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(Cursai Coireolaiochta Na h-Eireann)

Created By Seamus Breathnach.

10.a. Capital Punishment

Studies In Irish Criminology: Book 8

10.a. Last Of The Betagii

Last Of The Betagii
By Seamus Breathnach.

Other Works by the Author:

Emile Durkheim On Crime And Punishment

(An Exegesis)
Dissertation.com, 2002
The Riddle Of The Caswell Mutiny
UPublish.com 2003

Crime And Punishment in Twentieth Century Ireland

Vol 2: A Description Of The Criminal Justice System (CJS)
(1950-80) - UPublish.com 2003

Dedication i
Introduction vi

CHAPTER 1: Parish and Townland 1

CHAPTER 2: Dramatis Personae 13

CHAPTER 3: The Taylor Trial -- One 23

CHAPTER 4: The Taylor Trial -- Two 35

CHAPTER 5: The Trial of Mary Daly 47

CHAPTER 6: Death of a Protestant 62

i. The Theory of Execution
ii. The Grace Period
iii. The Execution Day
iv. The Inquest

CHAPTER 7: Petitions 75
i. Petitions
ii. The Press as Church-State Reconciler
iii. Petty Traitors
iv. Co-Defendants

CHAPTER 8: Death of a Betagii 89

CHAPTER 9: Nymphomania In Clonbrock 106

CHAPTER 11: Aftermath 115

References 130
Index 135
Chapter 6:
Death of A Protestant

My task was to point out the horror and the iniquity of capital punishment under any
circumstances. The horror of capital punishment is great when it falls to the lot of
courageous and honest people whose only guilt is their excess of love and the sense of
righteousness - in such instances, conscience revolts. But the rope is still more horrible
when it forms the noose around the necks of weak and ignorant people. And however
strange it may appear, I look with a lesser grief and suffering upon the execution of the
revolutionists, such as Werner and Musya, than upon the strangling of ignorant murderers,
miserable in mind and heart, like Yanson and Tsiganok. Even the last mad horror of
inevitably approaching execution Werner can offset by his enlightened mind and his iron
will, and Musya, by her purity and her innocence.

Respectfully yours,

Author of: The Seven who were Hanged
Release Date: October, 2004 [E Book #6722]

Before pronouncing sentence Judge Kenny held out ‘no hope of mercy’. He called it a
‘hideous crime’. Despite his earlier efforts to commit suicide in his cell, Joseph Taylor still
maintained his innocence of the murder. And if Mary Daly, who was now found guilty of the
same murder, had gone out to the back of her house and, as was suspected by the Judge,
killed her husband with a fork in the early hours of the morning, then, in some very real
sense, what Joseph Taylor said concerning his innocence made perfect sense. Indeed,
Mary Daly’s guilt almost excluded Joseph Taylor’s; for what man, being party to a murder,
has a passionate fist fight with his opponent, and then quits the field for his lover to deliver
the coup de gras? And, by the same token, what man would meet his opponent face to
face, knock him out, and then place a horse’s reins in his hands to suggest that the horse
had kicked him to death? Surely, such a ruse was more suited to a woman’s way of
thinking than a man’s?

When Judge Kenny said to Joseph Taylor, “You will have more time to make your peace
with God than poor John Daly had...”, it implied that Taylor premeditatedly killed Daly. But it
was hardly an implication which upon the evidence the Judge could properly make. In so
far as it suggested that Joseph Taylor set out to take the life of John Daly, it was more
surmised than proved. That the Judge (more than the Jury) took such a view, prompts the
question as to whether public executions did not in the past contain something more than
conventional jurisprudence is prepared to admit.

If we look closer both at the conventional theories as well as what actually happened when
death was visited upon these two Betagii peasants, we begin to recognise some residues
-- not so much of ancient justice but of the blood-sacrifice still obtaining in executions.
Through religious and political conventions these sacrificial elements are converted to
social and, indeed, political arrangements. In this respect, therefore, it behoves us to look
briefly at the following considerations incidental to the hanging of Joseph Taylor:
i. The Theory of Execution;
ii. The Grace Period;
iii. The Execution Day; and
iv. The Inquest.

i. The Theory of Execution

Deterrence, as a means of protecting the public from a repetition of past crimes, has
always been one of the most stated reasons justifying the execution of criminals. In the
case of murderers, there was also the added sense of retribution. With retribution the state
reserved the deterrent effect of execution, but also retained the ingredient of revenge.
Retribution also enjoyed a simple if aesthetic balance, in that those who were found guilty
of deliberately taking life, were now called upon to forfeit their own lives. The aesthetic of
‘a life for a life’ also reflected the Christian notion that God the Father sent his only
begotten son to expiate the sins of the world. For centuries both the necessity of
deterrence and the desirability of retribution were readily used on the wider canvas of
expiation to justify hanging the criminally culpable.

