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Murder at Marlhill, New Inn, Tipperary

The Office of the Irish Attorney General has appointed a leading Senior Counsel to independently review the conviction of Tipperary farmer Harry Gleeson, 72 years after he was hanged. Justice Minister Alan Shatter has sanctioned a cold-case review following a request by Gleeson’s surviving relatives and friends, who have amassed what is believed to be new forensic evidence and which they believe will now clear Gleeson’s name.

GleesonHarry Gleeson, a bachelor, whose favourite pastime was hare coursing, was found guilty of the murder of his neighbour, Mary (Moll) McCarthy, whose mutilated body he found on November 21st 1940, in a remote spot on his uncle’s farm near New Inn, Co Tipperary. Miss McCarthy had been shot twice, once in the face by her assailant or assailants .

A fresh pathologist’s report has been conducted which may undermine the prosecution’s case regarding the timing of the death of Miss McCarthy, who was decried from the altar by a local priest, because she was an unmarried mother.

The Justice for Harry Gleeson Group based at Dublin’s Griffith College, turned to the Irish Innocence Project, part of the global wrongful conviction organisation, to help strengthen its exoneration case. The Innocence Project, wrote to Mr Shatter last year seeking a pardon after reviewing Gleeson’s case.
Dean of Law at Griffith and director of the Irish Innocence Project Barrister David Langwallner stated that he believed the new evidence was now sufficient to establish that the Harry Gleeson case was a miscarriage of justice.

Previously this story was documented by the late broadcaster and journalist Cathal O’Shannon (1928 – 2011) in a TV series entitled “Thou Shalt Not Kill, ” back in 1995.

Henry “Harry” Gleeson was born in 1897 at the family homestead at Galbertstown Lower, Holycross, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. He was the ninth child of farmer Thomas Gleeson and Catherine (Maiden name Caesar). His parents were married in 1883 and had a family of 12 children.  Harry went to work for his mother’s brother John Caesar, at Marlhill Farm, near New Inn. Harry’s younger brother Patrick would ultimately inherit Marlhill after John Caeser’s death, aged 83, in 1951.

According to a fictional Novel The Dead Eight by Carlo Gebler, Moll McCarthy’s story truly begins with her mother, who was reportedly a woman of ‘ill repute,’ and who sold sex to improve her impoverished lifestyle during a sojourn in Dublin city. Moll, her daughter, lived in a children’s home here in Thurles for the first sixteen years of life and was never acquainted with her actual father. Carlo Gebler paints Moll, like her mother, as somewhat of a promiscuous woman, even by the then standards of her time, having had numerous relationships with local men, both married and unmarried and also used these encounters to gain basic economic support, e.g. Unexplained Loads of Turf, Bags of Spuds, Groceries paid for at local shop etc..

“Foxy Moll’s” believed demise appears to have begun with a new discreet tryst with one Sergeant Anthony Daly, a married man, almost immediately upon his arrival to a new post at New Inn Garda station early in 1940. According to the novel Moll had been previously in a relationship with a local IRA activist, one Mr Johnny (JJ) Spink. He reportedly had possibly fathered her seventh and last child, latter who died as an infant and as with possibly previously relationships, this pregnancy appears to have ended her affair, due possibly to the scandal which almost certainly would have surrounded it.

Sergeant Daly’s then role in the Gardaí was to find and eradicate the remnants of the IRA who were still active in the Tipperary area. The Sergeant had been stationed at several locations over the course of his career and was notorious for the rough justice he had previously handed out. His now relationship with Moll presented a threat to Spink, who possibly feared that pillow talk might be passed on about the latter’s activities, thus this may have provided a motive for murder.

The novel suggests that Spink and two of his IRA associated brought Moll to a deserted house near Marlhill on the Wednesday evening, got her drunk, shot her and then planted her body where they knew Harry Gleeson would stumble on it the following morning.  Spink then may have blackmailed Sergeant Daly, threatening to reveal his relationship with the deceased unless Sergeant Daly was prepared to frame Harry Gleeson. Sergeant Daly stands accused of coaching one of Moll’s sons to say that Harry Gleeson was the father of Moll’s last child and the whole case now pointed to Gleeson as having a motive for murder.

