I have set myself a new project (where I’ll fit it in is yet to be seen). This project centres around an ancestor of mine who was murdered in the 1840s in Tipperary.
James Sheppard was murdered on 30th September 1843, by (so far) persons unknown. I am attempting to find out why he was murdered, and if possible by whom. It appears from the newspaper clipping above that quite a substantial reward was made for information relating to the murder by the local government. Therefore, one of my first questions is what was James’ position that merited such a substantial reward? He was a local school teacher, and my instinct is that such a reward would not be granted to find out information relating to the killing of a lowly teacher. To make things all the more difficult there were quite a few James Sheppard’s related to me in the small village of Cloughjordan Co Tipperary, so I predict I will come up against their stories as I go about this task.
Above: The village of Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary (circa 1914)
What I do know about this James Sheppard is that he was a school teacher in the vicinity, and the week before he was murdered he was denounced from the pulpit by the local priest. What could he have done which merited this kind of public denouncement? Hopefully all will be revealed. My aim is to update this part of my blog whenever new information becomes available.
Nov 5, 2013:
Trying to find more information on the murder of James Sheppard, I began looking through newspaper articles, the best place to start. The local Tipperary newspaper The Nenagh Guardian ran an article on ‘Altar Denunciations’, indicating a common practice. The paper reported the dangers of this practice after a number of denunciations from the pulpit of the Catholic Church in Nenagh the previous weekend. The story suggested that perhaps in a normal society this would be a just practice for ostracising men ‘of perhaps wicked and depraved character-and deserving of the just punishment of the laws. But, alas! in this country, the laws are the last recourse of the peasantry’.
Bemoaning the fact that once an individual was singled out for criticism by the clergy, that it was almost inevitable that certain members of the community, brimming with pious zeal took it upon themselves to rectify the perceived problem! Illustrating the fate of previous targets from the pulpit, it stated ‘Tierney was denounced, and was murdered the same evening’. While ‘Sheppard was denounced, and he was butchered’!
So, now I know James Sheppard was denounced quite publicly, and subsequently ‘butchered’, indicating quite a gruesome death. Now to find out why.
The following clipping appeared in the Nenagh Guardian on March 1, 1845, and highlighted what it viewed as the high rate of violent crime in the area.
As we can see it is alleged that the County of Tipperary, specifically north Tipperary (where Cloughjordan and Nenagh are situated) had a higher violent crime rate than any other County in Ireland, or in any Shire or Riding in the Kingdom. This, perhaps gives a little bit of context to the crime I am attempting to investigate.