The Veiled Woman of Achill

Island Outrage & A Playboy Drama

Patricia Byrne's book, "The Veiled Woman of Achill"

A gripping story of an island crime, a playboy fugitive and landlord tensions.

In 1894 on Achill Island in the west of Ireland, an English landowner Agnes MacDonnell is brutally attacked and her Valley House home set on fire. Agnes survives but is so disfigured that she wears a veil in public for the rest of her life.

The island’s wild man James Lynchehaun is convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. He dramatically escapes captivity on two occasions and wins a ground-breaking legal case in the United States where he successfully resists extradition. Lynchehaun becomes a folk hero.

The writer John Millington Synge visits Mayo in 1904-5 where he locates his famous drama The Playboy of the Western World. James Lynchehaun was one of Synge’s inspirations for the character of the playboy Christy Mahon.

Available from Gill Books


The Veiled Woman of Achill:
Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama

ISBN-13: 9781848891470

ISBN-10: 1848891474

Author: Patricia Byrne

Genre: Narrative Nonfiction

Binding: Paperback

Publisher: Gill Books

Published: Sept 1, 2012

Editorial Reviews of
The Veiled Woman of Achill

‘Crimes that shook Ireland, a recent TV series that “reconstructed gruesome moments that shocked a nation”, did not travel back to the nineteenth century. Had it done so, a programme would surely have been devoted to the case of The Veiled Woman of Achill...

Byrne has a good nose for a story and well-honed powers of description. An excellent judge of pace...’


‘John Millington Synge, that “dark tramper” (Joyce) and “evil spirit” (Patrick Pearse) , was in part inspired by Lynchehaun’s story to write The Playboy of the Western World ... as well as supplying new information, mainly from newspaper reports, the book presents an interesting slant on the violently sectarian atmosphere [in Achill].’


‘The gruesome tale of the “real” Playboy of the Western World.’


‘... a compelling tale which has all the ingredients of a classical tragedy, framed within the wild intimacy of an isolated community’


‘It is a truly mesmerising tale, expertly researched and movingly narrated by an author with a forensic eye for detail and an elegant turn of phrase ... It is unquestionably one of the finest books this writer has encountered in recent years.’


Amazon Reviews of
The Veiled Woman of Achill

4 out of 5 stars