Tom Long, Executioner, New Zealand 1877 – 1906
Tom Long was known the length and breadth of New Zealand. Newspapers regularly reported his antics in detail. He was like most of the Hangmen on this site, a habitual drunk, created chaos with his disorderly behaviour and a ealandvagrant. Long was reportedly convicted on over 200 occasions, but was best known as the government’s hangman.
Tom Long was an Irishman who was a bachelor, it appears he never registered to vote, and his life is best known through newspaper reports and people’s later reminiscences.
He claimed he started his killing in the Indian army, acting as official hangman – a claim that is unverifiable.
However, his first New Zealand execution can be dated to Picton in early 1877, when he hanged William Woodgate for murdering a child he had fathered with his 14-year-old niece Susan.
EXECUTION OF WOODGATE.
At our last issue we had to report a state of things which, so far as we are aware, never before occurred, namely the extraordinary failure of justice m regard to the execution of Woodgate, and we now proceed to place On record how the difficulty was got over, and as we can readily believe that the account will be distasteful to some of our readers, we shall have to request them m that case to pass on to the next article, and leave the following authentic statement to those who really wish to know how the law was Vindicated.” We shall riot say how or by what means a person was discovered who was willing to take the place vacated by one who undoubtedly undertook to do the duty.
Suffice it to say that the police or somebody did discover such a person, and that m the early morning the Sheriff, accompanied by the Inspector of Police, drove through again to Picton. There they called on the Rev. Mr Ronaldaon, who went to the gaol and informed the condemned prisoner of the imminence of his fate at about 4 a.m., and remained v/ith him to the last. At about 620 a.m., a procession was formed from the condemned cell, where the prisoner had already been pinioned, to the scaffold.
The Minister came first, reading the service for the dead, Woodgate came next, followed by the hangman, gaoler, wardens, &c. The other persons present, were the Sheriff, Mr Allen, R. M., Dr Tripe, Mr Caute, Gaoler, the wardens, and the police. The moment the Minister ceased speaking, he turned to Woodgate, and appeared to say something-, as it might be, Now is your time if you want to speak.” Woodgate then turned round and addressed the gaol officials, giving them his best thanks for their kindness to him during his stay m gaol, adding and I thank you, gentlemen, for using your utmost endeavours to get my life spared by trying to get a reprieve.
I thank you all very much indeed, and I die m peace with all men. I have nothing more to aay. He seemed a little affected as he spoke, but he ascended the scaffold with a firm step. Now comes the most disgusting feature of the whole business.
The hangman, while adjusting the cap said to the prisoner, Good bye, old fellow, I wish you a pleasant journey. You’re only going a few days before us, perhaps I might follow you to-morrow, or next day myself.” He then adjusted the rope, and again said, “Well, how do you feel is it comfortable, or is it too tight V Woodgate replied, No.”
He was still looking upwards, The hangman again said, “Well, good-bye. I wish you a pleasant journey,” at the same moment kicking the bolt with his foot, and the drop fell, Woodgate dying without a struggle,, his legs below the knee and his hands just twitching twice at an interval of a few seconds.
The hangman then faced round, and addressing the spectators, said, “Well, gentlemen, are you satisfied?’ There was no reply, and he again asked, Are you satisfied that I have done my duty.” Dr Tripe said there was no doubt that no man could have done it more efficiently, as the neck was quite dislocated.
He further added that Woodgate felt no pain beyond a momentary one. The fall was about five feet. The drop fell at 6*30 exactly, and the body was left hanging for” an hour. Just when they were about taking it down Detective Farrell, of Wellington, came on the scene, with note to the Sheriff, introducing a man who had arrived by the Hinemoa from Wellington, who was willing to undertake the duty. The Sheriff, however, informed the gentleman that his services were not required, and we believe declined to have anything to say to him.
At 11 a.m. an inquest was held before John Allen, Esq., KM., Coroner, and a jury, ox which MrW. Jameson was foreman. The Sheriff and Dr Tripe gave evidence. The former produced his warrant or precept authorising the execution, and the latter testified as to the prisoner’s death.
The verdict was as follows, That William Henry Woodgate was on the morning of the 25th day of January, 1877, within the common gaol of Picton m the said Colony m due course of law hanged by the neck till he died, m execution of the sentence passed upon him by Chief Justice Prendergast, a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand at a sitting of the Circuit Court of the Supreme Court, at Blenheim in the same Colony on the 5th day of December 1876.
