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Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives


Nov 13, 2015

250 years ago, according to the ‘Newgate Calendar’, a convicted murderer, Patrick Ogilvie from Forfar, was hanged in the Grassmarket on Friday 13th November 1765.

The Newgate Calendar was a hugely popular publication of the 18th and 19th centuries. Originally it was a monthly bulletin of executions from London’s Newgate prison. Later it became a compilation of broadsheets sold by peddlers at and after public executions in all parts of Britain.

The 'Calendar' fed huge public interest in the crimes, trials and punishments of notorious criminals. First published in 1773, it reported on crimes from 1700 onwards.

The story of convicted co-murderers Patrick Ogilvie and his sister-in-law and lover Catherine Nairn is a lurid tale, which the Newgate Calendar presented in a florid and judgmental style reminiscent of today’s tabloids and gossip magazines.

The story has all the attributes of a melodrama: a marital mismatch, forbidden and scandalous passion, family betrayal, conspiracy to murder, a cruel and agonising arsenic poisoning, protestations of innocence of fratricide by one conspirator, and a dramatic escape from the gallows by the other. Even the execution of Patrick provided unexpected drama as the first attempt was bungled.

Did an innocent man die on the gallows while the guilty party escaped justice?

Decide for yourself by enoying the Newgate Calendar's original racy version, courtesy of exclassics.com

Illustration: A Grassmarket execution . Old and New Edinburgh.



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