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Biddy Early.

Famous Irish Women.

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Biddy Early.

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 alcohol use.

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 in 1920.

You will find an account of Biddy's life on this site and much information about the occult and related matters.

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