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James Mackcoull, Tried for Robbing the Paisley Union Bank


This notorious individual was the son of a pocket-book maker, who for some time had a small shop near the Church of St. Sepulchre, London, in which city the subject of the Print was born in 1708. His father is said to have been an industrious, well-meaning man, but his mother was a female of abandoned habits, and long known as a shop-lifter and thief of the lowest grade. She had three sons and three daughters, all of whom, under her maternal instruction, became adepts in the art of pilfering. The career of Ben, the youngest son, was short, as he was executed for robbery in 1780. John Mackcoull, the eldest, was a well-known character at Bow Street. He was a person of good education, and the author of a volume entitled "Abuses of Justice," which he published in 1819, on his acquittal from a charge of forgery.

James Mackcoull, the hero of our narrative, who seems to have inherited through life the propensities of his mother, although on a somewhat more extended scale, made little progress in his education, farther than to acquire a knowledge of reading and writing. He absented himself from school—displayed great dexterity in pilfering from his playmates—and was a most accomplished liar. Athletic, active, and swift of foot, he acquired much renown as a pugilist in several encounters with his compeers. With these accomplishments his path to distinction was easy. The first recorded instance of his public depredations was robbing an unfortunate dealer in cats'-meat. Watching an opportunity, the young hero threw a quantity of snuff in the poor man's eyes, then cut the bag of coppers from the barrow, and decamped.

From this period his depredations were numerous, and generally successful. His father had apprenticed him to a leather-stamer, with whom he remained for some time ; but his irregularities were so great, that his master at last discharged him. He now became a thief by profession, and in company with two associates—Bill Drake and Sam Williams—did business on a large scale. The most remarkable of his feats at this time was the robbery of a retired undertaker, very rich, and who usually promenaded in the Park, rather foppishly dressed, with a gold repeater, set with diamonds, ostentatiously displayed. Aware that he regularly entered by Spring-Garden gate about four o'clock, Bill Drake and Mackcoull took care to arrive before him; and as the Old Raven (as they called him) approached, the one passed on in front, and, wheeling round, was ready to clutch the watch just as the other, coming up behind, struck his hat down over his eyes. This adventurous affair, committed in broad day, was accomplished with such celerity, that the young rogues escaped without pursuit; but the circumstance creating considerable excitement, Mackcoull became apprehensive of detection. Having consulted with his father, whose house he had previously abandoned, and expressed regret for his past conduct, he obtained the old man's concurrence to assist him in going to sea. He was accordingly put on board the Apollo, where he served as an officer's servant for two years. In the same capacity he remained for several years in the Centurion, and conducted himself with so much propriety, that, on being drafted on board another ship, on the North American station, he was appointed purser's-steward, on the recommendation of his former captain. After having been nine years at sea, he returned to London about 1785, with a considerable sum in wages, prize-money, and presents.

His former propensities revived almost as soon as he revisited the place of his birth; and he gave way to every species of debauchery, attending the cock-pit, the ring, and the gaming-table, at which he acquired much expertness. His funds speedily vanishing, he now became a gentleman pickpocket; and as such attained a degree of eminence surpassed by few. Greatly improved by his foreign travels, his appearance was genteel, his address good, and he could tell an excellent story. He generally represented himself as the Captain of a West Indiaman, whose last trip had been unfortunate ; and he seldom failed, by the relation of his adventures, to involve his audience in a game at cards, or a debauch, when he was sure either to clear the board, or drink his friends under the table, leaving them minus their money and watches. It is asserted that the modern system of "hocussing," used rather extensively at Bristol not long since, was familiar to him, and that he found it very advantageous.

