Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I Missed the Auction

After spending over a year reading books, letters and newspaper articles about the infamous Mary Ann Cotton and basically being haunted by that picture I"m disappointed I couldn't get to the auction in Leyburn, North Yorkshire to see her last desperate letters from prison auctioned off.
Not that I wanted to buy them.  I've already read most of them.  I wanted to see who was interested in these sad mementos of a tragic life.
The Old Execution Yard
A Yorkshire dealer bought the letters for 2200 pounds.  A fortune compared to the insurance payments of 30 pounds here and 8 pounds there that Cotton collected on the death of several husbands and numerous children.
I don't pass judgement on her in my novel, Unnatural.  The Victorian press did a good job of that already.  In fact she's not the main character.  I was more interested in how the people at the time reacted to her crimes.
Durham Prison: the original building
  Maybe she didn't commit all the murders or maybe she did poison every last one of those 22-24 people (including her mother).
But I can say I did come to some kind of understanding of her motives.
She was born just around the corner from my grandmother's street close to my uncle and auntie's house.
That's what originally drew me to the story.
Funny thing is it hasn't left me. Sometimes I still wake up at night  expecting to turn over and see a small figure standing at the foot of my bed.
She has a black bonnet tied under her chin with a ribbon, a checkered shawl round her shoulders, black hair parted in the centre of her pale forehead, a slack mouth and blank, expressionless eyes.

Link to auction info:

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