Early in 1941, Harry “Badger” Gleeson was convicted of Moll McCarthy’s murder. It appeared that  justice had been done however everyone in New Inn was aware that Gleeson had never had a relationship with Moll McCarthy, they also knew that  Moll McCarthy never had a child by him. Harry also had a cast iron alibi in the company of others. Her killer, as was also widely speculated on and was more than likely the father of her seventh child.

British Hangman Albert Pierrepoint (1905 – 1992) executed Harry Gleeson in Mountjoy jail in April 1941. Pierrepoint executed at least 433 men and 17 women during his time as a hangman.

A decision on a pardon, based on new believed evidence, is expected to be made within a matter of months.

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20 comments to Murder at Marlhill, New Inn, Tipperary

  • Proinsias

    Fascinating, enjoyed that.

  • Michael Sheehan

    This miscarriage cast a shadow over our upbringing in many ways that only became apparent once we belatedly became aware of what happened. Harry is my grand uncle via his sister Bridget Gleeson.

  • George Willoughby

    I can only imagine the shadow then cast in Irish society on those connected. To demonstrate how small our world really was back then I overheard my Grandmother during a conversation with a neighbour, in June 1963, telling of how she had observed British Hangman Albert Pierrepoint in 1941 on board a Ferry coming to Ireland for to perform an execution. I was an inquisitive 12 years old at that time and began asking questions. I received only one answer “All you need to know is stay away from Religion & Politics, now off with you.” My continued earwigging however gave me to understand that Pierrepoint’s intended target had been Harry Gleeson, whom my Grandmother, living in Co Wexford, believed was an innocent man.
    Trust this now long overdue new investigation will establish the truth.

  • Michael Sheehan

    George, the world is smaller than we think. About 20 years ago I was touring Eire with our son and dropped into a pub off O’Connell Street in Dublin (The name Noonan’s rings a bell but I can’t be sure). Sitting next to us was a couple whom we had never met. As the man left to get a drink the woman immediately asked us if we were from England, which we are. She then declared without any preamble at all that she had served her legal pupilage with Sean McBride and had later been involved in representing Irish victims of miscarriage of justice cases in England. Our son had no idea of the impact of what the woman said as he was unaware of the story whereas I had only recently been introduced to the whole thing by a cousin and from reading Marcus Bourke’s book. To say that I was stunned is an understatement. The woman’s colleague returned and no more was said.

  • Kieran Fagan

    The account above – like that in Carlo Gebler’s very readable novel The Dead Eight – is largely true, even though it was a work of fiction. However some details in the novel should not be taken as fact. The nicknames Badger and Foxy Moll are a creation of the author, I believe. A terrible wrong was done to both Moll and Harry, and in fairness to their memory, I suggest we do not adopt now nicknames for them which they did not have in life. I’m not criticising the author here, he was not to know that truth and fiction would become intertwined so soon after his book was published. And I salute the achievement of the campaigners who have brought the matter this far.

    I’m pretty certain that Anthony Daly was not the father of Moll’s seventh child, Margaret who did not long survive birth, though he can fairly be accused of other very serious transgressions. I have written a full account of what happened and how the guilty parties got away with it, and hope to have firm news of a publication date shortly.

    Whatever about the mechanics and the delays involved in granting a pardon, I believe that Harry Gleeson’s remains should now be taken from Mountjoy prison and he be laid to rest in his home place in Co Tipperary.

  • I agree fully with your remarks in every respect. Do contact us when have firm news of your new publication, as many of our readers both local and abroad will be anxious to read same.

  • Sean Doherty

    Michael Sheehan – I believe we are relatives! Harry Gleeson was my Great Grandmother’s brother. My Great Grandmother’s name is Mary Gleeson. Bridget was her sister. She was interviewed for the book by Marcus Bourke before she passed away in 1995 at the age of 106. I work in the film industry here in the states, and I am trying to find a way to turn Harry Gleeson’s story into a feature film. I would also like to talk with George Willoughby as well. Thanks!

  • Michael Sheehan

    Good afternoon Sean,

    Have you been in touch with the author John Waters, ? He was contracted to write a screenplay about the Gleeson story in 2000 and from our email exchanges I believe that he is keen to continue with that aim. I daresay that you will be aware of the existence of the “Justice for Harry Gleeson Group”

    I suspect that my father John Sheehan would have been a happier man in a lot of ways if he had known that there was the prospect of justice for Harry, even if belatedly. Sadly, when and if it comes it will be too late for either of them.

