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Julie's Irish relative 'set-up for murder'

JULIE Walters was stunned to discover her radical Irish great grandfather was briefly in jail on a "trumped-up" murder charge because he had fought against land eviction.

In the upcoming series of Who Do You Think You Are?, the Calendar Girls actress is taken aback by a police report from 1884 alleging that her mother's maternal grandfather, Anthony Clarke, had run around with a knife and caused serious injury to a 75-year-old taxi driver called James Joyce who died days later.

But it emerged in the show that the Mayo tenant farmer - who had been on a list of Land League leaders wanted by the British for speaking out against evictions - had the charges dropped as he had only exchanged words with the driver.

In the BBC1 show, Walters told of her deep pride in her great grandfather, who was one of the first members of the Land League formed in 1879 which campaigned for more than 40 years for impoverished tenant farmers to have the right to own their own land.

"I'm so relieved he didn't murder anyone. Anthony Clarke, I have to write a script about him. What a life he has had," she said.

LEGACY

"One of the great sadnesses of this story is that Anthony Clarke died without being able to buy his land which he had fought for for 40 years, but his legacy is far greater than that bit of land. He changed history here.

"A man I have obviously never met and knew nothing about, that I can feel so involved with him."

The murder charge was reduced to common assault and the case dismissed as there was no evidence of a knife or knife wounds. The inquest concluded that the driver died from natural causes.

Historian Dr Heather Laird said Clarke, who had recently returned to Westport from a fund-raising trip to America, was simply targeted by the authorities.

"What is interesting is that if there was an injury, it would be reported at the inquest," she said.

"What the witnesses say is James Joyce was driving through the town and Anthony Clarke crosses over and says something. We know already they had wanted to imprison him and clearly the charges have to be viewed in terms of that."

hnews@herald.ie


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