Atrocious Murder, Clonfert, Co. Galway, 1845

A most atrocious murder was perpetrated at Clonfert, County Galway, within 9 miles of Ballinasloe on Wednesday night. The name of the unfortunate deceased was Thomas Lenney, steward to the Rev. Mr.Butson, rector of Clonfert. The circumstances are as follows : – Some short time back Mr. Butson discharged a steward of his of the name of Coates, and engaged deceased as his successor. In the interval between that and the murder, Mr. Butson received several threatening letters to dismiss Lenney from his situation, or the worst consequences would follow. The notice taken of these threats was about ten days since the father of Coates, the former steward, a man in rather comfortable circumstances, was apprehended and committed to Galway Gaol as being concerned in the sending of the notices in question.  Matters remained so until Tuesday last ; on that day the agricultural show was attended by Lenney.  He returned to his employer’s house in the evening and there took his dinner and tea as usual.  I should have stated that on the previous night (Monday) another notice was found in Mr. Butson’s hall, threatening that if Lenney was not discharged from his place within a given time he would certainly be shot. Deceased left the house at ten o’clock to proceed to his sleeping apartment in the farm yard, situate a very short distance from the dwelling-house ; but he had scarcely reached mid-way to it when he fell by the hand of the assassin.  In passing through a gate way he was fired at, and with so sure an aim that the ball passed right through his heart, and death must have been instantaneous.

The shot was heard in the stable yard, but it appeared that no immediate attention was paid to the circumstance. In about twenty minutes however, after the fatal occurrence, the lifeless body was discovered extended in the gateway. On Wednesday an inquest was held. The result of the investigation was the finding of a verdict of willful murder against some parties unknown. Three persons have since been arrested on suspicion. They are Christopher Coates, coachman to Mr. Butson, John Coates also in Mr. Butson’s employment as an agricultural servant; both are brother’s of the dismissed steward. The name of the third person is Joseph Bergin, groom to the reverend gentleman. The prisoners were brought into Ballinasloe on Thursday, guarded by a strong police force, and lodged in the bridewell for further examination – ‘Correspondent of the Freeman

The correspondent of ‘Saunders’ in giving the above details states that the Rev. Mr. Butson and family are in a state of the most frightful alarm, and were obliged to apply for the protection of the constabulary, two of whom are now stopping at the house.
The King’s Co. Chronicle
Vol. 1 No. 3
Wednesday, Oct 6th, 1845