They call Maamtrasna, a wild, rugged part of County Galway at the foot of Lough Mask, “Joyce Country.” The Joyces who lived there had nothing to do with James Joyce, the celebrated author of Ulysses, but it seems likely they were familiar with the father of William Joyce – who became the notorious Lord Haw-Haw, employed by the Nazis as a propagandist, and who was forced out of the area by Republicans in 1922 for helping the police.

For centuries the Joyces of Maamtrasna were split between those who followed the Loyalist line and those who followed the Republican agenda. The sporadic violence that broke out around their political quarrels finally exploded on the night of August 17th, 1882, when a Republican branch of the family murdered five Joyces, all Loyalists.

John Joyce, 45, was shot dead. His wife Bridget, 40, his mother Peggy, 85, daughter Peggy, 17, and son Michael, 17, were beaten to death with coshes, iron bars and various other weapons. Another son, aged 12, survived the attack and identified the attackers.

But the police had already guessed who they were, and they quickly traced the outrage back to another murder. That had occurred eight months earlier when Republicans murdered two bailiffs. Three suspects were subsequently arrested – they would be hanged the following year.

Loyalist John Joyce had helped the police to identify the bailiffs’ Republican killers, and eventually the Republican Joyces found out.

Thirteen “Joyces” were tried for the “Maamtrasna Massacre,” as it came to be called, at a special court in Dublin in November 1882. Eight were sentenced to death, including five who pleaded guilty and were subsequently reprieved. Two died in prison during their long custodial sentences and the other three served 20 years before being released.

The three “Joyces” who were hanged went to the gallows in Galway Prison on Friday, December 15th, 1882, in what was to be Ireland’s last triple hanging. They were Patrick Casey, 42, Miles Joyce, 43, and Patrick Joyce, 35.

Miles Joyce died in agony, executioner William Marwood being obliged to push him down by the shoulders to complete the drop. Victorian murder stories from True Crime Library.

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