Philip Henry Holland was born into a family of solicitors and when he was 16 years old in 1801 he had enrolled in Trinity College, Dublin to join the family practice. By 1817 he was a practising solicitor in Limerick.


The trial of Elizabeth Brownrigg, who was hanged for murdering her servant by excessive beatings in 1767, was mentioned in Holland case.

Philip’s name first hit the court records as an accused in 1822, when he was brought to court by his brother Frederick, a barrister. He was accused of destroying their father William Holland’s, will in an effort to receive his father’s entire estate. He was subsequently found guilty by the court. By 1824 he was living in Lock Quay.

In 1828, Philip was living on Broad Street, married for the first time to Anna Russell, daughter of Hughes Russell. They had one daughter, Anne, the following year. This daughter passed away when she was two years old. His wife also died during the same period. Philip would later be accused of facilitating the death of his wife due to his meanness in paying for a doctor.

By 1835, Philip was operating two businesses, one in Limerick and the other at 12 Pitt Street in Dublin. In this year he married his second wife, Frances Stoney, the daughter of Andrew Stoney of Frankford, King’s County.

In the summer of 1839 the Hollands were in Dublin and visited the Protestant Orphan Union Society to enquire after two apprentice servants. Mary Anne Alcock (12) and Henry Pugolas (14) were brought forward as excellent candidates and were bound to the family on 31 July 1839. Henry Pugolas was originally from Wicklow, his grandmother was his nearest surviving relative. Mary Anne Alcock’s mother was alive and it is believed she was from Dublin.

The children spent a month with the couple in Dame Street, Dublin before returning to Limerick by the canal in late August. At the time the Hollands were living on the corner of Mallow Street and Pery Street facing the People’s Park and had no immediate neighbours.

The first night in Limerick was calm in the Holland household though the servant who had been taking care of the property was dismissed, never to return. The feeling in the household very quickly changed for the worse as Henry Pugolas later would testify:

“on the second day Mr. Holland beat him with a cane switch; it was a good thick size, as thick as his finger; he stripped witness of all his clothes and brought him to the very top room of the house … he was not beat more than once that day; he was beat on his back; Mr. Holland cut it; he gave more than one blow, but could not reckon how many; he did not say what he beat witness for; all he said was “may be you’d mind your business now”.

This was only the beginning of what would turn out to be daily systemic abuse by the pair.

“Mrs. Holland did nothing that day to him, but they both beat him the next day; Mr. Holland beat him in the same room; he tied his hands round his body, and then tied him to the bed; made him lie down and covered his head up with the blankets; his hands were tied the same as if there was a handcuff on them; Mrs Holland tied them in that way …. Mrs. Holland beat him with the cane switch until it was split … after the cane was broken, Mr Holland made a handle of it for a cat-o’-nine tails of whip cord, with twelve or fourteen lashes with knots on all of them, and then he tied it on the cane … they used to beat witness every day; Mrs. Holland said the horsewhip was too heavy for her to hold in her hands, and they bought a pennyworth of holly switches; that was a week or fortnight after the witness came there; Mr. Holland used to beat him every day with the horsewhip and the cane before they bought the switches”

Mary Alcock had a very similar testimony, though she was given reasons as to why she was being beaten:

“Mrs. Holland beat her the day after she got to the house in Mallow-street; she said it was for dropping a knife; she gave her a slap of hand in the face … she beat her the next day for not having the grate cleaned; she beat her with a thick cane on the back … it was up to the garret she took her; witness undressed herself; there was a bed in the room, and Mrs. Holland tied her down to the bed with a rope; she gave her several blows with the cane, which left her back in welts; her head was covered with a blanket, so that she could not cry out; was beaten that day again in about twenty minutes after … her back was in cuts and bleeding; nothing was done to cure it; on the next day Mrs. Holland beat her, for not having the stairs swept, and the kitchen and parlour cleaned, the carpet dusted and spread; couldn’t do them all … was beat again in the evening by Mrs. Holland for not having the potatoes boiled for dinner”

The children were rarely left alone in the house or alone with others from outside the house, but the abuse reached its peak after about three weeks and young Henry hatched a plan. He would tell the Hollands that he had sent a message to his family in Wicklow and that some of them were on their way to Limerick to kill the pair, giving the children time to run away. No such plan was made but it was enough to put Philip Henry Holland on high alert and he penned the following letter to the Orphan Society:

