Maamtrasna: The Trial of Myles Joyce in 1882
35 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 10, 2017
At Maamtrasna, County Galway, five members of the Joyce family were brutally killed in August 1882. The initial victims were John Joyce his mother, Margaret Joyce, his wife, Bridget Joyce, his daughter, Margaret Joyce (also known as Peggy). John’s son, Michael Joyce, died of his injuries the following day. The sole survivor of the attack was Patsy Joyce, John’s youngest son, aged around nine or ten years.
Myles Joyce was convicted in November 1882 of murdering his cousin, Margaret Joyce. He was one of ten men arrested. Two of these men, Anthony Philbin and Thomas Casey, later testified against the others. Five pleaded guilty and received prison sentences; these were Michael Casey, Martin Joyce (Myles’s brother), Patrick Joyce (another brother of Myles), Tom Joyce (Patrick’s son) and John Casey. Three men, Myles Joyce, Patrick Joyce and Patrick Casey were tried, convicted and hanged. Given the number of victims, accused persons and accusers, and the remote, tight-knit nature of the area, it is unsurprising that there were various relationships between the main protagonists. They were neighbours, cousins, brothers, fathers and sons, many of whom shared the same names and surnames.
Myles Joyce’s death sentence was executed at Galway Gaol in December 1882. Right up until the point of death Myles protested his innocence, and is now widely accepted as having been innocent of the offence. Two other men who were hanged alongside Myles, (Patrick Joyce and Patrick Casey), claimed responsibility for the murders before they were executed. Both emphasised Myles Joyce’s innocence. The question for this paper is whether the circumstances Myles’s conviction were inconsistent with the legal standards of the period.
Keywords: criminal justice system, Ireland, 1882, murder, Maamtrasna, Galway, guilty, innocent, executed
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