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Torture in the Market House!

During 1798 there were many characters that have gone down in local Folklore to be remembered for their dark and dasterdly deeds, but non more so than the Hangman Hempenstall and Tom the Devil!
The Hangman Hempenstall was so called as he took advantage of a freakish growth spurt, making him nearly 2 foot taller than the average man, and with the build of a boulder. He acted as a portable gallows with added menace. Taking suspected rebels and putting them in a noose, he would hoist them over his shoulder and drag them along until they passed out, they would be revived and he would hoiTwo other members of of The Hunter Gowans Black Mob as they were known are perhaps just as infamous. The Hangman Hempenstall and Tom the Devil.
The Hangman Hempenstall was so called as he took advantage of a freakish growth spurt, making him nearly 2 foot taller than the average man, and with the build of a boulder. He acted as a portable gallows with added menace. Taking suspected rebels and putting them in a noose, he would hoist them over his shoulder and drag them along until they passed out, they would be revived and he would hoist them over his shoulder again, sometimes they would be revived a second time, sometimes he would allow them to twitch and jerk till he felt them go limp. The “beauty in this act” it was said, was that he could do it anywhere, even a persons own farm yard in front of their family, thus serving as a warning to the rest f the family members to behave, toddlers and children included!

Tom the devil was another story altogether, his name brought about such terror that he became a bogeyman figure in the rest of Ireland, unaware he was a real man that conducted his awful deeds here in Wexford. This man invented a new form of torture called the Pitch Cap. When a rebel sympathiser was found they were brought to the Market House in Gorey for interrogation. Tom would tie them to a chair and using a sheep shears chop their hair off, struggle too much and he might get your ears or even the tip of your nose.
Then he would fill a cone shaped cloth cap with hot pitch or tar and place it over the victims head. The tar would burn the poor mans scalp and run down into his eyes, often blinding them permanently. Sometimes for fun, is he had a crowd to impress he would untie the victim and place bets as to which wall he would run into first. When the pitch had cooled sufficiently the cap would be ripped off, leaving the scalp raw burnt and incredibly painful. Many people died from this punishment, some due to infections and others just out of sheer shock.
Those that survived would wear a white cloth over their heads for the rest of their lives. Indeed, right up until the 1860s you might find old men sitting at the back of the church on Sunday, the hat in their hands but bright white knotted handkerchiefs covering the scarred heads of these old “Croppy Boys”
st them over his shoulder again, sometimes they would be revived a second time, sometimes he would allow them to twitch and jerk till he felt them go limp. The “beauty in this act” it was said, was that he could do it anywhere, even a persons own farm yard in front of their family, thus serving as a warning to the rest f the family members to behave, toddlers and children included!

Tom the devil was another story altogether, his name brought about such terror that he became a bogeyman figure in the rest of Ireland, unaware he was a real man that conducted his awful deeds here in Wexford. This man invented a new form of torture called the Pitch Cap. When a rebel sympathiser was found they were brought to the Market House in Gorey for interrogation. Tom would tie them to a chair and using a sheep shears chop their hair off, struggle too much and he might get your ears or even the tip of your nose.
Then he would fill a cone shaped cloth cap with hot pitch or tar and place it over the victims head. The tar would burn the poor mans scalp and run down into his eyes, often blinding them permanently. Sometimes for fun, is he had a crowd to impress he would untie the victim and place bets as to which wall he would run into first. When the pitch had cooled sufficiently the cap would be ripped off, leaving the scalp raw burnt and incredibly painful. Many people died from this punishment, some due to infections and others just out of sheer shock.
Those that survived would wear a white cloth over their heads for the rest of their lives. Indeed, right up until the 1860s you might find old men sitting at the back of the church on Sunday, the hat in their hands but bright white knotted handkerchiefs covering the scarred heads of these old “Croppy Boys”