CHRIS LAWLOR recalls the murder of Barndarrig shopkeeper Mary Anne Lyons and the subsequent trial and conviction of two local brothers.


A murder in the sleepy village of Barndarrig in east Wicklow in 1890 led to the last hanging in Wexford gaol in 1892. Barndarrig came to national prominence because of the murder of an elderly lady named Mary Ann Lyons.

Mrs Lyons was sixty-five years of age and she kept a local shop. She also lived on the premises. Locally it was rumoured that she had a huge fortune stashed away, and there was speculation that this was the reason that she preferred not to serve customers after dark.

However, many people knocked on her door after hours to purchase some daily necessity.

One Sunday evening in December 1890, a Barndarrig villager named James Kehoe met his neighbours, the Handleys. These two brothers, Daniel in his twenties, and the teenaged James, were slightly late arriving for their meeting with Kehoe. The brothers were known to be poachers, and the men spent a pleasant evening chatting.
Kehoe had been to Lyons’ shop to buy tobacco earlier in the evening. He saw a light on and had knocked on the door, but the light was immediately extinguished and he received no answer, so he left, assuming the old lady did not want to serve him.

Mary Ann Lyons, however, did not refuse to serve her customer. The next day the local schoolteacher found her body in a pool of blood on the floor of her bedroom. The place had been ransacked, and the robbers had killed the old woman with a blow to the head, perhaps to stop her from identifying them.

The police set to work and questioned six men who had been on the street the night before. These included James Kehoe and both Handley brothers. Kehoe told the police about his unanswered visit to the shop and also mentioned the late arrival of the Handleys.

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