the one I am coming to exactly. Did you not put a value of £250 on your share, £250 on Deputy Briscoe’s and £250 on the shares of Mr. Norman, junior?—That was for the purpose of accounting and regularising. That was very early. Have you the date of that?
3165. You ought to have that?—I never got that paper. My connection with the matter was to pay my share.
3166. We are satisfied that you had to pay out a lot from time to time?—I did not. Mr. Briscoe paid his share; we paid up everything.
3167. At all events you put a value of £750 on this concession, you put that value on for some reason or another?— You cannot say whether that was the value. That figure was put down on the question as to whether it would be £7 duty or not.
3168. So it had that value?—Well, it was a figure taken at random.
3169. In any case whether it had that value or whether it was a figure taken arbitrarily, £750 was the figure put on it at one time and it has now gone up to £12,000 plus a royalty of 2¼ per cent? —Yes.
3170. And Mr. Norman, junior, has got £25 out of the transaction?—That was not with my wish, it was against my wish; I would not let him out at all.
3171. When you discovered that this gold mine had become suddenly very valuable did you think that you should have given a bit of the benefit that had accrued to Mr. Norman, junior?—I knew nothing about Mr. Norman; Mr. Briscoe knew about Mr. Norman. I never met him since. But whatever Mr. Briscoe likes to do I will do. I do not know what he will do.
3172. Now I want to go back to this valuation or arbitrary figure which you had in mind. There was a document drawn up on which this figure was placed?—Yes.
3173. Have you that document?—No, I do not know whether Deputy Briscoe has it.
3174. You may have noticed that Deputy McGilligan in his evidence referred to the fact that a letter had been received by Mr. Norman, junior, which I will read?—Yes.
3175. This is a letter from Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co., solicitors, Arklow, who were apparently acting for you at the time?—No, against us. They were acting for Mr. Norman, junior.
3176. This is the original of the letter that Mr. McGilligan referred to in his evidence. At the time he said he was unable to put his hands on the original. He has asked me to hand in the original now?—I wonder does that bind us. We know nothing about that letter.
3177. Wait a second. May I read it, Mr. Chairman? It is dated the 26th April, 1934, and it reads:—
“G. R. G. Norman, Esq.,
Re You with Briscoe & Comyn.
Referring to this matter we have now heard from Mr. Briscoe that he is prepared to pay you the sum of £25 provided you discharge himself and Mr. Comyn from all liability to you and that you sign a release or assignment of any right you may have in obtaining the mining lease or licence. He informs us that no lease was actually granted, but that an application for such a lease was made in respect of nine townlands, namely, Ballintemple, Coolgarrow , Clonwilliam, Rostygah, Ballinvalley Lower, Knockmaller, Monaglough, Kilcara West, and Mongan.
We shall be glad to know if you will be prepared to sign the release or assignment and we shall also be glad if you will please send us the correspondence which you have yourself, including any correspondence relative to the proposed lease and the draft agreement which had been proposed between you. We will then draw up the document which we would suggest you should sign and will send it to Mr. Briscoe for approval. Please let us hear from you as soon as possible. We regret to say we were prevented unexpectedly from attending at our Rathdrum office to-day.
M. J. O’Connor & Co.”
That letter was written for the purpose of carrying out the terms which Mr. Briscoe had proposed in order to get out of this transaction?—Yes.
3178. And it refers to the terms that had been proposed by Mr. Briscoe?— Yes, but I had never seen that letter.
3179. Do you know that that letter accurately represents the terms on which you were prepared to pay £25?—I have here an earlier letter from Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co. It is dated the 13th April, 1934, and it reads:—
“Robert Briscoe, Esq., T.D.,
Re Mining Operations.
We are instructed by Mr. G. R. G. Norman, Cullentra House, Rathdrum, that he has up to January last been concerned with yourself and Senator Comyn in certain mining operations at Woodenbridge, County Wicklow, and that in January last an agreement was reached whereby our client’s interests in the matter were purchased for a sum of £25. Our client informs us that neither yourself nor Senator Comyn have since made him any payment in respect of the amount due to him. Our client is anxious to obtain the money and be finished with the matter generally, and we feel sure it is only necessary for us to draw your attention to the matter to receive remittance from you. Will you kindly therefore let us have cheque in the matter on or before Thursday next, the 19th instant, if at all possible, as we expect to see our client again on that day in our office at Rathdrum.
M. J. O’Connor & Co.”
I want now to say that in January last Mr. Briscoe told me that young Norman wanted to clear out and that he wanted £25 and I advised Mr. Briscoe not to pay him.
3180. You have told us that?—Yes. That happened in January and then we got on the 13th April this threatening letter threatening an action, and Mr. came to me again and I said to Mr. Briscoe: “Did you agree to pay him?” and he said: “I did.” Then I said: “If you did, it is best to pay him,” whereupon Mr. Briscoe wrote that letter of the 19th April. Here is the letter:—
“M. J. O’Connor & Co.,
Re Mining Operations.
Further to your letter of the 13th instant I would be glad if you could draw up a legal document assigning all Mr. Norman’s interest in the proposed leases of mining rights and releasing and discharging us from all claims by him in consideration of the sum of £25. Upon the execution of such document we will hand you over the £25. We will be prepared to pay a reasonable sum for this document. Please say how much.
Yours very truly,
Then on the 20th April we got this letter from Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co., Ferrybank, Arklow:—
“R. Briscoe, Esq., T.D.,
Leinster House, Dublin.
Re Mining Operations.
We are in receipt of your letter of the 19th instant herein and we note what you say. Unfortunately we are unable to say what the cost of the proposed document will be until we know whether in fact any lease of mining rights was actually made to you and your co-partners, including our client. If such lease was made, we should be glad if you will kindly let us have same, or a copy thereof, and we can then put the matter in hands without delay. Our client is in need of the money and is anxious to have the matter disposed of as soon as possible, and we shall be obliged therefore if you will please let us hear from you as soon as possible.
Yours very truly,
M. J. O’Connor & Co.”
This letter was followed by another letter of the 23rd April from Mr. Briscoe to M. J. O’Connor & Co. The letter reads:—
“In reply to your letter of the 20th instant, no lease has been made of the mining rights or Licence granted. The way the matter stands is that an application was made for a mining lease in County Wicklow for nine townlands, namely:— Ballintemple, Coolgarrow, Clonwilliam, Rostygagh, Ballinvalley, Lr. Knockmiller; Monalough, Kilcara West, Mongan, and some intimation was received that the matter would be proceeded with in respect of three of the townlands, and a decision held over in respect to the others. So far as I know, the legal position is that an application has been lodged in the three names of Senator Comyn, myself and Mr. Norman, for mining rights in the above-mentioned townlands, and neither lease nor licence has been made to us. It might be sufficient if Mr. Norman would assign and surrender to us all rights in respect of the application which was made for a mining lease, and would discharge us from all liability to him in respect of same and would acknowledge that any lease which may be granted belongs to Senator Comyn and myself and that he has no further interest in the matter on consideration of payment to him of £25.
You will know what form the document should take in view or the fact that there is no legal interest vested in us. Please let us know what your charges will be and make them as small as you possibly can, as, of course, this is only the merest speculation.
Yours very truly,
pp Robert Briscoe.”
3181. Deputy Costello.— “As of course this is only the merest speculation.”
Witness.—I have the originals of Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co.’s letters and Mr. Briscoe has copies of them.
3182. Acting-Chairman.—Who has the originals of your letters?—M. J. O’Connor & Co. have them.
3183. Acting-Chairman.—I take it there is no objection to accepting these copies?
Deputy Costello.—No. Now, Senator Comyn, that offer of £25 was made on the basis that the value of the thing was the merest speculation?—Deputy Briscoe will answer for that. I did not draft that letter. Now, there is a letter of the 24th April, 1934, from Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co. to Deputy Briscoe. Here is the letter:—
24th April, 1934.
Robert Briscoe, Esq., T.D.,
Re Mining Operations.
We are in receipt of yours of the 23rd instant herein, contents of which we note. We expect to see our client in Rathdrum Office on Thursday next, the 26th instant, when we shall take his instructions. We shall thereafter send you a draft of the proposed document to be executed by him for your approval, together with a note of what we propose charging in the matter. We shall as requested make our fees as small as possible.
Yours very truly,
M. J. O’Connor.”
Then a week later we got this letter from Messrs. O’Connor & Co., which reads:—
30th April, 1934.
R. Briscoe, Esq., T.D.,
Re Norman with you and Senator Comyn.
Referring to your letter of the 23rd instant, we have now taken our client’s instructions, and he is satisfied to sign the document required by you. We have drafted a release which appears to be quite suitable in the matter and to cover your requirements fully, and we enclose you draft thereof for approval by you and by Senator Comyn. Please return same to us approved of by return if possible, and we shall have same engrossed and executed by our client, whom we expect to see in Rathdrum on Thursday.
The Deed of Assignment will of course have to be sealed and stamped accordingly, and in the circumstances we propose charging you a sum of £3 10/-, to cover all our work and stamp duty and other outlay in the matter, and we shall be glad to hear that this figure is satisfactory.
M. J. O’Connor & Co.”
Deputy Briscoe wrote back on 4th May, 1934, saying:—
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 30th ultimo, together with proposed Assignment of Release. Same is returned herewith approved as altered in pencil, and signed by both Senator Comyn and myself.
We agree to your fee, and appreciate very much your modesty in this regard. Immediately I have the assignment and release completed, same will be signed by us, and the cheque covering your costs and Mr. Norman’s £25 will be forwarded to you.
Very truly yours,
pp R. Briscoe.”
That was accordingly done, and on the 7th May, Messrs. M. J. O’Connor & Co., wrote Mr. Briscoe:—
“We have received your letter of the 4th instant with enclosure. We are communicating further with our client and shall write you later.”
and on the 8th May, they wrote to Mr. Briscoe:—
“We now enclose engrossment of assignment and release herein duly executed by our client. We also enclose draft for comparison, and you will note that we have made a couple of minor additions in the engrossment, as shown in ink on the draft.
Will you please sign the documents opposite the second seal on the third page in the presence of two witnesses and then get the two witnesses to sign their respective names, addresses and occupations in the space provided for the purpose opposite the second seal following the words ‘signed, sealed and delivered by the said Robert Briscoe in the presence of.’ Senator Comyn should also sign opposite the third seal and his signature should be witnessed in similar manner.
When you have both signed the document please return same to us so that we may have same stamped. Please also send us cheque for the sum of £28 10s., the amount coming to our client and the costs of assignment. We of course, undertake to have the assignment duly stamped and to hand over same to you when stamped.
We shall be glad to receive cheque as soon as possible so that we may settle up with our client without delay.
M. J. O’Connor & Co.
P.S.—Please make cheque payable to us.”
So we wrote two cheques. This is the letter of the 12th May:—
“The assignment and release duly completed by Senator Comyn and myself enclosed herewith, together with our two cheques for £14 5s. each totalling the amount £28 10s. as requested by you. We will be pleased to receive from you the documents finally completed as soon as possible, as we have to produce this completed to the Department concerned at the earliest moment.”
Then, on 14th May, there is this letter:—
“Re Mining Operations.
We are in receipt of yours enclosing the assignment and release herein duly executed by yourself and Senator Comyn, and also enclosing your two cheques for £14 5/- each, making £28 10/- in all, being £25 the amount being paid to our client and the £3 10/-costs, in connection with the preparation and stamping of assignment and release. We enclose receipt for the amount and we shall send you the documents stamped in due course.”
Here is the document stamped in due course.
3184. Is that the original of the lease? —It is a five shilling one. It bears the original signatures and has a five shilling stamp.
3185. It is your signature and Mr. Briscoe’s?—My signature and Mr. Briscoe’s and Norman’s, which I recognise. That is the whole lot of it. I knew nothing about that. I know that I did not want him to go out and I did not want to pay.
3186. This correspondence which you have just put in starts in April 1934. Had you, or Deputy Briscoe, any correspondence with Mr. Norman before that?—I had not; never.
3187. Did you write or did you know that Mr. Briscoe had written at any time stating that you were going to let the matter drop and asking what nominal sum he would accept for his share?— I do not know anything about it.
3188. Would you be surprised if such a letter was written to Mr. Norman?— I know nothing about that letter, or about the correspondence at all.
3189. Surely you looked at the correspondence before you came in to give evidence?—I never saw a letter like that.
3190. Would that come as a complete surprise to you?—Not at all. Read it.
3191. I have not got it. Mr. Norman, junior, presumably, has it, but I take it you would have a copy of it?—I have not any such letter; I know nothing about it.
3192. You know nothing about a letter written to Norman, junior, stating that you proposed to let the whole matter drop, and asking him what sum he would accept?—No, I know nothing about the correspondence at all. All I know about it is what I told you here yesterday.
3193. Did you ever see a letter written by Norman stating that on the basis that you are going to let the whole matter drop, that is the application to the Department for a mining lease or concession, he would accept £40?—No, I never saw any correspondence of that kind.
3194. You never heard about it?—Never.
3195. Have you got the draft agreement that was made between you, or proposed, at one time, in which a value or arbitrary figure was put forward?—I think the agreement referred to was the agreement I have shown you.
3196. I think not?—I think it is; I have not any other documents.
3197. And have never seen it?—No.
3198. Mr. Briscoe never showed it to you?—To the best of my knowledge.
3199. Was not all the correspondence that took place between you and Norman, including this draft agreement, or proposal, or whatever it was, sent back by Messrs. O’Connor to Mr. Briscoe and yourself?— I never saw it.
3200. He never showed it to you?—I do not think he ever got it. I had nothing to do with any correspondence. The only things I had to do with was that letter we sent to the Press and that letter to the Ministry containing the last paragraph which has been so much discussed.
3201. I am quite prepared to accept your word on that, Senator, but I presume that Mr. Briscoe will tell us if that correspondence is in his possession. At all events, your evidence is that you have never seen or heard of it?—That is my evidence.
3202. But there was a document drawn up in which an arbitrary figure of £750 was placed on this concession?—I do not know; I do not think so. I have no recollection of it. There was a discussion about a company in order to have the expenses properly allocated, because I think Mr. Briscoe was paying more than his share, although I always paid him whatever he asked me, and he tells me now that we are level.
