The death of Fr John Walsh at Kilgraney
Community tensions in pre-Famine Carlow
On 31 July 1835 the body of a local catholic curate, Fr John Walsh, was found near Kilgraney bridge near Borris in County Carlow. How had he died? It was likely that he had been thrown from his horse, but in the disturbed political atmosphere of Carlow in the mid-1830s the rumour soon spread that he had been murdered. The finger was pointed at a local protestant farmer, Archibald Sly, who was brought to trial at the Spring Assizes of 1836. The outcome of that trial was a further trial, this time of three witnesses who had testified against Sly. Together, the death of Walsh and the ensuing court cases raise important questions not only about political and social tensions at local level in pre-Famine Ireland, but also about the conflicts between an increasingly centralised and reforming state on the one hand and, on the other, a landed and denominational elite threatened by the pace of change.
Maura Cronin lectures in history at Mary Immaculate College Limerick. Her writings include Country Class or Craft: the Politicisation of the Skilled Artisan in Nineteenth Century Cork (1994) and numerous articles on oral history and nineteenth century social history.