Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sentenced to Death: William O'Shea

William O’Shea

By February 1943 William O’Shea had been married to his wife Maureen for three years, although he was aged just 24 and she was 21. At this point the couple were blessed with a baby girl, the young family living together in a nice cottage in Ballyhane, outside Cappoquin. Instead of being at the start of a happy matrimony and enjoying parenthood however, O’Shea seemed to resent his wife. She, in turn, was afraid of him.  

William O’Shea may not have been a devoted husband but he did earn a living by working for Waterford County Council doing odd jobs and was also considered good at trapping rabbits. It was early 1943 that he had begun to spend a lot of time with a 17-year old local youth by the name of Thomas White, despite the significant age gap. White, who it would be later ascertained was mentally subnormal, frequented the O’Shea household and Maureen did not approve of the amount of time he and her husband spent together.

On the 22nd February, Thomas White came to the O’Shea household to enquire about a pair of shoes. William was absent from the house so White conversed with his wife, before leaving several minutes later. The young mother then went to bed with her young infant and was on the verge of sleep when she smelled the unmistakable odour of smoke. The thatch of the cottage had suddenly gone up in flames and the occupants made a hasty exit. Maureen and the child were fortunate to escape with their lives. The young bride’s family did not, however, believe that the fire was a terrible accident. Maureen had already begun to think that O’Shea and White had ideas about killing her and had informed her family of her suspicions. Maureen’s stepfather even accosted William O’Shea, insisting that the fire had not been accidental. O’Shea did not respond but his wife tellingly remarked “Oh well, they want to get rid of me, and the baby, and I suppose they will get me yet.”

William O’Shea and his wife were forced to live in O’Shea’s mother’s house after the fire had made their cottage uninhabitable. On the 15th March, three weeks after the blaze, O’Shea returned home from work at 6pm as was his normal routine. After dinner, he uncharacteristically invited his wife on an evening stroll. She agreed and the pair left the house. As they were walking arm-in-arm in Knockyoolahan, a townland close to their home, a shot rang out without warning.  Maureen slumped to the ground. The gun, a firearms expert would later testify, was only a couple of inches behind the unfortunate woman when the shot had been fired. Instead of staying with his dying wife, William O’Shea left her lying on the road and ran to his mother’s house. He was in the house for several minutes without mentioning the horrific incident that had just occurred. Finally when his mother enquired as to Maureen’s whereabouts he told her that his wife had been shot. When asked why by his panicked mother he hadn’t stayed by her side, O’Shea replied “I couldn’t bear it.”

 By the time she was discovered it was too late, the Maureen O’Shea having died from the shotgun wound. When the deceased woman’s family were informed about the tragedy they were far from being sympathetic, the stepfather openly voicing his suspicions. He said accusingly to O’Shea “You were after spilling blood tonight, my boy,” O’Shea reacted by jumping from his chair and saying “Do you think I shot her?” He made no denial of the charge, however. The Gardaí were quick to act on the suspicion. Later that night, they went to the house were Thomas White was staying and discovered a shotgun under the bed.

On 16th March O’Shea was summoned to the station in Cappoquin. Almost immediately he complained bitterly about his recently deceased betrothed “My wife has been at me since about the first week of our marriage. Anybody that used to come in she used to be fighting with them.” Later in the statement he admitted that White burned his house. “White said that he would do it, but I was not sure he would. He told me he set fire to the back of the thatch...he was disappointed she had not been caught in it.” O’Shea also knew that White had fired the fatal shot. He said in his statement that White had said “If we could get a cartridge we could shoot her…I knew it was Tommy White that had fired the shot because we had arranged that he do it.” O’Shea went on to confess that when he felt his wife going down he whispered an act of contrition gently in her ear. In a later statement, O’Shea admitted that White had told him that the signal he was about to shoot Maureen would be a tap on the shoulder.

O’Shea and White were tried jointly, the case beginning in Green Street, Dublin, on the 7th June. Thomas White’s counsel immediately asked if the jury could rule on the sanity of their client, the judge granting their request. Dr. John Dunne of Grangegorman Mental Hospital told the court that he been examining White in Mountjoy. His conclusion was that the prisoner was suffering from a mental deficiency and that he would be unable to follow the proceedings of the court. The jury retired for ten minutes before returning with a verdict of “not sane.” White was not fit to face the court and instead would be detained at the government’s pleasure. O’Shea thus faced trial for the murder of his wife alone.

