"..a bardy view!"

Jobling, the Gibbet and Ned Kelly!

At the signal of his girlfriend, who had been offended by a shopper, a man walked into a supermarket and killed an innocent chap queueing at the till. The blow was presented with such force, that his victim fell and hit his head with a sickening crunch.

It was a case of mistaken identity (not that that is an excuse), but the judge who sentenced him last week handed him four years to "reflect the serious nature of the crime".

The offender should be grateful that he was not tried at the Durham Assizes in 1832 by Mr Justice Parke. A look at the records of August that year (held at the National Archives in Kew – I've seen them) showed that this judge regularly hung people on a whim for much less, and if he didn't hang them, he transported them to a life of penury in Australia. (Some Aussies today might still regard it as such!).

However, the reason why I highlight it is to demonstrate the marked contrast in the justice system then and now. I refer to the case of William Jobling – the last man to be gibbeted in England.

I have studied it since my youth. It is part of the history of the town I grew up in. Jobling, a local miner, was three sheets to the wind when he left a pub in Jarrow (north east England) and approached the local magistrate Nicholas Fairles, as he passed by on his horse. He asked for some money, but was refused in a good natured fashion.

Unfortunately, Jobling's drinking partner took offence and decided to clobber the old bloke with a stick. Fairles fell from his mount and died two weeks later as a result of the fall.

The guy who hit him went by the name of Ralph Armstrong, who was never caught and may have escaped to Australia (there's been a long held and tenuous theory that he was actually Red Kelly – an  Irish convict sent to Australia in I843, who later became the father of the infamous Ned Kelly who was born in 1854), but Jobling was arrested and charged – even though he was innocent of any assault.

The poor lad was found wandering on a beach in a drunken stupor. Witnesses even said he was trying to help the old magistrate when he fell, before being dragged away by his "friend". Indeed, Fairles, whilst he was still able, declared that Jobling was not the man who struck him. This is all in the records and newspapers of the time.

Shortly after, in August 1832 Fairles died, and Jobling was sentenced to be hanged and gibbeted.

Gibbeting, although a posthumous humiliation, was not a painful punishment for a victim. He would already be dead. It's purpose was to send a message to others. A harsh lesson to those who were, or those who had designs on becoming criminal. It was akin to the medieval method of sticking severed heads at city gates – "mess with authority and this is your fate!"

In context of the times, with industrial unrest, and revolutionary France across the sea, it was the establishments method of ensuring the ruling classes maintained their position through an iron fist.

With the noose around his neck, Jobling attempted to apologise, but words failed him. The ground beneath disappeared, and his neck, after a couple of minutes, was snapped. His death was prolonged because just as the trap opened, he turned his head briefly in recognition of a voice of familiarity crying out from the crowd. Some suggest the caller may have been Armstrong in disguise. In any event, the action dislocated the rope.

His body was then wrapped in tar and pitch, placed in a metal cage, paraded through the streets, and in a final indignity, hung on a wooden post, just a few hundred feet outside his home.

There it swung in the breeze, guarded by a contingent of Hussars, until it became so putrid that friends eventually managed to clandestinely remove and bury it – to a place still unknown. The fact that every morning for three weeks his wife and children were confronted with the image is beyond comprehension!

His wife eventually ended up in the workhouse totally demented. Little is known of what became of his young children.

William Jobling was the last man to be gibbeted in England. No greater miscarriage of justice could be envisaged. No greater example could be offered to the indiscriminate power of the few over the many.

So, to the "fortunate" man who has just been given four years for manslaughter, who deprived a loving family of a husband and father, and was given four years (to reflect the magnitude of the offence?!) and no doubt will be freed a lot sooner; you may wish to reflect that you were not alive 170 years ago.

Had you been, you will certainly be anticipating the gibbet right now, and if Mr Justice Parke was on the bench he'd no doubt throw your partner in there too – as an accessory!


April 7, 2009 - Posted by | History

1 Comment »

  1. I’m truly stunned by this. As a matter of fact I’m not a 100% sure of the facts even though I read that other post. If I had been judge both of them would already have been gibbeted and saved the taxpayer of the small favour of having to pay for their short prison stay.


    Comment by spook | April 8, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: