Epiphany {new age/spirituality}

Pierrepoint, the legendary hangman

September 7, 2007

Last night I watched ‘Pierrepoint’ with Timothy Spall, a fascinating film about Britain’s notorious executioner / hangman. I found myself in tears at the scene when Albert arrives home drunk, professing how the murderers on the gallows had killed out of passion, jealousy, rage whereas he had committed such acts for money; begging his wife to tell him he was a decent man. Previously, he had believed it was the system, not specifically him who was performing the executions. It’s another one of those powerful films that encourages you to empathise with human beings from all walks of life, particularly those you least expect. Nothing is ever intentionally wrong / evil according to an individual’s perspective / experiences of the world.

However, it was even more revealing listening to a BBC interview with the man himself afterwards. I haven’t read his autobiography but I got the distinct impression that he didn’t ever feel remorseful or guilty. He just sounded like an ordinary, down-to-earth yorkshireman, who, in his mind, was simply providing a public service; performing his job as efficiently as possible. He didn’t pay attention to where the perpetrators were from or what they had done but simply endeavoured to treat them each with respect and give them a painless and dignified death. Later in life, he became an opponent of capital punishment, claiming it was simply an act of revenge but had no personal regrets.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. “That is a very deep subject with particularly important implications for people who are pushed into acting as torturers and people who are able to rationalise doing so.

    This is important for today, right now in the world because much the same things are alive and well even if state killing is not so openly done. (eg. the police shoot to kill, justified on various grounds, mostly invalid, and the number killed are probably higher than Pierrepoint dispatched. This is taken as socially acceptable just as axing was back then)

    I present something which is tough at comprehension and understanding, yet connects very closely with the system, the punishment, the effect on an individual and how they eventually respond. Reading this also needs the ability to see past local agendas.

    I can point at non-web items which cover the subject… written 50 years ago so it is not new, just change the names of the actors. That tended to talk more about nazis, jews and stalinists.

    Book of abt 250 pages so this is a non casual item.

    Tim Channon

  2. “Don’t forget that Pierrepoint’s father and grandfather were hangmen – he was following the family trade. That would have helped him not take it personally as he became acclimatised to this profession in childhood.

    Notorious, legendary? I guess ‘notorious’ because he could execute someone in less than 20 seconds, and legendary because he occupied his job for such a lengthy tenure up to the end of capital punishment. While Pierrepoint might have opposed capital punishment because it was ‘revenge’, I think the main argument against is that there is still a chance of getting it wrong – and it was better for 99 guilty men to live than for one innocent one to be executed.

    He did the Allies a great service at the end of the war with his work in Germany.”

    Mark Wiggins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *