Skip to main content

Professor Mark McGowan on the manhunt for Major Denis Mahon’s assassin Andrew Connor from Strokestown in Ireland to Port Robinson on the Welland Canal, Ontario.

Exterior shot. Bearded man with greying hair, wearing a dark blue jacket with yellow stripes on sleeve, standing in front of a large three storey country house with two wings extending forward, speaking to camera.

Mark McGowan from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. But today I am actually in Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland.

Behind me: the manorial home of the Pakenham-Mahon family. It started construction of this Palladian house in 1696, and essentially it was the command centre for a very large estate with approximately 11,000 inhabitants in the middle of the nineteenth century.

One of the distinctive features of this house was the fact that during the Great Irish Famine the proprietor Major Denis Mahon

Illustrated black and white portrait of seated man with curly, dark brown hair and dark eyes looking at viewer, in three piece suit with cravat and a flower in his left breast pocket, flashes on screen. Caption “Major Denis Mahon, landlord of Strokestown Park, assassinated November 2nd, 1847” appears at bottom of screen.

was the first of the landlords during that period to be assassinated. He was shot in the head

Image of pistol in glass case, with illuminated illustration behind it of four men with dark hair dressed in black, blue, yellow, and dark blue jackets conversing with one another and drinking from cups. Caption: “Pistol used to assassinate Major Denis Mahon, November 2nd 1847. National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, County Roscommon, Ireland” at bottom of screen.

while returning home from a meeting of charitable organizations in Roscommon town, and his murder still remains a fascinating mystery.

Although two men were hanged and implicated by others on the estate for having been involved in the murder, it is still not entirely clear who pulled the trigger that killed the landlord.

In fact, it appears that the ringleader was one tenant by the name of Andrew Connor. Andrew Connor disappeared from the estate during the court proceedings, and was then spotted in Montreal in Canada, later in Vermont, in New York State, and allegedly working with his brothers on the Welland Canal, which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, bypassing the famous Niagara Falls.

It is very possible that he was there, because there were Connors on the employment list of the Welland Canal Works. It was also a magnet for Irish migrants, particularly from this particular part of County Roscommon.

So Andrew Connor is last seen

Illustrated map with “Lake Ontario” written on top and “Niagara District” and then “Welland” written diagonally across the bottom flashes up on screen. Caption “Welland Canal historic map, 1849, with Port Robinson circled” appears at bottom of screen.

in Port Robinson in Upper Canada in roughly 1849-1850, and then disappears into the ether of history.

So whether or not we really know who murdered Denis Mahon is still subject to some contention and further investigation. But the house still stands, even though the landlord is now buried in a crypt not far away from this house.

Final image of water with onscreen Ireland Park Foundation logo. Celtic style music playing.