Book of grisly Galway murders well executed by Irish Times journalist

Dean Ruxton’s ‘When the Hangman Came to Galway’ born of ‘painstaking’ archive trawl


Two years since his Lost Leads series began running in The Irish Times, Dean Ruxton’s skilled revisiting of some of Ireland’s more macabre historical episodes have been woven into a book.

A “gruesome true story of murder” is an epithet readily applicable to much of Ruxton’s work, and it is the phrase used to describe When the Hangman Came to Galway, launched on Wednesday.

As with his regular retrospectives on the darker corners of Irish history, the book is the culmination of months spent trawling the Irish Times archives and other records, and the painstaking assembly of a thrilling story fused from fact and narrative flare.

“One of the most impressive things about the series, and about the book, is how effortless Dean makes that seem,” said Irish Times assistant editor Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, launching the work.

“It’s not effortless at all. Using archives is a skill. It’s painstaking, laborious, time-consuming and often frustrating work.”

Dean Ruxton speaking at his book launch on Wednesday in The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin. Photograph: Rachel Flaherty
Dean Ruxton speaking at his book launch on Wednesday in The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin. 

It has, however, paid off in a book that interweaves the tales of two violent murders and the shadow of a notorious executioner.

With a nod to the influence of his late grandfather Cecil – a “real proper true crime nut” – Ruxton said the book represented a high point in his historical investigations.

“The three stories in this are the three best things I have ever found in the archive and it’s just a happy coincidence for me that they kind of lined up,” he said.