On St Stephen’s Night 1892, a 45 year old workman called James Kelly was on his way home to his house in The Valley area of Patrick Street,Mullingar. He was coming from St Mary’s Cathedral,where he had been carrying out repairs to a door. As he walked up Patrick Street he began to feel unwell. He met a man called Patrick Hope and complained that he was feeling cold and that his jaw hurt.
Mr Hope invited him to come in and sit by the fire. After a time,Mr Kelly sat bolt upright and said that pain was going right through him. He also said that he needed fresh air. Hope helped him along the street but Kelly was by now almost unable to walk and collapsed on the pavement. A woman called Ann Moran heard Kelly moaning with pain outside her door and brought him inside. She and her
husband Martin tried to help the hapless man who was now in agony .
A priest and doctor were sent for. The doctor never arrived but a priest did and gave Kelly the last rites. Martin Moran had to hold Kelly down as his body arched in spasms of pain.Moran was afraid that he would roll into the fire by which he had been placed. His eyes were sunken and his hand was icy cold.He was also suffering from stiffness and going rigid. At 11.40,he died “frightfully”,as Mrs Moran later
The next day a post-mortem was carried out on James Kelly’s body at the County Infirmary on the Dublin Rd by two local doctors,Dr William Middleton and Dr Dillon Kelly. They noted that Kelly’s skin was a strange purple colour and his features were distorted. His body was rigid.and his arms bent inwards.. The County Coroner,John
Gaynor,opened an Inquest into Kelly’s death the same day.
The Inquest was held in Henehans Public House at the Green Bridge. The jury included local Town Commission member Owen Wickham. The Inquest was adjourned to allow the post-mortem to take place. Dr Middleton sent some of the internal organs to Dublin for further analysis by one of
the country’s top analysts,Edmund Davey.. The results were sensational.
There was a large quantity of strychnine in Kelly’s stomach,liver,kidneys and spleen..,The poison had probably been absorbed in solid form and could have been mixed with sugar or flour.
When the inquest was resumed on January 13th,the jury,having heard evidence from Mr and Mrs Moran,Patrick Hope and Drs Middleton and Kelly,returned a verdict that James Kelly had died as a result of strychnine taken on the night of December 26th,1892.
The strange and horrific death of James Kelly was reported in the local papers on December 28th. The papers also reported on another sensational event -a robbery at the cathedral. On the morning of December 27th,a safe in the vestry in the cathedral was found open,with signs that the lock had been picked and a ladder against the window sill in the room. The Christmas offerings,amounting to £98,which had been lodged in the safe,were gone.
The cathedral clark,Laurence Bradley,called to the scene by a Mr Michael Murray,who had discovered the burglary when he went to the cathedral to ring the Angelus bell and light a fire,drew Murray’s attention to a set of workmen’s tools on the vestry floor.The tools,he said belonged to “poor Kelly”-JamesKelly,whose death had just become known.”It’s a bad business”,Bradley commented. The cash box in which the offerings had been placed was found over near the wall between the cathedral grounds and the Christian Brothers School by a boy called Fred Cullen.
The police investigation into the burglary was headed by District Inspector Triscott.The police learned that James Kelly had been in the
cathedral on St Stephens Day repairing a door handle. They soon began to suspect that there was a connection between the robbery at the
cathedral and the death of Kelly. The post-mortem report on Kelly led them to launch a murder enquiry. Meanwhile the burglary investigation took a strange new twist on December 30th,when a brown bag containing the stolen £ 98 was found at the back door of Cathedral House by one of the servants,Miss Hughes.
That the money in the bag was the stolen money was proved by the fact that local businessman,Thomas.P Nooney was able to identify one of the bank notes as his own donation because he had marked it.
The police began to track James Kelly’s movements on the last day of his life to try and find out how he could have been poisoned. They learned that the workman had got up late at around 1.30 and gone into town. His wife had already left home for her job as a domestic servant. At about 2.00pm he was seen in Mary Street. Around 2.30,he called to a widow called Eliza McCormick in Bishopgate Street,where he had a lunch of soup , goose,potatoes and bread. At around 4.00pm ,he went to Miss Allen’s pub at the Green Bridge,where he had a pint.
While he was socializing, the cathedral clerk, Laurence Bradley had messengers going around the town looking for Kelly. Bradley wanted the workman to put a new handle on the door leading to the cathedral tower. Kelly was found by the messengers and by 4.45 he was at the cathedral doing the work. He went home soon after 5.00, leaving his tools in a bag on the floor of the tower.
Kelly went home and had bread and jam for his tea before returning to the cathedral where he met Bradley again and apparently continued his work. At around 8.00 pm,Bradley called to Cathedral House and asked the servant who answered the door to give Kelly some food. She refused to do so however,saying that she was not the housekeeper.
At around 8.40,Michael Moore,Bradley’s assistant,came to the cathedral. He met James Kelly,who asked him whether the door to the
tower was locked as he wanted to get his tools .Moore didn’t see whether Kelly went into the tower. At 9.00pm,Bradley arrived and Moore told him that Kelly was looking for him. The clerk told Moore that Kelly had already seen him at his house. A man called Michael Melia would later state that he had seen Bradley and Kelly together on Bishopgate Street “opposite Mr Hayden’s office” shortly before 9.00pm
(Mr Hayden was J.P Hayden,editor of the “Westmeath Examiner”.The office of the Examiner was then in Bishopgate Street-where Shaw’s undertakers is now.) While in Bradley’s house,Kelly had some currant cake .Two local shops had sent the cake to Bradley as a Christmas gift. Currant remnants were found in Kelly’s stomach at the post-mortem.
Bradley asked Michael Moore to come in the next morning to ring the Angelus bell and light the fire,as he said his back was paining him. At 9.10,Bradley shut all the cathedral doors and walked down to the cathedral gates with Moore. At around the same time,Martin Moran was coming up from the railway station.
At the Green Bridge he met James Kelly,who at this stage was looking well. He talked to him for a few minutes then headed to a meeting in the Lecture Hall in Bishopgate Street (now St Mary’s Hall.). Two hours later,Moran returned home to find James Kelly dying in agony in his sitting room.
At 6.45 am on December 27th,Michael Moore arrived at the cathedral and discovered the safe broken into and the Christmas takings gone.
The police were told by a locksmith that the Chubb safe had six levers and that the lock had been removed leaving just enough retentive power to make the safe appear locked.
The locksmith would later testify that it would have been easy for a person with a key to open the door and remove the locks.Without a key the thief would have had to spend hours drilling to access the safe. There was no evidence of any drilling having taken place.Laurence Bradley had a key to the safe which he carried in his pocket.
The fact that James Kelly had been working in the vestry on the day of his death led police to consider whether there might be some connection between the workman’s death and the robbery. They also began to focus attention on Laurence Bradley-noting that the clerk had access to keys to all areas of the cathedral and was the person in charge of the Mass collections.
No-one had seen Bradley put the takings in the safe on Christmas Eve. They also made inquiries into James Kelly’s movements on the last day of his life.Bradley told them that he had asked Kelly on Christmas Eve to repair the door handle in the cathedral and admitted that he had “sent gossoons all round the town” to find Kelly on Stephen’s Day.
