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The Greenock Hangings.

Image courtesy of Mclean Museum View of the Middle Church and Harbour, Greenock by Robert Salmon (1775-ca.1851

EXECUTIONS
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 men. 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.

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 first 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 fivepenny, 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 fitted to the gibbet, Moses McDonald was hung for the second and final time. His body was cut down at twenty past four and put into a coffin by his father, brother and sister, and buried to following day.

Image courtesy of Mclean Museum Mid Kirk by James A Stuart (1791 - 1863)

Everton Farm
The execution of the two brothers, Bernard and Hugh McIlvogue and their cousin Patrick McCristal, guilty for the crimes of assault, rape and robbery.
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 find. 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 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 firm 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 coffins, 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 expected.

Frederick T Storey
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. Frederick Thomas Storey must have cut a handsome figure 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.

Image courtesy of Peter Leighton Fine Art Etching by Patrick C Downie of Old Greenock Prison.

John Boyd
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. 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, confirmed 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 Greenock.

Crimes of The Day


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 firearms. (1820)

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 Officers, complete with halberds, 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 fortified 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.

LAMENTATION OF JOHN KERR.


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 confind, 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.
Image Courtesy of Mclean Museum. Mid Kirk Middle view, 1810.