Monday, 11 January 2010

'Big Dan' Sullivan - Executed 6th September 1916

Daniel Sullivan (known in the village of Dowlais as Big Dan) was a coker at Dowlais Iron & Steel works near Merthyr Tydfil. He was a renowned heavy drinker and for being violent and very aggressive when under the influence of drink.
On the evening of 8th July 1916, Big Dan had been imbibing heavily at the Antelope Inn. When he left the pub he took with him a bottle of rum which the landlord, Daniel Edwards, had sold him. (Edwards was later fined £20 and sentenced to 28 days in jail for selling alcohol after hours).
When he arrived home in the early morning, Sullivan demanded to know the whereabouts of his wife, Catherine. His step-daughter, Bridget, told him she was asleep in the bedroom, but Dan, enraged from drink, pulled his wife from the bed, demanding she cook him supper and kicked her into the kitchen.
The Merthyr Express reports that:

The woman must have been unconscious the whole time because she never screamed or made any attempt to defend herself. When the police arrived they found Catherine in a pool of blood on the floor. Sullivan had hid himself in the fowl house.

Sullivan's step-son had called the police, after first running to neighbours, finding no answer, then hurrying to the police station.
Big Dan always wore heavy, nailed boots, the type cokers wore at the steel works and he did horrendous damage to his poor wife. It seems he literally kicked her to a bloody pulp, her body being bruised, battered and bloodstained from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.
The step-daughter, Bridget, gave evidence at the trial saying that Sullivan had dragged his wife from the bed and began to kick her almost at once, shouting 'there'll be a corpse leaving the house tonight.' Bridget, who was aged just nine, had fled the scene.
The jury retired for barely half an hour before returning with a guilty verdict. Big Dan commented simply. 'I am not guilty.'
A petition was drawn up for a reprieve but the Home Secretary saw no reason to interfere with the courts decision.
Sullivan was executed at 9am on Wednesday 6th September at Swansea prison. He had spent his last night quietly and awoke early to receive the last ministrations of Father Eggerton, the Roman Catholic chaplain. He went peacefully and with resignation to meet his fate.

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