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Myths and Legends
Dedication on the 1820 Monument
Forgotten Heroes: The 1820 Radical War

As Wilson mounted the cart that was to take him to the scaffold, the headsman was seated before him, cloaked in black, his face covered, holding a large axe in his right hand and a knife in his left. “Did you ever see sic a crowd as this?” Wilson remarked casually to his executioner.

At five minutes to three, he mounted the scaffold and several minutes later Wilson’s body was convulsing on the end of a rope, where it remained for half an hour, before being lowered and decapitated by the masked executioner, who held the bloody head aloft and proclaimed: “This is the head of a traitor.” The crowd jeered and shouts of “It is false, he has bled for his country!” were heard and reported in the Glasgow Herald the next morning.

Barely a week later, on 8th September 1820, Andrew Hardie, a weaver from Glasgow, and John Baird, a weaver from Condorrat, met similar fates in Stirling: they were also hanged and beheaded. 19 others, mostly weavers, were sentenced to transportation, and already on their way to the colonies (mainly New South Wales in Australia); and that was the end of what became known as the Radical War, or the 1820 Rising. But, as Britain charged headlong into an age of immense industrialisation, it wasn’t to be the last time that the recently coined term ‘radical’ would serve as a prefix for a popular movement of workers demanding their ‘rights’ in society, and threatening revolution if their ‘rights’ were withheld.


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BBC History - Scottish Radicalism
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