Jeremiah Grant, Co Tipperary, Ireland - Highwayman 1785 - 1816

There is a small book in the Thurles Library called "The life and Adventures of Jeremiah Grant" published by James Daffy, Dublin 1842. In fact this book had many editions published, and there is a 1816 edition in the National Library of Ireland. Jeremiah Grant's trial was held at the Summer Assizes, Maryborough, Queens County in 1816. He apparently dictated his story to a "young gentleman" in the three days before his death.

Born at Moyne, his father who was the owner of a comfortable farm, died when he was nine. He lived then with his uncle James who lived at The Turret of Fennor, Urlingford. James had no children, and made Jeremiah his heir. The book states "Jeremiah Grant was not unacquainted with the points religious controversy. He had 2 near relatives, one a minister in the Protestant Church, the other a priest of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and he had often been present at their disputations"

He was 6' 1" tall, with short thick black hair, married when he was 19 to a girl who was younger than he and better off. His marriage is recorded at Gortnahoe in 1806 to Anna Din with witnesses Rhomas Ryan and Anna Leary and Richard Hickey. They appear to have been relatively well off as the collection at the wedding was 3 to 4 times the average collected at a local wedding.

When his uncle died, he used his inheritance to lease a farm at Loughmore, Co Tipp. They had seven children, of whom two sons and a daughter were alive when he was hanged. Local records show James born 1809, Patrick in 1813 and Thomas in 1815. The priest at Moyne recorded Jeremiah's profession as "common robber" in the registers.

Apparently he spent all his money improving the land and buying stock, and then fell foul of a grasping landlord. The landlord, one Gilbert Maher and it was Gilbert Maher's son Nicholas who was involved with Mary Grant, sent his landsteward to seize some of Jeremiah's possessions, and these were auctioned. Grant objected to the sale of his wife's beehives, and after a fight with the landsteward, went into his house and produced a pistol. There was a flash in the pan, the pistol failed to discharge. But the landlord was able to charge him with attempted murder, for which the penalty was death.

He fled to Moyne, where he was hidden by friends, and became a partner in an illicit distillery. Whilst he was "industriously employed in cheating the revenue of the King's duties", the landlord's son succeeded in seducing Jeremiah's sister. It should be said quite voluntarily on her part. He discussed the matter with his younger brother John, and they vowed to discover he truth behind the affair - were the landlord's son's intentions honourable, did he intend to marry their sister?

Apparently the courting couple heard that the brothers were after them, and feared the consequences. They decided on a plot to remove John, as well as Jeremiah. The landlord's son fabricated a story that John had fired a loaded gun at him on 22/3/1810 and had missed. John, not suspecting anything, was arrested, and three days later John was also arrested by a detachment of the Templemore Yeomanry.

During their transfer to Clonmel gaol, Jeremiah escaped by getting their escort drunk when they stopped at a pub for refreshments on the way. John did not manage to escape, and continued on to Clonmel gaol. Jeremiah rather foolishly went back to Moyne to see his wife. He was found by the yeomanry who surrounded the house, arrested him without a struggle and took him to Clonmel gaol.

Their sister had a change of heart at this stage, and determined now to help her brothers - by murdering her lover, as he was the only man who could testify against John. So she lured him to a lonely cabin that they used for their meetings, and when the man was asleep she beat his brains out with a stone. She was immediately arrested and taken to Clonmel gaol, which by this time was rapidly filling up with members of the Grant family.

The landlord, shocked by the death of his son, tried to implicate the whole Grant family in the murder. But Jeremiah's wife was able to intercede with some of the gentry, who investigated the charges and discovered their falseness. So the "justice of mercy" was dispensed. The sister was hanged in the Spring Assizes, John was sentenced to life transportation to Australia, Jeremiah got away with 12 months in prison and their mother went free.

When Jeremiah left gaol in November 1811 he was virtually penniless. He met up with a horse thief called Egan, and became involved as a middleman in the trading of stolen horses. He was soon arrested, but released because of lack of evidence. However another gang member was later arrested, and turned kings evidence. Jeremiah was again an outlaw. In May 1812 he was hiding in a friends house when troops surrounded it. He escaped by jumping from an upstairs window, landing on a goose, swimming a river and reaching the safety of another friends house.

At this stage he decided to leave Ireland, and left Waterford in the brig Polly bound for St Johns, Newfoundland. Here he became an indentured servant to a Mr Hooan. Life was miserable, his employer parsimonious, and after a few months he fled back to Ireland, arriving in December 1812.

Unfortunately Jeremiah took up with his old friend Egan again. Once more he was arrested for horse stealing in August 1813. He escaped by overpowering the sentry, in spite of being shot in the leg. He then fled to Enniscorthy, Co Wexford with his wife and family, where they lived under an assumed name. However he was soon recognised, and they moved to Bray, where he lived under the name John Ryan. Here he was caught stealing cattle, and fled to Drogheda, where he lived safely for a while. But in May 1815, being short of money, journeyed to Moyne to collect the rent from a man living in his old house there. However his tenant turned out to be in gaol, so he returned to Drogheda penniless.

Here he stole an old gig, but was found out, arrested, and conveyed to Thurles prison. Here he picked the lock on his handcuffs and tried to rush out of the gaol. However he got lost in the corridors and was overpowered. He attempted to escape but a blow on the head with an iron weapon by a Jenny Crowe, the jailer's assistant, rendered him unconscious and he was thrown back into his cell. He was then transferred to Clonmel gaol in leg irons as well as manacles. There he had the implements for sawing through the bars smuggled in to him. Through distracting the gaolers, the prison bars were sawn through, and a mass gaol break took place on 11th July 1815. All the escapees were soon re-arrested, bar one - Jeremiah Grant, who escaped by swimming the River Suir.

He returned to Drogheda, where he was soon recognised and re-arrested. he was conveyed via Kilmainham gaol, Dublin, to Maryborough gaol. Here he was dubbed "the captain" by his gaoler. This was a nickname which stuck with Jeremiah until he was finally hanged. In Maryborough he had a skeleton key made and sent in to him concealed in a herring. Using this he opened his cell, overpowered the guards and escaped.

It was from this point that he became a brigand and highwayman for about a year. His name was feared throughout a wide area, but was finally caught on 24/6/1816, and taken under tight security to Maryborough gaol. This time his legendary powers of escape failed him and he was finally tried and executed.

Jeremiah Grant, the Highwayman, was the last man to be hanged in Maryborough. On the 13th August 1816, the execution took place in front of the old jail of Maryborough in the presence of a vast multitude of spectators, who had assembled from all parts of the country

In 1840 John Grant brought two of his nephews, John & James to Australia. They were two of Jeremiah Grant's sons. Emigrant records show a James Grant emigrated to Australia in 1840 on the "Isabella". He was 27 (ie born 1813) and from Templemore. His parents were Jerry and Nancy Grant and his father was a farmer at Templemore. "Known to Wm Fogarty of Dromard" was presumably his sponsor. His brother John age 26 (born 1814) was on the same ship. They each married one of the Dooley sisters and were settled in the Mandurama area. John was killed in a shooting incident and died without any children. James & Mary had six children. They were the forbears of the extensive Molloy and Nowlan familes, forming part of the wider Grant complex who were amongst the early settlers who opened up this part of New South Wales. Their families appear in "Faces of the Grants of Moyne"

Return to the early Grants in Tipperary