Despite the widely-held beliefs justifying the rationale of execution, however, it was
sometimes felt that the ritual of execution harbored other dimensions besides those of
deterrence, retribution and even expiation. While it was invariably pleaded that each and
all of these theoretical reasons for execution stood on their own or in combination, their
aim was always atonement of one description or another, No dimension in the human
psyche runs deeper, it seems, than the social need to atone for wrong-doing. And while
deterrence is aimed at preventing the further commission of the crime of murder, either at
an individual as well as a social level, retribution pays the criminal back in kind after the
crime is committed. Retribution by way of execution, moreover, sanctifies at the social
level the very homicide which, when committed by an individual, society cannot forgive.
Theoretically speaking, expiation, conceivable both on a personal level as well as a social
level, more often than not operates only on the personal level. It is on the personal level
that it personifies Christianity; for it rejoices in the individual admitting his excesses and, by
so doing, shows himself willing, in a confessional sense, to make an honourable
amendment as prelude to making his peace with society at large. Allied to the more
modern notion of rehabilitation, it makes for the most enlightened of penal policies. By
definition, however, expiation cannot occur at the social level (except in the Divinity); but
where Christianity celebrates voluntary and enlightened expiation at the personal level, as
in the person of the prodigal son, it joins with the secular State to enforce it by way of
sacrifice at the social level. Such atonement, as of old, is not made to a‘personal’ God but
to society’s God, whose exigencies are relieved in the blood sacrifice.

Apart from its primitive nature, execution by hanging answers all the requirements of a
penal policy. By its visible gruesomeness, execution by hanging visibly achieves
deterrence and retribution. In the need for sacrifice lies the inception of much that is
religious; for the sacrificial idea is not only chorally central to every church but it is also
theatrically essential. In accepting the need for sacrifice, society enters a process of group
fear and group control, which, once installed, is operable as if by an infant with a bell, a
book, and a candle.

In a way, it is self-evident that all human sacrifice presupposes the prior existence of a
divine being --- a God, in fact, who by definition arrogates unto himself all violence as well
as all virtue. When a shaman or priest insists that he is ‘God’s vicar on earth’, in effect he
arrogates to himself the unwarranted privilege of embodying communal jurisdiction in a
way that we would find offensive in a king. Moreover, by so doing, he thereby assumes
hegemonic power over the group for whom the Godhead, so defined, is significant. No
sooner is the human sacrifice as an appeasing procedure acknowledged, than religious
hegemony is confirmed. Over time, such hegemony becomes legitimated by social custom
and sanctified by repetition.

Despite fulminations to the contrary, however, nothing -- including our concept of God --
remains unaltered forever. And even as time and custom change, so, too, does the
'Godhead' and our notions of it. Faced with the realities of secular evolution, the face of the
all-violent/all-loving Godhead becomes denuded and is sedulously constrained to
communicate a willingness to compromise. Later rather than sooner, therefore, under the
teleological constraint of modernizing secular values, the violent aspect, once so
prominent, begins to recede. Then, in the face of secular science, it is compelled to recede
appreciably further than ever before from public view, lest it do more visible harm than it
has traditionally done. Religion in effect recedes wantonly and shamefully, so much so, in
fact, that even when the principle of capital punishment has been abolished by more
secular communities, the religious need for sacrifice as well as it’s will to violence, though
never totally eclipsed, hides itself in denial of its origins. As an alternative to ‘preaching the
Crusade’, Christianity’s violent character is allowed to bivouac behind the raison d’être of
the modern army, the contesting party-political theatre, the punitive sentence of the
judiciary, the Christian inseparability of the Separation of Powers, the democratic
competition, the differential pay rise, the race meeting, the hunt, the competitive sport, the
Christian state. In the sacrifice, then, the memory of the social significance of the original
violence still lingers; it hovers around a time when there was no Separation of Powers,
when all was 'conquest by the heavy hand'. In the sacrifice of the Mass is the recall of the
power struggle between pagan Roman Imperialism and the Judeo-Christian patriotic front.
The execution of Joseph Taylor (and Mary Daly) was more a continuation of Christian and
Pagan Rome than it was of Gaelic paganism, the same holy Roman reasons applying the
same remedy as the unholy empire it succeeded.

