Bodkin Murders: Innocent Man Hanged?

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

After one of the bloodiest massacres in Irish history, John Bodkin is accused of fratricide in an earlier conflict fuelled by a row over inheritance. At an infamous trial, John refuses to plead guilty or not guilty to the murder of his brother, Patrick. Only his betrothed Catherine Bermingham, the beautiful daughter of Lord Athenry, knows why. She is the keeper of a dark secret, which John insists must be kept hidden, even if it costs him his life.

Based on a true story, my third historical novel explores a tale of treachery, greed and romance in 18th century Ireland. The Story of the Bodkin Murders is available from Club Lighthouse as an e-book, and from and in both paperback and Kindle formats.

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

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

Video “Genealogy of Anglo-Norman Lynches..”

Just click on this link to view a video of my Fulbright Lecture on “The Genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who Settled in Galway,” presented on 5 March 2015 under the chairmanship of Professor Art Cosgrove, past President of UCD. The video was recorded by Brian Kelly, Media Services, University College Dublin.

The book on which my lecture was based is available on and on

Anglo-Norman Lynch Genealogy

4 star review “The Abduction of Anne O’Donel.”

The glittering dance parties out of Jane Austen‘s world in beautiful ball dresses and carriages is not all about Paul McNulty’s book. The Abduction of Anne O’ Donel published by Club Lighthouse set in an old time charming atmosphere highlights the dilemma of whether or not marriages should be made out of love or convenience.

As Anne the beloved daughter and a wealthy heiress tries to sort out her conflict regarding who she must marry between the two suitors, her father earnestly suggests that she must marry the Oxford graduate hotshot lawyer and the writer although Anne may love another, one Mr. Jasper Martin. The deeper one delves into the novel, the more it feels as though the characters are out of a Georgette Heyer, or Baroness Orczy era.

Or even better, Jane Austen’s, upper class snobbery talking money, status, marriage, courting endlessly with a taste of adventure and conspiracy all in a day’s work. Admittedly, the language is well matched with a quaint, yet modern flavor, favorably poised side by side.

It is a fantastic read. One that appeals to a visible world of both light and grey with domestic violence looming high, surrounding a manipulative, angry father and husband in tow. Is there a way out? Pick up your book and find out now.

"The Abduction of Anne O'Donel" by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.

“The Abduction of Anne O’Donel” by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.

Genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches …

On Thursday 5 March 2015, I presented a lecture on “The Genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who Settled in Galway,” under the chairmanship of Professor Art Cosgrove, past-President of University College Dublin. The event was held in the Lynch Theatre, O’Brien Centre for Science, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4 and was supported by the Fulbright Alumni Engagement Fund. The visuals I used, including links to primary sources, are available for inspection through the attached link below, “Lynch OH 7.”

The genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who settled in Galway can be traced back to the invasion of Ireland by Strongbow in 1169. Having settled as one of the fourteen Tribes of Galway, the Lynches held the mayoralty of Galway more than eighty times from 1485 through 1654. Their hold on power was diminished in the city by the Cromwellian confiscations but revived in the countryside through the establishment of landed estates. Eventually, the Anglo-Norman Lynches became more Irish than the Irish themselves. They are now virtually indistinguishable from the older Gaelic Lynches whose name is derived from Ó Loinsigh. The discovery of forgotten stories linked to the Lynches has inspired the author to write historical novels and plays based on real events in 18th century Ireland.

Paul McNulty is a Fulbright Scholar and Alumnus of UCD, Ohio State and MIT. He served on the academic staff at University College Dublin from 1972-2005 and since retirement has studied Genealogy/Family History and Creative Writing. His diploma project, “The Genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who Settled in Galway,” was published in the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society in 2010. Paul has written two historical novels, Spellbound by Sibella, and The Abduction of Anne O’Donel, inspired by his research in genealogy. Both have been finalists in the William Faulkner Novel Competitions in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and have been published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Canada.

Lynch OH 7

Thomas McNulty, the grandfather I never knew.

My grandfather, Thomas McNulty, the son of Charles of Derry City and Maria McColgan of Culdaff, Donegal, attended Trinity College Dublin before studying the law at King’s Inns, Dublin. He was admitted as a barrister to the Society in the Trinity Term 1889. He married Mary Boylan of 31 Hawthorn Terrace, Dublin 3 in Rathmines Roman Catholic Church, Dublin on 30 December, 1891. They lived with their children, Charles, Thomas Bernard (my father), John and Margaret Mary at 15 Warrington Place, Dublin 2. Little is known of my grandfather’s professional practice as a barrister. He died young on 8 November, 1903 in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, and is buried with his wife, children and my mother, Kathleen McHugh, of Tuam, Co Galway in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The following record of my grandfather was provided by Sile O’Shea of the King’s Inns Library, Henrietta Street, Dublin on 26 July 2007:

The entry for your grandfather appears in the book, ‘King’s Inns Barristers, 1868-2004′, edited by Kenneth Ferguson (The Honorable Society of King’s Inns in association with The Irish Legal History Society, 2005), as follows –

McNulty, Thomas (b. 1 Sept. 1863) only s. of Charles McNulty, decd., late of Great James’ Street, Derry, Co. Londonderry, and Maria McColgan; B.A. (T.C.D.); M 1885. 1889/T/03.

