British Executions

John Campbell

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 14 May 1824

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Genuine and latest Account of the Ex-
cution of John Campbell who suffered
at Stirling on Friday last, the 14th of
May    1824. shewing the   Lamentable
manner   in which    he cried aloud for
mercy, with   an account of his affect-
ing farewell with his aged Father; al-
so an   account   how he   seized hold of
rope when he    was thrown off.

This day, the above unfortunate young man, John Campbell,
who was, on the 9th of April last, convicted of various acts
of Housebreaking and Theft, suffered the last punishment of
the law.    His behaviour on the occasion of his trial,   was of
such an uncommon and extravagant   nature,—breaking   out
into the most heart-rending lamentations, and otherwise ex-
hibiting such a want of fortitude,—that many were led to
conjecture that there was at least a temporary   destitution of
reason.    His conduct continued nearly the same long after he
was taken out of Court, and for several   days   after his con-
demnation, the cries from his cell arrested and   annoyed the
passengers on the streets.    He became afterwards,   however,
more composed ; but still at intervals displayed a weakness of
mind, which, coupled with his extreme youth, might perhaps
have well excused the extension of Royal Mercy.    Within a
few days of his execution, when he was assured on the evi-
dence of an official communication, that there   was no hope
of the sentence being commutted; his behaviour became
more distracting than ever ; and it was deemed necessary to
attend him constantly,   both with the view of keeping him
more at ease, and of preventing the sentence of the law from
being self-anticipated.

Campbell since his uondemnation, till within these few
days, took his meals regularly, and in general slept well.
Latterly, his rest was broken and disturbed, his impending
fate engrossing his whole attention ; and he was often exclaim-
ing, ' How will I be able to suffer such a death! While.
conversing with religious people he was more tranquil than
at other periods: and he frequently stated that his hope rest.
ed solely on the merits of our Saviour.    The greater part of
last night was spent in a manner suitable to the melancholy
occasion ; and the prisoner seemed more composed than he
had been far some nights previous.    At 2 o'clock this morn-
ing, he threw, himself on his bed, and slumbered till 3,   when
he awoke, remarking that another hour of his time was gone.
He again betook himself to rest,   and continued in a calm
sleep till nearly 5, when he got up, and entered seriously into
the religious conversation of those around him ; and fervent-
ly prayed that the Lord would strengthen him in his hour of
trial.    During the forenoon, he was visited qy several of the
religious inhabitants and clergymen of the   place,   to whose
prayers and instructions he paid particular attention.    A
little before 2 in the afternoon,   he was led into the Court-
Room, where, as is usual, the religious exercises were per-
formed, after which,   attended by the Rev. Mr Anderson of
Blair Logie, he moved forward to the scaffold.    Centrary to
general expectation, the prisoner behaved with a great degree
of fortitude,   until he dropped the signal,   when he seized
the rope with his hand, and consepuently by injuring the
fall, prolonged his agony for some time.

John Campbell was born at the bridge of Kelty, near Cal-
lander, in 1804, and came to reside in the village of St. Nin-
ians, about a mile from Stirling, when   very young.    What
education he possessed, he received at the parochial school of
that place.    He also attended the Sabdath   Evening   School
there, but notwithstanding the good instructions he was then
receiving, he was in the habit of committing many petty de-
predations through the week, such as entering hen-houses,
and carrying off the poultry.    He never could think of set-
tling at any regular employment, and to this, the breaking of
the Sabbath, and bad company, he attributed his awful end,
For two winters he followed after smugling, during which
attained a number of bad habits.   


This report begins: 'Genuine and latest Account of the Excution of John Campbell who suffered at Stirling on Friday last, the 14th of May 1824 shewing the Lamentable manner in which he cried aloud for mercy, with an account of his affecting farewell with his aged Father ; also an account how he seized hold of rope when he was thrown off.'

Campbell, a thief, would not accept his fate peacefully and in the weeks before the execution his upsetting wails from the cells could be heard by passers by. So desperate was he to live that he grabbed the noose as the floor went from under him. This broadside was printed the same day as the execution, and perhaps the copy should have been checked more thoroughly - it promises an account of the prisoner's farewell to his father, and there isn't one!

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.