Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: way out in the wilderness a lone coyote calls
While browsing the internet I came accross a list of Irish Women Hanged -mostly for husband killing and with a partner.
This is the list of women executed in this Country between the years of 1800 and 1923. I canâ€™t do tabs and it reads Date of Execution, Name, Location, Crime.
29th January 1800 Mary Connor Gallows Green Cork for murder
17th April 1801 Elizabeth Burne Naas for murder.
22nd August 1810 Mary Costigan Tipperary for murder.
30th March 1811 Eleanor Shiel Tipperary for child murder.
31st March 1813 Catherine Geran Limerick Burglary
2nd April 1813 Catherine Donovan Gallows Green Cork Murder
19th July 1815 Jane Mulholland Armagh Murder of her husband.
4th August 1815 Honara Houraghan Gallows Green Cork Murder of her husband.
10th April 1818 Mary Connell Gallows Green Cork Murder
11th August 1818 Bridget Murray Cavan Murder of her husband.
29th March 1819 Mary McGarry Downpatrick Child Murder
14th March 1823 Mary Plunkett Trim Co Meath Murder of her husband.
14th March 1822 Frances Gilligan Trim Co Meath Aiding in the above murder.
23rd April 1823 Mrs McKinnon Dublin Murder
16th August 1824 Esther Loughbridge Carrickfergus Murder of her sister in law.
11th March 1825 Eleanor Ryan Limerick Murder of her husband.
28th April 1826 Joanna Lovett Tralee Murder of her husband.
17th March 1828 Mary Magrath Dundalk Murder
22nd March 1830 Ellen Connell Tralee Murder of her husband.
25th March 1830 Mary Kelly Kilkenny Murder of her aunt.
31st March 1830 Jane Graham Carrickfergus Murder of her husband.
31st March 1830 Mary Murphy Limerick Conspiracy to murder.
13th August 1830 Bridget Brennan Tralee Murder of her husband
24th August 1830 Margaret Clelland Downpatrick Murder
18th March 1831 Margaret Mackesay Limerick Murder
5th August 1831 Agnes Clarke Downpatrick Murder.
6th August 1831 Judith Butler Clonmel Murder
8th June 1832 Margaret Gunning Clonmel Murder.
19th August 1833 Elizabeth Heaffy Cork Murder.
17th February 1834 Maria Canning Dublin Murder
13th March 1835 Lucinda Sly Carlow Murder of her husband hanged with male accomplice.
7th August 1837 Mary Cooney Limerick Murder of Anne Anderson.
1st May 1841 Mary Ann McConkey Monaghan Murder of her husband.
7th August 1844 Catherine Bryan Roscommon Murder of her husband Patrick.
7th August 1844 Bridget Lanigan Roscommon Murder of her brother in law above.
21st March 1849 Jane Scully Roscommon Murder of Isabella Brennan (Hanged with a male co-defendant.)
11th August 1849 Catherine Dillon Limerick Murder of her husband Daniel (Hanged with male co-defendant)
27th July 1850 Bridget Keogh Ennis Murder of Arthur Oâ€™Donnell (Hanged with male co-defendant)
10th May 1851 Catherine Connolly Cork Murder of Mary Morris
29th April 1853 Bridget Stackpole Ennis Murder of her nephew James (Hanged with her husband Richard)
29th April 1853 Honora Stackpole Ennis As above and the last woman to be publicly executed publicly in Ireland.
9th January 1903 Mary Daly Tullamore Murder of her husband John. (Her co-defendant was hanged two days later)
5th August 1925 Annie Walsh Dublin Murder of her Husband Edward. Her nephew and lover was executed on the same day. She was the last woman to be executed in Ireland.
One that stands out is the fantasticly named Lucinda Sly who with her servant John Dempsey killed her husband Walter. Her ghost is said to haunt Carlow shopping Center.
the Govenors house witch is now Cafe Le Monde
Does Lucy Slye’s ghost still
look down on the old gaol?
ON that moment when her frightened body fell, when the rope tightened around her frail neck, what did Lucy Slye see? Or did she see at all?
Crowds baying for blood, innocent or not, roaring, cheering her drop to death. She must have been a frightened soul, looking down from the gallows with her misty teary eyes. More likely, poverty was Lucy’s only crime.
