True Crime in Regency Ireland: The Colleen Bawn

This one has everything.

Ellen Hanley was born in 1803, at Bruree, County Limerick. When her mother died while she was still a little girl, she was fostered out to her maternal uncle John Connery (a shoemaker) and his wife, who lived at Ballycahane, Croom (also in County Limerick). They loved her as their own and took good care of her, and she grew up a gentle, kindly, lively young girl whom all the neighborhood thought well of. Her local nickname was “An Cailin Bhan” (the Fair Young Woman). The Anglicized spelling is “the Colleen Bawn.”

But since everybody she knew loved her, she assumed that nobody would do her harm.

In May 1819, when she was still only 15 years old, she met up with a member of the gentry, one John Fitzgibbon Scanlan or Scanlon, who had come to live at Ballykehan or Ballycahane House in Bruff, also in County Limerick. (As seen by the house name, he was a neighbor, not a stranger; but his people lived at Loghill or Loughill, also in County Limerick, but on the banks of the River Shannon.) He was the eldest son and heir. He had actually been a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, but had left or been dismissed after Waterloo.

John apparently persuaded Ellen that he loved her, that the differences in social status didn’t matter, and that they should marry and live happily ever after. She went with him.

But… she wasn’t all good. In the sort of thing that happens in other murder ballads, but is glossed over in most retellings of this tale, our Ellen apparently decided that she would take along a hundred pounds as her dowry. (And since her uncle was reasonably well-off for a shoemaker, it’s possible that the hundred pounds was her legit dowry. But running off without telling her uncle and aunt was definitely not legit.) Scanlon was apparently all for it, because he needed the money.

She thought they had married, but it turned out at the trial that there were no marriage records. So it would seem that he had hired a fake clergyman, in order to have his fun without ties. In any case, Ellen was under the age of consent, so there could be no legal marriage without the consent of her parents or guardians. He also didn’t inform his parents, which should have been a red flag for Ellen.

So they lived together for five or six weeks, with her fake wedding ring on her finger, and with her skeevy husband living off his teenage squeeze’s money. Then John Scanlan’s mother summoned him with letters, informing him that she’d arranged him a good marriage with a nice fat dowry. But Scanlan had apparently found out that his sweet bride was not a pushover, because he didn’t just up and leave her, or drop her off somewhere. (Which he legally could have done, because they weren’t married by the laws of church or state; but it would have made a stink for him.)

No, he decided that she had to be got rid of.

But he didn’t intend to do it. No, that was going to be a job for Stephen Sullivan, his manservant. So in July, the couple traveled to Glin, a village on the banks of the River Shannon. He sent Ellen out to cross the River Shannon in a boat, with Sullivan to row and dump the body.

But Sullivan couldn’t do it. He rowed on back, with the charming Ellen still alive.

So on July 15, Scanlan got his servant lit on whiskey, and sent them out on the river another day. And this time, she didn’t come back. Sullivan had shot her with his musket, stripped off the ring and her dress (which might identify her), weighted down her body with rocks, and dumped her in the deepest part of the river. And since the Shannon is deep, wide, and leads to the sea, they would never have to worry about her ever again. Then Scanlan went to Cork and enlisted again.

But on September 6, 1819, Ellen’s shift-clad body washed up at Moneypoint, near Kilrush, County Clare, on the tiny bit of land owned by a farmer named Patrick O’Connell. His brother, Peter O’Connell, was a well-known poet, linguist, and schoolmaster in the neighborhood. The musket shot was very evident, and apparently the girl was still recognizable. An investigation began, as well as a good deal of indignation toward the murderer. The more people found out, the angrier they got. Scanlan deserted his new regiment and fled, but there was a massive manhunt. Both John Scanlan and Stephen Sullivan were eventually apprehended and put on trial.