The Records’ Room of the King’s Inns library holds the papers belonging to your grandfather if you wish to consult them.

As regards any details of your grandfather’s professional practice as a barrister, it may be possible that after your grandfather’s death an obituary appeared in the ‘Irish Law Times’ periodical which is also held in the King’s Inns library. It would be necessary to know when your grandfather died so that that particular volume could be checked in the library for any details relating to him and his professional life. If his date of death is not known, it might be worth checking the ‘Thom’s Directory’ to see up to what date your grandfather practiced and that might give you some indication of when he died.

Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin,1863-1903.

Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin,1863-1903.

Mary Boylan, the wife of Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin, Ireland.

Mary Boylan, the wife of Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin, Ireland.

The Legal Education of Thomas McNulty at King's Inns, Dublin, Ireland, 1889.

The Legal Education of Thomas McNulty at King’s Inns, Dublin, Ireland, 1889.

Liam Mellowes to Thomas McHugh: Irish Volunteers

Letter(1) from Liam Mellowes (1895-1922) to Thomas McHugh (1877-1957), Tuam, Co Galway
Ógláigh Na hÉireann (The Irish Volunteers)

Eoin MacNeill BA (2); Laurence J Kettle (3): Hon Secretaries

Eanair 16adh 1914 (16 January 1914)

Tomás Mac Aodha Uasal, Tuaim (Mr Thomas McHugh, Tuam)

A Chara Dhíl (Dear Friend)

Herewith I enclose copies of the “Headquarters Gazette” manifesto, Enrolment Forms and membership cards (4) of Ógláigh na hÉireann. In the Gazette you will find I think practically all the information required regarding the Volunteer movement.

A paper, to be devoted entirely to the Volunteer movement, will be on sale at end of month.

With best wishes for success.

Do Chara (Your Friend)

Liam Ó Maoilíosa (Liam Mellowes) Hon Organising Sec.

Notes: (1) Letter was written when Liam Mellowes was 18 years old. Original copy of the letter (below) is held by Mrs Juliett McHugh, 8 St Ronans Close, Galway, the daughter-in-law of Thomas McHugh.
(2) Professor Eoin MacNeill was a grandfather to Michael McDowell, former Minister for Justice.
(3) Laurence Kettle was a President of The Institution of Engineers of Ireland in 1934 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (DSc) by the National University of Ireland in 1938
(4) “I, the undersigned, desire to be enrolled in the Irish Volunteers, formed to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland without distinction of creed, class, or politics.”

A 1914 letter from Irish revolutionary, Liam Mellowes to my maternal grandfather, Thomas McHugh of Tuam, Co Galway

A 1914 letter from Irish revolutionary, Liam Mellowes to my maternal grandfather, Thomas McHugh of Tuam, Co Galway

Witchcraft in Mayo

When I researched the history of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who settled in Galway, I never expected to find a story of witchcraft. Of special interest was an 18th century tale in which SIBELLA COTTLE was urged to spellbind her lover, SIR HARRY LYNCH-BLOSSE of Balla, Co Mayo. Guided by a local midwife, the red-haired beauty made a powerful love charm from the skin of a corpse. Known as the spancel of death, she would use it to spellbind the 7th Baronet should he decide to abandon her.

This story has fascinated me ever since its discovery in Legends of Connaught in which Sibella was described as “a professed woman of pleasure.” T H Nally later called her “a governess from Moore Hall” in his 1916 play, The Spancel of Death. Whatever her provenance, Sibella bore seven children by Sir Harry before his death in 1788. In his will, Harry surnamed all his children by her as Lynch, and left substantial bequests to each.

Sibella resorted to witchcraft only after JAMES CUFFE MP of Ballinrobe advised Harry to banish his Catholic mistress and marry a wealthy Protestant lady. Such a union would have eased the financial pressure on his estate of 20,000 acres. Terrified for the future of her children, Sibella approached her midwife, JUDY HOLIAN, who recommended the spancel. Judy guaranteed that the powerful love charm would spellbind Harry to her for life. Although shocked by a process that required the flaying of skin from an exhumed corpse, Sibella agreed to carry out the dastardly deed out of desperation.

She was even more horrified when told that the corpse was that of Ellen Colgan, an illegitimate child of Harry in a previous dalliance. In the ritual that followed, Sibella was required to walk around the corpse seven times quenching a candle after each round, while Judy chanted a spell in Gaelic. A strip of skin was flayed off the young girl. The witch embedded seven hairs from Harry’s head into the skin using animal blood before covering it with silk. Sibella was instructed to place the love charm under Harry’s pillow at night. When the cock crowed in the morning, she was to remove the spancel and hide it in a safe place.

