Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween hurtles toward its finale next Wednesday night. This time around I’ll examine the tale of Sean na Sagart aka John of the Priests, who should have been the lead character in several horror films by this point.
Sean was born John Mullowney around 1690 AD in Derrew, Ireland. By his teens he was living beyond his means, often drinking and carousing. He financed his hard-partying lifestyle through multiple crimes, with various accounts claiming he was a masked Highwayman or a burglar or even a rustler and horse-thief.
It IS certain he was arrested for stealing horses and was sentenced to death by hanging in Castlebar, Ireland. Recognizing what an amoral creature was before them, the authorities offered Sean a very dirty job in exchange for escaping death on the gallows – becoming a Priest Hunter/ Killer.
The Penal Act of 1709 had decreed that Catholic Priests plus higher and lower clergymen must take the Oath of Abjuration and recognize Great Britain’s Protestant Queen Anne as the supreme religious authority in England AND Ireland. Refusing to do so merited summary execution.
Thus began the career and dark legend of Sean na Sagart. Sean spent roughly the next 17 years hunting, capturing and killing renegade Catholic Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals.
Since Catholic schools were forbidden, outlaw Hedge School Teachers were also fair game. Sean’s bounty varied according to the rank of his clergy member victims. If he ever backed out of this career as a Priest Hunter it was back to the gallows for him.
WHY A HORROR STORY? For multiple reasons in a variety of storytelling approaches. First, if played strictly true-to-life it would make for a very ironic twist on the horror subgenre of Witchfinder General flicks, which always featured crazed, sadistic clergymen hunting and torturing confessions out of “witches.” And Continue reading