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Treasure 4: Broadsides (The Execution of William Allan)
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Treasure 4: Broadsides (The Execution of William Allan)

Historic Documents
David Oswald
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Treasure 4: Broadsides (The Execution of William Allan)
Historic Documents
172
Treasure 4: Broadsides (The Execution of William Allan)
This broadside details the life, crime and execution of William Allan. He was executed in Aberdeen on Friday the 10th February, of an unspecified year, for the murder of Alexander M'Kay.

The sheet gives an account of Allan's life and speculates on how he came to this unhappy fate. The account contains themes common to crime and punishment broadsides of bad company, alcohol and a disregard of parental authority. There is also at times an unexpected similarity to modern crime reporting: "We do not think that the annals of crime furnish an example of a murder perpetrated from so small a temptation as that which operated on the mind of Allan, who was aware, before he committed the deed, that the victim of it possessed only the paltry sum of thirty-five shillings."

One passage which describes Allan's appeal to the advanced age of his victim recalls the justifications of Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov: "He even arraigned the justice of his sentence on the ground that he had only taken away a life which would, in a short time, have terminated from the effects of indisposition and old age."

Allan is initially unrepentant and rude to the assembled clergy but then makes a last minute appeal for religious assistance on the morning of his execution.

Unfortunately, unlike Raskolnikov and Sonya in Siberia, there was no hope of redemption for Allan - at least not in this life: "After hanging the usual time, the body was cut down, and delivered to the doctors."

As part of the 125 Treasures exhibition we will be displaying a total of 5 of our crime and punishment broadsides in the Central Library in July 2015.
Broadside
TR01_04
Crime and punishment
Aberdeen Local Studies
Yes
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