Biddy Early was born Biddy
O'Connor in lower Faha near Kilanena in 1798 in County Clare, another
traditions put her birthplace at Carrowroe a townland between Gorteen
and Daingean. Biddy was regarded as an intelligent child who spent
a lot of time alone, her mother is said to have taught her cures,
although this was not unusual among the country people of the time.
When Biddy was sixteen her mother died, six months later her father
died of typhus, unable to pay the rent of their cottage Biddy left,
possibly just wandering about working when she could.
When she was eighteen she worked for a landowner
in Carheen near Limerick, this lasted for a short period after which
she moved into the Poor House, on a visit to the market at Gurteenreagh
she met her first husband Pat Malley of Feakle, Malley was twice
Biddy's age but the marriage brought her security, the couple lived
in a cottage in Feakle, County Clare Biddy bore her first and only
child Paddy to Malley who already had a son John. It was at this
time that Biddy's reputation as a healer began to grow, she is said
never to have accepted money for her cures, choosing instead to
accept gifts, which often consisted of poteen (Illegally distilled
whiskey) it was from the over consumption of poteen that her first
husband Pat died some five years after her marriage leaving her
a widow at the age of twenty-five.
Shortly after Pats death she married her
step son John Malley, her reputation continued to grow, the house
saw an almost continual stream of visitors seeking cures not only
for themselves but their animals also. Biddy's son Paddy left home
sometime after her second marriage and was never heard of again,
her second husband John died in 1840, he too succumbing to excessive
Biddy's third marriage was to a labourer
Tom Flannery a man younger than her, they moved into a cottage on
Dromore Hill in Kilbarron near to a lake which today bears her name.
What has to be remembered is that at this time the ordinary people
couldn't afford a doctor who's services were only available to those
who were in a position to pay in cash.
When the great famine was raging in Ireland
Biddy was fifty, yet is said not to have had a gray hair, Biddy's
life and the reputation she gained led her into conflict with the
authorities, in 1865 she was charged with witchcraft under a statute
of 1586 and brought before a court at Ennis, County Clare, the case
subsequently was dropped when those who had previously agreed to
testify, refused to give evidence, the case was dropped.
Biddy was widowed for the third time in 1868
when Tom died, the following year Thomas Meaney became her fourth
husband. It is said Thomas Meaney then in his thirties' married
Biddy fourty years his senior in exchange for a cure. The couple
lived in her cottage at Kilbarron, where Thomas died just one year
after the marriage, alcohol is said to have been the cause of his
early demise also. Biddy finally passed away in April 1874 dieing
as she had lived in poverty.
While married four times, Biddy always used
her mother's maiden name, believing that her gifts were inherited
through the female line, many believed she was of the sidhe (fairies).
The facts of Biddy Early's life are somewhat confused some twenty
years after her death Lady Isabella Augusta
Gregory sought out people who had know her and recorded their stories
in her book 'Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland' published
You will find an account of Biddy's life
this site and much information about the occult and related