Date Of Execution: 28 Jan 1824
Execution Place: unknown
A full and particular account of the
Execution of John Wilson and Duncan
Fraser, this day 28th January,for break-
ing into a shop in St. Mary's Wynd,
with an account of their behaviour in
Jail and at the place of Execution.
Edinburgh, Jan. 28, 1824 This day were Executed pursuant
to their sentence, John Wilson and Duncan Frazer, for breaking
into a Tailors Shop, in St. Mary's Wynd, and stealing sundry
articles of wearing Apparel; they both pled guilty at their trial.
These unfortunate young men have been exceedingly restless
since the other convict, Douglas, (who was sentenced to be Ex-
ecuted along with them for the crime of highway robbery,) got
a respite. In consequence of this unlocked for extension of the
Royal clemency, Wilson and Frazer, it seems, entertained a hope
that it might also be extended to them, considering their own
crimes as of a less atrocious character than that of Douglas.
This hope Wilson particularly continued to indulge till Wedne-
esday morning last, the 21st, when he gave himself up to a state
bordering on despair, uttering horrid imprecations, and vehement-
ly declaring that force alone should drag him from his cell to the
place of execution. It is hoped, however, that the exhortations
of the clergymen who Visited him brought him to a temper of
mind more suitable to his awful situation.
Expectation were generally entertained that the place of exe-
cution would be changed prior these unfortunate men's awful
exit, but at a meeting of the town council, it was decided that no
alteration at the present time would take place. The scaffold
was, as usual, erected last night at the head of Libberton's Wynd.
This morning crowds collected very early, and took their stances
as near to the scaffold as the guard would permit, and a continu-
ed movement and noise reigned until the unhappy victims made
their appearance, when a dead silence prevailed, They were re-
moved from the Calton-hill Jail on Tuesday afternoon about 4
o'clock, (previous to leaving the jail; they parted for the last
time with their relations,) in a carriage, which landed opposite
the Court-door in the Parliament Square, by which the prisoners
were conveyed into the Lock up-house. In the morning when
the clergymen and magistrates arrived, they were brought into
the hall,and seemed to pay attention to a most feeling and path-
etic prayer delivered by one of the clergymen. After eight
o'clock struck, they prepared to move to the scaffold; the ex-
Iutioner appeared and pinioned thir arms, and about a quarter
before nine they proceeded to the fatal spot, They joined in the
religious duties with great fervour. Before mounting the drop,
Frazer came forward to the front of the scaffold and addressed
the multitude in nearly the following words, Good People, take
warning by our untimely end. Refrain from Sabbath-breaking,
and the company of bad women, drinking and swearing, which
have been ruin, God be with you all, They then ascended the
drop with fortitude, and a quarter past nine they were launched
They ware both young men. and belonged to Edinburgh.
Frazer was brought up in the Castle-hill, and Wilson in the West
Bow; and, we believe, no blame can be attached to the
parents of these unfortunate young men, who, we under-
stand used every endeavour to check them in their wicked carreer,
they at times flattered, at others threatened, but it had no otther
effect than making them absent themselves from under their
parent's roof, and associate with those who by their bad exam
ple have brought them to this untimely end. Wilson's father
on the morning of their trial, wrote a most feeling letter, ad-
dressed to the Lord Justice Clerk.
It would, have been thought that the many examples made,
and the sure fate of the above two, would have thrown a damp-
ness over the twenty-two convicts that were sent away on Thurs-
day last, the most of whom having narrowly escaped the same
fate, but instead of that, their minds were premediating the mur-
der of one of the turnkeys and effect their escape ; their deadly
weapon was a table knife, made sharp in the point and the back,
fortunately the horrid plot was discovered, and the weapon tak-
en from them; they were considered the most hardened and
mischievous set that have ever been within the walls of the jail.
Edinburgh, Printed for the Booksellers.
This broadside report begins: 'A full and particular acconnt of the Execution of John Wilson and Duncan Fraser, this day 28th January, for breaking into a shop in St. Mary's Wynd, with an account of their behaviour in Jail and at the place of Execution.' This sheet was published in 1824, in Edinburgh, for the booksellers.
Wilson and Fraser were hopeful that the death sentence would be lifted, because their cellmate, who had been condemed to death for highway robbery, was given respite. It was not extended to them, however, even though their crime seems more trivial. Fraser, whose name is also spelt Frazer here, gave the following speech from the scaffold, 'Good People, take warning by our untimely end. Refain from Sabbath-breaking, and the company of bad women, drinking and swearing, which have been ruin. God be with you all.'
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.