The story of Dame Alice Kyteler, the first person condemned to death for witchcraft in Ireland.

In the bustling cosmopolitan Kilkenny city of 1324 tales of strange goings on lead to the first witch trial in Ireland. As storyteller Eddie Lenihan explains,

’Twas never the custom in Ireland to burn people as witches or wizards, but there was one exception.

Wealthy and beautiful Alice Kyteler drew attention to herself because she had married four times, and because,

The husbands weren’t inclined to live.

Rumours circulated about a tall dark man who visited her house. The fortunes of some of Kilkenny’s citizens inexplicably waned, while at the same time Alice Kyteler son Robert mysteriously grew wealthier.

The Bishop of Ossory Richard de Ledrede became involved, and Alice Kyteler and her maid Petronella were tried in court.

Central to the case against was evidence from a neighbour, who claimed he had seen Alice Kytele engaging in a peculiar practice one May morning. What surprised everyone was that Alice Kyteler said not a word in her defence throughout the trial, which concluded with the death penalty for the two women.

The neighbour who had testified against Alice Kyteler died that night.

Two weeks later Petronella was burned at the stake, but when the time came for the guards to fetch Alice Kyteler they were almost overcome by heat. The iron lock on the cell door had melted, and when they eventually opened it, Alice Kyteler had vanished. The smell of smoke and flame marks on the cell walls were all that remained.

Bishop de Ledrede was called for, and upon viewing the empty cell declared

Isn’t it a true thing that the divil knows his own.

From 'Ten Minute Tales’ broadcast on 21 January 1988. The presenter is Eddie Lenihan.