3203. In the course of your evidence, you stated yesterday—I think prompted by Mr. Briscoe—that Norman was paid something like £2 5s. a week?—That was the agreement. I was not prompted in that. That is my recollection of the agreement.
3204. £2 5s. every week?—Yes.
3205. For how many weeks?—He was to be paid £2 5s. a week for as long as he was working, I suppose.
3206. Was he paid that?—He was.
3207. How much was he paid altogether? —Mr. Briscoe has the figures. I saw some of them, and I have them here in the first account. Mr. Norman sent us one account, I think, and I have a copy of it. In that first account, I think there are about thirteen or fourteen weeks at £2 5s. a week.
3208. Was the original agreement with Norman or any agreement at any time that Norman was merely to be paid about 15/- a week, plus his board?—No.
3209. Was that agreement ever made?— No. The original agreement, so far as I recollect— this did not make a very deep impression on my mind—was that Norman was to get £2 5s. a week.
3210. I take it you have read Deputy McGilligan’s evidence on this point?—I did not read it, but I heard it.
3211. Did you hear this: “Mr. Norman, junior, was to be paid at one period 15/-a week, plus his board. He was then put to work with another man—I am nearly sure his name was Pat Keogh” —his name is Tom Keogh, I understand—“an unskilled labourer, and they were put to work with the promise that they would be paid on the basis of whatever gold they took up.” Was any such promise ever made?—No, that is quite wrong, and I will tell you why. Keogh was to be paid wages, and Norman was to have whatever assistance he wanted. That relates to the time after the boring and when he said he would make this pay. Any assistance he wanted he was to receive in wage-paid labour, and Keogh was the wage-paid man.
3212. I have here an account which has at the foot of it: “Squared to 23/6/33. Total amount, £50 12/-.” This is in Norman’s own handwriting, and I think there are about 13 or 14 weeks of his wages at £2 5/- a week. This is his own actual document.
3213. “Eventually this was changed” —this is Deputy McGilligan’s evidence I am quoting again—“and it was decided that they would get some payment each week”?—That is wrong. Mr. McGilligan was absolutely misinformed in regard to this matter from start to finish.
3914. Perhaps so, but I want to know? —That is wrong.
3215. Was there any agreement with Norman or Keogh that they were to be paid on the basis of whatever they took up?—That was the agreement with Norman.
3216. There was such an agreement?— With Norman, but not with Keogh. Before we gave Norman the plant he required to his own specification, he said: “Look here, will you let me go on and I will make this pay; I will make my wages out of this.” I was delighted, because that was the idea I had in mind. We gave him the equipment as he desired and all he desired, and we gave him the help of paid labourers.
3217. How many?—I do not know how many. I do not know much about this at all, except that when I was asked to pay, I paid, and I was down there.
3218. “Eventually this was changed and it was decided that they would get some payment each week”?—That is wrong.
3219. “In that agreement it was carefully laid down that the sale of gold was to be transacted by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn and the payment for the two together”—that is, Norman and Keogh—“was to be £2 10/- a week”?— That is wrong.
3220. That is wrong?—All wrong.
3221. “They got this money for one week. They did not get it the second week, and they spent the third week writing for the second week’s money”? —Wrong again. I went down there about the third week to Ballinvalley and, in the kitchen of a farmhouse there, Mr. Briscoe, in my presence, paid them. The reason I remember it at all is that Mr. Briscoe was short and I gave him sufficient to pay the hired labourers. and he also, at the same time, paid Mr. Norman, although under the terms of the agreement Mr. Norman was not entitled to any payment. But he gave him money and that is the only time, so far as I recollect, I was present at any payment.
3222. “They got this money for one week. They did not get it the second week, and they spent the third week writing for the second week’s money.” Did you get any letter about that?— —Entirely wrong. I never got any letter.
3223. Did Mr. Briscoe?—Never.
3224. “On the fourth week they got £2 10s. 0d. for the second week. That was the last payment of £2 10s. 0d. they got. The payments then became less week by week and eventually they ceased.” That is not a proper description of your relations with young Norman and Tom Keogh?—That is absolutely and entirely wrong. So far as Keogh is concerned, he is the gentleman who has been writing letters and who will not stand over them. He has been sending letters to Mr. Briscoe, but Mr. Briscoe will lay them before you, I am sure.
3225. Yesterday in your evidence you dealt with the allegation that you had broken covenants in the lease?—Yes.
3226. And the reason you gave for not carrying out covenant No. 3 in the lease, namely, to constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners and to supply them with all the proper tools and appliances, was that such a covenant could only arise for performance when the mine was found, that you cannot employ a miner until the mine is found?—My answer—and you will find it verbatim, I think—was that the economic geologist has given the correct evidence as to that covenant and the correct evidenced is that it arises only when there is a mine to be mined, for miners to work, and that the meaning of the entire covenant is that something must be done and that the lessee is not to be allowed to sit down on his lease. That is what Mr. Lyburn said, and with that I agree. That is the meaning of that covenant, and I am going to stand over that covenant. That is my experience also, because, although there are not many leases here, there are leases in other countries.
3227. You say that you are not bound to perform this covenant and employ at least four able-bodied miners, supplying them with proper tools and appliances, until some mine was found. Is that a correct statement?—That is the meaning.
3228. I want to know is that a correct interpretation of the evidence you have given?—It is not the exact evidence I gave. The exact evidence I gave is the correct evidence and the evidence I am going to stand over in any court of justice.
3229. The effect of which is that you are not bound to perform that covenant until you found a mine?—That is the argument by you.
3230. I took down what you said?—I did not say what the effect was.
3231. That clause arises, you said, only when a mine is found. Is that correct?— That part is, without the other.
3232. What other?—The other part as to what is the object of a covenant of this kind.
3233. Was not the whole object of this prospecting lease to find a mine?—Yes; and the mine has been found.
3234. And do you suggest that where you find a covenant in a document the whole purpose and object of which is to find a mine and that you are to constantly keep employed four able-bodied miners, that you are not bound to do that until you find the mine?— Nobody knows better than Deputy Costello that this is common form.
3235. I do not know anything of the sort?—It is common form.
3236. Are you suggesting that all these covenants are so much eye-wash, and that they were not intended to be carried out?—They were all carried out by me.
3237. You did not carry out this one? —I did in the spirit.
3238. Did you employ four able-bodied and experienced miners and supply them with all proper tools and appliances?— That must be construed according to the practice of miners. It should be construed so as to give it sense and meaning, and it would have no sense or meaning if you employed the miners before you had the mine.
3239. Can you find any meaning in a document which contains that covenant, the whole purpose of which is to find a mine, unless you have got them employed all the time from the start?—I can— because this take-note contemplates the finding of a mine in the period covered by the take-note and the working of the mine. Of course, the Deputy and myself might argue about this for a day.
3240. It was known of course, when this document was given to you that neither you nor Deputy Briscoe would come within the description of able-bodied and experienced miners. You may be able-bodied, but you are not experienced miners?—A prospector is as different from a miner as a doctor is from a clergyman.
3241. I entirely agree. You were prospectors, and in the document you get to prospect there is a very definite covenant that you were to keep four able-bodied miners constantly employed?— There is.
3242. And you say that you were not bound by clause 5 of the lease, which would come into operation when the mine was found?—When the prospector is finished the miner comes along.
3243. Do you say that you were not bound by clause 5 of the lease, which reads:—
“Within three days next after the expiration of each calendar month during the continuance of this demise to deliver to the lessor a true and fair account in writing containing particulars of the quantity of all minerals (and of all assays thereof ) which during such month shall have been respectively gotten and raised from the said land and which during such month shall have been stored, crushed or stamped.”?
—I say that I am not bound to perform that covenant, if I wanted to have the case argued, until such time as minerals are found which can be stored, crushed or stamped.
3244. In any case, you did not give any such return as was provided in the covenant?—I did.
3245. But only after pressure had been brought to bear by the Department and after the matter had been raised in the Dáil?—We were in constant communication with the Department, and the Department was thoroughly well aware of the work from month to month. They knew very well that we were not finding gold.
3246. You gave an account yesterday in your evidence of the settlement you made with the Boring Company. You had a long correspondence with the solicitors to the company, which eventuated in the payment by you of a sum of £13 8s. 0d.? I do not know that there was a long correspondence.
3247. There was a correspondence, at any rate, and your explanation of the failure to pay the amount was that you contended that they had not carried out their contract?—That is what Deputy Briscoe and I did contend that they did not carry out their contract. They caused us terrific injury because they did not carry out their contract. If they had done so we would have known exactly where we were.
3248. Did you not know what your position was in relation to the Irish Boring Company before they ever went down to the fields at all?—I thought they were bound to bore and tube.
3249. Did you not get a quotation in writing from them?—I do not know.
3250. As to what they proposed to do for the sum that they quoted. Have you got the original quotation, or has Deputy Briscoe got it?—I am sure Deputy Briscoe got it.
3251. So that there was such a quotation?—I do not know. I had nothing to do with the correspondence.
3252. I put it to you that there was in writing a quotation from the Irish Boring Company as to what they proposed to do, and that you accepted that quotation and knew from the document precisely what they intended to do?—I myself you mean?
3253. Either yourself or Deputy Briscoe?—I will find out whether there was such a thing.
3254. Deputy Dowdall.—Could not these questions be put to Deputy Briscoe? The witness says that he does not know anything about the correspondence.
3255. Deputy Costello.—I am prepared to accept the Senator’s word if he says that he did not know anything about this?—I can give this evidence—that in the quotation of the 30th of May, 1933, they say:—
“These prices include for all insurance of workmen and plant, carriage and cartage of plant and materials, labour (skilled), use of plant, guide lining tubes and materials, provision of sample boxes and keeping and furnishing of logs of the borings.”
3256. What is the amount of the quotation?—Perhaps I had better read the whole thing. It is dated the 30th of May, 1933:—
“With reference to our telephonic conversation with you yesterday, we have now pleasure in quoting you herein for the proposed borings at Woodenbridge, County Wicklow:—
Boring through surface ground (sand gravel, clay, etc.) at the site to be pointed out to us at Woodenbridge, for the first 20 feet of boring—@ 12/- per foot. All boring in excess of 20 feet— @ 7/- per foot.
These prices are subject to a minimum of 20 feet of boring and to your providing a man to assist our foreman, and to our being enabled to proceed with the work without delay.
These prices include for all insurance of workmen and plant, carriage and cartage of plant and materials, labour (skilled), use of plant, guide lining tubes and materials, provision of sample boxes and keeping and furnishing of logs of the borings.
This quotation does not include for rock boring, but we would bring up chips from the rock surface for inspection without extra charge.
Terms: Net monthly accounts.
Commencement of work: Days 1/2 from receiving order.
Trusting to be favoured with your valued instructions, and assuring you of our very careful attention at all times.”
That is what we got.
3257. This morning you gave a very categorical denial to the suggestion that was made that you and Deputy Briscoe had stated at any time that leases under the Mines and Minerals Act could only be obtained through you and Deputy Briscoe?— Absolutely.
3258. You heard, of course, Mr. Clarke give evidence that a complaint was made in his Department about those statements having been made?—I did.
3259. You know the people who made them?—I do not recollect. I know that Mr. Nunan was not there because he told me.
3260. Was Mr. Summerfield there?— I do not recollect that.
3261. According to Mr. Clarke’s evidence complaints of that kind were made on a couple of occasions, on at least two occasions?— If such a complaint was made it has no foundation in fact. I would have expected to be asked about a thing like that.
3262. I am going to ask you about it, and it was because I had definitely intended to ask you about it that I got the evidence out from the officials. Would you be surprised to hear that the following people made complaints:—Messrs. Smyth, Heiser, Summerfield and Professor Dunn?—I would be tremendously surprised to hear that Professor Dunn would have made such a complaint. Of course, we were on bad terms with Heiser at the time. I do not know what the time was.
3263. The 2nd of May, 1935?—I would be tremendously surprised to hear that Mr. Dunn ever made such complaint.
3264. This would be the 2nd of May and the interview took place on the previous day. The complaint is that statements were made by you and by Deputy Briscoe on the previous evening, the 1st of May?—There is no foundation whatever, no shadow of foundation for it, and no word that was ever uttered by Deputy Briscoe in my presence or by me could bear any such an interpretation.
3265. Mr. Summerfield made a complaint?—Was that after Mr. Summerfield—
3266. I deduce from the information before me, which is taken from a confidential file, that the actual statements alleged to have been made by you and Deputy Briscoe were made on the 1st of May, 1935?—I would like to correlate that with the evidence that I have given as to the interview in the presence of Mr. Breen, Mr. Hayes, Mr. Briscoe, myself and Mr. Smyth.
3267. Perhaps in fairness to you I should give you the actual complaint made. The remarks that you and Mr. Briscoe were alleged to have made were to the effect that Mr. Heiser and his associates were wasting time and money in buying maps and preparing applications for leases of gold areas, that leases could be acquired solely through Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, that you and Deputy Briscoe implied that by reason of the fact that they were first in the field they had a priority and lien on all the gold deposits. These statements of Mr. Summerfield were confirmed by Messrs. Heiser and Dunn?— I would be very much surprised to hear that they were confirmed by Mr. Dunn who is a reputable man.
3268. That was, I think, the evidence of Mr. Clarke who is also a reputable official?—I think Mr. Clarke is a reputable official, but I do not think that is his evidence. I would like to know if you could help me and let me know what is the date of that interview in which Mr. Summerfield—
3269. It is the interview with Mr. Clarke and also Mr. Luccan and took place in the Department on the 2nd of May, 1935. The complaint was that you had made these statements on the previous evening. There were present Messrs. Smyth, Heiser, Summerfield and Dunn, and Mr. Summerfield made the complaints of which I have just given you an outline and they were confirmed by Messrs. Heiser and Dunn?—Who gives evidence of the confirmation?
3270. I am reading from a confidential file?—You should not read from a confidential file that I have not seen.
3271. If necessary I will have Mr. Clarke recalled and put the question to him with a view to bringing out the facts, that I have put to you, in evidence. My recollection is that he has stated what I have put to you?—Is it not possible at the moment to get a verbatim copy of the evidence of Mr. Clarke because I would be satisfied with nothing else? Of course, it is.
