The execution of Baird and Hardie – the executioner is engaged

Both Clerks wrote to each other on the 3rd September 1820, Galbraith was still in Edinburgh chasing his ex-soldier to see if he would act as executioner. Meanwhile, Littlejohn was sealing with deal with the Glasgow man, Thomas Young. Littlejohn’s letter gives extra detail as to the arrangements for the day of the execution.

William Galbraith in Edinburgh to Alexander Littlejohn, 3rd September 1820

Dear Littlejohn

I have received yours. I called today at the Police Office but found that Captain Brown was out in the country & not to return till late in the evening. From the officer on duty I learnt however that the Executioner was not made his appearance yesterday. He said that if he did not that Captain Brown could easily procure me another to do the business and from the call at the Office betwixt 9 & 10 to see about it. Perhaps you had better delay therefore engaging the Glasgow man until you hear from me by Tuesday morning’s post. I shall not engage a man here for certain however until I hear from you so that you had better write me in course.


Wm Galbraith

Edin. Sunday near 2

Alexander Littlejohn at Annfield to William Galbraith, 3rd September 1820

Dear Galbraith

I received yours this Morning and have seen the Sheriff. The Glasgow Hangman, Young, is already engaged, So we have no occasion whatever For one from Edinburgh. I hope the decapitator is engaged. The plan of coming by the Night Mail would do well enough, but Mr Pollock who conducted him to Glasgow leaves this tomorrow by the Steam Boat in order to arrange for his journey. He thinks the Steam Boat would do this however they may arrange as they think best. Mr Pollock has a letter to Captain Brown from Mr Salmond. We are also to have the assistance of Calder the Glasgow Police Man. The box containing the axe, knife, gown and cap came yesterday, but it will be probably necessary to buy a piece new cape at Edinburgh as I understand the last piece was torn in taking it off. You must be sure to explain that the Decapitator is to hold up the heads and afterwards put them into the coffins, as a demur was occasioned at Glasgow. The 13th are soon to leave this. I presume you do not mean to return till after the Execution. Do as you like, there is no immediate need of you.

I have opened a letter from Mr Fisher as to the submission & shall shew it to Mr Boyd.


A Littlejohn

Captain Wingate is dead. The decapitator must agree to ride in the Hurdle.