Date Of Execution: 10 Dec 1823
Execution Place: Edinburgh
Full and Particular Account of the .Execution of
THOMAS BLACK, who was Executed at the
Head of Libberton Wynd, Edinburgh, this mor-
ning, Wednesday the 10th December, 1823, for
Housebreaking and Theft; and of his Behaviour
since his condemnation, and at the Place of .Exe
THIS unhappy young man was Tried at Edinburgh, before the
High Court of Justiciary, on the 4th of November 1823, a.
long with another boy, John Reid, who has since been respited,
for Breaking into the Houoe at Summerfield, parish of South Leith,
occupied by Mr Alexander White,'Merchant, upon the morning of
25th July last, and, stealing therefrom-a great quantity of Silver
plate. Wearing Apparel, &c., aggravated by being habit and repute
a thief. After a full and fair investigation, this unfortunate lad,
and his neighbour, were by the unanimous verdict of a respectable
Jury, both found Guilty, in terms of the libel; but, on account of
their youth, strongly recommended to mercy.
During the trial the unfortunate Thomas Black was perfectly
composed, and maintained a careless indifference about his awful
situation; but, soon after, condemnation, he evinced a most becom-
ing sense of him melancholy situation, as well as the greatest con-
trition for his dissolute habits of life. So much so, that a few
weeks before his Executiou, he requested to be indulged with a se-
parate cell as the society of his companions in misery led to con-
versations on their former way of life, which served to tnterupt his
more serious reflections, and to diveat his mind from these import-
ant considerations which his awful situation was so powerfully
calculated to excite. A respite for his fellow sufferer. as stated a-
bove, was got fourteen days before and it can be no impeachment
of the generosity of the heart of Black, or of the sincerity of his
repentance, to find that this act of mercy to another awakened in
him all that love of life which had seemingly been extinguished
for ever. He sunk into a state of the most heartless despondency
for some time, and could neither think of the present nor of the fu-
ture, withont the most agonizing feelings. Indeed, during two
days he scarcely tasted any food. His mind, however, was latterly
restored to its wonted tranquillity, and he expressed himself with
calmness and resignation on the subject of his approaching fate, an
event to which he had then looked forward as inevitable.
Accordingly, on Tuesday afternoon ha was removed to the Lock
up-house, where he was waited on by several of his nearest relations
and the separation from some of them was most appaling to the
most hardened feeliags. The Clergy of the city, as well as the
Chaplain of the Jail and other good Christians in town were mos
attentive and most etrnest for his religious instruction and ediflca
tion,- which he himself repeatedly and sincerely acknowledged.
He slept little or none on Tuesday evening, and the Clergymen
and Officiating Magistrates waited on him in the Hall of the Lock
up-house, a little before Eight o'Clock on Wednesday morning
when he joined most servently in devotional supplications put up
on that occasion. After which, his arms were pinioned, and the
melancholy procession soon moved up in a slow and solemn man-
ner, to the head of Libberton Wynd,attended by a strong detach-
ment of Police Officers. Ha appeared on the Scaffold, decently
dresaed, about half past Eight o'clock, where a psalm was sung, in
which he joined, and a most earnest and impressive prayer put up
for him to the thorne of mercy, by one of, the clcrgymen present
daring which he appeared most devout and attentive to what was
so eloquently urged in his behalf. Having taken a solemn fare-
well of those around him, he mounted the fatal drop, assisted by
the Executioner, where he appeared most servernt in prayer, while
the rope was adjusting round the beam. All things being prepar-
ed, and the Executioner taking farewell of him, he shortly drop
tha signal, and was instantly launthed into the world of spirits
a little before nine o'clock.
We sincerety trust, that the premature and shameful end of this
young man who was only about 17 years of age, be a warning to
all who saw him, or heard of his awful fate.
Edinburgh, Printed, for James Dogherty, Price One Penny.
This crime report begins: 'Full and Particular Account of the Execution of THOMAS BLACK, who was Executed at the Head of Libberton Wynd, Edinburgh, this morning, Wednesday the 10th December, 1823, for Housebreaking and Theft; and of his Behaviour since his condemnation, at the Place of Execution.' This account was published by James Dogherty of Edinburgh and cost a penny to buy.
Thomas Black was executed in Libberton Wynd, Edinburgh, which was located in almost the same place as the modern day junction of the High Street and George IV Bridge. The Lawnmarket and Grassmarket areas of Edinburgh were mainly where executions occurred. Black seems, however, to have been spared the final punishment of having his body sent to the University for dissection.
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.