Hidden Aberdeen: Road to the Gallows

Fiona-Jane Brown has another look at Aberdeen’s quirky and interesting past.

Urquhart Lane passes directly by the corner of Jackson Terrace and the house where the murder took place.
Fiona-Jane Brown

The swinging Sixties; the Profumo Scandal showed morals were on the decline. But in 1963, Aberdeen had its own case of fatal attraction which would lead, for one man, directly to the execution chamber.

Henry John Burnett – the last man hanged in Scotland – had an affair with a married woman. In a fit of jealous rage he shot dead her estranged husband in her mother’s house in Jackson Terrace.

Harry would later tell a constable who looked after him at his trial that he had given Thomas Guyan ‘both barrels’. His escape route out of the house towards a garage in Seaforth Road, where he would commandeer a car, with his paramour, Margaret, had a chilling significance for his eventual fate.

Rewind to 17th century Aberdeen, and Parson James Gordon’s fascinating illustrated map of the city. There were two routes north in those days, one through ‘Aberdon’, part of Kings College’s university town and the other via the links, which passed by the Gibbet.

Situated on a lonely hillock opposite the Broad Hill, the ‘hanging tree’ stood as a warning to all. Often there would be the gruesome skeleton of the last criminal executed there, swinging in the breeze, its empty eye sockets terrifying any traveller on the route.

Today the Gallows Hill, as mentioned previously in this blog, stands at the top of Errol Street by Trinity Cemetery; that medieval route north now follows Park Road and crosses Urquhart Road at Urquhart Lane. Did it occur to the fleeing Harry Burnett, three centuries later, that he was within sight of the ancient place of execution? Urquhart Lane passes directly by the corner of Jackson Terrace and the house where the murder took place.

In August 1963, Harry would be the only man to face execution in Aberdeen since John Booth had been hanged at the Castlegate in 1857. The former’s death took place in the privacy of Craiginches Prison, the only time the execution suite was used before the abolition of the death penalty in 1969.

The significance of the old Gallows’ road may indeed have eventually dawned on Harry, as a retired policeman recalled his anguished words when leaving the dock a condemned killer, ‘I’m goin’ tae hang!’

Urquhart Lane, an anonymous street of garages has witnessed many on that long final road, perhaps none more tragic than Harry Burnett, the fair-haired lad who didn’t intend to kill.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.