The Burning of Bridget Cleary
In 1895, one hundred and three years ago, the peace among the pleasant farmyards of Ballyvadlea was shattered with the unfolding of a shocking crime, the cruel torture and burning to death of an innocent 26-year old woman, and this by her own kinfolk. Bridget Cleary lived with her husband Michael Cleary and father Patrick Boland on the townland of Ballyvadlea.They had been married for Five years. On March 25th 1895, a doctor from Fethard, Dr.Creed, was called to the Cleary home it was there that he found Bridget Cleary suffering from slight Bronchial Catarrh and nervous excitement. Dr.Creen then prescribed medicine, but when Michael Cleary felt that the doctors medicine was not working, he set about rectifying what he believed to be a supernatural Malady with a supernatural remedy. Cleary claimed that he believed Bridget to be a ‘Changeling’ and that his real wife had been spirited away by the fairies Local superstition permitted her to be brutally burned to death.
As the story goes during the days between mid and late March 1895, no-one had seen Bridget Cleary for several days. The story took shape when locals began to gossip that the unfortunate Bridget had been killed by her husband and his friends because of the ominous conclusions that he had come to.
After an investigation at Clonmel District-Inspector Wansborough directed the police to make a diligent search for the woman. At about three o clock on Friday afternoon, Sergeant Rodgers of Mullinahone when walking through a swampy part of land about a quarter of a mile from Cleary’s house.He had his attention attracted by freshly dry earth close to the fence. Constable Somers 'O Connor and 'O Callaghan, who had been searching in the vicinity, came to the spot and in a few minutes the shallow covering of clay was removed. It presented a terrible appearance. There was no clothing with the exception of a pair of black stockings. The back and lower parts of the remains were terribly burned. The head was covered in a sack and an old sheet was robed round the rest of the body.
All sorts of stories were rife as the locals formed their opinions of the discovery. However the inquest would reveal the truth of the matter.
The inquest was held by James Shee J.p, Coroner in a vacant house a short distance from the Cleary’s residence. Dr. W.K. Heffernan, Killenaule and
Dr. W.Creen were in attendance and made the post mortem examination. The following verdict was returned by the Jury. ’We find that the deceased, Bridget Cleary Late of Ballyvadlea, was found dead on the land of Tullacussane on Friday 2nd March 1895, and we find that death was caused by extensive burns, how or by whom caused we have no further evidence to show. We further find that the deceased was alive in her own house on the 13th March 1895’
On Thursday 21st March Michael Cleary, Patrick Boland, John Dunne,
This site is maintained by Joe Kenny, Rocklow Road, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.