This report begins: 'THE LAST SPEECH, CONFESSION and DYING WORDS of JOHN M'MILLAN, Who was executed at the Cross of Glasgow, on Wednesday, 16th of May, 1798, for the horrid Crime of Murder, committed on the Body of ALEXANDER MOODIE, late Gardener in Glasgow.'
The life of John McMillan, as allegedly recounted by himself, was a very colourful one. He began working life as a cattle-herd in his native Highlands, then served in the Queen's Highlanders and Scots Fusilers, before studying at Chelsea college in London. He then returned to Glasgow, and several years later committed murder on Alexander Moodie after an argument over an outstanding bill. His flight from justice involved returning to the Highlands and London, before his eventual capture in Edinburgh.
'Dying words' were a popular topic for broadsides, and in many cases, especially in later broadsides, they followed such a standard formula that the suspicion lingers over whether the subject actually had any input into them. In this example, the amount of biographical detail included suggests that John McMillan was involved in the composition of his last words, although it is likely that they were dictated to a scribe.
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Date of publication:
1798 shelfmark: 6.365(095)
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