1862: Shocking Execution of a Heartbroken Mother

It was a shocking murder, born out of a jealous rage and betrayal that led Mary Timney to gallows. She had no final words for her cheating husband whose actions would lead to the deaths of two women, one of whom was the last to be publicly executed in Scotland.

Her torment was made worse in a last but cruel hope of a reprieve snatched away at the death.

Here’s how the story was reported across the country.


On Tuesday morning Mary Read, alias Timney, was executed at Dumfries for the wilful murder of Anne Hannah, on the 13th January last. The deceased, Anne Hannah, lived with her two brothers at Carpshad, a small farm situate on the road to the famous Glenkins. About 50 yards from it was the cottage of the prisoner, who was the wife of a labouring man named Francis Timney. On the morning of the murder her two brothers went away, about nine o’clock, to work at a place three miles off, leaving the deceased alone.

About one o’clock a woman named M’Lellan, passing the deceased’s cottage, called, and found the deceased lying in pools of her own blood in the middle of her kitchen. It was found that the poor woman’s skull was fractured in four places, two of her ribs were broken, her arms were discoloured, and other parts of her body were wounded. A butcher’s knife was found on the floor covered with blood, and also a poker marked with blood and hair. The neighbours remarked to the prisoner that it was strange she had heard nothing of the murder; but said she had never been out of her house all day. Upon search being made in the house, however, clothes marked with blood were found tied in a dark loft, and some of the clothes which aim wore when accosted by the police were also stained. The bloodstained tartan dress in which the things found in the loft were wrapped was identified by the prisoner’s own children as that which she had worn on the morning of the murder. A wooden mallet which had been recently washed was found behind a meal-tub, marked with blood and hair. Before the murder the prisoner was without money; after it there was 7s. 7d. found in her house, and also some tea and sugar which were missing from the cottage of the deceased.

When apprehended the prisoner endeavoured to incriminate her mother, for whom, however, an alibi was clearly established. It appeared at the trial that on the morning of the murder the deceased’s brother lent the prisoner’s husband 2s. 6d. as he was going away to work. The deceased had formerly granted the prisoner small loans, but had lately refused to continue them. They had had differences about the prisoner taking away wood.

At the trial it will be remembered the prisoner made a heartrending appeal to Lord Deas when he was sentencing her to death, crying out, “Oh! my lord, dinna do that!” Give me anything but that!—let Lord send for me!” “O my weans!”

Lord Deas The Hanging Judge

After the prisoner was condemned to death strenuous endeavours were made in Dumfries to obtain a commutation of the sentence, that the town might be spared the sickening spectacle of execution. A general petition was sent to the Home Office bearing above 2,000 signatures, and one signed exclusively 3,187 women. Moreover a deputation of ladies waited upon Sir George Grey.

 Meanwhile the prisoner made a confession of her crime, assigning as the principal motive jealousy of the deceased, who she believed had acquired an influence over her husband. On Friday, official intimation was received that Sir George Grey saw no ground for interfering in the prisoner’s behalf, and the law would be allowed take its course. The last days of the miserable woman were distressing in the extreme. On Saturday the chaplain of the prison visited her, and told her that she must trust no longer to illusive hopes, but prepare to meet her doom. On hearing this she became fearfully agitated, and gave herself up to the utmost grief. She had three interviews with her husband, the last on Monday, when she took a farewell embrace of all her family. The parting of mother and children was extremely heartrending; but she showed little emotion towards her husband – thus going to countenance the report that they lived together on anything but good terms; in fact, he was her senior by 15 years. At night she fell into a hysterical fit, in which she remained some time.

Overnight, while the poor woman slumbered, the scaffold (which had been borrowed from Edinburgh) was hoisted above the wall of the gaol courtyard. By eight o’clock, Calcraft, with two assistants, entered the cell, and she was pinioned, at the same time sobbing and moaning without pause. Then the sad procession began the culprit being borne along by the two hangman’s assistants, and yielding herself to them like a child. There was no solemn prison bell, no Burial Service read.

Hangman William Calcraft

Taming an angle of the prison, she caught a first sight of the scaffold, and a shiver shot through her entire frame; she gazed wildly at the machine, exclaiming, “Oh ! let me rest a minute.”

This request was of course granted. Then the ascent to the scaffold began, the unhappy woman being lifted up step by step by her assistants, and calling out in frantic sobs, over and over again, “Oh! my poor weans.” Calcraft proceeded to perform his duty, when a cry of “Stop!” was raised.

A messenger came through the courtyard, in breathless haste, handed a letter to the governor of the gaol. Every one stopped, Calcraft included, and the attendants began to think that it was a despatch from the Home Office. When the governor had read it he handed it to the reporters, and for the benefit of our readers we give it in full..

Dublin Daily Express – Friday 02 May 1862

Enclosed was a telegraph frank for a message to the Evening Herald. The governor cried ! “Go on!” and the horrible proceedings were resumed.

The prison on the corner of Buccleuch Street. Since been replaced.

Between her two assistants the miserable woman was borne. She was so emaciated, so pale, so worn with her sufferings that, instead of looking like a woman of 27 years, she looked far more like an old woman of 70. Her cheeks were sunk; her head was bent down, though occasionally she reared it suddenly up to take a wild survey of the crowd below. Behind her, with a coil of new rope in his hand, came Calcraft, with his bushy white beard, and black velvet skull-cap. Calcraft took her cap off, and substituted one that carried in his pocket, which he drew over her face, she sobbing and talking wildly all the time. The rope was then fixed round her neck; but instead of having a crook at the other end of it so to link to the beam above, the hangman had to call for a pair of steps, which he ascended and thus tied the rope to the beam—an operation which took fully two minutes, the doomed woman standing shivering between her two supporters. But when this was done the rest is soon told. Calcraft and his men lifted her upon the narrow trap door, the bolt was drawn, and all was over. Calcraft was hooted and jostled at the station as he left at 11 15 a.m. He had a blooming wallflower in his black coat breast, and took all the hissing in good part.



Dublin Daily Express – Friday 02 May 1862 https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001384/18620502/092/0003



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