In this vein it should not, perhaps, be forgotten that Christianity is itself built upon a
penological conundrum. That’s why the crucifixion of Christ, even in its condemnation is
‘celebrated’ in the mass. The celebration envisages neither reparation nor forgiveness. It is
used exclusively for present and future stratagems rather than for any purposeful
reparations of the past. It’s continuity as a method of social control is thereby assured; for
if the Jews absolved the Romans and the Christians absolved the Jews of their part in the
execution of Jesus, or if, indeed, the Romans and the Jews were allowed to expiate their
alleged crimes against Christianity, then their could be no raison d’etre for its continuity.
Alternatively, if Jesus had been sentenced to ten years penal servitude rather than to
crucifixion, where then would the continual need for sacrifice and reparation be! What then
would happen to the prospects of the new religious Christian cult? What then needed to be
celebrated? What then of the Christian agenda for world conquest?

In executing a citizen, the Christian State purported to do so in a civilizing manner and not
by resorting, after the fashion of the non-Christian or Muslim states, to the use of brutish or
barbaric means; for the Christian State was always, according toits own lights, informed
with a rationale that has made its punitive practices above reproach. Although biblical in
nature, the execution of a citizen rank-orders religions inter se. It also confirms society’s
internal power-elite in their primary legitimate role as generators of social value. In this way
it manages to institutionalize society’s full and uncompromising acceptance of its various
stratified powers.

In the sacrificial sense, there is nothing more instructive than a public hanging. It puts
religions, politics, people and things in their proper place: that is, it manifests their true
relation to each other according to their capacity to exercise power in this world. In the
absence of a social science, the reality of execution acts as a substitute science of morals,
a discovery of propriety and of correct social location within the firmament of social power.
Unfortunately, as we are only too painfully aware, when the great religious powers come to
share a common territory -- as when Roman Catholic and English Protestant claim Ireland
as their common heritage -- even though they are inspired by the same Christian God, the
great antagonism and resentment that exists between them comes to the surface.
Whatever measures, therefore, that are from time to time required to relieve us of these
our most malignant social evils, we devoutly embrace, more out of fear of social reprisal
than out of love of God. Besides miracles and religious relicts, what mostly kept these
powerful bodies in their fixed and acceptable orbits was honest executions, without the
service of which the political firmament would have been constantly in a state of bloodied
chaos. In Christian terms the combined execution of Joseph Taylor and Mary Daly was the
only acceptable solution that the murder of Mary Daly’s husband created. Even though he
protested his innocence to the murder, how would it seem if only Mary Daly (a Catholic)
was executed, while the young man who beat her husband senseless should go free? Or,
alternatively, how would people have felt if Taylor (a Protestant) had been executed, but
his older Catholic seducer was set free?

On Saturday January 10 1903 the The Kilkenny People, in hindsight, tried to lay the whole
tragedy to rest. It did this by completing the story and, at the same time, interpreting the
meaning of the murder :

‘On Wednesday morning last the closing scene in the miserable and sordid tragedy known
as the Clonbrock murder was enacted in Kilkenny gaol when Joseph Taylor paid the dread
penalty of the law for the awful crime of which he was adjudged guilty by a jury of his
fellow-countrymen -- the willful and cruel murder of John Daly, a small farmer residing a
Clonbrock, in the Queen’s County.

' To say that it was the closing scene is not strictly accurate, because on the morning when
Taylor expiated with his life the awful crime of which he was guilty, another miserable
creature, his accomplice in guilt - not merely in the guilt of murder but in the guilt which
preceded and gave rise to the murder -- lay awaiting her doom in a cell in Tullamore
prison. The crime for which Taylor was sentenced to death -- and the verdict of the jury in
his case was supported by commonsense and carried with the approval of the public --
belongs fortunately in a class which is so rare in Ireland as to be almost unparalleled. It
was a crime prompted by the vilest motives. it began with a wife’s guilt. It resulted in the
cruel murder of her husband, finally done to death while she stood by a passive and
approving spectator; it ended in that terrible and awe-inspiring procession from the prisons
to the cell to the scaffold in Kilkenny on Wednesday morning and in Tullamore on Friday

