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Broadside entitled 'The Only True Account'


This report begins: 'Of the execution of Catherine Davidson, who was executed at Aberdeen on Friday last, for the murder of her husband, by pouring vitriol down his throat; with the confession which she made. With an account of a remarkable circumstance which happened about 40 years ago at the execution of a woman in Aberdeen, when the executioner threw the rope among the crowd, which struck her on the breast.' This story was sourced from the 'Caledonian Mercury' of Monday Oct. 11, 1830, and the broadside was published by John Muir.

This broadside narrates the tragic story of Catherine Davidson, executed for giving her husband vitriol (sulphuric acid) to drink. It recounts how Mrs. Davidson conducted herself in the condemned cell, and also records her last words of 'Oh, my God'. The broadsheet then concludes by informing its readers that this was the first public execution of a woman in Aberdeen for 45 years. The fact that the previous woman was executed (in 1784) for stealing linen cloth and women?s clothes, illustrates just how harsh and repressive the 'Criminal Code' (known as the 'Bloody Code' in England) was in Scotland, from about 1660 to 1850.

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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Probable date of publication: 1830   shelfmark: F.3.a.13(54)
Broadside entitled 'The Only True Account'
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