21 April 1876 – Johnny Dolan

Legend has it that ‘Dandy’ Johnny Dolan handed the gouged eyes of his victim as a trophy over to fellow gang members. Shortly after, he was hauled in for his crimes. He was later charged with murder and was sentenced to death for the killing.

Dolan was a member of the notorious Whyo gang, which was formed from the ashes of the Five Point gangs of the mid 19th century. If you’ve ever seen Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Leonardo di Caprio, the Five Points gangs are from a slightly earlier era, made up of Irish immigrants in the main and their primary purpose was to rob and pick the pockets of the inhabitants of Manhattan.

The Whyos, captured in print in Elizabeth Gaffney’s novel ‘Metropolis’, ruled the streets from the 1860s to the 1890s, until they lost their edge and were usurped by the next set of new kids on the block. It was a naff name, but apparently that was their call sign.

Q in the making

Of the members of the Whyo gang, Dolan was perhaps one of the most ingenious when it came to DIY and concealed weapons. Most famous are the shoes which hid the component parts of an axe and his eye gouger, which was fashioned out of copper and fitted over his thumb, enough to impress James Bond’s ingenious equipment maker Q.

This brings us neatly back to Dolan’s murder, he was a factory owner and Dolan was caught trying to steal. His victim died a painful and protracted death. The owner, James H Noe tried to stop the robbery, so the thug turned on him and gouged out his eyes. After securing the eyeballs, Dolan then set upon him with an iron bar, literally battering him to death.

The evidence however was circumstantial – they found key items belonging to Noe in Dolan’s possession and he was hanged for the murder in 1876, aged just 26.

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