This execution report begins: 'A Full and Particular account of Robert M'Kinlay, William Buchanan, Robert Hunter Guthrie, and Alexander Forbes, who were Executed at Glasgow, on Wednesday the 3d of November, 1819, for housebreaking and theft.' A note at the foot of the sheet states that it was 'Printed for John Muir, who traded from an address in Prince's Street, Glasgow.
This broadside reports on Glasgow's first quadruple execution. McKinlay and Buchanan were cotton-spinners from Glasgow, who broke into Bothwell Castle and stole various items of gold and silver. Although it was Buchanan's first offence, McKinlay was said to be a career criminal. Guthrie and Forbes were described as old offenders, who were 'given to idleness and thieving'. Both hailing from Paisley, Forbes was a cloth-lapper and Guthrie was a weaver. While the punishment will look severe to a modern audience, the 'Criminal Code' (the 'Bloody Code') that existed in Scotland from 1650 to 1850 meant that property was safeguarded at all costs - hence the death sentence. Thomas Young was the executioner.
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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1819 shelfmark: APS.4.200.02
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