Scanlan’s family hired Daniel O’Connell, one of the all-time great defense lawyers and orators. Even he couldn’t get the scum off. Scanlan was sentenced to be hanged at Gallows Green in County Clare, but the horses shied at the bridge and wouldn’t take him across. He ended up having to walk to the gallows, and he died in disgrace on March 16, 1820.

Scanlan died still claiming his innocence, and saying that the murder was all his servant’s idea. His claim was that his plan had been to have Sullivan dump Ellen on an immigrant ship, unable to get off until she got to America. (This may seem farfetched, but it had actually happened to a local girl, Judith Lynch, who was impregnated by a married man of wealth. When she got to America and protested, the government sent her back and there was a trial.)

Daniel O’Connell is quoted as having written to his wife on March 15, 1820:

“I had a client convicted yesterday for which I fought a hard battle, and yet I do not feel any the most slight regret at his conviction. It is very unusual with me to be so satisfied, but he is a horrid villain….”

Peter O’Connell had compiled the most complete dictionary of the Irish language up to that time, and took the opportunity to approach his clansman for help in getting it published. Daniel O’Connell apparently didn’t feel interested or equal to doing it. The dictionary never was published, although it did survive its lexicographer. There are copies at Trinity College, the British Museum, and the Royal Irish Academy. His dictionary entries have been used by later lexicographers as a source.

Scanlan’s manservant, Stephen Sullivan, had managed to elude the law for four months longer than his master. But after being caught he had a separate trial. Sullivan was also hanged, but he gave a full confession first with details that hadn’t come up at the trial.

As for Ellen Hanley? The poet Peter O’Connell had just bought himself a plot in Burrane Cemetery when his brother Patrick discovered her remains. He saw this as a sign, and offered his grave as her resting place. After the famous trial, some admirer paid for her to have a fancy Celtic cross gravestone. Unfortunately, souvenir hunters eventually chipped it to pieces.

And when Peter O’Connell died seven years later, in 1826, they laid him to rest in the grave of the Colleen Bawn.

And this is the privilege of a poet: to sleep on the same bed as his lord.

The story of the murdered Cailin Ban is sometimes confused with the story of the “Polly Vaughn” song, about the girl accidentally killed by her sweetheart “who took her to be some swan.” In that story, Polly’s ghost appears in court to clear her true love’s name. Obviously, none of this happened to the Colleen Bawn!

However, she does have her own opera, The Lily of Killarney. She also has three novels and a play by Dion Boucicault, “The Colleen Bawn,” which (like the opera) is based upon Gerald Griffin’s three-volume novel, The Collegians, that used a Killarney adaptation of her story. Boucicault’s play featured a character called “Myles na Copaleen.” (This name was later taken as a pseudonym by Brian O’Nolan, also aka Flann O’Brien.) There was also an Irish silent movie of “The Colleen Bawn.” (The actress’ hairstyle is scary, though.)

The huge amount of fictionalization was apparently also done to avoid Scanlan’s family putting the kibosh on things, and partly because a lot of the writers knew the families involved and wanted to draw a veil over it. However, this didn’t spare Griffin a lot of criticism for causing people pain with his book!

There’s a very good modern ballad, “The Colleen Bawn,” that was written by the Wolfetones.

A short 1974 news story from RTE about the Colleen Bawn, showing her uncle’s house where she lived.

There’s a true crime book about the case called The Poor Man’s Daughter: A Return to the Colleen Bawn, with an introduction by Janet Murphy and Eileen Chamberlain, which points out that news coverage at the time (and afterward!) avoided pointing out John Scanlon’s exalted antecedents, even though the locals knew all about it. It’s embarrassing to have a murderer in the family. On the other hand, it is possible that Scanlan was convicted of murder on very little evidence, because there was fear of popular resentment if one of the gentry appeared to have gotten away with murder. Most of the info in this post comes from this book, which otherwise reprints a period account of the case by a local clergyman.

