Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Can't Hang?

Be a better executioner, but the world won't beat a path to your door. Contra Galbraith, a guy's gotta advertise:

Two rival hangmen were severely reprimanded by their Home Office masters because they were "touting" for business in the depths of the Depression.

Tom Pierrepoint, who served as an executioner for 37 years and dispatched more than 300 men and women, and Robert Baxter were both discovered writing to under sheriffs, the local officials responsible for securing the services of the hangman.

Papers newly released at the National Archives show that Pierrepoint and Baxter wrote whenever a newspaper recorded a capital sentence passed against a murderer.

....The link between money, alcohol and hanging seems to have been a long one.

After the retirement of William Calcraft, the grand old man of the profession who served as chief hangman from 1829 to 1874, the practice of paying the official hangman of London a retainer of a guinea a week (equivalent to £700 today) was ended. Calcraft received an extra guinea for each hanging and half a crown for each flogging he administered, as well as commanding much higher fees for travelling to provincial cities to execute criminals.

....Albert Allen, a junior executioner, was reported in 1934 for being drunk at an execution by the governor of Wandsworth prison in another file just opened at Kew.

His was not the first case. Henry Pierrepoint had been sacked for turning up inebriated then fighting with a rival hangman.

Allen was placed under supervision for all subsequent executions and was sacked when he botched a hanging.

The unfortunate prisoner, Frederick Field, a murderer, did not suffer because he was knocked unconscious by the concussive impact of the hangman's knot and slowly strangled to death.

....Perhaps he should have listened to Tom Pierrepoint's sage advice to Albert when first serving as his uncle's apprentice: "If you can't do it without whisky, don't do it at all."

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