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Broadside entitled 'Horrible Confession!'


This broadside begins: 'A Full, True, and Particular Account of the LAST SPEECH, CONFESSION, and DYING DECLARATION of JOHN MURDOCK, (one of the Emigrants who lately left this country for America) who was Executed at Brockville, in Upper Canada . . . for the Horrible, Barbarous, and Inhuman Murder of his own Brother, by knocking him on the head with a large Axe, and afterwards Burying him Alive, while Cutting Timber in the Woods together.' The sheet was published in 1821, probably in Scotland. It is unusual for a story of this nature to travel so far.

These words were purportedly written by John Murdock, or Murdoch, although it is unlikely that he actually wrote the piece. The language is rather more elegant than would normally be expected from a poor convict. It is more likely to have been the work of an enterprising publisher. After detailing the grisly crime, and confessing that he wanted to kill his brother's wife also, 'Murdock' asks for forgiveness.

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: 1821   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(078)
Broadside entitled 'Horrible Confession!'
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