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The Greenock

Image courtesy of Mclean Museum
View of the Middle Church and Harbour, Greenock by Robert Salmon (1775-ca.1851
Moses McDonald
The unfortunate tale of Moses
McDonalds execution began with his
crime of stealing goods and money.
Although he didnt act alone, he was left
to deal with the consequences of his
actions through a method that would end
his life.
Moses McDonald had been employed
at the quay as a labourer and was the
rst person to be hung in Greenock on
Friday, 5th June, 1812. Moses and a
companion, John Gray, were arrested
after a 50 reward had been offered
following the breaking into of the shop
of James Jolly, a grocer in Harvie Lane.
Moses and Gray had stolen a chest and
a half of tea, eighteen cheeses, half a
ton of beer, bacon, hams, butter and
provisions, together with 4 in silver and
2 in Irish vepenny, tenpenny and two
and sixpenny bank tokens. They would
not have been alone, and would also have
required a horse and cart. Their case
was heard at the Glasgow Circuit Court
of Justiciary in April, 1812, where Gray
pleaded guilty and was sentenced to be
transported beyond the seas to such
place as his Majesty,
by and with the advice of his Privy
Council, shall apoint. Moses was found
guilty and sentenced to be hung at
Greenock. Four companies of Ayrshire
Militia from Paisley were present to
keep order in Cathcart Square. At a
quarter past two oclock, a procession
comprising the Magistrates, Sheriff
substitute, ministers, the prisoners
father, brother and sister, all dressed in
black, preceded the prisoner and guard
of soldiers to the gallows. After prayers
and psalms he mounted the gallows at
ten past three, had the rope adjusted
around his neck and signalled to the
executioner, by dropping a handkerchief,
that he was ready. Upon withdrawing the
bolt, the rope snapped, and Moses fell to
the ground. He was escorted back to the
church by his sister while reciting verses
1 to 15 of the 51st psalm. Half an hour
later, after a new rope had been tted to
the gibbet, Moses McDonald was hung
for the second and nal time. His body
was cut down at twenty past four and put
into a cofn by his father, brother and
sister, and buried to following day.
GREENOCK 1812 - 1892
HANGING. During the period of 1812 - 1892, punishment for breaking
the law was very different to today. Many criminals were sentenced to
be hanged in Greenock for crimes ranging from theft and assault, to rape
and murder. The majority of these executions took place infront of the
Mid Kirk church in Cathcart Square, and were watched by audiences of
hundreds. The gallows platform was arranged to sit on top of the rails
which surrounded the perimeter wall. The rails and wall were removed
in July 1930 when the square was enlarged and the present steps were
arranged up to the church. This booklet follows the story of seven of these
Moses MDonald - 5th June 1812
Bernard MIlvogue - 10th October 1817
Hugh MIlvogue - 10th October 1817
Patrick MCristal - 10th October 1817
John Kerr - 4th May 1827
John Boyd - 17th September 1834
Frederick Thomas Storey - 11th January 1892
Frederick Thomas Storey was the only one out of the seven to be hanged
at Greenock Prison, in Nelson Street. Many more criminals were ordered
to be transported to Glasgow and other towns for their executions,
whilst others were simply banished from the area or even the country as
punishment for their crimes.
Image courtesy of Mclean Museum
Mid Kirk by James A Stuart (1791 - 1863)
Frederick Thomas Storey must have
cut a handsome gure of a man as the
manager of Cookes Circus during its visit
to Greenock in 1891.
His one failing, if reports be true, was
that he was overfond of drink. It was
this, probably more than anything else,
that got him dismissed from his job in
the circus just before the dastardly act
that was to send him to the gallows at
Greenock Prison on 11 January of the
following year.
John Henry Cookes circus, held on
vacant ground near Princes Pier - where
a long succession of Fairs enthralled
boys and girls of my own generation -
had closed for the night on Saturday, 14
January, 1891.
Among the performers wending their way
homewards from the circus that night
was one, Lizzie Pastor, little knowing
the terrible fate that was in store for
her soon after. Lizzies real name was
Mrs Elizabeth Stewart, whose husband,
a Scottish violinist, had died. She was
a 37 year old widow, and a native of
Nottingham, the English town from which
Storey also hailed.
She was an attracive woman, especially
in the eyes of Frederick Storey, then
56 years of age, and no doubt feeling
that romance was passing him by. They
met by chance that night, and Storey,
enamoured by her good looks and her
pleasing disposition, tried to arrange a
subsequent meeting.
But Lizzie met his advances by saying:
No, Mr Storey, I want nothing to do with
you, not as a sweetheart anyway. Then,
being a person of a sympathetic nature,
she enjoined her spurned suitor to be a
good fellow, give up the drink, go and see
Mr. Cooke and maybe he would get his
job back. These were probably the last
words Lizzie Pastor ever uttered.
There, on a darkened stairway, Storey
stabbed her to death with a clasp-knife
as she was ascending.
