Land agent John Ellis had reason to be scared when, returning one night to his isolated home at Kilrush, near Templemore, County Tipperary, he saw uprooted bushes and branches blocking the lane to his house. Ellis was an unpopular man in fear of his life. He knew that the Republicans were out to get him because he regularly evicted tenants on behalf of the landlords who employed him.

Now, as the uprooted bushes twitched, Ellis guessed that yet another attempt was about to be made on his life. He dived to the side of the narrow lane, just as a series of shots rang out from a hidden blunderbuss. But he was too late – he was hit and died from his injuries an hour later.

The police soon homed in on two brothers, William and Daniel Cormack. They had no doubt that this was a political murder, because £90 in Ellis’s wallet was left untouched.

It says something for the agitated state of Ireland in the mid-19th century when one of the two suspects sat on the jury at the inquest into the murder, and that the coroner himself was a Republican who was “helping” the lawyers of the two accused.

But at the brothers’ trial at the assizes at Nenagh in March 1858, they were convicted largely on the evidence of an informer – “a villainous character” – who was widely believed to have been in on the murder plot, and they were hanged on Thursday, May 13th, 1858, outside Nenagh Prison.

When Daniel Cormack mounted the scaffold he addressed the audience: “Lord have mercy on me, for you know, Jesus, that I neither had hand, act, nor part in that for which I am about to die. Good people, pray for me.” According to a contemporary report, “the brother having made the same awful declaration, both were in the next moment launched into eternity.”

On the same day, Patrick Leyden, a wife-murderer, was also executed outside Galway Prison.