Murder of Major Denis Mahon 02.November.1847

Murder Major Mahon

Murder of Major Denis Mahon

On 2 November 1847, during ‘Black 47’, the worst year of the Great Famine the murder of Major Denis Mahon of Strokestown Park House in county Roscommon was something of an international cause celebre. The murder of Major Denis Mahon was debated as far away as the British House of Commons and both Queen Victoria and Pope Pius IX were said to have been horrific by the incident. It was also the first murder of a landlord during the Famine and opened a religious debate which had ramifications further afield.

Owner of an 11,000 acres estate in county Roscommon which was both overpopulated and heavily in debt when the Famine struck, in the early spring of 1847 Mahon initiated a scheme of assisted emigration of almost 1,500 tenants. This group of emigrants were accompanied to Liverpool by the estate bailiff, John Robinson to ensure that none would return to Roscommon. Almost a quarter of these would die enroute to Canada but when news filtered back to Strokestown that the number was far higher a plot was arranged to have him assassinated.

On 2 November, shortly before six o'clock, having attended a meeting of the Roscommon board of guardians where he had sought an extension of relief for the inhabitants of Strokestown, Mahon was ambushed and murdered. Accompanied by Terence Shanley, Medical Doctor at Strokestown, he was shot in the chest and died instantly. Across Roscommon the news instantly spread and was widely celebrated: ‘within one hour of the foul deed being perpetrated the several hills were lighted by bonfires in every direction’.

It was later claimed that  the day before the murder, the local Parish priest, Fr McDermott claimed at Sunday mass that Mahon was ‘Worse than Cromwell and yet he lives’. It was a claim which he staunchly denied. In 1848 two men were hanged for the murder but it was widely believed that the guilty parties were never apprehended.

 Download article  Source Newspaper: Irish Newspaper Archives -  Freeman’s Journal, 4 Nov 1847; Freeman’s Journal, 29 April 1848. page 2