c. 1734 - 1766
Sheehy, " Priest Hanging & Beheading. Fr. Nicholas Sheehy 1728-1766 [NB 1728 Clonmel ? - 15 Mar 1766] In 1766 Father Nicholas Sheehy was executed after been found guilty of accessory to murder, by a corrupt jury on evidence trumped-up by a local Landlord, and the Rector of Clogheen in south County Tipperary. He was hung on a scaffold in Clonmel opposite St. Peters and Paul's Church, where there is a modern plaque on the gable wall of the hotel to commemorate his death. His head was severed and set on a spike over Clonmel jail as a warning against agrarian violence. Father Sheehy was born in Barrettstown near Fethard, brought up by his mother's people the Powers of Bawnfune. He was educated in France and trained for the priesthood in Louvain Belgium, Santiago and Irish College, Salamanca, Spain and was ordained in Rome. He became the parish priest for Clogheen and Burncourt. He was described in his lifetime as a man with a passionate sense of justice. He healed the sick using secret herbal cures. The Protestants landlords of south Tipperary were afraid of another French invasion like the one during the Williamite War, seventy-five years earlier, they feared being massacred and distrusted Catholics who were associated with the French. Furthermore the landlords feared him as he campaigned against landlord evictions, the enclosure of common land and the Tithe taxes. These taxes (10% of produce or equivalent in money) were for the protestant church. Fr Sheehy saw the tithes that had to be paid by half starved Catholics to Protestant ministers, representing the British occupation of their lands, as wrong. To this day Father Sheehy is regarded as a martyr and it has been suggested that he should be canonised. His trial and hanging outraged nationalist opinion. People visited his grave at Shanrahan cemetery outside Clogheen to take clay, because it was said to have healing powers. It is claimed that out of respect birds didn't peck his head for the twenty years it was left on the spike. His sister Catherine, regularly called over the years, looking for his head which she was eventually given. She took it home in a bag under her arm and had it buried with the rest of his body. Prior to his trial for murder, Fr. Sheehy was tried and acquitted in Dublin for treason for his part in the levelling of a wall by the Whiteboys, (secret oath-bound society of vigilantes) who were protesting against the enclosure of common land, by a landlord near Clogheen. At his murder trial in Clonmel Father Sheehy said, in his final speech, after he was sentenced to death, that he was being put to death for a crime, which had never been committed. As John Bridge, the man, said to have been murdered, was seen in Cork after the date of the crime, and it is thought that he emigrated. John Bridge was described as a drivelling begging idiot. Two years later John Bridge was found in Newfoundland, Canada. He was completely unaware that there had been a trial for his murder. When handing down the sentence, the judge said "You shall be hanged, drawn and quartered and may God have mercy on your soul and grant you sight of the enormity of your crime" In response, Fr. Sheehy thanked the judge and hoped for the same, as he was confident of his innocence. Father Sheehy delivered an eloquent and well-reasoned protest against "the shameful injustice, the gross perjury, and the deadly malice of which we are the victims," and concluded by declaring: "I leave it to God to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty." Robert Keating of Knockagh, near Cahir, at whose house Fr. Sheehy was staying at the time of the supposed murder was arrested a week before the trial on a charge of murder in Kilkenny which was subsequently dropped. This was done to disqualify him as the main witness for the defence. Fr. Sheehy was executed with Ned Meehan of Grange near Clogheen, a father of six, who allegedly struck the victim over the head with a bill-hook, killing him instantly. At their hanging, as the rope was fitted around their necks, three women broke through the police cordon. They were two sisters of Fr.Sheehy and Ned's stricken young wife, Bridget. Tears rushed to the eyes of the dying men and Ned stretched out his hands to his beloved wife, said, "O Biddy, Biddy dear, may God pity and protect you and our children, my poor wife." Fr. Sheehy's cousin Buck (Edmund) Sheehy of Lodge who appeared as a witness, was hanged two months later in Clogheen along with James Buxton of Killroe and James Farrell of Rehill in front of their families for the same