To enumerate a tithe of his exploits would fill volumes. One instance may be given peculiarly illustrative of his talents, and worthy the honorary title of the Heathen Philosopher, conferred on him by the fraternity with which he associated. The circumstance occurred at Brentford, during an election, where he and two friends proposed to do business. At the hustings they found nothing could be accomplished. They retired to the principal inn, where they dined; and having ingratiated themselves with a party of merry-making electors, Mackcoull's associates commenced operations in a small way. The philosopher, intent on higher game, observed a baker with a well-lined pocket-book; but the " master of rolls," being a sort of leading man, was for some time constantly surrounded by groups of electors. Ascertaining, in the course of his inquiries, that the baker affected to be learned in astronomy, the philosopher, taking advantage of the first opportunity, walked up to him, and with his best bow inquired if he had seen the strange alternating star outside. The baker expressed his surprise at the question, but by the application of a well-timed compliment, was induced to follow his interrogator. Mackcoull led him to the end of a house, where, by looking upwards in aline with the gable, he pro-Jessed to have seen the phenomenon, which only appeared at intervals. Before the baker was placed in a proper position, our hero eased him of his pocket-book; and while the astronomer, whose enthusiasm had been fairly kindled, went home to fetch his glass, in order to examine this erratic wonder more thoroughly, Mackcoull embraced the opportunity of a return chaise; and, urging on the driver by a liberal reward, was speedily at his old haunt in Drury Lane. Here he found his associates, whom he treated, and boasted that he had given the baker a lesson in astronomy which he would not speedily forget.

Alter experiencing all the varieties of fortune to which the life of a gambler is subject, Mackcoull, at the age of twenty-eight, married a female with whom he had been long intimate, and who kept a swell lodging-house. Previous to this, he had become so notorious that the police had their eye on him in all directions, and he now deemed it prudent to act with circumspection. He avoided his old haunts; and being amply supplied with pocket-money by his wife, he amused himself as an amateur pugilist, attended the houses of the fancy, and occasionally the theatre, taking advantage of any inviting opportunity that might occur.

Although he deemed it prudent to give over general practice with his own hand, Mackcoull entered with great spirit into the "receiving department." For some time he made the house of his mother and sister the depot of the stolen goods; but this resort becoming insecure, he converted a portion of his own house, much against his wife's wishes, into a receptacle for articles of value. The recess chosen for this purpose, from its having formerly been a window, he called "Pitt's Picture," in allusion to the window taxes. This impolitic step, as he afterwards admitted, was unworthy of an adept. "Pitt's Picture" was discovered, and a warrant issued to apprehend Mackcoull. All attempts at negotiations were found unavailing; and he was under the necessity of proceeding on his travels. In the spring of 1802, he went to Hamburg, where he assumed the name of Moffat. Here he took out a burgess ticket—rented the ground flat of a counting-house, and professed to be a merchant collecting goods for the interior of Germany. As soon as he acquired a sufficient smattering of the German language, he frequented gaming-houses of the higher order, where, as Captain Moffat from Scotland, he is said to have played frequently at billiards with the then Duke of Mcaklinburg Schwerin, and lightened his highness of his superfluous cash.

While residing at Hamburg, he occasionally passed into the interior of Germany, and visited the fair of Leipsic. Having been at length compelled to seek safety in flight, he removed to Rotterdam ; but here he was particularly unlucky—got into debt—and in consequence fled to Tonningen, and from thence embarked for London. His native city being still too hot for him, he resolved to try the atmosphere of the north. He set sail by one of the packets for Leith, and arrived there in September, 1805. Here, retaining his assumed name of Moffat, he remained a few days at the Ship Tavern, kept at that time by one Cairns. He afterwards took lodgings in New Street, Canon-gate, where he lived very retired. He generally dined every day at the Ship Tavern, walking down by the Easter Road, and returning to Edinburgh in the evening by Leith Walk. In the public room of the tavern he was fond of smoking and drinking among the masters of the smacks, to whom he represented himself as a Hamburg merchant, who had been obliged to leave in consequence of the French. This plausible story was generally believed, and, affecting to be witty, he usually engrossed the whole conversation of the room.