3272. Deputy Dowdall.—I understood from Mr. Costello that he stated that the complaint was made on May 3rd.
Deputy Costello.—May 2nd. If you look at the documents you will see that it is dated May 2nd.
3273. Deputy Moore.—Assuming that the story was right, are we to understand that the complaint was made with regard to the whole of Ireland or of Wicklow. To what had it reference?—To all the mining.
3274. Deputy Costello.—The complaint was that Mr. Heiser’s associates were wasting time and money in buying maps and leases in other areas when they knew that all such leases could be secured solely through Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, by reason of the fact that they were first in the field and that they had priority?— Heiser was looking for all the gold in Ireland. That date of May 2nd follows a letter of ours of April 25th, and our letter of April 25th was shown to these people and read to them.
3275. I suggest to you that the letter of April 25th really confirms this allegation of these gentlemen?—Probably it is the only communication we made to them. We showed them that letter.
3276. Deputy Coburn.—Showed it to whom?—To Summerfield, Heiser and Smyth.
3277. Deputy Costello.—And the purpose of the letter, as I put it to you yesterday, was to prevent Messrs. Heiser & Co. from getting any concessions under the Mines and Minerals Act in areas adjoining these townlands covered by your prospecting note?—Not at all. The purpose of the letter, as I submit, is clearly evident on the face of the document, and probably it is that letter they were referring to when they made this complaint. If it is, I stand over that letter in every word.
3278. I take it you deny that any such statement was made?—I do. As regards myself, I never made such a statement, and as regards Deputy Briscoe, I do not believe it was made. Is it alleged that it was made in the presence of any person; in the presence of Mr. Breen or anyone else?
3279. I understand the allegation is that it was made in the presence of Heiser, Summerfield, Smyth and Dunn?—I took the precaution of having Mr. Breen and Mr. Hayes as often as I could.
3280. Have you the original of the sublease to Heiser in your possession?—I do not think so.
3281. Surely you must have that?—I have a duplicate of the original.
3282. May I have it?—Certainly.
3283. Have you got the original of the take-note of it here?—That is my own take-note. I have the lease. (Document handed in.)
3284. Have you got the licence for the erection of the mining unit?—That is in the Department. We have not got it. It was sent to the Department for their consent.
3285. Has it been produced in evidence by the officials?—I do not know.
3286. Were any of these documents written on Seanad Eireann notepaper? You know that Deputy McGilligan said that? —I do not know. I did not take any notice of that statement of his.
3287. Whether you did or did not, I want to know?—I do not know anything about that. I thought it was a flourish on his part I did not take it seriously.
3288. You have a note of the papers and documents connected with this transaction in your possession, and it has been the practice at this Commission to make disclosure and to produce them?—The documents I have got I have handed to you. I have no documents at all relating to this thing.
3289. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—If you will go back for a moment to clause (4), dealing with the employment of four able-bodied men, you did tell the Department that you were willing to put in £200?—Yes.
3290. As soon as you got this lease?— The two of us—Mr. Briscoe and myself.
3291. Somehow the two of you gave an undertaking to put in £200?—Yes.
3292. And after that, and on foot of it, this Indenture of Lease was entered into? —Yes.
3293. Since 1st November, 1934, can you tell roughly how much money you have expended on this site?—Mr. Briscoe is the best to answer that.
3294. I do not press you. As a matter of fact, Mr. Briscoe keeps the accounts? —Yes. The way after that lease was, that Mr. Briscoe went down about 50 days and stayed the whole day. I think I went down about 25 days and I took samples every day. For every day I was there taking samples I would spend about two days or one day or three days analysing.
3295. Apart from your own expenses and Mr. Briscoe’s expenses, did you spend any money on wages?—I do not know. Mr. Briscoe will tell you.
3296. I am perfectly satisfied. Your interpretation of this clause you have already given us?—Yes.
3297. That until you discovered a mine you were not to employ any miners?— Yes, prospectors first and then miners.
3298. Therefore, these four men according to you were not to be employed by you at all in prospecting?—No, in mining.
3299. To my mind you gave a rather curious answer, that you could not use a skilled miner in prospecting? Why not? —Because they are completely different occupations. For prospecting you need to have a knowledge of geology and of the various minerals and of the association of minerals and of certain chemical tests and field tests; conditions that are wholly unknown to the ordinary miner.
3300. Let us take this little operation that you do not know anything about, panning? I take it that an experienced miner can pan?—If he was a gold miner. If he was a miner of any other description except a gold miner he could not pan.
3301. In prospecting, you dig, sink shafts and things of that nature?— Yes.
3302. For the sinking of shafts an experienced miner would be quite good? —We have for the sinking of shafts people of experience.
3303. Keep your mind to the period after the date of the lease. You did not sink any shafts or do anything after that date?—No.
3304. In other words, then, as far as this prospecting clause* was concerned.
“That the demise hereby made shall at the option of the Lessor cease and be void and of none effect if the Lessees shall not within three calendar months from the date hereof proceed to make search and trial for the substances hereby demised with not less than four able-bodied miners or shall cease at any time hereafter to make such trials and searches for the space of six calendar months in a year.”
That clause, according to you, should not be in a prospecting lease?—It is probably all right.
3305. When you were satisfied that you found a gold mine, according to you, you were to work it with four able-bodied men?—Yes.
3306. It would be unfair then to you if the Department were to make you employ four able-bodied miners?—It would be, at that stage, most unfair.
3307. You heard the evidence of the Secretary to the Department?—Yes.
3308. You heard him say that he considered you were bound under that clause and by the covenants to employ four able-bodied men?—The Secretary to the Department of Industry and Commerce has to attend to a great many things and therefore must be acquainted with a great many subjects, but I would rather take the opinion of an economic geologist.
3309. You heard him give that evidence?—I did.
3310. It would be a very unfair thing to you if the Department enforced it?— I think so, at that time.
3311. It would be, what might be called sharp practice on the part of the Department?—Well, I would not expect that from the Department or from any landlord.
3312. Would not that be a fair description?—I am a landlord myself.
3313. This clause cannot have been inserted, as Mr. Ferguson stated, except for the purpose of giving employment in the neighbourhood?—The object and purpose of the lease was to give employment, and the way to give employment is to find a mine and to put hundreds of men into it, if you can find it.
3314. Even if you discovered a mine you did not of necessity get the right to work it?—I ask you not to consider that question because it is of a nature that you know very well. My idea is that if I find a mine I have a right to the lease.
3315. Provided you show that you have skill and resources, I am completely in agreement with you?—Thank you.
3316. All you have to show is that you have the skill and the resources?—That is so. I am thankful to you for that expression of opinion.
3317. You began your prospecting when?—I have no documents. I would have to refer again.
3318. Roughly?—I think 1 might be able to say about 1931 or 1932. One does not take notice of the beginning of things very much.
3319. when did you seriously start prospecting?—I seriously started prospecting when Mr. Briscoe asked me to join him.
3320. Roughly, when was that?—I should say about 1932 or 1933.
3321. And you prospected with the assistance of Mr. Norman up till your breaking up of partnership with Mr. Norman?—We did.
3322. Yes. Might I again have the date of your breaking of partnership— when Mr. Norman did no further work with you? I think it was somewhere in April. The agreement was in April, 1934, but when did he actually stop working?—He actually stopped work about January, I think.
3323. January of 1934?—Yes.
3324. When was the arrangement made with Mr. Norman that he was to make his wages out of the gold he got?—I think it was in the autumn of the previous year.
3325. The autumn of 1933? I only want to know roughly. Mr. Norman was to find gold and, if he found it, he was to pay himself out of it?—That is it.
3326. Had you any prospecting lease at that time?—No; but we had informed the Department and, with the permission of the tenant, we could look for gold in good faith.
3327. When did you inform the Department that you were looking for gold?— I think it was at or before the date of the first application.
3328. Yes, but the date of the first application?—It was about March, I think. Yes, 23rd March, 1933.
3329. I see, 23rd March, 1933. So this arrangement was made with Mr. Norman before you had even informed the Department?—Oh, no. It was the autumn following.
3330. Your first application was March, 1933?—Yes.
3331. And you had no lease?—No.
3332. Now, Mr. Norman was to make his wages in 1933 out of gold that was got?—Yes; that was after the boring.
3333. How did that become your property, or Mr. Norman’s property, or anybody else’s property?—It did not. It was the property of the State, in respect of which we had undertaken to pay £5 of a dead rent.
3334. I beg your pardon!—Oh yes.
3335. I beg your pardon! You undertake no reponsibility for a dead rent until you sign the lease or until the Department signs it and you sign it?—Well, in anticipation of the lease. We had promised to pay £5.
3336. If you got a lease?—Yes.
3337. But you had not got a lease?—No.
3338. And though you had not got a lease, Mr. Norman was to take gold, if he found it, which was not his property, but which was the property of the Government, and convert it to his own use?—We know that the amalgam was given in point of fact, to Mr. Briscoe, and would be reported to the Department as proof that we had found it. There was no loss.
3339. Did Mr. Norman find any gold?— About 5/- or 6/- worth.
3340. But supposing he had found large amounts, he was to pay himself, and he thought he could pay himself reasonable wages of 50/- a week, and you and Mr. Briscoe were equally a party to his doing so?—We were, but if any gold was found we would report it to the Department.
3341. And hand it over to the Department?—Yes.
3342. So he was not to be paid?—He was. He was to be paid by Mr. Briscoe the value of the stuff.
3343. But the stuff was to be handed over to the Department?—Yes.
3344. You told us now that he was to get the gold, and that was the arrangement, that he was to get gold, which was Government property, to pay himself?— Oh, if you want to come down to the exact words, it was to the effect that he was to go on and work, and he said: “I will make my wages.”
3345. Yes. Well, you know that a great number of people have been endeavouring from time to time to make their wages by finding gold in Wicklow, and you know that the Government had to take serious steps to stop it, or at least they did at one time?—They did not take very serious steps.
3346. Well, a government—the Irish Government—passed an Act dealing with it?—That was not our own Government. Our own Government would be only too glad to have it developed.
3347. Yes, but the matter of persons taking gold out of Wicklow was dealt with by a pre-Union statute. You thought, however, that it was all right, and that Mr. Norman should go on and pay himself out of it?—If he found any gold.
3348. There is another little matter I should like to refer to, Senator, because the thing seemed rather clear to me until the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his evidence the other day, confused matters very much. I want just to understand about these dealings between you and Mr. Heiser. Now, when did you first consider that you had found this gold mine?—Well, I think it was some time before the arrangement with Mr. Breen. We were thinking that it was good. It was going on and the analyses were looking better.
3349. The analysis you were making yourself were looking better?—Yes, it is a simple analysis, you know.
3350. I am sorry, but I do not know anything about chemistry; but you thought they were looking better. Then Mr. Heiser came over to you, out of the blue, as far as you were concerned. You got a message from Mr. Briscoe that a Mr. Heiser had turned up?—Yes, but Mr. Nunan who is very anxious and eager to work these deposits, and who had been working with Mr. Heiser three years before, had told me about Mr. Heiser: that he was a first-class man; but Mr. Nunan was all along interested, and I would be very glad to have Mr. Nunan interested. I knew about Mr. Heiser.
3351. Yes, that is quite all right, but it is irrelevant, if you will allow me to say so, Senator. The point is that Mr. Heiser came unexpectedly to you?—Yes, unexpectedly.
3352. Out of the blue?—Yes, out of the blue.
3353. Now, a little time before that you had had this conversation with Mr. Breen?—Yes.
3354. And Mr. Breen got one-tenth share?—One-tenth of my share.
3355. Only of your share?—Yes.
3356. And Mr. Briscoe?—I do not know about Mr. Briscoe. At least, I do, but Mr. Briscoe himself will give evidence of that.
3357. I see, that is what I wanted to know. I thought it was a jointure?— No.
3358. It was one-tenth of your share. Mr. Breen came up and said: “I would like a share,” and you said: “I will give you 10 per cent.”?—No. sir, It did not happen as easily as that. Of course, if I gave you the actual words that passed between us they might be more vigorous than the words that pass here.
3359. Well, he had a winning way?— Well, no. After a conversation Mr. Breen said; Briscoe is not a Jew at all; you are the Jew. You do not take any interest in these things except finding things, and I will get this going for you. I have men with money, who are in touch with money, and I will get a mining engineer and set this thing going. Will you give me a share in it?” I said: “Will you do all that?” I admitted, you see, that I was not very vigorous myself or interested very much. I was interested all right, but I admitted that he could be of great assistance, especially with Mr. D’Arcy, a solicitor of great experience in these matters. “Well now, Dan,” said I, “how much do you want?”
3360. I am sure Mr. D’Arcy has raked in a lot of gold in his time, but not out of gold mines—at least a different type of gold?—In answer to Mr. Breen, I said: “Nonsense. I will give you twice as much as I ought to give.” “What is that?” he asked. “Ten per cent.” “Ah, it is not good at all.” “Well, you will get no more from me.” That was something like what happened. Then I said: “But, Dan, you will have to work.” Then Dan came the following day and said: “You are very hard to manage. I have a friend.” “Who is he?” I asked. “Seán Hayes,” he replied. “Very well,” said I, “I will give 5 per cent. to Seán Hayes.” He did not have to force that at all. But they were to work for it. They were to get the thing going or they would have nothing.
3361. Well, I suppose you did keep Dan Breen’s nose to the ground? You made him work?— I did, and he was anxious to work.
3362. And what has the work produced? —The work had produced potentially the development of the mine.
3363. How? That is what I want to know. How?—It had reached such a position that when I met Mr. Heiser that night in the Gresham Hotel I formed a good impression of him. Before I said a word to him I went to Mr. Breen and told him there was a man named Heiser who knew this place. I said: “I will stand with you whether you do the work for me or not, and you allow me to go on with Heiser.” It was twelve o’clock at night when I went to see Mr. Breen, and then Mr. D’Arcy came to see me some days afterwards and we had a conversation. I believe that all have some recollection of what happened.
3364. Mr. D’Arcy went over to London? —Yes.
3365. And he was to get an expert? —Yes.
3366. What was he to do?—To examine the mine and make a report. No doubt. Mr. D’Arcy will tell you what he went to London for. I know nothing about that.
3367. You had no conversation with him before that?—Yes. The substance of the conversation with Mr. D’Arcy was to say what happened between myself and Mr. Breen.