Police wondered why he was so anxious to get what was a relatively minor job done in such a hurry. The return of the stolen money also roused the curiosity of the police. They learned that shortly before the money was found at the
back door of Cathedral House Bradley had called there looking for keys to the cathedral.
Laurence Bradley had been clerk of the cathedral for 28 years. A married man with four children, he appeared to be a very respectable citizen. But the police soon discovered that he was in financial difficulties. He owed money to a couple of banks and had borrowed or attempted to get loans from a number of people. The Church paid him only 15 shillings a week for his work and he was finding it hard to maintain his family.
The police soon found something else of great interest. On a number of occasions during 1892,Laurence Bradley had purchased strychnine.
On April 14th,1893, the police arrested Bradley at his home on a charge of “being connected in the poisoning of James Kelly.” Bradley’s wife and the children began to cry. Bradley tried to re assure them-telling his wife : “Our Lord suffered worse. They cannot hang me without a trial. ”
He was brought to the police barracks in College St for further questioning. A preliminary hearing took place before magistrates a few days later and Laurence Bradley was charged with the murder of James Kelly. He was remanded in custody to Tullamore Jail.
His trial was set for Mullingar Courthouse on July 3rd.
RUTH ILLINGWORTH ©
MURDER IN MULLINGAR CATHEDRAL
The trial of Laurence Bradley for the murder of James Kelly began at Mullingar Courthouse on Monday,July 3rd,1893 before Crown Court Judge James Murphy. The case aroused enormous interest in the town and hundreds of people gathered outside the building waiting for information about the case. Entrance to the public gallery was by ticket only.The 100 ticket holders included “a number of ladies.” The Press gallery was also packed with national as well as local papers sending reporters to cover the trial.
Proceedings began with the calling of the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury was made up of the landed gentry of the county. As is still the case in America,the Grand Jury had the job of deciding in criminal cases whether there was sufficient evidence to send a person for trial before a judge and jury.
The Westmeath Grand Jury had 28 members,including former Westmeath M.P.Sir Montague Chapman,who was a great-uncle of Lawrence of Arabia. Other members of the jury included Henry .Levinge of Knockdrin, Charles Tottenham of Tudenham and Charles Swift of Keoltown.
Having heard the evidence outlined by the prosecution lawyers,the Grand Jury ruled that Laurence Bradley had a case to answer.
A jury was now sworn in to hear the case. The jury was all male as women could not serve on juries at that time. The foreman of the jury was P Molloy from Frewin. Another jury member was P.J Casey,a Poor Law Guardian from Ballinaleck .The chief lawyer for the Prosecution in the case of The Crown v Laurence Bradley was the Solicitor General of Ireland,Charles Hemphill QC.
The Defence team was headed by William McLoughlin QC. Laurence Bradley’s solicitor was P.J Nooney. Laurence Bradley entered a plea of “Not Guilty” to the charge of having “with malice aforethought” murdered James Kelly on December 26th,1892.. He was described as being “florid featured”. He was dressed in a black suit and remained calm through out the proceedings.
Charles Hemphill opened proceedings with a two hour speech in which he outlined for the jury the events of St Stephen’s Day 1892 and the Crown case that James Kelly had been murdered by the prisoner in the dock. In stark detail he told the jury how James Kelly-“an humble but respectable man” had ,on the day of his death gone forth from his home “little thinking that before midnight he would be a stiff and stark corpse.”
The prosecution case was that the apparently
respectable cathedral clerk,Laurence Bradley had been in financial difficulties and had stolen the Christmas offerings entrusted to his care and sought to direct blame for the theft onto James Kelly. Kelly had been killed so that he “could give no account of himself.”
The first witnesses called were Patrick Hope and Martin and Anne Moran.They recounted the harrowing details of James Kelly’s last hours and the appalling agony he had suffered.
The doctors who had carried out the post-mortem examination,William Middleton and Dillon Kelly,and the Dublin analyst Edmund William Davy,gave evidence of the state of Kelly’s body and the discovery of the strychnine in his stomach and other organs. Half digested food in Kelly’s stomach included a cake or bread with currents.
The Crown then dealt with the letters sent by Bradley to a Dublin chemist,Robert McDowell seeking to purchase strychnine. The first letter was dated April 16th,and on that occasion he referred to the purchase of one shilling’s worth of strychnine-around 60 grains.
He told McDowell that the strychnine “you sent me had a wonderful effect” and that “my man in charge of the stall feeds and yards generally allowed a penny for each rat tail-80 this dose did away with.”
The second letter dated May 16th requested another shilling’s worth of strychnine as,”I have dogs worrying my sheep and they have
killed two lambs.”
There was a third letter on July 21st in which Bradley requested another shillings’ worth of strychnine as “I am obliged to keep a reserve as my vicious intruders are not entirely cut off.”
A fourth letter followed on August 16th-again requesting a shilling’s worth of strychnine as”I am still persecuted by rats.”
A fifth undated letter found in Bradley’s possession when he was arrested claimed that he was ” again troubled by rats.
All told Bradley purchased at least four shillings worth of the deadly poison -some 240 grains, in the months leading up to the death of James
Kelly. Enough strychnine was purchased by Laurence Bradley to poison a couple of hundred people.
The prosecution lawyers pointed out that Bradley requested McDowell to send the strychnine-not to his home in Bishopsgate Street but to the post office. He also signed for the poison,not under his name-Laurence Bradley but under the name P.Bradley.
* * * * * Why the secrecy and deception ? * * *
The Mullingar Post Master,John Parker identified
Bradley’s handwriting-with which he was familiar. Bradley’s handwriting was also identified by the accountant of the National Bank, Mr William Gill,who had had business dealings with him.
The prosecution now dealt with Bradley’s financial situation. It became clear that he was in severe financial difficulties in 1892.
He was paid just 15 shillings a week-although he did also get money from christenings. weddings and special ceremonies in the cathedral.
Robert Lyndon of the Ulster Bank gave evidence that Bradley owed the bank £30. Robert Lucas from the Hibernian Bank stated that £35 was owed to his bank.Bradley also owed £80 to the National Bank,according to William Gill. Michael O Connor from Murrays’ grocery establishment told the court that Bradley owed them £23.
Mr Michael Mooney gave evidence of having given security for the £35 owed by Bradley to the Hibernian Bank and Martin Henihan said that he had given security for a £30 bill,which he had ended up having to pay himself.
James Brennan. from Walshestown (a grandfather of international singer the late Joe Dolan),told the court that on the very day of Bradleys’ arrest,the cathedral clerk had asked him for a loan of £200. Brennan had refused him.
Mary Kelly,the widow of James Kelly gave evidence.She said that her husband had “never been in better health than he was on the
morning of St Stephens’ Day. Mrs Kelly told the court that in January 1893,following the inquest,she had met Laurence Bradley,whom she knew well,outside Ormbsby’s grocery store on Dominick Street.
Bradley asked her whether she had heard anything. She asked him what she was supposed to have heard. Bradley said to her;”the soldiers’ gave him a dose.” Bradley told the police in one of his statements that he had given Kelly a shilling on St Stephens’ night so that he could “treat a soldier and a civilian.”
