Day 1: A Very Irish Murder in Cincinnati

While not very seasonal, it was one of my favourite shows of 2019. I stumbled across the story of Mollie Gilmartin by accident in an archive and I was immediately intrigued. Ultimately I spent a few weeks tracing her fascinating but tragic life. This episode was really enhanced by Muireann Hogan’s great narrations.

In April 1894 Cincinnati’s Irish American community was rocked by a shocking and brutal murder. It was so scandalous that many newspapers in Ireland refused to even mention it, even though both the victim and the perpetrator were Irish.

Day 2: Ireland’s Nazi Commando

When World War II came to an end, the Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny was considered to be among the most dangerous men in Europe. While he had earned fame for a daring rescue of Benito Mussolini in 1943 he was also accused of war crimes. In this episode, based on files from the National Archives and Ireland’s Military Archives I look at the strange and unsettling story behind his later connections with Ireland and Irish politicians.

In 1957 Skorzeny was welcomed to Ireland at a reception that included none other than Charles J Haughey, the later Taoiseach. This two part podcast is a gripping investigation into why Skorzeny was here, who he was working with and why so many in Ireland were willing to welcome this notorious individual.

This is the first part of the podcast. The second is available here…

Day 3: The Maamtrasna Murders

This three part podcast series investigates one of Ireland’s most enduring murder mysteries. Maamtrasna is a remote mountain community on the Mayo-Galway border. Events there in August 1882 shocked the world when a group of unidentified individuals attempted to brutally massacre three generations of the Joyce family.

Given the location of the Joyce family home was so isolated it was clear that the victims neighbours must have known the  perpetrators. However no one in the community would speak to the police and it was a complete mystery as to why the Joyces had been attacked.

The first podcast of the three (below) explains the murders, while part II & III detail the investigation in a story laced with intrigue and mystery.

Day 4: The Mulranny Police Conspiracy

Released in the summer of 2018, the Mulranny Police Conspiracy looks at a forgotten chapter from Irish history. In 1898, the Royal Irish Constabulary turned on the small community in the west of Ireland town of Mulranny Co Mayo. In what proved to be a bizarre and intriguing story this lead to a prolongued and bitter confrontation in this picturesque town.

In what are familiar themes from contemporary news stories of police corruption, this podcast has whistleblowers, abuse of power, dark conspiracies and a tenacous community fighting for their rights….

Day 5: Letters from Dakota

Created in 2016, this is the only podcast I have made about my own family. In 1906 my grandaunt, Mollie Dwyer, emigrated to the USA when she was 15 years of age. Her emigrant experience was very different to most. Within two months she found herself in a convent in South Dakota training to be a nun. She would never return to Castlecomer, the town she grew up in, save for the very occasional visit.

However for over 40 years she wrote to her brother Jack Dwyer (my grandfather) revealing intriguing insights into her unusual life as a nun in rural Dakota. In 2016 I rediscovered her letters where she writes about prohibition in the 1920s, World War II but also her lonely life in the Midwest of the USA as well as her struggles with depression.

These are her Letters from Dakota. My sister Ruth narrates her letters in this episode.

Day 6: The Burning of Bridget Cleary.

Bridget Cleary was the last woman burned alive as a witch in Ireland. This happened when my grandfather was alive. Need I say more? Listen to the full story here

Day 7: The Scandalous Life of Lola Montez

The Irish woman Lola Montez, born Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert took Europe in the mid 19th century.  She initially gained notoriety for risque dances that left little to the imagination – she was known to wear nothing beneath her tutu. She had a string of famous lovers and everywhere she went she caused scandal even triggering a revolution!

Day 8: Hubert Butler – Ireland’s forgotten World War II hero.

Hubert Butler (1900-1991) is a forgotten Irish hero. In 1938-39 he traveled to the Nazi Third Reich to help Jews escape persecution. While he ultimately helped save 150 people from the holocaust, he was not celebrated in Ireland. Instead after he revealed how the Catholic Church was involved in supporting the Nazi allies in Yugoslavia he suffered what was in effect internal exile.

Listen to Hubert’s fascinating story in this podcast.

Day 9: Was Ireland overpopulated in 1845? 

This podcast was released early in the Great Famine Series. It asks tackles one of the key controversies about Ireland before the Famine – whether the island was overpopulated and whether this caused the famine.

In 1845 the population of Ireland was heading towards 9 million with many people surviving on a diet of potatoes. This has lead many to claim that the island was overpopulated. In this podcast I head to a remote village of Inver in Erris to see how the population has changed over the past 150 years. I also investigate exactly how many people lived in Ireland, what was the standard of living and whether the people were healthy. The answers are surprising to say the least.

Day 10: Jack the Ripper’s Irish Connections

In the 1890s the serial killer Jack the Ripper terrorised London killing several women. Over the last 130 years the murders have been surrounded by conspiracies that focus on the murderer rather than the women who were the victims.

Hallie Rubenhold’s book ‘The Five’ is a fresh look at the case which focuses on the lives of the women who were the victims in the case. In this podcast I interview Hallie about some little known Irish connections to the case.

Day 11: Was the Great Famine a Genocide?

This deeply controversial topic needs little by way of an introduction. It asks if the Great Famine of the 1840s was a genocide on the part of the British Government. It is part of my Great Famine Series. It was the most popular episode of 2019.

Day 12: The Longroad to Stalingrad & the Origins of the Spanish Civil War.

This is the first in the current series Partisans – Irish Stories from Spanish Civil War. This podcast introduces the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and how it related to Ireland. Its really gripping history that begins at the battle of Stalingrad!

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