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Manchester Tragedy - Part 3

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    ...continued... Irish Catholic Chronicle And People s News of the Week Dublin, Ireland Saturday, 30 November 1867 NIGHT - THE STREETS About ten o clock large
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2005

      Irish Catholic Chronicle And People's News of the Week
      Dublin, Ireland
      Saturday, 30 November 1867

      About ten o'clock large crowds began to gather in the streets
      immediately in the neighbourhood of the scaffold, but the outer barrier
      arrested all further progress, and then these Englishmen sat down. The
      peculiar characteristic of the nation was fully displayed by the lively
      disputes concerning the purchase of hot potatoes which were being cooked in
      enormous quantities by machines resembling fire-engines. Around these were
      squatted those chattering, swearing, obscene; but eating assemblages to be
      found nowhere but in England. Wrangles and jokes were settled and laughed
      at, and politics and Fenianism warmly and energetically discussed. Cans of
      beer and lumps of cheese; hot potatoes and squares of bacon; steaming pies
      and odorous onions- hodge-podges of marvellous and heterogeneous confusion
      were discussed and consumed with a gusto that only the eve of an execution
      can bring to the enlightened Englishman. Females sat in these gatherings,
      and joined in these disgusting festivals as confidently as if that were the
      scene for woman. Young lads and girls sported in high glee in front of the
      glaring gas jet that told of the beer-cellar and youthful lips rang out the
      ready oath that spoke the culture of degraded parents. A strong contrast was
      found in the stolid, stupid, besotted mass that leaned against the
      barricade; it stirred not, breathed not, spoke not- but patiently awaited
      the chance of improving their position, and with unruffled and bovine quiet,
      stayed out the weary night to witness the strangulation of three human
      beings. Just before the barricade a wall of policemen prevented the
      possibility of entrance. Those who had tickets forced a difficult way
      through the crowd that hoarsely shouted in reckless blasphemy, or roared a
      line of drunken song, or warmly disputed the possession of food, or hotly
      quarrelled for the right to drink, and were then blocked by that immovable
      barrier of stolid savages through whose compact gathering passage was
      impossible. It was pleasant - if one could be pleasant then - to know that
      "the mere Irish" were not of these brawlers, that the never failing charge
      of riotous uproar must this night be laid to the account of the uncouth sons
      of Lancashire. I learned on inquiry that the Catholic clergy had inculcated
      peace and moderation to their people and especially requested them to absent
      themselves from Salford and its neighbourhood during the night of the
      execution. This commendable injunction was strictly obeyed and there was no
      Irish element in the motley crew whose ugly shadow was thrown in grotesque
      outline across the feebly lighted streets. At last I made my way to the
      Albert Hotel, a house standing almost fifty yards from the scaffold on the
      opposite street. I had learned that 'the fourth estate,' was there and there
      only; and soon I found myself in presence of some fifty press-men from every
      port of the United Kingdom. At intervals during the night we dropped out in
      couples to see the streets, but there was a general cluster when a
      Manchester gentleman brought in a copy of an anonymous letter which had been
      received by Calcraft, with the pithily illiterate rejoinder of that worthy
      man! - "If you hang any of the gentlemen condemned to death at the New
      Bailey Prison, it will be worse for you; you will not survive afterwards."
      Calcraft immediately sent the note to the visiting justices of the jails,
      with this comment - " I have received the enclosed letter. It seems a
      serious job. I hope you will look after it that I shall get home safe
      again." It seems that the executioner was in some say worried; and in truth
      if preparation could ease his mind, he must have been content. About twelve
      o'clock the police entered every house, and took the name and address of all
      persons who did not permanently reside therein. It is rather lucky Mr.
      Calcraft was not shot, or else we might all have been put on trial on the
      capital charge in that "constructive" spirit which marks the administration
      of recent law. About two o'clock the fog was dense and bitterly cold. An
      hour later; vocalism became popular, and the ringing tones of "John Brown"
      from a hundred throats pierced the thick "blanket" of the night." And thus,
