Today Grahamstown in South-Africa a city with a well known University, Art festival and for people that wish to live a quiet life. But this wasn’t always the case however. A long time ago it was better known as a place under militant law, public punishments and public hangings, watched by a lot of people.
Built in Grahamstown in 1824, the Old Gaol was a prison when martial law ruled in the old town. The fortress or the prison was design for constant surveillance of the prisoners.
Dead Men Walking
Those who were convicted to death was chained on their feet and hands, humiliated as they were lead from the fortress to the plaza they were going to be punished in front of the entire population of the Grahamstown. “Dead men walking”, as they were called.
The last person we know of that was publicly hung was Henry Nicholls. He was convicted for a rape happening in 1862. He spent four months, hoping to get of with his life as rape was not a capital punishment under English law. But there was one loop hole. He was a military man under military law. And there, the crime was punishable with death.
People rode for as long as seven days to behold the execution. On 19 February 1862, was the last day, his last walk. He never got a chance for last words or prayers. He was simply strung up and hanged to his death in front of a blood thirsty crowd.
Rape rarely got the death sentence, even back in that time. A lot says that because of this, that the punishment was too hard and the humiliating Nicholls ended his life, his soul can never be free. In stead he is convicted of a life sentence, lasting for eternity, and must wander in all the remaining days between the old prison and the gallow, passing through the entrance to the now so modern university.
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