Ballycahane House was inherited by Scanlan’s brother, a sea captain. It was destroyed by fire in 1822, and rebuilt on a much smaller scale.

Bruree = Brugh Righ. (Modern spelling: Bru Ri.) “Fort of the king.” A village on the River Maigue.

Croom = Cromadh. “Riverbend.” Another village on the River Maigue.

Bruff = An Brugh. (Pronounced a different way, but the same word for “fort.”)

Moneypoint: Now the site of a hydroelectric power station.

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Internet People: William of Orange

Seen at Eye of the Tiber:

Susan: Hey William of Orange what are you doing in this site

William of Orange: I’m actually a double agent. Trained by the Jesuits for twenty years, I lived an ascetic life with mortifications that would make Josemaria Escriva look like a self indulgent throw-back to Woodstock. I’m part of an elite group philosophic counter terrorists. In addition to extreme physical training, I had to memorize the entire Summa, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and all the encyclicals up to Pope JP II.

I infiltrate the strongholds of anti-Catholicism (I once provided IT support for James White in order to gain access to his personal computer). We gather intel on all heretical groups and rank non-Catholic groups in order of threat relevance. For example: the Foursquare Gospel Church has a ‘TR’ (threat relevance) of 347. They could move up at some point, but it is unlikely. What makes them less threatening than, say, the Anglican Church, is not their relative obscurity, it’s their crappy worship music. The musicians they attract are only ever capable of playing tired early 1920s and mid-depression hymns long since abandoned by the Methodists. The dissonance of their badly tuned cheap guitars accompanied by the staccato rhythms of the pastor’s nephew on drums awkwardly trying to play along with music discarded before his grandfather was born poses no threat to Catholic liturgy – even those lefty parishes that insist on including Ashes by Tom Conry on Good Friday. We also specialize in writing very long sentences.

Like a cold war era spy drinking potato vodka in an anonymous speak easy that doubles as the front for a safe house in East Germany, this forum is the only place where I can allow (only a part) of my real identity to be known despite the fact that I must still do so using extraordinarily long strings of words lest my commitment to the use of verbosity flag even in the slightest.

I would surely appreciate it if you kept this under wraps.

Dominus Vobiscum

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Another Way Mecca Copies Jerusalem

A lot of people have pointed out that the activities involved with the Islamic Meccan pilgrimage today seem to be an attempt to copy the experience of a pilgrimage to either Jerusalem (by Jews or Christians) or to Petra (by pagans).

At the Hypotyposeis blog, there are two posts about something that St. Clement of Alexandria (in his book Stromateis) says was a Jewish custom: they would make seven circuits around the Temple before entering it. (And this would be similar to what the Israelites did while waiting for the walls of Jericho to fall, in the Book of Joshua.)

In one post, the Hypotyposeis blog relates this passage in Clement to an ambiguous Greek word, periboloun, which can mean either “going around a circuit” or “a covering wrapping around something.”

This would obviously be a more understandable reading, because seven different materials that acted as “coverings” or “veils” were used for the Temple’s Tabernacle.

His latest post relates the circuit idea itself to a passage in the Jewish historian Josephus, which talks about the “seven purities” observed in the process of approaching the Tabernacle. This is the idea of increasing levels of purity being required of those entering further and further into the courts of the Temple.

Either way, it seems clear that there was an idea floating around the Middle East that Jews circled around the Temple or the Tabernacle. Since ritual circuits were common in paganism and at Christian pilgrimage sites and shrines, it would be pretty normal to try to transfer a Jerusalem custom to the Kaaba, in order to make some kind of point to Jewish people. (Whether or not it would be understood as intended.)

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Angeles: A Bad Imitation of Winx Club

Every weekend, Galavision shows the kids Spanish-language cartoons.

This one is actually from our Italian animation friends at RTI. Unfortunately, it’s a desperate attempt to copy RTI’s own Winx Club. It’s called Angeles in Spanish, and Angel’s Friends in English. It came out in 2009, and there are two seasons of this junk.

