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Broadside entitled 'The Gilmerton Murderers'


This crime report begins: 'Here you have the Melancholy and Penitent Address to the Public, by David Dobie and John Thompson, dated from their Cells in the Calton Jail, where they are now awaiting the execution of their sentence on Wednesday morning'. This account was published by Forbes and Owen of 118 High Street, Edinburgh. A handwritten note of the date, 14th August 1830, has been added.

This story, of the rape and murder of Margaret Paterson when she accepted the offer of a lift home from two carters, caused outrage in Edinburgh. There are many sheets reporting various stages of the trial and various confessions by Dobie and Thompson included in the National Library of Scotland's collection. Many of them are printed by Forbes and Owen, who seemed to show a special interest in the production of sensationalist and crime-orientated sheets.

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: L.C.Fol.74(109)
Broadside entitled 'The Gilmerton Murderers'
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