Total offences for Dublin in that year came to 9,, compared to 5, in Belfast and 5, in Cork. Some of the following stories are not violent or in any way horrible and black tales of terrible suffering. Included here are the bizarre cases of Sir William Wilde being tormented by a serial libel accuser, a fight at the opening of the contentious play, The Playboy of the Western World , by John Synge, and the antics of some wild apprentices. It would have been too easy, but also more monotonous, simply to build the narratives around the catalogue of hangings.
Otherwise, many of the sources have been from ephemera, and some put together from scattered memoirs and anecdotes. Crime stories do not always have a satisfying resolution, but they certainly should have drama and sensation, and these stories have those elements in abundance. They were heartless rogues out for survival at first and then later for wealth, profit and the thrill of tormenting victims. Ireland, along with every other country with a rich folklore, has its share of tales from that distant past in which truth is shrouded in myth and legend.
There is a long and rich tradition of oral storytelling in Irish culture, of course, and also a good store of texts from popular street literature such as last dying speeches and hanging narratives. But among those old tales, few themes are as attractive and enduring as stories of highwaymen. After various adventures across Europe he came home and learned that he had lost his land and inheritance, so he took to the road. The truth about him appears to be that, far from being a romantic figure, he was capable of extorting money for protection and of putting the fear of God into anyone who opposed him.
The militia were out to find him, but it seems that he had a tough and numerous gang with him and it would have taken a considerable force of men to take him. The turning point, something that spurred the authorities to more determined attitudes and actions, was the murder of James Butler, Duke of Ormonde, in But, as with many tales of past villains, his downfall came from his own kin, his brother killing him in his sleep.
This was near Hilltown, County Armagh, in Frontispiece from The Lives and exploits of the noted Highwaymen But there is little of myth in the sordid and thoroughly nasty life of a more earthy and unscrupulous thug, Patrick Flemming, who figures in the celebrated Newgate Calendar and in the Old Bailey records.
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After hiding out for a while, he decided to go to Dublin and there he joined a gang on the streets, housebreaking. But he left town and moved to the place that would be forever linked to his name — the Bog of Allen. There, he became the most feared robber of his age, willing to prey upon anyone, regardless of their status or power. He even robbed people such as the Archbishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Rapho. That was apparently his den where the gang assembled.
After a kidnapping and blackmail campaign, he left the area and did the same reign of terror in Munster. The story was that he was captured and put in a country gaol but then smashed his way to freedom. But fate caught up with him and he was taken at a house near Mancoth. There, the landlord turned informer in true Billy the Kid tradition and the law arrived.
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Flemming was hanged in Dublin on 24 April His body suffered the indignity of being hanged in chains, as with the English gibbet tradition, for birds to peck at and for other aspiring villains to see and shudder at, on a public road not far from town. His myth persisted, particularly with the publication of William Carleton's novel, The Irish Repparee, in But there is little of myth in the sordid and thoroughly nasty life of a more earthy and unscrupulous thug, Patrick Flemming, who figures in the celebrated Newgate Calendar and in the Old Bailey records.
Flemming was one of Dublin's worst rogues in the seventeenth century who, after an assortment of crimes in Dublin, began a reign of terror in the Bog of Allen. Flemming, like O'Hanlon, began his working life in the service of the nobility, being a foot-boy with the household of the Countess of Kildare.
The rebellious spirit was in him from early on, and he was reported to grow 'not only careless but insolent' and he was discharged. After that he managed to find some work at the home of the Earl of Antrim, and after becoming totally unmanageable, he was told to go, but according to his biography after his execution, Flemming ' After hiding out for a while, he decided to go to Dublin and there he joined a gang on the streets, housebreaking.
The Old Bailey record says that in six years in Dublin he was 'concerned in more robberies than had ever before been committed in that city in the memory of man'. In Dublin, he was very close to being hanged on a few occasions, and it looked as though his destiny would be the gibbet on Stephen's Green. But he left town and moved to the place that would be forever linked to his name — the Bog of Allen.
