The Colleen Bawn – Murder on the Shannon

Shannon-Estuary-Colleen-Bawn-John-Moylan

 

Shannon-Estuary-Colleen-Bawn-John-Moylan

Shannon Estuary by John Moylan. Murder location of the Colleen Bawn

Born into a Limerick farming family in 1803, Ellen Hanley’s life was snuffed out in a cold, calculated murder at only fifteen years of age.

Living in the village of Bruree, Ellen’s mother passed away when the girl was no more than six years old and she moved in with her uncle. Ellen grew into a young lady of incredible beauty that was equally matched by her warmth, quick wit and intelligence.

It was not long before she courted the interest of a certain gentleman of distinction by the name of John Scanlan, John himself was in his twenties and very much a socialite of shallow persuasion which would ultimately lead to Ellen’s bitter end.

John Scanlan pursued Ellen relentlessly and begged for her hand in marriage. Ellen had grave misgivings about both the age gap and their different social standing, but John would not take no for an answer. In the summer of 1819, John Scanlan and Ellen Hanley were wed in Limerick city.

True to his form, John grew bored of his child wife within just five weeks of marriage and began to hatch a plot to make her disappear, so he could renew his carefree, lewd lifestyle.

John and his servant Stephen Sullivan schemed and ultimately planned the murder of the new bride.

John Scanlan convinced Ellen to take a boating trip on the River Shannon with his servant, leaving from the shores of Glin Castle. Sullivan boarded the boat complete with loaded musket and murder in his heart, however when the time came he was unable to shoot the innocent beauty.

When John Scanlan saw the boat return to Glin with two people on board he was outraged. He filled Stephen Sullivan with whiskey until he was so drunk he agreed to go ahead with the murder plot. Once again Sullivan rowed Ellen out into the Shannon Estuary and with the threatening words of his master ringing in his ears, the callous servant shot Ellen point blank.

Without an ounce of remorse, Stephen Sullivan stripped Ellen Hanley naked and took her wedding ring, stowing them away in the boat. She was weighed down with rocks and her young, broken body was dropped unceremoniously overboard. Fifteen-year-old Ellen Hanley was enshrouded in the inky black waters of the River Shannon.

Scanlan and Sullivan toasted their successful murder as weeks had passed and they were convinced they had got away with their heinous deed. This was not to be as on 6th September 1819, the porcelain white corpse of the missing Ellen was washed up in Kilrush, County Clare.

So horrific was the discovery of the slain child bride, the people of County Clare and County Limerick became frenzied in anger and dismay and the two guilty men fled.

A huge manhunt was begun and before long John Scanlan was captured. The Scanlan family were a family of high standing in social circles and they were not having their name dragged through the mud. They hired the great Irishman Daniel O’Connell, known as ‘The Liberator’ for his work in bringing emancipation to Irish Catholics in later years.

With his family name and the best barrister in Ireland behind him, John Scanlan sat smugly through his trial fully expecting to be acquitted. He could not have been more mistaken.

Scanlan was found guilty without question of the pre-mediated murder of Ellen Hanley. A horse-drawn carriage was commissioned to take the condemned man to Gallows Green in County Clare. The horse bucked and refused to cross the bridge over to Gallows Green and John Scanlan made his last living steps walking to the gallows to be hanged. John Scanlan was executed on 16th March 1820.

The story does not end here, for just a few months later, manservant Stephen Sullivan was caught, and his Limerick trial made front page news. He also was found guilty and sentenced to execution. In a last-minute fit of conscience, Sullivan recounted the events surrounding the murder of Ellen before the Hangman placed the noose around his fated neck.

In the small, rural Burrane Cemetery near Kilrush the body of the Colleen Bawn, Ellen Hanley is buried. Colleen Bawn is Irish for ‘white girl’.

Ellen lies beneath a Celtic Cross donated by the local community with an epitaph that says:

‘Here lies the Colleen Bawn

Murdered on the Shannon

July 14th 1819. R.I.P’

Over time the curious and the ghoulish have chiselled away bit by bit taking morbid keepsakes until nothing much more remains. The story of the Colleen Bawn lives on almost two hundred years after her untimely death in plays, novels and musical interpretations. It seems that the macabre nature of her demise will never be forgotten.

