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

Broadside entitled 'Execution of William Leonard Swan'

Commentary

This account of an execution begins: 'a particular Account of the Behaviour and Execution of WILLIAM LEONARD SWAN, at Glasgow, on Wednesday the 16th May, 1821, for ultering two Forged Five Pound Notes of the Paisley Banking Company, in the month of November last.' It was published by John Muir of Glasgow and is dated 16th May 1821.

The sentence of death for forgery appears very harsh, but the judge's decision was probably swayed by Swan's earlier trial for a similar crime where, despite being acquitted, he was warned that the suspicion against him would not be forgotten. The report records that Swan's appeal to the Secretary of State failed because a recent forgery case in Stirling had also resulted in the death penalty. This is a reference to the case of John Fleming, who was executed at Stirling five days before Swan for issuing a forged 5 note.

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          
Date of publication: 1820-1821   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(021)
Broadside entitled 'Execution of William Leonard Swan'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland