1869: Patrick Whelan, Canada’s first assassin?

2 comments February 11th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1869, Irish immigrant Patrick Whelan was hanged at Ottawa’s Nicholas Street Gaol for the assassination of Canadian politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

McGee, a Father of the Confederation — Canada as a self-governing dominion was only months old when he was gunned down in Ottawa — was the first politician assassinated in the country, and for a century more, the only one. He may have been a sort of proto-Michael Collins, shot by onetime fellow-travelers in the Irish nationalist movement for going legit with the English.

It’s an open question whether the tailor convicted of his murder was actually one of them. Whelan, like McGee, was an Irish immigrant and supposedly a Fenian sympathizer. He also matched the gunman’s description.

Whelan was snatched up within 24 hours and convicted on essentially circumstantial evidence.

Hanged in a snowstorm before thousands, he maintained his innocence to the end — a plea that has had its advocates in posterity, including a high-profile recent play. Whelan bolsters his own case by haunting the jail where he met his fate … a structure which still stands today, now serving as a (singularly atmospheric) hostel.

Whelan is sometimes reported as the last man publicly hanged in Canada, although apparently he is not. (Officially, that honor belongs to Nicholas Melady.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Assassins,Canada,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Notable for their Victims,Public Executions,The Supernatural,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , ,


March 2018
« Feb    



Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!

Recent Comments

  • Sharon: My great grand mother was born in 1869 and was called Mary Ellen Peace, her grandfather was born in 1817 and...
  • Sharo.n: In 1859 Charles married a widower Hannah Ward. Who had a son. Together they had a daughter called Jane
  • Donna Finnegan: Kathleen Jukes. My family are also related to Richard. We are trying to work out where in our...
  • Anthony: Delaware never used a lethal injection machine. While they had bought one in 1987 when they first ordered a...
  • Curt Kastens: You can add Walterr Süskind. According to the German Wikipedia he died in Auschwitz on Feb. 28 1945....