Sunday, June 4, 2017

Lucinda Sly : A Woman Hanged by Maidhc Dainin O Se

The novel tells the story of Lucinda Singleton, a widow who married a well-to-do farmer named Walter Sly. Suffering at the hands of her abusive husband a drunkard and a brute she conspires with her lover, John Dempsey, to murder him. Capturing the sentiment in Carlow at that time, the lovers were hanged side by side in public outside Carlow Gaol on 30 March, 1835 (sometimes noted as 13th March 1835).

It is unclear when the attraction between Lucinda - whose age varies in the telling from 56 to 60 - and John (variously 26 - 30 years old) began. It is thought that John may have stepped between Lucinda and her violent, alcoholic husband, and the relationship developed from there; or that John was attracted by the wealth of Lucinda's husband (a well-off farmer and horse dealer). What is fact is that a sexual relationship did evolve. Their plan was simple - to kill Walter, sell the farm, then move to America. However, Sly caught onto the two lovers and threatened to kill them both himself - Lucinda and John decided to act first.

Sly and Dempsey were charged with the murder of Walter Sly at The Ridge, Old Leighlin on the morning of 9th November 1834.  In court, Lucinda claimed that Walter was shot in the head after returning from a fair in Carlow town, having had an amount to drink. In evidence, she said that three shots were fired, two hitting Walter, while one shot hit the front door in what she felt was a warning to stay inside. The victim’s watch and money were missing. As other witnesses were called, it soon became apparent that the relationship between Lucinda and John Dempsey was more than just a servant and mistress. In fact, he was her lover. And a neighbour, who called on the night of Walter’s death but was not admitted to the house, claimed he saw Dempsey inside with a revolver on the table.

The jury found both Dempsey and Sly guilty of Walter’s murder and sentenced to hang.  Just prior to their hanging, they admitted the murder, with Dempsey stating he killed Sly with a blow to the head from a hatchet as he dozed at the fire. He was then taken outside and shot in the head. The crime was the cause célèbre of the day - it was said that a crowd of 10,000 people filled the streets of Carlow to see the public hanging of Lucinda Sly and John Dempsey. It was to be the last such hanging of a woman in the town.

read more here @ Irish Criminology

No comments:

Post a Comment