April 20th, 2016 Headsman
We’ve recently featured in these pages the very last hanging at Edinburgh’s old Grassmarket, scene of innumerable executions potent in Scottish history.
Beginning in 1785, public hangings were relocated to the Tolbooth, a medieval civic building that had been converted into a notorious prison — an era that was officially christened on this date in 1785 with the sacrifice of a juvenile delinquent.
the first person executed at the west end of the old city gaol, was Alexander Stewart, a youth of only fifteen, who had committed many depredations, and at last had been convicted of breaking into the house of Captain Hugh Dalrymple, of Fordell in the Potterrow, and Neidpath Castle, the seat of the Duke of Queensberry, from which he carried off many articles of value. It was expressly mentioned by the judge in his sentence that he was to be hanged in the Grassmarket, “or any other place the magistrates might appoint,” thus indicating that a change was in contemplation; and accordingly, the west end of the old Tolbooth was fitted up for his execution, which took place on the 20th of April, 1785.
Demolished in 1817, the Tolbooth survives today as a much-spat-upon heart design in the cobblestones marking the gaol’s former location.
On this day..
- 2017: Ledell Lee - 2017
- 1824: Three Bondy brigands - 2015
- 1963: Julian Grimau, the last casualty of the Spanish Civil War - 2014
- 1945: The children of Bullenhuser Damm - 2013
- 1954: Michael Manning, the last hanged in Ireland - 2012
- 1534: Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent - 2011
- 2004: Abdullah Shah, Zardad's dog - 2010
- 1994: Rwandan Queen Dowager Rosalie Gicanda, and six attendants - 2009
- 1622: Antonio di Nicolo Foscarini - 2008