MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé hAoine, 27adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Friday, 27th September, 1935.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY WILLIAM NORTON in the chair
Deputy Robert Briscoe sworn and examined.
3688. Chairman.—Do you wish, Deputy Briscoe, to make any preliminary statement?—No, Sir.
3689. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I have a few questions to ask. You kept all the accounts?—Yes, such as they were.
3690. You are a business man?—I am.
3691. You were dealing with a business matter and a partnership matter, and you were dealing with the State and you knew of the necessity of making reports to the State?—That is quite so.
3692. You kept all the accounts?—Yes, of anything necessary for the State or for a partnership.
3693. I suppose you have your accounts here?—I have documents, one of which was handed in yesterday.
3694. You kept the correspondence also?—I cannot say that I kept all the correspondence. I transacted all the correspondence, a great deal of which I have. There are certain letters that I have not-certain letters that I wrote and did not keep copies of-but the informants of Deputy McGilligan can hand them in. I kept files of transactions required to be kept complete.
3695. I suppose you are prepared to place that correspondence at the disposal of the Committee. I suggest, to the Committee, that Deputy Briscoe be asked to make a discovery of all the correspondence he has got in reference to this matter.
Witness.—All the correspondence I have got I have here, and propose to deal with it in the course of my evidence as questions arise.
3696. You have no correspondence except what is in that file?—As far as I can trace, no. I made a search since Mr. Costello made his suggestion. There are certain letters that I would like to have that I have not got.
3697. You entered into this lease in November last?—I signed some considerable time after.
3698. But your rights commenced some time after? Your obligations began with your signature. Since November, what amount of money have you expended upon this mine?—When you ask that question do you mean personal expenses in addition to wages paid?
3699. I mean wages paid?—The wages paid since then would amount to £5.
3700. Have you your accounts there? —No; Mr. Breen paid that particular money. I had no workers to pay after that period, except men Mr. Breen may have engaged as workers.
3701. How much of this £200 you were to expend if you were entitled to enter upon these premises from a date in November have you expended?—From the date of the application?
3702. From a date in November is the only time that you were entitled to enter upon the premises?—I do not agree with that.
3703. Well, you may take it as so?— At the time I made the application I made it clear that we were not to wait for such a considerable amount of time as it would take to prepare a lease, and I asked could we prospect, in good faith An official of the Department said there was no objection, provided we got permission from the particular landowner, but we would have no claim——
3704. Assuming that to be the case, you had no authority from the Department official, from the Oireachtas, or anybody else, until you got your lease under the Mines and Minerals Act?— Well, that was the position.
3705. Now, to come back: how much money had you expended out of that £200 since the lease was granted?—I have told you already. Since the lease was granted, except for personal expenses, nothing in wages. On my trips up and down to Wicklow I spent a considerable sum.
3706. How many trips?—I have been up and down to Wicklow since March, 1933——
3707. I am asking you since November. Please confine yourself to any trips you made since the date of the lease?—I made about 50 trips—on an average twice a week from the beginning of November.
3708. Since that time, although very reluctant to sign the lease, you were making trips to Wicklow? What were you doing?—I have been to Wicklow looking for other minerals besides gold.
3709. When did the trips you made looking for gold commence?—I would not like to answer that on oath as accurate except to say that some weeks I did not go at all, but others I went three or four times a week.
3710. Looking for gold. I am asking about gold?— The lease covers other minerals than gold.
3711. You were looking for minerals in these three townlands? What did your work consist in?—Walking over certain areas, looking for places where there were ore outcrops and places where there was connection between one such place and another; looking for what is called “runners” between copper and lead; looking for old lead dumps to see if there were old workings and things like that.
3712. As showing what object you had in view, did you take a spade?—I took a hammer and on other occasions a pick.
3713. You made a return to the Depart-of the amount of money expended from April, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935?— No, I did not. I made a return to the Department of our expenditure from the period 24th April, 1933, until April, 1935.
3714. Have you got a copy of that return?—I have.
3715. That is a return under Section 16 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931, as from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935, in conformity with the requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act, in respect of certain lands in the County of Wicklow (the name of the place is left blank) leased to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe. That is, from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935?—That is right.
3716. Number of days’ labour performed, 80 days, within the above-mentioned period?—That is so.
3717. Who performed this 80 days’ labour?—It was performed between Senator Comyn, myself, Mr. Dan Breen, Mr. Seán Hayes, a labouring man that Mr. Breen employed and a miner that Mr. Breen brought from Kilkenny.
3718. We have this 80 days’ labour performed. You were aware, of course, that there was a clause in your lease that there were to be four able-bodied miners employed?—Before I answer that, may I say that the question here relates to actual prospecting? It refers to 80 days in actual prospecting.
3719. You were aware that you were to employ four able-bodied miners?—I was aware of that clause in the lease.
3720. And you made a return that 80 days’ labour was performed?—In actual prospecting, yes.
3721. Do you suggest that any official reading that file indicating that 80 days’ labour had been performed would realise it meant 80 days walking around with a hammer in your hand—you and Senator Comyn? Is that the meaning anybody would put upon it?—That is the meaning intended to be conveyed by our answer.
3722. The 80 days’ labour was the unpaid labour of you and Senator Comyn—you walking around with a hammer?—I did not walk around with a hammer.
3723. What did you do?—I used the hammer sometimes, but on occasions I did not have any hammer.
3724. You were some days using a hammer and some days you were not using a hammer. Do you think that was a fair statement to the Department?—I do.
3725. Eighty days’ labour—does not that mean 80 days’ employed or hired labour?—No.
3726. Except for what Mr. Breen did, there was no employed hired labour during that period?—During that period, that is right.
3727. And up to the present date was there any hired labour?—On that question I would like to produce a letter from Mr. Cox, our solicitor. The Deputy is aware that we had an agreement with Mr. Heiser during portion of that period and Mr. Heiser’s agreement suggested definitely that he should employ four miners. We could get no information from the Heiser group or from Mr. Heiser himself, and in a letter written to Mr. Cox by Mr. McGrath— the solicitor for Mr. Heiser’s group— there is a definite statement to the effect that Mr. Heiser had instructed him that there were actually men engaged working on the site. I have not been able to trace these men. I have no information, and I propose to give you that as an answer.
3728. I am not interested in Mr. Heiser, but I am interested in what you did. Have you employed a single skilled miner since the date of that lease?—A single skilled miner was employed for a short period.
3729. By Mr. Breen?—By Mr. Breen on our behalf.
3730. Except for that, had there been any other miner employed by you?— Except in so far as there is any truth in the statement made by Mr. McGrath’s client, Mr. Heiser.
3731. You have been there time and again and you know whether it is true or not?—I have not been able to trace these men.
3732. Therefore, you are satisfied the men were not working there?—I believe that statement of Mr. Heiser is untrue.
3733. Therefore, except for the £5 worth of work done by Mr. Breen’s man, there were no labourers employed there? —I agree.
3734. And you have made no attempt to keep that covenant in the lease?—I have.
3735. What were the attempts?—The binding clause in the agreement between us and the Heiser group and the bond attached to that agreement specifically dealing with that particular clause.
3736. Then, in your view, before the formation of any £80,000 company or anything else, Heiser was bound to put men working?—Yes.
3737. Therefore that agreement, since it must be taken on the whole or not at all, that agreement between you and Heiser in your view is still a binding agreement?—No, not now.
3738. When did it cease to be binding? —The date of its expiration, September 13th.
3739. Up to that it was a binding agreement, according to you?—Yes.
3740. You say you had a bond that Heiser was to keep men working?—Yes.
3741. Did you try to enforce that bond?—We instructed our solicitor to enforce the bond and at the present time he has presented me with a lawyer’s opinion as to our position. I will give you the lawyer’s name if you wish. Mr. Budd is the lawyer and he has advised us that, in his opinion, it would be contempt of this Committee to do anything until this Committee concludes its deliberations.
3742. You were asked to make a return from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th of April, 1935?—Yes.
3743. Was this not the honest way to answer that: “We have done no work and we have expended no money”? Was not that the honest way to make the return to the Department?—I say our return is perfectly honest, clear and candid.
3744. Was not this the proper return to make to the Department: “Except for visits made by Senator Comyn and myself and one sum of £5 expended, there has not been a hand’s turn done since the granting of the lease”?—I differ with you in that.
3745. You were asked what expenditure, if any, had been made by you in connection with the said mine, and your answer was that you spent altogether £100?—No, altogether £250.
3746. What is the £100 that appears there?—For bona fide prospecting.
3747. When you are asked what expenditure was made by you in connection with the mine you give the sum of £250?—Yes.
3748. And for bona fide prospecting the sum is £100?—Yes.
3749. For tools, £25?—Yes.
3750. I would like to know how the £100 for bona fide prospecting was made up. Were those your expenses and Senator Comyn’s?—Yes.
3751. That leaves a sum of £125?— Yes.
3752. How was the £125 made up?— Might I have back the statement of Mr. Norman that I handed in yesterday? I have a statement here from Mr. Norman which dates from 24/3/33 and at the bottom is the statement, “Squared up to 23/6/33.” There are several items set out, such as the cost of ordnance maps, payment of wages to Mr. Norman, the cost of pump and tools at Henshaw’s, the employment of two men, cost of insurance stamps and other things, making a total of £50 12s. 0d.
3753. What were those men doing?— Those men were assisting Mr. Norman sinking a shaft.
3754. They were prospecting?—I would not say prospecting. Prospecting is not sinking a shaft.
3755. What is it?—It would be more or less actual work.
3756. I put it to you that the £100 which was expended included any item you have there?—No.
3757. You say it was for bona fide prospecting?—Bona fide prospecting was carried out and the expenses were incurred by Senator Comyn and myself when we went jointly or when I went on my own.
3758. How much a day are you charging as your expenses?—Approximately 15/-.
3759. For bona fide prospecting this £100 is, according to you all your own and Senator Comyn’s travelling expenses? —It is not only travelling expenses; we had expenses down there, too.
3760. For food?—Yes; and we occasionally gave men 3/-, 4/- or 5/- for accompanying us on a day’s journey showing places we did not know ourselves. We underestimated altogether, but we sent in this return and swore it.
3761. You, as a business man, kept accounts between yourself and your partner?—We were prospecting. We had not any accounts or any registered business. We settled with each other probably every week or every second week. If I paid out money I would tell Mr. Comyn and he would give me back half, and if he laid out money he would tell me and I would give him back half.
3762. When you informed the Department that you were willing to spend £200, that £200 really meant what you and Senator Comyn would spend yourselves in travelling expenses?—That is not true.