Mrs Kelly said that her husband never drank with soldiers. Francis Kelly,a half-brother of James Kelly told the trial that Laurence Bradley had told him that “Moore is trying to injure me.”
Michael Moore gave evidence about his meeting with Bradley in the cathedral on St Stephens’ night and how Bradley had asked him to ring the Angelus bell in the morning as he was not feeling well. He also told the court about his conversation with James Kelly when the workman had asked him whether the door to the tower was open. Moore stated that he had left Bradley at about 9.10,”between the chapel door and the cross”. He then described how he had discovered the theft in the vestry the following morning when he arrived to ring the bell.
In poor light he had stumbled over Kelly’s tools as he entered the room and then found the safe open and the window also open.
The court also heard about the curious discovery of the missing money on the morning of December 30th. Laurence Bradley arrived at Cathedral House at about 7.10 looking for the keys (which he had given to Father Drum after the discovery of the theft).
Soon afterwards,Maggie Fitzsimons,one of the maids there, opened the back door and found the money in a bag.She gave the bag to the
housekeeper,Mrs Mary Conley. Mrs Annie Moore-Michael’s wife, then arrived .She had been sent over by Bradley to get salt. Mrs Moore returned to the cathedral and told Bradley that the money had been found .”Thanks be to God”,he said.
The money was wrapped in a piece of newspaper in a bag used to hold the chalices. Laurence Bradley had such bags in his house. DI Triscott and other policemen gave evidence of their investigation into the murder and robber .Although the robbery had apparently been carried out by someone breaking into the vestry,the police did not believe that this was how the thief had gained entrance.
A robber entering through the window would have had to step down into a wash basin and , although there was dirt and moss on the basin,there was no trace of footprints. The police believed that the open window,the ladder and the tracks across the cathedral yard were intended to mislead them as to how the robbery had been committed.
George Brophy jnr,a locksmith and plumber from Mount Street told the court that he had repaired a lock in the safe in January 1889 and that the levers in the safe were in place and it was in working order.He had given the key to Bradley.Both Brophy and plumber and locksmith Richard Mullally,who had been called to the cathedral after the discovery of the theft,believed the safe had been tampered with and the lock was useless.
Laurence Bradley gave a number of statements to the police. He expressed a deep dislike for Michael and Annie Moore-stating that they were “no friends” and that Moore wanted his job “Moore wants to be master over me.” When he was arrested he stated that the robbery “was done to spite me.” He even suggested that Father Drum had been out to get him and said that when the whole business had been sorted out he would resign and leave Mullingar.
Bradley told police in one statement that,on Stephen’s Night,James Kelly had come to his house looking for a shilling but that he had not given him any money. In another statement he said that he had given Kelly a shilling because he was “starving”. He also claimed to have given Kelly money to treat soldiers to a drink. There was,in fact,no money in Kelly’s pockets when he died. Bradley denied that Kelly had been actually in his house-saying that he had not brought him in.
Head Constable Reddington gave evidence of having arrested Bradley on April 14th in his house. Reddington had found it a harrowing occasion,with Bradley’s wife and children crying and almost hysterical. Bradley had managed to calm them. He was allowed to finish his dinner and was brought to the RIC Barracks in College Street by a back lane so that people would not see him under arrest.
Bridget Kelly,a daughter of James Kelly described how her father had arrived home about 5.30pm on the evening of his death and had eaten bread,butter and a plain cake. There had been current cake in the house but it had all been eaten on Christmas Day.
A young man called James White,who had worked for Laurence Bradley told the court that he had been in Bradley’s house between 8.30 am and 6.30 pm on St Stephen’s Day. He had joined the Bradley children for tea between 6.00 and 6.30. The meal had consisted of bread,butter and a barm brack with currents in it.
The brack had been supplied to the Bradleys by Francis Wickham,a baker from Mount Street. A Mrs William Farrell was unable to tell the court whether anyone in her establishment in Dominick Street had supplied bread or cakes to
Bradley-although he was one of her customers.
* * * *Contempt Of Court * * * *
To the great annoyance of the judge she arrived in court without the books listing customers who had purchased or been given bread and cakes in the run-up to Christmas. She claimed that she could not find the book. The judge threatned to Jail her for Contempt of court if she could not produce the books.
He sent her home with a police officer and ordered her to find the book and return with it. She eventually returned with the book and was able to inform the court that there was no record of any gifts to Bradley or purchase of cakes by his household before Christmas though he had bought bread since then.
The law at the time did not give defendants in criminal trials the right to give evidence in their own defence,so Laurence Bradley’s lawyer stated his case. There was no disputing that James Kelly had been poisoned and the defence did not claim that it was a suicide or seek to point the finger of blame at any person.
William McLoughlin, Defence Counsel, argued that there was no evidence to show that his client had given the strychnine to Kelly. He had not been in the defendants house. The fact that Bradley was in financial trouble did not prove that he had committed robbery and murder.
He had not been secretive about the purchase of the poison-three of Kelly’s half brothers actually worked in the post office and would possibly have seen the packages arriving from Dublin for him.
The Crown lawyer told the jury that Laurence Bradley had motive and means and opportunity to rob and to murder. He was in financial trouble and risked losing his respectable position in Mullingar society. He was the one person who had keys to the safe and to all rooms in the cathedral.
There was no evidence that the safe had been drilled into. But there was evidence that the safe had been tampered with. There was the evidence that Bradley had bought large amounts of strychnine and that he had given a false name on the letters purchasing the poison.
He was the last person seen in Kelly’s company before Kelly became ill-just half an hour or so later. The Crown believed that he had managed to give Kelly the poison in currant cake in his house at sometime between 8.30 and 9.15.-most likely after he had locked the cathedral and parted company with Michael Moore.
* * * Why was Kelly murdered ? * * *
The Crown argued that Kelly was chosen by Bradley because he had worked a lot in the cathedral and had even repaired the doors to the vestry. Bradley was desperate for money and knew that the Christmas collection would be large. He went after Kelly to ensure that he would be in the cathedral on Stephens’ Night and got him to leave tools there. Everyone would believe that he had robbed the safe. Kelly was murdered so that he would not be in a position to clear his name.
Why had Bradley used a false name when buying the strychnine?
Why had he not had the packages delivered to his house?
True,the packages could have been handled by Mr Kelly’s relatives-but they would not have known about the lethal contents. No-one in Mullingar had as much strychnine in his possession as Bradley.
Judge James Murphy summoned up the case for the jury. While warning the jury that they must acquit the prisoner if they had any
doubts about the case against him .
Justice Murphy clearly believed that Bradley was guilty. He drew the attention of the jury to the fact that Bradley was the last person seen with Kelly before he became ill,that he was “the one man in Mullingar with the poison in his
possession,” that he had keys to the safe and had taken up the Christmas collection-which no-one had seen him put in the safe,and that he was in financial trouble and could have been tempted.
Why had he been so anxious to get Kelly that day to do a minor job which could easily have waited. Was it because he wanted Kelly in the vestry with his tools.?
