A sad story from the Cork Examiner, 1st June 1865 (courtesy of Ireland Old News), recounting a scandal which must have shocked the Galway town of Ballinasloe:-
“BALLINASLOE, SUNDAY, NINE o’CLOCK, P.M.—The Master, Mr. David Breen and Miss Duane, the school mistress, were arrested about three hours ago for the murder of the infant found in the privy of the workhouse on Wednesday last. It appears that on the night of Thursday, the day the inquest was held, the master revealed to his wife the startling fact that he had carried on an illicit intercourse with Miss Duane for some time, and the result of her becoming pregnant by him. He made a similar confession to the Rev. John Cotton Walker, rector of the parish, observing that his conscience would not let him be at ease.
Intimation being given to John M. Hatchell, Esq., R.M., both he and Miss Duane were arrested by Head-Constable Ellis about six o’clock, and brought to the police barracks. Mr. Breen not only admits the criminal intercourse with the wretched woman but that he was aware of her pregnancy ; that in March last she went to Dublin for the purpose of being privately confined, but that, on her return, she wrote him a note, stating she destroyed the child before she went, and told him where she put it, wanting him to have the privy cleared in a few days after, which he declined doing, nor would he think of doing so, only the manure was required for the farm. The wretched woman has, as yet, made no confession of her guilt. I understand a full inquiry will be held to-morrow. The greatest sensation prevailed through every part of the town on hearing of the arrest of the parties.”
Despite his protestations, Mr Breen doesn’t seem so innocent. Funny how, even though told that his baby was lying dead in the privy, he never went to look for it and his conscience only started to trouble him after the body was found by someone else. Ballinasloe was not exactly lucky in its Workhouse Masters; see here for an account of a further troublesome one twenty years later. For some reason this history doesn’t refer to the earlier scandal.
More on infanticide in 19th century Ireland, and among Irish women in Australia (among whom, interestingly, the rate of infanticide was higher than in the case of women of other ethnic origin) here and here.