Both in the motive that inspired it and the methods by which it was carried out, it was, we
repeat, a crime almost unparalleled in this country. The motive was the satisfaction of a
woman’s lust; the methods were so absolutely brutal as to place the crime altogether out
of the category of the crimes that are recorded in the criminal annals of Ireland.'
To a people rehearsed in absolutes, such a rhetorical account was reassuring. It is ever
sufficient and adequate to palliate the most phlegmatic minds by informing them of truths
concerning which they are already aware. And if husband-murder was not as unusual as
the press believed, it was once popular enough to receive the name of Petty Treason.

ii. The Grace Period

In sentencing the defendants Judge Kenny gave each of the accused a month to make
what he called ‘the prisoner’s peace with God.’ For all its brevity, the apportionment of a
month was a more seemly practice than that to which the eighteenth-century Defenders
and Whiteboys were allowed. Since hanging statutorily followed some 24 hours after
sentence, defendants would bellow from the dock: ‘Long Day, m’ Lord!’ Their last request
of officialdom was for a few days within which they might organize what was left of their
lives. It was that final space where, free of all life’s continuing concerns, they might talk to
those to whom it was necessary for them to speak; to impart some vital personal things
and, maybe, petition the Lord Lieutenant for a reprieve. How the condemned spent their
grace month is a matter of some curiosity.

What does a person do when they have been told that they are to die on such and such a

One suspects that the shock is traumatic, that the mind recoils before the finality of things.
The inner realization that life’s fretful course is abruptly confronted with the certainty of
lifelessness. The motive force which, since birth, had focused forward is now instantly
closed down, the inner window that looked outward becomes a necessary mirror, a one-
way vista of one’s self, and the dialogue with self concerning life’s ados becomes a
monologue concentrated on one final happening. Is it not true, that ordinary people live in
the further expectation of life? Is it not the case, that we all continually live in the
expectation of further and continual expectations? Is it not true that no one really expects
to die? After the initial shock and still quivering from the violence of the sentence, one
suspects that Joseph Taylor retired to shed from his existence all excess baggage.

Perhaps this solitary journey into himself had already happened in Joseph Taylor’s case --
when he attempted suicide is his cell, that is, after the children had given their renewed
evidence against him and his lover. Even then, he was forbidden to take the life that the
State had garnered for its own purposes.

Even so, there had to be some instant when Joseph Taylor saw with blinding clarity what
was important in his life and what was not, who was to be seen and who was not, who it
was that he needed to embrace and kiss away life’s last blossom. And, if there were others
left in a walking dead-man’s vista, then they were practically forgotten already. Perhaps, in
that suicide-attempt Joseph Taylor had turned his back on the world in its entirety. In
keeping him alive, the Christian state was depriving him even of his right to despair.

So, who was there to be seen?

There was Mary Daly, of course, his partner (and, perhaps, through her female wiles
seducer and conspirator in crime); but....that affection was all gone. Whatever Joseph
Taylor might feel for Mary Daly, he could not on reflection have anything to say to her. With
such an end, only one meaningless clockwork logic survives and exceeds that of all
others, chron-o-logic. Only a month remained! So, who was it whose forgiveness Joseph
Taylor most required? Who was it to whom he needed most to say: ‘I love you’? Who was
it to whom he needed to say ‘adieu,’‘fare-thee-well’? Who was it who had brought
desultory laughter into life? Who was it whose spirits were true? In the hour of certain
death, little reflection upon these matters is needed; for the spirits that have moved others
coalesce in an instant; their faces are felt instinctively. Above all others, these had to be
seen, while those who brought no laughter or who only brought wretchedness and
depression to the feast of life -- these were instantly left without in the shadows, where
they cast no reflection.

It was Christmas and Joseph Taylor, who had great difficulty in putting pen to paper, wrote
a letter to his mother (22nd). A week later, he made a statement (27th) to the prison
warders. He also informed them of his inner thoughts and reminiscences, and the warders
took notes. There was nothing as yet forthcoming from Mary Daly. The letter to his mother
was taken down by the Warders and, as we are informed, at his dictation. The letter, in a
tortuous hand and without a conscious scintilla of humour (and in need of some
grammatical corrections ) read:

Dear Mother,

I am writing you these few lines to tell you not to be fretting about me. Give everything I
have belonging to me to my brother Thomas.

