Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Hellfire Club.
Greed, depravity, scandal, and immorality. Why is it that certain individuals work behind the scenes manipulating the strings of government, the church, and seats of power? Maybe we will never really know for sure but one thing we can be sure of these shadows will always feel the need to be drawn together and these are the origins of such places as The Hellfire Club.
In the early 17th century Europe had entered a new era, that of The Enlightenment. It was also known as the age of reason and was a time when man began to use his reason to discover a new world by casting off the superstition and fear of the medieval world. In his effort to discover the natural laws which governed the universe he was to make huge scientific, political and social advances. Rational thought and logic was the new belief and this led to the rejection of the authority of both the church and the state. Immanuel Kant expressed the motto of the Enlightenment when he said “Aude Sapere” (Dare to think). However The Hellfire Club had its own motto over the entrance to their first building “Fais ce que tu voudrais” (Do what thou wilt).
The first Hellfire Club was founded in London in 1719 by a drunkard, aristocrat Philip, Duke of Wharton but it is his successor Sir Frances Dashwood (Chancellor of the exchequer) who was to go on to gather together what he termed “the most esteemed persons of quality” in Ireland and Britain. Dashwood bought the grounds and subterranean caves of Medmenham Abbey in 1746 and transformed them into a hedonistic playground of transgressions for the wealthy; excesses of food, drink and women, not to mention rumoured blaspheming, Black Masses, Satanic rituals and paganism, sacrificing publically to Bacchus and Venus – gods of wine and sex. This was to become the clubs pervading philosophy. In the years it was in existence it numbered many of the famous within its ranks, people such as Benjamin Franklin and the then Prince of Wales.
The Irish branch was founded in Dublin in 1735 by the Earl of Rosse, 1st Grand Master of the Irish Freemasons a position he held twice. However, upon inheriting a million pounds from his grandmother (a huge sum in those days) he resigned his position. He then did what most well to do young men did at that time, the Grand Tour. Europe and Egypt and all their mystery’s fell open to him and he began to further his interest in the ‘dark arts’ quickly making a name for himself as a ‘sorcerer and a practitioner of black magic’.
In 1735, he emerged on the Irish social scene and founded the Hellfire Club. The exact nature of what the members got up to is still open to conjecture but the rumours would make you shiver. Black masses, mock crucifixions, homosexual orgies and prostitutes dressed as nuns. It was even rumoured that servants were doused in brandy and set alight, black cats and even dwarves were sacrificed on an altar..
Lord Rosse never lost his sense of humour. In 1741, as he lay dying at his house on Molesworth Street, he received a letter from Dean Madden, the Vicar of St. Anne's, lambasting him as a blasphemer, scoundrel, gamester and such like, and imploring him to repent of his sins without delay. Noting that the Dean has simply addressed the letter to ‘My Lord’, Rosse put the letter into a fresh envelope and instructed a footman to deliver it to Lord Kildare who lived at nearby Leinster House. The ruse worked a treat and Lord Kildare, one of Dean Madden’s most pious and generous parishioners, was mortified to think the rebuke-filled letter was directed at him. Lord Rosse died before anybody worked it out. He was probably laughing as he went.
The Hell-Fire Club was disbanded following his death.
Below are stories that concern two of the Hellfire Club members:
The truth about Darkey kelly, burned as a 'witch' 250 years ago ... but who was really a serial killer.
Darkey Kelly, whose real name was Dorcas Kelly ran a brothel in Copper Alley, off Fishamble Street was supposed to have become pregnant with the child of the city sheriff Simon Luttrell (Lord Carhampton), and she demanded he support her financially. Folklore suggests that he responded to her demands by accusing her of witchcraft and of sacrificing her baby in a satanic ritual, the baby’s body was never found. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was partially hanged and then burned at the stake in a public execution on Baggot Street in Dublin. The date was 7th January 1761.
However, it has now been suggested that the real reason for her execution was murder. She was actually accused of the murder of John Dowling, a shoemaker and those investigating the murder were to find the bodies of five other men hidden in the brothel. Reports of rioting in Copper Alley by prostitutes was recorded after her execution. She may even be Dublin’s first female serial killer? It has been said that in 18th century Ireland women were second class citizens and this was reflected in the form of execution. Men found guilty of murder were simply hanged whereas women were first throttled then cut down and burnt alive.
In the 1780s Simon Luttrell’s son Henry, who also had the title Lord Carhampton also hit the news. He was accused of raping a young teenage girl in a brothel (like father, like son). The girl was supplied to him by the brothel keeper Maria Lewellyn. By a strange twist of fate, Lewellyn was the sister of Darkey Kelly. Henry Luttrell had the young girl and her parents falsely imprisoned. The girl’s mother died in prison. Luttrell’s charges against the girl and her family were later dismissed in court.
Source: No Smoke Without Hellfire” a community radio show on Dublin’s South 93.9 FM produce by Eamonn McLoughlin, researcher Phil O'Grady. Based on an article written by Alan O'Keeffe of the Evening Herald.
Simon Luttrell was created Baron Irnham (of Ireland) in 1768 and Earl of Carhampton in 1785. He was a member of the Hellfire Club in Dublin. After the usual fashion of satirizing any unpopular character, the first Lord Irnham was introduced in a satirical ballad, in which the Devil is represented as summoning before him those who had the strongest claim to succeed him as King of Hell. Having summoned amongst others Lord Lyttleton, the ballad concludes
But as he spoke there issued from the crowd
Irnham the base, the cruel, and the proud
And eager cried, "I boast superior claim
To Hell's dark throne and Irnham is my name."
The Lord Santry Trial’ details the events that took place in 18th century Dublin at the Hell Fire Club. The club had acquired the name, ‘The Devil’s Kitchen’, and the rascals associated with it were called ‘bucks’. They were often the bored sons of the aristocracy who engaged in drunken sexual orgies. One of the leading lights of the Hell Fire Club was Lord Santry, a 29-year-old infamous aristocrat. He caused an outrage when he stabbed a servant, Laughlin Murphy, to death with his sword.
Following the incident, Santry simply tossed the landlord of the tavern - where the incident occurred - a coin and implied that the whole thing was better hushed up. However, that didn’t happen. Santry was tried for the death of Murphy and found guilty by his peers, causing a major scandal in those times. Santry never went to the scaffold; he was awarded a full pardon. The Duke of Devonshire, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had been largely responsible for petitioning King George II.
If Santry had gone to meet his death, it would have been a beheading. Instead he lived to carry on his rakish life. He was attainted, which meant he had to forgo his estate, but that was returned to him after the pardon in 1740. A year after his pardon, Santry travelled to see George II in person and thanked him face to face. On Lord Santry’s death his title became extinct.
The Black Cat of Killakee.
In the early 1960s, workmen renovating a derelict 18th-century farmhouse near the notorious Hellfire Club in Rathfarnham witnessed strange phenomena culminating in the appearance of a gigantic black cat. Artist Tom McAssey, who was helping to convert the house into an arts centre, said the temperature in the old ballroom plummeted suddenly and a locked door swung open, revealing a hideous black cat with blazing red eyes. Afterwards the house was exorcised and no sightings were reported for several years. Then in 1969, a group of actors staying at the centre held a mock séance and apparently invoked the spirits of two women who had assisted at the Hellfire Club’s satanic rituals, during which black cats were worshipped and often sacrificed. The arts centre was replaced with Killakee House, in which a portrait of the hellish cat painted by Tom McAssey glowered down upon brave diners.