British Executions

Charles Donaldson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 4 Apr 1836

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown




CHARLES DONALDSON, Sail-maker, Tolbooth Wynd, Leith,
who was Executed this morning, at the head of Libberton s
Wynd, for the Murder of Margaret Marr, his wife.

Edinburgh, Monday, April 4, 1886.

       THIS morning,   soon after eight   o'clock,   Charles   Donaldson,sail-maker, Leith, underwent the extreme penalty of the law,
upon a scaffold erected at the west corner of the County Hall, head
of Libberton's Wynd, for the murder of Margaret Marr, his wife,
by striking her repeatedly on the head with a frying-pan, on Mon-
day the 9th of November last, in consequence whereof she was
mortally wounded, and died on the Wednesday following--afford-
ing another melancholy example of the misery and crime conse-   
quent upon the intemperate use of ardent spirits.

From the evidence adduced at his trial, which took place on the
14th of March last, it would appear that he and the deceased lived
very uncomfortably together, --she being much addicted to drinking,
for which he used frequently to beat her. On that fatal evening,
coming home from his work, he found his door locked on the in-
side ; and, borrowing a knife from a neighbour, he pushed back
the lock and gained admittance, when he found his wife lying a-
sleep in bed, from which he pulled her out upon the floor, where
he kicked her severely with his feet, broke a bottle on her head,
and struck her repeatedly upon the head with a frying-pan, till
she became insensible.    The only words she was heard to utter
were, "Oh! Charlie, Charlie."    In this state she was put to bed,
where she continued in a state of stupor, and died on Wednesday
evening.    The jury found a verdict of Guilty, but recommended
the prisoner to mercy ; and the awful sentence of death was pro-
nounced against him.

During his long confinement previous to his trial, the unhappy
culprit entertained strong hopes of acquital ; after his condemna-
tion, however, he became fully alive to his awful situation, indulg-
ing but very faint hopes of a respite through the jury's recommend-
ation to mercy, and lending the most serious attenion to the reli-
gious instructions of the worthy clergymen who attended him.

He was brought over to the Lock-up-house about ten o'clock
last night, where he was immediately waited upon by his spiritual
advisers, with whom he spent the greater part of the night in de-
votional exercises.

A little before eight o'clock, the Magistrates, attended by their
officers, appeared in the hall of the Lock-up, when Donaldson was
ushered in, and a psalm being sung, and a fervent and impressive
prayer offered up on his behalf, he underwent the usual operation of pinioning his arms.    The melancholy procession then moved up
Libberton's Wynd, to the scaffold erected in the Lawn-Market
Here a most pathetic prayer was again offered up, in which the un-
fortunate man appeared most seriously and attentively to join; and,
after shaking hands with those around him, he was then assisted to
ascend the fatal drop.    The executioner proceeded to adjust the
aparatus of death, while the unfortunate man appeared to pray very
earnestly.    In a few minutes he let go the fatal signal, when the
drop fell, and the world closed upon him for ever.    He struggled a
good deal, and appeared much convulsed.    After hanging about
six-and-thirty minutes, the body was lowered down, and afterwards
conveyed to the Calton Jail, there to be interred, in pursuance of
the sentence.

Sanderson, Printer, High Street, Edinburgh.


This report begins: 'Execution of CHARLES DONALDSON, Sail-maker, Tolbooth Wynd, Leith, who was Executed this morning at the head of Libberton's Wynd, for the murder of Margaret Marr, his wife.' This sheet was published by Sanderson of the High Street, Edinburgh, on the 4th April, 1836.

This broadside tells the dreadful story of how Charles Donaldson was executed for beating his wife, Margaret Marr, to death with a frying pan. It emerged during the trial that Donaldson often beat his wife, as he was fed up with her addiction to drink. The catalyst for the murder appears to have been his wife locking him out from the house. As can be seen from the accompanying woodcut illustration, the broadside focuses much attention on the procession to the scaffold, and how Donaldson conducted himself during his last journey.

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.