Jessie McLachlan – Trial Pt. 2 (Podcast)

Welcome back to Random Scottish History’s True Crime Project – Glasgow’s Square Mile Murders. This is part 4 of the case against Jessie Mclachlan for the awful murder of her best friend, Jessie McPherson, and the 2nd part of the reporting on her trial. We’ve heard from old Mr Fleming, who was the person cited by her defence as the true murderer of Miss McPherson, and we saw how that came across. Certainly, a difficult person to have on the stand. We’ll see what more the prosecution can bring to the table and see if anything can be made clearer in this episode. So, let’s get into it.

Caledonian Mercury, Friday 19th September, 1862, pp.3 & 4.





   The following is the continuation of Christina Fraser’s evidence from yesterday’s paper, which was heard on Wednesday night after our parcel left… 

   Mr GIFFORD – How long would she be away? – She did not seem to be many minutes away. She came into the room again with the rum and the basket…  

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – You say you have known the prisoner intimately since she was a child? – Yes. What kind of dispositioned person was she to your knowledge? – She seemed to me to be always a very respectable person. Since her marriage and the birth of her child she has been ailing a good deal. Do you know that she has been ailing? – Yes. She was long confined to bed after the birth of her child? – She was. She had not more than one child, to my knowledge. Since the birth of that child she has all along been very delicate. Was she a violent woman in any respect? – I never saw her violent, and I always thought her very civil. Did she and her husband live comfortably together? – They seemed very comfortable. 

   Margaret McKenzie or Campbell, wife of Donald Campbell, seaman, Clydesdale Buildings, Broomielaw Street, Glasgow – I went to live in Broomielaw Street at last May term. Did you take the rooms you now occupy from the prisoner? – Yes, from Mrs McLachlan. How many rooms are there in the house? – Three. I took the kitchen and bedroom from her, and I still live there. There is an outside door, and then the lobby in the house. The first apartment you come to as you go in from the front door is the kitchen. My bedroom is the next, and the third room is at the end of the lobby. It is occupied by Mrs Mclachlan herself… I remember Friday, 4th July last. Did Mrs McLachlan send your girl for anything that night? – She sent my girl down stairs for envelopes. What time of night was this? – It would be about ten o’clock. And did the prisoner get them? – Yes. Did the prisoner dress herself then? – Yes; she dressed herself with a bonnet and shawl, and with a grey cloak. The bonnet was drab-coloured. What kind of gown had she on below? – Brown merino. Did anybody come in before she went out? – Mrs Fraser came in. I opened the door for her, and showed her the way into Mrs Mclachlan’s room. I returned to my own kitchen and went to bed. What did you hear after you went to bed? – After I went to bed Mrs McLachlan came into my kitchen and went to my press. I cannot say what she took out, but there was nothing in the press but a small bottle and a bread-basket. When did you next look into that press? – I required to look into the press next morning. I did not miss the bottle at that time. Did you notice it? – I did not notice the bottle then. I missed the bottle on the Monday following. What kind of bottle was it? – It was just a small common bottle. (Shown bottle.) That’s just about the size, and shape, and the colour, but I cannot say it is my bottle… I never saw a check-key for the doors since I came to the house. And a person on the outside of the door required some person to open it from the inside? – The door opens by a check. There is no handle to open it from the outside, and it opens from the inside only… The prisoner had been often talking to me about getting check-keys for the door. In consequence of there being no check-key she and I had to open the door to let one another in. I did not fall asleep for a while, as I had a lodger, named John McDonald, and he did not come in till about eleven o’clock at night… Did you expect that you would require to rise again? – Well, I had an imagination, as Mrs McLachlan had been speaking about going out. I saw her dressed to go out before Mrs Fraser came in. You had some expectation of having to rise to let her in again? – Yes; but I was not quite sure. When did you awake? – I did not awake again until it was half-past five o’clock. What waked you? – Mrs McLachlan’s little boy crying. 

   Lord DEAS – In bed? – Yes; I went into Mrs McLachlan’s room, and took him out of the bed and dressed him. Mrs McLachlan was not there; there was nobody there but the child. I dressed the child and put him into the kitchen. I can see a public clock from my kitchen window. I tried the outer door as I passed, and it was just as I had left it, and I could not say whether anybody had come or gone out. It was on the latch. I did not go to bed again. I gave the child a piece and he fell asleep, and I put him into his mother’s bed again. The milk girl came to the door between eight and nine. Mrs McLachlan came after that, about nine o’clock on the Saturday morning. She rung the bell, and I opened the door and let her in. I had not seen her from the night before, when she was dressed. I cannot say whether she had on the same gown, but her bonnet and cloak seemed the same. She was carrying a bundle, or something like that, under her cloak. It was not an extra large bundle. I daresay the bundle was twice larger than a person’s head… She said, “Is that you,” or “There you go,” or something like that, and passed into the room. I saw her going down stairs a short time after she came in. She had a clothes basket. I observed she had a dress on that I had never seen before. It was a merino dress of a reddish colour, and had a plaited body. The colour was like mahogany. It was plain, not flounced. I thought it was trimmed with black velvet, but I could not exactly say. She went out with a brown merino dress the night before, and it had flounces. It was not the same dress; the trimming was also different. She had a cellar at the foot of the stairs. I did not see her then, as she went into her own room; but she went out again, and said to me, “Will you light my fire?” I did not see her then either. She merely cried to me, and went out. She came back between twelve and one o’clock. The door was open when she came back, and she walked into her room, and I did not see her, and cannot say what dress she had on when she came back. Shortly after this I went into her room for my little basket. She said, “I have taken your basket.” She had on at that time a blue poplin dress. 

[More on the dresses and borrowed basket along with the prisoner’s comings and goings. Then goes on to mention a couple of the purchases made by the prisoner. Witness is then shown numerous articles of clothing to identify.] 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – … The prisoner was always in delicate health. She has complained to me of heart disease, and shortness of breath at times. She was in her own house on Saturday night all night, and all the Sunday; but on Monday she was going out and in. 

   By Mr GIFFORD – I was at home all that Friday. I could not say that I saw any man call for her on the Friday or on the Saturday. I have never seen any old man calling for her. 

   Lord DEAS intimated to the jury that the Court would now be adjourned, and that they would be conducted to a hotel till next morning. He recommended them not to talk about the case, as neither he nor they knew what was the nature of the evidence yet to be adduced. 

   The jury were conducted from the Court, and the Court adjourned at a quarter before nine, till next morning at a quarter before ten o’clock. 



   The trial was resumed this morning in the Glasgow Circuit Court-room before Lord Deas. The evidence led on Wednesday had considerably increased the excitement of the public in regard to this mysterious case; and at an early hour the square in front of the Court-house was filled with an eager crowd, anxious to obtain admission to the Court. The Court-room itself was quite crowded long before the hour appointed for opening by privileged parties; and several gentlemen obtained seats on the bench. 

   Shortly after ten o’clock Lord Deas took his seat, and the prisoner was placed at the bar. She looked rather paler than on the previous day; but none of her firmness seemed to have forsaken her. 

   The first witness was Mary Black or Adams, who, examined by Mr GIFFORD, deponed – I know the prisoner, and have known her for two or three years. I have been in the habit of washing clothes for her during these years. I used to wash in her house in the Broomielaw. She employed me sometimes to go to a pawnbroker for her. It was to Clark’s, in Brown Street, and Hutchison’s, in Argyle Street. She sent me there for the purpose of pledging goods and redeeming goods. She used to send me with her own clothing. I always gave the name of Fraser, No. 5, Main Street. That was not her own name or her own residence. She told me to give the fictitious name. I was in the prisoner’s house on Thursday the 3d July. I was washing for Mrs. Campbell, the person who lived in the same house. I was there on Friday the 4th, also employed as before. I saw the prisoner, and she sent me to Clark the pawnbroker’s, in the forenoon, with a dressing-glass. She told me to get 6s. on it, and to lift a cloak of hers out of the pawn. I went. I got 6s. on the glass, and paid 4s. 7½d. for redeeming the cloak. I brought the cloak to the prisoner. (Identifies a grey cloak as the one she got in the pawn-office.) She said she wanted to go from home. I saw her again at five o’clock in the afternoon, and she asked me to come back in the evening between nine and ten o’clock, to keep her little boy. This was on Friday the 4th of July. She said she wanted me to come because she was going to see Jessie. I understood her to mean Jessie McPherson, as both she and I were in the habit of merely calling her “Jessie.” I knew Jessie McPherson very well. I had known her about two or three years. I asked the prisoner why she was going so late, and she said it was the time Jessie was alone, as the old man went to bed about that time. She just used the expression “old man,” but I knew she meant old Mr Fleming in Sandyford Place, where Jessie was a servant. I was only once in Sandyford Place after this occurred, but I was never there before. The prisoner said no more about the old man at that time. I told the prisoner that if nothing came in the road I would come back and keep her boy. The prisoner wanted me to call upon a smith to get her check-key for the front door sorted. She said she did not like always to trouble Mrs Campbell with opening the front door. She told me to go to a smith at the foot of Carrick Street. She did not mention his name. I forgot to go to the smith. She gave me no key to show the smith, but merely wished me to ask him to come and look at the key. That was all that passed at that time, unless she remarked that “Fleming was fashious [annoyed] to see any person going to the house.” She said that he was so, especially at seeing any one who had been an old servant going about the house. I left her about half-past five, but did not go back that night. I felt rather unwell, and went to bed after coming home. I got up next morning (Saturday) about six o’clock.  

