The years 1846 to 1850 spanned the period of the great famine in Ireland, a time of suffering and disorder, particularly in the south-west, where there was a heady mix of Republicanism and agitation for urgent land reform. Murder was rife in County Limerick in 1847 and in January 1848 – a year that was to see the second large-scale rebellion in Ireland in the 19th century – a special commission was held.

Many of the murder cases judged by the commission sprang out of the eviction of tenants unable to pay their rents. William Ryan, 25, shot dead John Kelly with a blunderbuss at Knocksentry in September 1827, after Ryan’s family were evicted and Kelly’s family replaced them. Andrew Dea shot dead Edmund Murphy at Duntry in June of the same year for a similar reason.

Both men were hanged on Monday, February 7th, 1848, outside Limerick Prison.