Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Fairy Witch Of Clonmel

The Fairy Witch Of Clonmel Cover Bridget Cleary was the daughter of Patrick Boland, a poor landless laborer and his wife, Bridget nee Keating. Despite their poverty, Bridget grew into a stylish good-looking woman. She had her own successful dressmaking business, kept hens, and sold eggs and fowl as an Additional source of income. As her prosperity increased, Bridget preferred to wear gold earrings and hats adorned with feathers rather than the shawls and scarves of the common countrywoman. Her style soon set her apart, and in the eyes of other women she affected a sense of superiority, a cause of resentment and jealousy for many.

While serving as an Apprentice in Clonmel, Bridget aged 18, met and married Michael Cleary, an outsider from Killenaule. Michael then aged 27, must have seemed a good match for the ambitious Bridget, he had a taste for three-piece suits and the ability to read and write (literacy at that time was still a rarity, particularly among the peasant classes). He also had a trade, and had set up a lucrative cooperage business making butter firkins and barrels for local farmers and factories. They were married in August 1887.

In Irish folklore ring forts were always fairy-haunted, and after the new tenant moved in strange things began to happen. It was alleged that the fairies displeased with the new tenant held high revel on moonlight nights near to the cottage. They so annoyed him with unearthly noises and cries in the night that he fled the locality in fear. The tenancy was then offered to the Cleary’s but as Michael was not a laborer, he was therefore not entitled to it. Patrick Boland an ex-laborer though retired and in his sixties, was allowed to sign the lease and became the official tenant. The Cleary’s took possession of the cottage in 1891 and after moving in, all hauntings and cries in the night ceased. Some believed that the Cleary’s might have been responsible for chasing the old tenant away.

Bridget was reported missing in March 1895. She evidently had been ill for several days, although her specific diagnosis is unknown.[3] More than a week into her illness, on 13 March 1895, a physician visited her at her home; her condition was considered sufficiently grave that a priest soon followed, to administer last rites. Several of her friends and family members attended her over the next two days, and a number of home remedies were administered, including one ritual that anticipated her later demise: Patrick and Michael accused her of being a fairy sent to take Bridget's place, and so urine was thrown on her, and she was carried before the fireplace to cast the fairy out.

By 16 March, rumors were beginning to circulate that Bridget was missing, and the local police began searching for her. Michael was quoted as claiming that his wife had been taken by fairies, and he appeared to be holding a vigil. Witness statements were gathered over the ensuing week, and by the time Bridget Cleary's burnt corpse was found in a shallow grave on 22 March, nine people had been charged in her disappearance, including her husband. A coroner's inquest the next day returned a verdict of death by burning.

Legal hearings ran from 1 April through 6 April 1895. A tenth person had been charged, and one of the original nine was discharged at this stage, leaving nine defendants bound over for trial. The court session began on 3 July, and the grand jury indicted five of the defendants for murder, including Michael. All nine were indicted for "wounding." The case proceeded on to trial.

The evidence showed that on 15 March, Michael summoned the priest, Father Ryan, back to the Cleary household. Ryan found Bridget alive but agitated. Michael told Ryan that he had not been giving his wife the medicine prescribed by the doctor, because he had no faith in it. According to Ryan, "Cleary then said, 'People may have some remedy of their own that might do more good than doctor's medicine,' or Something to that effect." Bridget was given communion, and Ryan departed. Later that night, neighbors and relatives returned to the Cleary house. An argument ensued, again tinged with fairy mythology. At some point, Bridget told Michael that the only person who'd gone off with the fairies had been his mother. Michael attempted to force-feed his wife, throwing her down on the ground before the kitchen fireplace and menacing her with a burning piece of wood. Bridget's chemise caught fire, and Michael then threw lamp oil on Bridget. The witnesses were unclear as to whether she was already dead by this point. Michael kept the others back from her body as it burned, insisting that she was a changeling and had been for a week previously, and that he would get his wife back from the fairies.

Michael Cleary was found guilty of manslaughter, and spent 15 years in prison. Charges against some of his co-defendants were dropped, but four were convicted of "wounding".

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Michael Ford - The Book Of The Witch Moon
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Marian Green - A Witch Alone
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John Musick - The Witch Of Salem

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