Witchcraft in Waterford, 1886

From the Weekly Irish Times, 6 March 1886:

“At the Waterford Police Court on Monday, before J Slattery, Esq., a woman named Mary Murphy was charged by Constable Williams with having by false pretence obtained from a number of persons in the city various sums of money.

Constable Williams deposed that for some time past the prisoner, who gave the name of Mary Murphy, had followed the occupation of fortune-teller in the city. She passed as a deaf mute, and represented herself as being able to tell people’s fortune.

Prisoner – Did I, now? Maybe I could tell yours.

His Worship- Whether you can tell his fortune or not, one thing is clear, and that is that you are neither deaf nor dumb (Laughter.)

Complainant – I will produce several persons from whom she received sums of money under the pretence that she was able to tell them their fortunes.

Mary Dwyer deposed – I know the prisoner. I met her on Thursday last. I thought she was a deaf and dumb woman, and a woman with me said that she was a witch and could tell fortunes (Laughter.) We took her into a public house in King Street, and she made signs at me that she could tell me about my brother, who was in America but that she could not do it under a shilling. I offered her fourpence and conveyed to her that I had given her a large bottle, and a pint of porter, but she made me signs that to take less would break the charm (Great laughter.)

Constable Williams – Did she take the fourpence?

Witness – No, she signed that she could not tell for less than one shilling (Great laughter.)

His Worship – Don’t you think that you were a very silly woman?

Witness – I thought when she was a dummy she might be able to tell. (Laughter).

Constable Williams- Did you see the prisoner take any money under the pretence that she was able to tell fortunes? I did.

From whom did she receive it? From Mrs Power.

What did Mrs Power want to know? She wanted to know from her if her husband, who is in America, was still alive (Loud laughter).

And she paid the prisoner for this information? She did.

Head Constable Kavanagh – I thought the charm was broke at any future under a shilling (Laughter).

Witness – A shilling for a brother or sweetheart, but only sixpence for married people. (Renewed laughter.)

His Worship – Don’t you think that a woman of your respectable appearance and intelligence should not believe in such things?

Witness – She did not get anything out of me.

Head Constable Kavanagh – Had she given you the desired information for 4d you would have paid for it? (Laughter).

Witness – I suppose I would.

Constable Williams – And all the time she was drinking stout and obtaining money under the pretence of fortune-telling she was deaf and dumb?

Witness – She was (Loud laughter).

[The Prisoner here attacked the witness, and then the police, in a voice neither soft nor sweet.]

Alice Power, a young woman apparently about 24 years of age, deposed that she went to the prisoner, who she heard could tell fortunes.

Did she tell you your fortune? She did.

Did you pay her for the information? I did.

How much? I paid her 6d.

What did she tell you? She told me I would be married to a clerk with £100 a year, and that I would have six children. (Laughter.)

Bridget Nugent, a young woman, deposed.

– Some weeks ago I went to the prisoner to get her to tell my fortune. She made signs at me that she would require 1s. I signed to her that I could not afford more than 6d, and then she took it and told me my fortune. (Laughter.)

Head Constable Kavanagh – Would you mind telling the court what she told you?

The Witness laughingly declined to tell.

Head Constable Kavanagh said that the prisoner had for some months past been trading on the credulity of the females in the city by pretending to tell their fortunes, but it was with difficulty that they could get any witnesses to come forward.

The prisoner was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, with hard labour.”

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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