The Colleen Bawn

Thanks to John Moylan for his outstanding shot of the River Shannon. More of John Moylan’s photographic work can be found here:

https://www.johnmoylanphotography.com/

 

Advertisements

NEVER HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – WHO WAS FATHER MALACHI MARTIN?

Malachi-Martin

Perhaps one of the most famous names to come out of the Vatican, the former Jesuit priest, best-selling author and professional Exorcist was as well-known as a scholar as he was for his outspoken writings and speeches against certain teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

A writer of both novels and non-fiction and the subject of many rumours himself, sometimes the lines between fact and fiction were blurred – so just who was Malachi Martin and what role did he play in the Vatican’s battle against evil and satanic influence?

THE FORMATIVE YEARS

Malachi Martin was born into a fairly well to do family in the village of Ballylongford just outside of Listowel in County Kerry, Ireland in 1921. Despite claims in later years that Malachi was of Jewish descent, his parents were in fact English and Irish.  There were four boys in total and all of them went on to join the priesthood.

The young Malachi entered the Jesuit Order at the age of eighteen after completing his senior education in Dublin. Although further travels and studies were preferred, the outbreak of the Second World War put paid to that and Malachi remained in Ireland, obtaining degrees in Semitic Languages and Oriental Studies.

Once it became safe to travel, the scholar continued his education in Europe with post graduate studies in several areas including Intertestamentary Studies and education in Hebrew and Arabic Manuscripts. By 1954 Malachi Martin was a fully ordained Jesuit priest.

Always wanting to learn more, Malachi continued to research in the Middle East, including emphasis on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Semitic Palaeography, a study of the methods and context of ancient Middle Eastern writings and scripts.

It was at this time that the young priest found himself assisting on his very first Exorcism in Egypt in the mid nineteen fifties.

SATANISM IN THE VATICAN

Inside Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome

Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Father Martin long believed and had studied and witnessed evidence of the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement on a covert level with satanic worship and was not shy to publish his findings, both in non-fiction and loosely veiled fiction writing.

Of course general knowledge of the dark side of the church goes back to Pope Benedict IX from the 11th century and his notorious papacy – known to have embraced satanic worship and the black arts, this pope committed atrocities that led to his temporary banishment from Rome. It may well be that he was possessed by the very demons that our 20th Century Exorcist feared.

Despite the fact that being a Freemason is forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church, Malachi gave credence to the belief that there were at least two popes involved in the secret sect and that the Illuminati had infiltrated the Vatican. He also believed that nuns were partaking in rituals associated with dark witchcraft.

THE CALL TO ROME

The young man from a small village in Ireland had come to the attention of the Pope and the Vatican with his prolific studies, dedication and involvement in exorcisms. In 1958 he was called to Rome and took up the position of private secretary to Cardinal Bea, a biblical scholar and a mediator for Catholic-Jewish relations – a mantel Malachi would also take on.

With apartments in the Vatican, the scholarly Father Martin also took the position of Professor of Aramaic, Palaeography, Hebrew and Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Malachi’s vast knowledge and diplomacy brought him into contact with many other faiths as an interpreter, from relationships formed with prominent Rabbis to work behind the Iron Curtain with the Russian Orthodox Church.

By 1964 Malachi Martin was on a different path and his traditional approach caused him to be at odds with the outlines laid out by the Second Vatican council. In February of 1965 Father Malachi Martin was released from his vows of poverty and finally released from the Jesuit Order in June of the same year.

Brian Doran released an audio account of the life of Malachi Martin told through second hand accounts by those who knew the man called ‘God’s Messenger’ – according to Doran, Pope Paul VI had “given the priest a general commission for exercising an apostolate in media and communications.”