[Describes her routine that day.] 

I found the prisoner in her own house. No person was with her but her child. She had on a dark dress. This was on the Saturday. (Shown and identified the dress No. 27.) I know that to be the prisoner’s gown. I have often seen it. I knew that that dress was in pawn, and when I saw it I said to the prisoner, “Had you to go your own message?” I said that because she never went to the pawn herself that I knew of, except once. I remember her saying that she went once. I don’t remember whether she gave me any answer to my remark. I then said to the prisoner, “I understand you was up for me;” and she replied, “Yes, and you couldna be got when I was wanting ye.” She then said, “I want you to go a message now.” She said it was to Clark’s pawnshop. She gave me three tickets and £2. She never said what I was to get, but I knew the articles. I went to Clark’s and I redeemed a silver watch belonging to her husband, her husband’s dress coat, and two shirts of her husband’s, and a ring of her own. The things cost about £1, 16s. 6d. altogether, so far as I can recollect. I was a little surprised at the prisoner having the money. I passed a joke about it, and said “Who did she rob for it?” as a joke. She said it was the money that her husband left for the tailor. I went for no more messages that night, unless for provisions for the Sunday. This was the Saturday night, and she asked me to come back on the Monday. She said she wanted some more parcels home from the pawn. I went on Monday about twelve o’clock. I washed for her on the Monday afternoon. I went also to the same pawnbroker’s, Clark’s. I don’t know whether it was before or after I washed. She gave me 16s. I went to Clark’s. I redeemed a pair of trousers, a vest, and a jacket – different bundles – all belonging to her husband. I paid the broker 15s. 9d. for the parcels. I brought the articles and the change to the prisoner. I gave the pawn-tickets to Mr. Miller, at the pawnbroker’s, who kept the shop and who gave me the articles. (Shown a small parcel of crinoline wire.) I got these from the prisoner on Saturday the 5th July, between five and six o’clock, when I left her last. It was in her own house. She said that the little boy had pushed them in the fire. I was to make them down for a crinoline to my little girl Sarah. She said the boy burned the wires – not the cloth that they had been in – (a laugh). There was no petticoat – it was just the wires – (a laugh). She said her boy had thrown them off the chair into the fire. These wires I afterwards gave up to the police, and left them with the police. I had occasion, from washing for the prisoner, to know about her clothes. She had a brown merino gown with a flounced skirt. She had not a merino gown with a plain skirt, that ever I saw. (Shown merino gown.) I never saw that till I saw it in the County Buildings. I never saw the prisoner have a dress like that. That gown has the appearance of being dyed. (Shown a flannel petticoat and shift.) I never saw these, to my knowledge, till I saw them in the County Buildings. I never washed these for the prisoner. The petticoat appears to be newly hemmed. (Shown a velvet cloak and a cloth cloak.) I cannot say nothing about them. I never saw them in the prisoner’s possession. I cannot say whether I have seen Jessie McPherson have them on or not. (Shown a changing-coloured or brown and a black watered silk dress.) I never saw the prisoner with those articles. I never saw anybody else wearing them to my knowledge. I never saw Jessie McPherson wearing them; but I have been informed – 

   Mr. CLARK – Stop! stop! stop! Witness – I think I have seen Jessie McPherson once or twice wearing a dress like the brown watered silk dress. (Shown a plaid.) I never saw the prisoner with that. I have never seen Jessie McPherson wearing it.  (Shown thirteen pieces of woollen or flannel cloth in a bundle.) I recognise these. They are a petticoat of the prisoner’s. I have washed that petticoat for her – not very often, but sometimes. Here the witness seemed to be deeply affected, and she was addressed by 

   Lord DEAS, as follows:- “I don’t wonder that you are affected, Mrs. Adams, at having to answer such questions, but take time and compose yourself. It is necessary that you should state all that you know regarding the matter.” 

   Examination continued – It was made out of a half-blanket. I knew it at the time it was a-washing. (Shown six pieces of wincey.) I never washed a petticoat made out of that cloth, I think, but I have seen the prisoner wearing it constantly. (Shown twenty pieces of coburg cloth.) I recognise these as part of a dress of the prisoner’s. They are all torn in pieces now. I see parts of the flounces and the trimming of the dress. I last saw the prisoner with the gown on of which these are the pieces on Friday the 4th of July. (Shown a sleeve of a coburg dress.) I found that sleeve in the house of the prisoner soon after she was apprehended. I think it was the following Thursday. there were police officers there at the time. Audley Thomson, the policeman, was there. The police got it. The prisoner said to me one day that she would have to get money somewhere. I don’t remember exactly the day she said that. She said she was needing money. That was, I think, a day or two before Friday the 4th of July. 

[Back and forth about how the prisoner knows the dress to have been dyed and that the pieces of cloth are from a petticoat.] 

   Lord DEAS – You told us that you recollect the prisoner saying to you that she must get money somewhere. Do you recollect the words she used upon that occasion? – I believe the words were “I will have to get money somewhere or another.” 

   Lord DEAS – What did you think at the time she mentioned this to you? – I thought perhaps that her husband had some few pounds by him that she was going to lift. 

   Lord DEAS – When the prisoner said to you that she would have to get money somewhere, did you understand her to mean that she was going to get money, or she must get money? – I understood that she wanted her clothes, and that she would require money to lift them. 

   Lord Deas – You understood her to mean that she was wanting her clothes out of the pawn? – Yes. 

   Sarah Adams, daughter of the preceding witness, deponed – I have known the prisoner between two and three years… [The prisoner] asked me if I would go a message. I said “Yes;” and she asked me to go to the station of the Hamilton Railway. I said “Yes;” and the prisoner then went down to the cellar, and took a little hammer with her, and an address, which was the thing she had been writing. She said I was to take the baby and follow after her. She did not say what she was going to do with the hammer or the address. I followed her to the cellar with the baby. She told me to pass by the cellar, but not to come in. When she had got the address on, she called me in, and asked me if I could carry a box, and said she feared it was too heavy for me. (Identifies the box.) I was able to lift the box, and carried it from the cellar. She told me I was to go across the Broomielaw Bridge. The box was tied up with twine. It was not very strong twine. She told me to get the box weighed at the Hamilton station. I paid fourpence for it. I cannot read writing. I told the box belonged to Mrs. McLachlan. I did not see the box opened, and did not see what was in it. She told me I was not to open the box. I went back to Mrs. McLachlan’s, and she asked me how much it cost, and I told her, and she gave me twopence. I do not mind of her saying anything else. Did she bid you do anything? – She bade me not to tell any person I was at the railway with the box. She said I was not to tell my mother, as perhaps she would be angry at me going so far. I have seen that black box often before; it belonged to the prisoner. I left the prisoner’s and went to my mother’s. The first time I saw her after the Saturday was on the Tuesday after the murder was committed. I do not know the hour I saw her on the Tuesday. I saw a bonnet and black shawl on the table. (Bonnet produced, trimmed with blue ribbons, and identifies it as the bonnet she saw.) I never saw that bonnet before. I never saw the black shawl either before. I lifted the bonnet to look at it, as I had never seen it before. I saw her again on the Saturday, the day before she was taken up. I was sent a message to Jessie McPherson about three or four months before I left prisoner’s with a pair of crinolines, and I was sent another time three days after that message for the loan of £2, which I got from Jessie McPherson for Mrs. McLachlan. (Shown pieces of woollen cloth.) These were once a petticoat and she had cane in it, for crinolines, to make it wide. When the cane was in it it was a petticoat, and belonged to the prisoner. I have seen her wearing such like as this. I know it to be her petticoat by the stitching, which is my own stitching. I stitched that one day when she was going out, in a hurry. She gave it to me and asked me to stitch it. This was a good while before I left the prisoner’s service… (Shown wires of crinoline.) I never got these from anybody, but I saw them on the Saturday after I took the box to the Hamilton Station, when I went to call at my mother’s. (Shown merino gown.) I never saw the prisoner have that. 


