Jeffrey Green

Jeffrey is a historian
based south of London

179 : ‘The Hangman’s Record’ as a source, 1857-1920

The John Johnson Collection in Oxford has a copy (available on line) of a publication The Hangman’s Record published about 1920. It lists those who had been executed in Britain and Ireland, with some more distant executions when there had been publicity, as with the assassination of Russian or American statesmen. Having already examined some British examples where the accused had been black or Asian – see pages 038, 043, 088, 091 and 146 – my recent examination of the Hangman’s Record was part of research into when (and perhaps why) 19th and early 20th century British documentation described individuals by ‘race’. That was normal in American sources and as far as I had noted, absent in British official records. Newspapers would print information but accuracy was restricted, with black lecturers from Canada but born in the USA sometimes described as African. One census had an annotation ‘negro’ against one man’s name but that was very unusual.

Perhaps local historians can follow up on some of these….

On 11 September 1857 a Captain H. Rogers was hanged at Liverpool ‘for the murder, with great cruelty, of A. Rose, a black’.

The execution of Thomas Allen ‘a Zulu’ in Swansea on 10 April 1889 has been detailed on my website page 088.

William Lacy ‘a coloured man’ who had murdered his wife was executed at Cardiff on 21 August 1900 (and was mentioned in a government report of 1905, as detailed on my website page 091).

The Hangman’s Record  names Pong Lun the Chinese murderer who was executed in Liverpool on 31 May 1904 and the ‘Algerian’ Ferat Mohamed Ali who was executed in Maidstone on 1 August 1905. Both were mentioned in that 1905 government file and thus my website page 091.

Two new (to me) names appeared in the Hangman’s Record: Glasgow on 15 November 1905 saw ‘a Basuto’ named Pasha Liffey aged 24 hanged for murdering a miner’s wife, and on 7 August 1907 Charles Patterson, ‘a coloured seaman’ went to the scaffold at Walton prison. A brief glance at contemporary newspapers shows that Liffey had raped and murdered his victim, near Larkhill; and Paterson’s victim was Mrs Lilian Jane Charlton, described as his girlfriend and also as his landlady. That murder took place in Moss Side, Manchester on 29 June 1907.

Why these men were identified in this way is odd given a near absence of such detail in other entries – in the several pages I saw just  ‘Jewish brothers’ in 1909 and the celebrated nationalist Madan Lal Dhingra (‘Indian’) in August 1909.

—oOo—

This research has uncovered the misunderstandings and poor reporting, which reappear in modern accounts, of the career of 1920s petty criminal Eddie Manning (page 043), and the local support and sympathy for Thomas Allen in Swansea in 1889 although he had murdered a popular citizen, publican Frederick Kent (page 088). The Chinese murderer (his victim was a Chinese resident of Rock Ferry, Merseyside) has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Lacy or Lacey is now known to have worked in a coal mine in Wales.

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