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Public Hangings in Tallaght

In 1816 there was a family called the Kearneys living near Bohernabreena. There were two sons, Joe and Billy, as well as their parents, who owned the local inn. Their landlord was called Ponsonby Shaw, who was a very wealthy landowner. His agent was called John Kinlan. Kinlan (like many agents at the time) was hated by most of the ordinary people. The Kearneys sometimes boasted that if they ever had the chance they would kill Kinlan

One night Kinlan went missing. He was presumed dead. The police began an investigation. A hatchet was found near the Kearney’s house with blood and hair that could have been Kinlan's. The Kearneys became the prime suspects. The three men were brought to Kilmainham Gaol.  After a short trial, and with little evidence, the Kearneys were found guilty and sentenced to be executed. The authorities wanted to have a public hanging to show the people that if anyone did anything like that again they would suffer the same fate. The fact that members of the Kearney family were involved in the rebellion of 1798 and hid Robert Emmet from the police after his Rising in 1803 did not help their case.


Hundreds of people turned up in Bohernabreena to witness the executions of the father and his two sons.  After the hanging they were brought to Kilmainham Gaol and buried in quicklime so that the bodies would disintegrate quickly. They didn't have a monument or anything to show where they were buried. In 1933 some builders were digging in a sandpit in Tallaght. They found the remains a body. The gardai thought that it might be John Kinlan's body because it had blows to the head but there was no definite identification. The killing of John Kinlan remains a mystery to this day.

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