Last Man to Hang

We conclude, with this item, our series on the murder of Pearl Gamble by Robert McGladdery on Saturday 28 January 1961. Today is the forty-sixth anniversary of that fateful night.   Had this terrible fate not befallen her, Pearl would this year have turned sixty-five and become an old-age pensioner.

After hearing five days of evidence at the trial of Robert McGladdery for the murder of Pearl Gamble, the all-male jury returned a guilty verdict.   They took just forty minutes to reach this conclusion.

He was sentenced to death. The execution date was set for 7 November but was delayed after McGladdery appealed.  The appeal was unsuccessful.

At 8 am on Wednesday 20th December – just five days before Christmas – Robert McGladdery became the last man to hang for murder in Northern Ireland.

At 8.05 am when a notice declaring that the sentence of death had been carried out was posted on the wicket gates, a crowd of about thirty people who had gathered to witness the event, pressed forward to read it.

Prayers were said throughout the Province for the repose of the soul of the lost girl – and for McGladdery too – though few had sympathy for him. It was a milestone. Never again, it was expected, would the state put someone to death for their crimes.

In the adjoining St Malachy’s School on the Crumlin Road in Belfast, amongst the young men who prayed on the instruction of their teachers with the rest of his school fellows was Patrick Duggan, now today resident of Upper Damolly Road, Newry – where his home overlooks the site of the brutal murder of January 1961.

 … alternative series account ? …

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