Mackcoull is not known to have been engaged in any depredation till the spring of 1806, when he was detected picking a gentleman's pocket in the lobby of the theatre. Breaking from those who held him, he was pursued by a town officer of the name of Campbell, a very powerful man. Mackcoull ran with great speed towards a stair which then led from the head of Leith Street to the Low Calton, through a close called the Salt Backet. Thinking he was about to escape him, and having no assistance, Campbell struck him a severe blow with his baton on the back of the head, when he fell senseless down the stair and groaned deeply. The officer, thinking he had killed him, became alarmed, and returned to the theatre without securing him. Mackcoull gradually recovered, and getting up, covered with blood, went to his lodgings, where he mentioned that he had been set upon by some drunken sailors. He was confined for a length of time by this accident, and retained a deep score on his forehead, which he most likely had received on falling.

In the course of the summer and harvest prior to the murder of a man of the name of Begbie, porter to the British Linen Company Bank, he was again repeatedly seen in the Ship Tavern, but not subsequently. This mysterious deed was committed about five o'clock on the evening of Thursday, 13th November, 1806. The porter was on his return, as usual, from Leith with a parcel of notes sealed in a yellow piece ol parchment, and was stabbed in the side, while in the entrance to Tweeddale's Court, where the British Linen Company's Office was at that time, and which is now the printing office of Messrs. Oliver and Boyd. It was stated in the Hue and Cry "that the murder was committed with a force and dexterity more resembling that of a foreign assassin than an inhabitant of this country. The blow was directly in the heart, and the unfortunate man bled to death in a few minutes." Several persons were apprehended, but the murderer was never traced. No suspicion attached to Mackcoull at the time. More recently, Mr. Denovan investigated the circumstances of the murder, and collected many facts which tended to throw suspicion upon him.

Mackcoull arrived in Dublin towards the end of November, or beginning of December, following the death of Begbie. Here he represented himself as Captain Moffat, frequented the gaming tables, and was looked upon as a person of respectability, till detected in the act of picking a gentleman's pocket in the pit of the theatre, for which he was committed to Newgate, but liberated before the sessions commenced, in consequence of the death of his prosecutor. About the end of October, 1807, he returned to Edinburgh, took genteel lodgings in Mid Rose Street, dressed well, and went out much in public. He associated with many of the higher order of gamblers, and was frequently a guest at the table of young men of fortune. He seldom went to Leith, and when met by any of his former acquaintances, accounted for his absence by saying he had made a voyage to the West Indies. He pretended, at this period, to make his living by a new system of staining lamb and sheep skins; and he had a vat or two erected at his lodgings, the better to deceive his acquaintances. Not long after his return, the large notes, of which Begbie had been robbed, were found carelessly laid in the hole of an old wall in Bellevue grounds, then being taken down to make way for building. Mackcoull had been often seen walking in this direction, and it was conceived that, afraid to put the notes in circulation, he had adopted this mode of restoring them. Immediately after this he changed his lodgings, taking up his abode at a gardener's house, about a mile distant, on the opposite or south side of the city. This movement he accounted for on the score of ill health. Here he likewise carried his vats, and kept up the show of staining leather; but it was observed that he always had plenty of money and wrought very little. He was a great favourite in the neighbourhood—smoked and drank, and joked with every one; and all his new acquaintances were fond of the "English gentleman." Here his wife paid him a visit, and being a well-bred woman, and dressed in the first style of fashion, her appearance tended greatly to strengthen her husband's credit.

At length, however, his good character was blasted. The well-known vocalist, Iucledon, having played a few nights at the Edinburgh Theatre, immense numbers flocked to see him, and it was observed that Mr. Moffat was so fond of theatricals, "that although then very corpulent, he did not care how much he was jostled in the crowd." On one of these occasions he was discovered in an attempt to pick a gentleman's pocket. He got off with the money, and took shelter in an adjacent coffee-room, whither he was pursued by Campbell, the officer, and the person robbed. He was seized and searched, but nothing found on him, he having had time to drop the notes unperceived in the next box, where they were found. Mackcoull was carried before a magistrate and examined, and after nearly nine months' imprisonment was discharged. Immediately after this untoward affair, he went to London, and remained sometime concealed near Somerton.

