This message was posted on an ancestry.com message board by David Moloney. Father Nicholas Sheehy is a collateral ancestor of James Sheehy, who married John and Bridget's daughter Mary, and this is one of their family stories. Note that Fr. Sheehy was from the same parish as John Hogan:
Priest Hanging and Beheading
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, 1728-1766
Luke wanted to know why anyone would hang a priest and set his head on a spike and leave it over a jail for twenty years. Luke had read this on the family tree.
Sarah explained that in 1766 Father Nicholas Sheehy, an ancestor, was executed after having been found guilty of accessory to murder, on evidence trumped up by local landlords and the Rector of Clogheen in south County Tippperary. He was hung on a scaffold in Clonmel opposite St. Peters and Paul's Church, where there was a plaque to commemorate his death. His head was severed and set on a spike over Clonmel jail as a warning against agrarian violence.
Father Sheehy was educated in France and became the parish priest for Clogheen. He was described in his lifetime as a man with a passionate sense of justice. The Protestant landlords of south Tipperary feared another French invasion like the one during the Williamite War seventy-five years earlier. They feared being massacred and distrusted Catholics who were associated with the French. Furthermore, the landlords feared him as he campaigned against landlord evictions, the enclosure of common land and the Tithe taxes. These taxes were for the Protestant church. Fr. Sheehy saw the tithes that had to be paid by half-starved Catholics to Protestant ministers, representing the British occupation of their lands, as wrong. To this day, Father Sheehy is regarded as a martyr and there are moves to have him canonised. His trial and hanging outraged nationalist opinion. People visited his grave at Shanrahan cemetery outside Clogheen to take clay, because it was said to have healing powers. It is claimed that out of respect, birds didn't peck his head for the twenty years it was left on the spike. His sister Catherine regularly called over the years, looking for his head which she was eventually given. She took it home in a bag under her arm and had it buried with the rest of his body.
Prior to his trial for murder, Fr. Sheehy was tried and acquitted in Dublin for treason for his part in the levelling of a wall by the Whiteboys, who were protesting against the enclosure of common land by a landlord near Clogheen.
At his murder trial in Clonmel, Father Sheehy said in his final speech, after he was sentenced to die, that he was being put to death for a crime which had never been committed. John Bridge, the man said to have been murdered, was seen in Cork after the date of the "crime", and it is thought that he emigrated. John Bridge was described as a "drivelling begging idiot".
Fr. Sheehy's cousin Buck (Edm.) Sheehy of Lodge, who appeared as a witness, was hanged two months later at 33 years. He left a son Robert.
Father Sheehy's attorney, on hearing the sentence of death, turned to the jurors and said, "If there is any justice in heaven, you will die roaring."
This is how the jurors, who were mainly Protestant landlords and bitterly anti-Catholic, died, suddenly and unexpectedly:
Thomas Maude of Dundrum House died a raving maniac, uttering blasphemies and screaming that Father Sheehy was dragging him down to Hell. He was responsible for selecting the biased jurors.
John Bagwell of Kilmore, near Clonmel, became an idiot incapable of speech and rationality.
William Bagnell of Marlhill, near Ardfinnan, shot himself.
Matthew Jacob of Mobarnane died from a violent epileptic fit.
William Barker of Kilcooley Abbey dropped dead on the street.
A juror from Cork drowned, and one named Shaw choked to death.
Juror Ferris of Main Street, Clonmel, went mad.
John Dunville was kicked to death by his horse.
Alexander Hoops drowned in a stream after he went berserk.
Juror Minchin died a destitute beggar, ridden with disease.
Another dropped dead grinning inanely.
Osborn Tothall of Clonmel cut his own throat.
Jonathan Willington of Castlewillington died in his lavatory.
It is said that even their descendents met unusual deaths. This is how the witnesses for the prosecution died:
Moll Dunlea (ill-repute) fell down into a cellar and cracked her skull. She had claimed to have witnessed the murder even though her mother said they spent the night together. Lonergan (tinker) contracted a disease and died an agonising death. Toohey (horse-thief) contracted leprosy.