In the old gaol in Carlow, now Carlow Shopping Centre, the ghost of an unseen woman roams, caught between the world of reality and the other side. For this ghost, it is a lonely life.
Dominic Peel, owner of Cafe Le Monde, is one who has felt this ghost’s presence, and he is convinced that it is Lucy Slye’s spirit who haunts Carlow Gaol.
He has researched the details of this historic place, and he believes the “mysterious lady”, who frequents his premises, is the victim of a hanging, a person who garnered her last breath from the foul air in the hanging cell.
“It was not uncommon in those days (the late 1700s to early 1800s) that a person was hung for stealing food,” said Dominic, noting that it is a little ironic that she now haunts the shopping centre where his restaurant is situated.
Yet, Dominic has not felt any animosity from the ghost, who he described as “very playful”, although neither him or his staff will stay alone on the premises when darkness descends.
The first time Lucy came to the notice of the staff of Cafe Le Monde was when some papers disappeared. Nothing unusual about that. Only that they reappeared on a table two weeks later.
Still a little doubtful? As they do every evening, the staff brushed and mopped the floor, leaving the chairs up on the tables.
Next morning, the staff arrived in bright eyed and bushy tailed, only to find that all the chairs were on the floor, and rearranged.
There were other instances, as witnesses saw lights flashing upstairs from the ground floor. Indeed, Dominic told the story of getting “an eerie feeling”, as if being watched, while alone in his office one night. He left quickly.
Perhaps one of the most amazing stories recorded was when an order arrived late one evening and the chef decided to unpack and sort it out in the morning.
However, when the staff came in next day, they found that the goods had been put away in the kitchen. The chef thanked another member for doing the work, yet all the staff denied undertaking the task.
Such deeds on the part of the ghost has left the staff unafraid, and indeed her presence in the shopping centre is often seen as a bit of a joke.
“Now,” said Dominic, “whenever anything goes missing, they say go and check with Lucy.” But they will still not stay after dark.
Dominic explained that the story goes that, before her death, Lucy put a curse on all successive governors of the old gaol that they would die young. Dominic added: “Thank God! I’ve seemed to have weathered the storm.”
If the ghost of Lucy Slye is trapped between the four walls of Carlow Shopping Centre for eternity, who knows? Certainly, from the historical evidence, the gaol has had a chequered history.
Public hangings were spectacles and entertainment of a sort.
In an article entitled Carlow Gaol, writer Peter Thomas recounted the story of an English woman’s visit in the 1840s to Carlow, where she happened upon a hanging.
She described the hanging as “a scene of wickedness and debauchery” and noted that many of the drunken spectators were being sold alcohol by “women of doubtful morals”. What would Galway District Court Judge Garavan say about that?
Anyway, there are many horrific accounts of these hangings throughout history, with one priest protesting to the “noisy and boisterous” crowd to desist so the person being hanged could make their peace with God. Was Lucy Slye, believed to be the last woman hanged in Carlow Gaol, afforded this opportunity? Did she make her peace with God?
Some accounts of Lucina Sly's story say that her husband was a brute of a man. It was her second marriage and her son was a policeman and before all this happened she even discussed the beatings with her clergyman.
One man who knew the Slys and wasn’t afraid to speak out was the Rev. John Doyne.
When examined by the Crown he was quite forthright in his testimony. “ I knew Sly about 12
years”, he said, “and I knew his wife for the same time.” He continued:
“ About five years ago she complained to me of the ill-treatment she received from her
husband. He was a man of a most violent temper. She told me that upon occasion she was
turned out without any clothing at night, and beaten with a horsewhip.”
But then he was on fairly good terms with her son -a policeman so one wonders what really went on
The day before the murder --Saturday, the 8 November 1834 -- was a fair day in Carlow
town. She remembered it well, not least because she chanced to meet Walter Sly there.
Walter was an acquaintance and, while at the fair, she spent a few minutes in his company.
About 5 o’clock in the evening, she decided to leave the fair and made her way home out by
Graigue and up the steep incline past Bilboa and Slievemargy right into the heart of Leix
(then Queen’s County). Walter Sly and a companion named Ned Radwell, who was riding
with him, overtook her, and they all rode together for some distance.
