23rd February 1882
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Three months before the infamous Phoenix Park Murders took place... SHOCKING AGRARIAN MURDER IN IRELAND A Ballyhaunis correspondent writes: A shocking murder was committed on Thursday night at Ballindrehid, near this town. A farmers son named Freely was taken from his bed and shot dead outside his own door by a party of disguised men. The father of the deceased had paid his rent, and it was alleged that this was the cause of the crime. [Globe - Saturday 25 February 1882​]


The young man whose life was cut down that night was Patrick Freehilly (1856-1882) son of David Freely (1822-1909) and Brigid Lyons (1838-1895) of Ballindrehad at Brackloughboy in the parish of Bekan.  In the 1901 Census, Patrick Freely's father and sisters were still living in the Freely family home at Brackloughboy, Ballyhaunis.

Patrick, an unmarried labourer, age 26, died on 23 February "from gunshots wounds inflicted by persons unknown". His inquest was held 4 days later, and he was interred later that day.  

THE MURDER NEAR BALLYHAUNIS [Freeman's Journal - 27 February 1882]

Ballylhaunis, Saturday.  An inquest was held today on the body of Patrick Freely, of Ballindrehed, who was murdered on the night of the 23rd inst. at the residence of his father, David Freely. E. C. Kelly, Esq, coroner, presided. Also present - Mr Owen, County Inspector; Mr Kelly, Sub-Inspector; and A. Davis, Esq., clerk of the Ballyhaunis petty sessions district. 

David Freely, father of the deceased, deposed to having seen deceased brought out of his room by a party of men he did not know. He afterwards heard two shots fired, and immediately after saw deceased enter and fall a few yards from the door, where he expired a few minutes afterwards. The mother of deceased gave evidence to the effect that when he returned after being terribly beaten he was called by the attacking party to come out again and free himself of the charges against him, which order he obeyed. Immediately on his reappearance she heard the report of firearms and saw her son fall dead as he re-entered the apartment. Some of the children were examined and gave corroborative evidence. Dr Crean, who made an examination of the body, said he found a large wound on the breast, such as would be caused by a gun, from which he extracted a quantity of shot and some lead pellets. The contents of two charges at least must have entered the body, either of which was sufficient to cause death. After the examination of some other witnesses, the jury retired for a brief period and found a verdict of willful murder against some person or persons not known. The party who entered the house were in no way disguised:- The total number of persons who participated in the murder is supposed to be between 40 and 50. When retreating their calls and whistles were heard for a considerable distance, and also a shot is said to have been fired when quitting the vicinity of the village. 

Today a large and respectable concourse followed the remains to the grave. Seven young men have been arrested charged with the crime. Their names are Martin Cunnane, senior; Martin Cunnane, junior; Patrick Brennan, senior; Patrick Brennan, junior; John Brennan, Patrick Byrne, and Patrick Finn. They were brought before Captain Wynne, R.M., this evening, and remanded pending further inquiry. They were then conveyed under a strong escort of police to the county jail, Castlebar. The prisoners are mostly all relatives of the murdered man and respectable young men.

THE STATE OF IRELAND. THE BALLYHAUNIS MURDER. Ballyhaunis on Saturday, Martin Cunnane, secretary of Lake Bekan Land League, his son, Patrick Cunnaue, Patrick Bryne, Patrick Finn, and three brothers named Brennan were arrested in connection with the murder of Patrick Freely, at Ballindrehid. It is believed the fate of the unfortunate young man was intended for his father, who, after paying his rent, went among other tenants urging them not to pay. Other arrests are expected, it being rumoured that the police have received information from parties not immediately implicated which will lead to the identification of the actual murderers. [Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser- Monday 27 February 1882 ]

Hue & Cry Ballyhaunis, Feb. 28, 1883. ( 46034 c.— 6209.)   DESCRIPTION of Michael McNamara (mother's surname Caulfield) native of Coogue Middle, who stands charged on suspicion with having, on the night of the 23rd February, 1882, in the barony of Costello, parish of Bekan, being one of an armed party who entered the house of David Freely, of Brackloughboy, and murdered his son, Patrick Freely:— Clean face without any beard or whiskers, brown eyes, regular nose, sallow complexion, round face, medium make, 5 feet 6 inches high, about 23 years of age, brown hair; wore a round, hard hat, dark tweed coat, trousers, and vest; is a labourer.  

