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History & Heritage > People > Lady Betty

Lady Betty

Lady Betty is thought to have come from County Kerry. She became a widow with one son, she could read and write, unlike her neighbours and she taught those arts to her son. Betty was very poor and very sad and silent and had no friends but the boy was lively and warm hearted.

At that time many Irish people emigrated to America, he saw American letters, with money from America, coming to his neighbours so, whenhe was old enough, he decided to go there too earn some money.
He wrote regulary to his Mother and sent money. Then the letters became fewer and she could scarcely keep herself fed, she thought her boy was lost forever.

The years passed and her hair turned grey. One Winter's night at 9.30pm there was a knock on the door, she opened it, a tall gentleman with long black beard wearing a fine fur coat asked for shelter for the night, she obliged. He asked for food  but she told him she had no money with which to buy food. The stranger looked sadly at her, then drew out a heavy purse and laid a gold piece on the table saying "buy food with that". She wrapped her dark cloak arund her and went out into the wild night and later returned with bread, meat, eggs and spirits. . When he had eaten she gave him her bed and while he slept she decided to murder him and take his money and papers. This she did but, while looking through the papers, she discovered that it was her son she had murdered. She rushed out wildly into the night shrieking, "I have killed my son."

She was captured, tried and found guilty but, when the time came for her to be hanged the executioner was absent, owing to illness. Suddenly, from the cart on which she was brought to the Gallows along with 4 sheep-stealers, Betty shouted "spare my life and I will hang them all." So she did.
The Executioner died and Beatty was appointed in his place.

One of her habits was to draw, with a charred stick on the walls, portraits of all the criminals she executed. It was a crimethen in Ireland to steel sheep, forge a signature, rob a coach or take a horse.

Further Reading Sources:
Volume 3 – 1990 Roscommon Historical & Archaeological Society Journal
  • Page 27  The Roscommon Hang Woman by John Kerrigan
  • The Sheep Stalers by John Kerrigan