Burning of Bridget Cleary

Burning of Bridget Cleary

A True Story

Written by:

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780141002026
  • 320 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


In 1895, Bridget Cleary, a strong-minded and independent young woman, disappeared from her house in rural Tipperary. At first her family claimed she had been taken by fairies-but then her badly burned body was found in a shallow grave. Bridget’s husband, father, aunt, and four cousins were arrested and tried for murder, creating one of the first mass media sensations in Ireland and England as people tried to make sense of what had happened. Meanwhile, Tory newspapers in Ireland and Britain seized on the scandal to discredit the cause of Home Rule, playing on lingering fears of a savage Irish peasantry. Combining historical detective work, acute social analysis, and meticulous original scholarship, Angela Bourke investigates Bridget’s murder.
Burning of Bridget Cleary

Burning of Bridget Cleary

Written by: Angela Bourke


Irish Times Literature Prize – winner


“A historically rich and heady tale…fascinating.” —Elle

“Tightly constructed and authentically dramatic…a powerful reconstruction of the crime.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A fascinating, complex study…Bourke uses the horrific murder as a springboard to tell a larger story about sex, religion, and politics.” —USA Today

Table of Contents

Family Tree: Clearys, Bolands, and Kennedys
Chronology: March-July 1895
1: Laborers, Priests, and Peelers
2: Fairies and Fairy Doctors
3: Reading, Sewing, Hens, and Houses
4: Bridget Cleary Falls Ill
5: “Take It, You Witch!”
6: “Bridgie Is Burned!”
7: “Amongst Hottentots…”: The Inquest and Inquiry
8: A Funeral, Some Photographs, More Fairies
9: Two Courtrooms
10: Trial and Imprisonment
Epilogue: When Does a True Story End?
Acknowledgments and Sources