search instagram arrow-down

THE DUNCULLEN SAGA

Follow me on Twitter

The Alliance of Independent Authors - Author Member
I'm an Ethical Author
Follow M.B. Gibson Books on WordPress.com

Recent Posts

Previous Posts

Topics

Aroon Barnwell SC book review Civil Rights Movement diaries genealogy indentured servants internet resources interviews Ireland Irish lore John B. Pryor John Tuohy Lincoln music newspapers Nicholas Sheehy Pat Conroy placage Pryor Knowledge Reading Challenge review South Carolina South Carolina lowcountry The Least of These travels Uncategorized Whiteboys William Johnson Word Histories Writing

Goodreads

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,184 other followers

Cruel and Unusual

A portion of F.W. Byrne’s “Execution of Robert Emmet in
Dublin in 1803″

In 1766, Father Nicholas Sheehy was hanged, drawn and quartered, then decapitated by the state. This was his penalty for a murder he clearly did not commit.

During my research, I recently found a book, The Case of Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, edited by Ed O’Riordon that compiles the known accounts of this tragedy. I immediately ordered this treasure trove.

While corresponding with Mr. O’Riordon, he forwarded me an article he recently wrote for the South Tipperary Nationalist newspaper. In it, he considered the horror we feel as ISIS beheads innocents before our very eyes. “It is,” he writes, “the stuff of nightmares.”

Even as I compose this post, the fates of a Japanese journalist and Jordanian pilot are teetering between freedom and a barbaric death. O’Riordon quotes the reactions of two British Prime Ministers. David Cameron called the actions “despicable and barbaric” while former PM John Major referred to “thirteenth century barbarism.” All true. It sickens every one of us. Many news outlets (thank God) refuse to show the videos and I, for one, will not watch.

Yet, nearly 250 years ago, Father Nicholas Sheehy, a parish priest of County Tipperary, dared to stand up for the poor and struggling against powerful landowners considered by one historian “lunatic fringe.” Convicted of a trumped-up murder charge, the priest’s execution was swift and brutal.

O’Riordon brings this home as we think of today’s news reports. “We should hold on to those feelings of terror and dread and use them to understand the feelings of the people of South Tipperary when Fr Nicholas Sheehy P.P. was hanged and beheaded in Clonmel, in front of his parishioners and family, in 1766.”

Not the thirteenth century. Only two and a half centuries ago. Under British law.

Unbelievably, that was not enough. The priest’s severed head was staked in front of the jail for TWENTY YEARS for all to see as they walked the streets—as a ghoulish warning.

This was not uncommon practice then for true or perceived criminals. About ten years earlier in Boston, a slave named Mark was hanged for murdering his master. His rotting body was placed on display for twenty years. It is said Paul Revere passed these remains on his famous ride.

While we are appropriately horrified by what is going on in Syria and Iraq, it would serve us to remember that, but for a handful of generations, go we.

And yes, it was every bit as horrific.

NOTE: The above picture is from the cover of Ed O’Riordon’s book “The Case of Fr. Nicholas Sheehy”. While it does not depict Sheehy’s execution, Robert Emmet’s was similar.

2 comments on “Cruel and Unusual

  1. Open Source Blog – Open source at Google with
    news concerning Google’s open source tasks as well as programs.

    Like

Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: