Athlone Community Radio to host inaugural airing of documentary

A documentary about the infamous Roscommon executioner ‘The Ballad of Lady Betty’ will be premiered on Athlone Community Radio on Saturday, November 18, at 6pm, and replayed on Monday November 20, at 1pm.

Being accused of murdering her own son, Elizabeth Sugrue, better known as Lady Betty, saved her own life at the gallows by offering to hang people on a day when the hangman was sick. She stayed on in that position for decades in the late 18th century.

The documentary features the original ballad written and performed by Declan Coyne, Bard of Roscommon Singing Circle.

“In 2021, I composed a ballad on the life and times of Lady Betty. Having grown up just a few miles south of Roscommon town, I would have heard many stories about Lady Betty and her exploits as permanent executioner at the town jail. Most of the stories told depicted her as a wicked and evil monster, but I always had a kind of ‘a soft spot’ for her.

After all, she must have been somebody’s daughter; she was a mother herself and apparently reared an upstanding son. So, in the ballad, I tried to put a human face on the Lady, while at the same time telling what we know of what, for her, was a tough and miserable life,” co-producer Declan, said.

This radio documentary delves further into this extraordinary story and tries to understand the circumstances of her life a little better and what drove Lady Betty to do the things she did, which earned her the title, The Woman from Hell.

Contributors in this programme are Padraig Walshe who is a Personal Behaviour Psychologist and Broadcaster with strong family ties in Roscommon Town, Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, an Associate Professor of Folklore and Ethnology at the Department of Irish Celtic Studies and Folklore at University College Dublin, Albert Siggins, a native of Roscommon town and a Local Historian, Artist and Writer, Dympna Molloy who is a nationally acclaimed sculptor and poet, Noel Molloy who is an internationally known Visual and Performance Artist, based outside Roscommon Town, and John Kerrigan who is a highly regarded Local Historian and Writer. Music is performed by local musician Patsy Hanley.

The production team comprises Kyle McCallan, sound, Johnny Callaghan, sound mastering with production and editing by Irena Cvetkovic.

The programme is supported by Coimisiun na Mean with the television licence fee.


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