The Veiled Woman of Achill is a nonfiction book written by Patricia Byrne and published by The Collins Press in April 2012.

The book is written in the creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction true crime genre. There are no fictional characters or events in the book and all direct speech is taken directly, or adapted from, contemporary historical accounts. The central event in the book is the 1894 attack on an English landlord at the Valley House — in the townland of Toin an tSeanbhaile - on the island of Achill, west of Ireland, in 1894.

Plot summary

The Veiled Woman of Achill describes the sectarian tensions and agrarian agitation from the Land War on Achill Island, Ireland, in the months leading up to the attack on Agnes MacDonnell and the burning of the Valley House on the night of 6 October 1894.[1] [2] It recounts the arrest of James Lynchehaun — a former tenant of Agnes MacDonnell — the day after the crime, Lynchehaun's dramatic escape from custody and subsequent rearrest,[3] his trial at Castlebar in the summer of 1895 and his sentence to life imprisonment. Agnes MacDonnell, disfigured and veiled, survived the attack and rebuilt the Valley House.

Eight years after the crime, on the night of 6 September 1902, Lynchehaun escaped from Maryborough Prison and made his way to the United States. Despite the strenuous efforts of the authorities to have Lynchehaun brought back to Ireland to finish out his sentence, the convict resisted extradition in the trial Edward VII v James Lynchehaun in Indianapolis in 1902.[4] James Lynchehaun had become a folklore figure.[5] The writer John Millington Synge visited north Mayo in 1904, and again in 1905[6] and decided to locate his drama The Playboy of the Western World there. The book describes these visits, as well as the references in The Playboy text to the Lynchehaun story, and the shouts of 'Hurrah for Lynchehaun' during The Playboy riots at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in January 1907.

Agnes MacDonnell resisted pressure to sell her lands to her tenants and retained possession of her estate until she transferred ownership of her Valley House estate to her son, Leslie Elliot in September 1921. She died in May 1923.[7] In the summer of 1937, Lynchehaun joined one of the migrant squads which made the annual trip to the harvest fields of Scotland. In early December 1937, newspapers reported his death in a Glasgow hospital.


Further reading

External links

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