3763. Well, the major portion of it?— No.
3764. All you were willing to spend was £200—is that not what you told the Department?—All we committed ourselves to spend was £200, but we intended spending more, as Senator Comyn has already indicated.
3765. Anyhow, since the date of the lease the expenditure has been on your own travelling expenses and subsistence allowances, if 1 may put it that way. Now we will go on—you were making a sworn return?—Yes.
3766. And you put in your sworn return, altogether £250, and you gave us £100 and £25, and so on. Now, Deputy Briscoe, I am always suspicious when I see nice round figures, £250, £100, £25 and so on, these are all round figures?—On examination they will be found to be under the actual amount spent.
3767. You were giving a formal return to the Department. Why did you not take that formal return from your accounts?—I have no form of accounts kept.
3768. Now you say that the expenditure from the 24th March, 1933, to the 30th April, 1935, is in that account?—Yes.
3769. Would it not be straighter to the Department to inform the Department that that expenditure ceased, except as far as your travelling allowances were concerned, before the lease was granted. Why did you put that money in-you were asked for a return from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935—why did you put in anything that happened before the 1st November, 1934?—Because I considered in view of the statements being made to the Department when making the application that they would have knowledge of the fact that we spent that money and would have knowledge of the fact that we actually started spending it in good faith.
3770. But granting all that, they asked you to make a return. You say they knew it already, but that is all the more reason why you should have stated it then. I want to know why you put in all expenditure incurred between the 24th March, 1933, to the 30th April, 1935, when you were only asked to put in the expenditure from November, 1934, to 30th April, 1935?—The answer is obvious.
3771. It is not obvious to me?—It is because the bulk of our expenditure was between 24th March, 1933, and the 1st November, 1934.
3772. But you were not asked that. You were asked in that form whether you were observing the covenants of your lease and you were asked to state that in making your return?—Yes.
3773. And what you expended before November, 1934, has nothing on earth to do with it. Did you not put in these figures of £100, £25 and £125 for the deliberate purpose of deceiving the Department?—No, I did not; I resent that suggestion.
3774. Why then?—To be perfectly frank, I claim we had a right to credit for the money we spent in good faith, in these sums, having notified the Department previously that we were spending it.
3775. Even though you were solely asked from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935—as far as the gold returns are concerned, the small amount for analysis is the only return you made? —Yes.
3776. Everything was Nil, Nil, Nil, until you made this return on the 4th May, 1935?—That is right.
3777. Who analysed these small quantities?—Professor Bailey of Trinity College analysed some of them.
3778. I am asking you after the 1st November, 1934, because this report is dealing with that period —who analysed these small quantities?—Senator Comyn.
3779. Now you were rather reluctant to sign this lease we were told?—I was.
3780. You were reluctant to make yourself liable for the payment of £5 a year? —Oh, no.
3781. What was your reluctance then? —As a result of the information I received from Professor Bailey, I had come to the conclusion that unless we could get a certain class of machinery of a modern scientific nature to work the mine we could never work it on the basis that Senator Comyn had in mind, namely, small units of men panning.
3782. Therefore you were rather hopeless about the concern?—I was hopeless that time about working the mine on the basis Senator Comyn had in mind.
3783. Do you suggest that these small quantities that you and Senator Comyn got and that Senator Comyn analysed made a distinct difference in your outlook to this mine?—I do not understand that question.
3784. You had a certain outlook at the time you signed this lease that the mines could not be worked without a considerable amount of machinery?—Yes.
3785. Had you the same outlook when you saw Mr. Heiser?—Yes, I had.
3786. Therefore, from the time you signed the lease until you saw Mr. Heiser you still were of the opinion that you had a property which was hardly worth anything?—Oh, no, I would not say that.
3787. Wait now: you were not very willing to sign the lease at that time— is not that so?—That is so.
3788. And I take it that if the lease had, in your opinion, been a very valuable thing you would have jumped at signing it?—I would only undertake signing the lease when Senator Comyn agreed with me that we would have to alter our policy in regard to development about the working of the mine. I was satisfied that it would be a waste of time to attempt to develop it on the basis he had in mind, and then Senator Comyn agreed with me that we would have to get expert opinion on the matter and try to interest people with a view to developing the mine.
3789. Until you could get that done, the thing was of no value?—I do not agree.
3790. Wait now: did you consider at the time you signed the lease reluctantly that you were getting a valuable property?—I did.
3791. When did you come to that conclusion?—From the time I made the application.
3792. Then all along you thought you were getting a valuable property?—I believed and still believe that there is sufficient material of an auriferous nature or auriferous gravel in that area which, if worked on a modern scientific basis, would be a valuable business concern.
3793. From the time you got your lease you considered this would be a valuable property?—Yes; but might I ask what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney means by valuable?
3794. A thing which has got a cash value?—Oh, no.
3795. Or a thing which could be turned into a paying concern?—Yes.
3796. You considered it could be turned into a paying concern?—Yes.
3797. And yet you were reluctant to ign the lease?—I had not the where-withal or I had not sufficient knowledge to develop the mine in a scientific way to be able to say whether I should go on or not.
3798. When Mr. Heiser came along you had the same view, I take it, as you had when you signed the lease?—Yes.
3799. That is to say, you did not know whether you would be able to develop it if it were to pay?—Yes.
3800. When did you first hear of Mr. Heiser?—My first knowledge of Mr. Heiser was when the head porter of the Gresham Hotel rang me up on a Sunday morning and informed me that Mr. Heiser had arrived that morning from America, was proposing to leave next day, and that he wanted to meet me urgently.
3801. About what date was that?— About the Sunday prior to the signing of that lease. At the moment I think the date of that agreement is the 12th March, and it was the Sunday prior to that, that I saw Mr. Heiser first.
3802. That was the first time you ever heard of Mr. Heiser?—Yes, except that I had once seen a report signed by Mr. Heiser, and we had heard that Mr. Heiser had been operating in Wicklow. I had seen a report which came to me. It was from Mr. Hallissy or someone. I had never met Mr. Heiser before.
3803. And suddenly Mr. Heiser comes on the scene and you get this telephone message?—Yes.
3804. There had been no preliminary negotiations of any kind—you are sure of that?.—Absolutely.
3805. There had been no preliminary negotiations, or anybody serving as intermediary, Mr. Heiser comes from America and immediately wants to see you?—That is what the head porter of the Gresham Hotel stated.
3806. And you went to see Mr. Heiser? —I did.
3807. What proposal did Mr. Heiser make to you?—He told me that he had been informed—he did not say from what source—that we had a lease to prospect in Wicklow, and that the lease had a clause which would enable us to get a mining lease for the whole period under certain conditions, and that he was prepared to buy the lease. I told him I was not prepared to sell it. He then asked me would I consider some means whereby to get the thing going, and I said I would be delighted to speak to him, but only in the presence of my colleague, Senator Comyn. I arranged a meeting that evening between Senator Comyn, Mr. Heiser and myself. Mr. Heiser then stated that he knew all about the area; that he had been working there for years, and that he had spent considerable money in the area. He said that he knew that the area we had was valuable from the point of view of gold content, and he stated that he and his friends were interested. He had an attache case, and he produced more letters and references for himself than I suppose all of us in this room could produce for ourselves altogether. These letters and references included a letter from our High Commissioner in London. I told him I was not concerned about all these people. The letter from the High Commissioner was guarded, and I told him I could only discuss the business if Mr. Heiser could be vouched for by people of substance in the Free State. Then he told me he could bring along Fred Summerfield and Manus Nunan. He asked us to consider what we would want for the lease, but I made it plain to him that in my opinion there was no use in talking to me unless his group had sufficient money to buy the requisite machinery. Then he told me that he had people behind him to put up all the money that was required. He gave an estimate of the capital required, and we worked it at the figure of £80,000—£60,000 money for the three units and £20,000 for working capital. We said we would take our chance in the project by having shares in the company. Then we postponed further discussion. Senator Comyn went off to see Deputy Breen; and in view of the fact that we had already committed ourselves to Mr. D’Arcy, I phoned Mr. D’Arcy the following morning to Tipperany and told him that Mr. Heiser had arrived and that we were discussing the business with him, and I asked him would he release us to discuss the business with Mr. Heiser. You heard his evidence here yesterday about that, and I corroborate it. On the following morning Mr. Fred Summerfield came along with Mr. Nunan. Mr. Summerfield told us he knew Mr. Heiser. and had long correspondence with him in connection with prospecting for gold in Wicklow, and he vouched for Mr. Heiser as being an honourable person whose word we could accept as regards the statements he was making about his finances. He further added that Mr. Duggan and Mr. McGrath were interested and that he actually represented these men. That is to say Mr. Summerfield did. We then discussed the details of the agreement. Mr. Summerfield was present himself at the signing of the agreement. We had some difficulty about the bond. We wanted a bond from an insurance company. It was agreed to give us that bond. Difficulties were pointed out as to giving the bond, and I said I would be prepared to accept Mr. Summerfield’s personal bond. Subsequently that bond was altered at the request of Mr. Nunan, and immediately afterwards Mr. Heiser left for London to make arrangements to bring over certain machinery and so forth.
3808. You had at that time a lease of three townlands only?—Yes.
3809. And that lease was a lease that a very short time before you hardly thought it worth your while to enter into? —Yes.
3810. Now did it strike you as being very extraordinary that Mr. Heiser without inspecting specially these particular townlands should suddenly come along and make you this magnificent offer?—If Mr. Heiser comes here and gives evidence, you will not be surprised yourself if he were to offer £80,000 or three times £80,000 for these particular townlands.
3811. Now these three townlands were townlands which you got rather by chance out of the nine townlands, is not that so?—Yes.
3812. Your first application was for nine townlands?—Yes.
3813. Owing to a difficulty in title, only three townlands were granted to you?— Something of that nature, yes.
3814. Is it not very extraordinary that those three townlands should suddenly turn out to be the valuable townlands? —No. We had prospected for a considerable time and when we decided upon the gold prospecting, Senator Comyn and myself discussed this for long periods, and we came to the conclusion that the gold was not there in the form of a lode or vein, but that it was there in the form of dust and that by a process of elimination as to where it would have come from and where it would have gone to, we came to the conclusion that the natural place for it to be deposited would be the bed of an ancient lake or lower ground. These three townlands are in a very low-lying valley, surrounded by higher hills, and, in my opinion, and, I think, in Senator Comyn’s opinion also, this valley originally was an ancient lake.
3815. And it was just by accident that this ancient lake happened to have a different title from the others which you were fortunate enough to get a lease of?—I do not know that you could say by accident. The other six townlands, in our opinion, are equally rich in the deposit.
