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Curator sheds fresh light on Green Lady mystery

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Curator sheds fresh light on Green Lady mystery thumbnailAuthor Sean Bardon launched his book 'The Green Lady Mystery' on Friday afternoon at Armagh County Museum

OVER the decades the story of The Green Lady, who reportedly haunts No.6 Vicar's Hill, has terrified and fascinated Armagh's citizens in equal measure.

Behind the ghoulish real-life tale of the murder case of little three-year-old Annie Slavin, however, there is a tragedy that is even more stranger than fiction.

And Armagh County Museum has just publishing a new book, 'The Green Lady Mystery or The Vicars' Hill Murder', written by curator, Sean Barden, that throws fresh light on the Armagh murder mystery that made headlines across the globe in 1888 when 19-year-old Bellina Prior, who was of a privileged background, was tried for the murder of Annie by drowning the infant in a kitchen boiler at their home on Vicar's Hill.

It's a case that has been told in hushed whispers over the decades and Sean says that it was the story's 'local legend' status that prompted him to delve more into the strange story.

"What inspired me to write the story was the fact that growing up in Armagh it was a ghost story you were told about.

“It scared me a child, and it scared my mother as a child," he explains.

"So what appealed in looking into it further was trying to discover the truth behind the urban legends like The Green Lady, trying to get to the real story behind it. That's what inspired me to do a bit of digging."

That pursuit paid off when Sean gained access to Dublin Castle intelligence files on Bellina, including her handwritten letters, which he says were very difficult to read given her almost indecipherable script.

Such files exist as Dublin's metropolitan police placed Bellina and her mother under surveillance after the latter successfully petitioned the authorities to release her daughter from incarceration at an asylum in the city, where she was spent four years following her trial where she was found guilty of murder by insanity.

But why would the authorities want to monitor Bellina movements so closely in the first place?

This is just one of many questions that the book addresses: after her release while living with her mother at Warrenpoint and Dublin, why was Bellina described by police as a dangerous lunatic but yet not apprehended?

Was Bellina's mother mentally ill too and did this contribute to a second tragedy seventeen years later in a genteel neighbourhood of Rathmines in Dublin when both Bellina and her mother lost their lives?

If Bellina was single and in her mother's care why did she insist on being addressed as Mrs Beresford and why did her mother state in the 1901 census that her daughter had been married?

What exactly happened Bellina Prior whilst in the asylum that ensured that the authorities in Dublin Castle kept a detailed file on her movements and behaviour?

This carefully researched historical study reads more like a Victorian penny dreadful and is in a very real sense stranger than fiction.

Copies of The Green Lady Mystery are available from Armagh County Museum, price 7.99

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