Paul Kirby, author of Mary Aylward, first in a series of Hastings County books, left folks who braved the wind and ice to attend last Thursday's Hastings County Historical Society meeting, scratching their heads over a number of challenging questions.
Was Mary Aylward guilty?
Should her husband have been brought to trial?
What part did religious intolerance play?
Did Mary suffer from post-partum depression?
Were the couple tried in the public press rather than the courts?
What motivated crowds to gather for public hangings?
Would we do so today - how thin is the veneer of civilization?
And...why did the chicken cross the road?
|Paul Kirby flanked by Donna Fano and Orland French|
Kirby painted a vivid picture of the public hanging, which brought a crowd of five to six thousand people to the area around the old court house (this in a town of half that number) to view the spectacle. The young woman dressed in white, her husband beside her, prayers with Reverend Mr. Brennan, and their death struggles before thousands of curious impassive spectators, all painted a chilling picture. Was justice done? The issue remained in the public eye and in the press for a long time.
Thanks to Paul Kirby, the story of the Aylwards is once again in our hearts and minds.