The use of Nux Vomica in the Bodkin Murders

Background

I discovered the story of the Bodkin Murders when researching The Genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who settled in Galway. That encouraged me to write a historical novel, A Story of the Bodkin Murders, that dealt with the trevails of this Anglo-Norman family. More recently, I have drafted a stage play based on the hanging of young John Bodkin in 1742. He had been found guilty of the murder of his elder brother, Dominick, whose death in 1739 was originally deemed a natural event. I had always felt that young John was innocent of fratricide because he refused to acknowledge his guilt, and because his last words on the gallows, I forgive mankind, implied innocence.

Archive Search

To further prove the point, I contacted the National University of Ireland at Galway to inquire if the Liber A On-Line Galway Corporation Statute Book 1485-1712 extended beyond 1712. I had hoped it would contain a record of the trial and hanging of young John on 19/20 March 1742 that occurred in the Tholsel building and at Gallows Green, Galway. Archivist Kieran Hoare responded to my inquiry but found no relevant record in the Liber Book of the period. However, he extended his search to uncover reports of the Bodkin Murders and related events in the London Evening Post and in the Daily Post. These confirmed the reportage of the Bodkin Murders in Pue’s Occurrences but also featured some interesting differences in detail.

Differences in Reportage

  1. The London papers suggested that the natural death of Dominick Bodkin in 1739 arose from the washing down of a surfeit of salted pork with milk or buttermilk. [1]
  1. John Oliver Bodkin, a first cousin of young John, was reported as about 26 years when executed in 1741 for his role in the Bodkin Murders. However, his age should have been about 20 because his mother, Marie Lynch, married Oliver Bodkin in 1720.[2]
  1. The killing of guard dogs had been reported on the night of the Bodkin Murders but not the killing of cats.[3]
  1. O J Burke maintained that young John Bodkin had been found under a heap of straw on a farm, whereas, I am now suggesting an attempted escape to France. The Evening Post took another line by placing him in a hole in a mountain or in a turf-bog covered with straw.[4]
  1. Redmond Burke of Clonevadoge, horse-rider, was allegedly one of the conspirators in the Bodkin Murders. However he disappears from the story, possibly confused with Roger Kelly, the highwayman, who withdrew from the conspiracy at the last minute.[5]
  1. It was well-known that John Oliver Bodkin had tried to poison his step-mother, Marjery Blake. He, apparently, had used Nux Vomica (strychnine) which had not been reported elsewhere.[6]
  1. The Evening Post suggested that young John Bodkin got a fair and full trial. I feel this is inconsistent with his refusal to plead guilty at his trial. It is also inconsistent with his refusal to acknowledge his guilt at the gallows, and with his last words I forgive Mankind.[7]

Conclusion

These variations in detail will help me to conclude a stage play about an apparent miscarriage of justice that led to the hanging of a young man in 1742.

Acknowledgment

The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Kieran Hoare, Archivist National University of Ireland, Galway, who provided the reports dealing with the Bodkin Murders in the London Evening Post and in the Daily Post. I also gratefully acknowledge Marie Boran, Special Collections Librarian, who facilitated the interaction with her colleague.

The Tholsel building, 1639 – 1822, where young John Bodkin (c.1720 – 1742) was imprisoned (1741) tried and convicted of the murder of his elder brother, Dominick, on 19 March 1742.

The Tholsel building, 1639–1822, Galway, where young John Bodkin (c.1720–1742) was imprisoned in 1741. There he was tried and convicted of the murder of his elder brother, Dominick, on 19 March 1742. The trial resulted from a disclosure by John Oliver Bodkin prior to his execution for his role in the Bodkin Murders .

[1] London Evening Post (London, England) October 1-3, 1741, 17th -18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers; Daily Post (London, England) Saturday, October 3, 1741, 17th -18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers; London Evening Post, October 10-13, 1741,

[2] Daily Post, Saturday, October 3, 1741; A Story of the Bodkin Murders by Paul B McNulty, Club Lighthouse CLP, Edmonton, Alberta, 2015, 186 pages.

[3] As in footnote 2.

[4] Burke, Oliver J, Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit Dublin, 1885, pages 86-92; London Evening Post, October 1-3, 10-13, 1741.

[5] London Evening Post, October, 10-13, 1741; A Story of the Bodkin Murders, Paul B McNulty, 2015.

[6] As in footnote 5.

[7] London Evening Post, March 27-30, 1742.

The Bodkin Murders by Paul B McNulty

David Burke’s Bookshelf, Tuam Herald, page 45, 4 May 2016.

