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Location: Dublin, Ireland

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Stop 6: The Hanging House: 1893 - 1910


4 Hangings:
• Patrick Reilly, 1893
• Edward Leigh, 1893
• James Reilly, 1893
• Joseph Heffernan, 1910


Patrick Reilly (55) 1893
(details of murder and exact date of execution unknown as they do not appear in the book by Steve Fielding, (Hangman’s Record) and it is unlikely to have been a double hanging with Edward Leigh, as though Leigh is mentioned in passing by the report on James Reilly’s execution in The Freeman’s Journal, Patrick Reilly is not.

Edward Leigh (23), July 10th, 1893
For murder of an elderly woman named Bridget Knight, who was found stabbed to death in her home on the outskirts of Dublin. The jury recommended mercy for Leigh on account of his youth.

James Reilly (35), September 2nd, 1893
Facts of the case:
In Stepaside, about 4 miles away from Dublin, after meeting a man named Cox in a local bar. He learned that Cox was an insurance agent and believed he would have a lot of money on him from collecting insurance that day.

Reilly made no confession to the murder, but the evidence heard at the trial suggested that he had set upon Cox with an Iron bar

The track across the grass where Cox was murdered suggested to investigators that he was initially knocked unconscious but came to as Reilly was dragging him across a field perhaps believing him dead and looking for somewhere to put the body.

Cox had most likely put up a significant fight judging by his broken fingers and the injuries on his arms. By the conclusion of the act, Cox had his jaw smashed and his skull broken open. His attacker had literally battered his brains out.

The Execution of James Reilly
Spent most of the night and morning before the execution in a state of trembling and collapse and was unable to dress himself without assistance when he was called to attend mass at 6 in the morning: his execution being set for 8 (which at this time was traditional).
Mass at 6.
The bell tolls its death knell at 3 minutes to 8 and the procession to the gallows begins:

Deputy Governor
Prison Surgeon
A number of warders: (4 to 6)

James Reilly had to be helped walk by the priests. There was at this time an invention which amounted to an upright trolley which could be used if the prisoner could not support their own weight at the time of execution. It was not used in this case.
He was hanged by Thomas Henry Scott.

Little known about Scott as a Hangman
Scott was from Huddersfield in Yorkshire, and his first job was in Londonderry where a large crowd pelted him with rotting vegetables as he made his way to the prison.
Period of office 1892 - 1901.


Joseph Heffernan, January 4th, 1910
For the murder of Mary Walker in Mullingar.

Mary Walker had worked in the local Post office in Mullingar for 8 years, had befriended Heffernan and managed to secure him a job in the post office where she worked. It seems Joseph Heffernan was fired from this job for reasons unknown in matter of months.

Around this time Heffernan was trying to develop his relationship with Mary Heffernan into something more intimate than just casual friends and work colleagues.

On July 7th 1909, Joseph left his lodgings early as he said he was going to a nearby farm to seek work. He did not return until very late that night, in an advanced state of intoxication, and when his landlady asked him where he had been all day, he told her that he had witnessed the murder of a girl down at the Great Bridge.

The landlady assumed (and presumably hoped) that this entire story was a fabrication inspired by his drunkenness, but became suspicious when the next day she asked Joseph to fix a broom handle and he produced a blood-stained pen-knife to do the job.

As news of the discovery of Mary Walker's body circulated, having been found at 11pm the night of her death with her throat slit from ear to ear, the landlady reported him to police who found that Heffernan matched the description given by a witness of the man who was seen arguing with Mary Walker, just prior to her death.
At his trial, Heffernan's defence tried to plead insanity.


Real name unknown
To be collected for his interview at Kingsbridge Train Station:
Described what he would be wearing and said “I shall go towards the engine, and remove my hat and rub my forehead for a moment”

Went to Strangeways prison for an execution in February 1945.
On first entering the empty hanging house “Johnson” turned pale.
Pierrepoin (albert) described him as “old and short and timid” in his book.

He was asked to do a hanging in 1946 about a year and nine months later, he expressed grave reservations and said he would have to observe more executions before he could do one himself without assistance. This prisoner got a reprieve.

Johnson then came to Mountjoy in March 1947 for the execution of Joseph McManus. Pierrepoint was supposed only to be supervising Johnson, but as Johnson had appeared to have forgotten all of his training, Pierrepoint took over the hanging completely.


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