Solomon Blay “The Hangman”

Solomon Blay was found guilty in England in 1837 for the crime of counterfeiting coins at the age of 20. After serving time in hard labour he applied for the most hated position in the colony, the job of hangman.

The Gaoler’s residence: This is where Solomon Blay lived in Oatlands. He lived in a small room on the ground floor.

The Colony’s Executioner

Blay served in the role for 50 years, making him the longest serving hangman in the British Empire. He operated as hangman in Oatlands, Launceston and Hobart. Find out more about the History of Oatlands.

Between 1840 until 1891 Blay sent 206 prisoners to their deaths in his 50 year career as the most feared public servant in the colony. To receive a penalty of death, the prisoner would have been found guilty of crimes including murder, bushranging, rape or theft. Blay was a white-haired man in his seventies when he dropped his last victim through the trap and his name had become synonymous with the scaffold in Tasmania. 

However, no photos exist of this enigmatic man – He refused to be photographed, as he was already tired of being recognised in public. 

Tasmanian folk punk band The Dead Maggies wrote a frisky little tune about Solomon Blay. Take a listen.

The short drop was the standard hanging technique employed in Van Diemen’s Land. It usually resulted in people dying from strangulation rather than neck dislocation, which was a grim way to go. In some cases it could take people 15 minutes to die.

It was only in later years Blay adopted the long drop method that had been used in England for some time. The longer rope meant a quicker death from breaking the neck.

After passing on his trade to a new hangman, Blay retired alone and died in obscurity. He died in Oatlands in 1897 at the age of 80 and is buried in an unmarked grave at Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Check here if you missed the first Convicts of Van Diemen’s Land story about Billy Hunt: The Convict in Disguise.

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