During a drunken riot after a fair at Kelso, Roxburghshire, in the summer of 1849, a local farmer, William Lauder, who had come to the aid of the police, was beaten to death by the rioters. The puzzle facing investigators was, who was responsible? There were 400 Irishmen involved in the riot, and they only dispersed after the army was called out.

Only two of them were arrested and sent for trial. They were Thomas Wilson, 20, an Ulsterman, and John Brady. When Brady was reprieved, Wilson, who maintained his innocence to the very end, was left to face the hangman alone, on Thursday, October 25th, 1849, at Jedburgh Prison.

That was much more of an ordeal than it should have been because the executioner was John Murdoch, now over 80. He arrived on the scaffold with the aid of a stick, failed to put the white hood over the condemned man’s head properly, and pulled the lever too quickly. It was the last execution to be held at Jedburgh.