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

Broadside concerning the trial and sentence of Charles and Margaret McMahon


This trial report begins: 'An account of the Trial and Sentence, of Charles and Margaret M'Mahon, accused of the Murder and Robbery of a Jew on the easter road Leith.'

It is worth highlighting the fact that the McMahons' victim, Alexander Philips, is referred to in the title as 'a Jew'. It is only further into the report that he is mentioned by name. At this time, in a predominantly Presbyterian country such as Scotland, those who followed a different faith were often viewed with suspicion or treated as outsiders. This is suggested here, not only by the need to identify the man primarily by his faith as opposed to his name, but also in the description of one of the witnesses, 'Moses Henry Leiseheim was called, and sworn in the Jewish form, with his hat on his head, and hand upon the old Testament'.

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          
Probable period of publication: 1820-1830   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(66)
Broadside concerning the trial and sentence of Charles and Margaret McMahon
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland