Wednesday 21 February 2018

Irish villain whose home became one of the country's most haunted houses now has new play based on his life

Sir Henry
Sir Henry
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

AN IRISH villain whose home became one of the country's most haunted houses now has a new play based on his dissolute and violent life.

Sir Henry Browne Hayes became one of the most notorious figures of 18th Century Ireland and a popular Halloween villain in Cork.

The son of a wealthy Cork miller and brewer, he devoted his life to drinking and gambling

Despite this, his well-connected friends ensured that he was knighted and then became Sheriff of Cork.

Sir Henry
Sir Henry

However, he earned lasting notoriety when, in 1797, he decided to solve his financial problems by kidnapping a pretty heiress, Mary Pike (21), and forcing her to marry him so he could claim her fortune.

The young woman was kidnapped in the Glanmire area and taken to Browne Hayes's home at Vernon Mount in Cork.

She was rescued but, legend has it, suffered bouts of madness for the rest of her life over what happened.

Irish and British society was shocked by the crime. Browne Hayes was eventually captured but avoided being executed

despite the fact it was commonplace for people to be hanged for stealing anything more valuable than an apple.

He was sent as a convict to Australia though he later managed to make his way back to Ireland, even surviving a shipwreck.

Pictured: The fire at Mount Vernon (Photo: Twitter/@higginskev)
Pictured: The fire at Mount Vernon (Photo: Twitter/@higginskev)

His Cork home, Vernon Mount, was gutted in an arson attack last year - destroying priceless works of art.

However, it was reputed to rank as amongst the most haunted buildings in Ireland alongside Loftus Hall in Wexford.

Locals said the villa - named in honour of US President George Washington - was haunted by the spirit of Mary Pike.

Now, talented Cork composers Alan Kiely and Kevin Connolly, working with former RTE head of music, Cathal McCabe, have put music to a play entitled 'Sir Henry'.

Directed by Ann Dunne and Anne Egan, the play will be staged - in full period costume - at the Riverside Park in Macroom, Co Cork from October 27 to November 5.

Sir Henry
Sir Henry

Mr McCabe said 'Sir Henry' is along the lines of an Andrew Lloyd Webber production with a fascinating central story.

"It had to be written to suit the characters singing it. It has been a challenge but these guys do it brilliantly. I’m astounded by the level of song writing and the music is genuinely attractive, as is the set," he said.

“The fact that this is a local story about a local villain is extremely important. People are playing their own ancestors."

"The places they will bring us to are still there today. Moving it to the city would be a challenge but the purpose-built stage in Macroom is a similar size to The Everyman so that is a possibility – but you just couldn’t transplant it without taking into account the stage size and lighting."

“It is a fascinating story. Sir Henry is a complete bastard. He has no redeeming features whatsoever. But like Mozart’s Don Giovanni and a particular politician who stands out in Irish history, people still like him,” Mr McCabe added.

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