Why had he gone to Cathedral House on Stephen’s Night looking for food for Kelly and claiming that Kelly was “starving”- which was unlikely given the substantial lunch and tea he had eaten,
Was this an attempt to make it appear that the poison had come from the Cathedral House.?
The jury were sent out to consider their verdict on the second day of the trial-having spent the first night in the Greville Arms Hotel.. Judge Murphy stayed at Belview House on the Dublin Rd. Laurence Bradley was kept in a cell in Mullingar jail. Huge crowds gathered outside the courthouse anxious for news. Mrs Bradley and her daughter,who had sat through the trial looked fearful and the daughter was praying.
At 9.00 pm the jury returned. The prisoner was brought back to the dock and the judge took his seat on the bench. The Clerk of the court had a black square of cloth ready to place on the judge’s wig in the event of a “Guilty” verdict which would lead to the judge pronouncing the Death sentence on the prisoner. The crowded court waited as the Foreman stood to answer the clerk’s question as to whether they had reached a verdict.
Mr Molloy told the court that the jury could not agree a verdict. Eight of the jurors believed Bradley to be guilty and four were for an acquittal. There was no chance of the jury being able to reach the unanimous verdict required.
Judge Murphy thanked the jurors for their service and dismissed them. He then remanded Laurence Bradley in custody to await a new trial at the Winter Assizes to be held in Wicklow in December.
Bradley was brought”through the passage between the courthouse and the jail” and was then brought back to Tullamore Jail to await his second trial.
RUTH ILLINGWORTH ©
MURDER IN MULLINGAR CATHEDRAL
The re-trial of Laurence Bradley for the murder of James Kelly began in Wicklow on December 11th,1893. The trial attracted major interest with national as well as local papers giving it coverage.
According to the “Westmeath Examiner”,the proceedings were attended by “a host of Mullingar people”. There was “a regular migration from the capital of Westmeath. Every class in town was strongly represented , priests, doctor, lawyers, merchants,tradesmen and labourers.”
The trial began at 11.00am before Mr Justice Johnson. The Prosecution team was again headed by the Solicitor-General for Ireland, Charles Hemphill and the Defence team by William McLoughlin.Laurence Bradley entered a plea of “Not Guilty.” He was dressed somberly in black and appeared rather downcast. His wife and daughter attended the whole proceedings. Both seemed distressed and appeared to be saying prayers .
To help the jury and judge understand the layout of the cathedral and of the various places in town mentioned by witnesses,there was what the Westmeath Examiner described as ;”The splendid model of the Cathedral made at Mr Willis’s under the direction of Mr A.E Joyce,County Surveyor and a map of the town drawn up by Mr Joyce. ” The Surveyor was called as a witness to testify to the accuracy of the maps and model.
The jury were also given information about distances between the various places mentioned in the trial. Mr Bradley’s house was 8 yards from the cathedral gate. (This was what is now the back gate of the present cathedral). The Green Bridge was 450 yards from the cathedral gate by way of Mary Street.
The house of Patrick Hope-where James Kelly became ill,was 440 yards from the Bridge up Patrick Street.The home of Martin and Annie Moran was a further 48 yards along the street. Kelly’s home was 1,173 yards from there at Grange South in The Valley.
Mr Hemphill began proceedings by setting out the prosecution case against the prisoner in the dock. The jury were told that the murder victim,James Kelly was a 45 year old father of five,”struggling to earn and eke out a poor and humble subsistence.”
On the morning of St Stephen’s Day,he “went forth in full health and vigour little knowing the awful doom that awaited him.” He had suffered “excruciating torture before breathing his last.Kelly,who at a quarter past nine was in good health,at twenty to twelve was a corpse.”
The prosecution believed that Laurence Bradley was guilty of “a most stark and treacherous crime.” The cathedral clerk was in serious
financial difficulties and was “groaning under the necessity of maintaining a respectable and responsible position before the bishop,priests and townspeople.” He was” borrowing and owing money and was going down hill.” Bradley needed money and he knew that the cathedral Christmas collection would be substantial. He “yielded to the voice of the tempter,and made up his mind to possess himself of this money.”
Bradley was also in possession of enormous quantities of strychnine,which he had obtained from outside Mullingar by deception.
James Kelly,who had done work in the cathedral over the years and was known to sometimes drink too much,was to be Bradley’s “tool and instrument.” Bradley had got Kelly into the cathedral on Stephen’s Day,so that he could have him on the site of the robbery and got him
to leave his tools in the place. The workman was to be framed for the theft and was murdered by Bradley because “dead men tell no tales”.
Kelly would be found dead on the roadside and everyone would believe that he had robbed the offerings and had been struck dead by Providence for having committed such an act of sacrilege.
The jury were told about the safe in the cathedral vestry and how there was evidence that it had been tampered with.Six levers had been removed and the lock thus rendered useless. Who was most likely to have done this but the person with the keys to the safe. Bradley carried the key to the safe in his pocket at all times.
He had keys to all parts of the cathedral. Bradley had the responsibility of collecting the offerings at the Christmas Mass and would have known how much had been collected. No-one had seen him put the money in the safe.
The Prosecution believed that Bradley had tampered with the safe and taken the money on Christmas Night. There was a piece of wire
sticking into the safe with candle grease on it-indicating that the tampering had been done at night by candle light. From the window of the vestry-to the left of the Sanctuary area,no light would have been seen in the Bishop’s Palace (now Cathedral House) next door,as the
vestry was the other side of the cathedral building-something the clerk would have known.
Michael Moore had been asked by Bradley to
ring the bell on the morning of the 27th because “People generally do not wish to be the first to find out their own crime.” However,said Mr Hemphill,things had gone wrong for Bradley. The banks were closed on Stephen’s Day,so he could not lodge any of the money. The police did not believe that the thief had entered by the vestry window-despite the open window, the ladder resting on the sill,the tracks across the cathedral yard and the cash box found by the wall of the CBS school.
The poison administered to James Kelly-which the prosecution believed had been given to him at Bradley’s house,had acted sooner than expected and,as Bradley discovered,Kelly was dying up in Patrick Street at about the time when the robbery of the cathedral was supposedly happening. Some of the notes had been marked by the donors,so could be traced.
As Mr Hemphill put it, “things were getting hot” for the clerk.”If he was found changing a single note,justice would have overtaken him.The man with bills and pressing letters coming in calling for the payment of debts had the money in his hands,but like the 30 pieces of silver,he could not put it to use.”
He had either to destroy the money or return it before it was found on him. So on the morning of December 30th,Bradley had called to the Bishop’s Palace looking for keys to the cathedral(which had been taken from him after the robbery was discovered) and a short time later the money had been found in a bag left at the back door of the Palace.
The jury heard the harrowing story of James Kelly’s final hours from those who had tried to help him. Patrick Hope told how Kelly’s hands were very cold and how he was “stiff and trembling”. A neighbor of Hope’s, Matthew Murray, described seeing Kelly leaning against
Hope’s cart obviously in pain. Murray had got brandy for him but Kelly was unable to drink it. Hope and a couple of other men had linked arms with Kelly and tried to walk him along but he had collapsed on the street.
