DiscoverLady Killers with Lucy Worsley23. Jane and Ann Boyd - Secret Baby
23. Jane and Ann Boyd - Secret Baby

23. Jane and Ann Boyd - Secret Baby

Update: 2024-01-242


Lucy Worsley travels back in time to revisit the unthinkable crimes of 19th century murderesses from the UK, Australia and North America.

In this episode Lucy is joined by the Right Honourable Dame Siobhan Keegan, the Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, who was one of the first women High Court judges in Northern Ireland.

They explore the case of mother and daughter Jane and Ann Boyd, from a poor family living in Holywood near Belfast, whose lives are turned upside down when 19-year-old Ann is dismissed from her job as a domestic servant because she is pregnant and unmarried.

We worry a lot about lack of privacy today, about the invasiveness of social media, but Lucy discovers that in mid 19th century rural Ireland, in a very religious community, there was absolutely no privacy. The Boyd’s neighbours and extended family were in and out of each other’s houses all day, observing every detail of each other’s lives.

So when Ann goes into labour in the Boyd’s cottage, there is no way that Jane is going to be able to keep her daughter’s baby a secret.

Lucy is also joined by historian Rosalind Crone, Professor of History at the Open University. They travel to the Ulster Folk Museum near Holywood and discover the awful truth about how the shame of illegitimacy drove hundreds of Irish women every year to desperate measures to conceal their unwanted pregnancies.

Lucy wants to know what it was like trying to deal with an illegitimate pregnancy in a highly religious, judgemental society. How did the mid 19th century criminal justice system deal with women like Jane and Ann Boyd, and what might happen to women in a similar situation today?

Produced in partnership with the Open University

Producer: Jane Greenwood
Readers: Grace, Catherine and Margaret Cunningham, Jonathan Keeble,
Patrick Kelly-Bradley and William McBride
Sound design: Chris Maclean
Series Producer: Julia Hayball

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

New episodes will be released on Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts. But if you’re in the UK, listen to the latest full series of Lady Killers first on BBC Sounds. BBC Sounds - Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley - Available Episodes:









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23. Jane and Ann Boyd - Secret Baby

23. Jane and Ann Boyd - Secret Baby

BBC Radio 4