26 May 1868 – Michael Barrett

Public hangings became a thing of the past after Michael Barrett hit the gallows.

Irish-born Barrett was executed in London for setting off a bomb, which claimed 12 lives and injured many more. This was part of a Fenian uprising. This was an attempt to effect a jailbreak – one of the Fenian men, Richard O’Sullivan–Burke was doing time in Clerkenwell for concocting an infamous ‘prison-van rescue’ up in Manchester. And this was an ill-fated ploy to get him out. And it certainly brought down a large part of the prison wall, but it also took out a dozen people and injured around 50 more.
This act was said to have destroyed any sympathy the English may have engendered towards the Fenian cause. Indeed at Barrett’s demise a 2,000-strong pantomime crowd assembled at Newgate, some booing and singing and other praying as the criminal got noosed up. For there were mixed feelings about his execution.

The moment of death was short – for Barrett died with dignity, not even trying to struggle, according to a first-hand report in ‘The Times’.

Pro-Fenian supporters stayed around and jeered the hangmen as he was cut down. After all, had an innocent man just been executed?

On his sentencing the ‘Daily Telegraph’ picked up on his own ‘acute’ criticism of evidence and that fact that he had ‘eloquently [asserted] his innocence’ But keen observers claimed in The Times at the time that while he asserted he’d been convicted on next to no evidence and that he was not a murderer, he never came outright and uttered the words ‘I am not guilty’.

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One Response to “26 May 1868 – Michael Barrett”

  1. my real name is michael fraser barrett

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