3368. And, as far as you know, there was no conversation or touch between Mr. D’Arcy or Mr. Heiser?—No. As far as I know, there was not, and there was no authority for Mr. D’Arcy to do anything like that.
3369. So, when Mr. Heiser came over here he made this offer to you?—Yes. Well, no. He talked a good deal first and I left him. I think it was afterwards that Mr. Briscoe told me that Mr. Heiser had offered 20,000 shares.
3370. Deputy Dowdall.—Twenty thousand pounds?—Twenty thousand pounds’ worth of shares. I think it was Mr. Briscoe told me that. I considered it for a while and, either by a note or by word of mouth—if there is a note it is the only note I wrote—I said to Mr. Briscoe: “I would rather give that man a sublease and charge profit royalties and allow him, that is, to take 12,000 shares and 2¼ per cent. profit royalty. I would rather do it like that with him, because after all, I would like to have the whip hand over him.”
3371. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Did Mr. Heiser, without any demand, offer 20,000 shares?—Yes.
3372. Did it not strike you as very strange? Here is Mr. Heiser, who did not know anything about this find of yours except, possibly, what he might get in a second-hand way, and yet he is willing to offer you a royalty and £12,000 worth of shares in this Company. He is to form a company for £80,000 and he is doing all that because you think there is gold in the place. Did that not strike you as being a little strange?—No, it did not, because in the interview which we had with Mr. Heiser, which lasted a considerable time, Mr. Heiser was endeavouring to ascertain how much we knew and we were endeavouring to ascertain how much Mr. Heiser knew. It was as a result of that conversation that Heiser thought “It is no good offering these men a small amount.” Moreover, I will tell you another reason. When Heiser came over and found that we had this lease he was extraordinarily excited and at an interview between himself and Mr. Dunn, Mr. Dunn said something like: “Well, cannot you go elsewhere?” This was afterwards.
3373. I am talking of the first occasion. We shall come to that later?—I want to tell you what might have operated in Heiser’s mind. Dunn said to him: “Well, cannot you go elsewhere?” “No,” he said, “they have the stuff.” That is the reason I think Heiser made the offer to us. I did not ask him for anything. I had not touch very much with him at all. Mr. Briscoe will tell you about that.
3374. Would you think that Mr. Heiser with his world-wide experience knew all the time there was a gold-mine there, very profitable and very valuable, and that he had been sleeping on it for years?—I now suspect that Mr. Heiser, in his investigations four or five years ago had come to the conclusion that in this valley there was a rich deposit of gold. Probably he had kept that information to himself. Certainly when he heard we had this lease he was very excited and he would have given anything for it.
3375. Deputy Moore.— Had he done a detailed survey of that area or of the whole country four or five years ago?— He prospected very minutely in Wicklow.
3376. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— Therefore he knew of this gold mine and he slept on it, and then, hearing there were other prospectors in the field, he came along with this offer?—He did not know of the richness of the alluvial gravels in the fields. I do not think he knew that. I am only just surmising, but my opinion is that Heiser has a very good idea of where the mother lode is and that the mother lode will be found on the working of the gravels when he will uncover it. That is what is in Heiser’s mind.
3377. That is all Greek to me. I am not asking how the gold is worked up from the mother lode, but I am asking you does it not appear strange that there should be this extraordinary eagerness on the part of a gentleman who has done nothing himself and who suddenly comes forward and makes this highly advantageous offer to you?—I knew from Mr. Nunan that he had fully explored the region, that he had spent years or at least a considerable time on it. That is the reason I was partial to Heiser, and I admit I was partial to Heiser.
3378. It did not strike you then as being very funny that suddenly this thing you were hopeful about had become in the eyes of somebody else worth £80,000? —The impression the sequence of events made on me was that Heiser came first to consider this place of considerable value, and that after Dunn’s visit he considered the place of much greater value.
3379. Before Dunn came there at all? By the way, do you believe Dunn received £1,000 of a fee?—I certainly do. Mr. Dunn is a mining engineer of the greatest eminence. He is a man of great experience.
3380. You believe that he received £1,000, that this bargain was made first with Mr. Heiser, a man of world-wide experience and that he then brings over Mr. “Thousand Pounds” Dunn to see if the bargain was worth anything?—Mr. Dunn was not an employee of Mr. Heiser.
3381. Whose employee was he?—He was an employee of the underwriters in London. He told me that himself.
3382. When?—When he was on the ground.
3383. Underwriters for what?—Underwriters who contemplated floating this thing. They were putting up the money, the £80,000 people.
3384. He was appearing for the £80,000 people?—I understood that. What he told me was that he was not working for Heiser. He was working for his employers who had the money, who wanted him to see the place and wanted his inspection and report before they put up the money.
3385. Did he tell you he was working for the underwriters?—He did not say for the underwriters but he said “the people who had the money”—I mean his employers. Of course, I did not ask him. He volunteered the information that he was not coming as Heiser’s man. I could only gather who he was from what he said in reply to various questions put to him by others, not by me. He said: “I will tell that to my employers,” using the word in the plural, and these I understood to be the people who had the money.
3386. You discovered that the company was Messrs. Holman and Heiser and that Dunn was the engineer. Does not that look as if he were working for Heiser?— That appeared on the draft prospectus, which I received later. Judging from the draft prospectus, I would conclude that Dunn was acting for underwriters who had underwritten that company for £200,000.
3387. Before this £200,000 company came upon the scene at all, Mr. Dunn came over here?—At the time he came the only information I had of him was what he told me. He said that he had a fee of 1,000 guineas, that he had no other interest in the matter and that will be corroborated. He said: “I have no interest in this except a professional interest. I am here on a fee of 1,000 guineas.” That is what he told me and I believed it to be true.
3388. Mr. Dunn of the 1,000 guineas fee was standing looking at Heiser until you got Seán Hayes, with his Midas touch, to produce these six pieces of gold?—He shovelled up the first really rich pan. Up to that Mr. Dunn could not do anything. Mr. Dunn did nothing but look on. He does not carry a pick and shovel. He was standing with me and we were calculating. He is a very rapid calculator. It did not take him five minutes to calculate the number of million of cubic square yards there and, mind you, I am a very good calculator myself.
3389. I am sure you are?—Yes. He said: “I am surprised how good you are at calculation.”
3390. Did it not strike you as strange through the whole of this thing, that Mr. Heiser was willing to form an £80,000 company and give you £12,000 worth of shares? By the way, had you ever heard of Mr. Dunn before?— I think I had, but I cannot remember. I now know that he is one of the most eminent mining engineers.
3391. Mr. Dunn of Grove Lodge, Isleworth, Middlesex?—I know, as far as skill is concerned, the people whose names were mentioned are the most skilful men in the British Isles.
3392. The whole of this thing did not look to you as bogus?—You were not suspicious?—I was not suspicious when the agreement was signed. Of course, I was pretty careful. I kept my eyes open.
3393. You thought the agreement was perfectly all right?—I thought they were going to work the mine. If they were going to work the mine I would give them the best possible terms.
3394. That is the matter I am coming to. According to you, you thought at the time—with great respect I am afraid I must differ from you—that in order to establish this company it was necessary to get a licence from the Minister?—I did. I was told it was and I had that opinion, but Deputy Costello seems to be of a different opinion.
3395. Certainly on the reading of the statute, I would take the other view. According to you, before this company could come into existence it was necessary that there should be a licence to form it?—Well, I really did not apply my mind at all to that question. Mr. Briscoe was on that side and when Mr. Briscoe told me that a licence was required and that they told him that, I accepted it.
3396. We are going on the assumption that it was necessary. Before the company could be formed and before people could put £80,000 into it, two things would be necessary according to you. One would be a licence from the Minister?—Yes.
3397. Number two would be an undertaking that you would get a continuation of the lease and that consent would be given to your valid sub-lease. Until these things were done it would be impossible to form the company?—That is number two and that is where I altered the agreement to provide that we were to make him no sub-lease until he had his company formed with a capital of £80,000, and he could not form his company.
3398. Is that not an impossibility? What were his company to work?—The company was to be formed with a capital of £80,000. When they had a certificate of incorporation and a certificate of funds, they would come to us and demand a lease and we would give them the lease.
3399. Which the Minister might or might not consent to?—That is so.
3400. Do you think that anybody is going to form or could form a company on the hypothesis that the Minister may or may not give his consent? Suppose there is a prospectus of the company?— There was to be no prospectus.
3401. I will deal with the prospectus in a moment. How are people going to put money into a company unless they know beforehand that there is a certainty of their getting the working of the mine?—There was a small group of men, as we were informed, who had £80,000. If they could show us proof that they had that £80,000 available—say a certificate of a banker—and that we satisfied the Minister that the matter was going forward on that basis, there would be no trouble about the details. We could modify and vary them as we liked.
3402. Then the people were to put £80,000 into a bank?—Yes.
3403. Where is there anything about that in the agreement?—There is nothing about that. What the agreement means is that they must have their company formed before they could demand the lease from us.
3404. Did you take any steps to help them to get the consent of the Minister? —Until they produced the lease, why should I?
3405. Did you, in fact?—I did not. It was not demanded of me.
3406. I am asking you a question, and I am satisfied with your answer. You took no steps?—I do not remember that I did.
3407. As far as you know, did Mr. Briscoe?—I do not know.
3408. Or did you take any steps about a licence to form a company?—If Mr. Briscoe was asked, I am sure he did, but I do not know. I do not recollect that.
3409. Now, assuming that there could be a company formed, you were to get £12,000 worth of shares in it?—Yes.
3410. Coming to this prospectus, what were you to get? Nothing appears in this prospectus of this £200,000 company, Wicklow Goldfields, Ltd., as to what you were to get?—With me the agreement was £12,000 worth of shares, and a profit royalty of 2¼ per cent. In that prospectus, in regard to which we were never consulted, I think you will see that we are the vendors—that it is our lease is being sold.
3411. A lease which does not exist?— We will go on to that again. We do not argue those things.
3412. I know it is stated here that there is a lease, which, in fact, is not in existence?—I hold no responsibility for that.
3413. What does this show that you as vendors were to get?—I do not know.
3414. Were you ever told what position you would be in if this £200,000 company is floated?—I know what position we were to be in.
3415. What position were you to be in? —If this £200,000 company was floated? That was an impossibility without our consent. There was no authority to float a public company.
The Committee adjourned at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.
Deputy Dowdall.—We have got authority, it seems to me, to alter the number of our quorum.
Acting-Chairman.—I would prefer that the Deputy raised that question when the Chairman is present.
Deputy Traynor.—We might get agreement with other members of the Committee on that question now.
Deputy Costello.—We are getting on grand as we are.
Deputy Traynor.—We might get on even better if we got agreement on this. I suggest that with our experience of having to wait on several occasions for half an hour after we assembled. to get a quorum, we might agree now to limit the number.
Deputy Costello.—I think it is better leave that matter over for the present.
Acting Chairman.—Leave it over, at any rate, until the Chairman is present.
Deputy Moore.—I will not be able to be here to-morrow afternoon.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Neither will I.
3416. Senator Comyn (resuming his evidence). With reference to a question asked by Deputy Costello, concerning an alleged complaint made at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, I have been considering that, and I am going to submit it cannot possibly be true for this reason: that we never met Mr. Dunn in company with Mr. Summerfield or Mr. Smyth. That is all I have to say.
3417. Deputy Costello.—What cannot possibly be true?—The complaint, you say was made by three or four persons.
3418. Do you mean they made no complaint?—No, but the substance of the complaint, because we never met Mr. Dunn in company with Mr. Summerfield or Mr. Smyth. Of that I am positive.
3419. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Of course it would be conceivable that the statement might be made several times? —The same statement by several persons on several occasions, of course it might be possible.
3420. I was asking you a question at the time of the adjournment in order to try and find out what you were to get out of the £200,000?-They said nothing to me in reference to that. The only thing said to me was what was said by Mr. Harrison at the Gresham: that he bought the lease from Mr. Heiser for £10,000 cash and £52,000 in shares, and also an option to take another £50,000.
3421. Where were you to come in? When I say “you,” I mean you and the other three Deputies?-I took down his words at the time. I asked him to repeat them, and I took them down in writing-£10,000 cash and £52,000 in shares fully paid up for the assignment of the lease, subject to 6¼ royalty. As soon as he said that, I asked him to come to a private room, and then happened what I have described here.
3422. As far as I have seen in this document there is nothing at all about your getting 6¼ per cent. royalty?-I think there is. We were the vendors, and in that prospectus it would appear to the public that we were getting all the money and all the shares. Nobody would believe that we were not.
3423. So far as this is concerned the consideration payable for the property and for Heiser’s patent process is £62,000, payable as in £10,000 in cash, and the balance by an allotment of 520,000 shares of 2/- each as fully paid up capital in the company. Did they ever tell you how many of the £52,000 worth of shares you would get?-No, they did not. We had no connection with that prospectus at all.
3424. They were making a proposal to you that the agreement with Heiser was to be scrapped and a new agreement substituted for it?-No, Sir.
3425. What was the proposal?—Mr. Harrison said I have bought this lease for £10,000 cash; £52,000 in fully paid up shares, and I think he referred to an option to take £50,000 more. I said to him: “Will you repeat that,” and I took it down. Then I asked him to adjourn to a private room, and the first thing I said to Heiser was to ask him what did he mean by selling a thing that did not belong to him. It was on the 25th of May, 1935, that we met Mr. Harrison. That prospectus bears a date in June, I think. The document is marked: “Proof number 2, 26/6/35.”
3426. That was printed after an interview with you?-Apparently it was.
3427. So now as regards this Wicklow Gold Fields, Ltd., it is a deal between Mr. Heiser and some other persons, and you are a complete stranger to it?-That is so. Our names are mentioned.
3428. Your names are mentioned as if they had acquired the lease from you. They say in the Prospectus: “This company has been formed… to acquire two mining leases granted for ninety years to Mr. Michael Comyn, K.C., and Mr. Robert Briscoe… by the Government of the Irish Free State which leases include nine townlands all in the County of Wicklow with an area of approximately 2,982 acres.” No mining lease was granted for 90 years?-No.
