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The Colleen Bawn memorial Photo by: irishwaterwayshistory.com

The Colleen Bawn, Ireland's most infamous murder for Halloween

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The Colleen Bawn memorial Photo by: irishwaterwayshistory.com

The story is shocking. The murder of a young girl at the request of her husband, is still to this day one of Ireland's most talked about crimes.

It goes like this- and it's a true story- Ellen Scanlan (nee Hanley) was 15 when she was murdered in 1819.

Just weeks before her death she was married to John Scanlan, but when he saw that she would not be accepted into his family he persuaded his servant, Stephen Sullivan, to kill her.

Sullivan took her out on the River Shannon near Kilrush, County Clare where he killed her with a musket, stripped her and dumped her body in the river, tied to a stone.

Her body was washed ashore six weeks later at Moneypoint.

Both men had fled but Scanlan was found first and arrested for murder.

At his trial he was defended by the famous barrister Daniel O'Connell.

He was found guilty and hanged at Gallows Green, the place of execution at the Clare side of the Shannon.

Sullivan was apprehended shortly afterwards, confessed and was also hanged.

Ellen's death has since been the inspiration for novels, plays and even operas.

The play “The Colleen Bawn” was based on the Gerald Griffin novel, "The Collegians," a melodramatic play written by playwright Dion Boucicault.

It was first performed at Miss Laura Keene's Theatre, New York, on 27 March 1860 with Laura Keene playing Anne Chute and Boucicault playing Myles-na-Coppaleen.

It was most recently performed in Dublin at the Project Arts Centre in July and August 2010.

Ellen was known for being a beauty that would turn heads everywhere she went.

She was the daughter of a Co. Limerick farmer. Her mother died when she was a child and she was brought up by her uncle, John Connery.

Ellen is buried in Burrane cemetery near Kilrush, Co. Clare.

Her headstone in the shape of a cross once read:

"Here lies the Colleen Bawn,
Murdered on the Shannon,
July 14th 1819. R.I.P."

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