2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim [above] on this day. William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim was born in Dublin 1806. He had a successful career as an Officer in the British Army. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded him as 3rd Earl and he retired from the Military in 1855. Over the next two decades, his overbearing behavior as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants. He personally took on many of the legal cases of Eviction against his tenants and was a very hard taskmaster. His oppression of his tenants and his rumoured seduction of some of the local girls made him a marked man in the eyes of many of the local people. He had already survived a number of attempts on his life before his luck ran out.
He was finally shot dead in an ambush at Cratlagh Wood while making his way to Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. His clerk and driver were killed along with him so there would be no witnesses.
It was reported that there was:
an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants was shot through the mouth.
Manchester Guardian, April 4 1878
His assassins, Michael Hegarty, Michael McElwee and Neil Shields all escaped detection by the British. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.
'Robert Clements, a nephew, who believed himself the Earl's heir heard about the assassination in Paris as he and his wife were about to leave for Italy. They immediately made the journey back to Dublin for the funeral and burial in St. Michan's Church.
By the time the funeral procession reached Dublin, word had spread of the Earl's death. The funeral procession along the Liffey was marked by unruly scenes with locals hurling abuse as his coffin passed. John Burges, Lord Leitrim's brother-in-law, and Robert Clements were astounded at the size and anger of the mob that heckled the cortège and threatened to seize the coffin. In the end, Clements feared the crowd so much that he insisted on being the only person to accompany the coffin as it was interred in the family vault. Inside the church, the funeral service provided a contrasting view of the Earl's character. The Dean noted that for St. Michan's at least, Lord Leitrim's `purse was ever open': the Earl had recently given a large donation towards the renovation of Handel's organ and £100 to the curate endowment fund.'
There near the banks of the Liffey the mortal remains of the notorious Earl still remain, preserved for Eternity by the strange underground atmosphere of the vaults of St Michans Church where corpses do not rot away...