Library Corner – a look at some of the books in your local library.

Fiction mixed with local murders makes for a gripping read.

In second place only to the notorious Maamtrasna Murders in the annals of truly shocking Irish crimes are the ‘Bodkin Murders’ of 1741. That they happened only a few short miles from Tuam makes a recently-published novel by Paul McNulty all the more interesting. The story, as it has been handed down, is known only through a few references in the Dublin newspapers of note of that time, and through the memoirs of the Headford barrister Oliver J. Burke in his Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit (1885).

This account of the murders claimed that John Bodkin Jr., the dissolute eldest son of Oliver Bodkin of Carrowmore House in Belclare orchestrated the violent murders of his own father, his heavily-pregnant stepmother Margery Blake, and his seven year old stepbrother, Oliver Jr., along with the servants and others unfortunate enough to have been in Carrowmore on the night in question. In all eleven people were murdered. They were purportedly killed as revenge for John Jr’s disinheritance, in favour of the infant Oliver Jr., his father’s other son, by his second marriage. In carrying through the plot, John Jr. was helped by one of Carrowmore’s tenants, John Hogan, and his father’s embittered brother, ‘Blind’ Dominick Bodkin of nearby Carrowbeg. Justice being swifter in those days, all three were apprehended and hung at Claretuam within a matter of days of the murders.

As if all this was not enough, John Jr. made a dramatic confession from the gallows, in which he implicated a cousin (also John Bodkin) of having suffocated his own brother (another Dominick) to death, a number of years earlier, in what the resident magistrate Lord Athenry had at the time judged to have been a natural death. This John was then hunted down and executed in Galway some months later. There have always been problems with the account that Burke gave in 1885; the role of the tenant Hogan is ambiguous to say the least. He was purportedly chief murderer on the night (including of the child), in spite of the fact that he and his wife had fostered Oliver Jr. as a baby. There is moreover an apparent lack of motive in the case of John Bodkin’s fratricide, his brother Dominick being the younger of the two, and therefore no threat to John’s inheritance (of the neighbouring Carrowbeg House in their case).

Without wishing to provide any plot ‘spoilers’, in his latest novel Paul McNulty provides a thrilling tale, which attempts to grapple with some of these discrepancies; its protagonists, the tragic John Bodkin (Dominick’s accused brother) and his fiancée Catherine, daughter of Lord Athenry. Part romance, part thriller, McNulty beautifully evokes the period and has researched the time and its events thoroughly. What comes shining through are not the gory details of an appalling crime, but the human cost to those left behind. A gripping read!

(A Review by Ruairí Ó hAodha.)

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

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

Book available at Charlie Byrne’s, Club Lighthouse and Amazon

ELOPEMENT, 5 min play, for UCD Dramsoc

ELOPEMENT by Paul B McNulty

Sibella Cottle, now pregnant, is thrilled when Harry Lynch-Blosse elopes with her. But will his unresolved annulment shatter her dreams?

CHARACTERS
SIBELLA COTTLE (Sarah Burton, also Orlaith): An orphaned, 19 year-old red-haired beauty.
HARRY LYNCH-BLOSSE (Ryan Gillespie, also Donagh Ruane): A philandering 25 year-old heir to a baronetcy.
RECTOR GARROOD (Liam Galgey): Church of England, Belstead, Suffolk.
(Disembodied voices may play the butler and the chamber-maid.)

SETTING
Wednesday, 8th December 1773, drawing room of Belstead Hall, Suffolk, home of Elizabeth Barker, the late mother of Harry Lynch-Blosse, Balla, Co Mayo, and the home of her late uncle, Tobias Blosse.

Miss Constable (1787) by George Romney, 1734-1802. (Original portrait in Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon)

Sibella Cottle is assumed to be adequately represented by George Romney’s 1787 portrait of Miss Constable. (Original portrait in Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon.)

SIBELLA SITS ON A SOFA IN THE DRAWING ROOM OF BELSTEAD HALL. SHE WEARS A MODEST DRESS WITH HER HAIR TIED HIGH. HARRY ENTERS WEARING A JACKET, CRAVAT, WAISTCOAT, SWORD AND TIGHT BREECHES OVER WHITE STOCKINGS.

SIBELLA: Harry! Why are you wearing your sword?

HARRY: Because, Rector Garrood has agreed to marry us.

SIBELLA: Wondrous! That’s great news, Harry. (RISES.) It only seems like yesterday since I left a note for my parents.

HARRY: What did you say?

