Were two Irishmen, who
were executed at Bishopbriggs for murder on 14th May, 1841.
Although not properly
connected with Kirkintilloch, the tragedy took place so near, the men
were so well known, and the excitement was so great, that a short
statement of the affair is appropriate. A good many of the
fellow-workmen of the actors lived in the town. Dennis Doolan had lodged
in it, and the author remembers seeing a troop of Hussars— who had
stayed overnight—marching along the Cowgate en route for the scene of
The navvies employed in
making the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway were nearly all Irish, and
members of “the United Hibernian Labourers.” A man called Green, an
Englishman, was a foreman or “ganger” over a squad of men. He had
discharged a brother of Dennis Doolan, and Dennis, along with Redding,
and a third man called Hickie, met together overnight, and resolved to
give Green a severe beating, although without any proved intention at
that time of killing him. It was arranged that Hickie provide weapons
for the other two, and that Doolan should strike the first blow, and
Redding was to follow it up with a second. Hickie procured two short
iron bars, one of which he gave to each of the others.
In the early morning
Doolan and Redding went out with the iron bars concealed up their
sleeves, and met Green, who spoke to them, and then leaned over the rail
of a bridge looking at the workmen engaged underneath. Doolan came
behind him and felled him to the ground by a stroke on the head, Redding
giving him a second blow on the head while he was lying, one or both of
which blows killed the poor man.
Green was buried in the
Old Aisle, and the three men were apprehended and tried for murder.
Hickie received a transportation pardon, but the other two, both Irish
Ribbon-men, were left for execution, to be hung on the spot where the
murder was committed. The united labourers on the line, 10,000 in
number, made no secret of their intention to rescue the prisoners, and
it was known that many thousands in Glasgow sympathised with these
sentiments. On the other hand, the public, who were horrified at the
brutality of the murder, were earnest in support of the law being
The authorities resolved
to provide sufficient strength to have this done, and the military told
off for the execution numbered 600 cavalry, and 1,200 infantry, with two
guns. The scaffold was sent from Glasgow the day before, and protected
all night by a strong guard of infantry.
The two criminals were
taken from the jail in Glasgow in presence of about 200,000 spectators,
who maintained a profound silence, only the tramping of the horses being
heard The men were seated on an open carriage with a priest and the
hangman, the latter muffled to the ears, and two coffins were also on
The crowd that
accompanied the cortege to Bishopbriggs was so great that in going out
they spread themselves on either side of the road to a distance of a
quarter of a mile, advancing abreast of the carriages with great
quietness. At least 150,000 persons were present at the execution, which
passed over without disturbance.
In returning to Glasgow
the behaviour of the crowd was very different from that in going out—the
noise of talking, singing, and shouting was so great that the officers
in command could not be heard by their men.