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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Murder of Buchanan, the Glasgow carrier


THE perpetrator of this foul deed was one James MíKean, a master shoemaker in easy circumstances, who had his dwelling-house and workshop in the flat of a house near to the old University in High Street. The victim, Mr. Buchanan, carrier between Glasgow and Lanark, was a good-looking man of large size, and much esteemed by the public. The murder appears to have been preconcerted, and the circumstances, as derived from Mrs. MíKean, are as follows :ó The city bells had rung the usual peal at 6 p.m., while MíKean, with his wife and daughter, were seated in their parlour at tea, when the knocker was heard, and MíKean, who had not mentioned that he expected a visitor, but who seemed to be watching for something, started towards the outer door, opened it, admitted his victim to the principal apartment, which fronted the street, and had a closet, concealed by a door, entering from it.

MíKean had been absent from the parlour a few minutes only, when he appeared in the kitchen, took a cloth or towel, and, in haste, retired, shutting the door of the room after him; almost immediately he again appeared in the parlour, and hurriedly gathered to him the crumbcloth off the carpet and from under the table, at which his wife and daughter were seated. Mrs. MíKean now became alarmed and inquired why be acted so. He testily replied:

"I have a drunk man with me," and hurried again to the room with the cloth, followed by his wife into the lobby, but he slammed the door on her and fixed it with the bolt inside; on this his wife, opening the house door, went to the stair, clapping her hands and shrieking that murder was in her dwelling.

MíKean, on hearing the alarm thus given by his wife, came forth into the lobby, where were hanging his hat and greatcoat, when, putting on the hat and having the coat on his arm, he ran downstairs, having, as he passed his wife, shaken his clenched fist at her, saying:

"Woman, you have done for me now!"

Bailie Wardlaw and other authorities were soon at the fatal spot, and sent Mrs. MíKean and daughter to a place of security; but their innocence being evident, they were soon liberated. On inspection of the premises it was seen that the murderer had prepared for his guest, not a friendly repast, but a razor, the blade of which was fixed to its handle so as to prevent the one from moving on the other. Mr. Buchanan had been seated in an arm-chair when MíKean from behind, with the razor, nearly severed the head from the body. The murderer then abstracted from the person of his victim about £120 in bank notes, and a watch, which were found on him when made a prisoner at Lamlash, in Arran, on his way to Ireland.

The razor and MíKeanís watch were seen as left by him in the room; and the body, heavy though it was, had been dragged by the murderer from the fatal chair to the closet, and there deposited by him, with the head downwards, and the feet laid up against the wall, all which had been done prior to the first appearance of the murderer for the cloth or towel. MíKean exonerated his wife and all others, admitted his guilt, and expedited punishment by forcing on the trial at Edinburgh; and on 25th January, 1797, he was executed at Glasgow, where his skeleton is still to be seen in the University.

This great criminal was of sober and quiet habits, and professedly religious; but, as was stated by his wife, had been noted for being extremely covetous. It was also reported that he was of cruel disposition, having when a youth put to death his motherís cat by boiling it in a caldron; also, he was suspected of having been implicated in the death of his mother, who was found drowned in the canal, by whose decease he inherited a small property.

While under sentence of death he was, with all delicacy, interrogated by a clergyman who attended him as to the truth of the reports which had been in circulation against him as to his motherís death; but the answer obtained from MíKean was,ó.

"Doctor, can you keep a secret?" and an answer in the affirmative being given, the culprit replied,ó "So can I."


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