3816. Oh, are they?—Yes.
3817. You had only made an application for the other six?—Yes.
3818. And the only thing you had positively there to give to Mr. Heiser was your existing lease or, probably stronger, a reversion of that existing lease, and your chance of getting a fresh lease for the six new townlands?—That statement is correct except in so far as it was not to Mr. Heiser, but to the proposed company. Otherwise, I agree with what you say.
3819. It was, as a matter of fact, to Mr. Heiser, signing for Risberget Ltd.? —Yes.
3820. It was the offer of Mr. Heiser, acting for Risberget Ltd., that you accepted?—Yes.
3821. I again put it to you, did it strike you that there was anything strange about Mr. Heiser coming along and making an offer. What was his first offer?—His first offer was an attempt to buy our rights for cash.
3822. How much cash?—I did not discuss it because I told him we would not consider selling under any circumstances.
3823. No matter what cash you would get?—We would not discuss the question of selling at all.
3824. Why? Because you had not the power?—We could have sold our rights, and he could have taken his chance if we cared to sell them, and to make quick money, if you like.
3825. This was a thing which you had regarded as being of small value, and suddenly you are told that you can get money for it and you are offered cash for it?—He said he was prepared to buy it, but he did not offer cash.
3826. Buying may be by means of shares in a company?—I understood his first offer to be to pay for it.
3827. To pay you in cash for it?— Yes, but the amount was never discussed because we refused to discuss it.
3828. Why?—It is obvious why.
3829. I should like to know?—We did not propose to get the lease in order to sell it, but in order to see if we could get development of mines and minerals in this country and in particular, in that area.
3830. This gentleman, Mr. Heiser, had the highest recommendations to you, had he not?—He had.
3831. Mr. Heiser was a gentleman who, you thought, could develop it?— Yes.
3832. Again, I ask you, why did you not sell if you got your offer for cash to a person who could develop it?—We were not stopping him from developing it by not selling.
3833. Why did you not sell? I want to know why you were so very reluctant to take hard cash?—I have told you before.
3834. I should like to know the reason. It is very surprising. Here you had something which was of small value in your estimation, and suddenly somebody comes along and says: “I should like to give you a sum in cash for it,” and you will not take cash?—I would prefer to take my chance in the mine if it was developed.
3835. What did he say to you when you said you would not take cash?—He said: “Can we find some way of developing it, of getting together on it?” I said: “Certainly; you do not need to buy it to develop it; you can develop it by putting your money up and developing it.”
3836. You thought Mr. Heiser was a shrewd man and would be able to develop it at that time?—Yes.
3837. And that it would be a very wise thing for you to be in with Mr. Heiser in this development scheme?— Yes.
3838. Just tell us, please, about how the price was arranged. By price, I mean the number of shares, royalty and everything of that kind?—Mr. Heiser made the offer himself.
3839. I should like to hear the conversation a little fully?—I could not tell you, because Mr. Heiser talks so fast and so much that you could not memorise one-tenth of what he says.
3840. The substance of it?—The substance of it was: “I have been sent over here by my concern to get this lease by some means or other, or some agreement. I have not got time to bargain or to talk. How much do you want? What shares will you take?” Our attitude was: “What shares will you give?” And, finally, we said that if he made a reasonable offer, we would not mess him about but would accept it. He then said: “I will give you 20,000 shares in the company,” and we said, “Agreed”, The next day Senator Comyn sent me a note stating that he would like to see me about this particular thing, and he said that rather than take 20,000 shares in the company, we should reduce the amount of shares and take an over-riding royalty, and I said that I agreed.
3841. Deputy Dowdall.—You are speaking of pounds of shares?—The face value of the shares in the proposed company.
3842. But 20,000 shares would be 20,000 5/- shares?—The original discussion was an £80,000 company in pounds.
3843. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You were offered payment of £20,000 in shares in this company?—Yes.
3844. That must have come rather as a surprise to you. You have here a company which, on Saturday, you think is not of very much value and suddenly, on Sunday, you are offered £20,000?—I never said that.
Deputy Moore.—I think the witness said again and again that he considered it a very high value.
3845. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—If possible of development, but in his hands he did not consider it valuable on the Saturday.
Witness.—I did not say that. My reluctance to sign the agreement was because I was satisfied that, notwithstanding the fact that it was a valuable property for development, I had not either the means or the method to develop it at the time.
3846. Were you rather astonished that for your chance of development you should be offered this enormous sum of money?—No. I was not offered money, I was offered shares.
3847. But did you not regard these shares as the equivalent of money?—I considered that, from a business point of view, Senator Comyn and I, and our colleagues associated with us who had this lease were entitled to a certain consideration for it, if the company was worked and if the company made profits; and I considered that, as the property-owners, if you like, the amount figured out on the revenue that would accrue to that share was not high.
3848. You thought it was not high?—I do not say it is low, but I do not say it is high.
3849. You thought it reasonable remuneration for the amount of work you had expended and the money you had expended on it?—That is not a fair way of putting it. It was just as reasonable as it was reasonable that Dr. Drumm, who made a very good invention, was entitled to consideration from the State, which he got, in the shape of shares in a company.
3850. Did you ever say that this would be just remuneration to you for your work?—I never said that. The words which the Deputy has used I did not use.
3851. You know Mr. Harrison?—I do, yes.
3852. Mr. Comyn gave a very high eulogy to Mr. Harrison?—Yes.
3853. You would agree with that?— Absolutely.
3854. A most trustworthy man?—I would say a man who was outstandingly honest so far as human judgment can go.
3855. Mr. Harrison writes this:
“We should like to say in fairness to those two Members of Parliament”— that is Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe —“that when we interviewed them on this project in Dublin, they made it abundantly clear and explicit to us that under no circumstances would they take any payment for their leases beyond the number of shares referred to in the newspaper reports, and a small royalty, and that such payment would go towards remunerating them for all the work which they had put into the project over the last two or three years.”
Did you say that to Mr. Harrison?—I do not say that we used those words, either of us or both of us, but I certainly say that Mr. Harrison could have construed that as being our opinion or our view.
3856. That all the work which you have put in, and all the payments that you have made were to be remunerated by this?—I do not think that Mr. Harrison said anything about all the payments that we had made.
3857. I will read the letter again:
“They made it abundantly clear and explicit to us that under no circumstances would they take any payment for their leases beyond the number of shares referred to in the newspaper reports, and a small royalty, and that such payment would go towards remunerating them for all the work which they had put into the project over the last two or three years.”
?—The word “payment” does not come in there.
3858. Well, all the work which you have put in was worth £12,000 worth of shares and a royalty. That was your view?— Certainly.
3859. That would go towards remunerating you and that is still your view?— Yes.
3860. That really if this company had gone through, and you had this £12,000 worth of shares and this royalty of 2½ per cent.?—2¼ per cent.
3861. 2¼ per cent. and possibly less, because the State might have got something, according to Senator Comyn. Anyhow, with the 2¼ per cent, you would be inadequately paid for all the work you had done ?—Yes.
3862. That is still your view?—Yes.
3863. Deputy Moore.—You count as work your thinking, your conversations with Senator Comyn, and time lost?— Yes.
3864. Deputy Costello.—I gathered from the reply that you made to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that you did not prospect this area for the purpose of selling it, but for the purpose of developing the mineral resources of the country?— Yes, and in particular that particular area.
3865. Your suggestion, therefore, is that your primary purpose in connection with this whole transaction was a patriotic one?—Well, if you can translate the putting into operation in a practical way of the policy which we have been preaching for so many years as being patriotic, I admit that it is patriotic.
3866. Was the suggestion you intended to convey by that answer that which I have just referred to—that your primary purpose was a patriotic purpose?—Yes, with that explanation that I have given.
3867. And that patriotic purpose was described by you in your original conversation with Senator Comyn as a £50 speculation?—I consider any citizen, whether he is a member of the Oireachtas or otherwise, who is prepared to speculate in proportion to what he has or can afford out of his income with a view to developing the resources of the State— which would give employment to people and incidentally, if you like, get a profit from it—I consider that there is nothing unpatriotic in it.
3868. And that there is nothing unpatriotic in getting a rake-off in the course of the patriotic operation?—I do not accept your interpretation.
3869. At all events, you referred to this in the first conversation that you had with Senator Comyn as a £50 speculation?—I will tell you about that. I do not like to be throwing bouquets at myself but you can verify what I am going to say yourself if you are in touch with Mr. Norman, senior, or Mr. Norman, junior.
3870. I am not in touch with either Mr. Norman, senior, or Mr. Norman, junior, or with anybody else and never was?—Well, you can have this corroborrated. Mr. Norman came to me and told me that he had lost money in his Glendalough lead mining venture. He said he had a son who was unable to secure employment and he asked me to secure employment for this boy. I met the boy. I saw he was a decent young fellow in appearance and education. I discussed with him what the possibilities of his work would be. He told me he would love something of the nature of what he was doing. I said to him: “I cannot get you a job, but I am prepared to help you in some way or another. I will see a friend of mine who may be prepared to put up a little money and we will send you down to Wicklow to help us in our prospecting down there.” I subsequently arranged for this young man to meet Senator Comyn. Senator Comyn’s version of what transpired is correct. He saw this young man and agreed with me that he appeared to have some knowledge. We made arrangements to send him down to Wicklow to continue the work that we had been doing ourselves.
3871. Do I understand from the explanation that you have just given that you wish to convey that, in addition to having a patriotic motive for this speculation you also had a charitable motive?—I always have charitable motives.
3872. And with motives partly charitable and partly patriotic you went to Senator Comyn and said to him: “Will you join me in a speculation to the extent of £50”?—Yes.
3873. Had you ever heard that there had been any operations carried on in this particular area by Mr. Heiser before you approached Senator Comyn?—No.
3874. When did you first hear that Mr. Heiser had been carrying on these operations?—I am not able to say exactly. I had heard in the course of our prospecting—Senator Comyn and I had occasionally met people—that there had been an Australian miner named Heiser who had been in this place, in that place and in the other place, but I can say this definitely, that I never met any person who ever told me that Heiser had ever considered the area we considered valuable as a prospecting area.
3875. You said in answer to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that you met Mr. Heiser in the Gresham Hotel on Sunday, 10th March, and it was then you heard he had been prospecting?—Yes.
3876. When did you first hear that Mr. Heiser had been prospecting?—About 1933.
3877. About the time you yourself started?—It would be about the end of 1933 when we had been down around different areas.
