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Malta's Irish Ghost

We received the following very interesting article from Alan Markland of Wigan, England for which we wish to thank most sincerely.

In a cemetery on the island of Malta, long disused but recently renovated, lies the body of an Irishman. The plaque over his grave reads:

'Sacred to the memory of Thomas McSweeney. Executed on HMS Rodney
8th June 1837.
Aged 23 years.

McSweeney, a Roman Catholic and a native of Cork, joined the Royal Marines in 1833 at Kanturk, Co Cork, aged nineteen years. Posted to HMS Rodney as a private he had served three years when, in July 1836, during a scuffle with one Corporal J. Allen of Kent England, the latter fell, struck his head and died five days later. He was buried at sea off Barcelona, Spain where the incident had occured.

His assailant Thomas McSweeney was confined in HMS Childers, which eventually brought him and witnesses to Malta for his imprisonment and trial. The charge at his Court Martial reads:
'Thomas McSweeney, private marine, serving on board HMS Rodney: for having purposely and maliciously pushed Corporal James Allen into the waist on the main deck which caused his death.'

He was found guilty under the Naval Discipline Act of 1749 and sentenced.....: 'to be hanged by the neck at the yard arm.....'
The execution took place in Grand Harbour Malta in view of the squadron of 10 ships of the line plus crowds of the local populace sympathetic to the unfortunate boy.

His body was given over to the care of two Dominican priests who, having attended him during his confinement, prepared him for his death and now buried him in accordance to the rites of his religion. His mother Bridget received his personal belongings from the Paymaster R.N. via the local Parish Priest in Cork after his death.

His grave, to this day, is believed to have miraculous properties. Local tales, including a ghost sighting, attest to this. Ballads are sung. Certainly a deal of sympathy was shown towards him at his trial, conviction and death. His tomb has been and still is maintained by devotees. A candle is lit and renewed daily. The whole graveyard has recently been levelled and relaid with new headstones . Thomas McSweeneys plot remains the same as it was.

Alan Markland has researched Thomas McSweeney in great detail for many years and has lectured to Historical Societies in Malta on the subject. He tells us that almost every citizen, especially those in the Cottretta area have stories about him.

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