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Broadside entitled 'The last Speech and Confession'


This execution notice continues: 'And last words of Thomas Neilson, who was Executed at Maybol, on Thursday, being the 14th of August, 1718. For Mudering one Named M'Connel, is the Parish of Girvan.'

This broadside is actually a relatively detailed account of both the murder and the events afterwards. Many of these texts are quite formulaic and are used as an opportunity for moral education. This piece, however, is more narrative with the inclusion of revealing vignettes, such as, 'the poor woman . . . was sitting with the corps in her arms for a large half hour'. The rationale of the conviction is fully explained, as are Neilson's motives and conscience. Finally it is suggested that Neilson suffered from bouts of madness.

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: 1718   shelfmark: Ry.III.c.36(043)
Broadside entitled 'The last Speech and Confession'
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