Killing - The History Of Murder In Scotland [Radio Scotland]

Episodes

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01Blood And Honour2013030420130311 (RS)

Billy Kay explores the role of honour in the early history of murder in Scotland.

Programme 1. Blood and Honour

Billy Kay explores the role of aristocratic male honour in the history of murder in Scotland from the blood feud vendettas of the 1590's to the lethal duels of the 18th century. There will be stories galore of blood being spilled, but mainly, in the company of leading historians, Billy will reveal what violent crime tells us about society at different stages of development. There is one constant - men commit up to 90% of murders and comprise 70% of its victims. Other than that, the past is a very different country. In A History of Murder Pieter Spierenburg writes, "Medieval patricians and aristocrats alike considered violence to be their special prerogative." We explore this concept of male honour which links knife-wielding gangs in our cities today with the noblemen of the past. Think of the feud between Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet and the words of Bishop Leslie in Scotland. "Great families they feud, and that perpetually." King James VI waxed more lyrical in this description of his subjects. "An for anie displeisure that they apprehend to be done unto them by their neighbours (they) tak up a plain feud against him, and (without respect to God, King or Commonweal) bang it out bravely, he and all his kinne, against him and all his." Billy speaks to Keith Brown, author of Bloodfeud in Scotland 1573 - 1625, and discovers that there were over 390 murderous feuds raging across Scotland.Lindsays and Ogilvies in the 1440's, Cunninghames and Montgomeries in the 1520's, McDonalds and Mcleans almost in perpetuity, and the Moray/Huntly feud of the 1590's which at least left us the legacy of a great song which has lasted well - The Bonnie Earl o' Moray.

02Monsters Of The Vilest Kind2013031120130318 (RS)

Billy Kay traces the disturbing history of infanticide in Scottish society.

Monsters of the Vilest Kind

Women have killed throughout history but whether they killed men or women, new born babies or infants, revulsion for their crime was aggravated because of the very fact that they were women. Anne-Marie Kilday of Oxford Brookes University asserts that in Scottish society "Women were more morally responsible than men but less criminally culpable!"

Here, Billy Kay examines the tragic crime of infanticide and its visceral stories that leave an indelible mark on those touched by them, for such was the state of disassociation in many of the mothers that they used extreme violence to kill their babies. We explore whether Calvinism produced an atmosphere of public censure that made unmarried women go to extraordinary lengths to conceal pregnancy - a number of girls were said to have given birth in total silence for example, so that other members of the household had no idea what had occurred. One historian compares the attitudes against infanticidal women with the witch hunts of an earlier period. Finally though, the Act anent Child Murder which had prevailed since 1690 was abolished and by the late 18th and 19th centuries there was a huge shift in attitude influenced by Scottish doctors like William Hunter who were in the forefront of understanding temporary insanity and diminished responsibility. The women were now regarded as victims of poverty, of mental imbalance and of men, rather than as unnatural deviants. The change is expressed in one of our greatest novels The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott. We will also hear two of the great Scots ballads which deal with infanticide.. Mary Hamilton which is sympathetic to the woman and The Cruel Mother which is not.

03Crime And Punishment2013031820130325 (RS)

Billy Kay explores industrialisation, immigration and execution in the history of murder.

Crime and Punishment

If Edinburgh was the murder capital of Scotland in the 18th century, by the 19th century it was definitely Glasgow. Billy Kay explores the effects of early industrialisation and the huge influx of Irish immigrants on Scottish homicide statistics. The traditions and rituals of public execution are examined and again there was a perception that the people who deserved most to go to the gallows were the Irish navvies. One of the great demonstrations of force against them came in the execution of Dennis Doolan and Patrick Redding, who were indicted for killing an English ganger called John Green in 1841. They were walked from Glasgow to the murder scene in Bishopbriggs where the spectacle was overseen by Sir Archibald Alison mounted on a white horse - an iconic image of protestant ascendancy.

Another theme we explore is the fascination with female sexuality and violence -

when an Edinburgh brothel keeper Mary McKinnon went to the gallows for knifing one of her clients in 1823 for example, 30,000 people turned out to see the execution. Imagine the interest then when Madeleine Smith, a girl from a well to do Glasgow family was tried for murdering her lover Émile L'Angelier. When her passionate letters to him were read out in court, the interest went global. Middle class Victorian misses were not supposed to have such thoughts, let alone express them..." Oh to have you loving me. I fear we shall get very thin from want of sleep, but we shall be happy...."you promise only to love me once a night, make no such promises... " L'Angelier died soon thereafter of arsenic poisoning, and the world was enthralled when the jury returned the famous Scottish verdict of Not Proven.

04Vicarious Thrills And Lurid Tales20130325

Billy Kay explores knife crime and gangs in west central Scotland where the Violence Reduction Unit is having an effect on the recreational but lethal violence which has existed for at least a hundred years. In some areas young boys belong to gangs with names like San Toi, Cumbie, Tongs and Brigton Billy Boys which their great grandfathers may have run with back in the 1930's when Glasgow razor gangs and hardmen were glamourised in novels like No Mean City. We examine the ambivalent role of the press and popular culture in the history of murder, showing how the broadsides of the 18th century have their parallels in the tabloid newspapers of today. In the 20th century, newspapers sold millions reporting murders and executions with even couthy family oriented firms like the Thomson press in Dundee giving the masses lurid tales. The great journalist James Cameron learned his trade there in the 1930's and wrote."I was attached to the Red Star Weekly, which catered for a public of working girls whose tastes must have verged on the sadistic, so heavily, were our pages covered in gore." Giving such graphic, salacious prominence to violence, it is little wonder that the populace gets edgy. It was not always so though and historians suggest that there is almost an inversion at work - through the centuries more and more prominence has been given to murder, while the murder statistics have been in decline - the less crime there is, the more we seem to want to know about it! One type of murderer who will always cause fear and revulsion though is the psychopathic, serial killer. We end by putting him in perspective, so we can all coorie in and sleep safely at night.

04Vicarious Thrills And Lurid Tales2013032520130401 (RS)

Billy Kay on gangs, serial killers and the role of the press in the history of murder.

Billy Kay explores knife crime and gangs in west central Scotland where the Violence Reduction Unit is having an effect on the recreational but lethal violence which has existed for at least a hundred years. In some areas young boys belong to gangs with names like San Toi, Cumbie, Tongs and Brigton Billy Boys which their great grandfathers may have run with back in the 1930's when Glasgow razor gangs and hardmen were glamourised in novels like No Mean City. We examine the ambivalent role of the press and popular culture in the history of murder, showing how the broadsides of the 18th century have their parallels in the tabloid newspapers of today. In the 20th century, newspapers sold millions reporting murders and executions with even couthy family oriented firms like the Thomson press in Dundee giving the masses lurid tales. The great journalist James Cameron learned his trade there in the 1930's and wrote."I was attached to the Red Star Weekly, which catered for a public of working girls whose tastes must have verged on the sadistic, so heavily, were our pages covered in gore." Giving such graphic, salacious prominence to violence, it is little wonder that the populace gets edgy. It was not always so though and historians suggest that there is almost an inversion at work - through the centuries more and more prominence has been given to murder, while the murder statistics have been in decline - the less crime there is, the more we seem to want to know about it! One type of murderer who will always cause fear and revulsion though is the psychopathic, serial killer. We end by putting him in perspective, so we can all coorie in and sleep safely at night.