This report begins: 'Last speech of MARGARET CUNNINGHAME before her exeution, Who was executed at the west end of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 7th of January, for the horrid crime of poisoning John Mason, her husband, in February last, and her body given for Dissection.' The name of the publisher is not included on this broadside.
This broadside tells the unhappy tale of Margaret Cunningham, who was executed in 1807 for poisoning her husband. As she was pregnant at the time of her trial in Perth in May 1806, sentence was postponed and an interlocution announced. This reprieve was merely temporary, however, and she was sentenced to death in November 1806. After describing her good upbringing and mentioning that much of the blame for her tragic predicament lay with her secret lover, John Skinner, the sheet concludes with a hellfire warning to others that there is no hiding place from God.
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:
1807 shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(2)
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