SIBELLA: I thanked them … from the bottom of my heart … for looking after me from infancy. I asked them to forgive me for my irresponsible behaviour / that

HARRY: Irresponsible behaviour?

SIBELLA: Sleeping with you, you big brute! (PACES.) They offered to settle me in Waterford during my confinement. I would have hated that! Instead, you offered to take me to Suffolk. I asked them not to be angry with me.

HARRY: What happened next?

SIBELLA: I rose at five that morning. I donned my winter shawl and shouldered my bag. I crept down the stairs and opened the back door. The guard dog wandered over. I stroked him to keep him quiet. He walked with me to the corn mill where I waited until I heard the sound of footsteps.

HARRY: And then … the dogs started barking … but we were on our way … by gig to Castlebar … by coach to Ballinasloe … and on to Dublin. Seven days later … we arrived exhausted at Belstead … after a stormy sea and bumpy coach-rides.

SIBELLA: I was so sick. I feared for the safety of our baby … but I think he’s all right.

HARRY: Thank God for that.

SIBELLA: What did Lady Lynch say when you announced your departure?

HARRY: She wondered if I might find it lonely. I said: “Grandmamma! How could I possibly be lonely in the house of my birth, the house in which I spent the first six years of my life?”

SIBELLA: Clever boy. (PAUSE.) So what did you do in Ipswich yesterday?

HARRY: I met the family solicitor. He gave me this affidavit. (LAYS IT ON THE TABLE.) I’m now free to marry. (BENDING DOWN ON ONE KNEE.) Sibella Cottle, I ask you again … will you do me the great honour? (PROFFERS AN ENGAGEMENT RING.) Will you marry me, my dear heart?

SIBELLA: Of course, I will marry you, my darling. (HUGS HIM.) This is the happiest day of my life. (ADMIRES THE RING ON HER FOURTH LEFT FINGER.) But how will Garrood react to my faith?

HARRY: Mixed marriages are now allowed in England, he said. (FROWNS.) But then he wondered … if you were one-and-twenty.

SIBELLA: Why?

HARRY: Because at nineteen, you need the written consent of your parents. I said a gentleman could never ask a lady her age. I insisted, however, that you had reached your majority.

SIBELLA: Clever again! I can swear to nineteen with a clear conscience … it suffices for a majority in certain cases. (PACES.) But how can we marry today? I have no wedding dress.

HARRY: You could wear my mother’s wedding / dress

SIBELLA: Oh how I would love my own creation … but your mother’s wedding dress will have to do … if, I can fit into it … in my condition.

A KNOCK ON THE DOOR SIGNALS THE ENTRANCE OF RECTOR GARROOD.

HARRY: You’re most welcome, Rector. Allow me to introduce Miss Cottle of Ashbrook House.

GARROOD: I’m delighted to meet you Miss Cottle.

SIBELLA: (CURTSIES.) Thank you for agreeing to marry us, Rector. As you know, I’m a Catholic, and have reached my majority.

GARROOD: You certainly have retained a remarkable youthfulness. It must be the fresh air of Ireland.

SIBELLA: Please excuse me, gentlemen … I must settle my hair.

AT THE APPOINTED HOUR, THE CHAMBER-MAID PLAYS A WEDDING MARCH ON THE PIANO OFFSTAGE. SIBELLA ENTERS, WEARING A LOW-CUT DRESS WITH HER HAIR BOBBING OVER HER SHOULDERS. CANDLES, FLOWERS AND INCENSE STICKS DECORATE THE ROOM.

HARRY: (HUMS THE WEDDING MARCH.) Sibella, my darling, you are a diamond of the first water. (ESCORTS HER TO STAND BEFORE GARROOD.)

GARROOD: (SMILES.) We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Mr Harry Lynch-Blosse and Miss Sibella Cottle in holy matrimony. (GLANCES AT HARRY.) Mr Lynch-Blosse will you take Miss Sibella Cottle to be your lawful wedded wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her for as long as … (FROWNS.) Is that a galloping horse, I hear?

OFFSTAGE: An urgent message for Mr Lynch-Blosse.

HARRY’S HAND TREMBLES WHILE OPENING THE LETTER. AFTER SCANNING IT, HE COLLAPSES INTO THE SOFA WITH THE LETTER DANGLING FROM HIS LEFT HAND.

GARROOD: Are you quite well, Mr Lynch-Blosse?

HARRY: (PASSES THE LETTER TO GARROOD.) I’m ever so sorry, Sibella.

SIBELLA: For heaven’s sake, what does it say?