Martin and Annie Moran told the court how they had put Kelly in front of the fireplace and bathed his feet in hot water and mustard. His legs were icy cold and he could not bend his knees. He told them that he “was dying” and a doctor and a priest were sent for-although the doctor never arrived. Kelly suffered a number of fits and his back arched as a result of muscle spasms. Martin Moran had to hold him down at times. At 11.40,following another fit,James Kelly died in “frightful ” agony.
A police officer told the court how he had arrived at Moran’s house at 8.30 on the morning of December 27th. James Kelly’s body was still lying in front of the fireplace. His pockets were searched and found to contain only his spectacle case and a razor blade. He had no money on him.
Dr Dillon Kelly and Dr William Middleton again gave evidence of the post-mortom examination they had carried out on Kelly’s body and described how his muscles were rigid and there was congestion of the brain,as well as a bluish/purple tinge to the skin.
The Analyst,Dr Davey explained how the symptoms described by Mr Hope and Mr and Mrs Moran were consistent with strychnine poisoning and that he had discovered three grains of strychnine in Kelly’s organs. However,he stated that the body had probably absorbed several more grains during Kelly’s last hours.
There had been a lot more strychnine administered than the amount discovered. The poison had most likely been contained in a currant cake. Some of the currents were still brown,which indicated that they had been eaten not long before Kelly’s death.
Dr Davey stated that the poison had most likely been ingested by Kelly about half an hour or so before he became ill- sometime between 9.00
and 9. 20 pm.The jury were told of Kelly’s movements on the last day of his life. Eliza McCormick-described as the gatekeeper for the Christian Brothers school,gave evidence of Kelly’s visit to her house in Bishopsgate Street where he ate a meal of goose,potatoes,soup and bread. She could not recall whether there had been any cake. Kelly’s visit to Miss Allen’s pub in Dominick Street,where he had a pint of porter around 4.30 was also noted.
Michael Melia recounted how he had seen James Kelly with Laurence Bradley in Bishops – gate Street. He was the first person to see them together that day..Edward Naughton described seeing James Kelly at around 8.00pm at Egan’s Corner (Dominick Square) heading in the direction of the Market House.At that stage he looked perfectly fit and well.
Michael Moore again gave evidence of how Laurence Bradley had asked him to ring the Angelus bell and how he had met him in the cathedral at around 9.00pm on Stephen’s Night,and had met Kelly as well there,around 8.50pm ,when he had opened the tower door for the workman. He had watched as Bradley locked up the church and had parted company with him “between the cathedral door and the cross”. He had seen Bradley go round the front of the cathedral and along the cathedral house side.
Mr Moore also described his discovery of the robbery in the vestry when he went to ring the Angelus Bell the following morning. .A witness statement from schoolboy Fred Cullen from Mary Street was read out describing his discovery of the cash box over at the wall of the Christian Brothers school,and Brother Alphonsus Heenan from the Christian Brothers stated that he had taken charge of the box.
Miss M Hughes,a servant in Cathedral House told the court how Bradley had called to the House at around 8.00pm on St Stephen’s Night asking for food for James Kelly,claiming that the workman was over in the cathedral and was “starving.” On occasion,Kelly had eaten in Cathedral House when he was doing work in the cathedral,but on this occasion,Miss Hughes had refused to provide food, telling Bradley that
she was not the housekeeper.
Mrs Annie Moore gave evidence of being sent over to Cathedral House on the morning of Dec 30th by Laurence Bradley to get salt and being told that Maggie Fitzsimons had found the money in a bag at the back door of the house.
A number of priests gave evidence. Father Drum stated that “to his certain knowledge”,no-one had access to the safe but Laurence Bradley.
The parish priest of Ballynacarrigy, Fr. Duff , recalled that,during his time in Mullingar Parish, only Mr Bradley had had the keys to the safe and cathedral. Father Philip Callery,a curate in the parish, gave similar evidence and so did Father William Kearney-who also gave evidence as to having given the Last Rites to the dying James Kelly at around 11.10pm on the night of Dec 26th.He had detected no odour of drink on Kelly.
The court also heard from one other person who had access to the cathedral. An elderly tailor called James Purdon was in the habit of going to the cathedral very early to pray. On the morning of December 27th,he had used a key given to him by Laurence Bradley to enter the cathedral “by the women’s side door” at around 6.30am. He had seen nothing untoward in the place during his time there and had returned the key to Mrs Annie Bradley before Michael Moore arrived and found the empty safe.
The jury then heard about Bradley’s repeated purchase of strychnine from the Dublin pharmacist,William McDowell. The letters to
McDowell were read out,with the references to his sheep and lambs and the man in charge of the stall feeds,who had recommended the use of the poison. In one of the letters,Bradley asked for information about”the properties of the poison”.
The letters gave the impression that Bradley was a substantial farmer and employer . However,the jury now learned that this was not the case. James White,a young man who had worked for Bradley in 1892,and who would also give evidence that there was a currant barm brack in Bradley’s house on St Stephen’s Day, told the court that,to his knowledge, Laurence Bradley’s “farm” was a one and a half acre town park in Millmount on which he had a cow,two calves and a donkey. He had no sheep and no man looking after stalls.
Another witness, Thomas Keenan from Cookesborough told the court that,at Christmas 1888,he had purchased from Laurence Bradley a farm of 38 Irish acres for which he had paid the clerk £260.
Francis Kelly,a half brother of James Kelly,gave evidence of a conversation he had had with Laurence Bradley in February 1893.Bradley had told him that he didn’t like the Moores and that Moore wanted his job. He declared that he would resign and leave Mullingar.
He also made the extraordinary claim that “if his son Joe had been at home the robbery would be left on him.” (Joe Bradley was the eldest of the Bradley children and was 17 at the time.)
Mary Kelly,the widow of James,described how her husband had been in the best of health on the last morning of his life. She described her
conversation with Bradley in January at which he claimed that “the soldiers gave him a dose” ,and repeated her statement that her husband never drank with soldiers.
Her son,James and daughter Brigid also told the court how their father had been in excellent health when they last saw him. At his last meal in his home,he had eaten bread and plain cake. There was no currant cake in the Kelly household on December 26th.
James White described his meal with the Bradley children between 6.00pm and 6.30pm on the evening of the 26th. The meal had included a current barm brack-almost certainly provided by Francis Wickham’s bakery in Mount Street.
The jury heard from the various officials and other people to whom Bradley had owed money. When James Brennan, (grandfather of international singer the late Joe Dolan) told the jury that he had refused to go security for £200 for the clerk,Bradley’s lawyer commented; “That was wise of you.”
The police witnesses,including D.I Triscott and Head Constable Reddington,gave evidence of the various statements given to them-six in all,by Laurence Bradley. The Clerk told them that he had met James Kelly at the cathedral tower at around 9.10pm on Stephen’s Night, after he had locked up the building.
He had gone down to his house and got a shilling,which he gave to Kelly in the cathedral grounds because he did not want him in his house. He told the police that he had given Kelly the money to treat soldiers or because he was starving.
Kelly had called to his door about 8.40pm on Stephen’s Night looking for money but he had refused to give him money then and had sent him up to the cathedral.He told the police that he had last seen Kelly going towards Mary Street and that there appeared to be two men waiting for him .
