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Broadside entitled 'Respite of James Wemyss'


This public notice begins: 'This unhappy man, who was to have been executed this morning, has received a respite of his fatal sentence for the period of ten days'. It was published in Edinburgh, on Monday 6th April, 1840, by Sanderson.

Although not directly stated in the text, it appears that Wemyss, an umbrella maker, was convicted of killing his wife but had since the conviction twice appealed for a reinvestigation. The new theory revealed in this report hinges on his wife's drinking problem and the suggestion is that she suffered a brain haemorrhage or that both of them were involved in a drunken brawl. The lack of previous detail and the immediacy of the new theory report, illustrates the broadside's role as the informative and popular entertainment of its day. Wemyss was executed on 16 April 1840.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Date of publication: 1840   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(359b)
Broadside entitled 'Respite of James Wemyss'
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