The History of Leith

April 6, 2012

The last execution

CONSTITUTION STREET, which lies parallel to and
.eastward of the Kirkgate, nearly in a line with the
eastern face of the ancient fortifications, is about
3,500 feet in length, and soon after its formation 1
was the scene of the last execution within what is
termed ” flood-mark.” The doomed prisoners were
two foreign seamen, whose crime and sentence
excited much interest at the time.
Peter Heaman and Francis Gautiez were accused
of piracy and murder in seizing the brig Jane
of Gibraltar, on her voyage from that place to
the Brazils, freighted with a valuable cargo, including
38,180 Spanish dollars, and in barbarously
killing Johnson the master, and .Paterson a seaman,
and confining Smith and Sinclair, two other
seamen, in the forecastle, where they tried to suffocate
them with smoke, but eventually compelled
them to assist in navigating the vessel, which they
afterwards sank off the coast of Ross-shire. They
landed the specie in eight barrels on the Isle of
Lewis, where they were apprehended.
This was in the summer of 1822, and they were,
after a trial before the Court of Justiciary, sentenced
by the Judge-Admiral to be executed on the gth of
the subsequent January, ” on the sands of Leith,
within the flood-mark, and their bodies to be afterwards
given to Dr. Munro for dissection.”
On the day named they were conveyed from the
Calton gaol, under a strong escort of the dragoon
guards, accompanied by the magistrates of the city,
who had white rods projecting from the windows of
the carriages in which they sat, to a gibbet erected
at the foot of Constitution Street—or rather, the
northern continuation thereof—and there hanged.
Heaman was a native of Carlscrona, in Sweden ;
Gautiez was a Frenchman. The bodies were .put
in coffins, and conveyed by a corporal’s escort of
dragoons to the rooms of the professor of anatomy.
During the execution the great bell of South Leith
church was tolled with minute strokes, and the
papers of the day state that ” the crowd of spectators
was immense, particularly en the sands, being little
short of from forty to fifty thousand; but, owing to
the excellent manner in which everything was
arranged, not the slightest accident happened.”

Source-Old and New Edinburgh

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