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Broadside concerning the execution of William Burke


An account of the Last Moments and Exe -
cution of William Burke, at Edinburgh,
for the west Port Murders.

This day, Wednesday 28th Jan.
1829. William Bnrke underwent the
last sentence of the law, for the mur-
der of Mrs Docherty, one of the vic-
tims of the West Port Tragedies.
At an early hour the spacious street,
where the scaffold was erected, was
crowded to excess, and all the win-
dows which could command a view,
were previously bespoke, and high
high prices given for them.

Burke was aged 33 years, was
born in the parish of Orrey county of
Tyronne. He received good educa-
tion for one of his rank, he was ori-
ginally brought up a weaver in Stra-
ban, but tiring of that employment
he became a baker. He atterwards
enlisted in the Donegal Militia, in
which he served five years; during
most of that time he was servant to
one of the officers, and acquitted him-
self so well, that he gained the ap-
probation and respect of allwho knew
him. He married during that time
a woman in Bellinha, county of
Mayo, by whom he had two children,
who are dead, but his wife still sur-
vives in Ireland. When his regiment
was disbanded, he deserted his wife,
and children, and came to Scotland,
and picked up from the streets of
Glasgow the woman McDougal, with
whom he has since co-habited ; she
was a common prostitute, although
her husband at that time was alive.
He engaged as a labourer on the
Union Canal, and has resided in
Edinburgh about 11 years, but has
been occasionally absent.

Burke was one of the most singu-
lar criminals ever consigned to the
scaffold.    He was considerably su-
perior in education to his own class
of his countrymen, and was just pos-
sessed of so much knowledge as should
make the harrowing recollections of
a series of murders drive him to the
borders of dispair.    He was a man of
remarkably firm nerve, and although
only a few days divided him and a
painful death, he strived to be per-
fectly   calm; he even laughed, and
attempted to talk over the murder
of his victims with as much garrulity
and   indifference   as   a   shopkeeper
would over his losses in trade, or the
good bargains he has made, but yet
he candidly confessed that he felt the
full horrors of his situation; he was
always caught weeping bitterly, and
inyoluntary but heavy sighs escaped
him in conversation.    He paid par-
ticular attention to the instructions
of his priests, and was dilligent in his
preparation for the awful change he
has since undergone.    He was very
communicative, and freely made con-
fession of his former guilt ; while ex-
amined    by the    Solicitor   for   the
mother   of   Daft.    Jamie,   to   pro-
cure evidence against Hare, he de-
clared that he harboured no vindic-
tive feeling against him, and that 'as
a dying man, he would tell the truth.'
Burke complained much of the cold
he experienced in his cell, which ag-
gravated the complaint under which
he laboured.    One gentleman who
had visited him, remarked that this
was a cold place, "Yes" he said, "it
is; but since   matters have come to
this pass, I must just bear it."    The
indulgence he experienced in his diet,
was according to the direction of
this physician, who had ordered it on
account of his health. The nearer
his end approached, his mind seemed
to acquire firmness, and he

expressed himself prepared to meet
the scaffold with as much calmness
as if he were going to his bed.

Burke was brought from the Cal.
ton Hill Jail betwixt Tuesday night
and Wednesday morning. At the
moment the Coach arrived at the en-
trance to the Lock-up, by the front
of the County Hall, the unhappy man
might have heard the busy clacking
of the hammer of the men employed
in putting up the scaffold where he
was shortly to make his final exit.
It was wisely considered by the au-
thorities that the prisoner and the
assistants at the execution should he
so prepared before leaving the Lock-
up, that no useless time should be
spent on the drop,-accordingly, af-
ter spending the morning in prayer,
and going through the ceremonies
used by the Roman Catholic Church.
A few minutes after 8, the procession
moved up by Libberton Wynd, at
the head whereof was the scaffold.
He was constantly attended by the
Priest ; when he appeared on the
scaffold, a strange sensation passed
through the crowd, which was im-
mense. After casting his eyes once
round, he dropped his head, and lis-
tened deeply to his spiritual adviser.
As usual a psalm was sung, and pray-
ers put up for the unhappy man, he
was quite weakly and emaciated, and
was supported to the drop; after the
executioner adjusted the rope, he al-
most instantly gave the signal, and
was launched into eternity.

As yet, we have got no certain ac-
count of the many murders this man
was accessary to, but they are gener-
ally believed to be about 30. On the
2d of January, at his own request, he
sent for the proper authorities, to
whom he gave a full and free confes-
sion of all the particulars connected
with the horrid affair; -he said that
he had done so, that he might have the
short remaining days of his life spent
undisturbed by inquisitive intruders ;
and requested that as few as possible
would get admission to see him. A
few days before his death, it was
read over to him, to which he still
adhered. This confession, we under-
stand, will be shortly published.

Hare's wife was set at liberty yes-
terday, and in crossing the Bridges,
was recognised by some person who
had seen her in jail.    A crowd soon
gathered round her, and pelted her
with snow balls and other missiles;
and had not the police promptly in-
terfered in her behalf, the ungovern-
able rabble that beset her would have
quickly executed   summary justice,
both on herself and the sickly infant
she bore in her arms.    An idea pre-
vailed in the West Port, that she had
taken refuge in her old den, and a
multitude of disorderly people con-
gregated thereto, to root her out of
it, but quietly dispersed when assured
she was not in the neighbourhood.
We understand that   she   left   the
Police Office in the twilight, to wan-
der whither it is not easy to gueess,
but it is to be hoped, that the popu-
   lace will not allow a commendable
detestation of crime to lead to acts
of outrage, which the law must punish
with the same rigour in her case as in
that of any of other child   of sin and
misery that breathes under its pro-

The Court of Justiclary was occu-
pied during Monday, on Hare's case;
next Monday it will be resumed.

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Date of publication: 1829   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(093)
Broadside concerning the execution of William Burke
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