3429. And no lease of any kind has been granted to you for six of these nine townlands?-No.
3430. So that statement was obviously quite untrue?-Quite untrue. We have no responsibility for that.
3431. Now, these gentlemen had consulted a mining engineer who gives this opinion embodied in this strange Prospectus. That opinion appears to be wrong, coming from a gentleman at a private address, Grove Lodge, Aisleworth, Middlesex?-That is so.
3432. Does it strike you as strange that a very eminent engineer would not have a business address, an office somewhere? —I did not take any notice of it. That would not strike me as unusual. We have no responsibility for that document.
3433. Did it strike you as unusual?—No.
3434. Did it strike you as unusual that this gentleman, who describes himself as a consulting engineer, should give as his address the very wide address of London, Spain and Western Australia?-No. I knew the man. I heard about him and formed an opinion of him and my opinion is that he is a mining engineer of great experience and of the greatest eminence. That is the information I have got and that is my opinion of the man.
3435. This gentleman may be very eminent or not?-I do not know that his consent was given to the publication of his name then. I know nothing about it. There is also a very eminent man whose name is mentioned-Professor Holman.
3436. His opinion is rather non-commital. He does not say he actually saw this place?-He spent a lot of time there.
3437. He says here: “In Ireland I have examined and sampled several miles of stream banks, three alluvial flats and one raised beach from amongst the property to be acquired by your company. I made pannings from numerous samples which I took personally, and obtained visible gold in nearly every case. No estimated tonnage or yardage was possible from this examination, but the amount and the wide and even distribution of the values which I obtained fully justify me in strongly recommending the development of the property. The geological and topographical features are definitely favourable, the pits sunk and the river beds examined showed the absence of large boulders and objectionable clays.” How many pits were sunk?-I do not know how many and I never knew of his opinion until I saw that document.
3438. He says further on: “I recommend the systematic working scale treatment of bulk samples from those areas for the actual recovery of the contained gold and the determination of the yields obtainable.” That is very tentative. Leaving out Professor Holman, does it not strike you now from what you now know that this was never a very bona fide offer this original offer?—I am sure it was. I believe that if we consented to the formation of a public company that it would be fully under-written and fully subscribed.
3439. To begin with, a public company could be formed?-It could not.
3440. There is nothing in writing to prevent the formation of a public company?-It could not be formed.
3441. Anyhow, there is nothing in writing, nothing in this contract entered into between you and Mr. Heiser, to prevent a public company being formed? —Nothing, except that the money should be produced. There could be no public company formed for the purpose of procuring money.
3442. Why not?-Because the agreement forbids it, makes it impossible.
3443. Where is that?-I have not the agreement before me, but they cannot get any lease from us until they have a company formed. Therefore, they must form a company and they would not have any property to operate upon except such property as we would sub-let to them when their company was formed and when they had a certificate of funds. That is what makes it impossible for them to operate in any other way except by producing their money to us and we would not put them to all that trouble if they did produce the money.
3444. This was the proposal:—“You are, subject to the consent, in writing, of the Minister of Industry and Commerce being first had and obtained, to grant to Risberget, Limited, 39a Maddox Street, Hanover Square, London, or its nominee, a sub-lease or licence to work the mineral substances of the lands demised by the above-mentioned lease for a term of 97 years…”?—Yes.
3445. You were bound by that contract. Where is there anything to say that Risberget, Limited, is not to have as its nominee a limited liability company, or turn itself into one?—When am I to make the lease?
3446. You are to make the lease, subject to the consent in writing of the Minister, to Messrs. Risberget and Company?-But when?
3447. Or to their nominees?-When? The answer to that is contained in a subsequent paragraph of the agreement. Would you not read the other paragraph? I want a copy of that agreement. I am giving it to you as my considered legal opinion that what I have stated is the law. If you want to cross-examine me on the various grounds I have for coming to that legal opinion, of course I am perfectly willing to answer any questions that may be put to me by the Committee. Here is the paragraph to which I refer:-“I undertake to form a Company to be called the Consolidated Goldfields of Ireland, Limited, or some other name to be substituted therefor, with paid-up capital of not less than £80,000 with the object of working the mineral substances of the said lands comprised in the said lease and all other lands in the County Wicklow which may hereafter be acquired by you, under Paragraphs 2 and 3 hereof.”
3448. Are you not bound under this contract?-When he forms a Company.
3449. It is to be a Company with a capital of £80,000?-Yes.
3450. Or more. Not less than £80,000. It may be £200,000?-No, that is not the meaning of the document.
3451. With a paid-up capital of not less than £80,000?-That means thereabouts, not less.
3452. May it not be a larger capital? —Not appreciably.
3453. That is your view?-Yes, my considered view.
3454. Where is there anything saying that it is to be a private Company?—I thought I had fully explained that legal position yesterday. Here is how it arises. A public company cannot be formed unless they have an asset with which to invite subscriptions from the public. They would have no asset unless they got a lease from us. They could not get a lease from us unless their company was in existence first. If you want to question me on matters of law I will answer you, but I will submit to you as my considered legal opinion that what I say is the fact.
3455. What is your objection to a public company?-My objection to a public company is this: I am a barrister. That is a personal objection, in the first place.
3456. But you are not to be a director of it necessarily?-I am the vendor. I am a barrister. I am not a company promoter. I happen to take an interest in prospecting and developing mines and minerals. Mining companies are notoriously speculative companies, and my first objection is that I do not want to be associated with a thing like that for a personal reason, and you will agree there is probably some foundation for that reluctance. If that were not sufficient, and it operates very strongly with me, and if I were an ordinary citizen I would say here that we are starting to develop the mineral resources of the country and this will probably be the first company, and it is just as well there should be no mistake about the first of them and that we should start on a solid foundation. That would be the second matter that would appeal to me. Now the third matter that would appeal to me, that I would require at the present time, is this: suppose now a proposal had been made to form a public company to work a gold mine in that valley in Wicklow, and that it was a good proposal, I would say to my colleagues: “Now, gentlemen, I would advise you, before you consent to any public company being formed, to have a boring, or two or three borings, made, so as to ascertain whether or not the gravels are gold-bearing to the very bottom. If they are gold-bearing to the very bottom then I think you will have exercised ordinary prudence and you would be justified in standing over a public company, and I might then submit to your views.” If I did not I would have to go out. Now these are three things that matter. The fourth thing in regard to this company is that, as you see, it is my opinion that too much money is allocated, to use no stronger word than that, for purposes other than the working of the mine.
3457. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. — I completely and entirely agree with you as far as the fourth is concerned, because it seems to me to be a most astonishing proposal—I mean this proposal here. I put it to you that at the time you wrote this letter to the Minister in April, you had it in your mind that it would be a very dangerous thing if a public company were then started in this country? —I had not that in my mind; if you ask me my private opinion I believe that the company will be successful from the very start.
3458. Yes, you have said that, but I take it as flowing from your last answer as to what you would have said to your colleagues. I take it you would consider it a very dangerous thing to have a public company floated in Ireland at that time without borings?—Yes. Without borings. I would not advise them to do it. I think it would not be a prudent thing, for borings cost very little.
3459. Therefore I put it to you, having that in mind, that that was the view you wished to convey to the Ministry when you wrote that last paragraph in the April letter?—Any view I wished to convey to the Minister is clearly expressed in that letter which you have permitted me to read.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I take a different view of it. That is all I wish to ask the witness.
3460. Deputy Dowdall.—I would like to ask the Senator a few questions. You first met Mr. Heiser at the Gresham Hotel early this year—that was the first time you met him?—Yes. That was the first time.
3461. That was the first time mention was made of the £80,000 company?—Yes. It was not mentioned before that.
3462. Speaking of this £80,000 company you said in reply to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that you would not like this company to be much more than £80,000 or thereabouts?—Yes, for the three townlands.
3463. I presume one of your reasons is this: Suppose this £80,000 company makes a profit of £12,000 a year, the question of depreciation comes up and you heard what an engineer said, that a mine starts to die from the date of its birth, and you would have to put up something every year to make up that £80,000 capital at the time the mine filtered out?—Yes.
3464. The mine would become extinct in 20 years and you would need £4,000 a year at least to meet the depreciation?—Yes.
3465. That would leave you, on the assumption that you were earning £12,000 a year, with £8,000 for dividends?—Yes.
3466. That would be 10 per cent. on the capital?-Yes.
3467. Now 10 per cent. on £80,000 would be something less than 5 per cent. in a £250,000 company?—Yes.
3468. And I presume one of your objects would be that you did not want your investment depreciated by having a lower dividend paid on the higher capital?—That was obvious on the face of the transaction, but I had rejected it on some other grounds. The £12,000 in the £80,000 would be represented by £26,000 to £27,000 in the £250,000 company, but that consideration did not operate with me at the time.
3469. We will come to that in a moment. The question I want an answer to is this: that you did not want your £12,000 investment to pay you a lower return in the £250,000 company than the earnings in the £80,000 company would be. You know that the £250,000 company for the same territory would not yield you more than the revenue you would be getting out of the £80,000 company?—That is a business man’s view of it, and it is, of course, the correct view, but I had not come to that point. I had rejected it before.
3470. There has been some confusion in my mind with regard to these two companies. You met Mr. Harrison early this year in the Gresham Hotel?—Yes.
3471. The first you heard of the £250,000 was then?—Yes, it was the first and the last time.
3472. I understood from your evidence yesterday that you would not have anything at all to do with it?—I told verbatim what happened.
3473. You have got nothing to do with the £250,000 company?—Not with a public company or with any company of £250,000.
3474. Did you intend to go on with that?—We did not consider that. Suppose they had said to me: “Not merely have we £80,000 but we have £250,000 ready cash,” I would see Deputy Briscoe then and be guided by him.
3475. We will now come to Mr. Norman. I do not know that I have read the documents very closely, but I cannot find any agreement by which you valued the shares at £250 for each of the three of you. I cannot find that in the document.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—They could not put that on the official file.
Deputy Costello.—That is a separate document that we have not yet got. We hope to get it from Deputy Briscoe.
3476. Deputy Dowdall.—I suppose when you made this arrangement with Mr. Norman that you would put down the value of each share at £250, that you might have put it at £1 or £1,000,000. You were simply indicating that the share of each would be one third?—Yes, it might be 250 shillings, but we thought £750 would be more in accord with a mining company.
3477. It is a common practice in America to have what they call “common shares,” and they are paid up; they have no par value, but they still control the business and the fact that you put it at £250 each was just because you wanted to make out that you were equal partners, the three of you?-Yes, that was my impression. I have not a very clear idea of that.
3478. I understand that Mr. Norman came to you in the autumn of 1933 and that he was getting no wages?—I would not say that. I think he was getting wages. Deputy Briscoe will tell you that. I know nothing at all about the wages, but he was not working without wages.
3479. Very well, we will leave it alone until Mr. Briscoe comes up. There are just one or two more questions I want to ask you. There was some talk about your having said, or at least your group having said, that Heiser and the others could get no licence except through you. You have referred to the particular lease of what you had, your “take-note” lease, but I believe you had made application for the other six townlands?—That statement, Sir, that they could get no licence except through us, was never made. I am sure it never could have been made.
3480. Mr. Norman withdrew on May 7th, and you gave him £25 for withdrawing?—We did, Sir.
3481. I understood you to say to-day that Mr. Briscoe was about to drop out, or intended to drop out, and that it was a very speculative matter; it was doubtful whether the mine would have brought anything up, and when you gave Norman £25, you were giving him something which you might never get back?—Yes that was paid on compulsion. After Mr. Briscoe had received the analysis and advice from Professor Bailey he ceased to have the same enthusiasm, and I found it hard to get him to come along.
3482. Just one other matter. The question of this boring company. There was a contract made with them, and they said they were to supply tubing, at least, tubing is mentioned in it. I presume the tubing is for the purpose of putting down a tube?—Yes.
3483. Supposing the boring company bores through sand or gravel, and they do not put down tubing, what happens?—The boring would be no good. It falls in.
3484. You could not get at the samples without the tubing? The only samples we were getting were the samples we were getting from the sides of the boring.
3485. In view of the fact that they did not put down the tubing they were not entitled to get paid at all?—They were not, Sir, but I did not want to have any controversy with them, and I paid them in order to avoid controversy and to avoid litigation, and Mr. Briscoe very kindly agreed with me there.
3486. Acting-Chairman.—It is not very clear from the estimate that the boring company thought they were estimating for putting down the tubing?—It was not, and I made that point to Deputy Briscoe when I asked him to allow me to settle it.
Deputy Dowdall.—If the tubing were mentioned it was for the purpose of putting it down.
3487. Acting-Chairman.—I am not at all clear about that?-That was the point they made.
3488. Deputy Geoghegan.—I would like to ask Senator Comyn one or two questions on a matter on which the Senator touched himself. If a public company had been formed and a prospectus issued, I take it, as a matter of practice and a matter of law, there would be disclosed and stated in the prospectus this agreement with you, that you were the vendor of this company, that you were sponsoring it and so on, and I suppose you may, perhaps, be vain enough to think that that fact might influence a great many members of the Irish public when thinking of whether they would subscribe or not—people who would not have an opportunity of forming an opinion on the intrinsic merits of the proposition?—That is so, but there was the converse, that if the mine was not successful they would say: “Oh, Heiser never got the £10,000; it was Comyn got it.”
3489. Exactly. That is to say that in relation to persons who, without having an opportunity of making an investigation and so on, put their money in, if the thing turned out prosperous they were delighted, of course, but if the unfortunate happened then you apprehend the results you mention?—Yes. 3490. And as a member of the Senior Bar, those were considerations that influenced you considerably?—I could not stand over it. Of course, I am very proud of my position in this House and at the Bar. I was not Vice-Chairman of the Seanad when these transactions took place and I could not possibly stand over that.
3491. I do not know if you have stated it already, but how long is it since you were admitted to the Bar?—It is about 33 or 34 years.
3492. How long is it since you were given a silk gown?—Twenty-one years.
3493. How long is it since you were elected a Senator?—Six or seven years.
3494. Have you, during that period of 30 years, practised actively in the profession?—Yes, with practically no other way of living.
3495. Not merely in Dublin but all over the Munster circuit?—And in the House of Lords ten or fifteen times and before the Privy Council. That was before the Treaty. I was the first Irish barrister to assert the right of the Irish Bar to appear at the Privy Council.