For those who might doubt the authenticity of this story, I would refer you to the Reverend Caesar Otway who recorded the use of witchcraft by three Catholic girls in Belmullet. They had made good matches above their station in life having flayed the corpse of a Trappist monk to produce a love charm. Local people believed that the spell was made more powerful through the use of such holy and chaste skin. Otway was surprised to find that “Protestant females … of the better sort,” also used a practice that had originated in England.

Whether Sibella Cottle actually applied the spancel to Harry is not known. Nonetheless, the existence of the spancel was reputedly confirmed when it was found dangling from the gable end of Balla chapel. It may have been discovered in the thatch of the witch’s cabin and dispatched from there to the chapel.

We know that Harry never married the rich Protestant lady recommended for him, or anyone else for that matter. Instead, he remained loyal to Sibella as his mistress in the Big House until he died – a practice that scandalized the local community. Thereafter, nothing is known of this extraordinary woman. Did she go mad, wracked with guilt, as suggested in The Spancel of Death, a fate prompted by Lady Wilde’s rendition of “The Fatal Love Charm?” Adele Dalsimer, the late Professor of Irish Studies at Boston College, has suggested that Sibella may have survived the trauma of her witchcraft. If true, she must have been a strong and resourceful woman who put the past behind her in order to rear her seven illegitimate children. I have adopted this latter approach in my on-going research into her fate and the fate of her children.

My debut novel published by Club Lighthouse in 2013

My debut novel published by Club Lighthouse in 2013

1776 Election to the Irish Parliament for Mayo

The election manifesto of Arthur Browne, Viscount Westport and James Cuffe MP of Ballinrobe was published in the Freeman’s Journal on six occasions from May 9 to May 21 for the May 23 election in Castlebar. The two candidates appeared irritated by having to endure an electoral contest having been nominated to represent Mayo by the gentlemen of the county on September 4, 1775.

To the Gentlemen, Clergy, and Freeholders of the County of Mayo.
Gentlemen, Having had the Honour to be called upon to stand joint Candidates to represent the County of Mayo in the next Parliament, by the unanimous voice of the Gentlemen of our County at the County Meeting, held at Castlebar on Monday the 4th September last, by Advertisement in the public Papers, the High Sheriff in the Chair, We thought that the Sense of that Meeting would show the Sentiments of the County, and prevent the unnecessary Trouble to Gentlemen removed from Castlebar of attending at the Election; but as we find that an Opposition is intended, we beg Leave to call upon you for the Honour of your Suffrages on that Occasion; and as the High Sheriff has fixed on Thursday the 23rd Day of this inst. May, at the County Courthouse in Castlebar, in said County, at eight o’Clock in the Forenoon of said Day, to proceed to the Election; and as it is probable (as two polls are by the late Law to go on together) the Election will not hold many Days, the early Appearances of our friends will lay a lasting Obligation on,
Your most obliged, and most obedient humble Servants,
Castlebar May 7, 1776.

When the votes were counted over two days, Browne (709) and Cuffe (613) were re-elected despite opposition from George Fitzgerald Esq (245), and Charles Fitzgerald Esq (149) who were eliminated. The total votes cast for the four candidates were 1716 as recorded in Finn’s Leinster Journal and in the Freeman’s Journal, Sat 1 Jun 1776.

James Cuffe of Ballinrobe, elected Member of Parliament for Mayo in 1776.

James Cuffe of Ballinrobe, elected Member of Parliament for Mayo in 1776.

Bishop murdered at Lough Conn

When I wrote about the abduction of Anne O’Donel to Glass Island, Lough Conn in 1785, I was unaware of the story of the Bishop who was reputedly murdered there. Josie Kilduff, a student at nearby Lisaniska National School, describes how the Franciscan monks invited the Bishop of the diocese to Glass Island to elect a new Abbot to their Monastery. The monks also invited the Bishop to remain on the island for a while, but not long after, they found him murdered there.

Further distress afflicted the monks after a monster reputedly came in from the lake and destroyed their crops. They eventually abandoned the island. Josie also states that the monster appears in the lake before a drowning.

Josie’s story was recorded as part of the recently digitized School’s Collection in the National Folklore Collection of the late 1930s under the title, “The Franciscan Monastery of Glass Island in Lough Conn.” The only other reference I found to a monastic settlement in Lough Conn is to the nearby Errew Abbey at Crossmolina.

"The Abduction of Anne O'Donel" by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.

“The Abduction of Anne O’Donel” by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.

EHFA: The Abduction of Anne O’Donel – Truth or Fiction?

The background to the recently published historical novel, The Abduction of Anne O’Donel, is outlined in a blog on the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) website. It includes issues such as contemporary relevance and historical accuracy with links to key on-line sources that relate to the 1785 abduction of Anne O’Donel in Co Mayo, Ireland. The blog also features a biography for the author, Paul B McNulty.

"The Abduction of Anne O'Donel" by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.

“The Abduction of Anne O’Donel” by Paul B McNulty is published by Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is also available on Amazon.