“Upper Mallow-street, Limerick, Sept. 20, 1839.
My Dear Sir – As you and the committee justly predicted, from the outrageous conduct of Henry Pugolas on the day of his being apprenticed, he has since my arrival here behaved in the most improper manner. He vows that he will not do anything but what he pleases, and that he will remain with no person but his grandmother. He tears and cuts his clothes and shoes to pieces, and breaks everything purposely he takes in is hands, and declares he will do so to put me to every possible expense. Independent of all this he is very dishonest, and privately conveys my potatoes, turf, coal, meat, and whatever else he can, out of my house to some friends who have followed him here. Under these circumstances it would be my wish to part with him, more particularly as I understand he has avowed his intention to Mary Ann Alcock of robbing me, and running away. You will therefore much oblige me by submitting those facts to the committee at their next meeting and informing me what is their pleasure I should do with him.
Believe me, my dear Sir, yours most faithfully, P.H. Holland”

The head of the orphan society Mr. Henn would rebuff this saying:

“The conduct of Pugolas was not outrageous, not did witness or any of the committee predict when he was bound, that he would behave in the most improper and outrageous manner.”

There was high tension in the house the following days. The beatings would continue and the Hollands began to accuse Henry of having relations with Mary Anne. They made the children swear separately on a bible that it was true. Though both children would deny this and the medical examination of Mary Anne would also prove this false.

Before the children had a chance to run away Henry’s good nature got the better of him and he gave a potato to a poor woman who came to the door. For this the Hollands had him arrested for stealing. While the police were in attendance at the house the children told of the murder plot and they were both taken to gaol on the 25 September 1839.

John S. Thwaites, Esq., M.D., would testify as to the state of the children when he saw them on the 26th of September:

“examined then then; found Mary Anne Alcock in a state of great debility and excitement; she was very severely beaten; there marks on her back, loins, thighs, and legs; there was a very considerable laceration on the right side of her seat behind; the left side was very much swollen and indurated; the palms of her hands were very sore; they appeared to be injured by the infliction of some blows; they were swollen and some parts of the skin was removed; she did not appear to be in such pain with her back as across her loins; she was obliged lie on her knees and elbows, from the great soreness of her back; the meaning of being indurated is, that the parts were hardened in such a way as to cause want of circulation; the principal part injured was her seat; the wounds on the back appeared as if it was beaten with some switch or cane; there were black and blue stripes along it; below the loins there was a very considerable laceration, and very deep; the laceration had the appearance of a soldier’s back after the punishment of flogging; the extent of the sore part was five or six inches square; it was through the skin – what we call the true skin; the external skin is very thin, and it reached into that part where the nerves are spread, and which is highly sensible; laceration is a tearing cut, but not a simple cut; was attending the girl until she was well, for three weeks; thinks her life was in danger;

Saw the boy Pugolas; he was more seriously injured than the girl; the principal part of the injury inflicted on him was his arms down to the elbow, round under the arm and on that side of his chest; his shoulder and arm and the left side of his chest were very much tumefied and black; he did not express and sensibility on touch; he had no feeling; the part was very much bruised, and the quantity of extravasation prevented him from feeling; both his hands were very much lacerated, swollen, and sore; his back, lions, thighs, and legs had black and blue mark; he lost his thumb nails ultimately, in consequence of the bruising stated his hands were in; there were some marks of punishment which were healed which he would supposed to be the effect of punishment from whip-cord; was a military doctor for many years; had many opportunities of seeing soldiers backs after punishment; his back was like theirs in a slight degree; there was more appearance of the part of the shoulder that was injured running into mortification than there was in the girl; his life was in danger; the marks had the appearance of recent injuries; that on his shoulder could not have been longer than a week inflicted; had it been otherwise, it would have either run into mortification or grown better; the girl had no itch or cutaneous disorder”

Following the first reports of the incidents in early October 1839 others began to come forward, to tell of their lives as servants in the Holland household, one of there was Margaret Dooly who case was as follows:

“The child was exceedingly delicate, and about twelve years of age. Her evidence, corroborated by that of her mother and two others, went to show that while she lived in the defendants service Mrs. Holland beat her with a thrush’s cage, and confined her from ten ‘clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening in a damp cellar; and that during the whole of that day she never gave the creature a morsel of food. It further appeared that when the child cried for food, Mrs. Holland grinned at her and said “the devil’s cure to you: I’ll leave you there ‘till I starve you” The beating caused lumps on the child’s head and a quantity of blood to flow from the cuts on her shoulders. It further appeared that Mrs Holland threatened to give the child three dose of julap if she told any one of the treatment she received.”

For this Frances Holland had to pay a bail of £50, and two securities of £25. This was going on while the pair were on bail £500 and two securities of £250 each to remain on bail awaiting trial for the injury they had caused to Henry and Mary Anne.

