Patricia Byrne is a writer who lives in Limerick, Ireland.
Her narrative nonfiction book The Veiled Woman of Achill was published by the Collins Press in 2012. It is the story of an atrocity on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in 1894. An English landowner, Agnes MacDonnell, was brutally attacked and her home – the Valley House – burnt. Agnes survived but was so disfigured that she wore a veil in public for the rest of her life.
James Lynchehaun was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. However, he escaped custody twice, won a ground-breaking legal case in the United States when he successfully resisted extradition, and became a folk hero. John Millington Synge visited north Mayo in 1904/1905 and decided to locate his drama, The Playboy of the Western World, in the area; James Lynchehaun was one of his influences in constructing the character of Christy Mahon. Agnes MacDonnell lived on in Achill and, in 1923, was found dead with a wine glass at her feet. James Lynchehaun died in Scotland in 1937.
Editorial Reviews of The Veiled Woman of Achill
“…a s well as supplying a good deal of new information, mainly from contemporary newspaper accounts, the book presents an interesting slant on the violently sectarian atmosphere… on Achill.” The Irish Times
“A compelling tale which has all the ingredients of a classical tragedy, framed within the wild intimacy of an isolated community.” The Mayo News
“Byrne has a good nose for a story and well-honed powers of description.” The Sunday Times
“The gruesome tale of the ‘real’ Playboy of the Western World.” Irish Independent
“Fascinating.” Ireland’s Own
“An insightful new book that lifts the veil on an Achill outrage.” Clare Champion
“One of the most fascinating and controversial stories to emerge from Co. Mayo.” Western People