The premise is that, just like fairies and witches, guardian angels and tempter devils have to go to high school to learn their jobs. And while it is moderately plausible that a threat to the world might make witches cooperate in a few situations, this series postulates that the fallen angels cooperate with guardian angels as well as fight them. Also, angels all dress like Jem and her friends, with 80’s streak hair and shorts. Devils dress like 70’s Kiss.

Anyway, of course the main character angel (Raf, for Seraph) ends up sneaking around with a “Bad Boy with a heart of gold” devil. Of course she does. Twoo wuv ensues. Of course it does.

OTOH, it is pretty good for Spanish listening practice, since the voice work has to be a little slower to fit Italian mouth flaps. And the music is pretty nice, as Italian show music usually is.

There’s another Winx Club imitation show called Regal Academy that just came out last year; apparently it’s on Nickelodeon. It’s fairy tale hero/heroine school, with Cinderella’s kid et al. Annoyingly, all the kids’ parents are also teachers at the school. Argh, poor kids. But if you were disappointed with the stupidity of Disney Descendants, maybe a Winx Club imitator will work better.

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EWTN Choir: “Cantate Domino” at Offertory

Today is the Feast of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, and patron saint of church music.

If you watch EWTN’s Mass today, the small choir (five men, seven women) is doing some very lovely stuff. I don’t know which “Cantate Domino” they did, but it was very nice.

A lot of the great choral music repertoire for Mass is really not all that complicated or long. It is really good to hear EWTN setting a good example for what church music can be.

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Pope Zachary Said, That St. Boniface Said, That St. Virgilius Said, That….

Excerpt from Pope Zachary, Epistola 11, to Archbishop Boniface.

Migne, SL 89, 945-947.

….Meanwhile, Your Brotherly Reverence writes that you have learned of a certain priest of Irish birth, Samson by name, who, wandering from the way of truth, is saying and affirming that one can make a Catholic Christian by imposition of an episcopal hand, without mystic invocation or the laver of regeneration. But he who says this is empty of the Holy Spirit and foreign to the grace of Christ, and should be thrown out of the sacerdotal fellowship. For who can be Catholic without being baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the Lord’s command, and who can so be consecrated through the imposition of a hand? Expel this man, and any such men preaching condemned things to the holy Church of God.

And if one holds a doubt that those men who were baptized by heretics, may not have been baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, inquire into the truth of the matter. If they were baptized wrongly by sacerdotes and this is without doubt, according to the mandate handed down to you from Our predecessor of good memory, Pope Gregory, and the sacred canons, do not omit to complete the baptism, lest they perish forever; but let them be saved by a better evangelical consecration.

[More stuff about the Frankish bishops and saying hello to them.]

But greet them all in turn, my dearest, with the kiss of Christ’s peace, because We have sent letters with Our love and thanks to those doing apostolic work.

On the other hand, it has also been intimated by Your Fraternal Holiness that this Virgilius — and We do not know if he is to be called a priest! — has acted wickedly against you in this way: that he has confused you by wandering himself away from Catholic doctrine; inserting himself with Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, so that he could seed hatred between him and you, affirming that, freed up by Us, he alone would obtain a diocese, and be quit of those four bishops which your fraternity had ordained over there; which never was true, because iniquity lied to him.

But concerning his perverse and iniquitous doctrine, which he has spoken about, against God and his own soul. If it should be made clear that he has confessed to such things — that there may be another world and other humans under the earth, or [another] sun and moon — these things — after holding council, drive him from the Church, deprived of the honor of a sacerdote.

And also, We have sent summoning letters to the aforesaid Duke, writing him that he should present himself to Us, and a strict investigation is required; if he should be found straying, he will be condemned by canonical sanctions. For he sows painful things; they reap themselves. And as it is written, “For perverse thoughts separate us from God, but his proven power reproves the unwise.” (Wis. 1:3)

But concerning the abovewritten Samson, and the priest Virgil, We have examined what Your Holiness has written. We wrote them indeed, as was proper, warning them; for trust is granted more to Your Brotherhood than to them.