The trial of the Holland pair happened in March 1840 and they were found guilty and sentenced as follows:

“Philip Henry Holland and Frances Holland – You have been indicted in several numbers for that you did make an assault on one Mary Anne Alcock, she being a child of tender years, and a servant under the control of you, Philip Henry Holland, and with divers, whips, rods and cords did beat, assault, and wound the said child, so as to inflight grievous bodily injury on her; you have been also indicated for assaulting and wounding the said child and in a like manner for assaulting one Henry Pugolas and cruelly using him, so as to inflict on him grievous bodily harm, he being a servant and under the control of you, Philip Henry Holland.

You have been tried by a county jury of your own selection, and after an ample investigation, a most able and ingenious defence, a full and deliberated trial, you have been convicted in those several numbers of cruelly ill-using those children who were committed to your care, and whom it was your bounden duty to protect. I deeply regret to say, that you have abused that authority which the relation of master and servant conferred on you, as regarded your position with those poor children – a relation wherein the faithful discharge of its duties and obligations is of the deepest importance for the comfort, happiness and well being of society at large, and in that position wherein you have the great advantage of discharging those obligations which, when well and faithfully performed, produce the most grateful return in the kindly disposition and happy temper of those to whom they are rendered.

Whatever view we take of your conduct, whether in respect to the mere interest of the master to the improved condition of a large body of our fellow creatures- namely, our domestic servants- a class which I am sorry to say it is but too common to decry- who contribute largely to our comforts in this life, and bare a heavy share in its burdens- it is our duty to protect that class from caprices of temper, gusts of passion, and overbearing cruelty of domestic tyranny and unrestrained feelings, which would frequently be the means of inflicting on them cruel and unlawful punishment.

It is now my painful office to pronounce the sentence of the law. With respect to you, Philip Henry Holland, your offence is much aggravated by the circumstance of your countenancing and encouraging your wife in the commission of those acts of cruelty, instead of exercising that advice and wholesome restraint which your relation towards her counselled and admitted. The sentence of the court therefore is, that you, Philip Henry Holland, and you, Frances Holland, be each imprisoned for the space of nine calendar months and that you each kept one week in every six in solitary confinement, and that you Philip Henry Holland, do pay a fine to her Majesty of five hundred pounds.

The prisoners immediately resumed their seats without exhibiting a change of feature, except a faint smile, which was visible on the countenance of Mrs Holland.”

This was not the end of the tale, as the pair were extremely well connected in the world of law, their case was brought to appeal and it was found on the 9th June 1840:

“due to the addition of solitary confinement to the sentence the sentenced was reversed and the Holland’s were set free as solitary confinement was deemed an unlawful punishment for such a crime.”

The pair did not get away scot free though as the Orphan Society assisted the children in suing the couple in 1842 for the sum of £400 each.

This experience did not teach the Hollands a lesson as they were in court again in 1842, this time they were asking that the his servant Mary Connell be deprived of her wages of 6s 71/2d due to “having disobeyed her orders, and committed other acts not becoming a servant.” The servant did not appear.

In March 1858 In 1858 the Hollands were living in both Mallow Street and 9 Margaret Place, Dublin and that year Philip passed away in Mallow Street:

“The late Philip H. Holland Esq., of Limerick, died very wealthy. After providing for his widow, his estate descend to Captain Robert O’Grady, son of the late Henry Deane O’Grady, of Merrion-square, Dublin Q.C. Mr Holland left money to the Protestant clergymen of the parishes of St Mary’s, St. John’s, St. Munchin’s and St. Michael’s”

Frances Holland died 22 Feb 1867 in Dublin, her only surviving relative was her father Andrew Bigo Stoney of Frankfurt, Kings County (Will index) She died at 118 Pembrook Road, Dublin

There is very little recorded about the children after this incidence though there was a report of a death of a Henry Pujoras in 1878:

“May 16, at 21 Portland Row, after a long and painful illness. Mr Henry Pujolas, sincerely regretted by all who knew him. May he rest in peace. Internment to-morrow (Saturday) morning at nine o’clock sharp”

Sources: Dublin Evening Post 31 May 1817, Saunders’s News-Letter 09 August 1822, Pigot & Co. Directory (1824), Waterford Mail 15 November 1828, Dublin Weekly Register 12 December 1829, Limerick Chronicle 28 April 1832, The Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland, 1835, Wexford Conservative 19 August 1835, Limerick Reporter 04 October 1839, Freeman’s Journal 28 October 1839, Freeman’s Journal 3 March 1840, Connaught Journal Thursday, March 12, 1840, Limerick Reporter 29 January 1841, Dublin Evening Post 11 January 1842, Dublin Morning Register 10 June 1842, Limerick Chronicle 27 Feb 1858, Saunders’s News-Letter 05 March 1858, Freeman’s Journal 17 May 1878.The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year, Volume 81 edited by Edmund Burke