Friday, 1 January 2010

William Joseph Foy

William Foy was an unemployed labourer who lived rough with a woman, Mary Ann Rees, at the Ynys Fach Coke Ovens in Merthyr. On Christmas eve morning 1908 they argued seemingly over another woman.
Both had been drinking and Rees, who was nicknamed Sloppy, stormed out saying 'All right Joe, I know what it is. Its not me you want but Polly Gough.' Foy followed her and later confessed to a drinking companion that he had thrown Sloppy down an old shaft at the works.
After this Foy jumped at two police officers, asking to be locked up because he had murdered Mary Ann Rees:

'I have thrown Sloppy down the hole at the old works. She told me she was going to give me away for living on her prostitution. I've done for her, I'll show you where she is.'

The first thing discovered was a shawl (ladies scarf) and then the body of Mary Ann Rees at the shaft's bottom. As there was little or no doubt about his guilt, Foy was arrested immediately.
He tried to build a defence at his trial in Cardiff. According to him he had followed Sloppy when she left the room after the heated argument, and during a struggle to make her to return she slipped and fell into the pit. It was a weak defence and the guily verdict was inevitable.
Originally the date of execution was set for 20th April but was stalled after appeals. These however were turned down after Justice Darling declared that Foy's act was 'most deliberate and intentional murder.'

The South Wales Daily Post reported:

Foy, during his incarceration in the gaol displayed little emotion, even when his relatives visited him, and discussed football and other topics, spending some time also in improving his handwriting. He recieved the news of his refusal of commutation with resignation, saying he would meet his fate like a man.

William Joseph Foy did indeed meditate deeply on his actions and fate whilst at Swansea prison. He was baptised into the church by the gaol's chaplain and stated publicly that:

'Now that I have been forgiven all my sins, I shall not be afraid to meet God.'

As an ex soldier, Foy was not unfamiliar with death and was determined to die like a man. Aweek prior to execution he wrote to his family:

I am pleased to tell you that I am going to recieve my communion on friday. I can assure you that, with the help of God, I am quite resigned to my fate, as it is willed by him.'

Hundreds gathered at the prison on the morning of the 8th May. Inside, Foy suprised everyone and a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post noted:

Foy appeared with a cigarette in his mouth. He held it firmly and was unmistakably smoking, dressed in the evening clothes of a workman, collarless with the neck exposed. He sported a sprig of fern in his button hole. Foy held himself rigid, with his chest thrown out and to all appeared calm and collected. The only hint or token of wrought feelings was in the wild light in his eyes.

Henry Pierrepoint, the executioner, strapped the condemned's legs together and placed the white hood over his head. The cigarette bent but did not break.
When the bolt was drawn, William Foy fell six feet and death was instantaneous.

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