John The Painter [Book Of The Week]

By Jessica Warner.

Abridged by Laurence Wareing.

A biography of Britain's first terrorist.

Read by Wendy Seager.


01A Fire Is Lit20050516

James Aitken was born into a poor family in the late 18th century.

Although he became well educated, his disaffection with his mundane job as a house painter led him to seek other avenues to create a name for himself: violence and terror.

02Rebel With A Cause20050517

After his unsuccessful American sojourn, Aitken returns to England with little to show for his time in the colony.

While drinking in an Oxford pub he hears a conversation that will change the course of his life: his fellow drinkers discuss how dependent the Navy is on the royal dockyards - in other words, destroy the dockyards and the American War of Independence would be as good as lost.

In the space of an afternoon, James Aitken finds an outlet for his cunning, and a cause to which he can dedicate his life.

03The First Attack20050518

Having met the American Congress representative in Paris, Aitken plans to set fire to the Portsmouth naval dockyards.

04Panic And Paranoia20050519

While the Portsmouth dockyards smoulder, Aitken escapes to Bristol, where he sets more fires.

Panic ensues and Aitken's actions inspire copycat arsonists across the country.

05 LASTTrial And Execution20050520

Aitken's lonely life and terrible exploits are put before the court.

In Portsmouth he is hung from a mast: a symbolic act that gained the dubious distinction of being a hanging from the highest gallows ever erected in England.