Denis Mahon [Capt.]

Life
?-1847 [Capt., later Major Mahon]; proprietor of Strokestown estate in Co. Roscommon from which 3,000 cottiers dwelling in 27 townlands were evicted in May 1847, an event that led to his assassination on 2 Nov. 1847 when returning from a meeting of the Roscommon Board of Guardians five months later; Strokestown was reopened in the 1990s as a Famine Museum under the direction of Luke Dodd; Dillon-Mahon papers donated to National Library; John Ross Mahon was his land-agent.

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Criticism
James S. Donnelly, ‘Mass Eviction and the Great Famine’, in Cáthal Portéir, ed., The Great Famine [Thomas Davis Lecture Series] (Mercier 1995); Patrick Vesey, The Murder of Major Mahon [sic], Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, 1847 (Dublin: Fourt Courts Press 2008), 64pp.

See also Susan Hood, Strokestown, The Urban History 1660-1994 (Dublin: Four Courts 2000).

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Commentary
Ejectment Murder’, in The Nation (Dublin, 6 [sic] November 1847): ‘As Major Mahon, a gentleman holding large estates in Roscommon was returning home about twenty minutes past six o’clock on the evening of Monday, from a meeting of the board of guardians of the Roscommon union, he was shot dead by an assassin, about four miles from Strokestown. There were two persons engaged in the murder, according to our informant. Both fired; one piece missed fire, but the other proved fatal, lodging a heavily loaded discharge in the breast. The victim exclaimed, “Oh, God!” and spoke no more. Major Mahon was formerly in the 95th Dragoons, now Lancers, and succceeded to the inheritance of the late Lord Harland’s estates about two years ago, the rental bring about 10,000. The people were said to be displeased with him for two reasons. The first was his refusal to continue the conacre system, the second was his clearing away what he deemed the surplus population. He chartered two vessels to America and freighted them with his evicted tenantry.’ (Quoted on Conrad Bladey, Irish Potato Famine Commemoration Page, formerly at WWW2.toad.net - “No Surrender”; latterly at Mysite and www.cbladey.com.)

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James S. Donnelly, ‘Mass Eviction and the Great Famine’, in Cáthal Portéir, ed., The Great Famine [Thomas Davis Lecture Series] 1995: In a public letter addressed to Archbishop Machale of Tuam … the Earl of Shrewsbury, a prominent English Catholic, accused Fr. Michael McDermott, the parish priest of Strokestown, of having denounced Major Mahon from the altar … MacDermott produce credible evidence … [&c.] (pp.169f.)

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Notes
Lord Farnham
, a leading Orangeman, speaking in the House of lords accused local priest Michael McDermott of inciting the murder by declaring at mass that ‘Major Mahon is worse than Cromwell and yet he lives’; Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, called for the hanging of the priest as the best way to stop the murder of landlords, while a notice in The Times announced the intention ‘that for the life of every Protestant … we will take the life of the parish priest where the deed was committed’; previously McDermott had clashed with Mahon at the Strokestown Relief Committee, alleging that the proprietor amused himself in London while his tenants starved, to which Mahon replied, ‘whatever I did with regard to my property I conceived rested with myself, and desired the reverend gentleman not to presume to meddle in my private affairs’; employed John Ross Mahon as his agent; advised to clear 30,000 off his estate; McDermott denied being the cause of the murder or the author of the words alleged to have been spoken; counter-claimed that ‘the sole cause’ of the shooting was ‘the infamous and inhuman cruelties which were wantonly and unnecessarily exercised against a tenantry whose feelings were already wound up to the woeful and vengeful exasperation by the loss of their exiled relatives, as well as by hunger and pestilence’; Bishop George Browne reports that he can find no evidence against the priest and published a list of 3,006 disposed by Mahon, most of whom are now dead.’ (Breandan Ó Cathaoir, ‘Famine Diary’, Irish Times, 15 Nov. 1997.)

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Luke Dodd [curator of the Strokestown Famine Museum] is quoted as saying, ‘if the proximity makes the rifts of more recent history difficult to flatten out and depoliticise, one can always take refuge in prehistory. The further back things go, the less complicated they become!’ (‘Famine Echoes’, South Atlantic Quarterly, No. 95, [Winter] 1995, pp.99-100; cited in Charles E. Orser, ‘Archaeology and Modern Irish History’, in Irish Studies Review, No. 18 (Spring 1997).

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Relatives: Capt. Denis Mahon was related to the Magan family (see William Magan, The Story of Ireland: A History of an Ancient Family and their Country, Element Books 2000; reviewed in Irish Times, 8 July 2000). For the role of Francis Magan in the death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, see infra.

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