31st March 1689

Judge George Lockhart is murdered in broad daylight

Margaret Nicholson took her husband, John Chieslie of Dalry, to court. She wanted him to pay maintenance for their 10 children and argued her case in front of Judge George Lockhart. Lockhart ruled in her favour, which naturally left Chieslie (sometimes written Chiesly) upset. However, rather than simply appeal the ruling, as might have been reasonable, he intercepted Lockhart on his way home from church, and shot him in the back, then stood around waiting to be arrested.

Arrested, tortured, and condemned

The Glasgow Herald of 30 December 1850 recounted what happened next. “The assassin was taken ‘red hand’, and after undergoing torture was condemned. The Lord Provost and Baillies of Edinburgh sentenced him to be carried on a hurdle from the Tolbooth to the Market Cross on Wednesday following, and there to have his right hand cut off, and then to be hanged upon a gibbet, with the pistol about his neck, with which he committed the murder, and they appointed his body to be hung in chains between Leith and Edinburgh, his right hand to be fixed on the West Port.”

Five years later, on 12 March 1855, the Glasgow Herald added a little more to the story, noting that “ten days after his trial, the estates of Parliament declared the use of torture illegal”.

A slow death

It’s not clear how long it would have taken him to die while hanging in the gibbet, but it seems likely that the ultimate cause of death would have been loss of blood from the truncated arm.

The Caledonian Mercury of 31 January 1829 published an account of the fourth meeting of the Societies of Antiquaries of Scotland at which “Mr Drummond Hay, the Secretary, read letters he had received from Sir Walter Scott and Mr Walker Drummond, regarding the discovery made a good many years ago, during some alterations in the House of Dalry, of a skeleton, which was fairly presumed, from a variety of circumstances, to be that of Chiesly, the murderer of President Lockhart”.



Other events that occured in March

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