3878. Who first impelled you to start on this £50 speculation in gold mining in Wicklow?—Senator Comyn had been discussing with me on many occasions the possibility of developing the minerals of this country. We had discussed it and had been down there several times. I think I am correct in stating that the first journey I made to Wicklow in that connection was at the request of one of the local representatives for Wicklow. He asked us to go down there that the people in that area had been talking about sulphur mines and other things. As far as I can recollect, my first journey to Wicklow with Senator Comyn was to see if a way could be found to get sulphur in Wicklow to make sulphuric acid, and this and the phosphates about which Senator Comyn has spoken, to make a super-phosphate. Senator Comyn had already explained to me about his phosphate deposits. We knew that Kynochs people had made sulphuric acid from the Wicklow sulphur. That I think, was the occasion of my original visit to Wicklow, and if I remember correctly Deputy Moore was with us on that particular occasion.
3879. Was not your conversation with Senator Comyn about this exploration for sulphuric acid long prior to your speculation for gold?—Yes.
3880. I asked you did you first look for gold in this area before you spoke to Senator Comyn?—I never looked for gold before I spoke to Senator Comyn.
3881. Was it merely for the purpose of helping young Norman that you asked Senator Comyn would he join you in the speculation?—No. Senator Comyn gave you yesterday honest evidence, and told you exactly what happened. When we went down there, I do not know whether it was that or on another occasion when there was a party together—I think there were two car loads—he called me aside and showed me some excavations that had been made on the hillside. He asked me to go up with him to see these. I went with him and we examined them. We dug out a little bit of gravel with our hands, and when I examined it I found what I thought to be a little bit of gold or colour. Senator Comyn agreed that it was, and from that time on we began to discuss the possibility of following it up.
3882. The amount that you found that day did not give you such a shock that you wanted a glass of brandy in the Woodenbridge Hotel?—I never wanted a glass of brandy.
3883. I understand from Senator Comyn’s evidence that the transaction about the excursion to Woodenbridge had nothing whatever to do with the subsequent proposal by you of a speculation of £50 in a gold mine. Is that so?—I do not know what you mean by “nothing whatever to do.”
3884. Do I understand from your evidence that it was your finding of a speck of gold on the occasion of the excursion to Woodenbridge that started you looking for gold in Wicklow?—Yes.
3885. How soon after that excursion did you go to Wicklow to look for it?—I think at that particular time that we were down there every couple of days.
3886. For what purpose?—Senator Comyn and myself on a number of occasions—we had other people with us— visited many of the areas around there— the old mine workings in Wicklow, the ochre mines, sulphur deposits and others. We went there several times together. I went several times alone to Glendalough to look at the old lead mines there, and also visited the copper mines and other places around, looking to see if something could be done to reopen them.
3887. Looking for every class and kind of mineral except gold?—No, including gold.
3888. You were looking for gold, copper, sulphur, lead, iron and everything else?—Yes.
3889. What made you concentrate on gold to the extent of £50?—Because I thought, and still think that I was right in thinking, that there was the possibility of locating either gold deposits or some mine for the development of gold deposits.
3890. And did you then drop your explorations for sulphur, lead, iron and everything else ? — No.
3891. When did you drop them?—I never dropped them.
3892. But after you got the shock of Professor Bailey’s report, you started, I understood from your replies to Deputy Fitzgerald -Kenney, to go down there after you got the lease to look for other minerals?—Yes.
3893. Although you got a prospecting lease to look for gold, so that after the date of that lease you went down and concentrated on every sort of mineral except gold?—You are wrong there. The lease was for all minerals.
3894. Gold, of course, is the most valuable?—I would not say so. There is irridium and platinum which are more valuable than gold.
3895. Have you found any of these?— We found on one occasion a piece of platinum and a metal which we believed to be irridium—tiny specks.
3896. When you started with Senator Comyn’s consent on this speculation, into which you were to put £50, had you got in touch with Mr. Norman, junior.— Yes. It was as a result of having met Mr. Norman, senior, and in order to assist and give Mr. Norman, junior. something to do. I thought we could assist him.
3897. It was merely a charitable inclination on your part that impelled you to employ Mr. Norman, junior?— Absolutely. I do not think Mr. Norman, senior, or Mr. Norman, junior, will deny that.
3898. Did you consider he had technical knowledge?—He told me he had been apprenticed in England in the B.T.H. Company; that he had been in the laboratory which dealt with machinery for mines in Africa; and that he had spent two years after that in the Glendalough Lead Mine, which had been closed down, and that he could not continue working after that.
3899. You are a very busy man?—I am.
3900. Do not take exception to this: you have a lot of irons in the fire?—I have.
3901. How had you time to go down with a pickaxe and a hammer wandering around looking for gold in Wicklow?— Because I have very good people in association with me in the various enterprises I am in, which enables me to go around without having to do manual labour or book-keeping or anything of that nature. My week-ends are my own.
3902. When was the shaft sunk that Senator Comyn referred to?—I can only give the information from what I have from Mr. Norman. The shaft was started and sunk about the beginning of May, 1933, because I have a telegram from Mr. Norman saying: “Work abandoned. Any manual pump useless. Please communicate.”
3903. Is that from Mr. Norman?—Yes. That is his telegram.
3904. That was the shaft sunk by the Irish Boring Company?—A shaft is not a boring. It is an excavation. We made an excavation about two yards square. A boring is a matter of five or seven inches.
3905. The shaft was sunk in May, 1933?—Yes.
3906. Was any new shaft sunk from the 1st of November, 1934, until Heiser came along in March, 1935?—No.
3907. You and Senator Comyn issued a statement to the Press after this matter was raised in the Dáil?—Yes.
3908. You signed that statement?— Yes.
3909. In that statement you purport to give an account of your transactions in connection with this gold mine? —Yes.
3910. Having stated in the first paragraph the results of your prospecting you continue as follows:—
“We thereupon applied for a ߢtake-noteߣ or prospecting lease, as was open to any citizen of Saorstát Eireann, and were granted the usual two-year ‘take-note’ or prospecting lease at the dead rent of £5 and a royalty of 4 per cent., the highest yet charged by the State.”
“We sank a shaft to determine the depth of auriferous gravel and made surveys so as to determine the total quantity available.”
Anyone reading the statement issued by you and Senator Comyn could only form one conclusion, that you sank the shaft and made surveys after you had got the lease; the fact being that you had done nothing of the sort?—After we made the application we made a shaft and got calculations.
3911. I directed your attention to this, that you told me you sunk a shaft in May, 1933. I put it to you that there is only one interpretation to be put upon it, that after you got the lease on the 1st November, 1934, you sunk a shaft “to determine the depth of auriferous gravel and made surveys.” I put it to you that that is an incorrect statement? —My only answer is to repeat what Senator Comyn stated. Lawyers can distort anything. That was not our intention or meaning.
3912. I am not putting questions to you as to the capacity or incapacity of lawyers to distort a statement. I am putting it that the plain ordinary man reading the statement issued by you after this was raised in the Dáil, could only come to one conclusion, that after you got the lease you sunk a shaft, the fact being that you did neither one nor the other. “We thereupon applied for a take-note or prospecting lease” and “sank a shaft”? —I am not responsible for your paraphrasing of a statement of ours. I am only responsible for my own paraphrasing. I made a statement that we sank a shaft, made borings, and did surveys. We did that as an actual fact, and it will not be denied.
3913. Do you deny the interpretation I put upon it, that you did neither one nor the other?—Of course I deny it.
3914. I put it to you, to put it no further, that that is a misleading statement? —We will not agree upon that.
3915. You made a statement about Professor Holman, and about the deposit containing gold to the value of £17,000,000?—I did not say anything of the kind.
3916. I am talking about what you said in the statement issued to the Press, in which you said: “We informed Mr. Harrison that we would not allow our names to be associated with the flotation of any public company”?—Is that denied?
3917. That is not the paragraph I want to refer to. This is it:
“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.”
Do you not see, by putting in that statement, that it conveyed to the public reading it, that a very eminent professor and a very eminent mining engineer had made a report that the gold deposits in this area were worth £17,000,000?—You had Senator Comyn’s answer to that yesterday, and I subscribe to it as being an accurate statement.
3918. Tell me in your own words what you subscribed to. What do you think of that statement?—Exactly what it says.
3919. That Professor Holman had made a report that the gold deposits were worth £17,000,000?—No, nothing of the kind; that Mr. Harrison said the basis of his company was on the report from two eminent experts, Mr. Dunn and Professor Holman, that there was £17,000,000 worth of gold in the place.
3920. On the basis that it was worth £17,000,000?—That it had £17,000,000 worth of gold deposits.
3921. Is it your suggestion that Mr. Harrison said there was £17,000,000 worth of gold deposits?—He does not deny it.
3922. Although Professor Holman does? —I have a letter in which Mr. Harrison definitely confirms it.
3923. Several newspapers did not wish to face libel actions about this?—One newspaper.
3924. Which one?—The Northern Whig.
3925. What about the Express?—An apology was read out yesterday which the newspapers have not published.
3926. Whatever interpretation is put on it, the net result was that several newspapers apologised for publishing that statement?—No, one.
3927. The Northern Whig and the Irish Press?—No.
3928. Deputy Costello.—Did not the Irish Press publish a form of apology?
Deputy Dowdall.—I think you are in error. A letter was sent here asking for permission to publish an apology. It was not published.
3929. Deputy Costello.—It was never published by the Irish Press?—No.
Deputy Dowdall.—That is my impression. They submitted to the Committee a form of reply or apology.
Witness.—I hope they published the apology.
3930. Deputy Costello.—What?—The apology you are talking about.
Deputy Dowdall.—I may not be correct about this.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—What did the Irish Press want it for except to publish it?
Deputy Dowdall.—I think they did not. That is my recollection.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You read the Irish Press more than I do.
3931. Deputy Costello.—I read yesterday for the Committee a quotation from the official report of the proceedings of September 3rd. It is in a letter from Messrs Little, O hUadhaigh and Proud, to Mr. Christie:—
“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 clients’ 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 this document was then read by the Committee, it being stated that it was intended to publish it.
Deputy Dowdall.—I do not think it was published. I am only giving my recollection.
Witness.—There is no suggestion that we apologised. We did not say the statement was never made. We say it was made.
3932. Deputy Costello.—Whether Mr. Harrison made the statement or not, or whether the report intended to convey that Professor Holman had made such a report, the fact is, arising out of the document you published, several newspapers had to apologise?—That is not correct.
3933. Very well. The documents are there?—One paper published an apology and the others have not published anything yet.
3934. You heard Senator Comyn explain his point of view yesterday on the subject of a public and a private company?—Yes.
3935. I listened to your answer to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney as to what took place between you and Heiser at this interview. You say that not one single word was discussed about a public or a private company at this interview? —Heiser said definitely that he represented people who had money and were prepared to put it in. Senator Comyn gave you his view and it was corroborated subsequently by Mr. D’Arcy, who was present at the discussion and the fixing of the agreement. We are all perfectly clear in our minds that there was never any suggestion that we would permit the flotation of a public company.