Tell my brother and sister to come and see me this week. God knows I am not guilty and I
know that myself, and so I am not fretting. I have been continually praying to God to
forgive me my sins. The Clergy here are very good; they come to visit me every day. I got
a letter from my friend Mr. Moore of Three Castles. He was very sorry for me and wrote a
very consoling letter. He is to come see me some day as soon as he gets time. Tell my
brother William not to give up his trade on any account and to supply his customers and
not run away out of the country. I am very sorry for all the money you are after losing on
my trial. It will be well known and seen yet that there was wrong done on me.

I am in the very best of health thank God; so do not fret about me, wishing you all a very
merry Christmas and a happy New Year

I remain

Your loving son

Joseph (X mark) Taylor, initialed S.E.W

PS. Tell my brother William to get my knife from head constable Murphy.

Joseph (his x mark) Taylor, initialed

Witness S.G. Willis, warder

C.W. Castles, Cf. Warder.

Further, remarks regarding his innocence (H M S Kilkenny, 22.12.1903), were made to
Warder S.G. Willis three days before Christmas day. They more or less recited the
evidence tendered on his behalf at his trial. He said:

“I suppose if I had been acquitted, I would have been brought forward to give evidence
against Mary Daly and if I had, she was sure to have been convicted; for on the night that
the murder was committed she asked me to go out along the road and meet him coming
home and murder him. When I refused to do this, she said: ` I will have revenge on him
this night, before I go to bed.` And if I had stood up in the dock and told all this to his
Lordship and the jury (although it was then gone so far), I am sure my case would have
gone differently”.

And to W. Elliot, Warder he said:

“... On the 16th of June last when I was in Daly`s house Mary Daly asked me to meet Daly
that night coming home a couple of miles form the house at some lonely part of the road
and give him a blow in the cart and kill him.

I told her I would not --for I would not have the sin of it hanging over me, she then said I
will have revenge of him this night before I sleep. If I had stood up in the dock etc., I and
Daly were always the best of friends he was a good neighbor to us. Anything we ever
wanted of him he always gave it to us If I wanted to kill him, it is not to his own house I
would go to do it -- where his children would be watchindrunk at night.”.

After Christmas, Joseph Taylor made another formal statement. (See also a sample of his
handwriting at page?)

“Kilkenny Jail
27 December 1902

Joseph Taylor

I beg to make a statement

I was at John Doyle’s house on the 16 of June at 4. His wife was there. She said to me
that her husband was drunk on Saturday night and put out her and 2 children. She said
she got him arrested. He was as bad on Sunday (and) put them out. So she it was said to
me: would I go meet (?) on the road that night, that I could hang, and kill him with a blow. I
said I would do no such thing. She said I was a mean (spelled and pronounced‘mane’)
clown. I said I did not want to go to hell for to be hung. She said she would get revenge of
him herself to night. I said: How? She said she (would?) stay in the field till he would go
out with the mare -- that he would be surely drunk and she would be well able for him with
a good fork -- as there (is) behind the door. I never go away and leave him (with) the two
children because he would kill them. I said: ‘You will be hung.’ She said how? Who would
know? I went away then... about 6 -- straight up on the road till about 10 o` clock.... I went
down to Crettyard store and it was short. I came on home. On my road home I met James
Brennan. I said ‘Good Night’ and said ‘what time is it?’. He said it was 15 minutes after 10.
I got a candle from my sister, where she was sleeping. I went to bed with? my brother. I
was taking a little that day.

iii. The Execution Day

In the court room we had already seen the ritual by which truth, justice and the capital
sentence were arrived at; now we were to behold the sacrifice. As there was order to be
observed in their criminal trials, so, too, would there be order in their respective
punishments. The Christian church(es) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland were agreed on two things: one was that execution by hanging was a suitable way
to proceed and, secondly, that in matters executionary, the proper principle was ‘males
First, females last’. Accordingly, the order of events was scheduled as follows:

Date of conviction of:

Joseph Taylor -- 8th of December. 1902, and of
Mary Daly -- 12th of December, 1902

Date of Execution of:

Joseph Taylor -- 6th of January 1903, and of
Mary Daly -- 9th of January 1903

Judge Kenny sentenced Joseph Taylor to be hanged on the 6th of January 1903. In actual
fact, however, this date had to be set aside to accommodate the ‘powers-that-be’ who felt
compelled to have their inter power relationships agreed and con firmed anew. The date
allocated created an unforeseen problem – a problem which nevertheless summoned from
their subterranean slumbers the oldest forces of Christian hegemony in Ireland. In the
Catholic calendar it was known as the Feast of the Epiphany. Obviously Mr. Justice Kenny
– himself a Catholic -- had forgotten the significance of this date to the religious mind and
needed to be reminded. It was a mistake of sorts; but now that it was made, the true order
of things would have to be clarified.

