Dickie Rodgers was adjudged overall winner of our recent Reminiscence Competition for a series of short stories and anecdotes. He also recounted powerful incidents from his own life.
The following is a surprising insight into the personality of Newry’s most infamous murderer Robert McGladdery who was the last man to hang in these islands for the brutal murder of shop assistant Pearl Gamble. The BBC is currently researching the story of the Last Man to Hang, for a TV Special that airs in the autumn and has interviewed your editor among others. At the time I did not know what follows.
Anybody who wants our view of McGladdery has only to ‘search’ this site for the multiple articles on the subject! However the Christians among us at least, are obliged to find the humanity in every one, even those guilty of such a brutal killing.
I must admit I was taken aback by Dickie’s comments.
‘Do you remember the Robert McGladdery case?’ I asked Dickie Rodgers.
‘Do I remember?’ He almost shouted.
‘Robert spent more time in my house then than in his own.
I lived in Damolly at the time. For ten or twelve years. I was married to a Damolly woman, a Taylor.
Deep down he was a decent lad. His father was dead. His mother was trying to raise four of them on her own. She was a decent, respectable woman.
Cissie McGladdery worked in Damolly Mill. So the children were often enough on their own. I often tried to talk some sense into the boy.
He had this fixation that no one liked him. He reacted with aggression.
I told him to wise up.
‘You haven’t the hands to bless yourself with, never mind fight’, I’d warn him.
‘You’ll get yourself killed!’
But he got into trouble and was sent to Reform School. In fact, more than once.
His aunt Maud McGladdery lived beside us. I was more often away from home for I worked abroad at the time, at the steel-erecting.
When I came home one time, Maud approached me and asked me to visit Robert in Reform School. He’d been asking for me.
He was practically on his knees in front of me… promising that he’d be good.
He turned out unfortunate. He never had a chance!’
I had never heard any one speak well of McGladdery before.
According to Dickie, it was Reform School that turned him bad.
‘He never had any sense. He was often set up.’
I kept my own council.
All my sympathy remains with the Gamble family – and to a lesser degree, the McGladdery family who were collectively stained with Robert’s crime.
Dickie acknowledged that he committed that a terrible murder.