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

Blurb for “1798: A REBEL ROMANCE”18-22 April at UCD, 7 pm.

1798: A Rebel Romance portrays the revolutionary experience of John Moore and Cecilia Lynch who have been radicalized by the unjust nature of society. John, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, studied at the Sorbonne during the French Revolution where he adopted the democratic ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Cecilia Lynch, the illegitimate daughter of the late Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse of Balla, Co Mayo, returned to her foster grandparents, the Moores of Mayo after her father died. The Moore’s independent streak, refusing to conform to Protestantism, had the impact of radicalizing Cecilia.
Thus when John Moore returned from mainland Europe to his ancestral home, it was almost inevitable that his involvement with the United Irishman would forge a bond between him and Cecilia. As such, she is an ideal vehicle within which to explore the role of women in revolution an aspect largely ignored by historians and, thereby, worthy of investigation through the medium of a play.

General Humbert, on horseback, led the combined Franco-Irish army to rout the British in 1798. immortalized as "The Races of Castlebar."

General Humbert, on horseback, led the combined Franco-Irish army to rout the British in 1798. immortalized as “The Races of Castlebar.”

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.

Biography for Paul B McNulty

Paul McNulty writes historical novels based on real events in 18th century Ireland. After a career in food engineering at University College Dublin, he studied ‘The genealogy of the Anglo-Norman Lynches who settled in Galway.’ The discovery of forgotten Irish stories inspired him to write a debut novel, Spellbound by Sibella based in County Mayo. Critiques from a writer’s group, The Corner Table, guide his writing.

Paul lives in Dublin with his wife, Treasa Ni Chonaola. They have three children, Dara, Nora and Meabh, and a grandchild, Lily Marie. He derives inspiration from the wild splendour of Connemara.