3496. You practised as Junior Counsel and I suppose you defended prisoners?—Yes.
3497. You were in right-of-way actions and as Senior Counsel you were afterwards in the House of Lords and before the Privy Council and that inevitably put your name before a considerable section of the public, especially in the area known formerly as the Munster Circuit? —Yes, and all Ireland. For a defence in one case, I had a fee of 900 guineas which Mr. Cosgrave directed I should be paid and I was paid a portion of it. I accepted 500 guineas and that went into mining in the same year. I got it during the Long Vacation and it was all gone when I started again in October.
3498. This gold mining proposition, unlike the 500 guineas, was substantially a hidden asset?—That is right.
3499. Especially up to the moment when it would be thoroughly proved?—Yes.
3500. You have explained already to the Committee the nature of the borings and I think you have expressed your own opinion that the borings were not as numerous, as thorough, or as exhaustive as would satisfy you?—That is so.
3501. I want to contrast that with the position with regard to a private company. Am I right in saying that a private company, by the very documents constituting it, is prohibited from making an appeal to the public for subscriptions? —Yes.
3502. Therefore, those considerations which you have just mentioned and which I have been putting to you, necessarily would have no application whatever to a private company?—That is so, and to this private company in particular, where the men who were to form the private company were the most skilful men in the British Isles perhaps in this matter.
3503. And with the further over-riding consideration, as I understand it, that they would need to get the licence?— Yes. That is what I am thinking, but Deputy Costello, who was Attorney-General, said that for a mining proposition no licence is required. We applied for a licence in any case pro majore cautela.
3504. Whether you did it out of an abundance of caution, or for some other reason, I am putting it to you now what operated on your mind?—Yes.
3505. Deputy Costello’s view is a view which you and I would pay a good deal of attention to and receive with a good deal of respect, but whether his view is an accurate view or not, the state of your mind, at all events, was that a licence would be required?—I was told, and I accepted it without question, that a licence was necessary.
3506. And, apparently, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, if I recollect aright, seems to have shared that view? —It was the opinion of the Minister and I did not want to contest that. Moreover, I did not apply my mind to it.
3507. At all events, I think there is no doubt at all that a private company could not, apart from the Control of Manufactures Act or otherwise, make an appeal for public subscriptions?—No, it could not.
3508. Assuming that the gentlemen to form this private company put up £80,000, or any other amount that anyone cares to name out of their own resources, in money, and that the mine was thoroughly proved and tested, and that then an appeal was made, after a lapse of time, after these tests had been made and after these tests had been vouched for in a reputable way and all that matter was stated in the prospectus, would you consider that you had then a very valuable buffer standing between you and the general public?—Yes, and, of course, that was the idea—that this was only to be a beginning. There were three little townlands and it was a matter of three units and when people saw that it was successful, they were free to subscribe if they liked.
3509. There is just one other matter I should like to touch upon. As has been stated by you in the course of your evidence, you have for a considerable period taken an interest in mining propositions?—Yes.
3510. I think you mentioned gold, and silver and phosphates were also mentioned by you. I think you also mentioned in the course of your evidence, or used words which conveyed that you have read a good many books relating to mining and especially to the history of mining in this country?—In Wicklow, and in particular the anecdotes of Parnell—an account of an inquiry which he caused to be held, but particularly the anecdotes. He spent his life trying to find gold in Wicklow.
3511. Having regard to your own experience of mining for different minerals and what you have read, I just want to put a question to you on this matter of take-notes and prospecting leases. You may have heard an emphatically expressed difference of opinion on the part of Mr. Costello as to what the law was with regard to prospecting leases, but leaving the law out of consideration, as a man having practical knowledge and having taken a practical interest in mining, would you agree with me that as a practical matter, apart from the law, there is an immense difference between the considerations that would govern the issue of a take-note, hedged around by all sorts of conditions as to what would follow if the lease was granted, and, on the other side, the granting of a full mining lease irrevocably for a long term of years? Do you see any substantial difference in the two things?—I agree with Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney in regard to that. I agree that if a take-note is issued and the terms of the take-note complied with, there is scarcely any option with the Minister to refuse.
3512. That is the point, but when the terms are placed in the take-note—that was my question to you—when the take-note is hedged around with conditions. I want you to follow the question closely. The particular take-note you got was hedged around by a number of conditions? —It was.
3513. Would not a substantial, as distinct from a liberal, fulfilment of those conditions be about as good a guarantee as anyone could possibly have when the time came to issue the lease itself?—It would and that would be a ground for refusing to issue—if they were not substantially complied with.
3514. I am not alluding, as I told you, to the legal side. You have just mentioned that you agree with Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney and, if I may do so with respect, I agree also, that, of course, if the conditions of the take-note are fulfilled by the lessee, the grantor or lessor must on his side fulfil?—Yes.
3515. Deputy Coburn.—According to Mr. Geoghegan, you have a very long and honourable record in the public life of this country?—I have had a good many friends.
3516. You are an eminent K.C. of long standing, and I put it to you that in your long statement here yesterday, a statement in my opinion very candid in some respects, but in others rather involved, you made the extraordinary assertion that if it was your choice, the ordinary labourer would be entitled to have a lease?—Most certainly he should. Why should not he if he found a mine?
3517. That is a great display of democracy on your part?—I was always a democrat. You and I were associated—
3518. It is very good for the crossroads?—Not for the cross-roads. That is your own view. So far as I know you. I think that is your opinion, unless you have changed.
3519. Would I be right in assuming that the public would get a wrong view from the statement you made yesterday? —Of what?
3520. That any man could come along and obtain mining rights without having any conditions imposed?—I never said that. But suppose there was an ordinary man who had no money whatever, and suppose he came forward to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and said: “I am anxious to prospect in a certain small area and I give my references to character,” say, Deputy Moore, one of the Wicklow representatives, and Deputy Costello, I say that if he came up to the Department that he is entitled to get his lease if Deputy Moore and Deputy Costello are written to and say: “I believe he is a reputable man, and I believe he has found ore and I believe he will explore it.” I say that man should get a take-note and a lease following upon it, and why not?
3521. Again I ask you, would not the public look upon that as a haphazard way of doing things?—Certainly not. That is justice.
3522. You got this prospecting lease and did not carry out the conditions?—I carried out all the conditions. Did you hear my evidence, all of it?
3523. I did, a 100 per cent. of it. Anyhow, you made that extraordinary statement?—What extraordinary statement?
3524. That anyone could come along and get a lease?—The statement I made is the law of this country, and I hope that it will remain the law of this country. Anyone who disobeys that law is going against the spirit of our laws.
3525. So that if an ordinary labouring man could get these facilities without much trouble, it is only natural to expect that the Vice-Chairman of the Seanad and an eminent K.C. of long standing, and a Deputy of the Dáil, two members of the Party which at present forms the Government of the country, could get these conditions?—I was not Vice-Chairman of the Seanad at the time. I did not put forward that as a ground why I should get a take-note. I stated here yesterday a very good reason why I should get a take-note, that I had already spent more than £5,000 in developing the mineral resources of this country with very great success.
3526. No doubt. I do not know whether you will agree with me or not, but your statement at least gave me the impression that you looked upon the fulfilment of these conditions as a matter of minor importance?—No, I fulfilled all the conditions.
3527. In other words, you adopted the policy of hail-fellow-well-met?—If you accept my answer you cannot continue on that line. I fulfilled the conditions.
3528. What about the employment of the four able-bodied men?—Did you hear my explanation of that? If you did, you can see that that arises only when the mine is found. It lies dormant until the mine is found.
3529. That may be your explanation and your idea of what the fulfilment of the conditions meant, but surely, Senator, you will agree that I am entitled also to put my interpretation as to whether you did or did not fulfil the conditions?—Indeed, you are, and I have great respect for what you say.
3530. You gave me the impression in your evidence that although you are a very eminent K.C., that you have much the old style of doing things. You are not too particular?—The old style was not bad.
3531. You give and take a good deal?— Why not?
3532. That is what I gathered from you, that you take a certain amount of liberty? —No.
3533. In pursuance of that?—No liberties.
3534. Well, a certain amount of risks?— No.
3535. In so far as you did not fulfil the conditions?—Well now, if you say that, we differ, and I must accept what you say.
3536. When you got this prospecting lease, of course, you wanted to stay in there?—What do you mean? I certainly did put money into it, and I was going to put more into it and see what was in it.
3537. And it would be to your interest to stay in at the minimum of expense for as long a period as possible?—Reasonable expense. I was not afraid of expense.
3538. But you were not idle all the time? In addition to doing a little down there you were paying attention in other directions in so far as the formation of companies is concerned?—Never. I had nothing to do with the company.
3539. Well, you were negotiating about it?—Where?
3540. With Mr. Heiser?—I did not look for Mr. Heiser to negotiate with him. When we found the gold and when he came and said that he was a man of experience, as he was, and said that he had associates who were experts, as they were, and said that he had £80,000 which, in my opinion was sufficient for the working of the three townlands, I regarded it as a very favourable opportunity for developing the resources of the County Wicklow by starting with a mine which I thought was certain to be a success.
3541. No doubt. You were negotiating with Mr. Heiser?—I was, yes.
3542. And he was to form the £80,000 company?—The agreement is there.
3543. Paid-up capital?—Paid-up.
3544. Of which you were to receive, I believe, 48,000 5/- shares?—The group.
3545. £12,000?—Yes. Do you think that I should give it to Heiser if I could get it? The lease had a certain value. He was to give the value of the lease. That was the fortune of the situation.
3546. Now the formation of this company, and the raising of the £80,000, and the granting to you of the 48,000 5/-shares, all this was contingent upon you being in a position to hand these people a sub-lease?—Yes. They were first to form the company, and then I was to make them the sub-lease.
3547. Again, I say it was said by Deputy Geoghegan that you are an eminent K.C.? —I am very thankful to you for saying it.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Others have also said it.
Witness.—I know that is Deputy Coburn’s private opinion.
3548. Deputy Coburn.—That being so, you know that the only conditions that govern any agreement between two or more individuals, or dealings where companies are concerned, can only be put into operation by what is actually in the document?—Not at all. There is another region of law that you have to apply to a case like that.
3549. That is my impression of your old style of doing things?—There are vast corridors of law.
3550. As a layman, I always thought that the conditions embodied in an agreement were the only conditions that were binding and that if a man, through an oversight or otherwise, forgot to have a certain condition inserted in an agreement that he could not win his case by simply saying that he meant to have it in it?—There was no forgetfulness. This agreement was made on the express representation that they had £80,000 and could be set aside for misrepresentation. You may take it from me that so far as the law is concerned that is all right.
3551. I do not know whether you have followed all the evidence that has been given since this Committee was set up? —I have listened to all the evidence.
3552. I may recall to you that when I stated here that there was very little, if any, difference between a prospecting and a mining lease I was more or less laughed out of Court by the intelligentsia on the benches opposite?—I paid particular attention to all your questions.
3553. You certainly gave me the impression that there was absolutely no difference between a prospecting and a mining lease, and that in the natural order of things this sub-lease would have been obtained from the Minister and given to Mr. Heiser and the people who formed the Company?—Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney stated, I respectfully submit, with absolute accuracy, the legal position and I accept that legal position.
3554. What would that position be?— The Deputy stated it in your hearing.
3555. But you will not agree that a Company could not be formed unless the lease was given beforehand?—A private Company could, but a public Company could not.
3556. In the agreement between the Heiser group and your group there is no talk of a private or a public Company. The phrase there is “a Company” and while you and Deputy Costello may argue the thing from the legal point of view the man in the street —99 per cent. of them—will take the view that a Company means either a public or a private Company?—I think you are quite right in that. It means either a public or a private Company.
3557. Therefore, Mr. Heiser and his group, if they so desired, could form a public Company and you could not, despite your personal reluctance to the formation of a public Company, prevent them from doing so?—I did not understand your first question. You said “a Company” means either a public or a private Company.
3558. “A company” as described in the agreement?—You are quite right in saying “a Company” means a private or public Company. In this case it means a private Company.
3559. And I repeat that under that condition governing the agreement the Heiser group could form a public Company in spite of you?—Emphatically not. I am sorry to differ from you Mr. Coburn. I am sorry that is your view, although you may have more experience than I have.
3560. Oh, no?—We have the same experiences in a good many things.
3561. I would not be so high and mighty as that, to put my knowledge of the law against that of an eminent K.C.? —I do not think it is the same. I ask you to accept the opinion I have given as an honest opinion.
3562. I believe that. I took it from your evidence yesterday that the granting of the sub-lease would naturally follow at any particular time you chose?—I think so.
3563. And all the talk about conditions, and of the Minister being satisfied, was mere eyewash?—I followed your questions to the witnesses carefully and I followed the Minister’s evidence carefully. Everything the Minister said was absolutely and entirely correct. Some officials were asked questions outside their own business and in some cases these were not exactly correct. That is all I say.
3564. Before getting away from the question of a public versus a private company, and the construction put upon your personal reluctance to the formation of a public company by Deputy Geoghegan, may I be permitted to give another construction?—Why not? That is your right and my duty to answer.
3565. Assuming Mr. Heiser, as he undoubtedly could under the terms of the lease, formed a public company, and as a result £80,000 were subscribed, I ask you as man to man, would you have objected to taking 12,480 5/- shares because of the mere fact that it was a public company?—I would. I cannot accept your premise. What you say is that I am to assume that Mr. Heiser could form a public company of £80,000. I do not accept that.
3566. He could?—You differ from me. Suppose I am wrong and suppose you are right—
3567. Under the conditions governing the lease Mr. Heiser could have done so if he so desired?—He could not.
3568. Assuming he could?—If I assumed that he could then I would make a complaint to the Minister.
3569. What steps would you take?—I would take action at law, an action for an injunction. I would report the circumstances to the Minister.
3570. Of course taking action at law would not mean that Mr. Heiser could not form a public company?—I think he could not here in Ireland, any way.
3571. In your evidence yesterday you spoke generally in connection with mining leases and so forth. When asked a question you did not amplify the answers, but in one general statement you hinted at something about a whispering gallery?—Yes.
3572. At another time you said something about sharks and hammer-headed sharks?—Well, if you go on like that I am afraid our relations will become somewhat strained.
