British Executions

David Haggart

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 18 Jul 1821

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



A Full and Particular ACCOUNT of the Execution
of DAVID HAGGART, who was Hanged at Edin-
burgh, this morning Wednesday 18th July 1821,
for the Murder of THOMAS MORRIN, under
Jailor at Dumfries, on the, 10th of October last,
and his Body given to the Professor of Anatomy
for Dissection, together with his Behaviour at the
place of Execution.

THIS unfortunate young man, DAVID HAGGART, was tried
at Edinburgh, before the High Court of Justiciary and a re-
spectable Jury, on Monday the 11th of June last, and found guilty
art and part, of the Murder of Thomas Morrin, then under Turn-
key of the Jail of Dumfries, on Tuesday the 10th of October last,
by fracturing his skull with a stone in a bag, when he made his
escape from that prison. He was of a genteel and prepossessing
appearance, and his trial excited great interest, the court being
crowded to excess.

Before pronouncing the awful sentence of the law upon the pris-
oner, the Lord Justice Clerk said, that the common penalty due to
the unnatural crime of Murder the pannel could not hope to escape ;
but that there were circumstances in his case which pointed him
out especially for a public example; and that all Scotland might
know that the law would most decidedly avenge the violence done
to keepers of his Majesty's prisons, the court had doomed the pris-
oner to expiate his crime in the city of Edinburgh. His Lordship
strongly recommended him to call in the assistance of the ministers
of religion, cautioning him that, if he did not prepare himself by
prayer at the footstool of mercy, and by repentance of all his sins,
there was another and a more terrible day of reckoning reserved
for him in that state upon which he was about to enter. The sen-
tence of the Court was, that the prisoner be executed on Wednes-
day the 18th day of July, between the hour's of 8 and 10 o'clock
in the forenoon, and his body to be delivered up to the professors
of Anatomy in the University of Edinburgh. The unfortunate
prisoner preserved a steady composure throughout the whole trial,
and appeared at one time to be much moved during the passing of
this judgment.

The greatest part of his time since his condemnation has been
employed in reading and perusing the scriptures, in which he has
been continually assisted by the Chaplain of the Jail, the Reverend
Mr Porteous, by several others of the Reverend Clergymen of this-
city, and occasianolly by private individuals, to whose instructions
and admonitions he was very attentive. It is also said, that he had
caused a Sketch of his Life to be written, which will soon be pub-
lished, and which contains a great many curious incidents for so
short a period. He was perfectly resigned to his fate, and behaved
with great propriety during his last confinement, always appearing
penitent and grateful for any kindness or attention at any time
shown to him. The meeting with his father, on Tuesday eight
lays, who called on him at the Jail, was truly affecting. His mo-
ther is dead some time ago.

Late on Tuesday evening last, he was removed from the Calton
Jail to the Lock-up-House, where he spent the greater part of the
night in prayer and meditation, assisted by several friends. He
slept but very little, for a few hours, and was early waited on by
the Clergymen, who prayed, and also assisted him in his devotions.
About eight o'clock the two officiating magistrates, in their robes,
and with their rods of office in their hands, came into the Hall,
where one of the Clergymen again prayed fervently for a short
time, the unhappy man all the while appearing perfectly calm and
resigned. The Magistrates and the Clergymen, after the proper ar-
rangements were then made, accompanied him up Libberton Wynd,
attended by the City Officers, executioner, and a strong detachment
of Police officers, to the Scaffold.

Thus attended, he appeared on the platform, decently dressed,
about 20 minutes past eight, where a psalm was sung, in which he
appeared to join, and one of the Clergymen prayed for a short time.
He then bade farewell to those around him, and mounted the fatal
drop; while the executioner was adjusting the rope round his neck,
he was distinctly heard praying fervently for several minutes, when
he dropt the signal, and was instantly launched into the world of
spirits, a few minutes before nine o'clock, in presence of a great
multitude of spectators. After hanging about half an hour, the
body was cut down, and returned to the Lock-up-House, to be
given for Dissection.                  PRICE ONE PENNY.


This report begins: 'A Full and Particular ACCOUNT of the Execution of DAVID HAGGART, who was Hanged at Edinburgh, this morning Wednesday 18th of July 1821, for the murder of THOMAS MORRIN, under Jailor at Dumfries, on the 10th of October last, and his Body given to the Professor of Anatomy for Dissection, together with his Behaviour at the place of Exeecution.' The name of the publisher is not included.

A career criminal, David Haggart was executed for murdering the jailor at Dumfries Jail during an escape. This broadside is especially interesting because of what it reveals about the stranglehold that Calvinism had on Scottish society at this time. For terrible though the sentence is, the judge emphasises that this is nothing compared to the everlasting punishment he will receive in a higher court - unless he repents now. It appears that Haggart heeded this hellfire warning, as the rest of the broadside focuses on his improved behaviour in 'the condemned cell' and on the scaffold.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.