The coach and horses carrying Austin Cooper and George Wayland from their homes in Cashel, County Tipperary, to the fair at Kilmere on April 5th, 1838, was destined never to arrive. On the way eight men with blackened faces reared up from the roadside and shot the two men.

Cooper was killed instantly and Wayland died a few days later. Both were wealthy loyalist landowners, and both had been threatened before by Republicans for evicting tenants.

Their driver fired back and the blood trail suggested that at least one of the bandits was killed. Rewards were offered, one suspect died in prison, another fled the country, and on January 17th, 1839, after a long police investigation, Cornelius Hickey and William Walsh stood trial before a special commission in Clonmel. They were found guilty by a “special” jury, i.e., a jury of loyalists, and hanged outside Clonmel (Cluain Meala in Gaelic) Prison on Wednesday, February 6th, 1839.

A plaque by the prison main gate still commemorates the “many notable patriots” imprisoned there and marks the place where the gallows stood during the time of public executions. It adds a lament, in rather unfortunate verse:

“Now hard is my fortune

And vain my repining.

The strong rope of fate

For this young neck is twining.

My strength is departed,

My cheek sunk and shallow,

While I languish in chains

In the gaol of Cluain Meala”