Fascinating Facts!

Law and Disorder.

ARGUABLY the oddest criminal in history was 'Billy the Bowl', who terrorised the streets of 18th century Dublin. Born without legs, Billy moved around in an iron bowl specially made for him by a sympathetic blacksmith. Tiring of begging for a living, Billy turned to robbery and murder before his arrest and execution in 1786.

THE police station in Dungannon, County Tyrone, should overlook the Khyber Pass. in the 19th century, the plans for this fearsome fortress-type building were sent by mistake to Ireland instead of India.

IN Sligo, you still officially need a licence to buy molasses - a legal hangover from the days when the county was the poitin capital of Ireland.

DURING the 1920s, when the electric railway opened between Portrush and Ponstewart, crafty farmers were quick to spot an opportunity for profit. They would leave the carcasses of dead cattle by the line and then claim compensation from the railway company for the electrocution of their animals.

IN 1973, IRA chief of staff Seamus Twomey made a spectacular escape by helicopter from Dublin's Mountjoy Prison. Two others escaped with him; J B O'Hagan and Kevin Mallon. In the confusion, the guards made a vain attempt to thwart his plan by shutting the prison gates.

IN 1610, the town council of Youghal, County Cork, became so concerned about divers lewd persons' deflowering virgins that they passed a law against them. Fines ranged from £40 if the girl was the daughter of an alderman, down to £5 if she was only the offspring of a groom.

DURING the bitter Act of Union debate of 1800, the Irish parliamentarian Buck Whaley voted twice, once for the motion and once against, and, in the process, picked up a bribe from both camps.

THE last survivor of the infamous 1789 mutiny on The Bounty was John Adams from Derry.

IN 1980, an anonymous Tyrone alcoholic met a dreadful death. Taking a sip from a lemonade bottle he assumed contained poitin, he found to his horror that the clear liquid was sulphuric acid - he died in agony several hours later.

In 1671 the British Crown Jewels were stolen by an Irish adventurer Colonel Thomas Blood, who was arrested soon after in a tavern while trying to barter one of the precious jewels for ale. Charles II was so impressed that he gave Blood a full pardon, and rewarded him with an estate in Ireland.

One in three of Ireland's gaming machines is in the seaside resort of Bundoran, County Donegal.

IRISHMAN Michael Barrett holds the dubious distinction of being the last person to be publicly executed in the British Isles. He was wrongly hanged for the Clerkenwell bombing of 1867.

AFTER his execution in 1830, the skin of the Cork-born bodysnatcher William Burke was cut up and made into snuff pouches and wallets.

DUBLIN'S Nelson's Pillar (blown up by the IRA in 1966) was built before Nelson's Column in London.

THE Rotterdam Bar in Belfast's docklands was once a prison for convicts awaiting transportation to Australia.

SHQT dead in 1513, Garrett Mor Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, is the first recorded victim of the gun in Ireland.

IN 1992, Fermanagh solicitor Terence Gibson appeared in Enniskillen Crown Court representing the man who had crashed into his car. His defence was unsuccessful and his client was ordered to pay Mr Gibson £130 in damages.

DEATH by hanging is still on the statute book in the Republic of Ireland. Although it is sometimes given, the sentence is always commuted. However, the gallows at Mountjoy Prison are still kept in working order. Just in case...

IRISH petty criminal J. P. Hannan escaped from Verne Prison in Dorset, England, in 1955 just one month into a 21 month sentence. He is still at large.

IT was a crime in medieval Waterford to refer to someone as 'an Irishman'.

THE mob which stormed the Bastille in 1789, thus sparking off the French Revolution, included Joseph Kavanagh, a cobbler and agent provocateur from County Clare.

IRISHWOMAN Mary Kelly was the last victim of Jack the Ripper in 1888. It was her liver that the killer posted to Scotland Yard.

Liz McClelland died in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1972 at the age of 80 after she was struck on the head by a placard during a pro-IRA march she had got caught up in while out shopping. Just two years before, she had emigrated from her native Belfast 'to get away from the violence'.

Resurrection Men were graverobbers who operated in 18th century Ulster. Stealing fresh bodies from cemeteries, they would put the cadavers in barrels of whiskey to preserve them for the voyage to Scotland, where doctors dissected them in the name of science.

In Mid-Ulster, at the turn of the century, local peasants drank ether, which produces a sensation similar to LSD.

DURING an outbreak of agrarian violence in 1820, the highly unpopular Richard Long, landlord of Longfield in County Tipperary , was shot dead while sitting on the toilet.

EVERY Irish monastery that was sacked by the Vikings was also raided - at least once - by Irish lords.

LYNCHING originated with Galwayman Colonel Charles Lynch, who, during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), hanged without trial any British redcoats unfortunate enough to fall into his hands.

THE great Ulster chieftain Shane O'Neill once reportedly cut off the ears of a servant who was late with his supper.

IN 1586, the Bishop of Ossory, Nicholas Walsh, was stabbed to death in the pulpit during mass by a man he had just publicly denounced for adultery

FOUNDED in 1814 by Rir Robert Peel, the Royal Irish Constabulary was the world's first organised police force.

IN 1792, inspired by the events of the French Revolution, pupils at Belfast Royal Academy mutinied and seized the school building. After unsuccessfully trying to shoot their headmaster, they surrendered quietly to the militia.

THE Shakespearean villain Richard III is said to be based on the 16th century rebel, Gerald, Earl of Desmond.

DURING a celebrated murder trial in 18th century Dublin, the powerful Santry family threatened to cut off the city's water supply (which ran through their estate) unless their son was cleared of all charges. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of 'not guilty'.

BELFAST'S first sectarian riot took place in 1832

CASTLEEBAR, County Mayo, is owned by the runaway Lord Lucan, who vanished in 1974.

IN 1734, students at the then notably lawless Trinity College murdered an unpopular dean by the name of Edward Forde.

STRONGBOW, the Norman conqueror of Leinster, is said to have cut his young son in two with one stroke of his broadsword because the frightened child showed cowardice. This appalling story is given credence by, or perhaps originates in the fact that the effigy of the upper half of a small boy lies beside his tomb in Dublin's Christchurch Cathedral.

The medieval O'Flaherty clan of Galway had a novel method of dealing with tax collectors. Inviting the unsuspecting official to dine with them, they made sure to sit him at the head of the table in the place of honour. At the pull of a hidden lever, the floor would open up beneath their victim plunging him to his death in a deep well below.

In medieval Dublin, any woman found crying out after dark without good reason had to forfeit all her clothes on the spot.

THE famous Irish-American boxer 'Gentleman' Jim Corbett had a particularly effective knockout punch - before a fight he would soak the bandages wrapped round his fist in Plaster of Paris.

THE grandmother of the famous revolutionary, Che Guevara, was from Galway.

THE notorious 18th century Dublin heliraiser Buck English once shot a waiter dead and then had his victim added to the bill for £50.

IN ancient Ireland, a man who was not whole could not be leader of a tuath or kingdom. Losers in succession feuds often had their eyes gouged out by the victor.

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