No sooner was the Taylor-trial over, than the news of the outcome broke in Kilkenny.
Alderman James Nowlan exhorted the Kilkenny Corporation to protest against hanging
Joseph Taylor on a Catholic holiday. No man should be hanged in Kilkenny on the Feast of
the Epiphany; the idea was somehow offensive to the Catholic mind. Alderman Nowlan’s
exhortations were met with shouts of ‘Hear, Hear.’ Another member pointed out that the
condemned man was a Protestant, not a Catholic, and the sentence had no effect on
Catholics. But no matter! What was said was said, a hanging was a hanging, and it still fell
on a Catholic holiday.

Whether Alderman Taylor had been prompted in his indignation or whether it was a
spontaneous response to the judge’s decision is not known. Before the press, carrying his
outrage hit the streets, the sentence had become an official faux-pas -- one that could not
be allowed to pass unnoticed, or, more significantly, one that had to be set right: and seen
to be set right. By such tic-tac diligence did not the effeminate Sylvester steal from
Constantine overlordship of the Roman world! In this same tic-tac, tit-for-tat sense, it
wasn’t so much the survival of the fittest institution that was at stake, as much as the
reassertion of the most fossilized. Primacy in the order of time was more important within
the Irish paradigm, than any on-going notion of anything on-going. In a culture that had no
evolution, a Darwinian prescription was not possible. And where competition, whether
concerning concepts of God, history or the production of toothpaste, are forbidden, power
and pride of place goes to the most superstitious, the most pious, the most punctilious, the
most effeminate, and the most inauthentic.

While no one was to blame for the faux-pas, everyone in Hibernia would have to be told
about it; everyone had to be informed how offensive the date was to the Catholic mind. To
make such a protest was, by necessary inference, no more than one’s Christian duty. In
amending or -- more properly -- in correcting the Judge’s sentence, the primacy of moral
power was being acknowledged; the reason for the correction was reserved to the
Christian and democratic nature of the Hibernian State, its origins, its existence, its ascent,
its promise for the future and its raison d’être. In its origins as in its propriety, capital
punishment remained an intrinsic part of the Christian definition.

In every ritual where people gather, they attest to the attitudes that make them uniquely
what they as a group are, and every execution is precisely what the sacrifice of the mass
purports to be for Catholics – it is, first of all, the continuation of an event that the
governing forces will not allow to die or become faded or forgotten for fear of losing their
own privileges associated with such an event. It is also the assertion of the sacred (i.e., the
social feelings of the righteous mind to life) by the continuous destruction of the profane
(i.e., the social feelings of repulsion in the presence of murder). Fortunately for modern
man (and woman) that which was regarded as sacred by one age (a religious age), also
proves to be profane to another (a secular age). Otherwise, like modern America, Japan
and China, we should still be executing people and calling it justice. The only difference
between the barbarians and the moderns is the notion of history, that sweet muse that
more than any other puts a critical mirror before our collective face, raises our
consciousness about ourselves and, accordingly, civilizes those who would be so.

Destruction by hanging is undignified and awful. It was designed to be so. It affirms the
very murder it purportedly found profane in its citizens (but excuses in its collective self).
By so doing it contradicts itself: a society that executes its individual citizens introduces
itself and the remainder of its citizenry to the very profanity it purports to condemn: in
refusing to preserve as sacred the very life of the murderer, it doesn’t just kill the killer, but
rather extinguishes what was socially sacred in itself (the Godhead). How can such an
apparent contradiction be explained?

