A Christmas Murder! 1848
On Friday 22nd December 1848, 170 years ago this week, the murder of Dr. Samuel Davis took place when he was shot in the chest at point blank range on his own doorstep at Mount Southwell Place.
Davis held a small amount of land in Glenswilly and a fortnight prior to that fateful night, he evicted two families from his land and was in the process of arranging further evictions. This occurred right in the middle of the Great Famine with the families having no choice but to enter the newly built Letterkenny Workhouse. Naturally, this caused huge outrage.
A surgeon by trade, Davis was described by the papers as “tall in person, of accomplished manners, very successful in his profession, about 46 years of age and married but without children. Society has met with a great loss in his death.”
In the immediate inquest following the murder, William McLaughlin, a witness to the events, described to the coroner and the jury how it was the busy Christmas market that day in the town and how numerous people called to the house looking for the doctor.
About 9 o’clock that night, whilst seeing a patient out the back door, the doctor heard a loud rap at the front door. He walked down the hallway, placed his candle down and unlocked the large bolt on the door. Almost immediately, a large bang was heard. Initially reluctant to see what the noise was, after fifteen minutes the witness walked down the hall and found the doctor’s body lying against the door, the weight of his body having closed it again. He was “shot through the breast, the bullet passed through his body and carried part of the chain of his watch which he wore around his neck with it and through a board behind him and finally lodged in the wall.”
When the bullet was produced at the inquest, it had a part of the gold chain battered into it while there were also six slugs extracted from his body. Death was instantaneous.
No perpetrator of the crime was ever found but it was widely believed that the assassination was organized and carried out by a local branch of the Ribbonmen in retribution for the evictions a fortnight earlier.