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The Dying Confessions of William Gordon and Robert McIntosh
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The Dying Confessions of William Gordon and Robert McIntosh

Historic Documents
Costanza Careddu
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The Dying Confessions of William Gordon and Robert McIntosh
Historic Documents
The Dying Confessions of William Gordon and Robert McIntosh
Five days before his execution, having murdered his wife, William Gordon recounts his crime. He recalls the evening of the murder. Both intoxicated, he and his wife went out. They had an amicable time. Gordon does not recall much from their return home, bar that he went for his pipe. He later discovered his wife dead. He declares having had no recollection of her death. Three weeks later, Gordon remembers having shoved her to the floor, to which she shouted 'Murder!'. Gordon also remembered having scissors in his hand, which leads him to believe that to have been the murder weapon.

This confession begins by citing the book of Hosea from the Christian Bible. Gordon then articulates the nature of his sin, confessing it to be the 'sin of drunkenness'. He compares the severity of his sin to the eternality of God's omnipotence. His confession warns its readers against sinning as he has. He does not apologise for the murder of his wife, instead expressing regret for becoming intoxicated. This marks the text particularly interesting for understanding perceptions of alcoholism and alcohol related crimes in nineteenth-century Scotland. Fascinatingly, though facing death, Gordon still devotes two paragraphs to acknowledging various people that supported him during his incarceration. Gordon concludes the main body of the text by imploring his audience to take up Christianity.

The confession is reprinted in Aberdeen's Journal, on 5th June 1822, five days after Gordon's execution. The paper confirms that Gordon authored this text, saying it was distributed by the Reverend Thom. The confession is well written and articulate, revealing the author's profound knowledge of Christian scripture. Gordon himself was from the parish of Cabrach, made a livelihood selling fishing tackle, and was aged around forty-five at the time of the murder.

The accompanying editorial declares that many had come to believe that the murder 'had been perpetrated by the unhappy man while under the influence of that most baneful of human vices, and, of course, a prey to all the evil passions which it naturally engenders.' The view that the death was caused by excessively drinking, and that the defendant had not consciously decided to murder her, was prevalent. Remarkably, 'many Gentlemen (including several of the Jury who tried him)' lobbied King George IV to commute Gordon's sentence. The judge, however, refused to capitulate.

Accompanying Gordon's confession is that of the twenty-two-year-old Robert McIntosh, on 29th May 1822. McIntosh describes the conditions of his imprisonment in the dungeon, expresses regret for the repercussions of his crime and prostrates himself before God. The Journal reports that McIntosh had murdered the forty-year-old Elizabeth Anderson of Crathie. The paper continues that McIntosh had slit Anderson's throat. At the time, Anderson had been promised marriage by him and was pregnant with his child.

The Journal reports the day of their execution. In the Old Court Room, Psalm 51 was sung. Gordon joined in loudly. As they went to the scaffold, both prayed. The paper reports McIntosh's nerves getting the better of him, and him being brought a glass of water. After Gordon finished praying, at twenty minutes past three, they were hung. Gordon passed very quickly. McIntosh, on the other hand, 'struggled considerably, and was convulsed for several minutes', due to the rope being improperly set up. The Journal reports that countless thousands witnessed their hanging, the first of its kind in seventy-years.
Aberdeen Local Studies
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