O’Shea had already confessed to conspiracy to murder. However, he sensationally withdrew his statement before the court case, complaining “I never arranged to have my wife shot. I don’t even remember saying that. That is all I have to say.” The defence Solicitor, Mr. Nolan-Whelan, said that there was no evidence to suggest a conspiracy between O’Shea and White. O’Shea had no drinking problem and no motive. “A man does not murder his wife without a motive, unless he is insane,” continued the solicitor. He also declared that the statement made by his client was involuntary and made under duress. They also stated that there was a case for an insanity, one doctor declaring that O’Shea’s mental age was about seven years. The prosecution disagreed and contended that he was acting simply to fool the jury into declaring him unfit to stand trial.

After the evidence the jury were given their chance to decide the truth. They needed fifty-five minutes to decide that the defendant was guilty of murder. O’Shea was visibly trembling and did not reply when asked if he anything to say. The judge told the jury he agreed thoroughly with their verdict before donning the black cap and sentencing O’Shea to be hanged. Several appeals were mounted against the sentence and the government cabinet of the day met to discuss a possible reprieve. In this case however, they chose to let justice run its course. Despite not firing a shot, William O’Shea was hanged in Mountjoy Prison on the 12th August, 1943. He would be the only Waterford man to climb the scaffold in the history of Ireland’s independence.


Colm Wallace has written a book “Sentenced to Death: Saved from the Gallows” about thirty Irish men and women who had the death penalty imposed on them between 1922 and 1985. It is available in all good book shops and is also available on Amazon.com
For more information see the author’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/colmwallaceauthor or contact Somerville Press, Dromore, Bantry, Co. Cork. 028-32873

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Laurence Dominick Dunne & Sport in Cappoquin


And Now for Something Completely Different: Short articles on diverse subjects. The first of which is by Joseph M.V. Conway. 

Laurence Dominick Dunne & Sport in Cappoquin

Joseph M.V. Conway is trying to locate any information on Laurence Dominick Dunne from anyone that may know or have information on him, born around 1920 in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford.

Laurence Dominick Dunne was one of the greatest, but sadly, forgotten athletes in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. Known for his skill in running, coaching, and massage, Dunne was a natural all-round athlete. He also partook in rugby, tennis, playing and coaching badminton, snooker, billiards, and rowing; all of which came to him so easily.

His coaching and training methods proved to be 40 years ahead their time and were widely used in most sports in the Cappoquin area; where some of the country’s best athletes came from. He certainly was well coached by his School Coach at Blackrock College in Dublin.

Laurence Dominick Dunne coached me and, thus, I won many 100-, 220- yards, and 440- yards races, and one 300-meters race running against top class athletes throughout Ireland. Dunne and I were neighbours and lived only eight doors from each other in Main Street, Cappoquin, which was only100 yards from the local sports field and 30 yards from Jimmy Foley’s bar. As I’ve said previously:

 Dom put me through my paces and thus I won many races running. I give much credit for success to the coaching given to me and my counterparts by Laurence Dominick Dunne.  I know and was in nearly every house north and south Main Street Cappoquin as a boy.  Laurence Dominick Dunne may have his weaknesses and who have not.

Many benefitted from Laurence Dominick Dunne’s methods. Jimmy Foley, a champion cyclist won hundreds of races over many distances.  Thomas O Neill was an Irish Champion at the 5-mile hot pursuit cycling.

Cappoquin Hurling and Football Clubs had six players on the winning 1948 Waterford All-Ireland Hurling Minor Team.

The Cappoquin Rowing Club, coached by Dunne, were known the world over as top sports men and women. Dunne was in the rowing under-age four crew winning a silver medal in the 1928 Tailteann regatta held in Cork.

Any crew or team of which Laurence Dominick Dunne was a member had an edge over most opponents.  His training methods and muscle building techniques proved invaluable and his training methods continue to be used by many clubs in the Cappoquin area.  

We in Cappoquin, a close-knit community, are fortunate to have so many men and women who love many sports. Many of whom may not know their clubs’ success stems from the actions and influence of Dunne.

Note: We also had many types of sportspeople including the Irish Chess Champion Noel Mulcahy living five or six doors from the Dunne’s house on the north side of the street in Cappoquin.