3936. I put it to you again, that during the entire of the negotiations between you and Heiser, there was no suggestion whatever expressly made— shall we put it that way?—that a public company was not to be formed?—There was never any discussion about anything but the money to be put up by himself and his friends.
3937. Was there any discussion with reference to a public or a private company?—We never discussed a public company.
3938. Was Mr. Cox acting for you and Comyn at the time of the negotiations for the sub-lease?—No.
3939. Had you any solicitor acting for you?—No.
3940. I think you read a letter from Mr. Cox to Mr. McGrath, who was acting for Heiser?—That was subsequently.
3941. So that the entire transaction was carried out by Mr. McGrath, the solicitor on behalf of Heiser?—Mr. D’Arcy and Senator Comyn were present and I considered we were sufficiently ably represented.
3842. By Senator Comyn?—By Senator Comyn and Mr. D’Arcy.
3943. I entirely agree. On March 10th you met Heiser?—I do not know the date.
3944. I take it from my diary that Tuesday was the 12th and Sunday March 10th?—I accept that.
3945. So that the whole transaction was to be completed inside two days?— Yes.
3946. And a proposition, from being a “dud” proposition, suddenly developed into a very valuable one?—Who said it was “dud”?
3947. I am suggesting it was?—I do not agree with you.
3948. It was so unvaluable in your eyes, both monetarily and technically, that on Saturday, March 9th, it was worth nothing, but on Sunday, March the 10th, it become potentially worth £10,000 and royalties, and on Tuesday it actually become worth more?—That is not so. You are aware no doubt that Mr. D’Arcy said we were already looking for experts to prospect the place with a view to assisting us in getting it developed?
3949. With, as he told us yesterday, the utmost suspicion about the whole transaction?—I do not know that he said the utmost suspicion.
3950. Perhaps that is too strong an expression?—Well, I do not think his opinion of me would warrant him in talking that attitude.
3951. I am not saying anything about his opinion of you, but I am saying that his attitude towards the transaction as a commercial proposition was one of the utmost suspicion?—I do not think he used the word “suspicion.”
3952. He did not. I am putting that interpretation upon it-that he would have nothing to do with the gold mine?— Exactly—because he knew nothing about it.
3953. That is the position, is it not? On Tuesday, March 12th you became entitled to a property that Senator Comyn now admits to be worth £12,000, at least, and a royalty of 2¼ per cent.?—Yes.
3954. And up to that time, beyond carrying out some amateur prospecting on the job and going down with a hammer and pick on occasions, you had done nothing to make it a valuable concern?—The only answer I can make to that is that it might be said that the only thing some people have to do is to sit down and study for a few years and then get fees for their advice. I mean that that is a matter of opinion.
3955. But surely you were the merest amateur in that?—I consider that I am not an amateur now. When the mine becomes developed and becomes a success they will say: “Briscoe is a hell of a clever fellow; he knew it all the time.”
3956. Yes, clever in respect of getting a company to work the job. Would you describe yourself as a clever and expert mining engineer?—No. I never said I was, but I have some knowledge of prospecting beyond the stage of the amateur.
3958. After Mr. Heiser appeared?—No, before he appeared.
3959. If you had such knowledge yourself about the transaction, why did you not carry it on without his help?—We have carried on prospecting all the time, and we will carry it on.
3960. Is not Senator Comyn’s evidence to the effect that nothing was done between the 1st November, 1934, and the appearance of Mr. Heiser with regard to this valuable proposition in connection with the gold mine?—Nothing in the shape of work where you employed people, except to the little extent I mentioned.
3961. And except for your going down with a hammer and a pick-axe on a casual visit at week-ends, and so on?—Not casual at all. I stated, and I state again, that I have averaged from the beginning about two journeys a week. They were not casual visits. I do not mean that I went twice every week—there might be some weeks when I did not go at all—but it would average about twice a week.
3962. Well, then, on these weekly or bi-weekly trips, you were looking for all sorts of minerals besides gold?—I agree.
3963. And can you suggest to any plain, commonsense individual that going down, as on your own evidence you admit, with a pick-axe and hammer, and precious little expert knowledge, you were in a position to find anything whatever about gold, silver, iron, platinum, sulphur, and all the other things that you say came within the purview of your work on these visits?—In addition to prospecting and looking for these things, there was also this to be considered. We had found deposits in this gravel of other minerals besides gold. I tried to study as to whether we could adopt the cyanide process or the oil flotation process. It seemed, on examination, that the cyanide process would be dangerous, because of the effluence into the rivers. It would mean the poisoning of the rivers. I then tried to study the method of oil flotation, which would gather not only the gold but other minerals as well. As a matter of fact, in connection with that, I was in negotiation with the receiver for the Ochre premises in Wicklow with a view to seeing whether we could get the Ochre premises re-opened so as to adapt it for the oil flotation process. I have the correspondence here as a matter of fact.
3964. When was that going on?—That started in April, 1933.
3965. Well, now, do not you know very well that I have been asking about the period from the 1st November, 1934?—I am sorry, but I am not prepared to segregate the periods.
3966. I suggest to you that between that period of the 1st November, 1934, and the appearance of Mr. Heiser on the scene you did nothing?—We did.
3967. What did you do? You talk about oil flotation development and so on, but it now appears that that was in 1933. What did you do between the 1st November, 1934, and the appearance of Mr. Heiser on the scene?—We had then the deposit which Senator Comyn describes now as the mine, and we were trying to find means to have it developed.
3968. When?—At some time during that period.
3969. At a time when, I suggest, you had lost all interest?—I had not.
3970. You were reluctant to sign the lease, were you not?—I agree.
3971. Considerable pressure had to be brought to bear on you to sign it?—I agree.
3972. Senator Comyn says that he had to force you to sign it?—That is true.
3973. And that was all consequent upon Professor Bailey’s hint to you, his very broad hint to you, that you were wasting your time?—Exactly.
3974. That was the effect of his report? —No. His report was to the effect that the amalgam gave him certain quantities of gold contained in it. I asked him the amount of auriferous gravel that he passed through the sluice and what quantity of gold was contained in it, and he told me that there was about 5s. or 6s. worth of gold contained in the matter, and that, on that basis, if I thought we could make it pay by employing men at £1 5s. per week, or more or less, and then put a lot of money into it, we would lose money.
3975. Did he give you a written report?—Yes.
3976. Where is it?—I have not got it.
3977. I see. You have not got it. Did you pay him a fee? You say that you cannot find his report, but at any rate, whatever the report was, it depressed you so much that you would not sign the lease until Senator Comyn forced you?— Yes, and until we came to the conclusion and agreed that another means would have to be found for the working of the gold deposit.
3978. And that other means was providentially provided by the fortunate appearance of Mr. Heiser in the Gresham hotel on Sunday, 10th March?—We had endeavoured to get other people on the job.
3979. You had?—Yes.
3980. So that, from the date of getting this mining concession until Mr. Heiser appeared, you did nothing except to try to get somebody else to do the job for you that you had given an undertaking to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to do yourself?—What did I undertake to do?
3981. To prospect for and find the gold? —We did prospect, and we found it.
3982. But, according to your own evidence, you were depressed by the whole matter. You told Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that the first time you ever came in touch with Mr. Heiser was when you got the hall-porter’s message from the Gresham hotel. Is not that so?—That is right.
3983. You had never seen Mr. Heiser before?—No.
3984. But you had heard of him?—Yes.
3985. You have not yet told me when and in what circumstances you had heard of him?—I told you actually and in what circumstances I had heard of him. The local people in parts of Wicklow had mentioned to us that a Mr. Heiser, an Australian, had done some work there. Mr. Heiser was referred to in other places also, and I once saw some little brochure or document over the name of Heiser relating to such matters. I think that Mr. Hallissy’s department will have that.
3986. Deputy Moore.—Is it not probable that Senator Comyn had mentioned Mr. Heiser’s name?—Oh, yes. Senator Comyn had discussed him and, as a matter of fact, I am not sure whether or not it was Senator Comyn who showed me that document
3987. Deputy Costello.—I gathered from Senator Comyn’s evidence that the first he ever heard of Mr. Heiser was when he was asked to go down to the Gresham Hotel.
Deputy Moore.—On the other hand, I think Senator Comyn admitted, in response to some questions, that Mr. Hallissy had told him about Mr. Heiser.
Deputy Costello.—Yes, he said that he may have told him, but that was in response to some questions—and very leading questions—by one of your colleges, Deputy.
Deputy Moore.—Oh, no. They were just ordinary questions.
Deputy Costello.—I suggest that they were very leading questions.
Deputy Moore.—No, not at all.
3988. Deputy Costello.—Any way, Deputy Briscoe, your evidence is that you have a vague recollection of having heard of Mr. Heiser either from somebody in the Geological Department or from someone on the ground—some local people?— Yes.
3989. Of course, you were in touch with the Department of Industry and Commerce in regard to this matter?—No.
3990. You were not in touch with them in connection with this? Surely, you are constantly in touch with the Department of Industry and Commerce?—I am in touch with the Department as a T.D., and in the ordinary way anybody might find it necessary to be in touch with them.
3991. And, with your manifold business activities in this country, you would be constantly in touch with the Department?—From time to time.
3992. Would it be correct to say that you have been more in touch with the Department than all other Deputies?— No, I would not say that.
3993. Did you have any conversation about this area and an application for a gold mining lease with any of the officials of the Department?—The only conversation in connection with it was on the occasions when I went with Senator Comyn and Mr. Norman to apply for the appropriate papers to make the application. The only subsequent occasion was —I am speaking now of 1933—when I went up to hand him the forms, after they had been signed, to see if they were in order. Subsequent to that, I do not think I had any conversation with any official of the Department until I went to Mr. Clarke along with Senator Comyn and we reported, more or less, the arrangement which he had made with Mr. Heiser. Mr. Clarke stated that he thought it would be advisable for us to give a full report of that to the Department in writing and send a copy of the agreement we had made.
3994. Did you ever hear that Mr. Heiser, some years before, had made an application covering this very area?— I heard it from Mr. Heiser himself and from Mr. Summerfield and, I think, from Deputy McGilligan in the Dáil.
3995. Before you met Mr. Summerfield on Sunday, the 10th March, had you heard of it?—No. I never knew an application was made, as a matter of fact.
3996. When you met Mr. Heiser, were you surprised to receive such a request? —I was pleased.
3997. Naturally! And when you went down there, of course he would not tell you who had told him all about your interest in this area?—I gathered that it was from Mr. Summerfield, who was in correspondence with him. As a matter of fact, he showed me a letter from Mr. Summerfield, signed “Freddie,” saying: “Where are you? There are developments in the gold area and I think you ought to come back,” or words to that effect.
