Mary Williams.


Irish born Mary Williams lived in Raleigh Street, Bootle with her husband and seven children.  The couple had been married ten years, but it was not a happy relationship.  She was regularly in trouble with the law and in 1872 was sentenced to seven days imprisonment for non payment of a fine.  Raleigh Street was a rough area of Bootle and there was plenty of drunkenness and fighting.


One such fight broke out on the afternoon of the 20th of April 1874 when Mary was fighting with two sisters and the husband of one of them.  They “had her down by the hair of the head and were beating her on the ground”.  Although Mary managed to escape, she was simmering with rage and seeking revenge.


Later that evening she saw Nicolas Manning, who also lived in Raleigh Street, as he passed her home.  He was the brother of one of the two women who had fought with her.  She threw a cup at him which hit him on the forehead before smashing on the pavement.  Manning maintained that he had had nothing to do with the attack and had never hit a woman in his life.  A little later he passed by Mary’s home again and she grabbed a pistol went out into the street and shot him in the shoulder. He died in hospital on the 3rd of May, from blood poisoning.  Mary was apprehended at the scene and told police “I had done it and would do it again”.  She was originally charged with wounding him but this was upgraded to murder when Manning died.  Nicolas Manning was able to give the police a statement from his hospital bed, confirming that it was Mary who had shot him, but that he had never attacked her.


Mary Williams was tried at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool on the 13th of August 1874, before Mr. Justice Archibald on the murder charge.  She maintained that she had not known the gun was loaded and had only intended to frighten Manning.  The judge referred to the events in Raleigh Street as “a great scandal and disgrace”. He instructed the jury that they could bring in a verdict of manslaughter if they believed that Mary only intended to frighten Manning or that they could bring in a verdict of guilty to murder if they agreed that she intended to kill him.  The jury chose the latter and Mary was convicted and sentenced to death.


There were considerable efforts to get a reprieve for Mary, including one by the mayor of Bootle, presumably on account of her being a mother of seven children.  This agitation was as usual ignored by the Home Office, as the murder was by shooting which was considered to be especially premeditated. Of the 41 women hanged in England and Wales between 1868 and 1955, only two were convicted of shooting their victims. The other one being Ruth Ellis.


Mary was hanged by William Marwood at Liverpool’s Kirkdale prison on Monday, the 31st of August, 1874. With her on the gallows was 22-year old Henry Flannigan, who had been convicted of attempting to rape and then suffocating his aunt, after which he robbed her.  She was the first woman to be hanged within the walls of Kirkdale.


It was reported that Mary continued to protest her innocence on the gallows whilst Flannigan was silent and appeared to be in a stupor.  She shook hands with a matron (a female warder) and told her “Good bye and God Bless you all” and then recited several prayers as the two were being prepared.
Marwood gave them each a drop of about five feet and death came quickly with witnesses only observing some convulsive twitching of her legs, visible below the black drape of the gallows.


Sadly the seven children were sent to the workhouse, as their father could not take care of them and work.  There was no Social Security in those days and no Social Services to support him.


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