70 years since Allen hang­ing

Rossendale Free Press - - Your Views -

STU­ART PIKE

SEVENTY years ago this week, Mar­garet Allen was hanged for a Rawten­stall mur­der at Manch­ester’s Strange­ways prison.

The body of 68-year-old widow Nancy Chad­wick was found early one Sun­day morn­ing in Au­gust 1948, bru­tally beaten and un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped on the town’s main road.

Bloody drag marks led from the corpse to the front door of num­ber 137 Bacup Road.

Fur­ther foren­sic ev­i­dence in­side that prop­erty led to the ar­rest of the oc­cu­pier, Mar­garet Allen, a for­mer bus con­duc­tress who ha­bit­u­ally wore men’s clothes and in­sisted on be­ing called ‘Bill’.

She im­me­di­ately con­fessed to the mur­der but could give no sat­is­fac­tory ●● Denise Bed­dows, au­thor of Odd Man Out ex­pla­na­tion as to why she had done it.

It is now seven decades on from 41-year-old Allen’s ex­e­cu­tion on Jan­uary 12, 1949.

Au­thor Denise Bed­dows has writ­ten a book which con­sid­ers whether the ver­dict and so­ci­ety’s treat­ment of ‘Bill’ would be any dif­fer­ent to­day.

Bed­dows said: “Fol­low­ing a failed cam­paign led by An­nie Cook, an at­trac­tive young woman who was the ac­cused’s only friend, and most prob­a­bly her lover, ‘Bill’ faced the gal­lows sto­ically, al­beit distressed at hav­ing been forced to wear women’s prison uni­form.

“A crowd of around 2,000 peo­ple gath­ered out­side the prison that bleak Jan­uary morn­ing to await the ex­e­cu­tion of jus­tice.

“The case at­tracted more scorn than sym­pa­thy, and sur­pris­ingly lit­tle pub­lic­ity, for this was a time when Mar­garet’s anoma­lous con­di­tion was lit­tle un­der­stood and the terms ‘trans­sex­ual’ and ‘trans­gen­dered’ had not yet been coined.

“A lone voice of protest was heard at the prison gates, that of life­long an­ti­hang­ing cam­paigner Vi­o­let van der Elst.”

She added : “In­ter­est in the case of Rawten­stall’s first ever mur­der, and the UK’s first ever trans­gen­dered killer, shows no signs of wan­ing.”

The mur­der scene has been trans­formed into Rawten­stall’s pop­u­lar vis­i­tor at­trac­tion and her­itage cen­tre, The Weaver’ s Cot­tage, and vi sit or­sih have been snap­ping up copies of Bed­dows’ book Odd Man Out from the cen­tre’s gift shop, as well as on­line.

Last Au­gust, on the an­niver­sary of the mur­der, d the hR Rossendale dl Civic Trust held an event at the Cricket Club op­po­site the cen­tre and lo­cal jour­nal­ist Cather­ine Smyth in­ter­viewed the au­thor about the case.

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