3573. Oh, no, you and I are great friends. Like yourself, I am the old style?—You are not.
3574. I do not want to be in doubt, and if I have any question to put I like to put it. I think you will agree that open confession is good for the soul. While speaking in that strain I formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that you and your group were doing certain things in order to keep some other group from obtaining concessions in this particular neighbourhood. I had that suspicion, whether I am right or wrong?—Whatever we did we believed to be in the public interest, so far as anything connected with any lease except our own is concerned, and we are going to stand over that.
3575. And by virtue of you being a Senator and Deputy Briscoe a member of the Dáil you would be in a better position to keep these people from carrying on than you otherwise would be?— So far from that being the case, I think in the matter of this mining lease, the clauses and conditions are more strict, by reason of the fact that we were in the Oireachtas. I have asked this Committee to procure a copy of the original mining lease made for adjacent townlands in County Wicklow to Major Pakenham Mahon, in which Deputy MacDermot has a £50 interest, just the same interest as I have. We both started with £50. I hope he will not have to experience the same trouble I have experienced in regard to it. He paid £50 and I paid £50. I think he has paid more since, because they are sinking a shaft.
3576. As to your statement about conditions being very strict, they can only be as strict as you like to make them. The imposing of conditions is one thing and the carrying out of them is another thing?—I wish to say in answer to that, that from my experience the officials of that Department carry out their duties without distinction of person, and if there is any sort of differentiation at all, it is more strict and severe against members of either Party in the Dáil or Seanad. That is my experience.
3577. At the same time you agree with my impression that any ordinary man could go in there and get concessions very easily?—If you tell me there is a man in your county, or in the adjoining county, who knows where there is a mine, lead, copper, iron or coal, and if he says he wants to have a “take-note” I will give my name with yours and recommend him, and I am sure between us we will secure his success. I am sure there will be no objection whatever to his getting it. Why should he not? You are not in your usual frame of mind, because if I were to say that no one could get a lease unless he had a lot of money, I know how you would disabuse me.
3578. No, sir. You will agree, I think, that for members of the Oireachtas it is not the usual thing?—You are raising a very big question.
3579. Prevalent opinion?—And I claim the indulgence of this Committee to answer fairly fully. The State in modern times having taken up so much of the affairs of Government, it is almost impossible for any person to get along without some sort of contract with the State. There is not a farmer in this country that is a purchasing tenant who has not now or has not had a contract with the State.
3580. Through legislation that was passed?—This is legislation as passed by you. You are a member of the Dáil that passed it. You are a member of a Party that insisted that these “take-notes” should not be published. Deputy Lemass when in Opposition insisted that all “take-notes” should be published. Deputy McGilligan for the Government stated that that would be an impracticable and an impossible thing, and his view prevailed.
3581. And does prevail still, strange to say?—You were in favour of it. You are only trying, I suppose, to put me through my facings.
3582. Deputy Traynor.—Does it not still prevail because the Act was not amended?
Deputy Geoghegan.—It prevails because it is the law.
Witness.—It is very desirable that the minerals of this country should be explored.
3583. Deputy Coburn.—Yes. There are great mineral resources here that the majority of the people know nothing about. It is desirable that they should be explored, and I wish to goodness a great many more people would take leases and “take-notes” and that the Government should get half.
3584. Do not misunderstand me. I have formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly as an ordinary member of the Committee, and as an ordinary citizen, that you have these mining rights and the prospecting lease in Wicklow, and that as long as you have these rights you will let nobody else in; that you have taken steps to keep others out?—There are three townlands in the lease. There are six townlands to add. How many townlands are there in Wicklow?
3585. You mentioned the other six?—I made application for nine. There are nine townlands in this part of Wicklow. What about the other 900?
3586. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Did you not make application for 60?—Six.
3587. Did you not make an application with Deputy Briscoe?—That is in connection with the April letter, a condition we said we did not want.
3588. Deputy Coburn.—Anyway, I have formed that opinion. Would I be wrong? —You would, and I hope I will be able to induce you, as a result of this inquiry, to join in putting £50 into any project in Wicklow.
3589. I will come to the point about the £50 later. The opinion I have formed is that you have obtained a footing there, and as possession is nine points of the law, certain things should follow as a result. You have taken good care of that, as far as I could gather from your statement, as certain people have been looking for rights?—Yes.
3590. Although you have got that prospecting lease and although conditions governing the granting of the lease have not been carried out, still you stay there with the express intention, in my opinion, of keeping out all other groups who might be in a position to give more employment than you, on your own statement, have given up to the present?—The other group wanted a concession for all the gold and silver to be mined throughout Ireland. They wanted the Twenty-Six Counties. We wanted only three townlands.
3591. I will stand by Wicklow this time? I am talking about Wicklow.
3592. I have formed that opinion.—I am sorry that you should form an opinion that would not be right.
3593. That you and your group are guilty of the dog-in-the-manger policy; cannot do it yourselves and will not allow anyone else to do so, except through your group?—I am sorry you should think that.
3594. Your statement has made that impression on me.—It was not intended.
3595. I may possibly be kind of stupid? —Indeed you are not.
3596. I may be slow in thinking or in dissecting evidence, but that was my conclusion.—I think it is not fair to me. I am sure you would not like to be unfair.
3597. No. At the same time we are here as members of a Committee to inquire into allegations made by Deputy McGilligan?—Of course these allegations have been forgotten long ago. The evidence of to-day had nothing to do with the allegations and comments passed by Deputy McGilligan and by the Minister. In my evidence I never mentioned the name of Deputy McGilligan. Even in the course of cross-examination I do not think his name was mentioned. I stated and I repeat that a great many falsehoods have been told to Deputies.
3598. By whom?—Not by me. As a result, this inquiry would never have taken place but for a pack of lies told to Deputy McGilligan.
3599. And if Deputy McGilligan in his innocence or his ignorance, repeated these allegations?—I have made no comment on Deputy McGilligan, and I would be greatly pleased if you would not press me to make any comment, unless it is necessary for the purposes of the inquiry.
3600. Would you agree that when, amongst other things was mentioned species of sharks, one being the ordinary type and the other the hammer-headed type——?—Oh, now, when two lawyers are having a sparring match you might leave it to them. We might say things or we might go beyond the bounds in such a case.
3601. Well, as I was saying, with two species of shanks, with the question of forming a company with 48,000 5/- shares to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, with the sending over of a solicitor to London, ostensibly for a mining engineer and coming back without the mining engineer, and the mining engineer landing from the blue a day or two afterwards— with all these things, and a meeting in the hotel and the appearance of the Greek magnate, and the disappearance of the Greek magnate, and the Belfast man— indeed, the only thing to fill the picture and to make it topical would be just the fact of having an Abyssinian—with all these things appearing, would you agree with me in my opinion that Deputy McGilligan has done a great national service, in so far as the public life of this country is concerned, in bringing all these facts out?—I am sorry, Deputy Coburn, that you mentioned the word “sharks.”
3602. Did you not mention it yourself, Senator?—Yes, and I am sorry that I mentioned the word. I am very sorry the word “sharks” has been introduced at all into this discussion. Of course, I am very glad that you are such a warm supporter of Deputy McGilligan.
3603. Oh, no. Fair play?—You will not expect me to agree with everything you say?
3604. Well, you will agree that I would like to be fair to friend and foe? —I mentioned the names of Mr. Smyth and Mr. Summerfield, but I did not intend to mention the word “sharks”. I am very sorry to mention the names of Mr. Smyth and Mr. Summerfield in that way.
3605. Deputy Geoghegan.—With your permission, Sir, I should like to ask Senator Comyn just one question arising out of what Deputy Coburn asked. Perhaps I should have dealt with the matter more elaborately when examining. Mr. Coburn seems to be troubled, Senator, by the fact that the document that has been referred to here does not state in express terms that this was to be a private company. Mr. Coburn will correct me if I am wrong.
Deputy Coburn.—Or public.
3606. Deputy Geoghegan.—Yes, there is no adjective. It is just “a company ”?—Yes.
3607. You appreciate Mr. Coburn’s point of view, Senator?—Yes.
3608. Deputy Coburn.—He must of necessity.
3609. Deputy Geoghegan.—You will admit, Senator, that it deserves a question or two?
Deputy Coburn—Especially by a layman.
Witness.—When Mr. Coburn says, “especially by a layman,” I told him earlier in my evidence that I listened to every question he put. I wish now to inform him that I admired his direct method of putting his question.
3610. Deputy Geoghegan.—Did Mr. Heiser or his associates represent to you, Senator Comyn, that they would find the £80,000?—Yes, Sir, they did.
3611. Did a representation by them to you, that they would find the £80,000, appear to you, at all events, to be inconsistent with appealing to the public by means of a prospectus for the public to give the money?—Yes, Sir, and moreover they told us that they were spending a considerable portion of the £80,000.
3612. Very well. Now, if this was to be a public company, and if Mr. Heiser and his associates were merely guaranteeing that the £80,000 would be found, would the word “underwriting” be more appropriate than “finding the money”? They never suggested or hinted that they would be mere underwriters of a public issue?—No.
3613. Did they make it perfectly clear that the money was being found by them and not being sought from the public? —Perfectly clear-and admitted up to the present moment.
3614. And whatever may be in that document, are you clear that it is your opinion that you understood and Mr. Heiser understood that this money was to be found by them and put up by them, and not sought by them from the public?—That is so, and expressed—explicitly expressed.
3615. Deputy Moore.—Are you constantly in touch with the Geological Survey here?—Yes, more or less. I go to them in relation to mines in Clare and mines in Wicklow.
3616. You have discussed this question with them?—Often.
3617. You were questioned to-day as to whether you had any knowledge of Mr. Heiser before he came to see you and you said you had knowledge of him from Mr. Nunan?—Yes.
3618. Was his name mentioned in the Geological Survey?—Yes, now I come to think of it, I think it was.
3619. Are you aware he was in touch with them three or four years ago?— Yes, now that you remind me.
3620. Do you know that he got every facility there?—Yes, every facility. He applied at the time for all the rivers in Ireland. That was his application.
3621. You do not know what opinion they had of him there?—I do. They had a good opinion of him there as an expert, and I have a very good opinion of him, and so has Mr. Hallissy.
3622. You probably had that knowledge of Mr. Heiser at the time he approached you?—That is the reason why I advised Mr. Briscoe to come to terms with Mr. Heiser, and that is the reason why we went that night to Mr. Breen and said we would like to deal with Mr. Heiser.
3623. I merely wish to point out that that did not come out in your evidence to-day. You could not recollect whether you had any knowledge of Mr. Heiser until he came to see you, and then you had a vague notion that Mr. Nunan had mentoned him?—Yes, Mr. Nunan mentioned him.
3624. It is quite possible that Mr. Hallissy mentioned his name and described his work?—Yes, and it is quite possible, now that you have reminded me, that it might be from what Mr. Hallissy said that I was prepossessed in favour of Mr. Heiser.
Acting-Chairman. — Thank you very much, Senator. Now, will we have Mr. Briscoe now, or what does the Committee desire?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I suggest that it would be rather difficult to begin at 4.30.
Acting-Chairman. — There is a Mr. D’Arcy here, a solicitor, who would like to be taken before Mr. Briscoe to-morrow morning. Could we take him now?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Mr. D’Arcy is a very eminent solicitor in Tipperary and he may want to get away. Perhaps it would facilitate him if we took his evidence now.
Deputy Costello.—I should certainly like to facilitate him.
Acting-Chairman.—Well, then, we will finish up with Mr. D’Arcy and start at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning with Mr. Briscoe.
Deputy Costello.—How long is it proposed to go on to-morrow? I only want to know so as to be able to make arrangements. I understood that some members said that they cannot come here tomorrow afternoon.
Deputy Moore.—I said that.
Deputy Fitzgerald-kenney.—And I also.
Deputy Costello.—I only wish to know. I am quite prepared to come to-morrow afternoon, but I want to be able to make arrangements.
Acting-Chairman.—Well, we will sit punctually at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning and adjourn at 1.30.
Mr. James F. D’Arcy sworn and examined.
3625. Acting-Chairman. — You are a solicitor, I understand, Mr. D’Arcy.
3626. What evidence do you wish to give? —The only evidence is as regards my personal connection with this matter. My name has been mentioned here a few times, and I wish to tell the Committee my connection with the matter, which is purely professional. I know nothing about gold-mining—not the first thing about it, or about mineralogy at all. In the month of February last, however, Mr. Breen met me in Tipperary, and told me he would like to discuss a matter with me the next time I would be in Dublin. I am in Dublin pretty well every fortnight. Some time prior to the 18th of February I met Mr. Breen in the Gresham Hotel by appointmnt. Mr. Briscoe was with him. I may mention that I had known Mr. Briscoe before that. I had business relations with him for about 18 months or so. But Mr. Breen had not told me what he wanted me for, and it came as news to me. At the interview Mr. Breen told me that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe had a prospecting lease in County Wicklow in connection with gold. I may tell you, honestly, that it did not appeal to me very much. I do not know anything about mines one way or the other. However, we discussed the matter generally. Mr. Briscoe had not the lease with him at the time—that is, the prospecting lease—but told me the effect of it. Subsequently—I think the same day —I met Senator Comyn also, whom I have known for the past 30 years or so, and either Mr. Briscoe or Mr. Breen asked me was I interested, and I said : “No, definitely not.” Mr. Breen said: “I think you ought to be. I am interested in this thing and I would like you to look after my interests in the matter.” I said: “That puts a different complexion on the thing. If that is so, anything I can do I will do.” That was my introduction to the Wicklow gold mines. I was in Dublin about the 16th February.