[Dressmaker testifies about the prisoner’s found clothing pieces. Pawnbroker, Thomas Miller, confirms Mrs Adams’ testimony about what was pawned or retrieved and how.] 

   Thomas Robb, Assistant-Superintendent of Police, Southern District, examined by the ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – I was present when the prisoner was apprehended on Sunday 13th July, in her own house. I found in the house, and took possession of, a number of pawn-tickets. There were forty-one tickets. They are all in the name of Fraser, Main Street; but the Christian name varies on some of them… 

[David Barclay of the South Side Station, Caledonian Railway, testifies about the box left at his station. He’s followed by Aaron Wharton of the Caledonian Railway Station, Hamilton, testifying the same sort of information. 

Marion Chassels speaks of meeting the prisoner in Hamilton and that her son helped carry her box from the station before they had tea together. Her son James then testifies regarding the same encounter, followed by his brother Mirrilees. 

John Hamilton, a saddler in Hamilton, also testifies to having been brought a box he didn’t end up mending.] 


   Wm. Gibson – I live at Low-water. I saw the prisoner about thirty yards from my house, going from it. She was going right up in the Strathaven direction. It is in the direction of Meikleairnoch. My house is about a mile and a half from Hamilton. I looked after her. She took the branch road which leads to Meiklearnoch. I did not see my daughter meet her. I saw them within ten yards of each other. The prisoner was carrying a bundle under her upper garment. 

   Margaret Gibson, daughter of the preceding witness, and about nine years of age, was next placed in the witness-box, and having been cautioned by Lord Deas to speak the truth, was examined by the ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – I saw the prisoner on the road near my father’s house. Do you remember what day of the week it was? – Tuesday the 8th or Wednesday the 9th of July. The prisoner spoke to me. She said, “Could you tell us a burn where I could get a drink of water, for a’ the length I’ve gane I ha’ena been able to get a burn nor shaugh to wet a person’s lips.” I told her where to go. I pointed out the place to the Tommylinn Burn, at Tommylinn Park. She went straight up Meiklearnoch Road. She went to the first oak tree on the right hand. We thought she had the appearance of carrying a bundle below her arm. The first oak tree is the nearest to our house in the Meiklearnoch Road. I lost sight of her at the oak tree before you come to the park. 

   By the COURT – I did not see whether she went to the park or no. 

   By the ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – Tommylinn Park is not very far from the oak tree. I was in the Tommylinn Park on the Sunday following. I saw nothing in the park that day, nor found anything. There is a hedge which runs alongside the park. I found some flannel clothing in the hedge. The clothing was thrust in at the root of the hedge, on the side next the Tommylinn Park. I pulled out the flannel, which I saw was all blood. I ran away home frightened. I was there next day and saw the clothes lying again. I told Marion Fairlie that I had seen the clothes in the hedge. 

   By the COURT – No one was with me when I first saw the clothes. Marion Fairlie was with me on the Monday. 

[She continues to speak of finding the other clothing and fabric without taking any of them from where they were and identifies portions of it shown to her while on the stand. 11 year old Marion Fairlie confirms Margaret’s testimony.] 

   Daniel Stewart, police-constable, Hamilton – I was directed to make a search for clothes in the neighbourhood of Hamilton. I did so on Thursday the 17th July last. I found a merino dress in the park called the Templeton Park. (Shown and identifies the dress.)… I found a flannel petticoat in a park called the Tommylinn Park. (Identifies the flannel.)… I found a wincey petticoat on the roadside opposite where I found the flannel petticoat. (Identifies the pieces of wincey.) I took possession of that, labelled it, and took it to Glasgow. It was torn, and in the same state it now is. 

[Elaborates further under cross-examination.] 

   Andrew Cooper, police-constable, Hamilton – In consequence of instructions, I made a search on the 18th of July. Superintendent Dewar was with me. I found a flannel petticoat. (Identifies the petticoat.) I found that petticoat in a field called Hollanbush, about 300 yards above Low-waters, on the road leading to Meiklearnoch. 


   Elizabeth McCrone, shopwoman to Robert Murray, dyer, 239 Argyle Street – A woman came into my shop in July last, and brought in a French merino dress. I cannot say whether the prisoner was the woman or not. (Shown French merino dress.) This is the dress that was brought into the shop. It was a cinnamon brown, and she wanted it dyed black. I took the dress from her and sent it to the dye-works. I afterwards gave the dress to the police. When she brought the dress in and wished it dyed black, I said it was a pity to dye such a dress. She said, however, that she wished it to be dyed black. She drew my attention to a cloak that she had on. The cloak shown me is the one she spoke of. She said she wished the cloak cleaned, but she was going to buy a plaid. She then left the shop, with the cloak on; was away about half an hour, and came back with a black plaid on. She then left the cloak. There were tassels upon the cloak. When I looked at the cloak, I said there was no need to do anything to the tassels; if she would wait I would cut off the tassels, and give them to her. I did so, and she took away the tassels. 

   Interrogated – What name did she give? – She gave the name of McDonald… 

   Elizabeth Coulch or Rainy, wife of George Rainy, labourer – Mary Black or Adams lodges with me, and did so in July last. The prisoner came to my house on the Saturday before the news of Jessie McPherson’s murder was published. She rapped at the door about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, and asked for Mary Black. I said to her, “She is not in just now,” upon which she told me to tell Mary Black, when she came in, that Mrs McLachlan was seeking her. She then went away, and came back again about one o’clock. She asked if Mary Black was in, and I said again that she was not. She then asked me if I had a little boy that could go a message for her. I said no; but I would go any message for her myself. She then gave me a paper note and a pawn-ticket to go and lift a bundle out of Hutchison’s pawn… I did not see what was in the bundle until I came home. The prisoner opened the parcel when I got back, and I saw in it the poplin dress shown me. The prisoner wore a brown French merino dress and a big grey cloak. She said she would put on the dress I brought her, and take the other one to be dyed. She had a boy in her arms when she said this. I said to her it is a pity to dye the brown dress which she had on, for it was a nice one. She said she would rather have it a black colour. She gave the two children in the house a halfpenny a-piece. She took off the dress in my house, and put on the black poplin one… 

   Elizabeth Steel, shopwoman to Jane McInnes or Reid, milliner, Argyll Street, Glasgow – The prisoner came to our shop on the 7th of July last, and bought a bonnet. The bonnet shown me is the one that was purchased by the prisoner, and sent home to her house. The price of it was 4s. 10d. 

   John Murray, sheriff-officer, Glasgow – I went to Murray, the dyer, on the 14th July last, and got the black dress and drab cloak shown me. 

   Robert Lundie, assistant to John Lundie, pawnbroker, East Clyde Street, Glasgow – I and my father had a pawn-shop on 5th July last. The prisoner came to my house between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday the 5th of July. She went into one of the boxes. I went to serve her. She said she wanted £6, 10s. upon the silver plate which she gave me… She said that they were for her mistress to make up the rent. James Linn was there, and I heard him ask her name. She answered, Mary McDonald, No. 5 St Vincent Street. I gave her an advance of £6, 15s. upon them. I kept the articles. They were entered in my books of that day. I left town on the same day, and returned on Tuesday evening, by which time there had been accounts in the newspapers of a murder and of missing plate. That induced me to look at the plate, and I took them all immediately to the police, and delivered them to them, and saw them labelled. The letter “F” is on them. There was nobody with the prisoner when she came to pledge the plate. 

[James Linn, confirms the previous testimony of his employer.

William Smith Dunlop, ironmonger, testifies to having sold the prisoner the tin box previously mentioned with some back and forth about when it was she took it away or whether she had it sent to her. This is followed by discussion over how he knows this is the same box she bought and not another if they’re all made in the same way with the same markings. James Fullarton, confirms Mr Dunlop’s testimony.

John Rooke, clerk on the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, testifies about the box having been left addressed for Ayr. There’s laughter every time he uses “collection” in place of “recollection,” which happens frequently and is taken up by those questioning him, much to the amusement of the gallery spectators.] 

   Archibald McMillan, porter, Glasgow and South-Western Joint Railway, Bridge Street, Glasgow – There is a goods station at Bridge Street. I remember of a man coming to me about the 10th of July to speak about a box that had been sent to Ayr. 


