Friday 24 November 2017

Three shocking crimes in Ireland's history that you have probably never heard of

Courthouse in Tipperary (Inset: A cut-out from 'Hue and Cry')
Courthouse in Tipperary (Inset: A cut-out from 'Hue and Cry')
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

From the serious crimes of murder and embezzlement to the more bizarre offences of stone-throwing and ferret-stealing - crime in the 1800s in Ireland was certainly a different story to the 21st century.

Assault was the most common crime in the country, with 28,353 cases reported over a 32-year period from 1863-1893, while 'breaking of license conditions' racked up 28,092 cases and theft hit 23,345 incidences.

And murders during the Victoria era were a whopping seven times higher than the present day.

Information on wanted criminals, types of crimes committed, rewards offered and missing people were all included in the 'Hue and Cry' - the official publication of the Royal Irish Constabulary which operated in Ireland from 1814-1922.

Now, a collection of 'Hue and Cry' records spanning 32 years have been made available online by

Here are three of the most notable crimes from 1800s' Ireland that you may not have heard of:

The Phoenix Park Murders 1882

On 6 May 1882 Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke were fatally stabbed in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Cavendish was the newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland at the time, and Burke was the most senior civil servant, a position known as the Permanent Undersecretary.

The duo were assassinated by four men in the evening of May 6, between 7 and 8pm.

It was believed the murders were carried out by a radical splinter group of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, known as the Irish National Invincibles.

A description of the men wanted for murder at the time read; "1. About 35 years old, stout make, dark complexion, hair, whiskers, and moustache recently clipped, so as to give a bristling appearance, narrow forehead, natural hollow or dinge on bridge of nose, wore a soft black jerry hat and dark clothes.

"2. About 30 years, sandy hair, whiskers, moustache, brown faded coat, as if much exposed to the sun, soft black jerry hat."

The third suspect was described as; "About 20 years, small dark moustache, no whiskers, soft black hat and dark clothes", while the fourth was described as; "About 30 years, sandy hair and moustache, beard on chin, wore dark clothes and soft black hat."

The advertisement, which offered a massive £10,000 sterling to a person who came forward with information, continued:

"The height cannot be given of any, all being sitting on an outside car, driven by  aman between 35 and 40 years, red bloated face, with a few days' growth of beard on, dark or brown coat, supposed frieze and low, soft black hat."

The horse which the gang travelled with was described as "bay or chestnut, of good action".

Superintendent John Mallon added; "The men had the appearance of sailors or well-to-do artisans".

The Munster Bank Embezzlement 1885

This was one of the most notable embezzlement cases of the 1800s. Robert Farquharson was the assistant manager of the Dublin branch of Munster Bank.

He was reported to have "absconded from his office leaving his accounts in an unsatisfactory state”. Farquharson was last spotted on the platform of the railway station on Amiens Street. He had embezzled over £70,000, a massive amount of money at the time, and then vanished without a trace. A report at the time read that Farquharson disappeared from his home at approximately midday on July 28, 1885. "He is about 40 years old, 5 feet 9 inches high, dark hair, dark beard, whiskers, and moustache, slightly tinged with gray, dark fresh complexion, good dark sparkling eyes, prominent teeth, average build, walks with a stoop, dressed in gentlemanly style, generally wears a silk hat, is a native of Scotland".

It continued: "Information to Superintendent William Reddy, Detective Department, Dublin, who holds a Warrant for his arrest."

The Maamtrasna Murders, 1882

This massacre of a family of five occurred in a small cabin in Mayo. The name 'Maamtrasna' is a Gaeltacht area located on Lough Mask on the border between Galway and Mayo. Almost the entire Joyce family were wiped out on the night of August 17, 1882. John Joyce, his wife Bridget, son Michael, daughter Peggy and mother-in-law Margaret were all killed. Their son Patsy (12) was the only person to have survived the killings.

Neighbours discovered the bloody scene in the rural area. The murders hit international headlines, with the English version of the Times reading; "No ingenuity can exaggerate the brutal ferocity of a crime which spared neither the grey hairs of an aged woman nor the innocent child of 12 years who slept beside her. It is an outburst of unredeemed and inexplicable savagery before which one stands appalled, and oppressed with a painful sense of the failure of our vaunted civilisation."

Ten men were convicted of the murders and three were hanged for the crime. Although most of the men spoke only Irish, they were tried in Dublin before a judge and jury in English. It is widely believed that one of the men hanged, Myles Joyce, was not involved in the murders.

British historian Robert Kee has described the Maamtrasna Murders trial as "one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice in British legal history".

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