A 1741 Primary Source for the Bodkin Murders

A 1741 report in Pue’s Occurrences was the only primary source cited by Oliver J Burke in his 1885 Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit… dealing with the Bodkin murders that occurred in the village of Belclare, Tuam, Co Galway, Ireland. No editorial corrections have been applied to this historic report in the twice weekly newspaper, apart from substituting the letter “s” for its antiquated form similar to the letter “f”. I have also used this report and other undiscovered primary sources in writing my 2015 historical novel, A Story of the Bodkin Murders.

Country – News, Tuam Oct. the 9th 1741

On Monday, Oct. 5th Mr. Justice Rose sat here, to hold the Assizes Pursuant to his Adjournment from Galway, on the 24 Aug. last, some prisoners who lay in the County Jail at Gallway, were sent for by Thomas Shaw, Esq., High Sheriff.

Tuesday the 6th, John Bodkin Fitz Oliver, Domnick Bodkin, commonly called blind Domnick , and John Cagane (a Shepherd) commonly called Shane Ryeevagh, and also John Bodkin Fitz John, commonly called John Counsellor (in Contra Distinction to his Cousin Germain the said John Oliver) were brought from Galway Jail hither, and on the same Day the Solicitor General came here.

Wednesday the 7th the Grand Jury found 30 Bills of Indictment against John Oliver Bodkin, Blind Domnick Bodkin, and Shane Ryeevagh, for the murder of Oliver Bodkin father of said John Oliver, of Margery Bodkin his Wife, of Oliver Bodkin the younger, their Son, and Brother by the half Blood of said Oliver Bodkin, of Marcus Lynch a merchant from Gallway, who on the 18th Sept. (the Night said Murder was committed) went to the said Oliver’s House at Carrowbane (where the Tragedy happened) for a Bed and Retirement from the Hurry of the Races of Tuam, and for the Murder of five other Persons, on which Indictment the said several Prisoners being called on to the Barr, were arraigned and they pleaded severally Guilty, whereupon the usual Sentence was pronounced, and they wou’d be executed from the Dock, but that it was then towards Night, or very late in the Evening, and the Gallows was not erected, but they were executed next Day. John Oliver and Blind Domnick are to be hung up on Gibbets near the place where the Murder was committed, and Shane Ryeevagh was quarter’d and his Bowells burned he being then alive, his Head is to be hung over the Court House, or Market House of this Town. These barbarous malefactors were in the Dock, in the Jail, and at the Gallows very sensible of their Crime, and behaved very penitently, and declared their Punishment was too Mild for their Offence.

John Oliver and Blind Domnick while in Court, and at the Gallows persisted in a charge of another Murder, which they alledged was committed on the 3rd of May 1739, in manner following.

Domnick Bodkin the son and heir of Councellor John Bodkin being seized by descent of an Estate of 800l. per Ann. had several Brothers, but particularly his second Brother John, (or the above named John Counsellor) and Francis Bodkin, lately deceas’d his fourth Brother, these 3 Brothers lay on said 3rd May 1739, at their Uncle the said Oliver Bodkin’s House at Carrowbane, where lay also the said blind Domnick Bodkin. Domnick Bodkin lay in an inner Room, & all said other Persons on 2 Pallads in another Room, and the Family lay in the further end of the House, blind Domnick and John Counsellor lay on one Pallad together, and Frank Bodkin and John Oliver in another. John Oliver (who was not in the secret) being a sleep, his Bedfellow Frank Bodkin and the other two, blind Domnick and John Counsellor, got up, went into the inner Room & there they strangled the Unfortunate Domnick Bodkin which pass’d for a sudden Death, by which an Estate of 800l. per Ann. fell to the Murderer (as is charged) John Bodkin Counsellor, his Brother. The said John Oliver and blind Domnick further declared they and Frank Bodkin intended soon afterwards to Murder John Counsellor and one Patrick Bodkin, his brother, elder than Frank Bodkin, whereby the Estate of 800l. per Ann. would come to Frank, all this the executed murderers insisted till they were cast off.

The said John Oliver also declared that the aforesaid Murder proving so successful and undiscovered, encouraged him to commit this horrid Paracide and said he had often laid poison for his Brother and Mother, which had not the desired Effect.

Note: The more severe punishment applied to the shepherd, John Cagane commonly called Shane Ryeevagh, may be occasioned by his lower social status as compared to the landed gentry Bodkins even though he may have been a reluctant participant as suggested in A Story of the Bodkin Murders.

A bloody slaughter — a tainted inheritance — a dark secret.

A bloody slaughter — a tainted inheritance — a dark secret.