New book recalls gruesome murders in South Cork

Cork author Peter O’Shea tells CHRIS DUNNE about his latest book, which uncovers stories of true crimes and murders that happened in the county centuries ago - and says he hasn’t finished his sleuthing yet
New book recalls gruesome murders in South Cork

Ballycotton author Peter O'Shea.

BALLYCOTTON man Peter O’Shea gets hooked when he investigates Cork murders. So much so, he has published his fourth book on the subject, Murder Most Local, Historical Murders Of South Cork.

“After covering East, North and West Cork, it was obvious the gap between Clonakilty and Cork would be the next areas to be covered,” says Peter, dad to three boys, who is also the Ballycotton RNLI Lifeboat mechanic. “I tried to carve up the county into manageable chunks.”

His new book tells the gruesome stories of 36 historic murders in South Cork.

“These are true historical murders from Clonakilty, East to Kinsale, along the coast to Crosshaven and Passage West, covering Ballineen, Bandon, Innishannon, and Ballinhassig along the way,” says Peter.

“The area is covered with serious crimes. No two stories are the same. Some of these murders have been completely forgotten or suppressed over time,” says Peter.

“If you think Ireland was a nice old place, this book shows how dangerous and brutal it was.”

During his investigations for the Murder Most Local series, Peter got stuck into research, using military records, courts of assizes records, library archives and local folklore.

“Unravelling the stories of local South Cork murders was an amazing project,” says Peter.

While the terrain in his book changes, the landscape doesn’t.

“The motives remain the same for the murders that took place in villages and towns in the 19th century,” says Peter. “Land, money, madness, family feuds, sex and jealousy.

“While the motives for murder are the same, the outcomes are different. Sometimes the suspect was never found, others accused were hanged for their crime; the wrong person could be found guilty. Locals often suspected ‘who done it’ from the start.”

What motivates him to keep writing about Cork murders of yesteryear?

“I was really intrigued from the beginning and then I just couldn’t stop!” says Peter.

He is like a modern day Agatha Christie.

“Every part of County Cork is dotted with historical murders and South Cork is no different. With motives just as interesting and not always obvious, I continue to seek out the ordinary country murders and the lesser known ones just as much as I have done in the series so far.”

Did Covid 19 hamper his extensive research?

“Like last year, it has been difficult with all the restrictions to get out around the country, but I bided my time and I managed it safely.”

Peter has penned engrossing chapters containing elements of intrigue, mystery, subterfuge, suspicion, hidden bodies, disappearing bodies and the demon drink. The devil is in the detail. A Perilous Profession Passage West 1851 sees the area alive with foreign sailors from all over the world. When they came ashore in their droves, they wanted drink and women. The women arrived nightly in the village to meet the demand and extract what they could from the sailors for their services.

On Thursday night, October 9, a Greek soldier caused a scene, saying he had been robbed by a woman. She denied taking ten shillings from him but was still locked up for the night.

The woman was Mary O’Mahony, known as a lady of the night who had come up from the city to ply her trade on the foreigners. She had arrived on the 7pm train in the company of another woman. Before Mary was turned out of the barracks the next morning, news arrived that the police had to run off in a hurry. It turned the body of a woman had been found in a field near the church.

Peter finds ways to reel the reader in with high drama, mystery and mayhem. The story continues......

The police went back to talk to Mary as she had been near the church the night before with her ‘friend’ and two foreign sailors.

Who killed the woman? Was Mary O’Mahony the culprit? What role did the foreign sailors play in the crime, if any? Who else was near the church that night? Why did Giovanni Berglovich serve nine months in jail? Was he guilty or innocent? Were the witnesses, mostly prostitutes, guilty of crimes too?

It is these intriguing circumstances and numerous colourful characters that keep the reader turning as the stories unfold.

Stories like Only A Pawn In Her Game from Oldcourt, Ballinspittle, near Kinsale suggests an air of blackmail or coercion.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place, from Ballinvarosig, Carragline, suggests a victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a crime was committed. Why? What happened?

Peter’s extensive research is evident throughout the book. “This year I tried different methods of getting stories out there,” he says.

“One was a short film of one of the West Cork murders. For me, it was amazing to see the stories translated into emotions of denial, shock and horror on actor’s faces. It brought it to life in a different way, if only for a glimpse. 

"To give the reader a sense of location, I have included some artists’ impressions in this book of the murder scenes, commissioned especially for the book.”

South Cork is nearer to home for Peter.

“In Ballycotton I can easily look out to the south-west and see the coast of Barry’s Head, the Sovereigns, and on a clear night the Old Head.”

He isn’t going to hang up his pen anytime soon. 

“Next year it will be up to the depths of mid West Cork, if you can call it that!”

Peter loves the feedback he gets from his Murder Most Local series.

“I’m looking forward again to all the lovely feedback I get and I hope people enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it.”

Peter encourages everyone to shop local this Christmas. Murder Most Local South Cork will be in the following outlets: Carragaline Bookshop, Skibbereen Bookshop, Kerr’s Bookshop Clonakilty, Bandon Books Plus, Bookstór Kinsale, Scally’s Supervalu Clonakilty, Centra Inishannon, Bantry Bookshop, Barry Collins Supervalu Carrigaline, Lynch’s Centra Crosshaven, Collin’s Centra Drimoleague, Midleton and Fermoy Books, McCarthy News Midleton, Phillips Bookshop Mallow, Vibes & Scribes and many more.

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