Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Mother of Seven Hanged

In 1874 a Bootle mother was hanged despite pleas for mercy, leaving seven children in the care of the workhouse.

Irish born Mary Williams lived in Raleigh Street with her husband, to whom she had been married ten years, most of them unhappily. She was regularly in trouble and in 1872 was sentenced to seven days imprisonment for non payment of a fine.

On 20th April 1874 Williams got into an argument with some female neighbours who set about beating her. The brother of one of the women was Nicholas Manning, who later that evening was seen in the street by Williams who threw cups at him, causing him to run away towards his father's house, shouting that he had never struck a woman in his life. Later on he was back and Williams produced a revolver from under her apron and fired it at him, before handing herself over to police and saying that she had done it and would do it again. Manning was taken to Bootle Borough Hospital where he died two weeks later.

Williams maintained at her trial that she had only intended to frighten Manning and not cause him harm, but she was found guilty of murder. Her husband, a 27 year old dock labourer, told authorities he was unable to cope and handed six of their seven children over to the Walton Workhouse (left, photo by Sue Adair). The youngest, aged just eight months, was allowed to stay with Williams in gaol until she had been weaned before going to the workhouse.

Despite numerous pleas, including by the Mayor of Bootle, for the sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment, the Home Secretary refused to grant a reprieve and there were heartbreaking scenes when Williams said goodbye to her children when they were brought from the workhouse to see her three days before the execution. Williams was hanged at Kirkdale Gaol on 31st August in a double execution with Henry Flanagan, who had killed his aunt. Williams was the first woman hanged at Kirkdale for 30 years.

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