Awful Executions Through History

Political correctness reared its head in the 19th century, when the English parliament decided, in response to public demand, passed a law banning all public executions. One section of the public, however, was outraged, because a good execution, along with pies and pints of beer, had always made for a good outing. Many years earlier, when executions took place at Tyburn all the time, the busiest gallows in England had been made to accommodate 21 victims at once, and execution days drew enormous crowds

Taken to the Tyburn Tree, prisoners from Newgate jail, sited where the Old Bailey now stands, would all get scented gifts from the several thousand spectators on hand. aA final, free drink was provided at the Mason’s Arms public house, still open today. Hanging, however, was not the only method of execution, and some were far more grisly.


Being boiled alive was a quite legal and acceptable method of execution in 1531, when Henry VIII was king, his having passed the relevant law that very year. One man who suffered this awful fate was Richard Rouse, boiled alive at Smithfield market in April, 1532. He had been cook to the Bishop of Rochester, found guilty of killing a dozen people in ridiculously trying to poison his boss. Another killer to suffer this fate was maid-servant Margaret Davy, in 1542, for poisoning people she had lived with.

In 1685 the executioner of Charles II’s eldest son was Jack Ketch. Convicted of treason and sentenced to death, this poor man was subjected one of the most botched executions in recorded history.

From Wikipedia: “The king took the unusual step of allowing his nephew an audience, despite having no intention of extending a pardon to him. The prisoner unsuccessfully implored his mercy, and even offered to convert to Catholicism, but to no avail. He was beheaded by Jack Ketch on 15 July 1685, on Tower Hill. Shortly beforehand, Bishops Turner of Ely and Ken of Bath and Wells visited the condemned man to prepare him for eternity, but withheld the Eucharist as he refused to acknowledge that either his rebellion or his relationship with Lady Wentworth had been sinful. It is said that before laying his head to the block Monmouth specifically bade Ketch finish him at one blow, saying he had mauled others before. Disconcerted, Ketch did indeed inflict multiple blows with his axe, the prisoner rising up reproachfully the while – a ghastly sight that shocked the witnesses, drawing forth execrations and groans. Some say a knife was at last employed to sever the head from the twitching body. Sources vary; some claim eight blows, the official Tower of London fact sheet says it took five blows, while Charles Spencer, in his book Blenheim, states it at seven.”

Bizarrely, history relates that the king, having no official portrait of his child, had the head sewn back onto the torso, so a sitting for such a royalportrait could take place.

French watchmaker Robert Hubert confessed to starting the Great Fire of London in 1666, for which he hanged from the Tyburn Tree. It is now known that he could not have committed the crime, not having even been in the city on the day of the fire. It is widely believed that this disabled man, who was mentally challenged, was the unwitting victim of an anti-Catholic conspiracy. Burning down even a single building, in those days, not to say over 13,000 of them, was punishable by death, remaining so through to 1861. It is now thought the confession was tortured from him.


The Scottish sailor who, through ill luck and misfortune turned to piracy, becoming known as the notorious Captain Kidd, was also to suffer an ignominious fate, when captured and put on trial in 1700. The whole case was a real sensation in the London society of the time, and it was felt that an example needed to be made. He was, as pirate tradition would have it, hanged from the yardarm at Wapping Stairs, where three tides were allowed to wash over the body before it spent twenty years hanging in chains at Tilbury docks.

Before 1772, wealthy people found guilty of capital crimes could elect to undergo ‘peine forte et dure’ , ‘hard and forceful punishment’ in French, which meant allowing themselves to be slowly squashed to death under a wooden board laden with heavy wieghts, suffering this hideous death because it was the only way they could avoid having their property confiscated by the Crown.

Roman Catholic Martyr St Margaret Clitherow, suffered this fate March 25, 1586, for harboring, at the time outlawed catholic priests. 15 minutes, beneath 700 pounds of dead wieght, was the time it took for her to die. Other victims of this cruel killing wereMajor Strangways , in1658, and John Weekes , in 1731, both of whom had refused to plead guilty, despite the torture, being killed by merciful onlookers, who sat on the boards to finish them off.

Henry, “Little Lord” Fauntleroy had the distinction of seeing the largest ever crowd for a public execution, on November 30th, 1824, outside Newgate to witness his slaying. 100,000 people were baying for his death. His crime had been to defraud the Bank of England in the sum of £250,000, the equivalent of perhaps £40 million today. The thing that really got the crowd incensed was his utter indifference to the way he had squandered the money, living a high life most could only ever dream of. Going cheerfully to meet his maker, he was the last person ever hanged in the UK for the crime of forgery. Some methods of execution, like the death oh a thousand cuts, shown below, were even more brutal, but the sad fact is that people always bay to watch. What perverse creatures humans are.

Powerful Native American Animal Symbols

The Native Americans lived in harmony with the earth and revered many creatures for their strength, courage, and hard work.

To the Native American People, the Creator is in all nature and this includes everything that lives. Their belief is that each of us must find our place within nature in order to live at peace. All creatures and plants in creation are considered to be equal, each fitting into the system according to its individual characteristics and abilities.