   Robert Blair deponed – I am a clerk in the station at Ayr of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway. I remember of a tin-box coming to Ayr on the 9th of July… 


   Robert Young, clerk in the Parcel Office, Greenock section of the Caledonian Railway, deponed – I am a clerk at the Bridge Street Station. (Shown a book.) That is the parcel-delivery book. It is a book for the entry of articles received at our station to be delivered in Glasgow. 

   Mr CLARK objected to the production of the receipt-book as evidence. 

   Mr GIFFORD said he proposed to ask the witness where the tin-box came from on the 10th July, and to whom it was given. 

   Lord DEAS – What does that entry now shown you refer to? – It referred to a tin-box which came from Ayr, and which was to be delivered to a person of the name of Darnley. That box was delivered by me at the Glasgow station to a person who called for it. 

   Mr CLARK said his objection just come to this, that if my friend will continue to follow this line of examination I must demur, unless he undertakes to put into the witness-box the person to whom the box was given. My advice is to the public prosecutor, that when an objection is taken to any question he should withdraw it. 

   Mr GIFFORD – Well, I will withdraw it in the meantime, and consider what course I will follow afterwards. 


   Mrs Reid, wife of Mr Reid, gasfitter, deponed – I reside at Dumfrocher Road, Greenock. A box was brought to my house on the 11th of July last. The box now shown me resembles it very much. It is the same size and colour. There was no address upon the box. It was left with me about a quarter-past five in the afternoon of the 11th. I knew the person who brought the box. 

   Mr CLARK – Do not say who it was. 

   Mr GIFFORD – Did you know him very well? – Yes. My brother, James McLachlan, brought the box. James McLachlan is the husband of the prisoner. I did not see the box opened, nor did I see anything taken out of it. I saw several dresses on Saturday the 12th, the day after the box came. The dresses now shown me are the dresses I saw on that occasion. I saw them lying on a bed in my house. I removed them to my drawers. They remained in the drawers from Saturday morning till the following Wednesday morning. Interrogated – Did you see anything done with them on Wednesday? – I saw them put into the box. I saw the address written, and put on the box after they were in. The address was “Mr Thomson, County Buildings, Glasgow.” The box was taken away from my house, and I never saw it again. A porter named Lawrie called for it. 

   Donald Lawrie, porter, Greenock, deponed – I know Mrs Reid’s house in Greenock… 

[Greenock porters and delivery men testify to their having handled the box to and from Mrs Reid’s. Followed by those of Glasgow.] 

   Margaret McInnes or Maclachlan, residing in the Island of Mull – I was a servant of Mr John Fleming, No. 17 Sandyford Place. I was his servant since the spring of the present year up to the 1st of May. I was with him for four months preceding that date. Jessie Macpherson was a servant at Mr Fleming’s when I was there, and we were the only two servants kept at the house at Sandyford Place. I had occasion to see Jessie Macpherson’s dresses. 

[Identifies clothing.] 

(Shown cleaver.) That was in John Fleming’s house when I left. It was in his kitchen. I do not know Mrs McLachlan, the prisoner. I have heard Jessie speak of her. She spoke as if she had respect for her. She always spoke in a friendly way of her. 

[Questioned repeatedly about a specific black plaid she insists was the victims.] 

   Mary Downie, servant with Donald Johnston, mining engineer, Glasgow – I knew the late Jessie McPherson many a year – nine years past last March. I have been in service with her. Her and I carried on business together for a twelvemonth in Grace Street, Finnieston. We were grocers and victuallers. We gave up business two years past last April. I often saw her after that. 

[She also identifies clothing and states she was with the victim when certain of the pieces were purchased.] 

   By Mr CLARK – I saw Jessie last on the 18th of May in Mr Fleming’s house. 

   Lord DEAS – Did she give up carrying on business at the same time as you did? – Yes. Did she never resume business? – No. You and she began at the same time, and ended at the same time? – Yes. Have you ever seen old Mr Fleming when you were in Anderston? – Yes, sir, often. 

   Margaret Fleming, residing with John Fleming – I am a sister of Mr Fleming, the accountant. In July last I was living at Dunoon, at Mr Fleming’s cottage there. I went down in the end of May. Jessie McPherson was left in charge of the Sandyford Place house. There was no other servant there. There is a room off the kitchen with two chests of drawers in it. They were used, one pair by old Mr Fleming and the other by myself. I had occasion to see Jessie McPherson’s dresses. 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – Where is the room in which the old man slept? – It was the room above the kitchen on the dining-room floor. 

   At this stage of the proceedings, Lord Deas dismissed the jury and ordered them to be present again in Court at a quarter to ten this (Friday) morning. 

   The Court adjourned at a quarter to nine. 

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 20th September, 1862, pp.5-7.







   The trial of Jessie McLachlan was resumed this morning at ten o’clock. The crowd, both inside the Court-room and in the square in front of the buildings, was as large as ever; the excitement felt as to the result of the trial was most intense. As on the previous day, the prisoner presented a calm unmoved countenance when placed at the bar. 

   The first witness called was  

   Andrew Sloan, clerk and cashier to John Fleming, accountant, deponed – I know Mr James Fleming, John Fleming’s father. I have known him about fifteen years. I do not know his age, but I have heard him say some time ago that he was 85 years. He is employed in collecting the rents of a small property. 

   By the COURT – By a small property, I mean collecting the rents of a number of small houses. 

   Examination continued – … There is nothing wrong with James Fleming’s mind that I know of, or ever heard of. He has his faculties as entire as you could expect at his age. I remember the Monday on which Jessie Macpherson was found dead in the house. Old Fleming had been in the office on Saturday the 5th. He was there about half an hour. I saw him, but he didn’t speak to me, and I didn’t speak to him. On Monday the 7th, he came to the office about nine o’clock. He paid me on that occasion some small rents he had received. The amount he paid me was £2, 6s. 8d., all in silver money. He left the office shortly after ten, and I did not see him in the office again that day. I was at the house that night in Sandyford Place, and I saw him there. Nothing passed while he was in about the servant. He appeared to be just in his usual condition. I have heard, but I do not know of my own knowledge, that old Fleming has money in the bank. He left the office on Monday morning, before either his son, Mr John Fleming, or his grandson, had come. 


   John McAllister, calenderer, West George Street, Glasgow, deponed – I know James Fleming, the father of John Fleming, the accountant. I have known him for 40 years. My own age is 58, and I have known James Fleming as long as I can recollect. He was a small manufacturer in Anderston. He manufactured damask shawls… I remember Sunday the 6th of July last. I met old Mr Fleming that Sunday shortly before eleven o’clock, just as the churches were going in. He was going towards his own church. I made some remarks to the effect that I hoped he was well. I walked some forty yards with him, and he talked in his usual manner. I have never heard anything else than that he always bore a respectable character. 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – I never hear anything against James Fleming’s character. I never heard till this happened that Mr Fleming had been before the Bute Session. I saw it in the newspapers. 

[William Mackim, National Security Saving’s Bank, and Thomas Somerville, Royal Bank of Scotland, testify to the accounts kept by James Fleming.] 

   Elizabeth Brownlee, servant to Robert Stewart, 16 Sandyford Place – I know Mr Fleming’s house. It is No. [17], next door. Was a servant to Mr Stewart in July last, as well as now. I was in Mr Stewart’s house on the 4th of July last, as well as other days. I slept as usual in my room on that night. I heard nothing unusual during the night. Our house is contiguous to Mr Fleming’s. In my sleeping room, I cannot hear any noise going on in the kitchen of Mr Fleming’s house. I can hear coal breaking or any loud noise. I called at Mr Fleming’s house on Saturday betwixt two and three. I rang the bell. It was answered by old Mr Fleming. I asked the loan of a spade. He told me to come in and I did so. He went down stairs, and I followed him. The back-door was open, and we went out. Mr Fleming went half-way down to the washing-house, which is outside, but before he got all the way he turned. He said the door of the washing-house was locked, so that he could not give me the spade. He said the girl was out. I understood him to mean his servant. I always heard her called Jessie. I asked if the key would not be in the kitchen, and he said no, as he had locked it. He did not look in the kitchen for it in my presence. I understood that he had looked before. The kitchen door was standing open. I saw it. I saw a screen of linen hanging before the fire. No more conversation passed. I said that perhaps I would get the spade again. He said – “O yes; any time.” I did not happen to notice the lobby or the kitchen floor. I observed nothing peculiar about them. I saw Jessie’s dead body on the Tuesday following, and identified it. That was when the doctors were examining it. 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – Did Mr Fleming try the washing-house door? – No. Did he go the length of it? – No. You were not in the kitchen at all? – No. You merely walked down, out at the back green, and Mr Fleming said “The door is locked,” and you just walked back again? – Yes. When did you usually get your dinner? – I have no usual time for taking dinner. Are you quite sure it was in the afternoon? – Yes, it was in the afternoon. Are you quite sure it was between two and three? – Yes. Had you seen the old man Fleming before on that day? – Yes. 

