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The McCarthy Dubhs

The McCarthy Dubhs, Donagh, Daniel and Michael were farm labourers from Rockfort, Innishannon. One day when they were very young one of the lads stole a penny worth of nails from a trader in the village and when he brought home his ill-gotten gains his mother seeing the potential for easy money sent the three out to steal more, after all a penny would have provided a nice bit of grub for a brood of hungry boys in the mid seventeen hundreds. Thus began the infamous career of of the Dubhs, a career that came to its grizzly conclusion at the end of three ropes, two of which were stretched at Gallows Hill (now Hill Terrace) and the other made for Donagh at Fax Bridge, Clonakilty in 1773. We pick up the story on the day of the execution of Daniel and Michael when the gory spectacle was witnessed by thousands of people.

The Dubhs’ reign of terror came to an end when they were out smarted by a man by the name of Holland from Roughgrove and consequently met their maker on a fine day in April. The following is Bennett’s somewhat flowery account of the grim proceedings, it came as no surprise to learn that George Bennett would take to writing poetry in his latter days in another Bandon, shame he didn’t take the time to learn a few words of Irish though, instead using the phonetic, “Duves”. For more on the Dubhs see chapter 13 of Bennett’s History of Bandon 1862.

“His(Donagh’s) two brothers, as we have said were detained in Bandon; and, when the time appointed for their execution drew near, endless droves of the country people-many of whom were on foot all the previous night-kept streaming in from every village and cabin for miles around. Each successive arrival adding itself to the already swollen mass, soon filled up the area in front of the guard-house in which the condemned lay, and, flowing over, occupied every thoroughfare and passage in the neighbourhood. The houses at the opposite side, and those from which even a distant view could be obtained, had their doors, windows, and very chimney-tops alive with the townspeople, all burning with the same consuming curiosity which, at an early hour on that morning, drew the peasantry in thousands from their beds.

The huge mob waited and waited noiselessly. There was scarce a whisper to disturb the monotony of that gigantic silence. At length, the large hand of the clock, which had been tediously toiling round and round the big black dial- plate, approached the appointed hour. A body of foot, who had taken up their position close to the prison- windows, where they grounded arms and stood at ease, were now ordered, "Attention!" and "Fix bayonets!" The dragoons, who sat listlessly upon their horses, rode sharply to the front; then, drawing swords, they wheeled to the right, and halted in rear of the infantry. The excitement became vehement. The enormous crowd, waving to and fro, carried people by hundreds off their feet.

Many were in danger of their lives; and several received injuries so serious, that they carried the marks of them to their graves. But, nevertheless, every eye was still fixed upon the doorway from whence the Duves were to come forth. They had not long to wait. In a few minutes, the two miserable men, heavily ironed and handcuffed to each other, were led out and marched into the centre of the escort, Their appearance was the signal for a tremendous shout. which was caught up and echoed and re-echoed even by those who were so far distant as to be scarcely able to distinguish the glittering accoutrements of the soldiery. All through the streets, and up to Gallows Hill, the shouting continued; the hoarse roar of voices rolled from one end of that vast assemblage to the other. It could not have been a shout of sympathy, for no honest men could sympathize with those whose hearts were hardened, and whose hands were stained with crime; nor could it have been one of exultation, for how could thousands exult over the choking of two wretched beings? No: it was an outburst of a feeling generated by circumstances, and not an impulse of nature. It forbade them setting the captives at liberty; for they shuddered at the thought of their being again free. It showed them the expediency of punishing by death those who had well deserved their doom; but yet those Duves had for years despised the laws and derided the authorities-hence the feeling which lifted Mick into a brave man and Dan into a hero.

The preparations for the last scene were simple, and were soon completed. It was then inquired of them if they wished to say anything. To this, Mick answered that he could not deny the justice of his sentence; and, after some few remarks to the same purpose, he concluded by imploring the prayers of all those present in behalf of his soul. But, when Dan, who was scarcely less criminal than his brother Donogh, was asked what he had to say"Och! the divil a bit!" he replied, "only say, I wish to J the job was over, as I don't want to be standing here in the cowld."

After hanging a considerable time, the bodies were cut down, and stretched upon the ground. A few scores of the curious still hovered about the spot. As time passed on, those thinned to units; and, in a few hours, of that immense concourse which deafened the over- hanging skies with their cheers, and thronged in multitudes around their scaffolds, there was not even one left to scatter a handful of straw over their corpses, or to shade their livid faces from the light. The evening closed in, and there was no one would own them. At last, Mr. George Kingston, who was the owner of a timber-yard in the vicinity, and who had often good reason to complain of the frequent robberies committed on his premises after nightfall, had them removed, and buried within his concerns; trusting that even in death their very ashes would prove a safeguard against the ill disposed. The timber-yard is now the site of that agreeable suburban retreat known as Kingston's Buildings, and which upon two sides enclose an ornamental shrubbery, in the western portion of which, and within a few feet of where groups of little children are continually engaged in play, repose the peaceful dust of the once notorious and dreaded Duves”..

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