Dunne’s Early Life
L D Dunne was born about 1908 the son of Edward Dunne and Annie Tracey. Edward Dunne was known as Nailed in 1907.
The Dunne family built up by Matthew Tracey [Annie’s father] the main premises are on Main Street, Cappoquin, north side of street and the bar and B&B on the south side.
Edward Dunne married Annie and the name over the door on the north side became Tracey and Dunne.

Dunne’s Achievements  
Dominick went to college in Blackrock, Dublin and when in college led by example. Below is a list of his notable achievements.  
·         He won 1924 220 YDS in 26.4 minutes
·         1926 won 220 YDS and 4x220 with Blackrock
·         1926 won 220 YDS in 34. 2
·         1924 won 440YDS [1/4] in 60.6 seconds
·         1925 won 449 YDS [1/4 mile] in 57 seconds and relay with Blackrock
·         1926 won 440 YDS [no time given] and the relay

In 1928, Laurence Dominick Dunne rowed at position 3 in the Underage in the Tailtean Games for Cappoquin Rowing Club which won Silver medals. The crew were W Cullinan [bow], John Curran, L.D. Dunne [3] W.J. Cahill [Stk] and James Lacey [Cox].

The Stanley Field and Its Namesake
Charles Orr [CO] Stanley born in 1899 and a native of Cappoquin, died in Clonakilty, Co Cork, aged about 90. He was a top-class oarsman and a lover of the Old Dark Blue (see the book The Old Dark Blue: 1862-2002 by Brendan Kiely). Charles was involved in PYE TV and Radio in Australia, South Africa, and the USA. CO Stanley was also very close to Laurence Dominick Dunne.

Jim Moore oversaw building the Red Bridge in Cappoquin over the Blackwater. John Stanley (father of Charles Orr) was the engineer on that project and they became great friends. Stanley knew most rivers in Ireland well thanks to his rowing experience.

I would say Stanley’s intention was to use the western part of the Sports field inch for use as a slip for all the visiting crew. It was an ideal bounding on the Blackwater, south side of the Red Bridge.

A local committee was formed to purchase the field for use by the community. The Dunne family along with others in Cappoquin purchased shares to help fund the project. In later years, it was the transfer of these shares which allowed the trustees to pass ownership of the field to the GAA. The closeness of the railway to the field ensured many sporting events were staged in Cappoquin and, over the years, many world records were broken in this field.

Athletes of Cappoquin
May I add, we had many famous athletes in the town and surrounding area to name but a few:

Captain Jameson of Turin, Cappoquin, Co Waterford won the English Amateur Squash Championship in 1922 and 1923. Also, it is believed he caught a brown trout in Vancouver, Canada weighing over 40lbs, a world record at the time. He was also a top-class cricket player and very much involved in the local club.

The two McGrath brothers from Drumroe Lower, Cappoquin: Danny and Sunny won several Irish Athletics Championships and were also top class rugby players.

We were so lucky to have many top-class athletes and a supportive community who encouraged and continues to encourage them.

Note taken from ad in Dungarvan Observer on the 26th June 1925:
New Sports field for Cappoquin had the distinction of being the field in which the first athletic and cycling sports under rules were ever held in Cappoquin, close on 90 years ago on July 9th, 1804, to be correct.

The crowd was so large that it was impossible to push one’s way through the streets in the evening the cream of all the Southern champions of the time. T.F. Kiely now of Fruithill, Dungarvan (then in the heyday of his promise in all branches of athletics) broke the world’s record in throwing the hammer on that occasion. Jim Wall, the native of Cappoquin, broke the world record in the long jump, while D. Horgan of Banteer, established another in the weigh throwing. Three world records were broken on that day’s sport’s meeting in Cappoquin.

Other famous athletes who competed were John A. Goode, Lismore; C A Ushier, Flowerhill, Ballyduff; W.J. Nolan now of Dungarvan but then Queen’s College Cork. The famous Leahy brothers and a host of other athletic celebrities. Space does not permit to name them all now.

Joseph M.V. Conway


If anyone has any further information for Joe concerning Laurence Dominick Dunne, you can e-mail the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society at info@waterford-history.org

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society AGM 2017

Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society AGM
The 2017 AGM will be held in Saint Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Patrick Street, Waterford City on Friday 7th April 2017 at 7.30 pm.

