Murder at Shandy Hall

On 16 December, 1887, Surgeon Major Philip Cross of Shandy Hall, Dripsey stood in the Cork Courthouse on trial for the murder of his wife. The trial lasted four days, Cross was found guilty and was sentenced to be hanged on the following 10th January.

Cross had married Mary Louise Marriot on 17 August 1869 in St James Church, Piccadilly.

After the wedding the couple went to Canada and then, some years later, Cross retired form the Army and they went to live in Shandy Hall. Five children were born to him and his wife, three daughters and two sons. In 1886 Cross brought a Miss Skinner to the house as a governess. His wife died on 2nd June 1887 – she had suffered badly for three weeks before she died.

She was buried in the old Protestant graveyard in Coachford, at six o’clock in the morning. Dr Cross, a Mr Griffin and the hearse driver were the only people there. The funeral cost £5!

During her illness, Cross had called no doctor and said she died of typhoid fever, although he told his wife’s brother it was a heart spasm she died of. He also said the reason he did not bury her in the family vault was because it was full, although no-one had been buried there for years. Two weeks later Cross married Miss Skinner in the same church he had married his first wife in. He brought his new wife to Shandy Hall on June 26th.

Rumours started about the cause of the death of his first wife and the authorities decided to have her body exhumed. It was found that she had not died of typhoid fever or a heart spasm but of arsenic poisoning. It was also discovered that strychnine had been given to her to quicken her death.

After his execution, the usual enquiry was made to see if Cross was really dead, but the hangman never arrived so the enquiry was never finished. It is believed that Cross cheated the gallows by dressing up as an old woman and boarding a boat to Canada!

The grave of Mary Cross can still be seen in the old Protestant graveyard.