The execution of Frederick Thomas Storey was tried for murder at the High Court
in Glasgow. He was sentenced to death by hanging, and was hanged in the Nelson
Street Prison, without public attendance.
Everton Farm
On Sabbath morning, about one
oclock, the farm house of Everton, in
the vicinity of this town, possessed by
Robert Morris and family, was entered
by a gang of desperadoes; who, after
getting possession, pulled Mr Morris
out of his bed, and tied him in a blanket.
They then proceeded to rob by breaking
open a chest of drawers, from which
they abstracted a considerable sum
of money. They also carried off all the
wearing apparel they could nd. The
gang are supposed to have consisted of
six men. During the operation of search,
they enquired as to smugglers, and
deliberately lighted a cruise of oil which
they found in the house. In the interval
Mr Morris sister-in-law and a servant
girl, who had been in bed, were alarmed,
and secretly made the best of their way
from the house; the one had run to the
moor, where she stopt until morning,
the other was not so fortunate, as the
party fell in with her on their road from
the house, and beat her to an excessive
degree. Information having been lodged
with Mr Lennoc, Master of Police here,
immediate search was made, and the
men (Barney Hutton and Patrick ONeal)
have been taken and lodged in jail.
Bernard and Hugh McIlvogue, alias Loag,
in whose dwelling part of the property
was found, have absconded.
Bernard and Hugh McIlvogue and Patrick
McCristal, tried at the High Court of
Justiciary, at Edinburgh, for the crimes of
stouthrief, rape and robbery, and
The execution of the two brothers, Bernard and Hugh McIlvogue and their cousin
Patrick McCristal, guilty for the crimes of assault, rape and robbery.
sentenced to be executed here this day,
were accordingly brought forth from the
Jail to the front of the New Church, at
half-past Two oclock, where a platform
and gallows were previously erected.
They were attended to the scaffold by
the Rev. Mr Scott, of Glasgow, the Rev.
Mr Patterson of Paisley, and the Rev. Mr
Gordon, of this town, Roman Catholic
clergymen, who had since their arrival
from Edinburgh kindly assisted them in
their devotional exercise. The unfortunate
men appeared deeply impressed with
their unhappy situation, and have left a
confession and exhortation behind them
to their fellow-men. Although strongly
affected, they advanced to the front of the
platform with a bold and rm step, and
after the executioner had adjusted the
ropes round their necks, they cordially
shook hands with each other, and were
immediately afterwards launched into
eternity. After being suspended about an
hour, the bodies were lowered down into
cofns, and taken back to the Jail, for the
purpose of being given to their friends
for internment. The elder McIlvogue
denied to the last his committing rape,
and in that was corroborated by the
younger and McCristal. The Sherriff,
Magistrates, and Town Council were in
attendance; and according to previous
arrangement, the Square was occupied
by the Special Constables, a detachment
of the 40th Regiment, and a party of the
1st Dragoon Guards. The concourse of
people assembled was considerable,
though much less than might have been
Frederick T Storey
Image courtesy of Peter Leighton Fine Art
Etching by Patrick C Downie of Old Greenock Prison.
John Boyd Crimes of The Day
Ten year old John Dennistoun Stewart,
stated in his evidence that after seeing
water coming through the ceiling, he
was sent upstairs by his mother. Peeking
through the keyhole, he saw Boyd hauling
his wife, by her hair, from the bed. Upon
entering the room, he thought Mrs
Boyd was looking unco white. Doctors
Auld and Spiers of Greenock, and Dr
Corkindale of Glasgow, conrmed that
she had been strangled. The jury found
Boyd guilty of murder, by a majority, and
recommended mercy on account of the
John Boyds good habits and the irregular
habits of his wife. Lord Meadowbank
said it would be his pleasure and duty
to transmit their recommendation to
the Crown. Boyd was sentenced to be
executed at Greenock on 9th October. A
public petition for the death sentence to
be commuted was sent to King William
IV. A stay of execution for 14 days arrived
at Greenock on the night of Tuesday, 7th
October and was promptly communicated
to Boyd by the Provost. On Saturday
evening of the 18th October word was
received that the plea had failed. On
the morning of the 13rd October, John
Boyd was taken to the Session house of
the Mid Church where he was pinioned.
He then walked with much vigour and
compusure through the church to the
scaffold. Boyd was a little, light man, and,
when he was brought forward, along with
one of the clergymen of the town, and a
big burly looking man - who turned out to
be Young the executioner, from Glasgow
- as the clergymen, Rev Mr Sinclair,
shook hands with Boyd, and left him, he
distinctly put forward one foot, trying
the stability of the drop, as if he doubted
it would not bear his weight. When the
executioner had drawn the cap over his
eyes, he pulled a white handkerchief
from his breast, and offered it to Boyd for
a signal, to let fall when prepared; but
Boyd refused to take hold of it. A small
rope which held up the drop, fastened
at the side to one of the beams of the
gibbet, was then instantly cut, a knife
being hastily taken from the pocket of
the executioner for the purpose, the drop
fell at about 8 oclock tht morning. His
body was cut down before nine olock
and interred within the old prison behind
the Mid Church. John Boyd was the sixth
and last person to be hung in public in
On Wednesday, 17th September, 1834, at the Glasgow Circuit Court, 48 year old John
Boyd, a hatter from Londonderry, was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Sarah
MacLachlan, on the 11th July, at their house in Harvie Lane.
