I have a book called The Burning of Bridget Cleary, by Angela Bourke … it’s some years since I read it. It concerns an incident that occurred in 1895 in Co. Tipperary (the case is too complicated to describe in any detail; the following are the bare facts).
Bridget Cleary, a 26-year-old woman, died when her husband, Michael – a cooper – apparently set fire to the chemise she was wearing and then threw oil on it. Various people were in the house at the time of Bridget’s death, and apparently didn’t try to stop him, or didn’t try hard enough.
The case gained great notoriety internationally at the time, as Cleary claimed that the reason for his actions was that Bridget was not in fact his wife, but that ‘the real’ Bridget had been replaced by a fairy changeling. At a time of ‘Home Rule’ agitation, this was adduced as evidence that the Irish were a backward, superstitious people, unfit to govern themselves. Continue reading