On May 11 1844 the midwife, Mrs Healy was called to Castlelodge House near Kinvara, Co. Galway to aid in the delivery of the child of Rev William John Burke and his wife Catherine. There was complications so the local doctor was called out who attended to Mrs Burke. The baby, was not delivered then and there but he helped to ease her discomfort and left before the birth.
The Burke’s who wanted to keep the birth of their child a secret as there was a great amount of animosity against them, since Rev Burke renounced his faith a few weeks previously. Fearing for their own safety and that of the child’s they kept a low profile and did not want the public to know about their child. As they were only married a month before in the Protestant Church it looked like it was a shotgun wedding. There were married the previous year in the Catholic Church, but that was not recognised by their ‘enemies’, and it was a good excuse to rally against the couple.
Rev William John Burke did not want to public to know about the child and asked the doctor, midwife and apothecary to take an oath (swear on the bible) to keep the birth a secret. Naturally the doctor would not disclose any information about his patients, but both the midwife and apothecary were sworn to secrecy. They kept their word but the news got out anyway.
Administering oaths was a serious act, which few people had the power to do, such as a the judge in a court of law. The authorities heard of the situation and Rev William John Burke was summoned to court.
Sadly the baby did not survive.