The body was buried on the Thursday evening within the precincts of the gaol. On Wednesday, during an interview with the Rev. Mr Ronaldson and one of the warders the prisoner said that he was not at all guilty of the murder, but of everything else attributed to him he was guilty, and deserved the punishment accorded to him. Little more remains to be told.
At 7.15 a.m. the Hinemoa arrived from Wellington being manned with Armed Constabulary, and bringing Detective Farrell and the man alluded to. But we are given to understand that the Captain ranks as Inspector the Chief mate as Sub-Inspector, and all the men as privates m the Armed Constabulary force. These escorted the Detective and his travelling companion to the gaol, and back again.
There was considerable speculation m Picton as to who the gentleman was who performed the loathsome duty, and it was confidently asserted that he had come from Nelson, but we have reason to believe that he was a swagsman, who came into Blenheim on Wednesday from the southward, and offered his services, which were accepted as before recorded. He stated that he had been m the navy as a seaman, and boasted of having served as an artilleryman at the time of the Indian Mutiny, when he “slung them up m dozens.”
Soon after 10 a.m., the gaoler let him out at the back of the gaol, and he succeeded by making his way quietly and quite unobserved along the line, m getting down to the Hinemoa at the wharf, which steamed away at once as soon as he came aboard, arid before the Pictonians were aware of the circumstance.
We have just a few words to add respecting the extraordinary assumed by some of the Picton people, who we regret to learn put every hindrance in the way of the sentence being carried out, independently of the efforts made by a large number who signed a petition praying for a commutation of the sentence.
We touch on this subject with the greatest reluctance, but the fact remains, and to such an extent was this feeling carried out that even the rope had be procured from Blenheim by the police.
Although it may be thought invidious to mention any names, rather than all should be included m the censure which will surely be meted out by the press of the Colony, we learn that Messrs Allen, Conolly and Seymour, spoke strongly m condemnation of the maudlin sympathy exhibited, and defended the action of the law, notwithstanding some, if not all, had signed the petition before referred to. We may add that no representative of the press was present on the above occasion, nor was any intimation given that the event was imminent.
Further we are at a loss to know upon what understanding or supposition the Hinemoa and a force of Constabulary was sent, as it is quite evident that the services of the local police force were not called upon and therefore could not be insufficient for all necessary purposes. We shall look with interest for our next exchanges to see what impression had got abroad about this matter.
THE AMBERLEY MURDERER.
[BY TELEGRAPH— PRESS ASSOCIATION.] CHRISTCHURCH, Tuesday. The date of Sheehan’s execution is not yet fixed, but Tom Long, the hangman, from Wellington yesterday in charge of warder, who also brought the scaffolding for the gallows.
Wairarapa Daily Times
TOM LONG, “THE HANGMAN.”
By Telegraph.—Press Association. Ashburton, Wednesday.
This morning, Tom Long, the hangman, was convicted of drunkenness and discharged on condition that lie left the town by the next train. He was taken off the express last night very drunk.
THE EXECUTION OF BOSHER.
A STOIC’S DEATH. We cull the following particulars connected with the execution of Stephen Bosher in Wellington on Wednesday from the Post
On Tuesday night Father Ainsworth, who with Father Goutenoire had been attending the prisoner for the last fortnight, spent the time in preparing Bosher for his death. A 11.30 p.m. the condemned man had a cup of coffee, and shortly after 1 a.m. he went off to sleep. Father Ainsworth then left the cell. At about 2 a.m. the sleeping man, who had been uneasy in his slumber, wakened for a minute to ask the time, and then went off to sleep again. He was still sleeping when Father Ainsworth came to the cell at 5 o’clock.
Bosher was then wakened by a warder. He had a cup of coffee at 7.30 a.m., but would not eat anything. Father Ainsworth was engaged with him till the last. As the hangman came to the door of the cell to pinion the condemned man, Bosher for one moment faltered and clutched for support at the hand of his confessor, but a whispered “Courage !” braced up the iron nerves of the man, and there was not a tremor in him as he held out his hands to be pinioned, saying, Thy will be done!”
