The last woman burned at the stake in Derry

The Foyle Family History Society are to present a lecture on the last person burned at the stake in Derry.

Entitled, Cicily Jackson: Petty Treason or Postnatal Depression the lecture will be delivered by Mr. John Thompson of the University of Ulster.

In 1725, a servant to the Anglican Bishop of Derry, Cicily Jackson, was burned at the stake. The horrendous event occurred outside Bishopsgate on March 17, and was deemed punishment for the murder of her own child.

Cicily was the last person known to have suffered this cruel fate.

According to John Thompson: “Burning at the stake was intended as a particularly cruel form of execution specially reserved for those woman who had been convicted of the crime of “Petty Treason.”

“In this case the sentence was the Petty Treason of infanticide.”

Petty Treason might also include the killing of a husband, mistress or master and was viewed as the ultimate betrayal of trust, made all the worse for being carried out by a woman.

In seeming contrast to this cruel barbarity, the Bishop served by Cicily was William Nicolson, Bishop of Derry (1718-1727).

Bishop Nicolson was widely regarded as one of the most educated clerics of his generation boasting an extensive personal library in his home in the city.

Notable also was the Dean of Derry in 1725, George Berkeley, renowned cleric, philosopher and patron founder of the famous American University, named in his honour.

In this talk, local historian, law lecturer, barrister and broadcaster, Mr. John Thompson, will re examine the Cicily Jackson case. As well as arguing the case for postpartum (postnatal) depression, not petty treason, Mr. Thompson will investigate whether Cicily Jackson was also a victim, asking: ‘Was she sentenced to death to silence the real truth behind the birth and murder of her natural child?’

All this will be examined and re-examined against the political and moral climate of 1725 Ireland.

Mr. Thompson will also seek to launch a campaign with a view to achieving a posthumous pardon for Cicily Jackson and erecting a memorial adjacent to the place where she was put to death.

The talk will take at the Central Library on Monday March 5 from 7.00pm. Admission is free and tea and coffee will be provided.