3998. In answer to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, you said that Mr. Heiser told you that he had been informed that you had a mining lease and would not say from what source he heard it?—At that time he would not.
3999. Did you press him?—No. I may say that it was just that he had a breezy manner with him. He was always referring to his attaché case and pulling out letters and documents, and saying : “Here is a letter from Freddie Summerfield,” and so on—that kind of thing. That was just his manner.
4000. And were you taken in by all that?—I was not taken in at all.
4001. You saw a good thing looming on your mining horizon?—Yes, if you like.
4002. And you were not particularly keen on all these things he was showing you?—I was.
4003. You did not care so long as he had a good sound proposition to offer?— I did care. I was very careful about the whole matter and refused to do anything until he was vouched for by some responsible local persons.
4004. Was he vouched for?—He brought Mr. Summerfield and Mr. Manus Nunan, and subsequently Mr. Smyth. I went to Mr. Smyth subsequently to ask him was he satisfied that this man was all right.
4005. When was that?—Shortly after wards.
4006. Shortly after this sub-lease to Heiser was made?—Yes.
4007. So that you had him bound hand and foot by this agreement of March, 1935, before you ascertained whether he had the money or not?—I had no reason to doubt it.
4008. But the fact is you had him bound hand and foot on the 12th March, before you made any investigation as to his financial resources?—That is not true.
4009. Is that not what you say?—I have just told you that Mr. Manus Nunan and Mr. Summerfield both vouched for the accuracy of his statements as regards his substance.
4010. You were not particularly impressed by the recommendations of Mr. Summerfield and Mr. Nunan, because subsequent to the document being signed on the 12th March, you went down to the Law Library to see Mr. Smyth?—Exactly, and I will tell you why. Because Mr. Heiser went right away for the purpose of getting machinery with the object of starting work, and this machinery did not arrive. I had some discussion with him as to how he was going to get the machinery and where he was going to get it. I pointed out to him that owing to the present position he would have to obtain a licence to import machinery from England, or he would have to pay duty, and I suggested that it might be possible to get the machinery made in Germany. He told me he had the machinery and everything ready, and he wrote to me, saying that the machinery was on the way. The machinery, however, never appeared, and there was no information about it. Then I went to Mr. Smyth and I asked him what did he know about it. I said to him: “He told us the machinery was coming, but we have no knowledge of its whereabouts. He has disappeared with our agreement, and we do not know what has happened.”
4011. But you had him under agreement. You had him bound by the agreement?— I agree. I relied on Senator Comyn to bind him.
4012. He was in such a hurry to get the agreement made that he told you he had not time to bargain with you?—That is not so. We were two whole days bargaining.
4013. Did you not say in reply to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that he said: “I have not time to be bargaining; what will you take?”?—That is so, but we spent two whole days drawing up the agreement.
4014. I am suggesting to you that two whole days is a remarkably short time to prepare such an important document?— Not when you have the services of a barrister and a solicitor at your elbow.
4015. Some people say that if you have the services of a barrister or a solicitor they are too dilatory?—In any case it was done in two days.
4016. Was it because you dispensed with the services of a solicitor that it was done with such rapidity?—No. We insisted on Heiser having an independent solicitor.
4017. You were delighted with this agreement?—I was pleased with it.
4018. I suppose you will agree with what Senator Comyn said in his evidence, that your share in this gold mine is at least worth £ 12,000?—My share?
4019. The share of the group?—The share of the group might, but not my share.
4020. You have parted with it?—I have parted with a good deal of it.
4021. I do not want to bring the names of Deputy Breen and Deputy Hayes into this, but the names have already been referred to. Would you mind telling us what portion of your interest did you part with?—Half of my interest.
4022. Senator Comyn only parted with 10 per cent.?—Evidently.
4023. I suggested it was because you thought it was a “dud” proposition that you just handed half your share to Mr. Breen?—No, I was anxious to give him every facility to get his friends to examine it with a view to developing it.
4024. You are a particularly keen business man, Mr. Briscoe?—Oh, I do not know. Some people think I am very foolish.
4025. I shall put it to you in this way. You have had very considerable experience of business transactions?—I suppose I have.
4026. And you have often been up against hard-hearted and hard-headed business men?—Business men are never ungenerous.
4027. Would you lead me to a couple of them?—I have found them so, any way.
4028. You handed half your share to Deputy Breen and Deputy Hayes merely because they were decent men and they asked you for it?—Oh, no, I did not say anything about Deputy Hayes.
4029. Why did you hand over half your share to Deputy Breen?—You have already been told by Senator Comyn.
4030. He said he only handed over 10 per cent.?—For the same reason as I gave 50 per cent. I would be delighted if the mine were a success and if they made something out of it, because no persons in this country are more deserving of any remuneration they could make out of development in this way than Deputy Hayes and Deputy Breen, because of their records in the history of this country.
4031. That is a very fine piece of rhetoric but it is no answer to my question?—That was my feeling.
4032. Is it because of your admiration for the records of these men that you handed over 50 per cent. of your interest in the mine?—No.
4033. I want to know why was it?— For the reason given by Senator Comyn. I do not know whether you want a repetition of his evidence or to catch me out over some slight difference of interpretation. I gave half of my share to Mr. Breen and I understood he was giving portion of his to Mr. Hayes.
4034. You gave half your share to Mr. Breen simply because he asked you to do so?—Yes. Mr. Breen came to me. He had been discussing the matter with Mr. Comyn and he said that he had a friend, Mr. D’Arcy, who was in touch with people who had money and who were willing to invest it in work of a development nature in Ireland. He asked me would I agree, if he could get these people interested so as to bring this thing to a head, to give him a share of my interest, and I said : “Certainly.” He said: “How much will you give me?” I said: “How much do you want.” He said: “Fifty per cent.” I said: “All right.” That ended it. He then said something to the effect: “By so-and-so, they say you are a Jewman, but Michael is the Jewman. You are not.”
4035. Would you have offered 50 per cent. of your share in this gold mine to Deputy Breen after the entry of Heiser and after making the agreement with Heiser in March, 1935?—As a matter of fact——
4036. Answer the question?—I shall answer the question the way I choose. Mr. Breen’s arrangement was made before Mr. Heiser appeared. We discussed the matter then and we both said that notwithstanding Heiser’s arrival we would like our arrangement to stand with Mr. Breen.
4037. How could you get out of it without being guilty of a particularly mean trick?—We never thought of getting out of it.
4038. But you discussed it with Mr. Comyn?—We had already passed our word to Mr. D’Arcy that we would not take any further steps without informing him, and when Mr. Heiser appeared I ’phoned to Mr. D’Arcy and I asked him if I could go ahead with the negotiations with Heiser. He said: “Go ahead, I am releasing you.”
4039. I do not consider that an answer to my question. Would you have given half your share in this gold mine after the 12th March when you entered into the agreement with Heiser?—That is if I had made no arrangement?
4040. If you had not made any arrangement with Mr. Breen beforehand would you have handed over half your share to Mr. Breen after meeting Mr. Heiser?—I do not think I would.
4041. I should think you would not and, therefore, I again suggest that the reason you were so generous was because you thought there was nothing in the whole transaction?—No, Mr. Breen did not think so.
4042. You kept Senator Comyn rather in the dark because he did not appear to know what was going on?—In regard to what transaction?
4043. In all this thing about the gold mine before you entered into the agreement with Heiser?—I did nothing without consultation with Senator Comyn.
4044. You wrote all the letters and you passed your word—I think that was the term used—to Mr. Norman, junior, about the £25?—I did.
4045. And you compromised whatever case Senator Comyn had against the Irish Boring Company?—I compromised what?
4046. Had you any correspondence with the Irish Boring Company?—I looked after the correspondence and Senator Comyn had sufficient confidence in me to allow me to conduct the correspondence. I discussed the matter with him before I sent the letters and signed them. I always told him what I proposed writing.
4047. You never showed him the correspondence?—I may not have shown him the sheets.
4048. Did you ever show him the details of expenditure?—From time to time I might meet him and I would say: “I have spent £5 in this; give me £2 10s.” Occasionally, he would meet me and say, “I want so much from you; I have spent so much.”
4049. Did he ever make any complaint about all the money laid out?—Oh, no.
4050. Did you keep in touch with Senator Comyn after Mr. Heiser came?— Absolutely.
4051. When did Mr. Harrison appear on the scene?—On the 24th May.
4052. Between the 12th March and the 24th May when Mr. Harrison appeared on the scene what had been taking place?— I was getting rather worried about what was happening. First of all, Mr. Nunan called to see Mr. Comyn and myself and he told us that the firm of Risberget was finding a difficulty in getting the particular bond we wanted, and he wanted us to accept another bond. I wrote to Risberget on the 26th March, as follows:
“Gentlemen,—Senator Comyn and I had a conversation with Mr. Manus Nunan in connection with the bond prepared by your firm. Notwithstanding the desire on your part to have such a bond prepared by an insurance company, as a result of the representations made to us by Mr. Nunan, we have decided to accept this bond. Mr. Nunan called with me to Messrs. McGrath’s office and in exchange for the bond, collected copies of the signed agreements. Both Senator Comyn and I wish you every success in the venture and we assure you that any request which Mr. Nunan may make upon us from time to time for our assistance in connection with these matters which you may require this will be readily given at all times.”
Then on the 6th April he writes:
“Your very kind letter of the 26th March to hand and fully noted contents, for which I thank you. We are preparing the blue prints for the first unit and they will be ready in a few days. Machinery will take from six to seven weeks to prepare, but as I am coming to Ireland on Wednesday or Thursday of next week, I hope to see you and discuss all details. With best personal regards to Senator Comyn, your wife and family.—Believe me to be, yours very truly.
4053. What is the date of that?—The 6th April.
4054. Were you quite satisfied that everything was all right up to that date? —I was.
4055. Did it not strike you as rather peculiar that a man who was able to put up £80,000 for a company was not able to get somebody to enter into a bond for him?—Mr. Nunan explained why, himself, and stated that the bond we wanted would not be given by the insurance company because the insurance company would actually demand a £500 premium for a £500 bond with these requirements. He wanted to know would we save them the trouble of having to put up the £500. and after representations by Mr. Nunan that it was only a formality, we said: “All right; we will not stand in your way.”
4056. Do you expect anybody to agree with that suggestion? Was it not a bond for £500?—Yes.
4057. A very small amount of money? —Yes.
4058. It would only carry a very nominal premium?—You had better get Mr. Nunan here to get his explanation of it.
4059. I am Putting to you that the agreement of the 12th March, 1935, made provision that there was to be a guarantee bond for £500, conditional upon default in carrying out the obligations contained in No. 6—that is to say, to employ a certain number of men?— Agreed.