   Lord DEAS – That is the Saturday you are speaking of? – Yes. 

   Mr CLARK – Where did you see him? – When he was going down for coals. At what time? – About ten o’clock in the morning. Where did he go for coals? – To the coal cellar. Where is it? – Adjoining the washing-house in the back green. Did you notice anything in his manner that struck you when he was going out for coals? – Yes. What was it? – He looked about him to see if any person was looking. That struck you at the time? – Yes. Did you ever hear Jessie speak of old Mr Fleming? – Yes. What did she say about him? – She said he remarked everything that was within the house. Anything more did she say? – She said that he knew all that we did on the other side. 

   Lord DEAS – What did she say? – That he watched all that we did. 

   Lord DEAS – Meaning all that was done in your house? – No; but in the back house, when we were outside. 

   Mr CLARK – Do you mind of Jessie saying anything about his eyesight? – She said he could see without his spectacles. Did he ever use spectacles? – I never asked if he used them, but she said that he could see without them. Yes; and read? – He read the newspapers, she said. 

   Mr GIFFORD – … Do you mind about a week before that being at the back green, back-door of Mr Fleming’s house? – I remember being down a fortnight before that Friday night of which I have spoken at our own back-door. I could see from where I was the back-door of Mr Fleming’s green that leads into the lane. I saw Jess open the back-door of her green that leads into the lane. She let in somebody. I don’t know who it was. It was a woman. It would be about ten o’clock at night. I heard her say something. Jess said – “The old devil is just now away to his bed.” 


   Mr CLARK – Did you understand the phrase “old devil” to refer to old Mr Fleming? – Yes. 

   Lord DEAS – What does she say? 

   Mr CLARK – She says she understood the words “old devil” referred to Mr Fleming. 

   Lord DEAS – Oh! I daresay we all understand that – (Laughter). 

   A JURYMAN here asked if there was any proof to be led as to the plans of the house, laid before the jury. 

   Mr GIFFORD – I shall have great pleasure in proving the plans. 

   Andrew Darnley, pattern-maker at the Falkirk Ironworks, deponed – I knew the late Jessie McPherson, who was a servant in my father’s house in Falkirk a good many years ago. She kept up the connection with us after she left us. I saw her about two years ago, when she paid a visit to Falkirk. I was in Glasgow on Saturday the 5th of July last. I called on Jessie, at Mr Fleming’s, in Sandyford Place, a little after six o’clock in the evening. I rang the bell, which was answered by an old man, whom I suppose was old Mr Fleming. When I rang the bell, I asked if this was where Mr Fleming lived? He said “Yes.” Then I asked if there was one Jessie McPherson, and he said “No.” I then asked if one Jessie McPherson was a servant here, and he said “Yes.” He appeared to be a little deaf. I then asked if she was in, and he said “No.” I then asked if he knew where she was, and he said “No.” I then asked if she had been long out, and he said “She had been out a good while.” I told him that I had come from Falkirk, and I left my name to be told to her. That was all that passed. I told him that I was going home that night, and I went away. Did he ask for your name, or did you give it without his asking? – He asked it. Did you go back again? I went back on the Sabbath night, about seven o’clock. I did not go home on the Saturday night; I changed my mind. On the Sabbath night, about seven o’clock, I rang the bell, and old Mr Fleming answered. I asked him if Jessie was in to-night, and he said, “No.” Then I said to him, “She’s surely gey often oot just now;” and he never answered me. Did he say anything more? – No; I told him I had a friend outside the gate, and I went away. 


   By the ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – Do you remember of his having said anything noticing that you had not left town? – Yes; he said, “You did not go home last night,” and I said “No.” 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – Did he speak to you about your sister? –  Yes; says he to me, “Your sister was up here staying a day or two with her.” Was that on the Saturday or Sunday? – On the Saturday. That was when you told him your name was Darnley? – Yes. When had your sister been there? – I could not say how long it was. She was there a day or two, but I could not say how long it was before that. Would it be a month or so, or more? –  I think so. 

   Charles O’Neill, architect and civil engineer, Glasgow, deponed – I was instructed to prepare plans of No. 17 Sandyford Place. I first went there on the 8th of July. The dead body of the woman was still there. I made a minute examination of the whole house. (Shown six plans of the house.) I made these plans. They are correct. They mention what they are. 

   ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – Besides the ground plan of each flat, you have given some isometric views; will you explain to the jury what these mean? – They are drawings made at certain angles. It is merely to explain the plans more clearly? – Yes. You laid down, I believe, in some of these plans the place where the body was, and certain articles of furniture? – Yes. Did you do so from the place where they were, and when you made these plans? – Yes. 

   Mr CLARK – Will you show me the ground plan? 

   Lord DEAS (Interrupting Mr Clark, and addressing the witness) – The plans, as I understand, just represent what you said? – Just so, my Lord. 

   Mr CLARK (being shown the plan of the lower flat) – Mr O’Neill, there is a sort of reddish mark commencing at the closet in the kitchen, and passing through the kitchen door. 

   Lord DEAS – Stop a minute; let us be more particular. What number is that? 

   Mr CLARK – This is number one. There is a reddish sort of stroke commencing at the closet in the kitchen – the word “closet” is in the plan – and extending through the kitchen door along into the servant’s bedroom. What is that intended to represent? – In the kitchen it shows where the floor appeared to have been washed. In the lobby it shows that there was a mark as if something wet had been dragged along it into the bedroom. 

   Mr CLARK – Had the lobby the appearance of being washed? – No. 

   Lord DEAS – The question applied to the kitchen, the passage, and the servant’s bedroom; the answer applied only to the kitchen and the lobby, and we have not come to the bedroom yet. Interrogated – In the bedroom what did it show? – The same track as was in the passage followed into the bedroom. Was this track in the passage dry? 

   Lord DEAS – He already said that the passage had not the appearance of being washed. – I said that it had the appearance as if something wet had been dragged over it. 


   Mr CLARK – What is the marks in that trail intended to indicate in the plan? – It is a rather reddish hue, as if of blood. What kind of stone is the stone of the kitchen floor? – It is a hard blue stone. 


   Mr CLARK – … There is a mark in the bedroom between the table and the hearth-stone in the servant’s room. What does that represent? – That represents a portion of the floor that had been washed… 

   Lord DEAS – … Is there a wicket upon one of the lower windows? – There is. Which window is that? – The wicket is in the window of the pantry. Does that window look to the front? – It does. Does it look into the front area? – Yes. Is that window large enough for a person to get out when it is open? – Quite large enough. 

   Several of the jurymen having here expressed a desire to see the plans. 

   Lord DEAS said – Gentlemen, if any of you wish to see a particular plan you can have it, but, according to any experience I have had, the less you and I confuse ourselves with plans the better. 

[Hugh McCairley, quartermaster on board the Pladda steamer, testifies to James McLachlan, the prisoner’s husband, having been onboard and in Ireland at the time of the murder.] 

   Thomas Railton, clerk and cashier to Alex. Balderston, accountant, West Nile Street, Glasgow – Mr Balderston is factor of a property at 182 Broomielaw. 

[Testifies to the prisoner’s past arrears of rent. Lord DEAS gets a bit annoyed, asking if he can’t just ask what was owed on the 5th of July.] 

   Mr MURE – How much was she due on the 5th of July? – £4, 19s. She made a payment to me on the 5th July. What hour was she in the office? – About 12 o’clock. 


   David Caldwell, examined by Mr MURE – I am a clerk to Mr Balderston. The property No. 182 Broomielaw is under my charge. Mrs McLachlan was a tenant in it. She was in arrear of rent. She had been frequently urged for payment. 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – Was she threatened in any way? – Not threatened. Did you tell her she had to the middle of August to pay? – I referred to the fact that there was a prescribed period within which alone I could give delay. 

   Lord DEAS – Is that a fact, or is it a thing you told her? – I told her, my Lord. 

   By Mr CLARK – What was the prescribed time you mentioned to her? – I did not mention the time. Did you say anything to her about the middle of August? – I did not mention the month of August at all… Did you say that you had no wish to press her? – I did. To her? – I said I had no wish to press matters to an extreme. Did you speak to her in anything like a harsh way at all about the rent? – Not about the matter of rent. 

