Bridget Cleary   Short Biography

Bridget Cleary (Boland) 1867

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Bríd Uí Chléirigh was murdered by her husband Michael. It was reported she was burned to death. Her husband believed she had been taken over by fairies and replaced with a changeling which he then killed. 

After marrying Michael in 1887, she returned home while Michael stayed working as a Cooper in Clonmel some 26K away. She supported herself by selling eggs from her chicken flock and established herself as a dressmaker and millner (hat maker). 

Following the death of her mother, Bridget became the sole carer of her elderly father Patrick Boland. His residence with the couple enabled them to secure a house reserved for labourers. Neither Bridget nor Michael was entitled to this cottage, but as Patrick had been a labourer in his youth, they were able to acquire the best house in the village. However, there was no widespread interest in the house, as it was built on the site of a supposed fairy ringfort.


Aged 26, Bridget became gravely ill with a priest administering last rites. Despite adminstering several medicines Bridget's condition didn't improve. Her husband started looking for other answers to his wife's illness. It was reported he visited a fairy doctor for a cure. That night, as other pinned pinned her down, Micahel forced Bridget to drink it. They poured urine on her and she was carried before the fireplace to cast the fairy out. The following day, it was said Bridget seemed better and several relatives had visited for tea. But when Bridget asked for milk, Michael’s paranoia reignited; fairies are said to crave fresh milk.

By 16 March, rumours were beginning to circulate that Bridget was missing, and local police began searching for her. Michael was quoted as claiming that his wife had been taken by fairies, and he appeared to be holding a vigil. Witness statements were gathered over the ensuing week, and by the time Bridget's burnt corpse was found in a shallow grave on 22 March, nine people had been charged in her disappearance, including her husband. After a highly publicized two-day trial in July 1895, Michael was charged with manslaughter. Jack Dunne, Patrick Boland, and four of Bridget’s cousins were also found guilty.

Cottage Bridget Cleary

Image: The cottage where Michael Cleary murdered his wife Bridget, still stands in Ballyvadlea, image above was taken in 1895 source: National Archives CBS_1895_9617_S

Michael Cleary#

Fifteen years after Bridget’s murder, Michael Cleary left Ireland for Montreal. NATIONAL ARCHIVES/NAI_GPB_PEN_1910_28

Additional Information
Date of Birth 19th Feb 1867
Date of Death 15th Mar 1895
Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname) Michael Cleary 1887-1895 who worked as a Cooper
Occupation Dressmaker
Townland born Ballyvadlea
Place & Date of Marriage Roman Catholic Church in Drangan on 6th August 1887.
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