This crime report begins: 'A full, true and particular account of BARNEY M'GUIRE, the bosom companion of the late well known David Haggart, who was executed at Stafford, on Monday the 7th of June 1830 for murder, and his Body given for Dissection.' This sheet was published by William Robertson and would have cost a penny to buy.
Barney McGuire had already been convicted of theft and was awaiting transportation on a 'hulk'. These 'hulks' were ex-warships which were used to alleviate the pressure on prisons. They were crammed full of convicts, until there were enough to make the journey on a more sea-worthy vessel. McGuire's ship sunk thus facilitating his escape and return to crime. McGuire's relationship with Haggart was probably mentioned to make the story more sensational and relevant to the area it was published in. Haggart, a habitual criminal and escapee, was executed in Edinburgh for killing his gaoler by smashing his head with a stone - it was a huge story in Edinburgh at the time.
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: Ry.III.a.2(98)
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