[Alexander Baxter, joiner, Garscube Road, Glasgow, testifies to having cut out the piece of flooring with the dried bloody footprint.

Dr G. H. B. Macleod testifies to having performed the post mortem in conjunction with the police surgeon, Mr Fleming. He’s asked to clarify the autopsy report previously mentioned.] 

   Mr GIFFORD – There are one or two passages in that report that I wish to ask you in explanation about. I observe, you say – “The neck and chest appeared to have been partially washed.” Explain more minutely what the precise appearance of these parts was? – The chest and neck had been apparently cleaned to a certain extent; still, there was an appearance of blood around the circumference of the washed part. It had not been entirely cleaned from the bloody appearance. 

   Mr GIFFORD – What I want you to say is – Did water appear to have been used, or could you explain the appearance by the part having been wiped with a cloth? – My impression was that water had been used. And further down in your report there comes a parenthesis. The whole sentence reads thus:- “On further examination it became apparent that the body had been dragged from the kitchen (which lies to the back of the house) and where evidence of a severe conflict was obtained.” Does that mean, Dr Macleod, that the conflict took place in the kitchen? – In the kitchen or about the kitchen. What was the evidence? – The kitchen floor had been partially washed. Upon the washed portion of that floor there were considerable stains, which I carefully examined, by going down upon my knees and getting a light. It was quite apparent to me that these stains had been blood. They were greasy and had a reddish look of imperfectly effaced blood. Around the part that had been washed – that is, from the circumference of the part of the floor that had been washed – there were impressions upon the floor which, I was then convinced, and am now convinced, had been confused footmarks. If I might be allowed to express what I mean by footmarks, I may state they were a sort of twists of portions of the heels upon the floor, with the ball of the foot in other cases marked also upon the stone. There were upon the jaw-box, upon the inside of the door, upon the door-post, upon the rug or mat, upon an angle of the wall immediately outside the kitchen door, upon the upper part of a pantry press close to the kitchen, and between the kitchen and the room where the body was found, in the passage, and also upon the corner of the wall at the foot of the stairs, marks of blood. There was also blood upon the stair, upon the lowest step of the stair. 

   Lord DEAS – Upon the lowest step only? – There were some other marks upon other steps, but particularly upon the lowest step. These circumstances, in connection with some of the wounds found upon the hands and wrists of deceased, which I believe had been – 

   Lord DEAS – Stop a little, Dr Macleod. You state in your report that there were signs of a struggle in the kitchen. It would be more distinct if you would confine yourself to the marks you saw in the kitchen. – Well, it was on the grounds I have stated that I formed the opinion that a struggle had taken place in the kitchen. You are still of the opinion you expressed in your report in regard to that matter? – Distinctly. 

   Lord DEAS – I interrupted you when you were about to state that you were confirmed in your opinion by certain wounds on the hands and wrists of deceased. Would you be kind enough to state now what these were? – There were wounds on the hands and wrists of deceased which I thought could only be accounted for by her endeavouring to protect herself in a struggle with another person. 

   Lord DEAS – That confirmed your opinion? – It did. 

[Witness elaborates on and confirms varying details within the post mortem report, mainly reaffirming the footmarks did not match the victim.] 

   Cross-examined by Mr CLARK – … Did you examine the prisoner’s hand? – I did. Did you see whether there was a bite or any mark upon it? – There were some marks. When was this? – On the 14th, I think. 

   Lord DEAS – Did you see any mark? – Yes. Where, and what? – There were some marks upon three fingers of the left hand, which the prisoner told me had been caused –  

   Mr CLARK – I want to know what, in your opinion, had been the cause of these marks? – Witness – She accounted – 

   Lord DEAS – The question at present is – What is your opinion, so far as you can judge, looking at the marks, in regard to the cause of these marks? – Some of the marks were evidently caused by a bite or bites; one of them was cut. 

   Mr CLARK – I am speaking of the one caused by the bite. In your opinion, how was that caused? – My impression was that the explanation given by the prisoner, that a dog had bitten her, was correct. Could they have been caused by deceased biting her? or could they have been caused by the bite of a human mouth? – The bite was not similar to the bite of a human being. 

   Mr CLARK – I presume that includes the teeth of the deceased – (Laughter). 

   Lord DEAS – I presume so. 

[Witness goes on to testify about the condition of the floors, washed or not, dry or not and goes back to discussing the bloody footprints and who they were caused by.] 

   Lord DEAS – … Can you tell me the injuries which must have proved fatal? – A great number of vessels must have been opened in these wounds. And would the bleeding from the wounds have produced death? – Certainly. But not necessarily if they had been stopped in time? – It is so. Just tell me what you say about this – The large vessels were destroyed under the right ear. – It would have hardly been possible to have stopped the bleeding from these vessels. And would death have ensued from the other wounds? – From the other wounds if not arrested. But not necessarily? – Not necessarily. What was the nature of that injury below the right ear? – The soft parts were completely reduced to a jelly. Completely destroyed by repeated blows at that part. The blood vessels were destroyed likewise. The jaw-bone was broken, and part of the skull was knocked off. (A cleaver was here shown to the witness.) 

   Lord DEAS – Might the injury under the right ear have been produced by that instrument? – All the injuries might have been produced by that instrument. Including the injury under the right ear? – Yes. Might they have been produced by any other heavy cutting instrument? – Yes. Was there any cause discoverable, upon the post-mortem examination, for death except external injuries? – None… It is possible, I say, that the wounds might have been produced with an edged instrument. You have seen the wounds and told us what injuries were necessarily fatal. The question, therefore, is whether these injuries might have been produced by any other than an edged instrument? – They certainly could not have been produced by a blunt instrument. 

   Mr CLARK – Not one of the wounds? – Not one of the fatal injuries. 

[Dr Penney, Professor of Chemistry in the Andersonian University, testifies regarding his examination of the bloody ripped clothes which were found and the crinoline wires. Confirms stains to be of blood and remarks upon burned articles.] 

“Andersonian University,      

“Glasgow, 11th August 1862.      

     “… The Cleaver. – The blade of the cleaver was extensively rusted on both sides, but no stains of blood were detected on its surface. On the handle, however, distinct dark red stains similar to those of blood, were visible round the lower edge of the ferule, and very marked red clots were recognised between the top of the ferule and the blade. Portions of these stains and clots were cut away, and carefully examined according to the methods before described. The results were highly satisfactory, leaving no doubt that the said stains were caused by blood, but the dried condition of the stains rendered it impossible to determine with certainty whether they were produced by human blood. Conclusions – Having deliberately considered various experiments and results comprised in this investigation, I am clearly of opinion that they warrant the following conclusions: – 1. That the stains and clots on the several articles of wearing apparel subjected to examination were caused by blood. 2. That the stains on the crinoline wires consisted of dried blood. 3. That the stains and clots on the handle of the cleaver were caused by blood. 4. That in no case was it possible to identify the blood as human blood. All this I certify on conscience. 



“Professor of Chemistry.”     


   Lord DEAS – I understand the report to bear that the blood you detected on these articles was distinctly mammalian blood? 

   Professor Penney – By mammalian blood we understand the blood of animals that suckle their young. The blood is known by the rounded form, or the disc-like shape of the corpuscles of the blood, which distinguish it from the blood of fish, birds, and reptiles, the corpuscles of whose blood are oval, and have always a central nucleus, and in this way enable us to distinguish the blood of certain creatures from the blood of others. 


   Mr CLARK rose and said – My Lord, I wish to object to the admissibility of the prisoner’s declarations as evidence… 

[Gives his reasons.] 

