The Knocklyon Murder of 1883

An old man named Patrick Quinn, aged 70, was murdered on Sunday evening, 27th October 1883 outside his home on Beech Park Avenue – also known as Walsh’s Road – off Knocklyon Road. This avenue has long since disappeared and the Dargle Wood estate now occupies the ground.

Area in which the murder took place.

Area in which the murder took place.

The main suspect, Peter Wade, was arrested early on Sunday morning, 28th, at his home in Tymon North where, it was reported, he had blood stains on his clothing, abrasions to his face and had shaved off his moustache. The Irish Times also reported that he was ‘well known to the police’ and had recently been released from prison, having served twelve months hard labour.

Also on Sunday morning, 28th, a post mortem examination was held at nearby Knocklyon Cottage. To the best of our knowledge, this still exists as a large cttage attached to the former Knocklyon House – now known as the Rutland Centre. The inquest jury (all local people) found that the old man had died a violent death and the police initiated a murder inquiry. The widow of Mr. Quinn identified the suspect from a line up of three, adding that he had shaved off his moustache and was not wearing the muffler he had on him the evening before when he called to her house.

Knocklyon House, now known as The Rutland Centre. Photo courtesy of the NIAH.

Knocklyon House, now known as The Rutland Centre. Photo courtesy of the NIAH.

Later on that same afternoon, at a Special Court sitting in Rathfarnham Barracks. Mrs. Quinn and various police officers were cross examined and the prisoner was remanded in custody.

Patrick Quinn was buired in St. Nathy’s cemetery in Dundrum on Tuesday 30th October 1883. His grave in now unmarked – as are many of the graves from this period.

The Irish Times went on to cover another seven sittings of the Rathfarnham Petty Sessions Court regarding this case. This included a review of the inquest, additional information regarding witness statements, statements from new witnesses regarding the movements and corroborated sightings of Peter Wade on the afternoon, evening and night of the murder. Throughout this trial, the prisoner was not legally represented and there was no jury. The local JPs, a mixture of local legal professionals, local landowners and business people, made the decisions here.

As the trial progressed in Rathfarnham, it would appear that several witnesses changed their statements or, perhaps, the newspaper changed its interpretation of what was said. At a time when you lost your home when you lost your job, and your business could suffer badly from being associated with a convicted criminal, it was clear that many of the witnesses were distancing themselves from the accused. RIC officers from stations at Rathfarnham, Rockbrook and Tallaght were also involved in the proceedings. The verdict was that the prisoner be tried at the next Dublin Winter Assizes, at Green Street Court in Dublin, on the capital charge, ie. murder.

The RIC Barracks in Tallaght

The RIC Barracks in Tallaght

The Irish Times also covered the two day trial at Green Street. Many of the same witnesses were called and the trial had a twist insofar as Peter Wade tried to seek leniency by implicating others in the murder. He named three men and said there was up to eight others involved in the murder. He said they had walked across footpaths through the fields from Clifton’s public house to Quinn’s house. He accused two of the murder, while he and another waited for them to return. He calimed he feared for his life and his family’s life if he did not accompany them.

The police refuted his allegations, stating that he had got one of the men’s names wrong and that no one had seen him with these men in the week preceding the murder. The judge refused to discuss it further, stating that these men were not suspects at the time of the murder and that there was no evidence of their involvement. He went on to state that Wade had been sighted at Quinn’s house, he had blood on his clothing (shirt, handkerchief and coat), he had scratches to his face and hands, part of his whiskers appeared to be torn off, he had mysteriously shaved his moustache on that particular night (something he had never done before), and his coat and boots were covered in mud – all consistent with a violent struggle. His known movements placed him at the scene of the murder and there seemed to be only one person involved in the fatal assault on Mr. Quinn.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty but some were against capital punishment. The judge stated that this was out of his hands, donned the black cap and sentenced Wade to be hanged at Kilmainham Gaol on January 16th 1884.

Mary Ann Quinn was outside Kilmainham when Peter Wade was executed – by 1884 public executions had ceased. During the trial she said she had “no landlord or landlady” and that she was “under the protection of the police”. By the time of the execution, she was homeless “a wandering maniac upon the world”. She had lost her husband, she had lost her home – she would die anonymously and there is no record of her burial. This was the way of Victorian Ireland.

The scandal greatly affected the locality and two key witnesses in the trial and three of the wealthy neighbours moved out of the area that year. Mr. Malone quit his farm, Mr. Byrne quit Templeogue Mills and three of the big houses were vacant in 1884 – apparently no tenants could be found for them. The avenue where the murder took place fell into neglect and disappeared under grass.

By James O’Brien. A summary of the lecture given to Tallaght Historical Society on 11th September 2012.

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