This is the first section of Chapter XIII of the serialisation, the wording reproduced exactly as it appeared in the Stirling Sentinel, on Tuesday 7th May 1889.
Letters of John Baird – Sentence of Death on the Radicals – No Hope for Baird and Hardie – Affecting Letters written by Hardie in the Condemned Cell
The prisoners were removed to Stirling Castle where they were confined in the lower part of the Parliament House. Baird wrote two letters on the 28th July, one addressed to his brother and the other to his sister, intimating the result of his trial, and stating that he would not be sentenced for some time. To his sister he wrote – “My situation is, no doubt, painful to you, but you must not grieve for me as one that hath no hope, for I have found more comfort in the dungeon than ever I found in this world. Although I am under the rod of affliction, God in his mercy has sent his grace to support me.” On reading this and the other letters written from prison by Baird and Hardie, the first thing that strikes us is the superior style in which these poor weavers expressed themselves, and the tone of unaffected piety which runs through their letters is also a noteworthy feature.
On the 4th August, when the Commission again visited Stirling, the Camelon prisoners were placed at the bar. John McMillan and Andrew Dawson pleaded guilty, and the Lord-Advocate consented to a verdict of acquittal in regard to the remainder.
Lord-President Hope then pronounced sentence of death upon Hardie, Baird and twenty others. Addressing Baird and Hardie, his lordship said – “In regard to you, I can hold out little or no hope of mercy. You were selected for trial as leaders of that band in which you were associated. You were convicted after a fair and full trial; and it is utterly impossible to suppose, considering the convulsions into which this country was thrown, that the Crown must not feel a necessity of making some terrible examples; and as you were the leaders, I am afraid that example must be given by you…The sentence of the law is that you and each of you be taken to the place from whence you came, and that you be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and there be hung by the neck until you are dead, and afterwards your head severed from your body, and your body divided into four quarters, to be disposed of as his Majesty may direct; and may God in his infinite goodness have mercy on your souls.”
The execution was fixed to take place on Friday the 8th September, between the hours twelve o’clock noon and four p.m. The condemned Radicals were then taken back to their cells in the Castle, Baird and Hardie being confined separately, and in irons.
On the 10th August, Hardie wrote the following letters to his uncle and grandfather: –
Stirling Castle, 10th August, 1820.
I received your kind and welcome letter, informing me of your welfare, and also letting me know that you had notice of me, and the rest of us, receiving our sentence. I trust it would be no surprise to you, nor any of my relations, as it was nothing else but what was expected, and I trust in God you will bear it with submission, as I am doing; but I hope I have said enough on this subject before, although (I believe) not sufficient to bring your mind, and my tender relations, to the state that I could wish. I am at present as well, or better, than ever I was in my life; I sleep well, take my meat well, and my weak mind is gaining more vigour, and although I am not to enjoy these great gifts long, yet they are peculiarly serviceable to me in my present situation. Mr —- called in the garrison, but I had not your letter ready; I have nothing particular at present, but send my kind love to your family and to all my other relations. When you write to Robert, give him my kind compliments, and also David Finlay and his family. I will not be long before I write to you again, as my cousin (to whom I am bound in gratitude) thinks I am too dilatory. I have nothing more at present, but remain yours,
N.B I have sent with this a letter to my grandfather – you will probably get a perusal of it. Mr Lauder from Glasgow, called on me yesterday, and is to try to get permission this day also, as he wishes some conversation with me, I will send this letter to you by him. I have still all the indulgence that I formerly enjoyed – that is before I received my sentence, for which I am bound in gratitude to the General and Fort Major for their kind attention to me. Please to write and let me know how my poor distressed mother is and all the rest of my relations.
Mr Alex. Goodwin, Havannah-street, Glasgow.
To be continued…