The Veiled Woman of Achill

Island Outrage & a Playboy Drama (Paperback)

By Patricia Byrne

Price: 12.99


This is the story of an atrocity on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in 1894. An English landowner, Agnes MacDonnell, was brutally attacked and her home – Valley House – burnt. Agnes survived but was so disfigured she wore a veil in public for the rest of her life. The island’s wild man, James Lynchehaun, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, he escaped twice and won a groundbreaking legal case in the United States successfully resisting extradition.

A Franciscan monk in Achill, Brother Paul Carney, had befriended and assisted Lynchehaun, and wrote up the fugitive’s story. Lynchehaun became a folk hero. John Millington Synge visited Mayo in 1904/1905 and decided to locate his drama, The Playboy of the Western World, in north Mayo. Lynchehaun was one of Synge’s influences in constructing the character of Christy Mahon. Agnes MacDonnell lived on in Achill and in 1923 was found dead with a wine glass at her feet. James Lynchehaun became a destitute figure and died in Scotland in 1937. The crime, the trial and escapes, and the island tensions are unravelled in this gripping account.

Bibliographic Data

  • Book Format: Paperback
  • Published: 2012
  • Dimensions: 198 x 128 mm
  • Number of pages: 240
  • ISBN: 9781848891470
  • Illustrations note: B&W photos,

Editorial Reviews

"The gruesome tale of the 'real' Playboy of the Western World."

– Irish Independent

"An excellent judge of pace."

– Sunday Times

"Interesting slant on the violently sectarian atmosphere ... on Achill."

– The Irish Times

"One of the most fascinating and controversial stories to emerge from Co. Mayo."

– Western People


– Ireland's Own

"A compelling tale, which has all the ingredients of a classical tragedy, framed within the wild intimacy of an isolated community."

– The Mayo News

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The Veiled Woman of Achill
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