British Executions

Thomas Neilson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 14 Aug 1718

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


The last Speech and Confession,

And last Words of Thomas Neilson, who was Executed at Maybol, on Tbur-
sday being the 14th of August, 1718. For Murdering one Named
M'Connel, in the Parish of Girvan.

FOR the better Understanding of the ensuing Discourse, it will hot be amise to Re-
late how this matter began. The Murdered, and the. Murderers, dwelt in a
Mealing together, in Daldouy in the Parish of Girvan, and were every way Partiners
( but the Neilson's besides were Cowpers to their Employment) It's Storied that the
Man Murdered was a Rubust stormy fort of a Man, and able for both the Father and
the Son, and had many Squables in former times, for the matter of four Years space ;
and probably the Father and Son being worsted, they only lacked an Opportunity, Ac-
cordingly they sharpned their Spades at a Smiths Booth very nicely and made them as
sharp as Knives, which amuzed the Smith not a little. Then this M'connel the Man
Murdered, going to cast Pits in the Moss ; this Neilson and,his Son came to him and
desired him to put up the part of his Faldicke conjunct with them,otherwise he must
Pay what skaith they should afterwards incurr. This M'connel came in to his Wife,
aad told her she said she was very willing, but she Was afraid they had some bad
design on him, where at he replyed the People were not Mad, and so went along
with them ; where they came upon the Spot, they agreed among themselves that the
Man Murdered should lift the Turf first, so as he Was lifting of the Turf, the Father
with his Spade whipt down the side of his Head, and broke the small of his Back,and
Legs and Arm's, he received 30 several Wounds from them, after which they departed;
and as they were coming Home, M'connels Wife met them, and enquired for her
Husband,'they told her he was lying yonder, GOD let him never Rise; the poor
Woman said very soberly, its a bad Prayer, and it's what I feared, and told my Dear
in the morning. Yet GOD spared him a little to speak to her, fays Ire the Cowpers
have gain' the Day, and GOD have Mercy upon my Soul, and that was all he said,
When the Father and Son went Home, the Son Fled, and the Father went to Prayer,
and accordingly about an Hour thereafter the Neighbourhood rose & apprehended him
The Poor Woman in the mean while was fitting with the Corps in her Arms, for a large
half Hour before any came to her.

When this Man was Murdered there was people at a distance, but none so near
hand as Could lake up this Debate, however tho' the Murder could not be proven by
Witnesses, it was proven by Circumstances, for in the first place they were all three
seen to go out together, and all three at Work tho at distance together, and then Two
were seen to, come away, and one left.

Lastly these Neilsons Spades were seen to be full of Blood, and which is strange it's
said, that Rub as you will, none can either rub or wash off that Blood, but kill it grew
the brighter.                                  .               

Two Nights before he was Executed, they Examined him upon the Guard,if he did
it throw Envy, he said that it was not so much throw Envy, as he was compelled to
it, for when this Man [quoth he took his Mad fits he was oblidged many times
to leave the place and run for it.

After he was brought forth to the place of Execution betwixt Two and Three a-
clock, he was waited on by the very Revernd, the Ministers of Maybol, Carmichl,
Straiton, Kirkoswal, and his own Minister the Minister of Girvan, Prayers said, Psalms
sung; he was desired by the Ministers, now to give Satisfaction to the People of GOD
that were there present, whereat he kneeled down and Prayed,that the Almighty might
Pardon that Hainous Act of Murder There the Ministers asked several. Questions as
whether of not he Murdered thro' Envy He keep silent, for tho he Gofessed it in
Prison, he did not upon the Scaffold : Also with several other Questions, whether or
not he had Converse with the Devil as was reported of him, he returned no positive
Answer. but entertained them with a Discourse that he was neither a Sabbath breaker
nor a Drunkard more than others, which was no Answer at all to the Question, where
at one of the Ministers said, Tbomas, I have done with you. So that save
the Murdering of the Man he made no furder Consession. Then he was at last
thrown over the Ladder with great Difficulty; for he was loath to Die.


This execution notice continues: 'And last words of Thomas Neilson, who was Executed at Maybol, on Thursday, being the 14th of August, 1718. For Mudering one Named M'Connel, is the Parish of Girvan.'

This broadside is actually a relatively detailed account of both the murder and the events afterwards. Many of these texts are quite formulaic and are used as an opportunity for moral education. This piece, however, is more narrative with the inclusion of revealing vignettes, such as, 'the poor woman . . . was sitting with the corps in her arms for a large half hour'. The rationale of the conviction is fully explained, as are Neilson's motives and conscience. Finally it is suggested that Neilson suffered from bouts of madness.

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.