In one of his statements he said that he did not suspect Kelly of being the robber . The police also recounted how,on arriving at the police station following his arrest,Bradley had said;”I might as well be hanged now.”
The Defence lawyers called no witnesses. Willliam Mcloughlin QC gave a powerful speech in which he referred to the ordeal which the case was imposing on Bradley’s family.
In Mullingar there are “streaming eyes and bleeding hearts awaiting the results of this
solemn enquiry.” He pointed out that there was no evidence that Bradley had administered the poison. People might guess at the prisoner’s guilt, but “They should not guess away a man’s life.” They “should look to it that they did not commit murder within the law.”
The fact that his client was in financial difficulty was not a proof that he had committed robbery and murder. If being in debt was a motive and proof of murder then,” there would not be a dock big enough for Wicklow.” Mr McLoughlin cast doubt on the expert witness of the analyst Davey-suggesting that he could not say for certain when the poison had been administered. The fact that there was a barm brack with currants in the prisoner’s house,”on which James White and the Bradley children had been let loose ” was no proof of guilt either.
There had been hundreds of such cakes delivered in Mullingar over Christmas and every house must have had one. Bradley had exaggerated his farm holding certainly, but again, this was no proof that he planned murder. The Defence QC finished his speech by reminding the jurors that,if he was convicted Bradley would die an ignominious death on the gallows “His life is in your hands. Look to it.”
The Prosecution case was summerised by Mr Molloy QC. He returned to the evidence that the lock on the safe had been tampered with by the only man who had keys to it. The only other person with a key to the cathedral was “the devout Mr Purdon “and no-one was suggesting he was guilty of anything.
The jury was reminded that Bradley had lied in his letters to William McDowell seeking to purchase poison. .
Why had he gone to a pharmacist outside the town.?
Why had he given a false name-P Bradley,rather than Laurence Bradley,and
why had he directed the parcels from McDowell to the post-office rather than his own home.?
“Why this mystery? Why this concealement?
If they hunted through all of Mullingar they would not get as much of this deadly poison. at any time in the possession of anyone in that town.”
The jury was also reminded of the claim by Bradley to the servant at Cathedral House that Kelly was “starving”. Given that Kelly had had three substantial meals that day,it was unlikely that this was the case.
“What dark object had the prisoner in making such a statement to the servant.?”
The Prosecution counsel acknowledged that they could not show that Bradley had given the poison to Kelly. But he had the motive to carry out the crimes of murder and robbery,he had the means to do so and he the opportunity to do so. Things could be inferred by a study of the evidence even when things could not actually be seen.
James Kelly had died from ingesting strychnine. Nobody was suggesting suicide. The last person he had been with before he became ill was
After the Prosecution lawyer had finished his speech the trial,now in its second day,was adjourned for the evening. The next morning, Judge Johnson began his summery of the evidence for the jury.
Dealing with Bradley’s letters to the pharmacist seeking the poison,the judge noted that the prisoner had shown “a laxity of morality and truth.Why all these falsehoods?
For what did he want all this strychnine?
What dark and sinister object did he resort to all these subterfuges for.”?
Dealing with the issue of the work which James Kelly had been brought to the cathedral to do on December 26th,the judge noted that
there had been a problem with that door for two years. That particular door was not important for the security of the cathedral.
“Why,after all the Sundays and festivals of these two years had passed had the prisoner suddenly discovered such a pressing need to have Kelly there with his tools on December 26th-the one day in which Kelly,because of his drink habits, would be least likely to be able to do the work.”
Why had the prisoner asked Kelly to leave his tools in the church.?
The tampering with the safe was “one of the most extraordinary and mysterious circumstances connected with the entire case.”
There was evidence that the safe had been rendered useless by the removal of the levers. Who had done this ?
After his summing up-which clearly showed that the judge believed in the prisoner’s guilt,the jury were sent out to consider their verdict at 12.00pm..
Mrs Bradley and her daughter stayed in the courtroom,in a very distressed state,until a note was passed to them by the prisoner requesting them to leave. Excited crowds gathered outside the courthouse waiting for news. At about 1.20 ,the jury returned.A “solemn hush” fell over the courtroom.
After the lawyers,judge and prisoner had taken their seats,the foreman of the jury informed the
Clerk of the Court that they were unable to reach a verdict. The jurors were split seven-five,with a majority in favour of a “Guilty ” verdict. There was no possibility of reaching a unanimous verdict.
The judge thanked them and dismissed them. Laurence Bradley was informed that he would be remanded in custody to stand trial yet again
at the Spring Assizes in Mullingar in 1894.
But there never was a third trial. The authorities appear to have concluded that they could not get a conviction against him. They may also have been reluctant to put the witnesses and the families of James Kelly and Laurence Bradley through the ordeal of another trial.
Instead it was decided that Bradley would be ordered to leave Ireland.
On February 17th,1894,he was released from Tullamore Jail and informed that the State would pay the fares for him and family to emigrate to America. He would be expected to stay there.
On February 24th, Laurence Bradley,his wife Annie,(nee Whelehan ) and his family left Mullingar on the 6.30 train.
Where they went to in the United States is unknown.!
The family of James Kelly (who is buried in Walshestown) remained in Mullingar. The 1901 census recorded that Mrs Mary Kelly
and her children Bridget and James were still living in Grange South.
The death of James Kelly and the robbery of the Christmas takings in the cathedral remain unsolved crimes 125 years later.
Many mysteries remain concerning the events which occurred on St Stephen’s Night 1892.
But one fact remains certain and it is this:
On December 26th,1892,James Kelly,husband and father of five ,died a slow and agonizing death as a result of ingesting at least three grains of strychnine concealed in a currant cake or bread.
Ruth first found out about this case in a book that briefly mentioned the murder of James Kelly.
MURDER IN THE MIDLANDS 1882-1915 by Jack Carter. ( ISBN0-9551929-0-0). This book is available in Westmeath County Library.
RUTH ILLINGWORTH ©
No part of this story by Ruth ILLingworth © ,may be reproduced, printed in any media , newspaper , or any online media platforms, or Bloggs, we do not look kindly to people who try to make money from this story, without our prior agreement.
Following on from Ruth ILLingworth’s amazing research on the Murder in Mullingar Cathedral . Professional Genealogists Janice Mann has now found out what happened after the Bradley Family were banished to America . Her research is truly astounding . Hope you enjoy it too. Its a great read !!!
Banished – The Bradley Family In America
Laurence Bradley – a Mullingar man and cathedral clerk accused of murder at Mullingar
Cathedral on St. Stephen’s night in 1892 – was twice tried for the crime, but never convicted.Realizing after two hung juries that a conviction for the poisoning death of James Kelly was unlikely, officials attempted to rid themselves of the man and his family at the centre of this scandalous affair, and paid for them to make their way to America with instructions to never return. But to this day, many remain convinced of Laurence Bradley’s guilt and believe him to be a murderer.