Walter had the appearance of someone who had some drink taken, but there was nothing
unusual about that. Most people left a fair with a little drink on them -- and there was nothing
extraordinary about Walter’s behaviour. When Radwell fell behind, Walter got talking again
to Francis. It was small talk, such as passes between people going the same road.
He told her that he was on his way to dine at the police barracks in Bilboa with a young man
named Thomas Singleton. Thomas Singleton was Lucinda Sly’s son by a previous marriage
and was therefore stepson to Walter. Singleton was a policeman stationed at Bilboa and
when the party reached Bilboa they joined Singleton in a public house and had a drink
They talked about various things, Francis Campbell stating later that she never noticed
whether Singleton carried a gun or not. She bid her company goodnight, saddled her horse
and headed for home in the hinterland of Slievemargy. It was, she said, the last time she
would ever set eyes on Walter Sly.
When asked what kind of a man Walter was, she had no hesitation in replying that he was “a
man of robustic temper”. Such was the language of the times, used no doubt to describe
what was, perhaps, an independent self-assertive -- and probably an unhappy -- man. As to
whether Walter ever spoke of his fear of being shot, she couldn’t venture an opinion,
although he did once mention that his life was in danger. Persons named Brennan had some
quarrel with him over land – and yes; he was a drinking man and yes; he was in the habit of
carrying arms about his person.
So on to the trial
Both were charged with having conspired, aided and assisted in the murder of Walter Sly, at
the Ridge of Old Leighlin on the morning of the 9th of November past (1834). A considerable
amount of time was occupied in calling over the panel, which was ‘the most numerous and
respectable we recollect’ for many years. During the reading of the Indictment, which
contained eight counts, the prisoners stood unmoved, and pleaded not guilty. The son of the
female prisoner by a former marriage, a young man named Singleton, who we understand is
in the Police assisted throughout in the defence. Mr Job L Campion, the agent for the
defence, and Mr Seeds on the part of the Crown challenged the panel on both sides, when
the petty Jury was sworn (See Appendix A).
Again we have an array of Carlow names and noticeable among them is Samuel Haughton,
of the famous Haughton family, namesake to the man who scientifically studied the most
efficient way to hang someone.
In legal terms the case seemed simple enough, but depended upon the quality of the
evidence given. Lucinda Sly was married and had issue by an earlier marriage. She then
married Walter Sly and had no issue by her second marriage. Indeed, it was a lamentable
fact that the second marriage was not a very harmonious one, each party, whether wittingly
or unwittingly, made the other quite ill at ease about their home at Old Leighlin
Dempsey was late 20's or 30 and she was aged betwen 54 and 60 and whether they were lovers or not it appears he was blackmailing her.
One thing is sure; Walter Sly was very popular with the police. A couple of days before the
murder another Sub-constable -- John James -- went out to Walter’s place to help him kill a
pig. John Dempsey and Lucinda Sly were there. James happened to the in the dairy when
he saw ‘ some symptoms of intimacy between the prisoners.’ More significantly, perhaps, he
also ‘saw her‘ taking hold of his person’.
It became clear from the tenor of the evidence that sexual impropriety, however undesirable,
was not going to successfully drive the murder charge to conviction. There would have to be
more substantial evidence present about the actual murder itself. And the Crown sought that
assistance from the next two witnesses, Mrs. Bridget M’Assey and old Michael Connors,
who were expected to provide that extra help that the prosecution needed to clarify the case
for the jury.
Bridget M’Assey and her husband lived ‘within two fields’ of Sly’s house and she claimed to
have known both Walter and Lucinda Sly well. She recalled that the couple were very
discontented ‘some nine years previously’ and Mrs Sly used to complain more recently to
“When the turf was cutting last season,” she said, “Lucinda showed me the marks of a
beating.” She also knew Dempsey, who was servant to the Slys. He was hired because -- at
the time -- there was no female servant available. As a married woman, Bridget also thought
it most improper of Mrs Sly ‘to go into a room with Dempsey and lock the door on herself’.
She also saw her ‘frequently with her hands about Dempsey’s neck’. She also saw
‘transactions’ when she was getting the potatoes. The ‘transactions’ remained unspecified;
but the court seemed to know what she meant.