THE USA AND GUGGENHEIM

hostage

Once Malachi Martin arrived in the United States, he turned his hand to writing and applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967. This was a grant awarded to the successful applicant for “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

Malachi was awarded the grant and this lead to the launch of his first successful book in 1969, ‘The Encounter: Religion in Crisis.’ This was Martin’s views on why Christianity, Judaism and Islam were in crisis and had failed the modern man.

Following this success, Malachi Martin was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for a second time which enabled the priest to write his most famous published work, which went to press in 1975. That book was ‘Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Living Americans.’

Malachi Martin became a U.S Citizen in 1970 and by the end of his life has published some sixty times including thinly veiled insights into the satanic rites of the Vatican with novels such as ‘Windswept House: A Vatican Novel’ and a description of the ‘Enthronement of the Fallen Angel of Lucifer.’ When asked in an interview with ‘The New American’ Martin stated these things had happened but could only be published in a novel.

In 1981 Malachi published ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church’, which was a historical volume that focused on the changes through the years and the shifts between progressive supremacy and spiritualism.

Despite having spent more than a quarter of a century as an ordained priest of the Jesuit Order, in 1987 Martin published ‘Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church.’ This was an inflammatory and extremely critical view of his former brethren and how he believed they destabilised the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church methodically and deliberately.

WHISPERS

Children of Fatima

Children of Fatima

With so much controversy and celebrity status (Martin was a regular on radio shows and published interviews along with his books) the rumour mill surrounding both him and his own opinions was in overdrive.

Malachi Martin had publicly stated that he believed at least two popes of the 20th century, Pope Pius XI and Pope John Paul 1 were murdered.

Several mysteries surrounded Malachi himself, including whether or not he was actually ordained a bishop. He was also accused among other things of being a spy for the Israelis due to his Jewish sympathising and a story was given of him having Jewish heritage which was proved to be false.

He was a staunch advocate of the Three Secrets of Fatima. These were three secrets allegedly revealed to three cousins in Portugal over six visits between May and October of 1917.  The secrets were:

  1. The admission of the existence and description of Hell.
  2. Information regarding the First and Second World Wars.
  3. The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul 11.

These secrets have been disputed for decades and it is believed they were never revealed in full.

Malachi Martin also discredited the religious site of Medjugorje, claiming his previous accreditation was given after being misled.

There were also rumours regarding books he may have written under pseudonyms, with at least one being proven.

In a strange twist the notorious serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, initially claimed on arrest to have been possessed by a demon, however revealed this to be false during meetings with a court psychiatrist. Later while in prison, the convicted Son of Sam actually made approaches to Malachi Martin to assist in writing his autobiography which Martin declined.

EXORCISM

Exorcism

According to Malachi Martin, he had performed thousands of what he referred to as minor exorcisms and participated in a few hundred major exorcisms in his lifetime. As well as private exorcisms, he had worked with renowned Demonologist, Dave Considine and paranormal researcher, John Zaffis.

Perhaps one of the most forthright and knowledgeable authorities on exorcism, Malachi Martin stated that a person cannot unknowingly be possessed or taken against their will, they must actively allow a possession. He believed it to be a systematic and gradual deception by the entity.

Malachi described the process of exorcism as a confrontation between the wills of the exorcist and the demon. In order to succeed, the exorcist has to be empowered by God, through the Church, and have a cleansed soul by way of confession.  The process would usually involve the Exorcist and an assisting priest, with lay people used for restraining purposes when required.

Father Martin was adamant there were different levels of possession from partial or normal to total where “…a veil is drawn aside, and you realise you don’t know this person. They have a truly evil look.”

He also made it clear that the retelling in film of Exorcisms was not as dramatic but there would be temperature drops, bad odours and occasional manifestations. He revealed to Donna Anderson of the Examiner, the worst part was:

“…at a certain moment, if it’s really in the possession of a threatening spirit, a demon, everyone will know there’s something in the room that wants you dead. It’s a horrible feeling knowing that unless something happens you are going to die now.  It’s like an invisible animal with claws and it want you dead.”

