After an attempt by some local “Whiteboys” to shoot James Hardiman Burke of St Clerans, Craughwell, County Galway, a journeyman carpenter from Kilrickle, Anthony Daly, was arrested because of his membership of the outlawed group. Even though it was widely acclaimed that he was innocent, he was hanged as an example to all on the 8th. April 1820.
The custom, at that time, was to hang the culprit as near to the scene of the crime as possible so Seefin, a hill, within view of the Manor house and on the St. Clerans demesne, was chosen and the route to this site was through the gates of St Clerans. A new window was put in the wall of the house so that the Burke gentry would view the scene without mixing with the peasant undesirables.
On the way from the court in Galway, to the hanging, he travelled on a horse-cart and sat on his own coffin. Thousands of people lined the route from Galway to Craughwell many calling out to him, in Irish, to “jump down and that they would hide him” and even some of the soldiers, who were Irish, shouted out that they would “only fire into the air”, if he ran but he declined in case of reprisal against the people. It was estimated that there five thousand onlookers on the slopes of Seefin that day one of whom, folklore has it, was Antoine Ó’Raiftearaí, one of the last great journeyman poets.
Ó’Raiftearaí composed a poem in praise of Daly in which he cursed those who ordered the hanging –James Hardiman Burke, St Clerans and Dennis Daly, Dunsandle.
Go bhfeice mé an lá a mbeidh rás orthu,
rith agus ruaig
ar gach uile mhac máthar dár ordaigh thú
a Daly, a chur suas
That I may see the day when they are chased
hunted and run down
every mother’s son who ordered
your hanging, Daly
In his wonderful local history book – Craughwell, A Parish in County Galway – Gerry Cloonan tells the story of Anthony Daly in detail, how on the journey from Galway they stopped in the public house in Craughwell and Antony bought a drink for his executioner. He tells that Anthony said goodbye to his wife before the gallows and that his mother who was also in the crowd called out to him not to give away the names of the people who really committed the crime in order to save himself!
In the poem Raiftearaí says of him:
Go mba mhaith an crann é
Nach ligfeadh d’aon ghéag
Ná d’aon craobh, dá raibh air
Titim ar lár
He called him a ‘good tree that wouldn’t let any branch or twig of it fall to the ground’, meaning that he did not renege on his companions.
The St Clerans window, with the view of the hanging, was later closed up as it caused stress to the ladies of the house and was not opened again until a new occupant of the house in the 1950s, film director John Huston, decided to do so! However, since then, it is said that the ghost of Antoine Daly roams the house, opening and closing windows and doors and can be seen walking the hallways in his “ribbon man” outfit of knee britches and long white shirt!
Editor’s Note: James Hardiman Burke’s son Robert O’Hara Burke, St. Clerans, Craughwell, led the first expedition to cross the Australian continent, south to north in 1860
Written by Finbarr O'Regan
Published here 10 Feb 2022
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