Witnessing 900 Years of History



Site of Father Sheehy’s trial
Main Guard, Clonmel

I did not want to waste one minute of my trip to Ireland. Through the internet, I found contact information for the building where Father Sheehy was tried and convicted, the Main Guard in Clonmel, County Tipperary. A lovely curator, Michelle Stafford, responded to my email with background information, suggestions, and further contacts. I made an appointment to meet with her the day after we arrived.

The Main Guard was built in the 1600s as a courthouse and a thosel, where tolls, duties, and customs were paid. As if 400 years old is not ancient enough, Michelle told me that some of the stones were taken from a dismantled abbey built by Cisterian monks in the 1100s. She pointed out the mason’s mark chiseled into one block 900 years earlier.


Michelle Stafford, a
wonderful help to me.

It is humbling to see and touch something another human worked on so very long ago.

Inside, she took me to the main room on the second floor where trials had been held. There was a display with Father Sheehy’s story and picture. We looked out the window to see, about a block away, a large yellow hotel where the gaol (as they spelled it then) had been located.

It was a relatively new place then, built in the 1700s, with six dungeons. It was there Father Sheehy had been held awaiting trial. I stared at the street Sheehy was forced to parade on his way to the courthouse.

The road Sheehy took to
his trial. Taken from
the Main Guard.

One account by a man named Curry states that “[o]n the day of the trial, a party of horse surrounded the court, admitting and excluding whom they thought proper…” As I looked where he had walked, I imagined the terror of being dragged through the jeers of enemies, no friends in sight.

After leaving Michelle, I walked that route in reverse to see the location of Sheehy’s hanging, where he was drawn and quartered, and where his head remained on a spike for two decades.

It was said, that out of respect, no birds ever pecked his remains in all those twenty years.

Okay. Enough drama. Sheehy’s likeness is part of the Fennessy Hotel sign where the gaol once stood. But he looked different in the sketch at the Main Guard. Very curious.
 So you decide. Was he a balding red-haired man with glasses or a handsome dark-haired fellow with more regular features? Hmmm. 
Father Sheehy at the Main Guard

  

Father Sheehy on hotel sign

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