4060. This company or syndicate, or whatever they were, who were able to put up in cash, according to you, £80,000, were not able to get a bond for £500?— You had better hear Mr. Nunan on that.
4061. I suppose the premium for that would not be £5?—Mr. Nunan states it would be £500.
4062. The premium for a £500 bond would be £500?—That is what he stated —in the circumstances.
4063. Do you accept that?—I do.
4064. You accepted that in order to get a £500 bond you had to pay a premium of £500?—I accepted Mr. Nunan’s word, and I think Senator Comyn accepted it also.
4065. If you were asked to pay an insurance company a £500 premium for a £500 bond what would you think?—I would put up the money as a deposit instead of preparing a bond. Why should I go to the trouble and expense of a bond and then put up the full amount?
4066. Would it not be a ridiculous proposition?—It would.
4067. An utterly absurd proposition?— Exactly.
4068. Why did you not say “There is something wrong here if this company cannot get somebody to give them a bond for £500?
4069. At all events, you accepted that yarn?—Yes. I accepted the bond from the company.
4070. From what company?—From the Risberget company.
4071. That is of £500?—Yes.
4072. They could not get an insurance company to give them that £500?—So Mr. Nunan said—unless they paid the whole amount.
4073. That was not evidence of very great financial stability?—I was not going to stand in their way of going ahead with their work. The six months was running out.
4074. What six months?—The six months period of the agreement.
4075. You mentioned that in your answer to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. There is no such period in the agreement?—There is.
4076. With all respect, there is not. Here is what it says:
“As evidence of good faith I agree to hand to you a guarantee bond for £500 payable to you at the expiration of six months from 15th March, 1935, conditional upon default in the carrying out of the obligations contained in No, 6.”
that is to say that if they did not actually carry out their obligation to employ a certain number of men under clause 6 the bond was to come in force? —Yes.
4077. But the agreement was not to come to an end?—Oh, yes.
4078. With great respect, I say no?— The lawyers are discussing that now.
4079. You find a great refuge in talking about the lawyers?—I do not find it any refuge at all.
4080. I am talking about the agreement as a whole. It is not for a period of six months as you suggest?—It is.
4081. I suggest to you that you are confusing the sub-lease of the 12th March, 1935, with the document which is known as a document for a mining unit, of the 20th April, 1935, containing a stipulation about termination on 15th September, 1935?—That is the six months.
4082. It is in a different document?— It refers to the main document. It shows you that our view was that the main document came to an end.
4083. Very well. It is of very minor importance?—It is the position, anyway.
4084. Let us agree to differ on that. You did not get any shock, I gather, when this substantial syndicate was unable to get a bond for £500? You went on waiting?—Exactly.
4085. And hoping?—Yes.
4086. Did you get any feelings of unease about the whole transaction?—I did.
4087. When did those feelings of unease become concrete and definite?— About the beginning of May I discussed with Mr. D’Arcy that I was beginning to think something was not right; that they were having difficulty in getting the money; that I had to see what was happening, and if I had to go to London I asked him could he put me in touch with somebody who could give me a line on those people. He mentioned Mr. Conor Carrigan. I telephoned his office and he happened to be away, so I went to see the Risberget people myself. The letter explains that what I am saying is correct. Mr. D’Arcy writes here:
“Dear Mr. Briscoe,
“I understand that you will be in London on Thursday or Friday next. I have taken the liberty of writing to a friend of mine, Mr. Conor Carrigan, of Read and Brigstock, Stockbrokers, 58 Gresham Street, London, E.C. 2, telling him you hoped to call on him. Anything you want to ask Carrigan you can safely do so, and he will treat any inquiries you make in the strictest confidence. He personally may not know anything of Heiser, but I am almost certain he will be sure to be able to put you on the right track. He is a great personal friend of mine since he was a boy, as his father before him. I will possibly see you in Dublin the week after next.
“JAMES F. D’ARCY.”
I went to London but I could not see Mr. Carrigan. I then decided to call and see the Risberget people. I called there and I got on to a Mr. Dick Larkam, who brought me to Mr. Heiser, and then the two of them brought me to Mr. Melkman. Then five or six other people turned up, and were all introduced as members of the syndicate. Mr. Heiser telephoned to Sir Harry Brittain, whom I also met. He assured me that all was absolutely all right, and not to worry. Subsequently on the 17th May, Mr. Heiser writes and says:—
“I am pleased to be able to advise you that we are making very good headway in our efforts to finance the Risberget operations. As stated to you when you were here, we wish to start the first actual mining operations on the Wicklow lease. We are far enough advanced to believe that by the end of this coming week we shall be able to give you definite advice as to the approximate time when you may expect us to actually have the first unit in transit. We have all our data complete now as regards the equipment required.
“I just thought I would send you these few lines to keep you posted, and I would also say that the American financial people whom I mentioned to you arrive in Europe on Saturday, and that I am in touch with them by wireless on the steamer in connection with an early meeting.
“Please convey to Senator Comyn and all our other mutual friends my best greetings. With kindest regards from myself and Mr. Melkman.
“I beg to remain, dear Mr. Briscoe,
“M. E. HEISER.”
4088. Did that comfort you?—It did.
4089. Did it strike you as being very peculiar that you should be told in May that they were making good headway in their efforts to finance the mining operations?—No.
4090. Those people had told you, according to your evidence and Senator Comyn’s evidence, that they had £80,000 in cash available in March?—Oh, not at all. The men who had the cash available were the men who sent over Mr. Dunn, and it depended on Mr. Dunn’s report to them as to whether the syndicate would put up this money or not.
4091. You see the significance of the question I put to you?—I see perfectly well the significance of your question.
4092. And the letter you read out says that they are making good headway in their efforts to finance those operations?— Yes.
4093. In May?—Yes.
4094. The people who actually had it available in cash in March?—Yes.
4095. And the American financial people are referred to there?—Yes.
4096. Who are they? Did it strike you as peculiar that they appealed for the first time on the scene?—Not for the first time.
4097. It is the first time we have heard of them on this Committee?—He mentioned the names of all kinds of people as his friends who were going to put up this money, and amongst them were the Americans?
4098. Who are the Americans?—I do not know. I did not bother my head about them.
4099. Did you bother your head about the Greek magnate?—No.
4100. So we had Greeks and Americans interested in this job?—Mr. Harrison stated that he had.
4101. And although he had Greeks, Americans and English people interested in the job on 12th March, 1935, it took him from 12th March until the beginning of May to be in a position to assure you that he was making headway in his efforts to finance the transaction?—That was his explanation.
4102. And you did not think anything peculiar about that letter?—No. I was more reassured. I had been thinking peculiarly before that.
4103. So far from increasing your anxiety about the matter, that letter comforted you and gave you a feeling of greater security about the whole transaction?—I would not say security. It gave me a feeling of greater satisfaction that he was going on with his arrangement.
4104. That letter directed your attention specifically to the fact that he had not got the financial resources available even in May?—He told us that when Dunn came over. We asked him what Mr. Dunn was over for, and he told us the very same thing.
4105. What did he tell you?—What Senator Comyn told you yesterday—that his friends did not want to put up the money for this venture without getting another expert opinion; that they had sent over Mr. Dunn to get this expert opinion confirmed by Mr. Dunn, and that it was on the basis of his report they would put up the money.
4106. Do you suggest that that letter which you have just read bears the interpretation that the money would not be put up until the mining engineer had given a satisfactory report?—I do.
4107. Is not the only possible interpretation of that letter the fact that they had not got the money at all, whether or not there was a mining engineer’s report? —I might say that, prior to this, friction had developed in this way: when Mr. Dunn was down at Woodenbridge the question arose about our altering the agreement to the name of Crusade Prospectors. Heiser had also indicated to us that he wished to form a syndicate for further leases, which we refused to have anything to do with. He subsequently, or about that time, registered a business with Mr. Summerfield, Mr. Smyth and Mr. Nunan, as the Irish Prospectors, Limited, a company for the purpose of acquiring leases, and certain friction arose. You will remember that the 25th April was the date of our letter to the Department. There was a certain amount of—on my part, anyway—dissatisfaction. I was beginning to wonder what they were playing at.
4108. With great respect, I think all that is not an answer to the suggestion I am making to you. Your statement and Senator Comyn’s statement here to the Committee were that the agreement of the 12th March, 1935, was made on the representation that £80,000 in cash was then available?—Definitely.
4109. And in May you got that letter which you have just read, clearly indicating that the cash was not available, and so far from increasing your uneasiness, it comforted you and gave you a feeling of great satisfaction?—Yes—a certain amount of reassurance.
4110. How long did that feeling of reassurance last?—Until Mr. Harrison arrived.
4111. When was that?—On 24th May.
4112. And the date of that letter from Heiser, which you have been discussing, was 17th May?—Yes.
4113. So that you were left in peace for only seven days?—Yes.
4114. Then when Mr. Harrison arrived on the scene he got in touch with you?— We got this letter saying that a financial friend from Belfast was arriving, and asking us to meet him.
4115. Who is that letter from?—It is from Heiser; at least, it is signed “N. Campbell Lee.” It is from Risberget. This is the letter of the 23rd May:
“This is to let you know that Mr. Heiser intends to arrive in Dublin on Sunday morning next. He is having a financial associate come over from Belfast in the afternoon, and he hopes you will be able to go to the Gresham hotel on Sunday morning at 8.30, so that his friend may meet you and Mr. Comyn.”
4116. You attended at the Gresham Hotel and had the interview of which Senator Comyn has given an account here in his evidence?—Yes.
4117. Was that the first time you had met Harrison?—It was the first time I had heard of or met him.
4118. Was he introduced to you by Heiser as a financial associate?—He was introduced as Mr. Harrison. There then followed the discussion which Mr. Comyn mentioned here yesterday.
4119. And did Senator Comyn give a correct account of the interview that took place?—Absolutely.
4120. Then Senator Comyn went away, he told us. You parted from Mr. Harrison?—Oh, yes.
4121. When did you next see him?— Next morning.
4122. What took place between you and Mr. Harrison?—On the previous evening Mr. Harrison had made a very peculiar remark. He said: “May be there is no gold mine there either.” He said to Heiser: “You sold me something which you had not got. There may be no gold mine there either. Perhaps I had better go and see if there is one.” He asked us to drive him down to see the place. I arranged with Mr. Breen and Mr. Hayes to go down with Harrison and Heiser next day
4123. Did you go down?—Yes.
4124. Leaving Senator Comyn behind you?—Senator Comyn knew about the arrangement and suggested that I go.
4125. His evidence yesterday was that that was the only interview he ever had with Harrison?—It was.
4126. And that at that interview he repudiated definitely and finally any dealings whatever with Harrison or with the proposed company?—That is right.