Peculiarly, it was not the first time that Protestant Ireland had forgotten its Hiberno-Catholic
origins, its Anglici extraction, or its debt to Papal treachery, no more than it was the first
time that a bishop checkmated a Judge and returned him momentarily to the Royal stables
with his tail between his legs. The transgression upon the finer feelings of the earlier
empire's universal sensibilities had to be redressed. In his letter to the Lord Lieutenant,
therefore, (and another one to Judge Kenny), the Bishop of Ossory reminded his
correspondents that the City of Kilkenny, like Augustine’s City of God, was `a very catholic
place, the proportion of Catholics to those of other denominations being ninety per cent.’
The Catholic Church, despite it aversion to materialism, always knew that quantities, in
sufficient doses, altered qualities -- a managerial truth that preceded the insights of either
Frederic Hegel or Karl Marx. With a hint of sarcasm undetectable in holy men -- because
of their proclivity, no doubt, to curtsy and effeminate at will -- the bishop broached and
rallied protestant practice to his cause, secure in the belief that whatever happened, the
fallout would find him unassailably perched on the higher moral ground. He wrote:

"I believe the Feast of the Epiphany is marked as a Holy Day in the Book of Common
Prayer and is very usually observed with a solemnity, second only to Christmas day, by
members of the Protestant communion."

Ever since the Reformation Lords Spiritual and Temporal had been compelled to make
common cause in the House of Lords. It was a partial response to the unresolved struggle
between the Church of Rome and every government it could intimidate into submission.
The England that had listened to Wycliffe and learned from the Puritans had not lost its
marrow, nor was it likely to bend its secular knee to holy Roman bullying. Nevertheless,
conscious of one’s cultural environment, the Crown thought little of baubles that appeased
the transalpine proclivities of the Catholic people of Kyteler-city.

At this juncture we might recall the fourteenth century circumstances of Thomas Beckett,
following which no English bishop would with impunity dare tell a high court judge what to
do -- and even less so in Post-Reformation England! In Ireland, however, things were
invariably and genetically perverse: although not as perverse, perhaps, as under the latter
day Free State or, worse, the Republic, when judges, ministers and even Presidents
readily submitted lest they be bought and bro-ken in an instance on the episcopal wheel.
By then, it would be argued,of course, that all was homogeneously Catholic and that the
Irish -- the lack-lustre ‘middle nation’ -- deserved every blessed bishop that descended
upon them.

Be that as it may, the plain intelligence of the bishop’s letter indicated that in 1903
Protestant Ireland was no longer Protestant Ireland, but was being successfully subverted
by a new Catholic swell, and that perhaps was why the bishop of Ossory was crowing.

One way or another, religious tensions had to be reconciled -- otherwise, no one would get
hanged! Between the de facto jurisdiction of the British and the de juro jurisdiction of the
Catholics in waiting, lay the business of propaganda. It was important, therefore, to remind
the people who was who. The crux of the matter was that

the feast of the Epiphany had to be as observed as had the execution of the Protestant,
Joseph Taylor, and while the feast of the Epiphany had to take precedence -- because it
was fixed of old -- the day selected for the execution, however ‘singularly unsuitable’, was
nevertheless changeable. In his anxiety to have it changed, the bishop conjured up the
following picture:

“ At the very time that the bells of our Churches here will be summoning our people to
divine worship, the bell of the prison will be sounding also to tell of the gruesome work
about to be carried out within the walls of the prison, and the black flag will be displayed
immediately after the execution.”

Obviously the day of execution had to be changed, and now that the Protestant bishop of
Ossory and Judge Kenny had joined in the chorus, it wasn’t long before the Under
Secretary took up the tune and echoed the good news from the Vice Regal Lodge. Joseph
Taylor’s sentence was reprieved by one day, and his execution was reset for January 7.
Even this indelicate manipulation of death was not without precedence. And already the
bishop had included it in his letter. ‘By a very curious coincidence,’ he wrote, ‘the very
same mistake was made about four years ago by Mr. Justice Madden who fixed an
execution for the very same day that year.’ It was sufficient to mention the event but it
would have been indelicate to name names, recall past executions, or reopen old wounds.
In any event, it was perfectly sufficient to mention the matter as an item of administrative
detail -- a detail concerning a corrected matter whose repetition could not now be undone!
(The reference was to the convict Patrick Holmes, who had been sentenced to be
executed in Kilkenny Prison on the 6th of January 1899. At the time, Holmes had his
execution respited for one day by Lord Cadogan.)

