This crime report begins: 'Full and Particular Account of the Trial and Sentence of ROBERT SURRAGE and JOHN DEMPSEY, Privates in the 13th Regiment of Infantry, who are to be Executed at Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 13th December, 1820, for the Murder of Three Men in a Riot at Greenock, on the Evening of the 31st of July last.' The broadside was published by James Lindsay of Edinburgh and priced at one penny.
The author's transcription of the witness accounts, and the verdicts ultimately passed, suggest uncertainty about what really happened in this case. The witness reports suggest several confrontations, fights and pursuits taking place on the same night in Greenock , and although the soldiers appear to have been the aggressors, the individuals involved are not identified in the transcription of the witness accounts. The two 'Not Proven' verdicts, and the recommendation that one of the men convicted be shown mercy, suggest that the evidence and eyewitness accounts were not conclusive.
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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Date of publication:
1820 shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(13)
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