Ahead of the day that’s in it, I greatly enjoyed this article from the Wexford People of Saturday 23 June 1888. Thanks to Allen Foster for referring me to the hoax in the first place.
PRACTICAL JOKING AT SANDYCOVE.
A stupid, silly, and unfeeling hoax was played on Monday last at the expense of General Rice, 2, Bayswater-terrace, Sandycove-road, Bullock [Dublin], and several of the leading merchants both of Kingstown [Dun Laoghaire] and Dublin.
It appears that during Sunday and Monday mornings several funeral proprietors, hirers of floats and furniture vans, wine merchants, grocers, all sorts of provision dealers, builders, plumbers, shoemakers, barbers, chimney sweepers, &c., received instructions, either by letter or post-card, all bearing the Kingstown post-office mark, to call at General Rice’s residence on Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock, and the consequence was that at about that hour might be seen crowding round Bayswater-terrace vans from Brooks Thomas’s with mirrors; from Mansfield’s, Grafton-street, with dressing cases, &c.; from Keating’s, Dame-street, with paints and decorations; from Sibthorpe’s, Dockrell’s, Henshaw’s, Edmondson’s, and Fry’s, while a dray from Boland’s, Grand Canal-street, brought a sack of flour; Cramer, Wood, & Co. sent a large van with a piano ; Sweetman’s sent a dray with two barrels of porter, and Cantrell and Cochrane sent a load of mineral waters.
The 2 o’clock train from Kingstown could not accommodate all that wished to travel on it, and all bound for No. 2, Bayswater-terrace. Young ladies from several of the fashionable shops also came on the scene, prepared to give the finishing touches to toilets for a picnic party that did not come off.
By this time a large crowd had assembled from Dalkey, Glasthule and Kingstown, and some good-humoured banter took place at the expense of the disappointed parties, some of whom took the joke very badly, while others seemed to enjoy it immensely. Two chimney sweeps, who arrived early on the scene, had a rough-and-tumble-fight as to which of them had been sent for, but a constable informed them of the joke, when both laughed heartily.
A barber came dressed up to kill, with a large expanse of shirt-front, and huge collars and cuffs; he nimbly tripped-up the steps of No. 2, and gave a gingerly tap to the knocker, after which he kept washing his hands with imaginary soap until the door was opened, and he was informed how matters stood, when he instantly collapsed. The information seemed to have taken the starch out of him completely, and he wended his way home quite limp, a sadder, but probably not much a wiser man.
Hearses and mourning-coaches also arrived, having received letters worded as follows : “General Rice wishes to have a hearse and mourning-coach sent to his residence on Monday at 2 o’clock sharp, to have a coffin removed to the railway station. Please send bill at same time. ” 2, Bayswater-terrace, June. 1888. “To Messrs. Waller & Son.”
The post-cards ordering vans and floats were thus worded : “General Rice wishes Mr. Meehan to send two vans at 2 o’clock on Monday to convey some furniture to Rathmines. 2, Bayswater-terrace, June, 1888.”
Others were:— “General Rice requires barber to shave and cut hair, &c.” Mr. _____ will please wait upon General Rice at 2 o’clock on Monday.”
The provisions ordered were of many kinds, and the wines of every vintage. It was rumoured that several of the Dalkey shopkeepers were also favoured with orders, but on making inquiries of them, they all denied receiving any instruction to forward goods to Bayswater.
General Rice declined to give any information in the matter further than that he had received over a hundred telegrams and post-cards during the morning. He was quite at a loss to understand why he should have been so treated as he had never done any harm or injury to any person, and was at peace with all his neighbours.
The Kingstown Commissioners also received a post-card from the perpetrator of the hoax, asking them to have General Rice’s ashpit cleaned in the afternoon, a request, however, which could not be complied with, as this sort of work is only done in the township early in the morning.
It is generally believed that General Rice can lay his hand upon those who played the nonsensical joke. If so, we hope he will not spare the hard-hearted wretches who perpetrated such a scurvy trick upon, amount others, poor, industrious float owners, and as the Star Chamber clauses of the Coercion Act are now in force in the County Dublin it is open to those who run that act not to be slow in using those clauses for the purpose of finding out and punishing the well-dressed ruffians of the law and order class, who think it no crime to put people to expense and worry for the purpose of gratifying, probably, some private spleen. If the powers that befail to take advantage of these clauses now it will be farther proof—if proof were neceesrry—to convince us that Coercion was passed for one class only of the people of Ireland.