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Messing with the Blessed EVEN MORE

Yup, there’s quotes from the Quran on an obelisk in the middle of the Creation Garden courtyard, in the Solanus Casey Center. Just a few yards away from the holy tomb of a man who lived his life for Christ.

I’m sure that all the Chaldean Catholics who fled Muslim oppression in Iraq are soooo happy to see this act of officiousness — commissioning and showing an artwork of somebody else’s religious literature — greeting them at a Catholic holy place. The Creation Garden is supposed to include symbols of all the natural creatures referenced in St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun.” So there is a whole array of harmless semi-decorative modern art. The Quran thing is the only offensive and blasphemous part. Nobody at the Center seems to know which verses are even quoted, which makes it even stupider.

Quran obelisk picture one.

Picture two.

Picture three.

Picture four.

Picture of the top of the obelisk, from the artist’s website.

There are some verses in the Quran which sort of copy Genesis, but claim that all things were created out of water instead of out of nothing. (I guess by a misinterpretation of “without form and void.”) There are others which say that people will be raised from the dead as a dead land is raised to life by rain.

If those are the quotes, they would seem okay; but of course, there are a lot of bad theological implications to the Quran which aren’t obvious to the first glance. (Here’s a webpage talking about the context of such verses.) The big one is that all the early Muslim commentators said that things being created out of “water” was a euphemism for “semen” — which goes together with a lot of pagan Middle Eastern creation myths, but is not what Jews and Christians believe at all!

Mostly, though, it’s claiming a communion of religious beliefs with people who aren’t going to feel the same way. To claim that differences don’t matter, when they actually do, is to claim that people’s thoughts and beliefs don’t matter. Having a real community means knowing what other people care about and why, even if you don’t agree.

Anyway, the stated idea is that the water quote obelisk represents both the passage of water in nature, and St. Francis being given free passage through his lands by the Sultan.

It doesn’t represent all the Franciscans who’ve been martyred by Muslims. Here’s a selection of the ones we know about:

The Franciscan Protomartyrs: Berard of Carbio and his companions, Peter, Otho, Accursius, and Adjutus. Martyred in Morocco for preaching the Gospel. They didn’t even know the language, so that is actually all they did. Contemporaries of St. Francis who were personally sent out by him. When St. Francis heard of their beheading by Morocco’s own king, he exclaimed, “At last, now I have true Friars Minor!” St. Anthony of Padua was inspired to join the Franciscans upon seeing the procession carrying home their bodies. Their feastday is January 16.

Nicholas Tavelic and Companions: Deodatus Aribert of Rodez, Peter of Narbonne and Stephen of Cuneo.. They preached the Gospel in the presence of the Qadi of Jerusalem, and were executed for their pains on November 14, 1391. Tavelic was the first canonized Croatian saint.

Blessed Francesco Zirano: Sent by the Pope to North Africa, purely to deliver ransoms for kidnapped and enslaved Christians and those held as hostages. He traveled under the guise of a merchant, but was captured and imprisoned by soldiers after a coup in one of the Muslim kingdoms. Martyred for refusing to convert to Islam, by being flayed alive on January 25, 1603. His skin was then stuffed with straw and put on display. Eventually, an enslaved cousin of his managed to get free, get his remains, and get them home for burial. Beatified on October 12, 2014.

The Servant of God Leonard Melki, Capuchin. A contemporary of Blessed Solanus Casey, martyred in 1915 by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.

So yeah, tell me again how Muslims let Franciscans walk free and do what they like. Sure.

But yeah, it is really lucky for the idiots behind this, that Blessed Solanus Casey isn’t the smiting kind of Irish saint, or they’d be walking around with their feet turned backwards.

