British Executions

Margaret Wishart

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 16 Jun 1827

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


   A full and true account of the Behaviour and



MARGARET WISHART, who was Executed at Forfar, on
Saturday last, the 16th June, 1827, for the horrid and cruel
murder of her own blind sister.    With the proceedings at the
place of Execution.    Also an accouut of the dreadful noises
which were heard in the house lately occupied by her.

FORFAR, 16th JUNE. 1827- This day, the last sentence of the law was put
in force here, upon MARGARET WISHART, who was convicted at last Perth
Assizes, of the cruel and horrid murder of her own blind sister, by giving her poison
among her porridge.

It appeared from the evidence which was adduced on the trial, that her sister was
blind, and that she lived with Margaret, that she had had an illegitimate child, and
was again pregnant; that on the 6th day of October last, she had given her a plate
of porridge, and had put some arsenic in them, that in about half an hour after
wards she took unwell, and complained of a particular drought. She was delivered
of a male child, which was healthy as birth, but its belly swelled, and it grew worse
till it died. Her sister Margaret, would let no doctors be sent for, and she died in
three days after she got the poison.

The Jury unanimously found her guilty of the murder of her sister, and she was to
have been Executed here, on Saturday the 2d of June, but in consequence of her
having some short time before, exhibited strong symptom of mental derangement,
a respite of fourteen days was granted, to see if it was true; but we understand there
was no truth in it.

About two o'clock, the prisoner came into the Hall, attended by the Magistrates
and the Rev. Messrs. Clugston and Rankine, and at her desire, the 51 st psalm, from
the 7th to the 12th verse was sung. Towards half-past two, the prisoner signified
her readiness to ascend the scaffold, to which she was assisted by the Rev. Messrs.
Clugston and Rankine, and after seating herself on a chair, Mr. C. commenced the
last devotional services, by giving out, as selected by the prisoner, a portion of the
5th hymn, and by her desire, beginning at the line, " not in my innocence I trust"
Mr. C. having requested the assembled multitude join in the last devotional ex-
ercises with their fellow-mortal on earth, the request was generally complied with.
At its conclusion the prayer Offered up left with many present, an impression which
is not likely soon to be efficed. The Executioner now adjusted the rope round the
neck of the unhappy woman, and drew the cap over her face. She was then sup-
ported to the fatal drop, on which she stood 38 minutes engaged in prayer, and ad-
dressing the crowd. In her last prayer she confessed many aggravated sins, and
cried loudly for mercy through the Redeemer, but did not confess the crime for
which she suffered; This she denied from the first, and Mr. Clugston who had the
nearest access to her heart, was not instructed either to assert her innocence, or ac-
knowledge her guilt. At 20 minutes past 3, the drop fell, and she died without a
struggle. Her composure of mind during the whole was astonishing. After hang-
ing the usal time, her body was cut down, and sent to Edinburgh for dissection. The
executioner from Edinburgh officiated, and the crowd was immense.

In the house formerly occupied by her in Arbroath, there is occasionally heard,
(particularly in the night time) a fearful noise, as if of tongues, doors rattling, fire-
irons clattering, & c.; so that the present occupants lose many an hour and night's
sleep. Mr. William Prophet; stone-ware merchant, and family, occupy the whole
house. Several people who have had occasion to be in the house, have heard the
noises, and concur with the family in speaking of them. Whatever the cause of
them may may be, the truth of this statement is beyond all controversy. Ghost or
no ghost, the family are fearfully annoyed.

                                                                      John Muir, printer, Glasgow.


This execution notice begins: 'A full and true account of the Behaviour and Execution of MARGARET WISHART, who was Executed at Forfar, on Saturday last the 16th June, 1827, for the horrid and cruel murder of her own blind sister. With the proceedings at the place of Execution. Also an account of the dreadful noises which were heard in the house lately occupied by her.' It was published by John Muir of Glasgow and probably sold for one penny.

Crime reports were by far and away the most popular amongst the broadside readership; the more gruesome the crime, the more copies sold! In many cases a particular crime could generate a sequence of sheets covering everything from the discovery of a body and the apprehension of the criminal to the trial and, in most cases, the execution of the culprit. This particular execution notice ends with the suggestion that Margaret Wishart caused much disturbance after her death by haunting her old house in Orchard Road, Arbroath.

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.