4127. And although Senator Comyn had repudiated Harrison you proceeded down with Harrison next day to the gold mine?—He suggested there in the presence of Harrison that I go with him.
4128. Who did?—Senator Comyn.
4129. But the evidence of Senator Comyn yesterday was that he would have nothing to do with it?—If you call for his evidence you will find that what I say is correct.
4130. Did you not hear him state and reiterate that at one and only interview he had with Harrison he refused to have anything to do with the proposition put up?—Senator Comyn and I both made it abundantly clear to Mr. Harrison that we would have nothing to do with a public company.
4131. Did not Senator Comyn make it definitely clear to Mr. Harrison that he would have nothing to do with him or his proposition?—I do not remember him saying that.
4132. At any rate whatever he said you went down next day with him, why?— Senator Comyn suggested that Mr. Harrison expressed a wish to see the gold mine and that I should drive him down.
4133. If he had suggested that there was no gold mine, and if he and his proposals about a Company were repudiated, what was the use of his going to see the gold mine?—We went down.
4134. You went down to show him the gold mine?—Yes.
4135. Was he delighted?—He was very impressed.
4136. How long did he stay?—He left that night and went back to London …
4137. When did you next see him?— I received a telephone message after Mr. McGilligan had made his statement in the Dáil that he wanted to see me and Senator Comyn, and that as he was rushed for time, he was flying from Manchester to Belfast, and he asked if I could possibly get him an aeroplane to bring him to Dublin. I had the aeroplane sent to Belfast to meet him. There was some slight delay as he was not in the first hotel that the pilot went to.
4138. That was the interview that Mr. D’Arcy told us of yesterday?—Yes.
4139. Was not that in May before Deputy McGilligan raised the question? —It was shortly after the question was raised.
4140. Mr. D’Arcy, I think, put the date of the interview with Mr. Harrison on his arrival by aeroplane at the end of May?—I do not think so.
4141. I looked it up with a view to seeing was it before Mr. McGilligan had raised the matter, and I put that to Mr. D’Arcy.
Deputy Moore.—I think Mr. Darcy said he believed Mr. McGilligan had raised it.
Deputy Costello.—I put the question to Mr. D’Arcy in order to fix the date and he left me under the impression that there was trouble brewing then and that the matter had been raised in the Dáil.
4142. Witness.—Senator Comyn refused to see Mr. Harrison, and advised me to have no discussion with him except in the presence of Mr. Cox. Mr. Cox very kindly came to his office at 12 o’clock that night and a conversation took place between Mr. Harrison and Mr. Cox. I was not present. In view of that conversation I understood from Mr. Cox that he preferred not to have any dealing with Mr. Harrison except through his solicitor. Mr. Harrison got into touch with D. & T. Fitzgerald, his solicitors, and after that conversation with Mr. Cox they agreed that in view of the impending inquiry it would be better to have no discussion whatever.
4143. Can you give me the date of that?—I could not give the date. I could not even give you the date of Mr. McGilligan’s charges if you asked me. But it was certainly after the Inquiry was to be set up.
4144. Let us leave that point for the moment; nothing very much turns on it? —You can get the date from Mr. Cox.
4145. If you have a note from Mr. Cox it probably will have the date. Whatever the date, you had no interview with Mr. Harrison between that and the day you brought him to see the gold mine?— No communication or interview.
4146. As far as you knew his interest in it was at an end?—Senator Comyn advised me to have no conversation with him.
4147. Between the date that you had shown Mr. Harrison the gold mine and the date he flew from Belfast and arrived in Dublin, had you any communication with him?—None whatever.
4148. According to Senator Comyn he definitely repudiated him as a person in the transaction?—He repudiated the transaction.
4149. Were you surprised when Mr. Harrison produced this ready-made prospectus?—Yes.
4150. Already printed and dated the 26th June. That is the reason why the date is of some significance. That prospectus was issued long after Mr. McGilligan had raised the question in the Dáil?—Not long—a week or ten days.
4151. I regard that as of some length in this transaction. It was the 26th June and I suggest this interview was before the 26th June?—That is not true.
4152. Mr. D’Arcy said it was somewhere towards the end of May?—I certainly say it was after Mr. McGilligan made his allegation, and I am corroborating that by informing you of what happened that evening.
4153. After you had that interview with Harrison, did you see Heiser again? —I had not spoken to him after that.
4154. I am bringing you back now to the date of the interview with Harrison in the Gresham. Did you say to Heiser what about carrying out your agreement? —No; I had ceased to speak to him. We travelled to Wicklow in different cars.
4155. What brought about that rupture?—His going to London and selling something that was not his.
4156. You travelled to see the gold mine with Mr. Heiser?ߞNo. He came down in Deputy Breenߣs car.
4157. Was that because you would have nothing further to do with him? Did you tell him on the 24th May you would have nothing further to do with him in view of what you discovered?— Mr. Harrison told me that if Heiser was brought down he did not wish to have any private conversation with Heiser.
4158. He was out with Heiser, too?— I want to correct something. I said we went to Wicklow and that is perfectly correct. I brought Harrison to the Gresham and he met Smyth in the afternoon.
4159. What afternoon was this?—The afternoon after the arrival of Mr. Harrison.
4160. That was Sunday the 24th?—No. The following day after his arrival by aeroplane.
4161. I am not talking about that. I am talking of the date when Harrison arrived with Heiser. Did you have a talk with him?—Yes.
4162. Next day you went with him to the gold mine?—No, he went in a separate car.
4163. At any rate you went in the same party to the gold mine?—Yes.
4164. Harrison had a row with Heiser? Yes.
4165. The whole lot of you went to see the gold mine although you were all out with each other?—No. I was not out with Harrison, or with Breen.
4166. When you came back from the gold mine, Harrison said: “Do not leave me alone with Heiser or bring him to the boat”?—Yes, that is right, but I want to correct a misstatement I made. I stated we did not then see Heiser, but Heiser also came to the boat with Mr. Smyth to see Harrison off, but Harrison spoke to me the whole way, and refused to speak to Heiser. Subsequent to that I had a conversation with Mr. Smyth.
4167. Harrison brought you as a protection against having to talk to Heiser, but who was to protect him from talking to Heiser on the boat?—Heiser remained in Dublin.
4168. Did Heiser bring Smyth to protect himself?—I do not know.
4169. The next thing was that on his arrival by aeroplane he produced this prospectus in which he proposes to give £10,000 in cash to the man he would not speak to a week before?—It is in the proposal.
4170. The next interview you had with Harrison was on an occasion when he produced the document to you that contained a proposal to give £10,000 in cash to Mr. Heiser, who is described by Harrison as a well-known mining, engineer; he was to give this to a man to whom he would not talk a few days before?—When I saw the prospectus, the first thing I noticed was Heiser’s name as a proposed director, and I said: “How is it that you have a person on your Board, who would attempt to do what Heiser has attempted to do?” and he said: “Heiser is no longer associated with me; this is a draft prospectus, draft No. 2.”
4171. We do not know anything about that. Harrison, whom you describe as an outstandingly honest man, proposes to make Heiser a director, and give him £10,000 in cash, and this is the very person to whom he would not speak a few days before?—He explained that that was drawn up long before he knew of the situation.
4172. Do not mind what the situation was after Mr. McGilligan’s allegation?— It is Heiser’s allegation.
4173. This was drawn up before May, you say?—Yes.
4174. And bears the imprint 26th June? —I had no hand, act or part in it except that he produced it that afternoon.
4175. In what circumstances?—Mr. Harrison said “we have got this far.”
4176. “You had got this far,” said he producing this?—No, that he had got this far.
4177. He had got this far in connection with the flotation of a company for a quarter of a million pounds with a man he repudiated weeks before?—He explained that was a second proof drawn up before the rift with Heiser.
4178. You are getting away from it now?—I am not.
4179. How could it be drawn up before May, and only printed in June?—Mr. Harrison is ready to come here, and perhaps you could ask him.
4180. I am not in the least interested in Mr. Harrison?—But you are asking me to answer for him.
4181. I understood you repudiated this suggestion of quarter of a million pounds company. Now you say Mr. Harrison said: “We have got this far”?—He got the length of forming the company without having been repudiated.
Chairman.—It is now half-past one. Our next meeting will be Tuesday, at 3 o’clock.
Deputy Moore.—Could we arrange to finish with Mr. Briscoe on Tuesday afternoon. If we only meet from 3 to 6 we lose a whole day and only get three hours’ value. I suggest it be understood that we sit from three to half-past five, meet again at seven and sit till half-past nine.
Deputy Costello.—Let us say three to six next Tuesday.
Chairman.—If we require any other witnesses it will be well to fix the names now.
Deputy Costello.—The only witness I want is Mr. Norman, junior.
Chairman.—There is a letter from that gentleman in which he indicates he will be in Dublin from the 2nd October. There is also a request from Mr. Summerfield to be allowed to give evidence.
Deputy Costello.—In what respect?
Chairman.—He says, in view of the way his name was used in evidence, already given, he would be glad for an early opportunity to deal with the statements made, and to give such other evidence as may be regarded as of any assistance.
Deputy Moore.—I suggest that when Mr. Briscoe’s evidence is finished and also Mr. Norman’s, we can consider in private what other witnesses we want.
Chairman.—I think we have agreed to finish with Mr. Briscoe on Tuesday. Mr. Norman will be in Dublin on Tuesday and will be here from the 2nd October. I take it it is agreed that we will call Mr. Norman at 11 o’clock on Wednesday.
Deputy Costello.—It is necessary for me to know how I will stand the week after next. Up to now I have given my whole time, and I am prepared to sit all next week if necessary, but I want to know where I am after that.
Deputy Moore.—I am in the same position, but I think we should not decide publicly what witnesses are required. I think it would be almost preferable to adjourn for a week or so rather than call witnesses in this haphazard way. Then if we want particular witnesses we can send for them.
Chairman.—It is a matter for the Committee to decide what witnesses they require. We are not obliged to hear witnesses merely because they desire to give evidence.
Deputy Moore.—I have no objection to Mr. Summerfield, but other names were mentioned also. The only reason he puts forward is because his name was mentioned, but many other names were mentioned.
Chairman.—We have witnesses for Tuesday and Wednesday and we need not do anything further now as to other witnesses until after that.
Deputy Costello.—I think, in view of the suggestions made by Mr. Summerfield he should be given an opportunity of coming here and giving evidence. I suggest that we reserve next Wednesday for Mr. Norman and Mr. Summerfield.
The Committee adjourned at 1.35 p.m. to Tuesday, October 1, 1935.