Ireland allowed women to be involved with executions and two were.  It is reputed that in 1780 a middle aged woman from Co. Kerry called Elizabeth Dolan or McDermott was sentenced to death at Roscommon for the murder of her son.  The town’s normal hangman did not turn up for the execution of Elizabeth and her 24 fellow condemned prisoners who were members of the “White Boys” so Elizabeth is reputed to have said to the sheriff “Spare me, yer Honour, spare me and I'll hang them all.”  As in law he would have had to have performed the task himself if no one else could be found, the sheriff agreed.  Elizabeth executed her fellow criminals and was appointed Roscommon’s hang-woman and given a room of her own in the goal.  She is thought to have operated there from about 1780 until her death in 1807.  Her own death sentence was commuted in 1802.  As was normal throughout Britain at the time executions moved from a place outside the town to the jail itself which is in a large square in the town.  The new gallows consisted of a hinged lap board for the prisoners to stand on set under an iron bar attached to the prison wall outside her third floor window.  When the prisoner(s) were prepared the board was released from inside the prison by withdrawing the bolt allowing them a short drop.  Similar arrangements were used elsewhere, e.g. Kilmainham jail in Dublin.  Elizabeth became known as “Lady Betty” and allegedly drew charcoal sketches of her victims.  Her name was used by parents to frighten their misbehaving children.

Probably the most unusual assistant was Tom Kellett’s. Kellet operated in Ireland c. 1829 as executioner for the NW Circuit and married a 16 year old girl who became his assistant!

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