From The Ballina Chronicle, 2nd October 1850:-
“During the famine of 1847 and when nightly depredations were rife in this country, a man living in Coolcarney, a distance of three or four miles from this town, was, after a long vigilance on the part of the sufferers, caught in the act of sheep-stealing, for which he was afterwards transported. It was then considered that the neighbourhood would be free from such thefts, but soon the missing of a sheep proved the fallacy of such hopes. Sheep after sheep disappeared, and no discovery of the robber could be made. At length suspicion fell upon the wife of the convict and a sharp eye was kept upon her, when one night those on watch heard a noise close by. A sheep was gone. It could have been killed and removed by none but the sheep-stealer’s wife. She was accordingly followed into her house and diligent search was made, but no sheep was found. – One of the men on watch was positive and the party returned and re-examined the house but with the same fruitless result as before. The men left the house, consulted together, talked over what they had seen and heard, and once more resolved upon a closer search of the woman’s house, for the missing sheep must be there. There was a charm in the third trial. The sheep was found in the bed with the children, having on a nightgown and chemise. The more tedious procedure of law was not resorted to. The woman was expelled the neighborhood and her house thrown down. This circumstance was yesterday related to us on undoubted authority.”
It would be funny, and possibly kind of exciting, to have a sheep dressed up as your mother in the bed with you, if only it weren’t for the sad ending. I suppose in times of famine a single sheep might make the difference between life and death, but isn’t that all the more reason to be compassionate to someone who steals one?
Doubtless they said a woman that wicked was lucky just to be run out of town, and not transported. I hope she was bad enough and I hope she was crooked enough for the children and herself to survive, afterwards. There are times to be good, and then there are times to use every weapon in your armoury to fight for yourself and those you love. And who wants to be part of a flock that doesn’t look after its own anyway?
Outrage aside, the story reminds me just a little bit of Gene Wilder here.