THE MURDER NEAR BALLYHAUNIS   Two more arrests were made at Ballyhaunis yesterday in connection with the murder of the lad Freely. The names of the prisoners are Philbin and McNamara. the latter being closely connected with the man Melvin who was taken on Tuesday, and who, it stated, has given the police some information. [Irish Times - Thursday 28 December 1882 ] ... BALLYHAUNIS MURDER. Ballyhaunis, Tuesday. The man Phiblin, who was charged with complicity in murder at Ballyhaunis, has been remanded for further inquiries. The man Macnamara has been discharged. [Waterford Standard - Wednesday 24 January 1883 ]

ARREST IN ENGLAND. Capture of a Supposed Irish Assassin at Morley. [Leeds Times - Saturday 17 February 1883 ]  

—Supt. Stansfield, of the West Riding force at Leeds, has effected in a neat manner an important capture of a supposed Irish assassin. On the 23rd Feb., last year, Patrick Freehilly, twenty-three, son of a farmer at Blackloughboy, near Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, was murdered. A party of " Moonlighters" broke open the door of Freehilly's house and shouting for the "traitor who had paid his rent," advanced into the room where Patrick was sleeping with his two brothers. Failing to find the father, they seized the son. dragged him outside, and abused him. He escaped into the house but was pursued, again dragged out, and two shots were heard which put an end to his life. The Rev. J. Kennedy, who was promptly on the spot, found the lifeless body with a large wound in the right breast. The family dare not leave the house to give an alarm, although the police barracks are within a short distance.

Several persons were arrested on suspicion, but a man named Thomas Owens, supposed to be one of the principals, absconded. Early last month Supt. Stansfield, of Leeds, received information from the constabulary authorities in County Mayo that Owen was believed to be in the neighbourhood of Leeds. Mr Stansfield was on the alert, prosecuting inquiries, and on Saturday morning at three o'clock, believing that he was on the right track, he made a descent on the house of Peter M'Dermot. Field-lane, Morley, and apprehended Owens. The prisoner was brought in to Leeds, and during the forenoon was taken before Mr. Eliershaw at the West Riding police office, and was remanded on a charge of murder. Supt. Stansfield telegraphed to Mayo and received an answer back from Major Gosselin that a police escort would be dispatched to take charge of Owens. The apprehension caused excitement among the Irish residents at Morley. Owens has been employed at a Morley colliery since he resided there, did not go about much, and is stated to have been restless and disturbed when the police happened to be mentioned. He was to have been brought up before the West Riding magistrates, at the Leeds Town Hall, on Tuesday, but it was deemed more prudent to get him away as quickly and quietly as possible. Detective Mullens, of Ballyhaunis, arrived in Leeds from Ireland on Sunday to take charge of the prisoner, and on Monday he took Owens from Leeds by the eleven o'clock express to Holyhead, where it was arranged they should be met by two other Irish detectives, who would aid in escorting the prisoner to Dublin. Owens would be taken on to Blackloughboy, where he will be charged with "Wilful murder." The evidence against him is believed to be so strong that little doubt is entertained of his committal on the capital charge. 

THE BALLYDREHID MURDER. The three prisoners charged with complicity in what is known as the Ballydrehid murder were taken from Castlebar Gaol to Ballyhaunis on Saturday for private examination. After hearing the witnesses, Owens, who was arrested at Leeds a few days ago, was discharged; but the two other prisoners, Brennan and Waldron, were committed for trial on the charge of murder, they having been identified by a brother of the murdered man, Freely. [St James's Gazette - Monday 26 February 1883]

In May 1883, John Brennan was further remanded in custody for complicity in Freely's murder. 

After this the reports on the Phoenix Park Murders warranted more column space, it would appear.


[Research by Rua Mac Diarmada 2018]


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