In 1809, Mackoull again visited Scotland with a parcel of forged notes, in the vending of which he was detected at Stirling, and lodged in jail; but he contrived to baffle the magistrates in their examination of him, and was allowed to escape. He then returned to England, and after an unsuccessful expedition to Chester, which led to his imprisonment and hard labour for six months, he next set about the grand project he had contemplated while in Scotland—the robbery of some of the banks. In company with two notorious characters, Henry French and Houghton (or Huffey) White, who had escaped from the Hulks, he posted down to the north. The party had previously arranged with one Scoltock—an iron-grate manufacturer, who had supplied them on a former occasion—to forward them a complete set of pick-locks and skeleton-keys. On arriving in Glasgow, they took lodgings in the house of a Mrs. Stewart, with whom they resided for nearly three months, and were remarkably sober, keeping good hours for some time. Latterly, however, they frequently went out at ten o'clock at night, not returning till twelve ; and on one occasion, White (who was the working man) remained out all night. A day or two after receiving a small box by the London mail, Mackcoull went away for a fortnight, as he pretended, on business to Liverpool. He had, however, been at London, giving directions to Scoltock about a key, the model of which he took with him. On his return, the night-work was resumed; and when all things were supposed to be ready, the party gave their landlady a fortnight's notice, on the expiry of which they carried away their luggage, as if going by one of the coaches. This was, of course, a blind to prevent suspicion. Between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, 14th July, 1811, and about eight days after their leaving Mrs. Stewart, the robbery of the Paisley Union Bank Office in Queen Street was effected, and notes to the amount of more than .20,000 abstracted. The party now posted their way to London with great rapidity, changing Scotch notes at all the stages. On their arrival, Mackcoull was intrusted with the safe-keeping of the plunder, till such time as he and his accomplices found it convenient to make a division. Subsequently, Mackcoull deposited the whole with his wife, who lived in Oxendon Street; but it was afterwards agreed that the notes should be lodged in the hands of Bill Gibbons, the j)ugilist.

As soon as the robbery was discovered on Monday morning, the most active measures were adopted. The robbers were traced to Edinburgh, from whence Mr. Walkingshaw, belonging to Glasgow, and a city officer, set off in pursuit, following the route of the robbers all the way. From the direction of a portmanteau—which Mackcoull had left in charge of the waiter at Welwyn, to be forwarded by the Stamford coach to London—aided by the Bow Street officers, the residence of Scoltock, the smith, was soon found out, where White was apprehended, Mackcoull narrowly escaping. In order to save White's life, and secure themselves against prosecution, a negotiation, on the suggestion of French, was proposed to restore the money. Mackcoull, who from the first evidently intended to cheat his associates out of a few thousands of the spoil, reluctantly, although with the best grace, acceded to the proposal. Determining, however, not to give all up, he conceived a plan which evinced no small degree of generalship on his part. This was to negotiate through the medium of Mr. Sayer, one of the Bow Street officers appointed to attend on the person of George the Third, who, from his long service was believed to have some little influence at Lord Sidmouth's office. He was besides an old acquaintance of Mrs. Mackcoull, and the more likely, backed by a consideration, to be prevailed upon by that lady's eloquence. The contrivance proved. eminently successful. In his anxiety to secure the money, the agent of the bank acted with improper precipitancy. The terms of restitution were at once agreed to—White was forgiven, and the other two secured against prosecution. Mrs. Mackcoull was then dispatched with the notes, which, when counted out, amounted only to .11,941 odds, instead of 20,000. The agent remonstrated ; but, of course, Mrs. Mackcoull knew nothing of the matter. Mackcoull had thus played his cards to admiration. White, in pursuance of his pardon, was sent to the Hulks; and French, although so enraged at the perfidy of our hero as to threaten his life, could not accuse him without the certainty of following the fate of Huffey. The bank was, besides, in a manner tied down; and, to make matters worse, the officers who were at first employed, were so angry at the job having been taken out of their hands, that they refused to proceed further in the business.

