This report of an execution begins: 'A Full and Particular Account of the Execution of WILLIAM THOMSON, Labourer, who was Executed this day, Thusday, 1st March 1827, at Dalkeith, for Highway Robbery; together with his Behaviour since his condemnation, and at the place of Execution, as also his Last Words on the Scaffold.' The broadside was published by William Henry. The place of publication is not given.
The hanging of William Thomson in Dalkeith was unusual, especially as he had been held in Calton Jail in Edinburgh. Commonly people who committed capital crimes so close to Edinburgh would have been hanged in the city itself, either in the Grassmarket or at the head of Libberton's Wynd. It may be that the nature of Thomson's offence dictated his fate: often highwaymen were hanged at the scene of their crime, and their bodies left there in gibbets as a warning to other potential highwaymen. In this case, however, although Thomson was hanged at the crime scene, his body was taken down and given to his friends for burial.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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