Items from the Cutting Room Floor

James Harshaw was an avid reader of newspapers. In 1845, this was the only source of information beyond the neighborhood word-of-mouth network. James read 2 newspapers, the Newry Commercial Telegraph and the Banner of Ulster. The Telegraph was politically supportive of the Conservative Party and in Ireland, the Orange Order. The Banner was the newspaper of the Presbyterian Church.

As part of my preparation of the Diaries, I spent almost 2 years reading newspapers, mainly the Telegraph. This paper has much wonderful, never before printed information. I couldn’t use many of the interesting bits in the book, so this column is an alternative way of sharing much history of Ireland. The stories will change frequently.

Murder for Land

January 4, 1845

On the night of the 27th December, about eight o’clock, William Stapleton, of Lorha, heard some person pulling off the thatch of his house, when he made a stab of a pitchfork through the part, at the same time ordering his son John to light a candle and proceed to the yard. Stapleton followed his son immediately, and discovered his brother-in-law, Michael Phelan, outside, armed with a pistol, the contents of which he lodged in the body of John Stapleton, who fell to the ground and died. Land is the cause. An inquest was held on the following day by Michael Cormack, Esq., Coroner. Michael Phelan has been fully committed for this offence.-Nenagh Guardian. (Lorrha is in Tipperary)

On Saturday evening last, at the early hour of six o’clock, Patrick Raleigh, under-agent and care-taker on the estate of Lord Massey, in the Eastern part of the County of Limerick, was brutally murdered, as it is supposed, with a pitchfork. This barbarous murder was perpetrated upon the unfortunate man-a person of most excellent character-within a few yards of his own house, and in a very populous neighborhood. An inquest was held on the body on Monday, when it appeared on the evidence of the medical gentleman, that more than one person must have been assisting in the murder, the upper part of his head being beaten in with a spade or slane, (a special shovel used for cutting peat),or some blunt instrument. About the ears there was the appearance of a pitchfork having been driven through and through the skull; and the Police discovered in the immediate vicinage of the spot where the foul deed was committed, the iron prongs of a fork, covered with blood, and which had the appearance of being recently sharpened. The place where this awful deed occured is called Duntryleague, near the high-road between Tipperary and Mitchelstown. The Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict of "willful murder’ against some persons unknown-for of course no clue could be had to those by whom it had been effected. The general impression was, that some members of his own family were the guilty parties, and that his occupation of land-the fruitful source of murder in Ireland-was the immediate cause.-Evening Mail. (Duntryleague is in Limerick)

Article written by Marjorie Harshaw Robie, March 27, 2000


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