The Hastings Murder
A Follow Up
In the June 2008 Beacon, there was an article from The Globe, Dec. 10, 1862 about the murder of William Ross Munro.
The Hastings Murder
(from The Globe, Dec. 10, 1862)
On Monday last Richard and Mary Aylward were executed for the murder of one WILLIAM ROSS MUNRO in the township of Monteagle on 18th May last. The Aylward’s lived directly opposite their victim and the families did not appear to be on very good terms with one another. One difference led to another until finally we hear of the fatal quarrel that led to Munro’s death.
From the evidence of young Munro it appears that on the 16th of May some of their hens had strayed over to Aylward’s farm and that they heard a shot fired on Aylward’s farm about four o’clock in the afternoon; when they came home Mrs. Munro told them that one of their hens was missing. Both father and son went over to Aylward’s to see what had been done with the hen. Aylward denied any knowledge of the hens but proceeded with Munro to the field carrying with him a gun.
While proceeding to the field, a scuffle ensued between Aylward and Munro, the latter seizing the gun, when Aylward drew from his trouser pocket a pistol which Munro kicked out of his hand and told his son to pick it up, which he did and young Munro on rising saw Aylward standing over him with the gun pointed at him. He at once threw himself at the feet of Aylward who fired; the contents of the gun taking effect on his back from which 26 pieces of lead were subsequently extracted. During this time or while Munro and Aylward were scuffling Mrs. Aylward came up with a scythe inflicting a blow upon Munro’s head and arms which caused death.
No one swore to having seen Mrs. Aylward inflict the blow and it was only her behaviour subsequently that caused her conviction, she having boasted of inflicting the fatal blow and gloating over the fact that she had finished old Munro while Aylward had shot young Munro, in proof she produced the scythe still reeking in the blood of her victim. It also transpired in the evidence that Aylward and his wife had a short time previous to the murder proceeded to a neighbour’s and ground the scythe and it was also sworn that Aylward had upon the day of the murder taken the scythe from the cradle of his own house, sharpened it, and then told his wife that if Munro came and he (Aylward) should require her assistance she was to “use that”.
The evidence also shows that she had upon different occasions after the deed was committed boasted of having perpetrated the act and declared “She only wished she had given him another blow and finished him at once”. She also in boasting of what she had done said, “I lifted up the scythe and struck him on the head and as that did not do I gave him another cut; Dick shot young Baldy and if he is not dead I hope he is”. She said she did not mean to strike him on the head but on the neck and cut his head off, and showed with the gun how she intended to do it. When told that Munro was very bad she answered, “May God Almighty increase his pain”, and when told it would cause her trouble she replied, “It will not cause me any trouble and if it was to be done over I would do the same again”. It was such evidence that induced the jury to return a verdict of guilty.
Up to within the last ten or twelve days, neither of the unhappy prisoners thought that the dreadful sentence of the law would be carried into execution, and it was no doubt hope of reprieve that made them so indifferent to their spiritual condition. Ever since their incarceration in gaol both Aylward and his wife freely admitted having committed the murder, but justified themselves on the grounds that the Munro’s had been the aggressors. But since the last hope of reprieve had died away and the fearful doom which so surely and shortly awaited them stared them in the face they set themselves to work in earnest in making preparations to meet their offended God. In this they were assisted by the Rev. Mr. Brennan and several ladies and gentlemen connected with the Roman Catholic Church who were most unremitting in their attentions to the spiritual wants of the unhappy prisoners. In the past week they expressed themselves perfectly resigned to their fate.
The sentence was carried out on Monday, the 8th December, 1862.
William Ross Munro, 1806-18 May 1862, m. Christina McNabb. He was the son of Alexander Munro & Mary Ross, grandson of William Munro & Isabella Finlay, and related to many past and current CMAC members.
One of those descendants, Isabel Wilson, has sent a photo (below) of a reunion of some of the descendants of William and Christina Munro, in Aug. 2010, and notes that there are two published books which refer to the murder:
Instruments Of Murder, by Max Haines, Penguin Group Canada, September 30, 2005
In Instruments of Murder, his twenty-sixth book, the inimitable Max Haines describes more than fifty shocking crimes from around the world-many committed with the least likely of instruments.
(William Munro was killed with a scythe)
Deadly Women of Ontario: Murderous Tales of Deceit and Treachery, by Cheryl Macdonald, James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers, July 7, 2010.
Crimes of passion, brutal slayings, infanticide, and revenge: here are eight gruesome and often tragic stories of women accused of murder. (including Mary Aylward)
© The Clan Munro Association of Canada