A new book has just been published telling the gripping tale of a murder in rural Galloway that resulted in the last public hanging of a woman in Scotland.
Written by Kirkcowan author Jayne Baldwin, ‘Mary Timney, The Road to the Gallows’, will take you back in time to the Galloway of the 19th Century.
Three children, pupils at Penninghame Industrial School for Girls in Newton Stewart had their photograph taken at a local studio, something of a rarity in the 19th century but this small family was special.
Their gaze looks out still from the picture which now lies in the archives of Broughton House in Kirkcudbright, for the plight of these children, along with their elder sister, had become well known to the people of Dumfries and Galloway and beyond. Concern for their future welfare had been the last words on the lips of their mother, Mary Timney, as she was taken screaming to the gallows in Dumfries in April 1862.
The Timney children were crucial to the case against their mother as they were the only real witnesses to Mary’s role in the attack on her neighbour earlier that year. The eldest girls, Susan and Margaret aged just nine and seven, were key prosecution witnesses and despite their young age they were taken into court in Dumfries to testify against their own mother.
Susan was a reluctant witness but she was put under considerable pressure from the judge and prosecution advocate to implicate her mother in the crime of killing her neighbour Anne Hannah, whose family owned the farm cottage where the Timneys lived. The children were the only ones who had witnessed their mother leave the one room cottage to visit Anne Hannah in her farmhouse sixty yards away along the road that wound through the Glenkens north of Dalry. The relationship between the two women had deteriorated to such an extent in the weeks before the attack that Anne had insisted that the family would be evicted at the end of their tenancy that spring.
Mary always insisted that she never meant to kill Anne Hannah, that the horrific head wounds suffered by the older woman had been the result of a fight between them, but her initial denials and elaborate lies, including an attempt to blame her own mother, meant that the jury unanimously found her guilty after deliberating for only 20 minutes. The judge condemned her to death and despite pleading for her life to be spared, backed by a public
campaign for a reprieve, the 27 year old mother of four was executed in Dumfries in what proved to be the last public hanging of a woman in Scotland.
The tragic story of Mary Timney’s short life and dreadful death is told in a new book by Kirkcowan author Jayne Baldwin. Mary Timney, The Road to the Gallows, is available from local bookshops and from online retailers.