UPDATE: The liberal cruft that has been grafted onto the Solanus Casey Center is really ridiculous. Here’s a story from January describing it:

The center showcases the message of Casey, containing life-size statues of activists from Central America, Japan, America and Detroit, including noted figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, Dorothy Day and Dr. Takashi Nagai, a victim of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Outside in a courtyard are pieces of art depicting nature’s elements, including a ceramic pillar from a Muslim artist that has verses from the Quran, an African wind chime and a monument to Mother Earth by an American Indian artist from California.

Let’s count this out, shall we?

There’s no problem with having a statue of Blessed Oscar Romero in a Catholic building with a religious context, once he was beatified in 2015. However, it doesn’t sound like this is a new statue. That could easily have been taken as a violation of “de non cultu,” and have prevented him being beatified.

The Servant of God Dorothy Day hasn’t been beatified yet, so “de non cultu” should still be applying to her. She shouldn’t be in there. Same thing with the Servant of God Takashi Nagai. Why do they hate these folks and want to keep them from being raised to the altars?

Obviously, a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King has to be put in a purely political context in any Catholic building. And if it’s in a political context, why is it sitting next to Bl. Solanus Casey’s tomb? Seriously, these things matter. But compared to the Quran plus phallic symbol (here’s hoping it’s accidental), MLK is hardly a problem. At least he’s Christian.

The Mother Earth metal sculpture is by a gentleman named Johnny Bear Contreras. He’s from the San Diego area. He’s apparently Catholic and Kumeyaay (Native Americans from California), and he’s done some more classically styled pieces that you can see on the Internet. Looks cool.

I have no problems with wind chimes, although I’m sure the wind off the lake can get them going pretty noisily!

The “ceramic pillar” is the work of a local Detroit artist, Dr. Hashim Al Tawil. This is what he has to say about it. Apparently the first set of tiles were broken down by the weather, which nobody took as a hint.

Anyway, Dr. Al Tawil is apparently the only person on the Internet who actually cares enough to keep visible some explanatory materials about the Garden, so I give him props for that!

He says that the pillar’s blue tiles represent the four rivers of Paradise (as found in Genesis, but also mentioned in the Quran in several places). He doesn’t say what the verses on the pillar are. He does reference a specific verse of Surah Muhammad (47:15). The preceding verses talk about how disbelievers are going to Hell, basically.

“Is the description of Paradise, which the righteous are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of purified honey, in which they will have from all [kinds of] fruits and forgiveness from their Lord — like [that of] those who abide eternally in the Fire and are given scalding water to drink, that will sever their intestines?”

So that wouldn’t actually be much about water as part of Creation, per se.

I would say that Al Tawil has some nice pieces, but it’s also clear that the relationship between Arabic script and art is important to his entire aesthetic. So if people can’t read his work, they are missing the whole point. This means that his work includes people who may not want it (Chaldeans) and excludes people who laid down the money to buy it (English-speaking people of Detroit, who donated the money to build the center in the first place).

And then on top of that, you have two groups whose religious beliefs are such that one being right must mean that the other is wrong. If you are quoting the Quran as right, you have to believe that Christ was never on the Cross, was not the Son of God, and that Solanus Casey was a nice guy but wasted his life. If you are quoting the Bible as right and worshipping Christ, Muhammad was dead wrong about everything and the Quran is a book of lies or delusions. No man can serve two masters.

The Creation Garden was designed by Michael Callen, of the New York design firm DCMD.

This genius guy has set out an artwork by a Kumeyaay, with the Canticle of the Sun verse written in Dakota. Yes. Well, that’s certainly multicultural… because it’s an entirely different language family! That’s like describing a Russian statue by using a verse in Japanese! These people are so busy messing with Bl. Solanus that they totally mess up everybody!!!!

Other than all that… the garden seems to be very pretty. It’s humans that end up looking stupid.

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