The Death of Nelly Horrigan

February 10, 1870

“A disgraceful scene occurred on Friday last, in a brothel near Little Bourke street up on the occassion of a wake taking place.

It appears that a woman of the town, named Nelly Horrigan, was found dead in her bed on Friday morning by the man with whom she had been cohabitating, and it was decided by her companions to “wake” her in proper style.

Accordingly, at night the coffin containing the body was placed on trestles in the middle of the room, plenty of spirits were provided and placed on a table at the head, with pipes and tobacco in abundance at the foot.  The room was lit with candles, till everything was as light as day, and an old woman was seated at the foot of the coffin kept up an unearthly yell throughout the evening.  Towards ten o’clock, about sixty thieves and prostitutes of the lowest class assembled in the room, and commenced drinking and smoking, which finally ended in a regular melee, in which the coffin was upset, and black eyes and broken noses were freely distributed; and it was not until some of the sober neighbours interfered that the orgie was put an end to.

The funeral took place on Sunday, and it was evident from the appearance of those following the hearse, that the fight had been of a very sanguinary character, for there was hardly one of the mourners that had not either a black eye or a bandaged head.”