Mackcoull now gave out that he had gone to the West Indies; and the bank giving up hopes of his apprehension, he further secured himself from danger by informing against French, who was seized and transported to New South Wales. For nearly a year Mackcoull contrived to enjoy himself in London without detection. In 1812, how-he was seized in one of his old haunts, and, after being detained at Hatton Garden for some time, despatched for Scotland. As he sat on the coach heavily ironed, previous to leaving the "Bull and Mouth,'" his late conduct having brought him into low esteem among the honourable members of the fraternity, several of his former acquaintances stood round jeering him. " Some of them observed that the Captain looked extremely well after his West Indian voyage; others, in allusion to his nose, that the convoy was about to get under weigh, for the Commodore had hoisted Blue Peter; while all agreed that he set the darbies and ritjfles charmingly, and that nothing was wanting to complete his full dress but a nosegay, which he could easily procure among the Flowers of Edinburgh." The prisoner arrived in Glasgow on the 8th of April, 1812—was committed for trial—and while in jail offered to put the bank in possession of 1000 of their money, which their agent in London actually procured from Mr. Harmer, who was then Mackcoull's solicitor. He also gave a bill for 400 granted by himself on Ann Wheeler, his sister, with her endorsation. Notwithstanding this implied admission of his guilt, he ran his letters against the King's Advocate, and it being supposed that sufficient proof could not be procured to convict him capitally, he was liberated on the 2d July, 1812.

Mackcoull now returned to London, and with great activity set about cashing his Scotch notes. Besides employing a confidential individual in the business, he made several journeys to Scotland, buying bills on London in various names. On the last of these expeditions, in 1813, having been seen by Mr. Denovan, who then superintended the Leith Police, his motions were carefully observed. After purchasing bills, amounting to nearly .1000, at various banking establishments in Edinburgh and Leith, he was again apprehended on the 5th of March, when just on the eve of sailing by one of the smacks. He was next day examined before the Magistrates of Edinburgh ; but,-from a belief that he could not be legally prosecuted after having " run his letters" on the former occasion, Mackcoull was again set at liberty. His bills and money, however—with the exception of 36 (in English notes)—were retained in the hands of Mr. Callander, the City Clerk. That he did not insist on having the whole of the money restored to him at that time was probably owing to his anxiety to escape.

In October, 1813, while Mackcoull was confined in Newgate for a breach of the peace, committed in the house of his wife (for at that time he was not living with her), the Paisley Union Bank obtained possession of the bills from the Magistrates of Edinburgh, on lodging a bond of indemnity and relief; but it was not till 1815 that he mustered assurance enough to demand restitution. He first wrote several letters to Mr. Callander—next came himself to Edinburgh—called at the Bi'itish Linen Company's Office, and imperiously demanded the bills he had purchased from them in 1813. He wrote a statement of his case to the then Lord Advocate (Colquhoun of Killermont); and, failing to procure his interference, made personal application to the Council Chambers, where his conduct was such as to cause the city officers to turn him out.

Mackcoull first brought his case before the Sheriff Court, but not meeting with success, he commenced a series of proceedings in the Supreme Court, which lasted several years, and in which he had well-nigh been victorious. The bank, unable to prove that the money with which he purchased the bills was part of the amount stolen from them in 1811, insisted, as a last resource, that Mackcoull should be subjected to a, judicial examination. This not very usual course was opposed; but at length, finding it impossible to resist the Court, he made a virtue of necessity, and latterly submitted to the proposed examination.

