The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside entitled 'Dreadful Riot'


This report begins: 'Full and particular Account of that dreadful and bloody engagement which took place betwixt a party of Smugglers, and some men belonging to the Preventive Service, on Wednesday last, at St. John's Haven, when three men were most cruelly murdered.' A note at the foot of the sheet states that it was 'Printed for Fergus Ferguson, Bookseller'. Unfortunately, the sheet is not dated.

This broadside news report offers its audience an exciting glimpse into the criminal underworld, as it describes a violent struggle that took place between smugglers and excise men. It was certainly a bloody confrontation, with three smugglers being killed and seven excisemen being wounded. Frustratingly, the sheet does not specify the exact location of where this incident took place or when it happened. However, it seems highly likely that St John's Haven is an early version of Johnshaven, which is an isolated fishing village located on the Aberdeenshire coast. Combining the fact that the 'Preventive Waterguard' was formed in 1809 with the story's reference to the King, places the publication date of this sheet between 1809 and 1837.

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.

previous pageprevious          
Probable date of publication: 1825   shelfmark: F.3.a.13(35)
Broadside entitled 'Dreadful Riot'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland