Early in the morning of 4 Feb 1880, a party of armed men brutally murdered James Donnelly, a farmer living near the village of LUCAN, Ont, his wife Johannah, his sons Thomas and John, and his niece Bridget Donnelly. Two eyewitnesses, 11-year-old Johnny O'Connor, and James Donnelly's eldest son, William, claimed to have identified 6 of the murderers, who were subsequently brought to trial in nearby London.
The case aroused international interest as it became known that the killings were the result of a factional feud originating in County Tipperary, Ireland. In Canada over the preceding 3 decades, the vendetta had claimed a heavy toll in lives and property. There were 2 trials of the accused men. At the first, in September 1880, the jury disagreed. A second jury in January 1881 returned a directed verdict of "not guilty."
A century later the case continues to excite interest and controversy. More than 100 factual and fictional accounts have appeared, the best known being T.P. Kelley's The Black Donnellys (1954); Orlo Miller's The Donnellys Must Die (1962); Ray Fazakas's The Donnelly Album (1977); and playwright James REANEY's Donnelly trilogy (1974-77).