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There, he became the most feared robber of his age, willing to prey upon anyone, regardless of their status or power. He even robbed people such as the Archbishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Rapho. His biographer was fond of exaggeration, we have to say, because the claim was that Flemming, in just a few days, 'robbed one hundred and twenty five men and women upon the mountain of Barnsmoor'.
That was apparently his den where the gang assembled. After a kidnapping and blackmail campaign, he left the area and did the same reign of terror in Munster. The story was that he was captured and put in a country gaol but then smashed his way to freedom. But fate caught up with him and he was taken at a house near Mancoth. There, the landlord turned informer in true Billy the Kid tradition and the law arrived. Flemming was hanged in Dublin on 24 April His body suffered the indignity of being hanged in chains, as with the English gibbet tradition, for birds to peck at and for other aspiring villains to see and shudder at, on a public road not far from town.
Some said that the landlord who informed on him even wet all the firearms of Flemming and his gang. The course of his career is entirely typical, with all the elements of a good story told around the fire from the oral tradition. One of the distinctive features is the fact that he was betrayed by someone who knew him. That he was the king of his own little patch of ground, making people pay tolls to pass, is entirely in keeping with the Robin Hood and the O'Hanlon tales.
Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths In Dublin
But the Dublin highwaymen do not stop in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the tradition went on in the Australian bushrangers, where one of the most infamous, a Dubliner called Jack Bradshaw, taken from Dublin to Melbourne by a relative; and there, when he grew up, highway robbery became his trade. Of course, as with all these misguided heroes of popular tales, the truth is that they were often locked away, as Bradshaw's sub-title says: 'Twenty years of Prison Life in the Gaols of New South Wales.
The tower of ivory is assailed by the foul thing Oscar Wilde's words in a letter to 'Bosie' were written years after the subject of this chapter, Bishop John Atherton, was in serious trouble for alleged sodomy. But the words in Wilde's letter could easily apply. One man brought down the Bishop, starting with one accusation of serious misconduct and then the house of cards, that was the Bishop's life, came down.
But our story begins with a ghost story, told at great length recently by Peter Marshall, who has researched Atherton's story in depth.
When Susan Leakey of Minehead died, she supposedly returned in spirit to disturb all kinds of good Somerset people. Her son-in-law, John Atherton, was to feel the after-shocks of that when he progressed in his church career. He married Susan's daughter, started out as vicar of the village of Huish Champflower, and then became Bishop of Waterford and Lismore from to his death in It is a long and complex tale, but it ended in Dublin with the Bishop at the end of a rope. In the first part of the tale, when Susan 'Mother' Leakey began to appear in apparition and the society around Minehead was stirred up.
At a time when such things were more often linked to demonic than to Christian notions by Protestants, it was a phenomenon that attracted interest in the higher echelons of the church. Catholics would have had no problem as they believe in purgatory of course.
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But in the seventeenth century when witchcraft was a dark art in need of severe punishment in the eyes of many, Minehead and its doings were seen by some powerful people as possibly the centre of some evil doings. But for John Atherton, there was a way of escape. There had always been strong links between Somerset coastal towns and indeed Bristol and Dublin, with both trade and piracy being common over the centuries.
But Atherton was fortunate in having Irish links at a time when the Earl of Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, became Lord Deputy of Ireland, and he had caught the eye of some powerful clerics. Preferment came his way and he was placed in Lismore for the centre of his Bishopric. Atherton, initially related to Strafford's star on the rise, would have seen Wentworth, when he was sent to govern Ireland in , become a tyrant, and he must have seen that what was to become known as the 'Bishops' Wars'.
When he was impeached for alienating the King's subjects, matters were grim and he had to defend himself with his life at stake. At that point, Atherton was already dead, an early casualty of the 'wars'. Strafford was executed on Tower Hill a year after Atherton had been hanged in Dublin. Atherton's downfall started with an accusation from his steward, John Child. Child claimed that he had indulged in sodomy with him — and that was a felony and a capital offence in Almost a century before, in , parliament had made the 'abominable vice of buggery' into a capital offence.
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Then, in contrast, in Ireland it had only been a hanging offence for six years at the time of Atherton's trial. It was also bad luck for Atherton in that just a few years before Child's accusations, there had been a high profile case of sodomy against a nobleman, the Earl of Castlehaven.