[The prisoner therefore is examined on all matters which the Fiscal can think of, for a period of no less than three or four hours; and the result is, that after all these questions are put to this unhappy person accused of this crime, and when she is under examination by the Fiscal for the period of three and a half hours at least, a declaration is taken from her extending to twenty-four written pages. That declaration is taken upon the 14th of July 1862; and one would have thought that that would have been sufficient to have served the purpose of what is known in our law as a declaration; but upon the 16th of July she is again examined, and after the preceding declaration has been read over to her, and she gives some slight explanation with reference to that declaration, she is again examined for a long period, and the result is that a declaration, extending to twelve written pages, is taken from her, and that within two days from the first. And she is examined about certain articles which are not shown to her at once, but which are put before her after the examination has commenced and been concluded in reference to that matter. And then, after that declaration has been emitted, another declaration is taken from her again on the 21st of July 1862, being the third declaration, which, however, is shorter than the two preceding, for it extends only to about 2½ written pages. But there you have that series of declarations, three in number, extending to that enormous length to which I have referred, not produced by a witness in making her simple statement, but produced by the witness being catechised by the Procurator-fiscal; and after he had found means for the catechism, by making a charge against the prisoner’s husband, first examining him at a time when he had no reason to doubt that the prisoner’s husband could not have been guilty of that crime. Now, my Lord, I refer to the case of Agnes Kelly, for the purpose of showing your Lordship that declarations so taken are not declarations which the law of Scotland recognises as evidence which could be moved fairly, or properly, or justly against the prisoner… Now, the late Lord Justice-Clerk – than whom a more able Judge never sat on the Bench – said of this case that the matter was, to his mind, most unsatisfactory – that he considered the extent to which the panel had been examined as a very great abuse of the objects for which a party accused was brought before the magistrate for a declaration; and that it was pretty plain that the second and third declarations (the last in particular, after such a long interval) had been taken, not for the fair purpose of allowing the party to give any explanation which might be material, but with the direct object of skilfully rearing up evidence against her in questions founded upon inquiries obtained in the interval, and by leading her at a great distance of time into answers upon matters which she, if innocent, might think quite immaterial… I do not think the Lord Justice-Clerk, in uttering these words, could have uttered words which were more expressly applicable in every one of them to the case which you have now before your Lordship. In truth, the purpose of taking a declaration has, in this case, been entirely overlooked, and the keen encounter of wits, and all the authority of a magistrate, with the terrors of an accusation to back him, have been used, so that the declaration has not served its proper purpose as a declaration, but has been used as merely an instrument by which statements have been obtained from the prisoner which should not have been obtained from her, and led to evidence being obtained under that declaration which should never be used against any prisoner accused in this country.] 

   Lord DEAS – So far as I can gather from the eloquent speech which Mr Clark has just made, the objection rests upon three grounds. In the first place, that the husband had been examined before the prisoner’s declaration was taken, at a time when the Sheriff and procurator-fiscal – one or both of them – had reason to believe that he was innocent, and for the purposes of precognition; secondly, that the declarations proceed to a considerable extent upon questions put to the prisoner; and thirdly, upon the length of these declarations. If there is any other ground involved in the speech of my friend Mr Clark, I should be glad to be informed of it. 

   Mr CLARK – Questions were put as to certain articles by the Procurator-fiscal before these articles had been exhibited to the prisoner. 

   Lord DEAS – Then the fourth ground is that certain questions in regard to certain articles were put before the articles were shown to the prisoner. These objections I can only dispose of on the evidence which is before me, and that evidence is afforded by the cross-examination of the Sheriff-substitute, Mr Strathern, and of the Procurator-fiscal, Mr Gemmill. 

   Mr CLARK – And the declarations themselves which you Lordship has before you. 

   Lord DEAS – [Gives his reasoning for allowing the declarations point by point.] 

[The evidence we have on this matter depends upon the cross-examination of the two witnesses I have named… I cannot say it was wrong on the part of the authorities to apprehend the husband. If it had turned out that the husband had anything to do with the crime – and there is no doubt that if he had not been absent, great suspicion would have attached to him great blame would have been attached to the authorities for not taking him into custody. It is impossible for me to hold from the evidence before me that, in taking the declaration of the prisoner, the authorities acted otherwise than properly. Then as the second ground, that a great many questions were put to the prisoner in the course of the examination, that is nothing more than is done in every declaration of this kind. As to the third ground, the length of the declarations, that must depend in every case upon the nature of the case. This was undoubtedly a case of a very serious description, in which it was quite right and proper for the public interest that all proper and legitimate questions should be put, on the one hand; and on the other, it was equally necessary for the interests of the prisoner that she should be allowed facilities for explaining everything which she could explain. A great deal of the declarations consist of explanations – explanations which, I rather think, my friend Mr Clark will not lay altogether aside when he comes to address the jury. The fourth objection related to declarations taken by the prisoner in regard to certain articles before the articles were exhibited to the prisoner. The evidence on this matter is this. Mr Strathern, the Sheriff-substitute, says that in the course of the prisoner’s examination there were some preliminary questions put before the articles were exhibited, but that these only occupied two minutes. This is his evidence on the matter; and I have no recollection that there is anything different in the circumstances before us. In these circumstances I cannot, with all desire to refuse evidence which is incompetent against a prisoner on a charge of this kind – it is impossible for one to say, consistently with the law and practice of this country, that it is incompetent to read these declarations and to receive them as part of proof…] 

The whole question raised before me is simply this – Whether I shall or shall not allow them to be read? and I cannot see any ground in point of law for refusing to allow them to be read. 

   The declarations of the prisoner were then read as follows:- 

   At Glasgow, the 10th day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-two years, in presence of Alexr. Strathearn, Esq., Sheriff-Substitute of Lanarkshire, 

   Compeared Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan, presently prisoner in the prison of Glasgow, and the previous declarator emitted by her in presence of said Sheriff-Substitute, on the 14th of July current, having been read over to her, and she been again judicially admonished and examined, declares and says:- I adhere to said declaration as being correct,..  

[Speaks to her time in Hamilton, disposing of the box of clothing. Advises how long she’s had the apparel she was wearing when apprehended.] 

I had a pair of old boots, the only pair which I had for wearing, and these I threw into the ash-pit, along with some other rubbish, on Friday the 4th July current, on the occasion of cleaning out my room. I purchased same day a pair of new boots, which I now see and identify, and a sealed label attached thereto docquetted and subscribed as relative thereto. On that evening when Mrs Frazer came to my house I took a bottle out of Mrs Campbell’s press, and went with it to the public-house of a person named Monteith, in Argyll Street, between — Street and James Watt Street, and wanted put into it a gill and a half of whisky; but as the bottle was too small, one of the shopmen gave me a pint bottle to contain the whisky in, and I left Mrs Campbell’s bottle instead. The pint bottle was in our house when I was apprehended… 

[Describes clothing she knows to be Jessie McPherson’s. She’s shown the articles that were found.] 

I declare I know the said dresses, cloaks, and plaid to be Jessie McPherson’s, and are the same which I have before mentioned… 

[Claims the victim had sent her clothing to be amended and dyed for varying reasons.] 

I had heard of the murder on Tuesday night, and next day I heard that some of Jessie McPherson’s clothes were awanting, and having them in my possession, I got frightened, and sent them off to Ayr, as before mentioned. I addressed the articles to Mrs Darnley, because I knew her and could speak to her on the subject, and sent them to Ayr to be out of the way till I should have seen Mrs Darnley. I told my husband about the clothes, and where I had sent them on Thursday night, the 10th current, and I asked him to bring them back from Ayr and to take them to Greenock. He wanted me to go to the Fiscal’s office, and tell about them, but I felt frightened… The sealed labels referred to in the foregoing declaration, and the previous declaration referred to, are docquetted and subscribed as relative hereto, all which I declare to be truth. 




   “At Glasgow, the fourteenth day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-two years, in presence of Alexander Strathern, Esquire, Sheriff-substitute of Lanarkshire, – 