murder. Father Sheehy's attorney on hearing the sentence of death turned to the jurors and said, "If there is any justice in heaven you will die roaring". This is how the jurors, who were mainly protestant landlords and bitterly anti-Catholic, died suddenly and unexpected. Sir Thomas Maude (M.P. for Tipp 1761) of Dundrum House, died a raving manic uttering blasphemies and screaming that Father Sheehy was dragging him down to Hell. He was responsible for selecting the bias jurors who met and conspired in his drawing room. John Bagwell of Kilmore near Clonmel, became an idiot incapable of speech and rationality. For years before his death he imagined that he saw the headless Sheehy at his elbow. William Bagnell of Marlhill near Ardfinnan, shot himself. Mathew Jacob of Mobarnane Hse near Fethard, died from a violent epileptic fit. William Barker of Kilcooley Abbey, dropped dead on the street. Shaw, choked himself to death. Ferris, a draper of main street Clonmel, went mad. John Dunville, a tallow chandler was kicked to death by his horse. Alexander Hoops, drowned in a stream after he went berserk. Minchin, died a destitute beggar, ridden with disease. Another, dropped dead grinning inanely. Osborn Tothall of Clonmel, cut his own throat, his family were prevented from burying him in the graveyard when locals filled his dug grave with stones. Jonathan Willington, of Castlewillington died in his lavatory. Even their descendants met unusual deaths. This is how the witnesses for the prosecution died. Moll Dunlea, (ill-repute) fell down into a cellar and cracked her skull, she had claimed to witness the murder even though her mother said they spent the night together. Lonergan (tinker) contracted a disease and died an agonising death. Toohey (horse-thief), contracted leprosy. The Rector of Clogheen, Parson John Hewetson produced the three witnesses for the prosecution, described as "dubious specimens of society". In Clonmel riots broke out and processions of sympathy and protest were formed against the injustice of the trial. After his beheading loyal parishioners dipped their hands in his blood and used it to make the sign of the cross on the door of the Protestant Church House. The hangman Darby Brahan was some time later stoned to death by an outraged crowd in county Kilkenny for having hung Fr Nicholas Sheehy. Local folklore has it, that on Thomas Maude death, the horses refused to pull the hearse with his coffin, the horses had to be unyoked and estate workers pulled the hearse out of the Estate. He was said to have a tail and had a saddle made with a pouch to accommodate it. His ghost is said to sit on a tree in the estate, previously he haunted the house until a mass was said after it was acquired by a religious order in 1910. Moll Dunlea was bribed to bear false witness against Fr. Sheehy on the road bridge over the river adjacent to the estate, hence its name Black Bridge. The Maudes were soldiers who received vast estates in the Cromwellian settlement and they gained an evil notoriety. Marguerite Power 1789-1849 who married Charles Gardiner - Earl of Blessington was a daughter of Fr Nicholas Sheehy mother's family the Powers of Bawnfune south of Clonmel on the Tipperary and Waterford border. Also her mother Eleanour was a daughter of Edmond 'Buck' Sheehy. Her biography was written entitled The Most Gorgeous Lady Blessington it gives account of her troubled childhood, her first marriage at fifteen, her second marriage to the earl including their extravagant lifestyle and her life as a writer after his death. Her father was Edmund Power of Knockbrit between Cashel and Fethard, he was a small landlord, magistrate and editor of a Clonmel newspaper. Fr Nicholas' father was Francis son of John of Dromcolliher. His sister Catherine Burke nee Sheehy had his gravestone erected. The burial place of Edmund Sheehy's family is in the old ruin churchyard of Kilronan near Bawnfune in the barony of Glenahiry. Daniel Sheehy 1756-1834 from Ballyporeen, a nephew who left Ireland because of his outspoken nature after witnessing the hanging as a boy of ten. He emigrated to America where he fought in the American Revolution. In 1796 he became a pioneer settler of Youngstown, Ohio after riding horseback from New York, he purchased a thousand acres for $2,000 in gold coins and founded a large family. His brother Roger also set up home there in a log cabin. The writer can trace his Sheehy ancestry back nine generations through Edmond Sheehy (1761-1827) of Cooladerry, Ballyporeen whose family is buried in the graveyard at Ballysheehan