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Broadside entitled 'The Gilmerton Murderers'


This report begins: 'Here you have the Melancholy and Penitent Address to the Public, by David Dobie and John Thomson, dated from their Cells in the Calton Jail, where they are now awaiting the execution of their sentence on Wednesday morning next ; and also, an affecting Letter written by David Dobie to his Wife.' Printed by Forbes and Owen, Edinburgh.

Part of a long sequence of broadsides dedicated to a murder that occurred near Gilmerton in 1830, this sheet includes a letter apparently written by Dobie to his wife, followed by a joint lamentation and confession to the public that the two prisoners seemingly wrote. While Dobie's simple and touching letter to his wife reads true, the verbose and exaggerated literary style of the joint lamentation is not perhaps the tone of writing one would normally associate with lowly carters, and contrasts sharply with the reported spoken words of the two men. It seems likely that the printer hired a hack writer to compose this piece, in the sure knowledge that crime broadsides sold the most copies.

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: 1830   shelfmark: F.3.a.14(64)
Broadside entitled 'The Gilmerton Murderers'
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