      in eating, and drinking, and singing, and dancing ,and talking, and
      swearing, and marching, did these Englishmen hail the morn whose first light
      heralded coming and certain death to three men hard-by.
      There is little to add respecting the prison life of the condemned.
      Clinging to hope at first, they believed for some days after sentence was
      passed that they would not be hanged. The assurances which they received
      from without, however, dispelled this feeling a few days ago, and since
      Wednesday the men have been fully resigned to their fate. The parting
      interviews of Allen and Larkin with their friends took place on Friday; and
      after their final severance from earthly ties, the doomed men devoted
      themselves with increased fervour to their religious duties. They were
      locked up at the usual hour - about half-past six o'clock. Strange as it may
      appear; the three men, standing on the brink of the grave, about to suffer
      an ignominious death, slept as soundly as had been their wont. At a quarter
      to five o'clock on Saturday morning, Mr. Holt, the warder in charge, went to
      their cells and awoke them. The priests in attendance, the Rev. Canon
      Cantwell and the Rev. Fathers Quick and Gadd, celebrated mass at half-past
      five, and administered the holy communion. After partaking of the sacred
      rite, the convicts spent their time in prayer until nearly seven o'clock,
      when they breakfasted. The last preparations were then begun. At twelve
      minutes to eight o'clock, the executioner and his assistant, Armstrong, were
      introduced into the cell in which the convicts were placed, and the process
      of pinioning their arms was gone through. The priests stood by the side of
      the unhappy men, administering the consolations of religion, and exhorting
      them to firmness to meet the last dread ordeal. The convicts at this time
      manifested a remarkable fortitude. Not one of them flinched in the least.
      They had severally expressed an intention to address the crowd from the
      scaffold, but at the urgent entreaty of the priests they abandoned that
      At a quarter to eight o'clock the interior court of the gaol presented
      a strange and striking spectacle. Behind the wall in New Bailey-street was
      erected the long staircase leading to the scaffold, and by the side were
      platforms for the tise of the military. The fog was so dense that objects
      could be but faintly distinguished at a distance of thirty yards. Suddenly
      the worlds of military command were heard and a company of the 72nd
      Highlanders marched round the Roundhouse and took up a position in line of
      the foot of the staircase. Simultaneously small detachments of the same
      regiment ascended to the platform, and crouched there, with their loaded
      rifles slightly projecting over the prison wall. At almost the same moment
      the heads of a line of soldiers arose above the parapet of the railway
      viaduct. A line of warders was formed in the gaol court. The sentries on
      duty ceased their walk; magistrates and reporters stood aside, and a dead
      silence prevailed for a few moments, as a signal was given from the corner
      of the Roundhouse. At three minutes past eight o'clock the solemn voice of a
      minister repeating the litany of the Roman Catholic Church was heard; and
      the head of the procession became visible through a thick fog, about thirty
      yards from the foot of the staircase. The Rev. Cantwell walked first, by the
      side of Allen. The convict was deadly pale; his eyes wandered alternately
      from the priest to the individuals standing round and then he uplifted his
      gaze in a vain endeavour to pierce the dense canopy which hung above him. He
      walked with a tolerably steady step, and uttered the response, "Lord, have
      mercy upon us." in a firm voice. As he ascended the staircase he seemed to
      summon all his courage, and he succeeded so far as to be able to confront
      the crowd with an unshrinking countenance. Next to him came Larkin, in whose
      appearance confinement and anxiety of mind had wrought a striking change. He
      walked with difficulty and required the support of the warders as he
      mounted the staircase. He seemed to join mechanically in the responses; and
      as he neared the head of the stirs he gave one hasty glance at the black
      beams overhead and seemed about to faint.
      Gould was the last, and he met hi fate firmly. Joining in the responses
      with a steady voice, and keeping his eyes upward, after one glance at the
      group assembled below, he mounted the steps without hesitation and took his
      place upon the drop.

      ...to be continued...

      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
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