3627. Acting-Chairman.—Of this year?—Yes, Sir, and I there again met Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Breen and told them I was crossing to London on the 17th of February and that, if it was a question of working this mine, I knew nothing about it and could not advise them one way or another, but was in touch with certain people in London and, if I got a report that the thing was feasible, that, as far as a certain amount of money was concerned, if the report was favourable, I was in a position to put up a certain amount of money; but that I would not touch it with a 40-foot pole, as a matter of fact, unless I was independently advised. My sole connection was, of course, with Mr. Breen, though I had had business connections with Mr. Briscoe before. I went to London on the 17th and I consulted a firm of stockbrokers there who have done business with me for a great many years, and one of whom is a personal friend of mine. I mentioned the matter to him and told him exactly my position in the matter: that I was not keen on any kind of mining, but that if I could get an independent report—altogether apart, mind you, from Mr. Briscoe’s or Mr. Comyn’s interests—I was in a position to put up a certain amount of money to work the thing. This friend of mine, who is a broker—he is in a rather large way in London—said to me: “I will put you in touch with certain parties, but I must see them first.” Then he asked me when I was going back. I was not in London specially for this purpose at all. I went over on other business. It was because of the fact that I was going to London that I took advantage of the opportunity to mention this matter to my friend in London. My friend in London asked could I wait for two or three days. I said: “I must cross to-morrow night.” Then he said: “I cannot do it in that time.” I crossed back on the Thursday or Friday night. I cannot be sure which, but it was certainly either Thursday or Friday. On the following Monday I was ’phoned to to my own office in Tipperary by Mr. Briscoe, and he said that a man named Heiser, whom I had never heard of before, not even by name, had crossed from London, and he asked would I personally have any objection to his taking up the matter with Heiser. I said: “Not the smallest.” My interest was very small, but there was an understanding between Mr. Comyn, Mr. Briscoe, Mr. Breen and myself that I would be acquainted of anything that would be done. As I say, Mr. Briscoe ’phoned me, and I told him I had not the smallest objection to his going on. Then I told him what I had done and that I had got no report from London up to that time. That very same day, I think it was, I wired to my friend in London to say: “Do not go any further.”
3628. Acting-Chairman.—That was on the 17th?—No, Sir. That would be four or five days after the 18th. It would be on a Monday that I got the ’phone call from Mr. Briscoe. I had never heard of Heiser and I had nothing to do with Heiser up to that point. I certainly was not instrumental in bringing Mr. Heiser over. I had no power either from Mr. Briscoe, Mr. Comyn or Mr. Breen to sell any interest in the mine or anything connected with the mine, good, bad or indifferent. The statement which I volunteered then was that if I got independent advice I would be in a position to put up certain moneys and have the thing worked. Subsequently then, I did meet Mr. Heiser here and I was present, as a matter of fact, when what is called the sub-lease was drafted. It is really only an option in my opinion, but there are more eminent lawyers on the Committee than I am. I was present when that was drafted and I took part, as a matter of fact, in the drafting of it. I had nothing whatever to do as regards the terms of it. They were fixed by Mr. Comyn, Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Heiser. I had nothing to do with what they were to get out of it. Subsequent to that, I again met Mr. Harrison, a solicitor from London.
3629. Did you meet him in Dublin?—I met him in this House. I was ’phoned to, to come to Dublin, that a Mr. Harrison was coming over. I did not know what Mr. Harrison was then, that he was either a solicitor or a mining engineer, and I met him, I should say, about 11 o’clock in the dining-hall of this House.
3630. Eleven o’clock in the morning?— No, at night. Previous to that I had met Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Breen that evening and either of them told me that Mr. Harrison had flown to Belfast and that Mr. Briscoe had sent a ’plane to Belfast to bring Mr. Harrison here. I met him in the dining-room of the Dáil. He came in, as well as I remember, with Mr. Briscoe and he had tea with us. It must be at that time about 10.30 or 11. There were present at the interview Mr. Harrison, Mr. Briscoe, Mr. Breen, Mr. Hayes and myself. These were the only parties present. We had all tea together, and immediately after tea Mr. Harrison left the Dáil in company with Mr. Briscoe. I knew where they were going. They were going to Mr. Arthur Cox’s office. I waited for some time. They were to come back to the Dáil, but they did not come back, so after waiting for some time, Mr. Breen drove me to the Gresham hotel. When I got into the hotel I asked had Mr. Harrison come back and the hall porter told me that he had come in about a quarter of an hour before and had gone to bed, leaving a message for me that he would see me in the morning. I met him next morning, but not a word passed between Mr. Harrison and me as to any business transaction. At that time I had heard there was trouble brewing and, wisely or unwisely, I decided that, as far as I was personally concerned, I was finished with the matter and that some other solicitor should have to take it up. That was my own personal judgment in the matter and I told Mr. Breen that. Then Mr. Cox came on the scene and Mr. Harrison met Mr. Cox, I have no doubt. Not a single word passed between Mr. Harrison and me as to the prospectus produced here. I did see that prospectus. The night Mr. Harrison came over, while having tea, there was a number of the prospectuses produced and he handed one to Mr. Breen.
3631. At what date was that?—Approximately about the 28th May. It might be the 29th.
3632. When you first saw the prospectus?—The prospectus was handed to me that night. It was handed by Mr. Harrison to Mr. Breen, who looked at the outside, and pitched it across to me. The way I dealt with it was just to glance at it. I saw it was only a draft prospectus, in which there were certain blanks. I thought it was rather quick on their part to have a draft prospectus ready.
3633. You are not sure whether it was in the same form in which we have it here?—I have not seen the form here. May I have it?
Draft prospectus handed to witness.
3634. Acting-Chairman. — There are certain blanks in it?—It is the same form I recognise. As far as I can see it is the very same form. There are blanks for the figures and brokers. That is the form that was handed to me by Mr. Breen. In the whole thing I was only acting for Mr. Breen.
3635. You have told us that you were brought into the transaction by Mr. Breen and that you told him you were going across to London the following day?—Yes.
3636. What was it Mr. Breen was anxious you should do in London?—As a matter of fact it was I mentioned it to Mr. Breen myself. It was not a suggestion by him at all. I was looking after his interest in the matter and I said that I was going to London on other business—as regards another company, as a matter of fact—and that I would see some people there and that if I got independent advice by an independent engineer, apart altogether from Senator Comyn or Mr. Briscoe, I was in a position to put up certain moneys to work the transaction. I was not personally keen on it at all.
3637. I want to find out what was the object of your visit. Was it to obtain money for the purposes of the company? —Oh, by no means. I was going to London on other business altogether. My visit to London was not directly connected with this at all. It simply happened that I was going to London on business in connection with another company and I had not the vaguest notion of trying to secure money in London because I had nothing to procure it for. What I was really anxious about was to get an independent engineer to come over and make a report of the transaction.
3638. I think you told us that you were to see a certain stockbroker friend of yours?—I did see him.
3639. What would be the object of seeing a stockbroker?—Because I knew nothing about mining to start with. I really went to him for the purpose of putting me on the track and of obtaining for me some names of people with whom I could communicate. I do not suggest that I went to him for the purpose of having anything underwritten. He happened to be a friend of mine and the fact that he was a stockbroker was accidental. I went to him just the same as I would go to anybody else to put me on the right road. The broker probably knew less about mining than I did, but I went to him because of the fact that he was in London and that he could possibly make inquiries.
3640. He would put you on the right road?—He said he would make inquiries and would write to me but before he had written to me I had the ’phone call from Mr. Briscoe telling me that this man Heiser had arrived from London and asking whether he would enter into negotiations with him. I said “Carry on.” I was rather pleased to be rid of the whole thing.
3641. You did not carry on any further?—No. I simply ceased to have anything to do with it. I subsequently met Mr. Harrison but I did not discuss the matter with him.
3642. Deputy Moore.—You actually wired to London to discontinue the inquiries?—Definitely after getting Mr. Briscoe’s phone call I wired to London.
3643. And nothing came of the conversation between you and the stockbroker?—Nothing.
3644. You do not know how far he went with his inquiries?—No, he could not have gone very far. It was only from Friday to Monday.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Will you take that document into your hand? You have now in your hands a document which has been referred to as a prospectus?—Yes.
3645. You observe that on the endorsement to that is the imprint of St. Clement’s Press, Limited, Kingsway, Holborn, London?—Yes.
3646. Apparently it was printed in London?—Yes, on 26th June, 1935.
3647. You have a friend who is a stockbroker in the City of London?—Yes.
3648. And I presume that it might reasonably be inferred that a stockbroker in the City of London could find ways of making contact with experts in regard to mining?—That is why I went to see him.
3649. If he happened to be a stockbroker whose business lay chiefly in the mining section of the London Stock Exchange he could probably put out his hand to a number of people?—Yes. But as a matter of fact he told me that he did not deal in mining shares at all.
3650. He was in another group?—Yes.
3651. And the obvious thing to happen, or what one might possibly expect, was that all he had to do was to go to the brokers in the mining group and say: “Who is a really reputable man who would advise as to the possibilities or probabilities of a gold mining proposition?” ?—As a matter of fact, he mentioned the names of some people he was going to see.
3652. You desired to have a person of high repute?—Absolutely. There was a certain amount of my clients’ money going into this, and I was not going to put my clients’ money into it unless I was satisfied that it was a reputable transaction.
3653. You, I understand, have made it clear to the Committee that you had no practical or theoretical knowledge of gold mining yourself, and secondly, that you did not number amongst your clients or acquaintances any mining engineer of sufficient eminence at any rate?—Not a single one did I know of any kind— eminent or otherwise.
3654. I do not know if you can assist me in this. When that document was prepared—that option; it does not matter what one calls it; I am referring to the document which you say you took part in preparing—was anything said in your presence that enabled you to form any opinion as to the source from which the money mentioned in that document as the paid-up capital was to come?— No. There was nothing definite said, but I formed the clear impression, wrongly or rightly, that this Heiser man had behind him some group or number of individuals who were actually putting up the money. There was never a suggestion at that time, by implication or otherwise, that Heiser was going to form a public company.
3655. You are perfectly clear as to the state of your own mind. You have stated that you are not very definite as to anything that was said, but you are definite as to the then state of your mind. The then state of your mind was that you believed Heiser and his associates were to find the money?—Yes.
3656. How long have you been a solicitor?—About 27 years.
3657. You are practising in the town of Tipperary?—Yes.
3658. Deputy Costello.—There are just one or two questions that I wish to ask. Senator Comyn described a conversation that he had with Deputy Breen, in which you were stated to be a man who was in touch with money?—I saw that in the Irish Times. I was not here.
3659. Would you agree with such a description as that—that you were in touch with money to finance the working of this mine?—That is rather a broad term. I certainly am in touch with a certain amount of money. There is a certain amount of money which I invest for my clients. It is for me to invest. They never question it.
3660. It is your clients’ money you would invest—not your own?—I would invest my own too.
3661. Was it your own you thought of investing in this?—I did not think of investing it for the moment. If I got the report of an independent engineer I might then invest. It never went as far as that.
3662. When you went over to London on your own other business, you consulted a stockbroker?—Yes.
3663. Was that with a view to seeing whether you yourself would invest your own money?—Most definitely not. My only purpose was to get in touch or ask my friend to put me in touch with some expert mining engineer who would make a report to me.
3664. On whose behalf were you getting that report as a matter of precaution? Was it on your own behalf?—Pretty much on my own behalf.
3665. That is what I thought?—Absolutely. Then if that were favourable I would be prepared to invest, possibly, some of my clients’ money and some of my own money.
3666. But not sufficient to work a gold mine?—I may be a country solicitor, but there are country solicitors who have certain touch with money just as much as city solicitors. Some people think that only a city solicitor can handle a fairly large transaction. I have known large ones to be handled by country solicitors.
3667. So have I—larger ones than in the case of city solicitors?—There is an idea that it must be a city solicitor who would deal with anything like a £10,000 transaction.
3668. It was really for your own protection, in order to be in a position to act professionally, that you took this step? It was not on behalf of this group you took it?—No. Before I could advise any of my own clients to invest fourpence in it I wanted to be on the level with them. I did not want to advise them to invest without knowing where I was.
3669. Senator Comyn may have got the wrong impression, or perhaps I did, but I think he stated that you went over to get a mining engineer to report on behalf of the group?—I do not know what operated in his mind. I know what operated in mine.
3670. It was not on behalf of the group you went over?—No.
3671. In fact when Heiser appeared on the scene you washed your hands of the business as far as your clients were concerned? You had nothing further to do with it?—No. Of course, all the time I had an interest in Mr. Breen’s share.
3672. As his solicitor?—Yes. We do not agree politically, but I am his solicitor.
3673. And as his solicitor, you were watching his interests?—Yes
3674. So far as you personally were concerned, and your ideas of investing your own money or your clients’ money, you had completely abandoned all notion of it once this sub-lease or option was entered into?—Yes. As soon as that appeared, I was finished.
3675. Once Heiser appeared on the scene?—Yes, except that as Mr. Breen’s solicitor I was watching his interests.
3676. Incidentally, Mr. Breen’s name is not mentioned in this sub-lease?—No.
3677. And there was no provision made in that lease to protect Mr. Breen’s interest?—Remember, I was not in the case at all when that sub-lease was made.
3678. We will call it a sublease for convenience. An agreement for a sublease would be a more correct description of it. When that was being made you were there as Mr. Breen’s solicitor?—Yes.
3679. That agreement does not make any provision for protecting Mr. Breen’s interest?—I do not see how it could, because the owners of the prospecting lease were Messrs. Briscoe and Comyn, and I do not see how Mr. Breen’s name could possibly, by any conceivable draughtsmanship, come into it.
3680. You then disappeared out of the transaction altogether?—For all practical purposes, yes.
3681. The next time you had anything to do with it was when you met Harrison in the Dáil restaurant?—Yes.
3682. Can you recollect whether at that time the matter had been raised in the Dáil? I think you said there was trouble brewing?—I am certain that on the night I met Harrison I then knew there was trouble brewing. Possibly Deputy McGilligan had made the statement in the Dáil; I am not certain. Either he had made the statement or I had heard from some other quarter that there would be trouble.
3683. You had nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with bringing Heiser in touch with Senator Comyn?—I never heard of him until I met him here.
3684. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You were to bring over a mining engineer. A mining engineer was to come over from London to inspect this place in Wicklow? —That was my idea.
3685. Who was to pay the fees of this engineer?—I was to be responsible for that. I was to be put in touch with him first, and find out exactly what it was going to cost. Possibly, if the thing were successful, I would try to put that over on the Comyn-Briscoe group. Solicitors are not very generous in that way.
3686. I know. I just wanted to find out. So it was really in protection of your other clients that you were going to pay this gentleman for coming over?— Yes.
3687. I suppose you heard here that a gentleman received £1,000 for coming over? You would hardly go to £1,000?—You can be quite certain I would not, nor to anything near it—not in connection with a gold mine.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned to 11 a. m. on tomorrow (Friday).