LATER LIFE AND DEATH

Malachi continued to be vocal in his opposition to the Jesuit teachings and aspects of the Vatican as well as insisting that Black Masses and Satanism and sacrifice were happening even within a stone’s throw from his residence in New York.

In July 1999, Martin had an alleged fall at his apartment in Manhattan which led to a cerebral haemorrhage and his death at the age of seventy eight. Even now conspiracy theorists believe his fall was not accidental and he was in fact killed by the Vatican to silence his outspoken opposition.

Indeed when questioned during an interview if he feared for his life, he stated he was however, he was too old to change.

LEGACY

It has been sixteen years since the death of this remarkable man and his books continue to be of major interest among scholars, conspiracy theorists and paranormal researchers to name a few.

His legacy will continue as Marty Stalker, a filmmaker from Northern Ireland has taken Martin Malachi’s most famous book, ‘Hostage to the Devil’ and made it into a film of the same title, which includes the use of archive footage.  With new media attention and continuing paranormal interest, Malachi Martin will continue to be studied and remembered for decades to come.

I shall leave you with a final word from Malachi Martin:

“Anybody who is acquainted with the state of affairs in the Vatican in the last 35 years is well aware that the prince of darkness has had and still has his surrogates in the court of St. Peter in Rome.”

I shall leave you with a final word from Malachi Martin:

“Anybody who is acquainted with the state of affairs in the Vatican in the last 35 years is well aware that the prince of darkness has had and still has his surrogates in the court of St. Peter in Rome.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL – 7 TRANSATLANTIC TALES OF TERROR!

As 4th July celebrations are well under way and the United States of America celebrates Independence since 1776, I took a look at 7 infamous creepy connections betweeen the USA, Ireland and Britain. Each starts or ends in America and is case is more chilling than the next!

Typhoid Mary, New York

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone in 1869 and left to begin a new life in America at the age of 15. With a natural talent for cooking, she began to take up placements in wealthy homes as a cook – and that’s when her reign of terror began.

Based in New York, from 1901, Mary left a trail of sick and dead as she moved from post to post.  The cook was impossible to trace, as she would leave as soon as typhoid took hold. Mary eventually changed her name to hide from the authorities, as she continued to spread the disease and avoid detection.

Typhoid Mary was quarantined for the last time in 1915. She was sent to Riverside Hospital on Brother Island in New York, where she remained until her death in 1938.  While only 3 deaths were officially attributed to this silent killer, many more have been linked. Typhoid Mary continues to haunt Brother Island, proclaiming she has done nothing wrong.

Bridget Sullivan, Maid of the infamous Lizzie Borden, Massachusetts

 

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden

Bridget Sullivan was a 26-year-old maid from Ireland, working for the Borden family in Fall River, Massachusetts. In 1893 she was the star witness for the prosecution in the case against Lizzie Borden – on trial for the gruesome murder of her father and stepmother.

Both were axed multiple times in the family home, the motive being that Lizzie resented a will change in favour of her stepmother. Due to a lack of evidence, Lizzie was acquitted.

The murder house is now a B & B and is such a hotbed of paranormal activity that the likes of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters have filmed here. Disembodied voices and apparitions are rife, however the most meaningful sighting is that of Bridget Sullivan doing her chores and trying to speak – perhaps to say what really happened that day.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

RMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary was a Cunard Cruise Liner built in England to compete with European superliners.  Her maiden voyage was her assigned route between Southampton and New York in 1936. With the outbreak of the Second World War she was seconded to military service and used to ferry and deploy Allied Forces.

After more than 30 years of service including wartime, the Queen Mary left Southampton for her last voyage and docked in Long Beach.  In 1971 she was officially opened as a tourist attraction and then a year later as a hotel.

In recent years she has been the subject of several paranormal investigations including television’s Ghost Hunters.

Listed in Time Magazine as one of America’s Top Ten Haunts, RMS Queen Mary is subject to the sounds of ghostly child laughter and the apparition of a sailor killed in the engine room.  There are also reports of unidentified spectres and the spirits of crew members who died when the Queen Mary collided with the HMS Curacoa, just off of the coast of Ireland.

