Page images

a higher power, they could not sit to hear it now in court and the prisoner was remanded to gaol.

In the affidavits alluded to by the counsel, two of the jurors swore, that whiskey was conveyed into the jury-loom through the window, and the greater part of the jury made drunk by it, even to vomiting—one of them deposed, that by reason of his age and infirmity, and being also threatened and intimidated by one of his fellows, (Mr. M‘Naghtan,) he was induced to concur in the verdict of guilty contrary to his opinion. A third juror made affidavit, that he was induced by the representations of some of his fellows to believe, that should they return a verdict of guilty, Mr. Orr would not be made to suffer death, else he would not have agreed to the verdict. ! When the prisoner was put to the bar to receive sentence of death, the recommendation of the jury having produced no effect, the court was crowded with spectators, in whose countenances were impressed that public feeling which his fate had occasioned. Lord Yelverton addressed him in a voice so low as scarcely to be distinguishable, and on pronouncing the words, “ You are to be taken to the place from whence you came, from thence to the common place of execution, the gallows, there to be hung by the neck until you are dead," the tears burst from his eyes, his head sunk between his hands, and in that attitude he remained for nearly ten minutes, during which time the prisoner eyed him with a kind of compassionate countenance, and as soon as he raised his head, begged leave to say a very few words, which were as follows: -“ My Lord, I have been found guilty, but I am innocent. I am no felon; it is worse for the jury who found me so than me. I can forgive them, and am not afraid to die ; but the witness who swore against me is gross. ly perjured.” Having said this, he walked from the bar with a firm and undaunted step, and was reconducted under a strong guard to the gaol.*

Through the whole of this trial, not only the outside hall, but the intc. rior of the court, were crowded with armed soldiers, to the exclusion of

In the interval of suspense, between the day of pronouncing the sentence and Saturday, the 7th of October, appointed for the execution, various representations were made to government (it is supposed) for and against the prisoner, but one in particular on his behalf, by the Rev. Geo. Macartney, D. D. the magistrate, as appears by the committal, who took Wheatly's examinations against him, and was principally concerned in his prosccution-Who (on the circumstances detailed in the affidavits, of which the following is the substance) procured the depositions upon oath of the two reverend gentlemen therein mentioned, and immediately repaired to Dublin, where he laid them, together with his own affidavit, before his excellency the lord lieutenant, and used every conscientious exertion to prevent the execution from being enforced.

The Rev. James Elder, dissenting minister of the parish of Finvoy, in the county of Antrim, stated in his affidavit, that he was, in the month of April, 1796, sent for to visit a soldier who appeared to be deranged in his mind, and had attempted to commit suicide-That on going to see him, and after he, together with the Rev. Alex. Montgomery, had prayed by his side for some time, this deponent asked who he was, whence he came, and where he was going ?-On which he said, his name was Wheatly, that he came from Maybole in Scotland, and was going to Derry to join his regiment, and that his colonel's name was Durham; and on being asked the nature of his crimes, he said that he had been guilty of se. ducing women in Scotland, which he considered as a great crime, and was a great weight upon his mind-That he went out with a party from Londonderry and seized an unstatutable still, under the direction of a revenue officer; that the party was surrounded by a number of people, who made use of abusive language, on which the party fired on the people, who were in an adjoining field, and that he, Wheatly, ran a man through with his bayonet, which he considered as mur

many of the freeholders: and these soldiers were appointed to act as consta bles with fixed bayonets !

der, and which hung heavy on his mind-That the revenue officer was wounded in the affray, and afterwards sent to gaol, where he died of his wounds; and that he, the said Wheatly, was prevailed upon to swear a false oath against some of the prisoners, for which he was afraid they would suffer, which also hung heavy on his mind.

This affidavit of Mr Elder was confirmed by that of the Rev. Alex. Montgomery.

