Victorian society was scandalised in 1854 when the most extraordinary romantic abduction of the century took place in Tipperary. Forty-one year old John Rutter Carden fell hopelessly in love with Miss Eleanor Arbuthnot (age 18). He was determined to have her as his wife at any cost, fair or foul, and so he decided to kidnap her while returning home from church. He organised relay-teams of horses to be posted along the road to Galway where his yacht was moored. This would take them to Skye to the house of his close friend, writes Bernadette Lowry

In the year 1854 the most extraordinary romantic abduction of the century took place in Tipperary which scandalised Victorian society.

John Rutter Carden (1811-1866) of Barnane Castle known by the nickname ‘Woodcock’, because he was so adept at avoiding the various attempt by his tenants to shoot him, was still single at the age of 41, even though he was considered very attractive and had had many love affairs.

Eleanor Arbuthnot, her parents being dead and aged only eighteen, had come from Surrey to live with her married sister, Laura Gough at Rathronan House, Clonmel. When Woodcock met her, he was instantly smitten. He began a romantic pursuit which quickly spiralled into a form of obsessional, frenzied stalking.

Woodcock Carden was determined to marry Eleanor and the more he was rejected, the more it cemented his resolve to win her hand. He followed her everywhere, turned up at every party or social event she attended and twice stalked her all the way to Paris and Inverness.

After several rejections he convinced himself that she was secretly pining for him and that it was her family who stood in the way of their happiness. In her heart, Woodcock believed, Eleanor was dying of love for him.

In Victorian times, it was protocol to apply for the hand of a girl in marriage and Carden applied to Mrs Gough as Eleaner’s guardian, but he was rejected. He then wrote Eleanor a passionate note asking her to elope with him and when she wrote back saying she was deeply insulted, he convinced himself that her family were imprisoning her.

The Goughs, with whom he had been friendly, then cut off all contact with John Rutter Carden. Eventually, he resolved to abduct Eleanor by snatching her after church. He put an elaborate plan in place to spirit her off to the Isle of Sky in Scotland from his waiting yacht in Galway bay, and implemented several relays of horses and carriages from Clonmel to Galway to complete the plan. This highly costly affair cost millions in today’s money.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own