The execution of Baird and Hardie – the need for secrecy

On the 4th September 1820, William Galbraith is writing to Alexander Littlejohn about finalising the arrangements for engaging the hangman and decapitator. he is to meet the medical student that evening. There is concern over sending a man named Pollock from Stirling to Edinburgh to accompany the student back to Stirling, the worry being that doing such a thing will somehow result in the arrival of the decapitator being discovered. The concern about secrecy is a theme of these letters and indicates the level of support that Baird and Hardie had amongst the people of Stirling.

William Galbraith in Edinburgh to Alexander Littlejohn, 4th September 1820

Dear Littlejohn

I have received yours and as I had to see Captain Brown this morning at all events, I told him that the Glasgow Executioner was engaged. He was well pleased with it as the Edinburgh one is not yet forthcoming & the man he proposed as his substitute is a near hand. He has fixed with the Decapitator to do the business for 20 Guineas & expences. The terms were to do every thing in the same way as at  Glasgow, where he rode in the hurdle, held up the heads & assisted in pulling the body into the coffin. I am to meet the man at Captain Brown’s between 8 & 9 this evening, when we shall get the matter finally arranged. Captain Brown thinks it an unnecessary expence to send Pollock here as there cannot he says be any doubt of the man going; & it may cause him to be discovered, a thing which it is wished much to prevent. Pollock will have seen Captain Brown by the time I call so that this may yet be otherwise arranged.


Wm Galbraith

Edin. Monday

4 Sept.