Laurence’s story begins in 1846, the year he was born and baptised in Rochfortbridge Parish toparents James Bradley and Catherine Dalton. He was raised in the townland of Kilbride in County Westmeath – located between Rochfortbridge and Lough Ennell, south of Mullingar. He started work as a young man of around 19 years of age in 1864 as the cathedral clerk at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Mullingar – a job he held until the time of his arrest for murder.
In February of 1873 he married Ann Whelehan in Mullingar. Ann was born in Mullingar, the daughter of Patrick Whelehan and Bridget Hetherson. Later in life, Ann claimed to have been born in 1854, but her baptismal record shows she was baptised in February 1849 – meaning she was born in late 1848 or early 1849.
After their marriage, the family of Laurence and Ann quickly grew. According to baptismal records, Lawrence and Ann had at least 12 children:
Bridget Mae and twin James – born in 1874
Joseph Michael – born in 1875
Lawrence Patrick – born in 1877
Thomas Joseph – born in 1878
Patrick – born in 1880
Mary Catherine – born in 1882
Maurice/Morris Aloysius – born in 1883
Anna J – born in 1885
Margaret – born in 1887
John James – born in 1890
Mary – born in 1891
In her account of the murder trial, Ruth Illingworth mentions the wife and daughter of Laurence attending the trial. It is likely that it was the eldest daughter, Bridget, who accompanied her mother as she would have been around 20 years of age. Several of the children appear to have died as infants or young children including Bridget’s twin James, as well as Patrick, Mary Catherine, Margaret, and Mary.
So in February of 1894, when the family was sent to America, there would have been nine family members making the voyage – the accused Laurence, his wife Ann, and his children (ranging in ages from 4 to 20 years of age) John James, Anna, Maurice, Thomas, Lawrence,
Joseph, and Bridget. The family left Mullingar by train on the 24 th of February 1894, the last time the people of Mullingar would lay eyes on the Bradleys.
For Mullingar, the departure of Laurence and his family was the end of the story. But the story of the Bradley family must have continued on. What happened to Laurence Bradley and his family? Did they make it to America? If so, where did they settle? What did they do there?
And…if Laurence Bradley really was a killer, would he be compelled to murder once again ?
It isn’t until 1900, six years after the Bradley family were sent from Mullingar, that the they are first found together in America – in the 1900 United States Federal Census. They are living on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn Ward 13, Kings County, New York, in a rented tenement.
In that year, Laurence was working as a hotel porter. His sons were employed as a bartender, an office clerk, a messenger, and a dry goods clerk, while his eldest daughter Bridget was a milliner clerk. The two youngest children were attending school.
They appeared to be the typical Irish immigrant family living in New York. But perhaps
everything wasn’t quite what it seemed.
There was one bit of puzzling information in their census record. They all listed their year of immigration to America as 1892 – the year the murder took place. But we know they didn’t even leave Mullingar until 1894, and we’re notcertain when they left the country. Could this have been an attempt to hide Laurence’s past?
In what is likely his Petition for Naturalization to become an American citizen in 1897,
Lawrence, who stated his occupation as that of a spice miller, claimed he arrived in America on the 20th of October, 1891. If this is indeed the right Lawrence (and it appears by his address in Brooklyn that it is him), he was likely claiming an arrival date of around 3 years earlier than when he actually arrived.
According to this record, Lawrence became a citizen of the US through naturalization on the 19th of January, 1897. His signature appears on the petition, asserting how long he has been in America and that “he is of good moral character”.
Another clue that the family was making an effort to not be linked back to the murder in
Mullingar are their immigration records – or perhaps we should say their lack of immigration records. Arrival records for immigrants to New York in 1894 do exist. And it should be relatively easy to find nine people of the same last name arriving together in New York in 1894. However, this isn’t the case. No arrival records could be found for the family. Could they have travelled under a different surname making it impossible to trace them back to Mullingar?
Regardless of these lingering questions, the family did seem to be doing relatively well in
America in 1900. It would appear that they had left their past behind them in Mullingar and started anew. But doesn’t the past just always have a way of catching up to someone desperate to leave it behind?
Tragedy – An Accidental Death? (Part 2)
On the 11 th of March 1903, less than 10 years after the family arrived in America, tragedy struck. Mrs. Ann Bradley suffered a fall near her home on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. She sustained serious head injuries and was taken to hospital unconscious. Later that day, she was brought to her home at 315 Bedford Avenue, where she died at the age of 49.
By all accounts it seems to be a tragic, accidental death. And if you didn’t know the history ofher husband Laurence (and we can assume the authorities in Brooklyn did NOT know his past), there’d be no reason to suspect anything different. But the accidental death of the wife of an accused murderer does warrant a closer look.
The death record of Ann Bradley hints that there may have been questions surrounding the circumstances of her death. The cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) following a fall.
The certificate indicates that an inquest into the circumstances of her death would take place. Unfortunately, no record of the results of that inquest can be found.
The death record states that Ann had been in America for 12 years – when we know she wouldhave been there less than 10 years.
The obituary for Ann Bradley gives us even more clues about how well the Bradley family had hidden their past.
Mrs. Anna Bradly, 49 years old, of 315 Bedford avenue, wife of Lawrence Bradley, died at
her home last night from injuries received by falling yesterday afternoon in Bedford
avenue, near South Second street. Mrs. Bradley in falling struck her head. She was taken
to the Williamsburg Hospital unconscious, and later to her home, where she died. Mrs.
Bradley was born in Ireland and when quite young came to this country, settling in the
Eastern District. She is survived by her husband and seven sons, the youngest being 11
years old. the interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery.
It would appear that the Bradleys had convinced their friends and neighbours in Brooklyn that they had been in the country much longer than they actually had.
This obituary states that Ann Bradley arrived in the country from Ireland when “quite young” giving the impression that she spent her adult life in America. In reality, she was likely in her 40s, had been married for 20 years and had given birth to 12 children – all before emigrating to America!
Incidentally, the obituary contains a number of other errors – Ann had seven children (5 boys, 2 girls), not seven sons. Her name was Ann, not Anna. And she also wasn’t buried in Holy Cross Cemetery but rather St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens County, New York.
If Laurence Bradley did play a role in the untimely death of his wife, it appears that he wasn’t held responsible. And there is no proof of his guilt in this case. But her death and burial does bring to a close another chapter in the life of Laurence Bradley and his family. What would be next for the grieving widower and single father?
Laurence Bradley – The Final Chapter (Part 3)
It appears Laurence didn’t remain a widower for long. Within a couple of years of his wife’s untimely death, Laurence remarried, in or around 1905. Or at least he’s found with a woman named Rose who is identified as his wife of five years in the 1910 US Federal census. But oddly enough, no marriage record for Laurence and Rose can be found. His new wife was 15 years younger than Laurence (although in the 1910 Federal US Census he does state that he is only a year older than his second wife!).
At the time of the census, he was working as a janitor and living with his wife.