With almost 50 official deaths on board in her lifetime and more still undisclosed by the military, the British ship Queen Mary may well be one of America’s most haunted places.

Francis Tumblety, suspect in the Jack the Ripper Murders, New York and Maryland

Francis Tumblety, Jack the Ripper suspect

Francis Tumblety, Jack the Ripper suspect

Francis Tumblety was an Irish-born American citizen who practiced as a doctor of sorts.  With a seeming distaste for women, he gained wealth and social standing but not without incident, as he was arrested for being involved in the Lincoln assassination.

It was while he was in London in 1888 however, the murders of five prostitutes took place. These brutal killings were were attributed to an unknown assailant labelled Jack the Ripper – and Tumblety was a prime suspect.

Having been arrested for an unconnected charge by the Metropolitan Police, he absconded and fled back to the United States once he discovered he was being investigated for the Whitechapel Murders.

The matter was publicised and Scotland Yard pursued Francis, however no extradition ever took place. Jack the Ripper was never caught.

Doctor Crippen, Murderer, Michigan.

Dr. Crippen

Hawley Harvey Crippen was a homeopathic medical practitioner in the United States.  Upon the death of his first wife, he moved to New York and remarried Cora Turner.  Together they moved to England in 1895.

Unable to sustain a decent career as his time was spent socialising and managing his wife’s failing stage career, they moved to an address in Holloway, London and took in lodgers to supplement their paltry income.

Following a January party at their home in 1910, Cora disappeared, with Crippen claiming she had returned to the U.S.

On further investigation, Scotland Yard began to suspect Crippen of foul play but there was no evidence and no body.  Spooked by the enquiries, Crippen went on the run and boarded a ship called the Montrose, bound for Canada.

Following a further extensive search of the house, human remains were discovered, buried beneath the cellar. A wanted notice had been put out for the fugitive and the captain of the Montrose recognised Crippen with his lover.

A wireless telegram was sent to Scotland Yard and Chief Inspector Dew in charge of the case pursued on a faster ship, arriving in Canada ahead of the Montrose.

Crippen was arrested and returned to London, where he was convicted and hanged on 23 November 1910.  His waxwork is one of the most notable exhibits in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors in London.

Goody Glover, Witch, Boston, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Witch Trial

Massachusetts Witch Trial

Ann ‘Goody’ Glover was born in Ireland and during the time of the Cromwellian wars was arrested alongside her husband because of her Catholic faith.

The pair were sent to Barbados as slaves, where her husband died, tormented for his religion.  Ann and her daughter found themselves in Boston in 1680, where she took work as a servant in the home of John Goodwin.

In 1688, as the maniacal puritan obsession with wiping out sorcery was beginning to take hold, the children of the house all took ill. The doctor attending stated that it could only have been caused by witchcraft and Goody was the prime suspect.

The eldest daughter stated that she became sick immediately after an argument with the housekeeper. At trial Ann Glover refused to speak anything other than Irish. As a result her testimony was declared invalid and it was considered further proof that she was a witch.

Goody Glover was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to hang in November 1688.  While undoubtedly mentally unwell, in later years the Irish Catholic was deemed to be have been persecuted for her faith and on the 300th anniversary of her execution was memorialised and given her own commemorative day on 16th November in recognition of the injustice done.

Roanoke, the Lost Colony, North Carolina

Lost Colony of Roanoke

During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh was tasked with founding a settlement on the east coast of North America.  In 1584, the first meetings took place with local natives on Roanoke.

The first attempt at settling was fraught with battles with indigenous dwellers and the lack of a relief fleet.  Finally Sir Francis Drake rescued the settlers who wished to leave and returned to England.

In 1587, led by the artist and appointed Governor John White, 115 British men, women and children, including his own granddaughter arrived at Roanoke to create a new colony. When they landed, they discovered that the few settlers who had remained previously had disappeared, only a single human skeleton remaining.