   “Compeared as prisoner, who, being judicially admonished and examined, declared and says – My name is Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan; I am a native of Inverness, twenty-eight years of age, wife of James McLachlan, second mate on board the steamship Pladda, and I reside at No. 182 Broomielaw, Glasgow. I knew Jessie McPherson, who was a servant to Mr Fleming, in Sandyford Place, Sauchiehall Street. I was a fellow-servant of hers in Mr Fleming’s employment, in his house at Sandyford Place, and at his coast house, near Dunoon, for two years prior to September 1857. I left Mr Fleming’s service then and got married, and since then I have kept up an intimacy with her, except for a period of about eighteen months prior to January 1861, during which time she was at service at Manchester. I last saw Jessie McPherson in my own house at the Broomielaw on Saturday evening, the 28th June last. I had also seen her the previous night at Mr Fleming’s house at Sandyford Place, and I went there about ten o’clock. I rang the front door-bell, but Jessie McPherson happened at the time to be in the dining-room, and she told me to go round the lane behind the house, and she would let me in by the back-door. I went round, and found the back-door open, and Jessie McPherson speaking there to a servant in the adjoining house, No. 16 Sandyford Place. McPherson and I left this girl in the lane, and went inside the back-door. We conversed there about McPherson going to New Zealand, which she had previously told me she had intended to do. That night I went, by appointment, to see her on this subject. McPherson asked me to get a schedule from an emigration society in Jamaica Street, that it might be filled up for her. I did not get the schedule when I applied for it; and it was to see if I had got it that McPherson came to my house – the last time I saw her on Saturday night. I was not in or near Mr Fleming’s house on the evening of Friday the 4th, or morning of Saturday the 5th of the current month of July, and did not see Jessie McPherson that night or morning, and I was no way concerned in stealing any silver plate from Mr Fleming’s house on said night or morning. On said Friday, the 4th July, I was in my own house the whole day till about seven o’clock at night, when I went to see Mr McFarlane, who had been factor for my house prior to Whitsunday, and whose place of business was at 112 West George Street; but he was not within, whereupon I returned home. I was not again out of my house till after ten o’clock, when I went out to convoy home Mrs Frazer, a seaman’s wife, who lives in Grace Street, Anderston. I walked with her as far as the Gushet House in Anderston, where I parted from her. I intended to go to the house of James McGregor, a foreman clothier, who resides in Main Street, Anderston, and who is a friend of my husband’s, but I changed my mind, and returned home by way of Argyll Street, James Watt Street, and Broomielaw. I reached home about a quarter-past eleven o’clock. I let myself in by means of a check-lock key, and which is in the house. This key I carried myself, and always let myself in by means of it. It is one of the keys of the press in the lobby in my house, and for which press there are two keys. On going up stairs I found John McDonald, a young man who lodged with Mrs Campbell, who occupied a part of my house. He was going up stairs before me, and went into the house along with me. He did not remain in the house above a minute, and then went out again. I went straight to bed, without speaking to Mrs Campbell; but, in about half an hour, I heard the door-bell ring, and Mrs Campbell opened the door, and I heard from the voice that it was McDonald returning. I remained in bed till between seven and eight on Saturday morning, without ever having been up or out of the house. My son, a child of three years of age, slept in bed with me. When I rose I dressed, and went out without breakfast, leaving my child in bed. I went for coals to the house of an old woman, in West College Street. I brought back the coals in a large basket, covered with a piece of old carpet, which I had taken out with me. I was not absent above a quarter of an hour. Mrs Campbell was not up and out of bed when I went out, but she was out of bed when I returned, because I rang the bell and she let me in. I had forgotten to take the check with me. Mrs Campbell had taken my child out of bed and dressed him while I was absent. I lighted my fire and made breakfast for myself and child. I remained in the house till above 12 o’clock on said Saturday, when I went out, and went to the pawn-office of Mr Lundie, in East Clyde Street. I went there to pawn silver plate, which I had received from James Fleming, the father of Mr Fleming, my late master, on the previous evening, in my house. He came to my house about a quarter past eight that evening, and I let him in, and took him into our parlour. He carried a parcel wrapped tightly up in white cloth, and laid it on the table. He asked me if I would go a message for him, and he would pay me well for it. I asked him what it was, and he said he wanted me to pawn some silver plate which was in the parcel. I said the pawnbrokers would know the plate did not belong to me. He said I was to say it was rent I had to pay. I asked what name I would give as pledger, and if I would give Mr Fleming’s name? and he said no, not to put down Mr Fleming’s name, as it would be in the Directory. I then said, ‘What name will I give?’ and he said I was to give the name of Mary McKay or McDonald, No. 5 or No. 35 St Vincent Street, and that I was to seek £3, 10s. upon the plate, or as much more as I could get. Fleming said that he was short of money, and had to go to the Highlands, and did not like to lift money out of the bank. I agreed to pawn the plate, and Fleming said he would come and see me next afternoon, and then he left the house. There was no one with Fleming and me in the parlour, and I do not know that any one saw him in the house; but Mrs Campbell was in at the time he was there. I went, as I have already said, to Lundie’s pawn-office, and it was then between twelve and one o’clock on the Saturday… I returned straight home from the pawn-office, with the money and ticket, and reached about a quarter past one. I remained in the house, and at about a quarter to three old Fleming came there… He then asked me if I had got his message, and I told him I had got more than he thought, and then gave him the whole money I had got, together with the pawn-ticket. He thereupon offered me £5 for having done the message, and not to mention it to any person. I told him that £5 was too much for me, and I took £4 from him. This money was in £1 bank notes, and part of what the pawnbroker gave me. Fleming repeated that I was to tell no one of what I had done for him, in case it would come to his son’s ears, and that a pound or two would do him when he was away at the Highlands. On this Fleming left the house. I had promised Mrs Campbell, the present factor of my house, £4 on Friday, the previous day, and so, on getting the £4 from Fleming, I went and paid the whole of it to Caldwell, about four o’clock on Saturday. I am shown a man who calls himself James Fleming, and I declare and identify that man as the person who gave me said silver plate to pawn on said Friday, and to whom I gave the money and pawn-ticket on the Saturday… I had £5, 10s. of my own in the house, which was a balance of £11, 10s. which I got from my brother in the end of May last. My brother’s name is John McIntosh… I did not ask Mary Black or Adams to come to my house and take charge of my son James while I went and saw the late Jessie McPherson on said Friday night… I did not call twice. I wanted Black or Adams to go a message, but she was not in, and Mrs Rennie said she would go the message. The message was to redeem from a pawnbroker a black and blue check poplin dress, and which I have now on as an underdress, and Mrs Rennie relieved and brought me the dress… I left word for Mary Black or Adams to be sent to my house that Saturday afternoon, and she came. I gave her two one-pound notes to redeem other articles from the pawn. On the Monday following I gave her 11s. to redeem some other articles which were pledged. I gave her no more money…  

[Talks about having sent an empty box to Hamilton.] 

I had two chemises, but one of which since I put on; that now shown me I have torn up, having been destroyed by my child. I had no flannel petticoat, except that now shown me. I washed it on Wednesday, the day before I put it on. All which I declare to be truth. 



   “Declares further – I was indebted to the late Jessie McPherson in the sum of £1, 5s. for grocery goods, which I got from her when she kept a shop in Grace Street about two years ago. This sum I did not pay, because McPherson told me that she meant to have made a present to my child at its birth, and that I was to retain the money and expend it for the child. And this I also declare to be truth. 






   “At Glasgow, the 21st day of July 1862 years, in presence of Alexander Strathern, Esq., Sheriff-substitute of Lanarkshire, 

   “Compeared, Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan presently a prisoner in the prison of Glasgow, and the declarations emitted by her, in presence of said Sheriff-substitute, on the 14th and 16th days of July current, being now read to her, after being again judicially admonished, and being examined, declares and says, I adhere to said two declarations as being correct;.. None of said articles [of clothing] now shown me belong to me, and I never had any of them in my possession. I was not wearing a gown of the colour of the pieces of merino shown me on Friday the 4th July current. I am now shown a piece of merino, apparently part of the sleeve of a gown, to which a label is attached. Declares that is not the sleeve of any gown belonging to me that I know of. I had at one time a gown of the same colour as that sleeve, the skirt of which I gave to the washerwoman Black or Adams, as I have mentioned in a previous declaration. I never had a gown of the same colour except that one. The body of the gown was worn down, and I gave it away about a twelvemonth ago to a poor woman who came to my door; or, perhaps, for I am not quite certain, I may have thrown it into the ash-pit… – All which I declare to be the truth. 




   “The foregoing declaration, written upon this and the two preceding pages, by Peter Morton, clerk in the Sheriff Clerk’s Office in Glasgow, was freely and voluntarily emitted by the therein designed Jessie McIntosh or McLachlan, while in her sound and sober senses, and was adhered to by her on being read over to her, and was subscribed by her, and the said Sheriff-substitute, before these witnesses – William Hart, writer in Glasgow; the said Peter Morton; and Bernard McLoughlin, sheriff officer in Glasgow. 


“WM. HART.      

“P. MORTON.      


   This closed the case for the prosecution. 

Well, now, our protagonist, Jessie McLachlan has not provided details in her declarations that seem to be backed up by the witnesses thus far. In fact, she’s contradicted quite an amount of what others have testified to under oath, before Judge Deas. How do we think that that will come across to the jury who are to ultimately deliberate over her life? While doing this research I was stoked to have had the National Library of Scotland send me over Charles O’Neill’s Floorplans, as described by him while on the stand. I created a stand-alone video for Patrons, at the time, showcasing them in conjuction with his testimony. I’ll make this publicly available to view on the Random Scottish History YouTube Channel for those who might be interested. I think they do a wonderful job of showing the crime scene, in possibly the best way for the time.

Thank you for joining me again for the continuation of Jessie McLachlan’s trial for the murder of her friend and we may catch you next time for the 3rd and final part of her trial. Take care.

Narration by Jenny

Art by Alex

Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson

Greysteil by Paul Burns.

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