All members welcome. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

WINTER/SPRING LECTURE PROGRAMME 2017

WINTER/SPRING LECTURE PROGRAMME 2017

Please note all lectures are held at 8pm, in St. Patricks Gateway Centre, Patrick Street, Waterford, unless otherwise stated.

Friday 27th January
        Speaker: Mr Glascott Symes.
Topic: Sir John Keane and Cappoquin House in time of war and revolution.
This lecture will cover Sir John Keane’s management of the Cappoquin estate through his service in both the Boer War and World War 1, returning home for the War of Independence. He went on to serve in the first Senate of the Free State only to have his home destroyed in the Civil War. However he personally oversaw the rebuilding of the house.

Friday 24th February
        Speaker: Mr Liam Murphy.
Topic: The life of Dr. Thomas Hussey (1746-1803), Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and first President of Maynooth.


Friday 31st March  
        Speaker: Mr Sean Murphy.
Topic: Stories of The Great War, from mid County Waterford.

Friday 7th April Annual General Meeting – Details beforehand.

Friday 28th April  
        Speaker: Mr James Doherty.
Topic: The Forgotten Force. 
This lecture will look at H.M. Coastguard in pre-independence Ireland. Regulations, Roles and Responsibilities.
It is hoped that this lecture will be a precursor to a summer outing later in the year. The summer outing will consist of a guided walk in the Tramore area visiting the coastguard station and associated cottages and highlighting some of the key events in this organisations history.

Friday 26th May  
         Speaker: Mr Julian Walton.
Topic: The Curraghmore of ‘Squint Eye George’, first Marquess of Waterford, 1736 to 1800.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Upcoming Lecture: John Lee's Diaries, 1807

Our next lecture will take place on Friday 25th November 2016 at 8 pm in St Patrick's Gateway Centre

Speaker: Dr Angela Byrne.
Topic: Observations on Waterford City and County in 1807: John Lee’s Picturesque Walking Tour.

On 31 July 1806, John Lee (né Fiott, 1783–1866) embarked on a seven-month walking tour of England, Wales and Ireland. Lee’s diaries contain fascinating details of everyday life in Ireland in the aftermath of the 1798 and 1803 rebellions. He recorded the memories of participants and eyewitnesses to those major events, as well as descriptions of funerals, sports, ‘pattern days’, and local traditions. His diaries are complemented by sketchbooks filled with pencil-and-ink, on-the-spot impressions of antiquities, ruined abbeys and castles, landscapes, and other notable sights. His itinerary brought him to Dungarvan, Waterford City, Kilmacthomas and Clashmore in January 1807, including the highlights of the Comeragh Mountains and Waterford Cathedral.

Admission: €5.00 (members free) 

Also please note that our Annual lunch this year will take place on Sunday 4th December in the Granville Hotel

Monday, October 17, 2016

Upcoming Lecture : Archaeological Excavations at Knockhouse


Speaker: Mr Fintan Walsh
Topic: Archaeological Excavations at Knockhouse
Date: Friday 21 October 2016
Venue: Granville Hotel, 8:00 pm
Admission: €5.00 (members free)



In 2014 and 2015 Fintan Walsh of IAC directed a series of archaeological investigations at Knockhouse Lower in advance of industrial development. The site, which is on the western outskirts of Waterford City, had been tilled for many centuries and prior to the excavation no above-ground monuments were visible. However, methodical and painstaking archaeological excavation revealed the remains of an early medieval ringfort. Some evidence was uncovered for the former existence of structures within the ringfort, including two souterrains (underground storage or hiding places). The ringfort was associated with a series of field boundary ditches which radiated from it as well as a number of contemporary cereal drying kilns. Evidence for earlier prehistoric activity was also uncovered, including Bronze Age fulachtaí fia (burnt mounds) and settlement activity dating to both the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. Fintan’s illustrated lecture will give a comprehensive overview of the results of the excavations at Knockhouse Lower.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Heritage Week Talk : Everyday Life in Waterford in 1916

As part of Heritage week,  Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society will have a  series of mini-talks and visual displays presented by committee members.

A look at Waterford City in the Year 1916 - The Way We Were, snapshots of everyday life in Waterford City over 12 months in 1916. 

Date & Time :  Thursday 25th August at 7.30 pm 

Venue: Tapestry Room, Granville Hotel, The Quay

Admission: Free event 
The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
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