“The Black Donnellys”: Mayhem and Murder on the Roman Line
The "Black Donnellys" lived near
Lucan, north of London,
Ont., in the nineteenth century. This Irish family had a reputation for
violence and lawlessness, and did much to alienate their neighbours in a running feud that was imported from Ireland.
In February 1880, a vigilante committee descended on the Donnelly
farmstead and took justice into their own hands, leading to a brutal and
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* Lecture Notes *
J. Reaney, “Donnelly, James” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography
& Hell on Earth: The Massacre of the ‘Black’ Donnellys”
(this is a superb website designed by two historians at Mount Royal College
with valuable links to primary perspectives and interpretation)
“The Official Donnelly
Homepage” contains some useful information (including a brief
history, as well as some useful perspectives from the time of the murders)
Students are advised to be cautious with self-proclaimed
“official” websites like this one. After all, who made this
“the official Donnelly” website?
The classic version of the story is Thomas P. Kelley, The Black Donnellys (Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1954), which
has undergone numerous printings since its original publication.
More scholarly studies include:
James Reaney, ed. The Donnelly
Documents: An Ontario
Champlain Society, 2004. This is probably the most trustworthy,
valuable, and comprehensive source to date.
Orlo Miller. The Donnellys
Must Die. Toronto:
Macmillan, 1962 (my favourite)
William Davison Butt. "The Donnellys:
History, Legend, Literature". Ph.D. dissertation, University of Western
Ontario, 1977. Canadian Thesis on Microfiche
Norman N Feltes. This Side of Heaven:
Determining the Donnelly Murders, 1880. Toronto:
Toronto Press, 1999.
Michael Helm. "Civil Disorders in Biddulph Township 1850-1880: A Case Study of
the Donnelly Murders." M.A. Thesis, Sir George Williams [now
Concordia] University, 1970.
The Donnelly Album: The Complete and Authentic Account Illustrated with
Photographs of Canada's
Famous Feuding Family. Toronto:
Other recent books include:
Peter Edwards, Night Justice. Toronto: Key Porter, 2005 (which was
recalled when Edwards was accused of violating copyright regulations)
Peter McKeown. A Donnelly Treatise:
After the Massacre. Guelph:
Books of fiction
Thomas P. Kelley. Vengeance
of the Black Donnellys. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1962.
Orlo Miller. Death To The Donnellys:
A Novel. Toronto:
There is also a wonderful play
by James Reaney entitled The Donnellys: A Trilogy. Erin, ON:
Press Porcepic, 1976.
And, of course, there is Stompin’ Tom
Connors’ song “Black Donnelly's Massacre” which I will
play for you in class.
A more thorough list of sources can be found at:
and at http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/donnellys/library/beyondthissite/indexen.html
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