She also claimed that Lucinda told her that when Dempsey saw her get money, he would
take it from her to buy tobacco. Indeed, according to the witness, he used to sell milk and
butter for her behind Walter’s back. This left Mrs Sly short and witness used to give her
The execution and news reports
The Kilkenny Journal (8 April) briefly described the event :
At half past two o’clock the culprits were brought to the fatal drop in white linen dresses. A
Protestant and Presbyterian Clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Hare and the Rev. Mr Flood attended
Mrs. Sly. The female appeared almost lifeless, being with difficulty held in an erect posture
by one of the Clergymen and the Governor of the Gaol, who were both obliged to assist the
executioner in his part of the arrangements, otherwise she must have been strangled before
she was turned off. —
The Rev. Mr. Hume and the Rev. Mr. Duggan, R.C. Clergyman, attended Dempsey. He
came forward to the fatal drop, with a firm step, and great apparent composure. He made a
motion as if to say something, but from the great noise of the multitude, which was
congregated to witness the tragic scene, he, at the instance of the Clergyman, gave up his
intention, and in an instant both were launched into eternity.
The wretched woman, as we are informed, previous to her execution evinced little or no
symptoms of repentance, and appeared to be almost insensible to the awfulness of her
situation, though the necessity of both was hourly impressed upon her by the Clergymen in
attendance, and several humane ladies, who were in the habit of visiting the prison.
Dempsey, on the contrary, before and after his trial, manifested the strongest desire of
making peace with his God. He spent several hours daily in prayer and other religious
exercise. He seemed perfectly resigned to his fate; and we have no hesitation assaying he
died perfectly penitent.
He was rather a well looking man, about five feet ten inches in height, remarkably well
proportioned, and about thirty years old. Mrs Sly was probably double that age; it did not
appear to be so much.
What really happened from their confessions
Prior to their execution the prisoners made the coveted admission of their guilt, and
according to the Leinster Independent at the time, the real circumstances of the murder
occurred in the following manner: -
Sly, as appeared on the trial, was a man of very violent temper, and often beat his wife,
without the slightest provocation. Dempsey lived as a servant with them, and had often to
interfere between them. He generally succeeded in pacifying his master.
On the morning of the night on which Sly was murdered – previous to going to the fair – he
beat his wife, and promised her, on his return – to sue his own words – to make skillets of
her skull. During the day Mrs Sly told Dempsey she was sure her husband would murder her
some time -- which he had latterly become jealous of him; and would murder him also.
On Sly’s return home he appeared rather in liquor, and before long commenced to beat his
wife. Dempsey, as usual, had to interfere, and with difficulty succeeded in making peace. Sly
then went to the fire, sat down, took off his leggings, and spurs, and fell asleep.
Mrs. Sly subsequently went to a chest or bin, brought from it a hatchet, and placed it beside
Dempsey, who was sitting on a settle bed, saying, and “now is your time to settle him.”
He at first objected to her proposal, but finally yielded, and taking up he hatchet, went over to
where Sly was sleeping, but upon attempting to raise his arm, felt himself devoid of the
power. ~He returned back to the place where Mrs Sly was standing, saying he could not do
it. She reproached him with his cowardice – he went as second time, and found himself
equally powerless. She then said” give me the hatchet; I will do it myself.” –
He gave it to her, but she instantly returned, exclaiming in an under tone, she could not do it
either, and that he was no man. Dempsey roused by this observation, took the hatchet, the
third time, went back again to where Sly was sleeping, and, raising his arm, struck the
deceased a dreadful blow on the head, which instantly killed him –They then put on his
leggings and spurs, and carried him out, and threw him at the stable door. Dempsey then got
the pistol, and fired a ball through his head, and another through the door, to make it appear
that t Sly was murdered in some other way.
A full account of the trial is given here and it is well worth a read.
It is worth noting that Walter Sly used to threaten his wife that if he died she would inherit nothing but his will gave her all except £10 to a nephew
So it seems that it was a combination of things that brought it about.
Carlow had a big population of Quakers at the time and some served on the jury - I get the feeling that there was some compassion for her but I would like to know more about her as a person.
They seem like an odd couple and in an area like Carlow were unable to get a female servant.
Last edited by CDfm; 13-11-2010 at 16:04.