And now that things had been put into their proper if medieval perspective, the State was
free to get on with the business of hanging murderers, male and female. The Church could
celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass without the interruption of death bells reminding the
faithful of the `gruesome` fate that attended mere mortals. On Wednesday, January 7,
1903, the Catholics of Kilkenny were free to pray their hearts out for whatever it was that
needed their prayers.

Meanwhile, according to the Kilkenny People,

The scene outside the gaol on Wednesday morning certainly suggested some unwonted
occurrence inside, yet, though the crowd numbered a couple of hundred, it was largely
composed of small boys, with a sprinkling of small girls, and some big girls too, and a lot of
policemen and Pressmen. Shortly after seven o’clock the principal officials concerned in
the dread function entered the jail, including the Sheriff. Dr. James, and Rev Dean Lyons
and Rev Mr. Dowman. The Dean and Rev Mr Dowman at once repaired to the cell of the
doomed man who was aroused at six o’clock and partook of a very light breakfast, and
remained with him in earnest prayer until the terrible announcement was made that the
time had arrived when he should prepare to meet his maker. Then the awful preliminaries
were arranged, the funeral procession, as it might be called -- the unfortunate man’s arms
being first pinioned by the executioner -- consisting of the Rev Mr Dowman, who read the
prayers for the dying as prescribed by the Protestant Ritual, and walked by the side of the
doomed man, followed by the /governor of the jail, Dr. James and the warders. It was but a
short distance to the scaffold, and taking his place on the fatal trap, the condemned man’s
legs were bound,the cap drawn over his face, the noose adjusted, the lever was pulled --
and Joseph Taylor was launched into Eternity. A subsequent examination of the body
showed that death was practically instantaneous and painless, the features wearing a
calm and placid appearance, and there being nothing to indicate the manner of his death
except the sinister blue mark on the neck. A drop of six feet was allowed.

The prison bell was then tolled, and outside the jail the crowd gradually melted away.

iv. The Inquest

(As described in the The Kilkenny People, Saturday, January 10, 1903)

Dr Denis Walshe, Coroner, for South Kilkenny, held an inquest on the remains at the
prison at 12 o’clock noon. The following jury was sworn -

Mr John Willoughby (foreman),

Messrs Philip Stone,
John Morrisssey,
John Robinson,
James F. Hackett,
Thomas Cole,
John Flood,
Patrick Ryan,
Thomas Dwyer,
Wm. Brennan,
Henry Stone,
James Gregg,
John Gardiner,
R.G. Callinan,
Andrew Griffith,
J. Slator, and
J. Wm. Tallis.

Mr R. J. Harrison, D.L.R.I.C. conducted the examination of the witnesses.

The jury having viewed the body, (assembled).

Mr Richard Bull, sub-sheriff of the Queen’s county, was sworn and deposed that he
produced the warrant of execution and the Lord Lieutenant’s respite of one day from the
6th to the 7th January. the execution of Joseph Taylor was carried out at 8’o clock that
morning, according to law, in Kilkenny prison.

Dr C E James was the next witness sworn. He deposed he was the surgeon to Kilkenny
prisons. He was preset at the execution of Joseph Taylor that morning. He had examined
the body which had just been viewed by the jury. In his opinion the cause of death was
dislocation of the neck by hanging.

Samuel McArthur, Governor, Kilkenny Prison, deposed that the body just viewed by the
jury was the body of Joseph Taylor. he was a prisoner under sentence of death in Kilkenny
Prison. He was sentenced to death at the Leinster Winter Assizes at Maryborough, on the
8th December 1902. he was a single man and 26-and-a-half years of age. He followed the
occupation of labourer. he was executed within the precincts of the prison that morning at
8 o’clock am. He was under sentence of death for murder.

Mr Gardicere (juror) - Would it be necessary to say by whom he was executed?

Coroner (to witness) -- Who was the executioner?

Witness -- William Billington.

Mr Harrison, D I -- That is all the evidence

Coroner -- I suppose that is all the evidence you require, gentlemen. This is a mere matter
of form, and of course there is no use in taking up your time with any further evidence. The
only verdict, of course, you can return in a case of this kind is a verdict in accordance with
the medical evidence, that is, that he died from dislocation of the neck caused by hanging,
in the due execution of the law,and in the carrying out of a sentence of death passed on
him at the Leinster Winter Assizes at Maryborough.

The jury concurred, and the coroner thanked them for their attendance, after which they
were discharged.

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