Terrified they tried to re-board the ship, however the Captain refused them passage and insisted they remain behind as instructed. As the state of unrest continued, Governor White returned to England to beg for leniency and the return of the settlers.

Due to the Spanish war and bad weather, White was unable to return to Roanoke until the summer of 1590, where he found… nothing.  Not one colonist, or one tool and the fort was completely dismantled.  The men, women and children of the Roanoke British Colony had vanished.

The only clue was the word ‘CROATOAN’ carved into a tree. Both English and Spanish forces began a hunt for the lost settlers, carrying on until at least 1600, believing the colony to have relocated – they were never found.

Theories of slaughter by natives, integration with locals or relocation abounded, however no bodies, evidence or artefacts were ever found. To this day the 115 remain the lost Colonists of Roanoke.

Happy 4th July!

 

DARK HISTORY: Ireland’s top 5 Strangest Murders from 5th to 19th Century

Sometimes the weirdest stories are not the paranormal or legendary ones, but real life.  In a country built on bloodshed it is not the massacres and executions, but the most innocent of locations and seemingly normal events that have lead to some of the most bizarre murders in Irish History.  From a Saint to a Cabin Boy, here are my 5 strangest Irish murders.

http://www.spookyisles.com/2015/02/irelands-top-5-strangest-murders/

BRIDGET CLEARY – SLAYING OF A FAERY CHANGLING OR MURDER?

thWKG8OQNW

In 1895 Ireland witnessed the most chilling and compelling of murder trials to ever take place in the Emerald Isle to the extent it was reported in newspapers throughout Britain, Ireland and Canada. Those charged with her murder cited the Faeries as their defence.
Bridget Boland Cleary was an attractive confident woman of twenty six years of age. She was married to Michael, an educated Cooper nine years her senior and the childless couple resided with Bridget’s father Patrick Boland in a cottage in Ballyvadlea, County Tipperary.
Bridget was fiercely independent and uncharacteristic of a married woman at that time, as not only was she literate, she was also a very successful business woman. A seamstress with her own machine she made and repaired garments for locals as well as selling eggs from her own chickens. To quote the Judge in the case, Bridget Cleary was “a young married woman, suspecting no harm, guilty of no offence, virtuous and respectable in all her conduct and all her proceedings.”
Early in March of that year Bridget had been out delivering eggs and having caught a cold, it escalated and she became quite ill. The young wife had been subjected to forced intake of herbal concoctions as was the way in that household, however as her condition remained unimproved, the doctor was sent for on 11th March, but was unable to attend until the 13th. At this point rumours believed to have been started by Michael and her Uncle Jack Dunne were circulating the community, stating that Bridget Cleary was gone and that a Faery Changling had been left in her stead.
On examination the doctor said that Bridget was in a “state of nervous excitement” and had a complaint, possibly TB or Bronchitis. In general her life was not believed to be at risk however the priest was called for to deliver the Last Rites. The priest carried out a last confession and the Last Rites. He too was convinced Bridget was not dying and stated there was no need for him to return.
At this stage both Michael Cleary and Bridget’s father Patrick were openly denouncing the poor woman as a Changeling as she remained sickly. The herbal and folklore ‘cures’ being administered were becoming more frequent and more brutal. More family and neighbours were now involved and Bridget was subjected to force feeding, urine being thrown upon her as well as being verbally and physically abused. On 14th March she was finally carried by all present to the fireplace whereupon it was demanded she recite her name three times to prove she was not a Changeling, whilst being held over the fire.
On 16th March Bridget Cleary was reported missing.
Michael Cleary stated his wife had been taken by the Faeries and they were seen to be holding a vigil for her safe return. Following intervention from the local priest, after five days Bridget Cleary’s corpse was found, buried in a shallow grave, charred and burned.
The horror of her final moments was revealed in court. Nine people in total, with Michael Cleary being the main accused were charged with her murder and/or wounding. Bridget had been subjected to torture and torment, finally being burned alive in her nightdress in front of the kitchen fireplace, screams of agony ignored by the silent that stood before her.
That silence continued until arrests were made and the trial began. The evidence brought out at trial was horrific, particularly the post-mortem findings including exposed bones, strangulation marks and burning. Cleary’s argument? “She was too fine to be my wife and two inches taller.” On this basis he deduced she was a Changeling and should be slain.
In total five people were convicted, four of wounding and Michael Cleary of the Manslaughter of his wife, Bridget Cleary, for which he served 15 years in prison after which time he emigrated.
Was this a clever, jealous husband who convinced his neighbours and family to commit atrocities through mass hysteria? Did Michael Cleary genuinely believe his wife had been taken by the Faeries? The outcome of the trial points to the former, yet we will never know. All we know is that poor Bridget will forever be remembered as the victim of Ireland’s most bizarre and controversial murder trial.