near Burncourt. Oral family history states that an old charcoal portrait drawing showed Fr. Nicholas to have a broad forehead and a narrow face. The Sheehy, or MacSheehy family belonged originally to Dromcolliher Co. Limerick. They were an old family of warriors, the retainers of the Earl of Desmond - title of the Fitzgerald earldom of Munster. They came to Ireland from Scotland in the 1400's as mercenaries, their descendants were drawn to the military and the church. They prospered under the Earls of Desmond but lost all their lands after the Desmond Rebellion of 1580. Towards the end of the 1700's they purchased a considerable amount of land from Lord Muskerry of Springfield Castle. "Hail Happy Year! Hail happy Day! That Maude's vile corpse consigned to clay; And blessed by the heavenly dart, That pierced a passage to his heart. In Dundrum's vale his mansion stood, The seat of falsehood, fraud and blood; Hell-hound accursed! Whose murderous trade The oaths of perjured wretches made. Through iron bars, and walls of stone, Burst the heart-broken prisoners' groan The orphan's cry, the widow's grief Our God has heard, and grants relief. Disgorge; fair earth, his filthy frame. That savage dogs may gnaw the same; Let ravens, crows, and eagles come, To tear the monster from his tomb. The sparkling rills proclaim their joy, Nor murmering brooks the sound allow; The fields put on a smile of mirth, Since cruel Maude was laid in earth. A traitor Maude! The basest, worst, Long, Long shall be his memory cursed; His hand with martyr's blood profaned, His heart with guilt of malice stained Wafted by angels to the skie The sainted Sheehy "vengeance" cries; Proud dweller with the Heavenly choir, Whilst Maude is doomed to endless fire. Pluto and Nero, fiend and man In hellish deeds Maude's acts outran Cromwell and Judas--two in one He was; and where they went, he's gone. Perfidious Maude! Thy long farewell To Dundrum's plain and sweet Clonmel Gives peace and hope; and all around Rejoice that flames they soul surround ..a" "Life 1728-1766; patriot priest, Clougheen, Co. Tipperary; b. Clonmel, ed. Santiago and Salamanca; ord. 1750; served in Waterford, then PP in Shanraghen and Templetenny; supported peasants against tithes extortion; accused of Whiteboy complicity, 1765 [DNB, executed on charge of complicity in the murder of the informer Bridges]; succeeded in having his case heard in King's Bench, Dublin; acquitted; re-arrested for murder of informer called Bridge, convicted Clonmel on perjured evidence; executed by hanging, Clougheen, 15 March 1766; a monument was erected in Cougheen in 1991. DNB DIB Criticism Mary Anne Sadleir, Fr Sheehy (1845); Philip O'Connell, `The Plot against Father Nicholas Sheehy', Irish Ecclesiastical Record CVII, fifth ser., 1967, pp.372-84. Notes Thomas Moore chose the day of Sheehy's judical murder as the birthdate of Captain Rock in Memoirs of Captain Rock (1824); see Seamus Deane, Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790 (1997), p.67." Limerick Leader Dec 2, 2000 Castlemahon annual THERE was a very interesting and enjoyable night in Castlemahon on November 17, when the Castlemahon-Feohanagh Parish Annual was launched in the local parish hall by Liam Irwin, Head of History, Department, in the Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Liam had high praise for the Castlemahon History Group who have produced the Annual without a break for the past 20 years. He praised in particular their continuing practice of collecting oral history for inclusion in the Annual. Fear a tâi for the night was Pat Normoyle, who has been involved in the production of the Annual from the very beginning. Before going on to write about the annual, I would like to mention a very precious object that was on display during the night. This was the stole that had belonged to Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, P.P., of Clogheen, Co. Tipperary, who was hanged in Clonmel in 1766. Fr. Sheehy's father, Francis Sheehy, was of the well-known Sheehy (originally Mac Sheehy) family of Dromcollogher, and had gone to live in Glenahiry (the Nire Valley), in Co. Waterford. The stole, in its original container, shaped like a miniature chest with a rounded top, was brought to the Castlemahon launch by Dr. Robert Sheehy, Dromcollogher, a kinsman of Fr. Nicholas.
|Born: Barretstown, , , Ireland c. 1734 ||Baptised: |
|Died: Clonmel, , , 15th Mar 1766 ||Buried: Shanrahan, Clogheen, , Ireland 1766 |
|c. 1734||Born Barretstown, Ireland|
|15th Mar 1766||Died Clonmel|
|1766||Buried Shanrahan, Clogheen, Ireland|