It happened 150 years ago this year and of the seventeen men publicly executed outside North Tipperary’s County Gaol in Nenagh, between 1842 and 1858, the true story of William and Daniel Cormack is one of the few that still remains fresh in folk memory, not just only here in County Tipperary and on the island of Ireland, but also in the USA, Australia, England and Canada.
I first heard about the Cormack Brothers as a small boy living in Co. Wexford and when I arrived here, to reside in Co.Tipperary in 1975, over the next 23 years, I listened intently to the constant and various arguments and debates, with regard as to their true guilt or innocent.
Then in 1998, a marvelous book, entitled appropriately ‘Guilty or Innocent? by author and Tipperary historian Nancy Murphy, appeared on our book shelves. Now for the first time, lovers of history and Tipperary folklore, had compiled together and easily accessible to them, the full factual details of the Cormack Brothers trial, their execution and their exhumation.
The book was the outcome of years of extensive research, carried out painstakingly by the author, into newspapers, official and private correspondence, the Trant Papers, the Petitions for Reprieve, Parish Registers, Poor Law Rate Books and other land records. The book put together, accurately and for the very first time, the known truth, without bias. Not surprisingly the book was sold out within weeks of its original publication date and up until this week was commanding figures of in excess of €64 to €130 in just secondhand condition.
Now, due to popular demand Relay Books, Tyone, Nenagh, Co.Tipperary have agreed to republished ‘Guilty or Innocent?‘ in a limited edition, to meet the renewed interest in the Cormack Brother’s fate this year, being the 150th anniversary of their death.
The Cormack Brother’s murder trial is too complex to discuss in this blog, but Chapter 18, of this well researched book, examines aspects of the Cormack Brother’s case to be questioned, under the following headings :
Were the members of the Grand Jury correct in sending the Cormack Brothers for trial?
The conduct of the investigation as revealed in the trials;
The conduct of the trials by prosecution, defence and presiding Judge;
The quality of the evidence and consequently whether the second Trial Jury was justified in their verdict;
Were there grounds for appeal, for a case stated by the judge for judgement by the Superior Court, and ultimately for mercy by the Lord Lieutenant?
Finally, and leaving the law aside, has the widespread belief in the Cormack Brother’s innocence been justified? The author quotes the indirect evidence for this and leaves a conclusion to the reader.
Within the last few months, the tiny village of Loughmore,Co.Tipperary, native parish to William and Daniel Cormack, have marked the anniversary of their execution and exhumation, by an impressive and evocative recreation of the 1910 funeral of the brothers exhumed remains. They also staged a play, “The Cormack Brothers”, in the parish centre over seven nights, playing to full houses and standing room only.
The limited republished edition of ‘Guilty or Innocent?‘ in paperback, retails at just €12.90 plus €2.00 for postage and packing.
This book is an excellent read for factual history lovers, especially if you enjoy a story where ‘truth is stranger than fiction.’ Take it from me this book is one hell of good read.