This crime report begins: 'Trial and Sentence Of JAMES GORDON, who is to be Executed at Dumfries, on the 6th June, 1821, for the Barbarous Murder of James Elliot, a Poor Pedlar Boy, by Knocking him on the Head with a Wooden Clog, in a Lonely Muir, in November last.' It was published by John Muir of Glasgow and is dated 30th April 1821.
The motivation for this bizarre-sounding murder appears to have been robbery. Pedlars were particularly vulnerable to assault, because their work took them far from their homes to areas where they were unknown, and because they carried their wares and takings with them. It is easy to see how a murderer might have escaped in 1821, before photography, mass media or efficient communications. Gordon had apparently been on the run for two months, and had travelled the length of the country, before he was finally captured at Nairn.
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:
1820-1821 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(019)
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