The Cormack Brothers

Cormack Brothers

The sesquicentenary of the wrongful execution of the Cormack brothers, Daniel and William, approaches.  No doubt, on 11 May 2008 the people of Loughmore and Castleiney – and others further afield – will recall the sad fate of the two innocent victims of that injustice who died on the scaffold of Nenagh jail on 11 May 1858.


Following the murder of local land agent, John Ellis, on 31 October 1857, the Cormack brothers were tried and condemned to death for the crime.  The evidence and other circumstances surrounding the trial created a lasting conviction that the brothers were the victims of a grave miscarriage of justice.


On 11 May 1910 the bodies of the Cormack brothers were returned to Loughmore where they were re-interred in a mausoleum erected for that purpose in the church grounds.  Vast throngs of people gathered for the event, thus reflecting the ongoing strong feelings concerning the perverse sentence.  That same intensity of feeling is manifest in the inscription on the mausoleum which was compiled by Canon Thomas Hackett, parish priest (1893-1915).


The sad fate of the Cormack brothers still stands as an indictment of a justice system which served the interests of a privileged minority.  Happily, the resolution of the land question during the latter decades of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century finally removed one of the chief sources of injustice and crime in Ireland during recent centuries.


The parish of Loughmore and Castleiney also remembers the Grants, Mary and Ger,  who suffered a fate similar to the Cormacks, though not so innocently.  Mary was executed for murder in Clonmel in 1810 and six years later Ger suffered a similar penalty in Portlaoise for highway robbery.


The four executions were partly the consequence of gentry philandering and partly the bitter fruit of agrarian unrest.  Both the Cormacks and the Grants are immortalised in song and story.