GARROOD: (RECITES.) “ … Further to a request from my colleague in Ipswich … I regret to say that your application for an annulment of your first marriage remains unresolved. May I suggest that you postpone your wedding to Miss Cottle until we remove this encumbrance to your union?
Andrew Edmondson, Solicitor, Castlebar.”

SIBELLA: How could you do this to me, Harry? How could you be so stupid … so careless?

HARRY: Don’t worry my darling. Edmondson will soon sort it, I promise.

SIBELLA SINKS BACK INTO THE SOFA AND CRIES.

HARRY: Please accept my apologies, Rector Garrood. I was sure my annulment would have succeeded by now.

GARROOD: You must not worry. You will marry soon. Now, I should leave you in peace. (DEPARTS.)

HARRY: (DRAWS HIS SWORD.) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah! (HOLDS IT ALOFT AND PLUNGES IT INTO THE SOFA BESIDE SIBELLA.)

END OF PLAY.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..
PROVENANCE
Participant in the UCD Dramsoc Mini Plays Festival (including minor amendments), Dramsoc Theatre at 7 p.m. on 14, 15 and 16 October, 2015 under the direction of Rosa Bowden, Auditor, UCD Dramsoc, Student Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. Actors (indicated in italics) are members of UCD Dramsoc.

PROPS
1. Sofa and table.
2. Modest dress quickly convertible to a low-cut dress.
3. Harry’s jacket, cravat, waistcoat and tight breeches over white stockings.
4. Affidavit and Letter.
5. Engagement ring.
6. Candles, flowers and incense sticks.
7. Waistband, scabbard and sword.

SOUND
1. Sound of footsteps.
2. Dogs barking.
3. Wedding march (MENDELSSOHN Piano).
4. Sound of a galloping horse.

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 Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Teresa Quinn interviews Paul B McNulty on “The Abduction of Anne O’Donel.”

The Abduction of Anne O’Donel was the subject of Teresa Quinn’s interview of Paul B McNulty on Liffey Sound 96.4 FM last Sunday. In a wide-ranging interview, Teresa explored the background to Paul’s second historical novel now available as an e-book on Club Lighthouse and as both an e-book and print book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

Paul explained how his work was inspired by a genealogical study of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who settled in Galway. This led him to draft three historical novels, two of which have been published.

Later this year, he hopes to publish “The Bodkin Murders,” a story based on real events in mid-18th century Galway. Thereafter, he plans to write a play based on each novel using two male and two female characters in each case.

Paul was delighted to be invited onto Liffey Sound 96.4 FM, a Community Radio station since 2006. Based in Lucan, Co Dublin, Ireland, it is run by about 70 volunteers. It includes broadcasting hours of 4pm to 10pm weekdays and 8am to 10pm weekends.

Front cover of "The Abduction of Anne O'Donel" by Paul B McNulty.

The cover of a 75,000 word historical novel based on real events in late 18th century Ireland.

Glass island on Lough Conn, Co Mayo where Anne O'Donel was imprisoned.

Glass island on Lough Conn, Co Mayo where Anne O’Donel was imprisoned.

“The Abduction of Anne O’Donel” by Paul B McNulty

A beautiful heiress, a villainous lawyer, a scandalous abduction that shocks the country.

The Abduction of Anne O’Donel tells the story of a young heiress who refuses to marry the elderly Timothy Brecknock whom her father has chosen for her. Frustrated by her lack of interest, Brecknock abducts Anne to a remote island on Lough Conn hoping to win her heart with stories of romance, politics, Evangelicalism and alchemy. Believing that her secret betrothed, Jasper Martin, will find her, Anne plays a dangerous game as the story concludes with a murder, a famous trial and a wedding.

The Abduction of Anne O’Donel, is the second in a series of historical novels based on real events in late 18th century Ireland. It was a finalist in the 2013 William Faulkner Novel Competition. Three of its minor characters, Sibella Cottle, Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse and Ned Holian, will be familiar to readers of my first novel, Spellbound by Sibella.

The Abduction of Anne O’Donel is available as an e-book on Club Lighthouse Publishing, Canada and as both a print book and e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

Front cover of "The Abduction of Anne O'Donel" by Paul B McNulty.

Front cover of a historical novel, a finalist in the 2013 William Faulkner Novel Competition, New Orleans.

Glass island on Lough Conn, Co Mayo where Anne O'Donel was imprisoned.

Glass island on Lough Conn, Co Mayo, Ireland where Anne O’Donel was imprisoned.