Then the little procession was formed, and Father Ainsworth began the Service for the Dead; looking back once he whispered words of encouragement to the penitent man, whose nerves were far firmer than those of the priest himself. At about ten minutes to 8 o’clock the sound of a clergyman reciting the Service was heard, as the little procession, in which was the condemned man, wound along the passage from the condemned cell to the scaffold.
Soon afterwards the cortege appeared at the top of the steps leading to the scaffold.
ON THE SCAFFOLD.
Father Ainsworth was still reading the service when Tom Long, the hangman, a little man with a long white beard, appeared at the other side of the scaffold and curtly said, “Bosher, come this way with me a moment,” at the same time leading the condemned man under the central beam, soon to be burdened with its ghastly freight. Bosher’s arms had been strapped to his sides, the elbows drawn behind, and the hands, strapped at the wrists, left free in front of his waist.
The hangman now pinioned Bosher’s leg’s. Then, at a gesture from the priest Bosher knelt, and was granted the Last Absolution. The condemned man made the responses in an audible tone, but from the voice of Father Ainsworth, it was perceived that the strain was telling on him the most.
THE MURDERER’S LAST WORDS
Asked by Father Ainsworth whether he had anything to say, Bosher replied, in a steady, even, firm voice, looking up towards the press representatives: What I have to say now I say of my own free heart, and I have never been asked for it. l am very thankful to be in the position I am. I wish to express my thanks o Mr Gaivey, who has been very kind to me and done everything he can for me, as well as Dr. Martin and Dr. Cahill, who helped to prepare me for my death. Also to Chief Warder Millington, who has done everything in his power for me without going outside his duty, and Warders Keany, Knight, Downs and Bethune, who have been with me night and day, and done all they could, I thank them from my whole heart. I forgive all those who were witnesses in my case; those who spoke the truth and those who spoke the untruth, I forgive all those witnesses who swore falsely against me. Years ago I left my own Church, and have never since known a day’s joy. It has been my own fault.
When I was in my trouble I was left alone, and no one came to see me. Then Father Ainsworth and Father Goute* noire, from Meanee, came to me. I forgive all my enemies. May God bless them abundantly. That is all I have to say.”
The priest then commenced to read the Burial Service, breaking off to comfort Bosher, and at last bending down and shaking him by the hand. Bosher returned the kindly grasp, and in reply to the priest’s Goodbye, till we meet in Heaven,” spoken in French, said in the same language, “Till we meet in Heaven.”
Then the officious hangman placed round Bosher’s neck the noose, adjusting it with a leather washer to prevent it slipping, and put on Bosher’s head the white cap, which completely covered the face.
Father Ainsworth said thrice, “Jesu misericorde,” and twice Bosher from under the cap repeated the words after him, when the bolt was drawn, and the body fell.
There was not a sign of a struggle, and death must have been instantaneous the taut rope swayed gently from one side to the other, and in horror-stricken silence all turned away. A moment later the hangman, who had run down a little ladder at the back, re-appeared on the scaffold, and said “Now, gentlemen, I have done my duty. You, can look for yourselves.” These horrid words, which we believe Long always uses after an execution, gave a shock to every spectator of the grim scene. Bosher, the murderer of Mr and Mrs Jones at Petone, had gone to his last account, penitent and atofcal to the end, and had found that Justice though tardy, had afforded no pity to the pitiless destroyer of two old and inoffensive people.
It is understood that Father Ainsworth obtained permission from, tho Administrator of the Government to have the body buried at Karori Cemetery.
Within days of being paid for doing his duty Tom long was arrested for drunk and disorderly…
At the Police Court to-day Tom Long, the hangman, was fined £3 and sentenced to fourteen days’ hard labor on three charges drunkenness, resisting the police, and obscene language.
New Zealand’s Hangman.
A COOL CUSTOMER. Tom Long, the hangman, who gets £25 every time he swings off a human being into space says a writer in a contemporary, was at one time gold-mining at Ross.
I was standing some eighteen months ago by the post-office at the corner (Wanganui). Round in the Avenue leading straight up to St. John’s Hill was the cab stand, and Tom’ Long, who had just returned from the finishing off of Bosher, the Petone murderer, was’ describing minutely to the bystanders how he had done the job satisfactorily.
In the’ long line of cabbies waiting a fare, was one good-natured whip with as thick a neck as I ever remember to have seen in occupation by any human being.
