I first became aware of "the Harry Gleeson Case" on the publication of the book Murder at Marlhill in 1993. This was written by Dublin barrister Marcus Bourke who had a number of books prior to this — mainly about historical figures — and was also editor of the Tipperary Historical Society. Having read the book and spoken to people who remembered the period — including some from the New Inn area — I became convinced that Harry Gleeson was an innocent man.
For the benefit of people not familiar with the case, I will quote hereon the opening paragraph of the book:
At eight o'clock on the morning of Wednesday 23 April, 1941, Harry Gleeson was hanged in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin for the murder of his neighbour Mary McCarthy. Her body had been found in a remote spot on Gleeson's uncle's farm near New Inn in Co. Tipperary early on Thursday 21 November, 1940. Nine days later, on 30 November, Gleeson was arrested and charged with the murder. A six-day preliminary hearing in Clonmel District Court in January 1941 was followed by a ten-day jury trial in Green Street courthouse in Dublin in February. A four-day hearing in the Court of Criminal Appeal a month later and a reprieve campaign both failed, and the posting outside the jail gates of the customary notice by a prison official at 8.05 on the morning of 23 April recorded the execution of Gleeson.Leading for the defence in the case was Sean McBride who was a young barrister at the time and was to become a senior council a few years afterwards. McBride had been a political activist from a young age and was Minister for External Affairs in the first Inter Party Government. He was convinced from the time he took on the case until his death of the innocence of Harry Gleeson. He, with Mr J.J.Timoney from Tipperary Town, visited the scene of the murder on two occasions, meticulously going over over ever detail. McBride had friends in the Cahir area — a town about 3 miles from the scene of the crime — whom he visited often. He obtained a lot of background information on the case from this source.
On the day before he was hanged Sean McBride visited Harry Gleeson in his condemned cell at the latter's request. When he returned to his car he wrote down what Harry Gleeson had said to him. He sent details to solicitor Timoney which makes for heart-rending reading:
He asked me to let his uncle and aunt and his friends know that he did not mind at all dying, as he was well prepared, and that he would pray for them as soon as he reached Heaven. He was quite calm and happy. He assured several times that he would not like to change places with anyone else, as he felt sure he had undergone his purgatory in this world and that he might never have the opportunity again to be so well prepared to meet his death. He was quite cheerful and chatted freely about his execution. He asked me to specially thank you all for the work you had done on his behalf, and said he would pray for you. At the end of the interview he stood up and said: "The last thing I want to say is that I will pray tomorrow that whoever did it will be discovered, and that the whole thing will be like an open book. I rely on you then to clear my name. I have no confession to make, only that I didn't do it. That is all. I will pray for you and be with you if I can, whenever you, Mr.Nolan-Whelan and Mr.Timoney are fighting and battling for justice".