Bridget Cleary’s legacy is a nursery rhyme that epitomises the complexity of the circumstances surrounding her death:

Are you a witch or are you a faery?
Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?

THE MURDER OF THE COLLEEN BAWN

The Colleen Bawn

Ellen Hanley was a young lady with her whole life before her. That precious life was cut tragically short by way of callous, premeditated murder, at just fifteen years old.
Ellen was a farmer’s daughter born in Bruree, County Limerick, Ireland in 1803. Her mother died when she was just six years old and she was raised by her uncle. A stunning girl, Ellen was regarded as intelligent and friendly and it was these qualities that caught the eye of a twenty something high class gentleman called John Scanlan.
Despite Ellen’s concerns about the huge chasm between their social backgrounds and age, John convinced her that everything would be fine and the two eloped and were married in Limerick in the summer of 1819. After just five weeks of marriage, John Scanlan grew weary of his new young bride and decided it was time to get rid of her. Together with his manservant, Stephen Sullivan, John plotted the murder of Ellen Hanley.
One evening Sullivan took Ellen out for a boating trip on the River Shannon in Scanlan’s boat, armed with a musket, fully intent on murdering his Master’s wife. When the time came to commit the heinous crime however, Sullivan lost his nerve and was unable to go through with it, so returned to shore in Glin.
John Scanlan was furious that his plan had failed, so he plied Sullivan with whiskey and persuaded him to take her out once again. This time, full of Dutch courage, Sullivan shot Ellen in cold blood, and then removed her clothing and wedding ring, hiding them in the boat. He then weighted her down with rocks, and dumped her heartlessly into the Shannon, where the cold, dark waters enveloped Ellen’s lifeless body.
Weeks passed and Scanlan and Sullivan believed they had got away with their horrendous act. On the 6th September 1819, Ellen Hanley washed up on the banks of Moneypoint, Kilrush, in County Clare. Outrage and horror swept across the people of Clare and Limerick and the two men went on the run.
A massive search took place and John Scanlan was caught. The trial was a sensation, because of the high class of the Scanlan family and because they had hired the great Daniel O’Connell, later to become known as The Liberator to defend their own. With high social standing and a top barrister on his side, Scanlan fully expected to be acquitted. He was wrong.
Found guilty of the murder of his wife, John Scanlan was sentenced to death. He was taken by horse-drawn carriage to Gallows Green in County Clare, or almost. The horses refused to cross the bridge into Gallows Green and Scanlan was made to walk the remaining distance to his place of execution. On 16 March 1820, John Scanlan was hanged.
Four months later, Stephen Sullivan was captured and his trial in Limerick made the headlines. He was immediately found guilty and sentenced to hang. Just before the Hangman placed the noose around his neck, Sullivan told the full story of the murder.
Ellen Hanley is buried in Burrane Cemetery near Kilrush. A Celtic Cross was erected by a local in her memory, with the inscription;
‘Here lies the Colleen Bawn
Murdered on the Shannon
July 14th 1819. R.I.P’

Ghoulish souvenir hunters have chipped away at it over the years and now nothing is left but her grave. Ellen Hanley’s story is very much alive however, in novels, plays and even an opera. If you find yourself on the Ferry to Killimer, stop by and spare a thought for the Fair Girl, spare a moment for The Coleen Bawn.