Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ruth Ellis : The Woman Who Hangs Today.

In memory of Troy Davis and all the Troy Davis' that are sure to follow until the madness of senseless exeuctions cease.

Daily Mirror: July 13th 1955. Cassandra (William Neil Connor) Ruth Ellis :The last woman to be hung in England
It’s a fine day for haymaking. A fine day for fishing. A fine day for lolling in the sunshine. And if you feel that way - and I mourn to say that millions of you do - it’s a fine day for a hanging.

IF YOU READ THIS BEFORE NINE O’ CLOCK THIS MORNING, the last dreadful and obscene preparations for hanging Ruth Ellis will be moving up to their fierce and sickening climax. The public hangman and his assistant will have been slipped into the prison at about four o’ clock yesterday afternoon.

There, from what is grotesquely called ‘some vantage point’ and unobserved by Ruth Ellis, they will have spied upon her when she was at exercise ‘to form an impression of the physique of the prisoner’.

A bag of sand will have been filled to the same weight as the condemned woman and it will have been left hanging overnight to stretch the rope.

IF YOU READ THIS AT NINE O’ CLOCK, then - short of a miracle - you and I and every man and woman in the land with a head to think and a heart to feel will, in full responsibility, blot this woman out.

The hands that place the white hood over her head will not be our hands. But the guilt - and guilt there is in all this abominable business - will belong to us as much as to the wretched executioner paid and trained to do his job in accordance with the savage public will.

IF YOU READ THIS AFTER ONE O’ CLOCK, the murderess, Ruth Ellis, will have gone.

The one thing which brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts of the field will have been denied her - pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.

The medical officer will go to the pit under the trap door to see that life is extinct. Then in the barbarous wickedness of this ceremony, rejected by nearly all civilized peoples, the body will be left to hang for one hour.

IF YOU READ THESE WORDS OF MINE AT MID-DAY the grave will have been dug while there are no prisoners around and the Chaplain will have read the burial service after he and all of us have come so freshly from disobeying the Sixth Commandment which says ‘Thou shall not kill.’

The secrecy of it all shows that if compassion is not in us, then at least we still retain the dregs of shame. The medieval notice of execution will have been posted on the prison gates and the usual squalid handful of louts and rubbernecks who attend these legalized killings will have had their own private obscene delights.

Two Royal Commissions have protested against these horrible events. Every Home Secretary in recent years has testified to the agonies of his task, and the revulsion he has felt towards his duty. None has ever claimed that executions prevent murder.

Yet they go on and still Parliament has neither the resolve nor the conviction, nor the wit, nor the decency to put an end to these atrocious affairs.

When I write about capital punishment, as I have often done, I get some praise and usually more abuse. In this case I have been reviled as being ‘a sucker for a pretty face’.

Well, I am a sucker for a pretty face. And I am a sucker for all human faces because I hope I am a sucker for all humanity, good or bad. But I prefer the face not to be lolling because of a judicially broken neck.
Yes, it’s a fine day.

Oscar Wilde, when he was in Reading Gaol, spoke with melancholy of ‘that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky’.

The tent of blue should be dark and sad at the thing we have done this day.