Thursday, 2 April 2015

2 April 1878: The assassination of Lord Leitrim 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 behaviour 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 prosecution by the British - even though it was generally well knows who they were. Leitrim’s death was a prelude to the Land war, which broke out one year later.

The Earl’s remains were conveyed to Dublin for burial in the family vault of St Michan’s Church where they can be viewed to this day [above].

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