Druid Theatre’s production of ‘The Colleen Bawn’ opens tonight 4 February 2014 at the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick and runs until 8 February.  The Tony Award-winning production is described by Druid as "a suspense-filled tale of tangled love, misplaced honour and downright skulduggery". The play by Dion Boucicault was adapted from the novel 'The Collegians' by Gerald Griffin, which was based on the true story of the murder of Eileen Hanley (a.k.a. Ellie Hanlon).

On 29 June 1819, Eileen Hanley the daughter of a local farmer at Ballycahane, eloped with a neighbour John Scanlan, taking with them one hundred pounds. On 13 July she was murdered while crossing the Shannon in a boat. Scanlan and another man named O'Sullivan were charged with her murder, convicted and hanged. Scanlan had been defended by lawyer and catholic emancipator Daniel O'Connell.

This new production of the  Boucicault play opens 40 years to the day following the broadcast of this RTÉ report on the real Colleen Bawn.

Tom McSweeney reports on the two Munster towns of Croom in Co. Limerick and Kilrush in Co. Clare, who both lay claim to the Colleen Bawn. The people of Croom say that Eileen Hanley lived at Ballycahane just outside the town with her uncle John Connery, a shoemaker. Pat Fitzgerald, Chairman of the organising committee that claims the Colleen Bawn is from Croom, says that parish records and documentary evidence of the trial prove that the Colleen Bawn is from Croom. He comments that the only connection she has with Kilrush is that it is the place where her body was washed ashore.

This RTÉ report was broadcast on 4 February 1974.

Grave Of Ellen Hanlon (Colleen Bawn) Grave Of Eileen Hanley (Colleen Bawn), 1976.

Pat Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald.