British Executions

Francis Cain

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: highway robbery

Date Of Execution: 29 Oct 1823

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



Account of the Execution of FRANCIS CAIN & GEORGE
LAIDLAW, for two different crimes, and who suffered at
Glasgow, on Wednesday the 29th'October, 1823, with their
Behaviour since their condemnation and at the Scaffold.

Glasgow, Oct. 29th, 1823.—This day, the two above named young men underwent
the awful sentence passed upon them at last Circuit, for the following crimes :

FRANCIS CAIN, for assaulting and robbing Jamas Maxwell, coppersmith, of a
gold watch with a gold chain and two gold seals, a purse containing eight pounds,
some silver, and his hat, on the 9th July last. The evidence adduced stated that he
did attack James Maxwell at Shawfield Tell, near Lift's Govan, and did knock him
down with some unlawful weapon, and did rob him of the articles already mentioned.

GEORGE LAIDLAW, for breaking into the shop of Messrs. Solomon and Had-
kins, jewellers, Nelson Street, Glasgow, on the 30th March, 1823, by means of false
keys, and stealing therefrom a number of gold and silver articles. The evidence
completely proved the guilt of the prisoner.

These two men have, since they received their sentence, conducted themselves in
a most exemplary manner, and aided by the exertions of several of the Ministers of
the city, were brought to a deep sense of the sinfulness of their past lives, and hoped
for forgiveness from man as well, as pardon from God. They were supported in their
solitary cell by the aid of prayer, the songs of praise, and the conversation of pious
men ; these religious exercises soothed their minds, dispelled their fears, animated
their hopes, and raised their affections above this passing scene to that happier state
of being, which they (guilty and sinful as they had lived) hoped, through the merits
of their Saviour, yet to enjoy. Cain, though of a carelesser disposition than Laidlaw,
has been nearly as assiduous in the work given him to do ; he had still a glimmering
hope of mercy till the time his companion received a respite, when the fond delusion
fled, and he became perfectly resigned to his fate. Laidlaw has all along been deeply
impressed with the awful state in which he was placed; she hope of mercy never for
a moment retarded him in his preparations for the vast unknown into which he was
So soon to enter, and the few weeks allotted him were spent in endeavouring to make
" his calling and election sure."

The night previous to their execution they slept but little, and' spent the most of
it in reading, and hearing others do the same; prayers and praises were also offered
in their behalf, and from the dawn of morning to the time that they appeared at the
awful brink of eternity, every thing that man could do was exercised for their sup-
port, consolation, and future prospects. After taking a long farewell of some of their
fellow prisoners, they proceeded to the Hall, and after the asual religious services
were gone through namely, reading, prayer and praise, the Magistrates ordered the
Hall to be cleared, and the prisoners in a short time followed, and walked to the last
scene of suffering in a very composed manner. They spent a few minutes in fer-
vent prayer, the signal was thrown, and after a few convulsive struggles their career
on earth was finished. They were decently dressed ; the crowd resembled was very
great ; a party of the Inniskillen Dragoons and the 73d foot guarded the scaffold .

Cain was hired to the cotton spinning business, and is about 17 years of age ; his
father and mother, and some sisters, are left to deplore his untimely end   His parents
are Irish, but have been a long time in this country, and reside in the Gorbals.

Laidlaw was by trade a wright, and is about 20 years, of age ; he belongs to Ander-
ston, and his parents are still alive.    They thanked those who had the care of them
for the kind treatment they had received in their temporal   concerns, and the Mini-   
sters for the interest they had taken in their spiritual welfare.

The fate of these young men should, (but it too seldom does) operate as a warning
to the young ; temptations to evil are numerous, inveiglers many, and thieves in
abundance ; they, therefore, cannot be too guarded, neither too well warned, to flee
from such company, and to tread those steps, which lead to happiness here and to   
happiness hereafter.                                


This execution report begins: 'Account of the Execution of FRANCIS CAIN & GEORGE LAIDLAW, for two different crimes, and who suffered at Glasgow, on Wednesday the 29th October, 1823, with their Behaviour since their condemnation and at the Scaffold.' Printed on the same day as the execution, this sheet was published by William Carse of Glasgow, who is listed as working from various addresses in Glasgow between 1820 and 1836.

This broadside tells of the violent end that befell Francis Cain and George Laidlaw, who were executed for carrying out a highway robbery and breaking into a jeweller's shop. The tone of this sheet is confessional, with a strong emphasis on redemption through embracing religion. It is also interesting to note the young ages of the two condemned men - a point highlighted by the writer of the sheet. The National Library of Scotland's collection contains other sheets describing the trials and executions of these two men, and it is interesting to contrast the approach to these events taken by different Glasgow publishers.

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.