Murder at Ballaghmore - Roscrea Through The Ages

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Murder at Ballaghmore

History > History 3

Murder at Ballaghmore
  Thirty year old James Delaney and his family were tenants on the land of Sir Charles Coote of which Richard Ely acted as agent. Delaney lived with his parents and siblings and was not long out of jail after serving two years hard labour for stabbing to death a man named Keeshan from Roscrea. The Dealaney family also played a leading part in the 1798 rebellion in the area when six brothers helped capture Cloncourse castle. They were eventually arrested for this and the six Delaney brothers were hung on Cloncourse Hill. Ely lived alone in a cottage a few hundred yards from Ballaghmore Castle where his sister and brother resided. The Ely’s had been in Ballaghmore since the time of Cromwell.
  Richard Ely was having problems with poachers on the land and James Delaney was the main suspect but he could not catch him in the act. When Delaney’s father came in to pay his rent Ely accused him of keeping greyhounds for the purpose of poaching game of which he denied and volunteered to swear under oath. Ely didn’t accept this and demanded that he pay his rent in full and any arrears due or face eviction.
  On the evening of Friday 9th of November 1858 Richard Ely went to his brother’s house as usual for his evening meal. On his way back he had to pass through a wicket gate and as came through a shot rang out from behind the bushes and Ely was shot and his left arm was shattered. He ran back to his brother’s house and collapsed on the floor from his loss of blood. Dr Murray from Roscrea was sent for and discovered that a piece of bone had severed an artery in his arm. By next morning Dr’s Powell, Kingsley, Woods and White had arrived. They decided that the only course of action was to amputate the arm. They immediately set about operating on Ely but three hours later he died due to a loss of blood.
  Early that morning the police arrived from Borris in Ossary and found a cap in the bushes that they soon identified as belonging to James Delaney and a major search was immediately under way but to no avail. An inquest was held on Monday morning and a jury was sworn in. The findings of the jury were that Richard Ely had died of gunshot wounds as a result of a deliberate attempt to murder him. Immediately after the inquest Richard Ely’s funeral took place and he was interred in the family plot on Kyle graveyard. Members of the aristocracy came from all over to pay their last respects but it was notable how few of his tenants were present.
  Immediately after the funeral a large meeting of gentry was held and it was decided to put together a reward for the capture of Delaney and to send a request to the Lord Lieutenant to have reinforcements into the area until the matter is resolved. Four hundred  pounds was pledged on the day and the Lord Lieutenant contributed one hundred pounds. With contributions from Viscount De Vecci and others it soon brought the reward to one thousand  pounds. To put this in context at the time a farm labourer would have earned about eight pounds per year. A reward of fifty pounds was also offered for information leading to the arrest of any person who harboured or helped Delaney in any way.
    A large number of police searched the area for weeks between Templemore, Mountrath, Kinnity and Roscrea but no trace of Delaney was found. After some of the landlords in the area received letters threatening their lives it was decided to place the area under the Peace Preservation Act. All houses in the area were searched and any arms confiscated, anyone requiring arms for legal purposes would have to make an application to the local Justice. The Lord Lieutenant ordered more troops to be sent into the area until Delaney was apprehended; these soldiers were camped at Kyle.
   As time went on and there was no sign of Delaney reports of sightings of him in Clonmel led the search to the Galtee and Comeragh Mountains. The Tipperary Examiner wrote a report of a man fitting Delaney’s description approaching a man on a bridge outside Kilmacthomas and asking him about how to avoid police barracks in the area. This lead to widespread sightings of him and a huge manhunt was carried out in and around the  Dungarvan, Cappoquin and Lismore areas only to discover it was a man named Johnson who had escaped from Cork Jail.
 For twelve months both police and soldiers were camped in the area and kept up the search but no trace of James Delaney was ever found. One story that was passed down was of the soldiers hiding out around his house and as he approached his mother threw a ball of wool out the window to warn him. Eventually the police concluded that he escaped to America. In November 1859 one year after Richard Ely was shot the troops and police who were quartered in Ballaghmore were withdrawn and the search for James Delaney was called off.
   There are no official records of Delaney after this but locals told the story of how he was hidden out by the people of the area for the rest of his life where he lived to a ripe old age. When he died his body was taken and secretly buried in the Delaney family grave in Kyle graveyard.
    This is a story of a people who at this time had just come through the famine , of their great courage and loyalty who must have underwent  extreme harassment and intimidation along with the huge reward that was offered which in today’s context would be lottery figures refused to give up one of their own.

  There are many versions of the ballad of James Delaney , here is a version that was sung by Jimmy Wheeler of Ballaghmore.

My name is James Delaney
My pen I take in hand
To write for you a line or two
That you might understand
It’s all about an agent boy
Who now lies in his grave
His name was Richard Ely
And he lived in Ballaghmore

Now Ely was a tyrant boys
And that for many a year
He put out manys a poor widow
And caused them to shed a tear
That he was met by a hero boy
That soon would make him yawn
And his name was James Delaney
The pride of sweet Rossbawn.

Now jim he was as fine a lad
As ever could be found
And for his own amusement
He used to keep a hound
To be chastised by Ely
He taught it rather queer
For going to the bog with gun and dog
For the sake of killing hare

Now Ely went to the landlord
And the words to him did say
Delaney’s son keeps a dog and gun
And he’s hunting night and day
He hunts on my own premises
And that without a doubt
And I think the best thing we can do
Is put Delaney’s father out

When Jim he heard this terrible news
The blood boiled in his veins
To seek for satisfaction whatever would befall
To this agent’s body he lodged a fatal ball
He lodged a fatal ball me boys
That left him in his grave
No more to rise or tyranise
In the lands of Ballaghmore

So farewell to old Hibernia
Likewise to the shamrock shore
And fare thee well to sweet Rossbawn
A place I’ll see no more
The parting of my aged parents
It grieved my heart full sure
For shooting a kite on a November night
That flew through Ballaghmore.

In the Resourses section in the Christy Maher Video's there is a piece with Jackie Moten singing his version of The ballad Of James Delaney

For newspaper clippings from the time click on the links below





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