To he in particular Tom Long seemed to be addressing his remarks There’s a art in it— ‘specially in the trussin, then you got to humor him and guy ver him until he will want to shake hands with you. Then it’s quite a pleasure to swing ’em off. Why, it makes me feel quite sad- when I look’s at that there neck’ of yourn, ‘specially when says to myself, ‘here’s a neck goin’ to waste, of want of proper attention and here is me, Tom Long, a standing idle.’
The cabby, quite disconcerted, drove off, and so lost his place, whilst’ many of the crowd, forgetting- the cold blooded harangue of the callous hangman, roared over the ignominious flight of the cabby with the great neck.
Hawera and Normanby Star
The Wellington correspondent of Christchurch Truth writes to most people Tom Long is no more than a name, and a rather gruesome and misty sort of person. I had tho experience one could hardly call it a pleasure of discoursing with this celebrated individual the other morning.
He is, as he proudly informs you, working in the bush up Wanganui way a vagueness of geographising that he did not seem inclined to strengthen by anything more definite.
He has worked there “and been me own boss” for some twenty years or thereabouts. “They’ve a prejudice against me on account of me doing the executions, but someone has to do them,” he complained, fixing his eye reflectively on my neck.
“Once I refused to do an execution, but they was in a fix, and so I agreed after a lot of persuasion, and ever since then they can get me when they want to. How many have 1 swung off fifteen in this country, but hundreds in India. They pay me £30 a time now. They used to pay £40 and £50, but those times have passed.” He has a grievance, and it is this; that there are men who would do the hangman’s work for £18 and then disappear from the country.
“And I’m here all the time, an’ they know they can get me when they want me, and I reckon they oughtn’t to cut the price.’ He did not seem to think much of my suggestion of a Hangmen’s Union, which I thought would meet this difficulty. He has been offered 10s per foot for some of the ropes he has used, but he has refused.
“There is some callous beggars about,” he commented on this point, of medium height, plump, and with a red face and thick white whiskers, he looks anything but a hangman, until he talks to you on his hobby. He informed me that he would give me a six foot drop, when I asked him out of curiosity.
He is talkative, and sees nothing to be shy about in his business. He relates with many winks how once, travelling with a plain clothes constable from the country to officiate at a hanging, the news got about that ‘Tom Long was on the train.”
Tom saw a lot of curious people peering through the window of the railway carriage, and lie pointed stealthily to the constable and winked at him without the unfortunate Robert knowing him. The crowd naturally concluded that the policeman was Tom, and the policeman was the most surprised and hurt man in the world when going on to the platform everybody scuttled away from him, and regarded him with disgust from afar. It breaks Tom up to ever think of it now.
It was and expensive exercise for publishers to infer that one was the public executioner as the following article reflects…
An Unfortunate Name.
In the District Court at Brisbane recently Thomas Valentine Long, formerly of Maryborough, proceeded against Charles Henry Johnson publisher of the Wide Bay and Bamett News at Maryborough, claiming .£5OO damages for alleged defamation.
The alleged libel was contained in a letter from a New Zealand correspondent to the effect that Tom Long, at one time of Maryborough, had performed the duties of hangman at the execution of Ellis, and afterwards discussed the deed with a number of loungers on the wharf whilst he was waiting for the boat. Plaintiff stated that he was not in New Zealand on the date mentioned.
Defendant pointed out that there was at least three Tom Longs in Maryborough, and be offered to publish a paragraph stating that plaintiff was not the person meant. Lengthy evidence was given for plaintiff, but no witnesses were called for the defence. The jury, after a brief returned a verdict for defendant, with costs.
Poor old Tom Long met his death felling trees…
ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES
Per Press Association,
WANGANUI, December 15,
Two accidents occurred this afternoon in the vicinity of the sculling race. A man named Orel was found in a dying condition at Upokongaro, and passed away shortly afterwards. A man named Wheeler was knocked off a bicycle, and fractured one of his legs.
Tom Long, the hangman, was killed while felling bush at Kauangaroa today. An inquest is to be held.
CHRISTCHURCH, December 16. The child Juriss, who was seriously injured by falling into a boiler of hot water in Addington on Monday, died yesterday morning. An inquest was held in the afternoon, and a verdict of accidental death was returned.
Last evening a man named James Jebson was taken to the hospital suffering from a compound fracture of one of his wrists, sustained in a fall from a hay-cart at Sheffield during the afternoon.