Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tipperary Coroner's Inquests


Clonmel Courthouse
     Nineteenth century Tipperary is known to have been a violent 
place.  Between the faction fights and the activities of secret societies like the Whiteboys, murders and mayhem were surprisingly common.  Aggression wasn't restricted to attacks on the English usurpers either.  English landlords made less accessible targets, so often the victims were Irish Catholics who had run afoul of the societies for offenses like taking over an evicted farm, or raising the rents on their own tenants as in the case of  the unfortunate Dennis Murphy...

March 12, 1838
Clonmel Assize Intelligence
John Slattery and Michael Dwyer were indicted for the willful murder of Dennis Murphy, at Foxford near Bansha on Sunday, the 12th of Nov. 1837. The deceased was a farmer, holding a small quantity of ground in the neighborhood of Bansha, and he had some tenants on part of his ground. The prisoner Dwyer being one of his tenants... Sometime prior the deceased made a distress on Dwyer's land.  [A distress is a demand for rent, often with some articles belonging to the tenant being seized and held until payment]

     My Tipperary ancestors came from the upland region to the north of Tipperary Town, Annacarty and Donohill Parish.  Looking at coroner's reports from that area, (which are woefully inadequate, mostly missing), the violent atmosphere becomes readily apparent.  On the night of July 1, 1832, two men were murdered, shot to death at the home of Nicholas Scofield of Alleen by a party of four men.  Nicholas held 31 acres as recorded in the Tithe Applotments, could that have contributed to the attack on his home? Five months later in Annacarty, John Ryan was murdered, again by four  men.

     The violence continued in 1834 with the murder of an M. M'Kew of Donohill by a party of five men, and in 1835, M. Heffernan also of Donohill died from a fractured skull after he was attacked by three men.  These deaths reek of whiteboyism, with a group of men banding together to stage the attacks, and there were probably many more of these murders given that the majority of coroner's reports are missing.

     By 1847, the reports reflect the growing famine in Tipperary with deaths from starvation, want of nutritious food, destitution and fever and dysentery becoming common; this continues through 1851, reports for the years 1852 and 1853 being missing.  Limited as they are, (even the years that still exist only cover a few months out of the given year), the reports give a glimpse of what life in 19th century Tipperary was like.  It's difficult to imagine the equivalent occurring in one of our small hometowns today where everyone knows everyone else-- which these were.  


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