ON the 3rd of July, 1865, Dr. Edward
William Pritchard, a medical man of previously good reputation in the city
of Glasgow, was placed at the bar of the High Court of Justiciary in
Edinburgh, charged with the murder by poisoning of his wife and
mother-in-law, within or near the dwelling-house, Clarence Place,
Sauchiehall Street. The evidence discovered him to be a polished,
hypocritical, and callous criminal of the deepest and blackest kind.
A special feature of the trial,
which extended over five days, was the amount and excellence of the
medical evidence led for the prosecution and the defence. In this respect
it is one of the most noteworthy cases in Scottish criminal annals.
Pritchard was found guilty, and sentenced to be executed at Glasgow in
front of the south prison at the Green, on the 28th July, 1865. The
following account of the last scene was written by Dr. Norman Macleod of
the Barony Church, in a letter to his wife.
do not excite yourself when you see by the papers that
I have been with Pritchard to the last. I thought it rather cowardly to
let Oldham of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church do this work alone when we had
shared the previous portion of it. So I offered to go, and I am glad I
did. I saw it all from first to last; was with him in his cell, and walked
at his back till he reached the scaffold. As to his behaviour, strange to
say, no patriot dying for his country, no martyr dying for his faith,
could have behaved with greater calmness, dignity, and solemnity! He was
kind and courteous (as he always was) to all; prayed with us with apparent
deep earnestness; told Oldham to tell his sister that he repented of a
life of transgression, was glad the second confession was suppressed, etc.
He said before the magistrates, with a low bow and a most solemn voice:
'I acknowledge the justice of my
sentence.’ He had told those about him on leaving his cell: 'I want no one
to support me,’ and so he marched to the scaffold with a deadly pale face
but erect head, as if he marched to the sound of music. He stood upright
as a bronze statue, with the cap over his face and the rope round his
neck. When the drop fell, all was quiet. Marvellous and complex
character.! Think of .a man so firm as to say to Oldham:
"I am glad you have come with your
gown and bands!" Dr. Macleod adds—" Strange to say, I felt no excitement
whatever, but calm and solemn. I gazed at him while praying for his poor,
soul till the last. But I won’t indulge in sensation sketches. May God
forgive all my poor sinful services, and accept of me and mine as lost
sinners redeemed through Jesus Christ!
"I am forever set against all public
executions. They brutalise the people, and have no more meaning to them
than bull-baiting or a gladiatorial combat. And then the fuss, the babble
and foam of gossip, the reporting for the press, etc., over that black sea
of crime and death !"
Certain it is that this was the last
criminal execution in public in the city of Glasgow.