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Olde England Northampton

Boughton

The Exploits of “ Captain Slash.”


The following year is marked by the fact that an end was put to the exploits of “Captain Slash,” which long lingered in the memories of many Highwaymaninhabitants of the County.
He was executed on Friday, 21st July, 1826, for robbery at Boughton Green Fair. From an interesting historical record of Boughton Green Fair, which appeared in the Northamptan Herald, in July, 1882, we quote the following particulars:

 

It was the disagreeable practice of numbers of desperate fellows, late at night, when the majority of orderly, law-abiding visitors had gone home to bed, to scour the fair   maltreating and robbing all who came in their way.   A more than ordinarily violent and determined raid of this kind in 1826 created intense alarm, and constitutes the great centre of interest in the later history of Boughton Green. The name of the principal leader was George Catherall, who had assumed, in imitation of the old highwaymen, the name of “ Captain Slash.”


Born of respectable parents at Bolton, in Lancashire, he joined in early liNorthampton Herald Captain Slash Execution Reportfe the ranks of the criminal class. For some time he served as a soldier, but the only testimony obtained as to the nature of his military career was the cat o’ nine tails marks which decorated his back and shoulders to the day of his death. He was also a prize-fighter,  being known in that capacity as “ The Lancashire youth,” and engaeed in a somewhat notable battle at Warwick in 1825.

Captain Slash was a fine athletic fellow, aged 29 years. Although popularly supposed to be the first, be was in reality the sixteenth culprit executed on what was then known as “the new drop."


After leaving the Army he formed one of a gang of thieves and pickpockets, who frequented the different fairs of the Kingdom. On the last night of the Fair of 1826, Catherall and a large number of confederates, mustering, it was estimated,  about 100, scattered themselves amongst the booths, attacking several renters in a brutal manner and compelling them to surrender all the money in their possession.  Soon the fair was in a perfect uproar, and what might have happened had Catherall carried out the design attributed to him of liberating the wild beasts from Wombwell’s menagerie in order to profit by the inevitable panic that would have ensued, it is impossible to tell. As it was, matters were bad enough.

Shrieks of wounded men, and cries of murder filled the air.   The rioters forced their way into the booths where they could,  and damaged those they could not enter. The proprietors guarded their property with drawn swords and loaded muskets, but with wonderful self-control refrained from using the latter lest friends should fall as well as foes. A small body of self-constituted police was hastily drawn up to assist in the preservation of order, and desperate encounters took place between them and

CATHERALL’S ROUGHS,


whom he had called upon to “ form into line soldier-like.”

After a prolonged struggle Catherall and sone of his companions were captured and brought to this town, where seven were subsequently committed for trial.  The soi-disant “ Captain ” had his skull fractured and a finger broken, and when taken seemed to be almost lifeless.   At the Police Court he behaved with the greatest hardihood.   A bystander remarked, “ He seems to be dead,” to which Catherall,  slightly raising himself from the chair in which he lay,  replied, “ I’m not dead, and shan’t be until I have the rope round my neck.”   In due time the capital sentence was passed upon him, and Hugh Robinson, a lad of 19, the other principal offender, was transported for life.

 

The execution took place on the 21st July, at the "new drop" overlooking Fetter-street, in the presence of a vast concourse of people.   Catherall did not evince real repentance until the morning of his death, when he attended devoutly to the counsel of the Rev. W. Drake, the chaplain, and joined with much apparent devotion in the service held in the prison chapel, which, it may be remarked, closed with the administiation of the Holy Sacrament to the convict. During this solemn ceremony he is said to have cried and sobbed bitterly, and, occasionally wringing his hands and beating his breast, called upon God for mercy. He joined in the responses, and several times repeated the word» after the 'minister. At the conclusion of the services Catherall took the rev. gentleman by the hand, and told him that he was now prepared to die, and felt that he could die happy. On his way to the scaffold he recognised the Magistrate who had committed him (Mr. T. S. Samwell) whom, he remarked, he hoped to meet again in heaven. Arrived at the gallows he calmly surveyed the upturned faces of the crowd. Just before the white cap was adjusted he kicked his shoes off so that they fell among the people. This action is explained as having been prompted by a desire to give the lie to someone—his mother it was said — who had told him he would die in his shoes. Taking it in connection with the prisoner’s demeanour just before one can-not but regard this as a noteworthy instance of "the ruling passion strong in death.” The moment he gave the signal by letting fall his handkerchief the bolt was withdrawn and the drop fell. He struggled about two minutes in a convulsive manner before life became extinct. He was buried without ceremony at St. Giles' Churchyard at three o'clock in the afternoon. Captain Slash was a fine athletic fellow, aged 29 years. Although popularly supposed to be the first, be was in reality the sixteenth culprit executed on what was then known as “the new drop." A quarto single sheet, purporting to give a "Correct Account of the Execution of George Catherall, alias Captain Slash" was published at a subsequent date by Arlidge, of Northampton.

 

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