Historic Execution Talk Well Received

Mostly Ghostly’s recent talk in Annan, on the compelling story behind Scotland’s last public execution, was very well received.

Over 30 people attended the event, part of Annan the History Town’s winter talks programme, which covered key events in the case of Robert Smith, a nineteen-year-old farm labourer from Eaglesfield, and explored the powerful aftermath of his heinous crimes, which shook and scarred the local communities. ‘The Annandale Murder’ became a landmark criminal trial.

Robert Colvin Smith was found unanimously guilty of the robbery, rape and murder of nine-year-old Thomasina Scott, near the village of Cummertrees, and the attempted murder of Mrs Jane Crichton, a key witness, for fear she could implicate him in Thomasina’s death. On May 12th 1868, Smith was hanged in front of a subdued crowd at Buccleuch Street Prison in Dumfries, by Thomas Askern, well known for his incompetence as an executioner.

Kathleen Cronie, who is organising these events on behalf of ATHT, and is also the Founder of Mostly Ghostly, reflects on the talk:

“We were delighted to see so many folk turning out to learn about this very dark event in our region’s history, a subject that was clearly affecting and has already inspired guests to learn more about the story, including the history of local buildings where key events took place, developing a picture of the physical landscape at the time. Smith’s death mask, cast by a plasterer named Rushfirth, created much discussion, with guests keen to visit Dumfries Museum to view if first-hand.”

Guest Alison Tagg found the talk very intriguing and thanked the team for a “wonderful evening”, while fellow guest, Fiona Grubb said “Thank you for a fascinating talk”. Steve Oswald described the experience as: “a most interesting talk, well delivered”.

Award-winning storytellers and local history enthusiasts, Mostly Ghostly, are known for their meticulous research and passion for bringing to life the darker side of Dumfries and Galloway’s history through their range of tours and events. They have previously highlighted this story at the Festival of Museums, Sanquhar Arts Festival, and for various community groups. Their interest in the case, its people and places, stimulated the development of a history tour – Deadly Dumfries – which launched on the 150th anniversary of Smith’s execution.

Summing up, Kathleen said:

“We’re greatly encouraged by the response to our winter talk’s programme, and look forward to welcoming our next speaker, Dr Colin Mackenzie, who will explore some of the fascinating origins behind the place-names of Annan. We’d like to extend our warmest thanks to everyone who supported the talk, and to the Reverend David Whiteman and Mrs Doreen Whiteman, for hosting us at Annan Old Parish Church Hall.”

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