On the day appointed—the 4th of March, 1819—the Outer House was crowded to excess, the cause having excited great interest. Attended by his counsel, the pursuer appeared in due time; and throughout the whole of his long examination, which lasted for several days, he conducted himself with the greatest sang froid—objecting to this and the other question; and when his replies were occasionally so absurd and improbable as to elicit a laugh, he never failed to join in it. The examination having closed on the 11th of the month, without producing anything tending seriously to criminate him, Mackcoull instantly repaired to London, to consult his brother John, who had throughout been a useful adviser, and who was now in more request than ever, to furnish him with one or two fictitious letters, necessary to strengthen his averments in the Court, and which he had been ordered to produce.

At the end of every session, Mackcoull repaired regularly to London, and used to be seen almost every night at Blakeman's, where he sat the whole evening, drinking half-and-half, smoking his pipe, and entertaining the vulgar company around him with metaphors (as he called his jokes), and caricature descriptions of Scottish judges and lawyers—against all of whom he was violent in his denunciations. On his last visit, feeling assured of success, he was in great good humour, and treated his friends with the utmost liberality.

Having arranged matters to his liking, he again returned to Edinburgh; and, perfectly confident of victory, pressed his agent to bring the matter to an issue before the Jury Court. On the other hand, the defenders were as much disconcerted as he was elated. Defeat appeared almost inevitable. The only way in which they could possibly save themselves, was by recurring to the circumstances connected with the robbery in 1811, and producing evidence sufficient to identify Mackcoull as one of the party. This appeared a hopeless task; yet they were resolved to attempt it. A professional gentleman was despatched to England, to make inquiry on the subject; but he returned without success. In the meantime, the pursuer, aware of the intentions of his opponents, and knowing the precarious ground on which he stood, became the more importunate in forcing on the trial. This the bank was anxious to delay as long as possible, but at last it was finally fixed for the 20th February, 1820.

In this dilemma, the bank directors engaged Mr. Denovan (formerly of Leith, but at that time a Bow Street officer of much repute), who, commencing his investigations at Glasgow, and from thence carefully tracing the route of the robbers in their progress to London, was soon able to connect a chain of circumstantial evidence well calculated to raise the hopes of his employers.

The case having been again postponed, the trial was ultimately fixed for the 11th of May, 1820. The Court was crowded to suffocation at an early hour. No civil case had ever created a greater sensation. The judges were, the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam, Lord Gillies, and Lord Pitmilly. Counsel for the Bank, Francis (now Lord) Jeffrey, Henry (now Lord) Cockburn, and James L'Amy, Esquires, and James Smyth, W.S., agent; for Mackcoull, J. P. Grant, and Archibald Alison, Esquires, and Mr. William Jamieson, W.S., agent. Mr. Cockburn was in the act of addressing the Court, and detailing the leading features of the case, when, to the astonishment of all present, Mackcoull appeared pressing through the crowd, not stopping till he got close to Mr. Cockburn. Here he stood with great composure, looking round with an arch grin peculiarly his own ; and, as the speaker proceeded, he came so close that Mr. Cockburn, feeling interrupted by his presence, demanded that he should be removed to another part of he Court. Mr. Jeffrey joined in the same request, when the pursuer took his seat beside his own counsel.

The identity of Mackcoull, as one of the three individuals who lodged in the house of the late Mrs. Stewart, Glasgow, previous to the robbery of the bank, and who posted their way to London immediately after its committal, was fully established by the various witnesses produced, and many facts were brought out tending to expose the whole plan of the robbery. Notwithstanding the turn which the case had thus taken against him, Mackcoull continued to walk about in Court, without betraying much uneasiness, and occasionally entered into conversation with those around him; but when he heard the name of John Scoltock, blacksmith in London, announced as the next witness, he rose and attempted to get out of Court. This he found impossible, owing to the density of the crowd ; and the instant he saw Scoltock, he changed colour and sank down by the side of the wall in a kind of faint. He was then carried out of Court, and did not again appear for some time.

