NOT far from the door of St Andrew’s church, Presteigne, is an oblong gravestone with an inscription which takes some beating for sanctimonious cant.

Despite being some 200 years old it is in good condition.

It says: “To the memory of Mary Morgan, who young and beautiful, endowed with a good understanding and disposition, but unenlightened by the sacred truths of Christianity became the victim of sin and shame and was condemned to an ignominious death on the 11th April 1805, for the murder of her bastard child.”

It goes on in similar vein referring to the humane exertions of her benevolent judge who sentenced her to death. Someone later erected another stone nearby with the following inscription: “In memory of Mary Morgan who suffer’d April 13th, 1805. Aged 17 years. He that is without sin among you let him first cast a stone at her.”


I was reminded of this by the June 29 account of the sentencing of Paris Mayo for the killing of her child. She was 15 at the time of the crime and was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years imprisonment. It seems not too much has changed in 200 years. Imprisonment may not be death but might seem like it to Paris Mayo.

At 16, Mary Morgan was an undercook for an important local family and became pregnant. No one assisted her and her employer was on the jury that found her guilty. There is even suggestion it was his son who made her pregnant.

Mary was hanged. After six months in prison living on a pound of bread per day she was so emaciated that hanging did not break her neck and someone was paid a shilling to pull her feet to kill her.



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