Animals and their totems represent a persons spirit guide, or helper in physical form. An excellent introduction to this interesting subject is provided in the book, ‘The Eagle’s Gift by Carlos Castenada’.

Some Native American animal symbols and their meanings:

Eagle


The Eagle is a symbol of the divine spirit, the protector of all things. It has the power to protect against evil, no matter how great that might be. When seen in the sky it was considered to be a sign that justice would be done in battle.

Spinning Lizard

The spinning lizard was a very popular Native American symbol and was used by the Navajo and other tribes. It is mostly seen in old designs from the South-West.

Spider

The spider was a symbol of success through handwork and perseverance. It is found in the artwork of most Native American tribes in all regions. Designs and colors vary greatly but one of the most common designs is the red and black spider seen on pottery and carved into wood.

Wolf

The wolf is a symbol of loyalty and success. This came from the fact that wolves mate for life. They are considered to be the most loyal of creatures. The plains Indians Tribes domesticated some wolves, to a degree. The animals became faithful and loyal to them and followed them as they went. These animals were quite closely interbred and this is where the lineage of the domestic dog began.

Buffalo

The buffalo was the most important of animals to the Native Americans. It gave them life by providing everything from clothing and shelter to food and tools. It was natural that it would revered and venerated because of the great gifts it bestowed on them.

Bear

The bear symbolizes great strength and leadership. The Blackfoot tribe selected two men each year to serve as “Grizzly Bear Men” . These men had to fight like bears and charge fearlessly at the enemy.

Turtle

Tribal legend has it that the turtle enabled the second people to be born on the earth and that he carried a piece of the old earth on his back to make this possible. This is an almost universal symbol among Native American Tribes.

‘When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.’

~Cree Prophecy

Saucy Seaside Postcards

A stay at a British holiday resort always involved a look at the postcard racks outside the shops that lined the seafront.

As a young lad the scantily clad women on the cards were eye opening and as a slightly older young lad, the innuendoes were well worth a titter behind the card rack. Of course you didn’t pick one of those to buy, not in front of mum and dad; you chose a nice view of the resort. Then you took it back to where you were staying to write out to send to your friend back home.

If you were feeling kind, the message usually was “Having a nice time, wish you were here.” However if you were that way out, and wanted to remind him that he wasn’t on holiday while you were then it would be, “Having a fantastic time. Wish you were here?”

By the time you were into your teens then inevitably you’d be bold enough to pick and send one of the saucy ones.

During the holiday season I’m sure delivering the mail gave the postman a bit of a giggle.

The Benny Hill type humour reflected British humour that was popular in the late fifties, sixties and seventies and seen in the popular “Carry On” series of films.

They usually contained buxom women, hen pecked husbands and “courting” couples, and always the innuendo or double entendre.

The postcard first appeared in the mid nineteenth century.

In “A brief history of the picture postcard” by Judith & Stephen Holder (FRPS) they write:  “The creation of the postcard by Dr Emanuel Hermann in Austria on 1 October 1869 set in motion a revolution in the communication of the ordinary message of no especial importance, the private note, the mundane or jolly remark, the ‘wish you were here’ – indeed any short note for which no real ’security’ was required.

Almost all the main developments in the artistic designs of Postcard art originated on the continent, in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. The two main exceptions which developed in Great Britain were the Comic card and to some extent the Real Photograph cards of social, industrial and village history.”

Jonathan Duffy (BBC News Online) quotes from a book by Collector Tom Phillips.

“They were classless, and the limited space was a blessing to those with poor spelling or without much to say. “

In an essay in 1941, the renowned author George Orwell wrote:

“Who does not know the ‘comics’ of the cheap stationers’ windows, the penny or twopenny coloured post cards with their endless succession of fat women in tight bathing-dresses and their crude drawing and unbearable colours, chiefly hedge-sparrow’s-egg tint and Post Office red?”

“In general, however, they are not witty, but humorous, and it must be said for McGill’s post cards, in particular, that the drawing is often a good deal funnier than the joke beneath it.”

Donald McGill ,was one of several notable illustrators, who among others included Tom Browne, John Hassall, Bruce Bairnsfather and Alfred Lees.  Unfortunately for McGill he was the unlucky one.

In the 1950’s there was a public morals backlash and Watch Committees were set up in seaside resorts. This led to the 81 year old McGill being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857, and several of his cards being destroyed.

These are some of them:






They seem somewhat tame by today’s standards. It was enough however to cause confusion to the shop owners selling them and to cause several printers to cease trading.

After a couple of years this “do-gooder” attitude subsided and the illustrators and printers were back in business.

How are postcards faring in today’s “techno” climate?

In a recent survey the broadcaster ITV said that the number of postcards sent has dropped by 75 per cent. It showed that 67 per cent of those surveyed used emails or photos while on holiday, to keep in touch with family and friends.

And Donald McGill?

In 1994 the Royal Mail brought out a set of commemorative stamps featuring McGill’s postcards.


So Mr. McGill eventually had the last laugh.

Self portrait of Donald McGill.