The Rev. Geo. Macartney deposed, that at the spring assises of 1797, when it was thought the trial of Mr. Orr would be brought on, said Wheatly caine to this deponent, and told him he had something of consequence to communi. cate; and, on taking him aside, said, that he had seen a Mr. Elder a few minutes before, who, he was certain, was brought there to invalidate his testimony against Mr. Orr, from a conversation that had passed between him and said Elder; which conversation, this deponent believes, must have been the same alluded to in Mr. Elder's affidavit.

The execution was respited until Tuesday the 10th, and from thence till Saturday the 14th, during which period it was confidently hoped that a pardon would follow.

An intimation having in the mean time come to the prisoner's friends, that provided the leading gentlemen of the county would memorial in his favour, mercy would be shown; a memorial was drawn up with the above affidavits annexed, which was signed by many, with several reasons assigned by different memorialists for interfering on his behalf, some representing it as a matter of policy to mitigate the sentence, others speaking of it as a subject of mercy, others as a measure of justice. During this doubtful period, the following publication appeared in the Belfast News-Letter of the 2d of October, 1797:

“ We hear from the best authority, that William Orr, now under sentence of death, at Carrickfergus, has given under his hand-writing an acknowledgment of his crime and

the justness of his sentence, which he has been induced to. do, to ease his conscience, and to acquit the jury, who has been calumniated for their verdict against him.”

Upon this, Mr. Orr wrote the following letter, which he sent by his brother to Dublin, and which was delivered to the lord lieutenant:

"May it please your Excellency,

“ Having received from your excellency's clemency that respite from death which affords me the opportunity of humbly and sincerely thanking you, I avail myself of the indulgence of pen and paper, and of that goodness which you have already manifested towards me, to contradict a most cruel and injurious publication in the newspapers, stating, that I had confessed myself guilty of the crimes which a perjured wretch came forward to swear against me. My lord, it is not by the confession of crimes which would render me unfit for society, that I expect to live; it is upon the strength of that innocence which I will boldly maintain with my last breath, which I have already solemnly affirmed in a declaration which I thought was to have been my last, and which I had directed to be published as my vindication from infamy, ten times more terrible to me than death.

“I know, my lord, that my own unhappy situation, the anguish of a distracted wife, and the mistaken tenderness of an affectionate brother, have been resorted to to procure that confession, and I was given to understand, that my life would have been spared upon such conditions; I as decidedly refused, as I should do now, though your excellency's pardon was to be the reward. Judge, then, my lord, of the situation of a man to whom life was offered upon no other conditions than that of betraying himself by a confes. sion both false and base.

“ And lastly, let me make one humble observation to your excellency, that the evidence should be strong indeed to

[ocr errors]

induce a conviction that an industrious man, enjoying both comfort and competence, who has lived all his life in one neighbourhood, whose character, as well as that of all his stock, has been free from reproach of any kind; who, certainly, if allowed to say so much for himself, would not „shed the blood of any human creature; who is a husband and the father of a family would engage himself with a common soldier in any system that had for its end robbery, murder and destruction, for such was the evidence of the witness Wheatly.

“If upon these grounds, and the facts already submitted to your excellency, I am to be pardoned, I shall not fail to ontertain the most dutiful sense of gratitude for that act of justice as well as mercy; and, in the mean time, I beg to remain your excellency's “ Most obedient humble servant,

6 WILLIAM ORR. “ Carrickfergus gaol, Oct. 10, 1797."

It 'was about this time that Orr's wife wrote a letter to Lady Camden, the rough draft of which came into the reporter's hands, and is, as nearly as can be made out, to the following purport :


“ GRIEF like mine admits of no apology-Despair and sorrow are my only companions, yet hope bids me look up to you for happiness-A miserable object, a mother and a wife, comes praying for mercy to the father of her children

“ Pardon, most gracious lady, the phrensy of a distracted woman, and listen to the petition of the miserable wife of the unfortunate William Orr-I come a suppliant, a low and humble slave of misery, praying your ladyship’s intercession on behalf of the life of my husband, whose existence is dearer to me than my own O! hear my complaint, and grant

« PreviousContinue »