British Executions

Joseph Richardson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 14 May 1823

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


A full and particular account of the Execution and behaviour of
for the crime of uttering as genuine false and forged notes, who were
EXECUTED at Dumfries, on Wednesday the 14th day of May, 1823.

The above persons, as also William Richardson, brother to the said Joseph, were all three tried at
Dumfries, and condemned to death on Wednesday the 9th day of April last, by the Right Honourable Lord
Meadowbank; but since which, on Thursday the 1st instant, the Magistrates received a letter from the Right
Honourable Robert Peel, Secretary of State for the Home Department, stating that his Majesty had been
graciously pleased to grant a reprieve in favour of William Richardson, the eldest of the two unfortunate
brothers, commuting his punishment to banishment for life. The intelligence was communicated to him by
the Provost, (in presence of the different Ministers of the town), and he received the glad tidings with becom-
ing thankfulness, and expressed his gratitude to those individuals who had so earnestly and successfully inter-
ested themselves in his behalf.

His brother Joseph continued to the last to be deeply affected by the awful fate that awaited him, and dili-
gently attended to the instructions of those Rev. Gentlemen who daily visited him. It is also consolatory to
learn, that the conduct of M'Kana, the Irishman, was in every respect most exemplary for his situation, tho'
professing the Roman Catholic creed. He was far from being bigoted; but on the contrary, was most anxious
to receive the advice and assistance of the Clergymen of every denomination, all of whom express themselves
much satisfied with the state of his mind, and the resignation which he manifested. He was by no means ig-
norant of religious matters, indeed, his general knowledge, makes it the more to be lamented, that he had not
applied his talents to some honest purpose. During the trial, which was long and tedious, it appeared that
M'Kana, and Hannah Black, his wife, had 72, and Joseph Richardson 163 forged notes, knowingly in their
possession, without lawful excuse, at their dwelling places, Lockerby-muir and Gilmourbank. The Richard-
sons appear to be about from 35 to 40 years of age, and M'Kana about 50. While his Lordship was pas-
sing sentence, the pannel Joseph Richardson, fainted. During their long confinement, every indulgence has
been granted them, as far as the nature of their unfortunate situation would admit; and the prayers of the dif-
ferent congregations has not been omitted in their behalf; and these unfortunate men have conducted them-
selves both before and since their trial with becoming propriety.

A new drop has been erected for the occasion, and so rare it is for two to be executed here at same time,
that it has but once occurred for more than sixty years, and that was the two brothers M.R------, for house-
breaking, in 180-, and it is to be hoped it will be much longer before such an occurrence takes place again,
as moral and religions instruction is by no means wanting in this part of the country, when listened to.-
There were an immense crowd assembled to witness their melancholy exit; the number cannot be estimated at
less than 10,000. From the Post-Office to the New Bridge was one dense and unbroken mass; every win-
dow and lamp-post was literally crowded. About a quarter before three, they asccended the fatal steps.

After the prisoners had been seated, a very impressive prayer was delivered by Dr Scott, to which they
seemed to listen with apparent resignation and reverence. After some preliminary circumstances were got
over, linen caps were then drawn over their features, by which they were wholly concealed; and after the rope
was adjusted, a solemn silence prevailed. The fatal signals were given, and in a few moments all was over!
Their straggles were short. After their bodies were cut down, and incoffined, they were delivered to their
friends for interment.

To prevent such crimes and such rigid punishment as is by law awarded to offenders, let such a full example
as is intended be the means of preventing and deterring others from entailing misery and disgrace on them-
selves and posterity.                                                                                                



This execution notice begins: 'EXECUTION. / A full and particular account of the Execution and behaviour of JOHN M'KANA, alias M'KENA, and JOSEPH RICHARDSON, for the crime of uttering as genuine false and forged notes, who were EXECUTED at Dumfries, on Wednesday the 14th day of May, 1823.' It was printed by McLachlan of Dumfires, and was probably priced at one penny.

Although William Richardson, Joseph's brother, was also convicted for the same crime and condemned to die, the Magistrates received a letter from Robert Peel, Secretary of State for the Home Department, stating that his Majesty had granted William a reprieve. Joseph Richardson and John McKana (also spelt M'Canna and McKena) were offered no such reprieve, however, and were executed in front of the prison at Buccleuch Street, Dumfries. McCanna was a 39 year old Irish emigrant. He married a Lockerbie woman and worked as a roadman. The National Library of Scotland's broadside collection includes another broadside, printed by John Muir of Glasgow, which also details the execution and behaviour of the two men.

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.