Tag Archive for Capital Punishment

True Grit

Image of 1850s Newgate Calendar publication

While I put the finishing touches on a new article, here is a story from The Newgate Calendar, or the Malefactor’s Bloody Register about how a young girl’s valor saved the lives of her family. Apologies to those Irish offended by the small amount of bigotry. The quote from King John was my idea.
By how much unexpected, by so much
We must awake endeavour for defence;
For courage mounteth with occasion.

~William Shakespeare, King John (1598)
These men were of that class who usually visit England during harvest, from the sister kingdom, and who, if they possessed honesty, would prove most useful to the community of this country.
It appears that in the year 1751, Mr. Porter, a farmer of great respectability, residing in Cheshire, had engaged a number of Irish people to assist in gathering his harvest, when on one evening in the month of August he was alarmed, while sitting at supper, by hearing that they had attacked his house. Every effort was employed by him and his family to oppose the entry of their assailants, but their power being small, in the course of a few minutes the doors were burst in, and they found themselves surrounded by a gang, whose ferocious demands for money or blood convinced them of the uselessness of resistance.
Mr. Porter, however, for a while delayed meeting the demands which were made upon him, in the hope that some assistance might arrive; but his ruffian assailants bound him with cords, and threatened instant destruction if his money and plate were not instantly brought forth. Miss Porter at this moment made her appearance, supplicating for the life of her parent, when she in turn was seized and bound, and was compelled to discover the chest in which the valuables were kept.
In the confusion created by these proceedings, the youngest daughter, a girl of thirteen, whose presence of mind and courage were alike admirable, made her escape, and determined to procure some assistance to repel the attack which had been made; and running into the stable, she got astride the bare back of a horse, with the halter only in his mouth, and galloping over hedges and ditches, so as to avoid the house, from which she might be seen by the villains, she rode to Pulford, a village at a short distance, to inform her eldest brother of the danger to which their relations at the farm were exposed. Young Porter, with a friend named Craven, (whose conduct certainly was the very opposite of his name,) immediately resolved upon attacking the villains in turn, and, with the girl, set off at full speed to render such aid as lay in their power.
On their reaching the farm, they discovered a fellow on the watch, whom they instantly killed with so little noise as to create no alarm, and then proceeding to the parlour, they found four others in the very act of placing old Mr. Porter on the fire, having deprived him of his clothes, in order to extort from him a confession of the depository of his money, his daughter being on her knees at their side praying for his life.
The appearance of two strangers was sufficient to induce the villains at once to desist from their horrid purpose; and being now violently attacked, they were compelled to use their utmost exertions to defend themselves. A desperate conflict took place, but one of the robbers being felled senseless to the ground, and the others wounded and deprived of their arms, they jumped through the window and ran off.
They were instantly pursued by the young men, and the alarm having by this time been given, M‘Canelly and Morgan were secured on Chester bridge. A fellow named Stanley, who turned out to be ringleader in this desperate attack, was subsequently apprehended on board a vessel bound for the West Indies, at Liverpool: and with M‘Canelly, Morgan was committed to Chester jail for trial.
On the night before the execution, Stanley slipped his irons, and got clear off from the jail, not without some suspicion that his escape was connived at by the keeper.
On the 25th May, 1752, M‘Canelly and Morgan were brought out of prison in order to be hanged. Their behaviour was as decent as could be expected from persons of their station. They both declared that Stanley, who escaped, was the sole contriver of the robbery. They died in the Catholic faith, and were attended by a priest of that persuasion.