Solomon Blay (20 January 1816 – 20 August 1897) was an English convict transported to the Australian penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (present-day Tasmania). Once his sentence was served, he gained notoriety as a hangman in Hobart, and is believed to have hanged over 200 people in the course of a long career spanning from 1840 to 1891. This made him the longest serving hangman in the British Empire.
Blay was born in Oxford and convicted of theft several times. After being involved in attempted counterfeiting (which was a crime punishable by death) he was sentenced and transported to Australia in 1836 aboard the ship Sarah.
He disembarked on 29 March 1837 at Hobart at 21 years of age, While still a convict he became a police constable in Brighton but lost the position due to lack of discipline with alcohol and was sent to a chain gang. He unsuccessfully tried to escape.
In 1840 he applied for the position of hangman and he performed his first hanging in at the age of 25. He married a young Irish convict named Mary Murphy but was a social outcast due to his work. He lived in Oatlands, and executed prisoners at the gaol there, but travelled all over Tasmania to execute prisoners. He used the short drop method of hanging for many years, which essentially kills by strangulation. Later he adopted the more humane long drop method.
In 1857 he received a full pardon on account of his usefulness to the government. He executed three women during his service the last in 1862 when he executed Margaret Coghlan, who stabbed he husband to death.
He often had difficulties obtaining transportation as some coachmen would refuse to transport him or his fellow passengers should shun him. As hangman he was paid a modest wage, a payment per hanging, and was entitled to keep the clothes of the prisoners he hung. With his wife he sold the clothes for extra income. He and his wife attempted to relocate to England but his identity was discovered and he had no choice but to return to Tasmania and plead for his job back.
He performed his last hanging at the age of 71 when he executed Tim Walker, an old man who had stabbed a prostitute to death.
In 1843 Martin Cash had been found guilty of the murder of Constable Peter Winstanley who was shot by Cash and died two days later. Cash was sentenced to death by hanging, but a last minute reprieve saw him sentenced to transportation for life at Norfolk Island. Solomon Blay could never understand why Cash should have ever been sent to Norfolk Island instead of the gallows. When Cash returned to Hobart after the closure of the Norfolk Island penal colony in 1854, the pair paths frequently crossed, when meeting, taunted each other with each other's discrepancies.
Cash in his memoirs wrote, Of all the wretches attached to or in the employ of Her Majesty's Government there are none so truly contemptible as the flagellator, and in all my experiences through life I never knew a man with one redeeming feature who ever filled that odious office. I generally found them to be treacherous, cruel, and cowardly . .
He died and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave at Cornelian Bay in Hobart.