Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Day James O'Connor Swung Twice (1867)

The robed priest walked directly in front of the condemned, a bound figure. Next hobbled an aged, palsied, trembling man, Calcraft, the official executioner. At the foot of the fatal tree, Father Bonte offered O'Connor a crucifix to kiss, which he did with evident devotion. I shuddered as Calcraft placed the rope round the victim's throat and drew it tight.
The white robed priest - last friend of the dying man on earth, read on. A crash! A thud! The end has come! No; the rope flies loosely in the air! What has happened? With a vault Father Bonte sprang into the pit, his priestly vestments flying in the wind I followed him. Propped up against the wooden partition lay O'Connor the broken rope around his neck, and the white cap over his eyes.
Seizing my arm with his pinioned hands he exclaimed: 'I stood it bravely, didn't I? You will let me off now, won't you? Let me off do!' Think of the horror of that appeal! 'You will let me off won't you?' And there was no power to do so. 'There to be hanged by the neck until you are dead,' was the dread sentence, and the law must be obeyed.
The half hanged man was supported by warders and taken behind the scaffold, while the other officials hurriedly procured a new rope, and then again he was placed in position. Calcraft pulled the lever, the drop fell, and James O'Connor was dead.

Unnamed witness

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