By Geoffrey Abbott

From the Yorkshire Witch who used to be accused of homicide while a potion for strong healthiness became out to be deadly, to the girl who survived the gallows and took her empty coffin away along with her, this booklet comprises macabre actual tales of achieved girls from worldwide.

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COGHLAN, Margaret (Australia) It could hardly be expected that nineteenth-century Antipodean hangmen would be any more skilful or use longer ropes than their fellow tradesmen back home, and this was certainly the case where Solomon Blay, chief executioner in Tasmania from the 1840s to the 1890s was concerned, although it is believed that his performance did improve somewhat towards the end of his career. Having been found guilty in England of counterfeiting, he had been transported in a prison ship to that distant colony, no doubt volunteering to fill the scaffold vacancy rather than labour in the quarries or build roads in the penal settlements.

But a carpenter was sent for and a new gallows quickly constructed and erected. Giving her cloak and purse to a friend, Elizabeth then helped the hangman to position the noose around her daughter’s neck, afterwards asking him for a dram of strong drink, but he refused, saying that she had already had a couple of drinks earlier in the prison. After brief speeches, in which Mrs Branch swore that she had never intended to kill the deceased and begged for forgiveness, and her daughter Mary beseeched the crowd to pray for her, the halters around their necks tightened as the drop was operated.

Somehow she got her hands free and attacked the hangman, nearly stunning him. Then, turning to the crowds surrounding the scaffold, she tore off her hat and cloak and tossed them as souvenirs to the many outstretched hands. As she was doing so the hangman gathered his wits again and managed to drop the noose over her head – but rather than submitting to be slowly strangled (as usually happened at Tyburn), she threw herself over the side of the cart with such violence that her neck was broken, and she died instantly.

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