In 1788 a pig-headed demon haunted the dim alleyways near the Black Dog prison in Dublin’s Liberties, where night after night terrifying screams were heard from those who faced this evil entity, writes Harry Warren.
In the 18th century, the Liberties in Dublin was a vibrant centre of commerce, craft, and culture. It boasted of breweries and distilleries, theatres and taverns, markets and fairs.
But it also had a dark side, plagued by poverty, crime, and overcrowding. Its narrow streets were crammed with people living in filthy conditions of poor sanitation, and no escape from disease and death.
The Liberties was one of the most crowded places in Europe, a single house could shelter 200 souls.
In the middle of this misery, there was a place called Hell, where the worst of the worst lurked. Hell was a den of vice and violence, where robbery, gambling, and murder were common.
Many people in the Liberties lived in fear and despair.
The notorious Black Dog Prison or officially, Marshalsea Prison of the Sheriff of the City of Dublin, was the city’s oldest prison, it was located in today’s Cornmarket area. The prison’s name came from a previous tavern on the site, The Black Dog.
It housed debtors, ladies of the night, hardened criminals, and murderers. It operated until the late 18th century until newer modern prisons like Newgate and Green Street took its place.
In 1788, Thomas Waite was the gaoler of the Black Dog prison. He decided who would be detained or leave based on their crimes or debts. His duties involved collecting fees, providing food and bedding, and enforcing rules and punishments. Waite was brutally harsh, regularly subjecting prisoners to abuse and starvation.
It was a cold and gloomy morning in the dungeons of the prison, where the most wretched and vile criminals were kept. Among them was Olocher, a beast of a man who had brutally assaulted and killed a young woman in the streets of Dublin.
In 1788, he was sentenced to die by hanging at Gallows Green (now Baggot Street), where the angry mob awaited to see him pay for his crimes. But fate had other plans for Olocher, for when the gaoler came to fetch him from his cell, he found him pale and lifeless. Olocher had somehow managed to end his own life.
The manner in which Olocher had evaded the hangman’s clutches and sidestepped the dishonour of a public march through the streets on his way to the gallows remained inexplicable.
The bloodthirsty people of Dublin were outraged, for they had been robbed of their revenge.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own