John Kerr
Wife Killer.
At the Circuit Court at Glasgow, on 4th May, 1827, 54 year old John Kerr, a ship
scraper, was found guilty of murdering his wife at their house at Open Shore. He
was scheduled to be hung on 6th June, but this was delayed for 2 weeks. This
time the square was marked off with posts and chains, inside which stood about
400 special constables. By nine oclock the prisoner had been taken to the Mid
Church. At half past one, the Sherriffs and Magistrates, wearing white gloves and
carrying white wands, proceeded by a party of Town Ofcers, complete with hal-
berds, followed by the Justices of the Peace, walked in procession from the Town
Hall to the church. After a short service Kerr had to be fortied with some wine
before being executed at twenty past two. Kerr had no children and his body was
handed over to Dr Jeffray of Glasgow, for dissection.
We have sourced a few of the records, from the National Archives of Scotland,
regarding crimes committed within the area during the period of public Hangings.
They range from the sinking of a boat, to murder, mobbing and rioting...
Precognition against:
Thomas McKinlay for the crime of sinking a boat. (1818)
James McDougal, Clark Sutherland for the crime of prison breaking. (1817)
George OConnor, Donald Campbell for the crime of fabricating false coin. (1817)
Elizabeth Collins for the crime of child murder. (1812)
John Kerr for the crime of murder. (1827)
Dugald MacAuley, Alaxander Foster, Robert Boyle, John Calder, Edward McGown,
John Sinnot, Darby Canning for the crime of high treason, mobbing and rioting. (1820)
Alexander McDonald, Alexander Campbell, James Campbell, Donald McDonald for
the crime of murder (reduced to riot and assault). (1812)
Patrick McCristal, Hugh McIlvogue, Bernard McIlvogue, Bernard Hutton, William
Wood for the crime of stouthrief, robbery, rape and assault at Everton Farm. (1817)
Robert Surrage, Joseph Elliot, John Dempsay, Malachi Clinton, Patrick Lynch, John
Beck for the crime of murder and maliciously discharging loaded rearms. (1820)
Image Courtesy of Mclean Museum.
Mid Kirk Middle view, 1810.
Though in a dismal cell I stay,
I think time passes swift away,
I have not long to meditate,
Upon my fast approaching fate.
My sorrow, ah! no tongue can tell,
For fear of death and fear of hell,
Yet still, through Christ, I hope to be,
From all my misery set free.
My sins, though they are mountains high,
Yet still unto the Lord I cry,
That he may in this trying hour,
Conviction send with might and power.
O! that my crimes may be forgiven,
Before the gracious throne of heaven,
May mercy there be found for me,
Guilty and sinful though I be.
A few more hours my life must end,
And on a gallows my body bend,
O! May I pray, whilst here I live,
That Jesus may my soul recieve.
For when I leave this house of clay,
I cannot then repent and pray,
All earhtly things are then in vain,
And I am doomd to bliss or pain.
All wicked ones I now do tell,
To shun the load that leads to hell;
For if they do not shortly mend
Theyll come to some untimely end.
The sad example keep in mind,
Of me a mortal now confn`d,
And doomd I am to hanged be
Upon a fatal gallows tree.
For my unhallowd bloody crime
I soon must be cut off from time,
Few friends I have to comfort me,
Whilst I ascend the fatal tree.
In Greenock town I did the deed,
Thinking no one would of me take heed,
But justice soon did me pursue,
And brought my crime to public view.
My wife and I for some time did dwell,
In peace and joy, as many can tell,
Till cursed liquor, it brought on strife,
And ended in the loss of life.
From hasty passion I pray refrain,
And never let it possession gain,
And holy keep the Sabbath day,
The laws of God and man obey.
Beware of drinking to excess,
This was the cause of my distress,
It causd me to commit the act,
The murder of my wife in fact.
My letter now I have laid by,
Which warns me to prepare to die,
No pardon now I can receive,
No hope remains of a reprieve.
Farewell my friends and acquaintances all,
Forget my shameful end and fall,
Let not the world, in malice, name
To you my faults, my end and shame.
Remember Lord, a sinner in distress,
O! comfort me, for I am comfortless,
Pardon my sins before this world I leave,
That I a crown of glory may receive.
Ere long I must before the Lord appear,
And answer for my sins committed here,
I tremble at the very thought of this,
Fearing the loss of everlasting bliss.
O! King of glory, might and power,
Salvation send in my last hour,
And grant that I may dwell with Thee,
Throughout a blest Eternity.