    Good luck with your project,

    Kind regards,


  • Thomas Moloney

    Michael Shannon, Sean Doherty; It must be a small world. Believe we could be all related. I only discovered a few weeks ago that I am related to Harry Gleeson through his mother side ( I think now). We only live a few minutes away from New Inn and believe me even today the murder is still a very touchy subject.
    Our family discussed about Harry and how we would love to see him exonerated. It would be great to see his name cleared.

  • Damien O'Reilly

    I have just read Carlo Geblers book. It reawakened an interest I’ve had in this case since I first heard of it about 40 years ago from my father. In 1941 he was a serving officer in the Irish army. He always believed that Harry Gleeson was innocent. I’m wondering does anyone know how Mary McCarthy’s children fared. I hope life has been good to her descendants.

  • Kieran Fagan

    I cannot say about the younger children, but life was hard for Mary, the eldest, and Michael, the second son. Both are dead. I do know that.

  • Eileen Miller - Sellaro

    Hello, I am the granddaughter of Mary Gleeson, the sister of Harry, she was the last surviving sibling. She died at 106. My brother chip Miller, is a film director in California and he wrote and spoke many times to the author of this book. I have a copy of the book it needs to be rewritten into a screenplay, this, takes years. I am hoping it can be done soon to show that Harry was wrongly accused of this crime.

  • Deirdre Vokes

    Eleen, your gran and mine, Ellen, were sisters. I met Mary when she was on holiday in Tipperary many years ago and I think I wore yours or your sister’s dress at my First Holy Communion :-). I was totally unaware of Harry’s hanging until the publication of Marcus Bourke’s book and there’s hardly a day goes by since when I don’t think about the pain caused to him and his siblings. Hopefully his name will finally be cleared, sooner rather than later.

  • Kieran Fagan

    In fairness, the summary given at the top of this discussion fails to credit two writers who drew attention to this case long before Cathal O’Shannon presented a TV treatment in 1995. Essentially the O’Shannon programme was a filmed follow up to Murder at Marlhill, written by Marcus de Burca ( Bourke) three years earlier. In turn the de Burca book owed much to a privately published and somewhat haphazard publication which highlighted blatant errors in the 1941 court proceedings. Bill O’Connor, writing in the late 1980s in The Farcical Trial of Harry Gleeson, was a friend of Harry’s and once his book started going the rounds in south Tipperary, the cat was out of the bag. Gleeson had been framed.

  • Sophie

    I have recently been doing a bit of research on my family history, and it turns out Harry Gleeson is my great grand-uncle

  • […] Harry Gleeson was executed for the murder of Miss Mary (Foxy Moll) McCarthy, latter who was found shot dead in […]

  • Michael Sheehan

    Where can I get a look at “The Farcical Trial of Harry Gleeson”? Is it still in print? I’m also looking forward to reading Kieran Fagan’s book and comparing it with Bourke’s. Sadly, I’m reminded of the profound irony expressed in the Tom Paxton lyric,
    “I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
    Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
    That’s what I learned in school today.
    That’s what I learned in school.”

  • Kieran Fagan

    Michael Sheehan asks about The Farcical Trial of Harry Gleeson. Reading it today would not tell him much, only that Harry’s friend Bill O’Connor broke through the blanket of silence for the very first time. The publication is scrappy and full of typos , but the searing truth breaks through. I say “only” but when it was published, albeit few people got to read it, it was hugely important, because O’Connor pinpointed the flaws in the original trial. He didn’t get everything right, but he was right on the big questions. Marcus Bourke’s Murder at Marlhilll followed took Bill O’Connor’s crude blast of indignation and presented it in “respectable” terms to a wider audience. And so things moved on. I’ve always argued that if there is an afterlife, the very first person Harry Gleeson will thank for his vindication is Bill O’Connor. I hope that when the official announcement of Harry’s pardon is made, due credit is given to the man, a good friend to Harry, who was known as “Billo”. I hope that helps. Kieran.

  • Edward J Mulcahy


  • George Willoughby

    Hi Edward,
    I believe there are problems regarding identifying his remains. He’s currently buried in an unmarked grave at Mountjoy in Dublin. The former governor of Mountjoy believes it will be next to impossible to identify his body, as so much has changed in the layout of the prison since then.

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