In 1910 none of Laurence’s children are living with him and instead, his eldest daughter Bridget (who often goes by the name Mae), aged 35, has become the head of the household. Four of her younger siblings live with her and Bridget is a milliner, owning her own shop. Her brother Thomas, aged 29 is a stock clerk in a book house; her brother Maurice, aged 23 is a mechanic in a lithograph company; her sister Anne, aged 22 has no occupation, and her youngest brother John, aged 18, is an electrician in an electrical company. Joseph and Lawrence, the two eldest sons of Laurence Bradley, are married and living on their own. Joseph is a construction labourer and Lawrence is a letter carrier for the US Post Office. Laurence’s children seemed to be getting
on well with their lives in America.
But for Laurence, his life in America was drawing to a close. Given all the drama in Laurence’s life, you might have expected that he’d leave the world in that same dramatic fashion. That wasn’t the case.
Laurence Bradley died at aged 70 years, just after Christmas, on the 29th of December in 1916. That’s 24 years almost to the day after James Kelly died of strychnine poisoning in Mullingar.
Although we don’t know the exact circumstances of Laurence’s death, one can be nearly certainthat it was more peaceful than the agonizing death of murder victim, James Kelly.
Laurence was buried with his first wife Ann, in St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens County, New York on New Year’s Day, 1917.
His obituary reads as follows:
Lawrence Bradley died yesterday in the Brooklyn Hospital in his seventieth year. He was
born in the County Westmeath, Ireland and for twenty-three years had lived in Brooklyn.
He is survived by five sons, Lawrence, Joseph, Thomas, Morris, and John and two
daughters, Annie and Mrs. William Rich [Bridget Mae]. The funeral will be held at 2pm
Monday from the parlors F. F. Montenes, 155 North Third Street. Interment at St. John’s
The Daily Standard Union Newspaper (New York)
20 Dec 1916
And that is the end of Laurence Bradley’s story.
The Descendants of Laurence Bradley – the Shining Lights of a Darker Story
There’s no doubt that the story of the murder of James Kelly in Mullingar Cathedral and
the saga of Laurence Bradley, the accused, makes for interesting reading. But if you put
yourself in the shoes of those people featured in the story, you can imagine how difficult
it must have been for all involved. In particular, it must have been a heartbreaking experience for the wife and children of Laurence Bradley, one from which they likely
never fully recovered.
Even today, his descendants several generations down may the carry the weight of what their ancestor, Laurence, was accused of. Which is unfortunate, because it is the descendants of Laurence Bradley that bring the light into the story.
I am particularly struck by the strength of Laurence’s eldest daughter, Bridget Mae (who
often went by Mae). According to newspaper accounts, she supported her distraught
mother throughout the criminal trials. She also was the one to leave Mullingar with her
father after his release from Tullamore prison, with her mother and the rest of the
children not leaving until sometime after.
Following her mother’s untimely death in Brooklyn, it appears that she was responsible for holding the family together – becoming the head of the household and acting as a mother to her younger siblings. She also supported herself and the family financially, starting out as a clerk in milliner shop, eventually becoming a milliner in her own shop.
Mae, having fulfilled her obligation to raise her younger siblings, married widower
William Mills Rich at the age of almost 40 years. She had lost her twin brother, James,
shortly after they were born, but was blessed with twins of her own in 1915, Mae Jean
and William (Little Billie). Sadly, Little Billie died during an operation when he was only 2 years old.
But the story of Bridget Mae’s daughter, Mae Jean Rich is one near and dear to the
musical hearts of the people of Mullingar. Mae was a talented and accomplished
musician, playing the cornet from a young age. She was described in newspaper
articles as “America’s premier girl cornetist” and was a guest soloist in concerts and with
leading bands in several States.
Another newspaper article claimed “…there is scarcely a home in the country where the silvery tones of her cornet have not penetrated”. Mae was part of “a bevy of the youngest radio stars, heard each Sunday morning in the ‘The Children’s Hour’” and was featured for several years in National broadcasts with the National Broadcasting Company and the WJZ network.
She is pictured with her fellow radio stars in the photo accompanying this story. A second picture shows her with her cornet in a promotional photo for King’s Instruments. A third picture of her with her cornet appeared in newspapers when she was only 12 years old. Mae was the protégé of the renowned Del Staigers, a famous American cornetist.
Mae was married to Robert Arscott, a veteran of WWII. Both Robert and Mae died in the
mid 1960s (Mae was only 48 years old), leaving behind two daughters. And it was a
lovely descendant of Mae’s who provided us with information on this line of the Bradley
Happily, this isn’t the only good story to come from the descendants of Laurence
Bradley! And in the next story, the Catholic church once again plays a pivotal role.
The Bradley Family Descendants – Saints, not Sinners
Today we have one final story of the descendants of Laurence Bradley (although undoubtedly there are many more stories to be told!).
Laurence’s son, Laurence Jr. was born in 1877 and was 17 years of age when the Bradley family left Ireland for America in 1894. He married Catherine O’Connor in New York City in 1909 and was a mail carrier with the US Postal Service for many years. Lawrence (the spelling of his name in America) and Catherine had three children, Lawrence in 1913, Donald in 1917, and Kathleen in 1919. The first picture above is of Kathleen and Donald as children.
And Kathleen, as they say, heard and answered the calling.
At the age of 19 in 1938, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic in New York and on the 2nd of July 1941, Kathleen Bradley made her final vows – becoming Sister Jane Imelda with the Maryknoll Sisters. And for much of her time with the sisterhood, Kathleen devoted herself to missionary work in countries as far away as Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In China, during one of her first missions, she was placed under house arrest and imprisoned by the Communist regime. While in Taiwan, she wrote a Christmas play called “God’s Plan”. Eventually Kathleen was named Superior of the Maryknoll Sister’s first mission in Mauritius.
In 1971, after more than 30 years, Kathleen made the decision to leave the Maryknoll Order. She moved to California where she worked on the University of Berkeley campus.
An interview with Kathleen after she had left the order allows us a glimpse into the character of her parents and the Bradley family:
“My parents were Irish and all the Irish I know were the most liberal minded and very tolerant and interested in other people. They brought us up to understand that we were never to use any words that would denigrate any other group of people – Jews, Italians – or any other ethnic groups in the city. They were very interested in other cultures, so I think that is why I was open to a culture that I didnt ; understand.
After a life devoted to helping others, Kathleen died on the 30 th of March 1985 at the age of 66 years.
But to close our story of the Bradley family, we’ll share some valuable life advice from Kathleen:
“I feel each of us can do something for our fellow-man, simply by trying to be a person who cares; a person who tries to live-up to certain ideals. And one who struggles, as everyone else does, to lead a good life. And to be friends.”
And to be sure, the people of Mullingar will always extend a hand in friendship to any
descendants of the Bradley family, should we be so lucky as to meet them one day. I myself have been fortunate enough to make a new friend through writing these stories – a great-great granddaughter of Laurence Bradley! It was she who so kindly provided much of the information on the Bradley family in America. And she would love to meet some of her Irish family here in
Mullingar – so if you think you may be related to the Bradley or Whelehan families featured inthe stories, let us know!
No part of this researched story by Janice Mann © ,may be reproduced, printed in any media , newspaper , or any online media platforms, or Bloggs, we do not look kindly to people who try to make money from this story, without our prior agreement.Janice mann is a professional genaealogist , you can contact her via her website http://www.lilactree.ca or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/LilacTreeGenealogy/