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
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
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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