“About this time, there was brought from Montreal a drummer, Convictus crimine pessimo [convicted of a crime of the worst kind], whose death our Fathers who were at Montreal opposed, sed occute; he was then sent hither and put in the prison. It was proposed to him, so that he might at least escape the galleys, to accept the office of executioner of Justice; he accepted it, but his trial was first disposed of, and then his sentence was commuted.”
So only the intervention of the Jesuits saved him from death, and they further managed to argue him down from a life of hard labour to a job as New France’s executioner. Given his choices, the drummer chose to become an executioner. This was extraordinary, given that executions of “sodomites” in France were then at their peak, at that the Jesuits were at the centre of it.
We don’t know what happened to the drummer after that, but we do know that his first victim was a girl of 15 or 16, convicted of theft. This is the last we hear of him. By 1653, the colony was looking for a new executioner. No record survives to tell us what happened to the drummer — whether he was dead, convicted of another crime, or had escaped.
Some historians working on this issue — Pierre Hurteau and Patrice Corriveau, for example — have taken to claiming the drummer’s name wasn’t lost to history, and are calling him “René Huguet dit Tambour.” I’ve checked the sources they cite, however, and can’t find that name in any of them. I’ve also checked Marcel Trudel’s Catalogue des Immigrants, which lists the names of everyone known to have arrived in the colony, from any known source Trudel could get a hold of, for the years the drummer would’ve been in Ville-Marie.
There is a “René Huguet” on genealogical records who arrives in the colony in 1680, however, by which time our drummer is long gone. So it seems Hurteau and Corriveau have made some kind of mistake. The drummer’s name is still unknown.
- The Drummers Revenge, 9 June 2007, by Hamish, from his WordPress blog LGBT History & Politics in Canada