Journal Volume 7 2013

The genuine trial of Hugh Woolaghan, yeoman … on Saturday, October 13, 1798, for the murder of Thomas Dogherty (Dublin, 1798)


The 1798 killing of Thomas Dogherty, an amnestied rebel, has been described as ‘one of the most blatant yeomen reprisals’ of the immediate post-rebellion period. Hugh Woolaghan, a member of the Newtownmountkennedy corps, stood trial for Dogherty’s murder at Delgany in October 1798. Woolaghan’s acquittal posed a direct challenge to the liberal amnesty programme currently being pursued by the viceroy, Cornwallis, whose intervention to negate the verdict and bar the members of the court-martial from sitting in other cases was greeted with fury by extreme loyalists. Woolaghan, a mason who had worked at Ballymurtagh near Arklow, had acted as an informer prior to and during the rebellion. Following his acquittal, he worked as a builder in Dublin. On Woolaghan’s career and the significance of his trial, see Ruan O’Donnell, The rebellion in Wicklow: 1798 (1998).

As an incorrect … Copy of the Minutes of the General Court Martial, held at Dublin Barracks, on Saturday, the 13th of October, 1798 … has been printed … we think it a duty … to give to the Publick … the Proceedings, as … minuted down by the proper Officer of the Court …

The prisoner Hugh Woolaghan of Middleton in the county of Wicklow was charged with shooting and killing Thomas Dogherty at Dogherty’s home on 1 October. It was alleged that he was encouraged to do so by his fellow yeomen, also of Wicklow, Charles Fox and James Fox. James Fox was also charged with having fired at Margaret Barry, Delgany on the same date. The prisoners pleaded not guilty.

The first witness called was Mary Dogherty of Delgany, mother of the dead man. Asked if she knew the prisoner, Mrs Dogherty replied that she did and:

that on last Monday week, the prisoner, Hugh Woolaghan, came into her house at Delgany, and demanded to know if there were any bloody rebels there? That on the deponent’s answering there were not, only a sick boy, the prisoner, Woolaghan, then asked the boy if he was Dogherty’s eldest son; upon which the boy stood up, and told him he was; and that Woolaghan then said, Well, you dog, if you are, you are to die here; that the boy replied, No, I hope not. If you have any thing against me, bring me up to Mr Latouche’s, and give me a fair trial, and if you get any thing against me, give me the severity of the law; that Woolaghan then replied, No, you dog, I do not care for Latouche, you are to die here. Upon which deponent said to Woolaghan (he then having the gun cocked in his hand) For the love of God, spare my child’s life and take mine; that Woolaghan replied, No, you bloody whore, if I had your husband here, I would give him the same death, and then snapped the gun, which did not go off; he snapped it a second time, but it did not go off; upon which a man of the name of Charles Fox (but not either of the two prisoners at the bar) came in and said, Damn your gun, there is no good in it; and …. That, that man (pointing to deponent’s son) must be shot. That deponent then got hold of Woolaghan’s gun, and endeavoured to turn it from her son; upon which the gun went off and grazed her son’s body, and shot him in the arm; that the boy staggered, leaned upon a form, turned up his eyes and said, Mother, pray for me. That on Woolaghan’s firing the gun, he went out of the door, and in a short time returned in again and said, Is not the dog dead yet? That deponent replied, Oh yes, Sir! He is dead enough; upon which Woolaghan replied, For fear he is not, let him take this (firing at him again;) that deponent at the instant was holding up her son’s head, when he fell and died.

Also in the house when Woolaghan entered were Thomas’s two sisters, Esther and Mary, both of whom left at different times during the confrontation. James Fox the elder – the prisoner – was outside the door with a gun, ‘but took no act or part’ that Mrs Dogherty could see in the killing, nor did James Fox the younger, the other prisoner.


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