The evidence of the smith at once established the guilt of Mackcoull beyond the possibility of doubt, and Mrs. Houghton White confirmed his testimony in many particulars. When William Gibbons, the pugilist, appeared in the witnesses' box, he was asked by Counsel— "Mr. Gibbons, do you know James Moffat, the pursuer in this suit ?" "No ; I do not know any person of that name." Mackcoull, who was among the crowd, on being called, came forward in a slounging manner. " Witness, do you know that man?" (Gibbons to Mackcoull, in a loud whisper), "Jem, hold up your head, I can't see you." Mackcoull looked up. Witness—"Yes, this is Jem Mackcoull; I never knowed him by any other name." Gibbons related the circumstance of Mackcoull having deposited with him a parcel of Scotch notes, amounting to upwards of 18,000. At the conclusion of the trial, the evidence which had been adduced appeared so conclusive, that the jury retired only for 20 minutes, when they returned, finding for the bank in all the three issues.

By this verdict the tables were most unexpectedly turned, and Mackcoull, from being a pursuer was in his turn pursued; for the Lord Advocate thought it his duty to serve him with an indictment to stand trial before the High Court of Justiciary on the 12th of June. His' trial was postponed till the 19th of the month, when the Court of Justiciary, as the Jury Court had been, was much crowded. All the witnesses who appeared on the jury trial were again cited, with the addition of Mr. Sayer and the prisoner's wife, who proved the restitution of the 11,941 odds in 1811.

Mackcoull's brother, and other friends in London, endeavoured by every means to prevent the principal witnesses from attending at the trial. Gibbons, in spite of promises and threats, came boldly forward; but Scoltock was so wrought upon that he had resolved to absent himself. After a great deal of trouble, he was discovered, very much disguised, and conveyed to Edinburgh by express, where he arrived just in the nick of time. Mackcoull, 'calculating on his absence, flattered himself with the hope of acquittal. He was consequently equally surprised and disheartened when Scoltock entered the witnesses' box. He had previously been apparently in good spirits; but towards the close of the trial, he often looked round with a vacant stare, muttering to himself. When the jury returned a verdict of guilty, he gave a malignant grin; but stood up with firmness on receiving sentence, and bowed respectfully to the Court.

On being carried back to prison, his fortitude entirely failed him. Overwhelmed with despair, he said to the Governor, with much emotion, "Had not the eye of God been upon me, such a connected chain of evidence never could have been brought forward." The prisoner was not long in jail till his usual flow of spirits returned, and he talked with much cheerfulness to all who came to visit him, indulging in his metaphors with the utmost pleasantry.

Mr. Denovan, who strongly suspected Mackcoull to have been the murderer of Begbie (and who drew up an interesting narrative on the subject), happening to be in Edinburgh, called at the prison, with a view of putting a question or two to him. The result tended greatly to strengthen the belief in his guilt. Fairly thrown off his guard by the artful conversation of his visitor, Mackcoull appeared dreadfully agitated when unexpectedly interrogated as to the fact of his residence in New Street, Canongate, in November, 1806. He stared wildly, and throwing himself back on his bed, as if in a convulsion fit, it was some time ere he had self-possession enough to answer that he was then in the West Indies! The inaccuracy of this statement he admitted on being reminded of his visit to Dublin ; but losing all temper, he proceeded incoherently in his remarks, and his visitor withdrew.

Although Mackcoull had not been living, or even on good terms with his wife, for several years prior to his condemnation, she came forward voluntarily, supplied him liberally with every thing he could wish, and visited him in jail previous to her leaving Edinburgh for London, where she intended doing all she could to procure a reprieve, which was actually accomplished. On the 14th July he was respited for a month, and in three weeks after during his Majesty's pleasure. Towards the end of August he fell into a decline, which affected his faculties so much that he became silly and childish ; and he is said to have been so disturbed in his sleep by terrific dreams, and his cries and imprecations were so horrific as greatly to annoy the inmates of the adjoining cells. He became extremely emaciated; his hair rapidly changed from black to grey, and he appeared so much altered that few would have known him. He died in the county jail of Edinburgh on the 22d of December, 1820, and was decently interred, at the expense of his wife, in the Calton burying ground.


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