Gravesites Of Tasmania




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‘THE MERCURY’ 19th February, 1862

Yesterday morning, Margaret Coghlan, who was convicted at the last Criminal Sittings of the Supreme Court of the wilful murder of her husband, John Coghlan, suffered the extreme penalty of the law within the walls of the Hobart Town Gaol.

Since her condemnation, and up to Monday evening, she had been confined in the Female House of Correction at the Cascades, where she was assiduously attended by the Roman Catholic Bishop, the Rev. Mr. Hunter, the Sisters of Charity, and several other benevolent ladies.  

At nine o’clock, on Monday evening, she was removed to the gaol, accompanied by a female attendant, who remained with her until the hour of execution.  On her arrival at the gaol she was placed in the condemned cell, where she was visited by the Rev. Mr. Hunter, who stayed until a late hour of the night.  

Early yesterday morning the Roman Catholic Bishop, with the Rev. Mr. Hunter were again in attendance to administer the consolations of religion to the unfortunate woman, and they never left until it was all over.  

A few minutes before 8 o’clock the Under Sherriff, Mr. T.J.Crouch Esq. arrived at the gaol and when the clock struck he, together with Mr. Reidy, the governor of the gaol, proceeded to the small yard adjoining the condemned cells.  Margaret Coghlan then came out, she was much thinner than she was at the trial, and was clad in deep mourning, and most humanely, her eyes had been bandaged, before she was led out from her cell, so that she could see nothing that was passing around her.  Her face was blanched, and her lips were colorless; she also trembled greatly, so much so that she had to be supported, yet, nevertheless, in a loud voice she fervently uttered supplications for God to have mercy on her soul.  

The executioner quickly pinioned her, and then she was supported to the scaffold.  Here the dreadful preparations were soon completed, the prisoner all the time praying earnestly and audibly, until just as she uttered the words “Lord Jesus have mercy on me!” the drop fell, a thud succeeded and after some spasmodic struggles, the body was still, and the spirit of Margaret Coghlan had passed into the presence of The Eternal.

When the drop fell, the female who had been with Mrs. Coghlan and who had remained in the condemned cell, shrieked loudly, thus deepening the horror of the scene.

But few persons besides the officials and a small body of police were present, and although several collected outside the gaol, and some applied for admission, they were properly refused.  

The following statement signed by Margaret Coghlan a few moments before she was led to execution was handed to the representative of the Press by the Catholic Bishop

I acknowledge fully the justice of my sentence.  I deserve this, and a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for the horrible crime I have committed.  Drink, the curse that has been on me, strong drink, has caused all my misery-everything has been sacrificed for strong drink.  May God in mercy to my poor soul, for Jesus’ sake, have pity on me!  Oh, may all women in particular, take warning by my awful fate.  Oh, let all fear the hour of death.  Oh’ eternity, eternity!  Oh, that I had kept my pledge!  How fatal was the hour when I broke it.  I die in peace with all mankind.  May all forgive me whom I have injured, offended, or sandalised, by my evil living.  Oh! Jesus, in pity, have mercy and spare my poor soul, for thou alone art my refuge, and my hope.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

The Condemned Cell, 8 o’clock Tuesday morning 18th February

Margaret Coghlan (her mark)

Witness-Charles Allen Galt, Under Gaoler

After hanging the normal time, the body was cut down and taken to the General Hospital for dissection.





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