Reported 280 Years Ago (May 1739): The Highwayman Dick Turpin has been hanged in York

From the Belfast News Letter of April 20 1739 (which is May 1 in the modern calendar):

Saturday, 4th May 2019, 10:42 am
Updated Saturday, 4th May 2019, 10:48 am
The Belfast News Letter of April 20 1739 (May 1 in the modern calendar)

LONDON, April 10.

We hear by Letters from York, that on Saturday last the noted and famous Turpin was executed there, and that he made a large Confession of the Robberies committed by him.

[The highwayman Dick Turpin was so well known at this time, even to readers in the north of Ireland, that he was referred to as ‘the noted Turpin,’ without even his Christian name, which was sometimes included, Richard.

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The very first surviving edition of the News Letter, from October 1738, reports that his father has been arrested for being in possession of a horse stolen from Lincolnshire.

Stealing horses was a hanging offence and the early News Letters often report on hangings for such.

Turpin was in the end hanged for that stolen Lincolnshire horse. Preceding News Letters reported on the arrest of a man thought to be Turpin, then reported that it might not be him, then that it was and finally that he had been found guilty and would ‘die like a dog’.

Finally, in this report, Ulster readers of the News Letter would learn of the execution of this notorious criminal who so evoked some of the worst of 1700s Britain]

JAMES ADAMS of Secon-beg, Tenant to Leslie Curry, Esq; of Castle-cool, having run in Arrear of Rent; Mr. William Henry of Secon, Agent to the said Leslie Curry, Esq; out of his wonted Lenity to Mr. Curry’s Tenants, paid his Rent for him from Time to Time, to the Amount of twenty five Pounds, ten Shillings and three Pence [more than £5,000 in today’s money]; taking at the same Time for his Security, a Bill of Sale of all his the said Adams’s Goods.

Now this is to give Notice, that the said Adams did on the 11th Instant run off the Premises, and he and his Accomplices feloniously stole away the said Goods made over to Mr. Henry as aforesaid.

He the said Adams is about forty Years of Age, Pock-mark’d, down-looking, and about five Feet seven Inches high, thin bodied, and a Black smith by Trade.

Whoever discovers and apprehends the said Adams and his Accomplices so as he or they be brought to Justice, shall have a Guinea Reward, applying either to John Cuppage, Esq; or to Messrs. John Henry, or John Haleridge of Ballymony, or to the said William Henry of Secon.


Since my last arrived the Hamilton of Whitehaven, Francis Ewer, from Rotterdam with Iron and Gunpowder. — The Friend’s Adventure, of Irwin, Thomas Boyd, from Workington with Coals. — The Nathaniel of Belfast, Robert Moor, from Liverpool, with Sugar and Tobacco. — The William of Liverpool, John Drape, from Rotterdam, with Flax-Seed, and other Merchant Goods.

DUBLIN, April 17.

There are near 40 Convicts to be transported this Week, about Fifteen of whom were Transmitted from several Goals in the Country.

We hear there is one Jonh [sic] Magrady, aged 113 Years, now living in the Parish of Ballyeaston near Ballyclare, and in perfect good Health, who never was afflicted with any Sickness whatsoever; not having wash’d his Hands of Face these thirty Years, nor comb’d his Head at any Times these forty Years past but, with Tow Cards, intermarried about four Years ago with a Woman aged about thirty or forty Years.

This Instance is pretty remarkable; to be so dirty and yet so healthy! [If this story is true, the man would be older than anyone who has died in Northern Ireland since its creation in 1921, when health is far better than 1739. Men, in particular, have barely ever lived to 105+ in the Province recently, let alone then.

Newspapers of this era have many reports of people living to incredible old age, as per below about a woman of 141, which is probably nonsense. The oldest authentically recorded life ever is a French woman who died aged 122 in 1997. No person in the modern age, despite excellent records and vastly better healthcare, has got anywhere near 141 years old. However, through recorded history some humans have lived 100+ and the early News Letters have reports of people who remain active into old age, including Jonathan Swift, aged 72 in 1739, Hans Sloane, 79, and Cardinal de Fleury, 86]

They write from Carldstat in the Province of Wermeland, that a Woman died there a Week ago of 141 Years of Age, who had enjoy’d a perfect State of Health to the last; but that the youngest of her Daughters, who was but 100 Years old, was so feeble that she could scarce stand alone.

LONDON, April 10 The Silver Font that was made use of for the Christening of King Charles I. will be brought from the Tower, for the Christening of the new-born Prince. [This refers to the christening of the second son of the Prince of Wales, Prince Frederick. His older brother, George, born in 1738, would later become King George III. King Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649, would have been christened almost 139 years earlier, after his birth in 1600]

Twelve Sea Captains are to be superanuated, and allowed 15s. per Diem during their natural Lives [about £170 in today’s money]