Category Archives: History

Australian Gay History: Paul Dexter & The Gay Army


1983. Gay Politics: Sydney’s Mysterious (and Dangerous) ‘Gay Army’Posted on July 21, 2014 by Colin Clews

Anyone who was around in the early 80s will remember the media’s hysterical response to AIDS and the ease with which it attributed it to gay men. It wasn’t labelled ‘the gay plague’ or ‘gay bug’ out of sympathy for us.
So it was unsurprising that, in these hostile times, gay community organisations were doing everything they could to put across a true picture of the emerging crisis. As attacks on gay men increased dramatically in light of perceptions that we had ’caused’ AIDS, an intelligent and cautious approach was the order of the day.
Or, alternatively, you could get yourself into the headlines and onto TV by claiming to be the leader of a non-existent gay organisation and making outrageous claims. Step forward Paul Dexter, self-proclaimed head of ‘the Gay Army’ in Sydney, an organisation that he claimed “represents the gay community more than others”.
Gay Army Gay ConspiracyIn May 1983 he appeared as ‘the gay community spokesperson’ on a Channel 9 report on AIDS. His credentials were never provided nor was it explained why his views were more important that an organisation like, say, the Gay Counselling Service. Indeed, no one even bothered to ask for evidence that an organisation with the ridiculous name of ‘The Gay Army’ even existed. Nonetheless, he was up there with leading AIDS doctors and commentators like Larry Kramer.
In June 1983 the Sydney Morning Herald – a newspaper that really should have known a lot better – quoted his claim that “left-wing elements” were responsible for the outcry against AIDS publicity. They didn’t even bother to explain just what that ridiculous statement actually meant.
And yet, in spite of the obvious absurdity of this man, his fictitious organisation and his groundless claims, the Herald turned to him again the following year. Under the headline Gay group slates AIDS statement, Dexter – now “official spokesman for the Gay Army” – declared that AIDS was far more infectious than health experts claimed. “The advertisement suggests that AIDS cannot be spread by sneezing, coughing, breathing or mosquitoes but according to Mr Dexter, medical experts can give no scientific assurance of this.”
Whilst Dexter was quick to challenge medical experts on their authority, he made no attempt to justify his own. And, yet again, no one asked him for any, nor evidence that his Gay Army actually existed.
But, yet again, this was to be a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Dexter, it seemed, was happy to say anything to stay in the spotlight and the media were more than happy to report it. Take, for example, another headline Call for homosexual to spot gay clients, in which the “spokesman for the Gay Army” argued that “A homosexual should be behind the counter of the Red Cross Bank to spot any gay blood donors…”
The entire article was farcical as Dexter claimed that he had seen a gay man give blood while he himself was in the Blood Bank (“Of course, I didn’t give blood…”). Dexter knew he was homosexual because “He had effeminate gestures, was wearing a bracelet and his key ring was in his right hand pocket – which is a sign of being gay.”
His statements would be hysterically funny is they didn’t have such serious consequences. After stating, “Of course, you wouldn’t be able to pick out every gay but a homosexual would have a far better chance”, he went on to reinforce the conspiracy theory that HIV+ gay men were deliberately infecting the blood supplies: “A homosexual behind the counter would also deter any resentful homosexuals from giving blood.”
It’s hard to say who is the most irresponsible here; Dexter for his blind self-promotion or the media for carrying stories about ‘conspiracies’ and health experts concealing the true facts when they didn’t even bother to do the most basic check on Dexter’s own credentials. When it comes down to it, they both share a huge amount of shame and blame.

In 1985, Channel 10 did a report titled “The Truth About AIDS in Australia” (https://youtu.be/UKiiY5JUUvU). The witch-hunt was now in full swing. Popular 2GB talj-back host Mike Carlton, joined others in suggesting that gays were deliberately donating contaminated blood out of spite! The 10 report investigated, and lent support to, accusations that gay men were deligerately spreading AIDS! The charge was made in an anonymous letter sent to a New South Wales parliamentary committee inquiring into prostitution. The author suggested that heterosexuals who had been infected vua blood transfusions were innocent victims of an “evil conspiracy” in which homosexual activists deliberately infected blood supplies, so that their calls for government funding to fund AIDS would be acred on. Furtgermore, gays were knowingly infecting other men in their community to “get even” with old boyfriends because “the gay community is notoriously bitchy” .

The letters author, a “King’s Cross Homosexual” was also angry that a “fringe group of radical homosexuals” – the NSW AIDS Action Committee led by Sydney academic Lex Watson – was claiming to speak on gehalf of the entire gay community. “They are establishing paper empires to get government funds and couldn’t care a stuff about their gay brothers and sisters” he wrote. While the Network 10 program acknowledged that it was impossible to prove these claims, it remarkably stated that it could ” prove that the AIDS blood plan was seriiysly considered” because homosexuals in America gad contemplated such an act of political terrorism, and the “intimate links across the Pacific ensured the American plan became pillow talk down under”. The report did not reveal how most American gay men regarded this terrorist actio, nor explain why Australian homosexuals would contemplate the plan when the Commonwealth and the State governments were already responding to AIDS with more urgency than politicians in the Unired States had shown during the first three years of the AIDS epidemic.

The claims made in the letter were extraordinarily similar submissions nade to the mainstream and gay press by Paul Dexter, self-proclaimed leader of the Gay Army, which, as far as other gay men were concerned, consisted only of himself! Those who knew of his antagonism towards the AIDS Action Committee, and those who had begun to view the program cynically, would not have been surprised to see Dexter soon introduced as a “spokeman for the gay community” to confirm that a fringe group of radical gays were indeed spreading AIDS. As an “unbiased” member of the gay community, he supposedly served the purpose of demonstrating that homophobia was not the basis for the program’s investigation into the “evil conspiracy”. To many Darlinghurst gay men in the audience, hiwever, his presence only confirmed their doubts about the authenticity of the letter. 

It is interesting yo note that when a nan considered by Jenny Ross to be an inappropriate representative of the hemophilia community was interviewed by another television station, his comments were omitted from the program that went to air at the request of the Harmpholia Foundation. Despite the complaints of the AIDS Action Committee that Paul Dexter did not represent the general views of homosexual community, and that he was predisposed to making spiteful comments about some of its members, it was extended no such curtesy. Rather, Network Ten neglected to examine Dexter’s personal & political motives for accusing radical homosexuals of donating blood infused with HIV , just as the press had failed to challenge the factual basis of the doctor’s claims. Presumable, the print and electronic media would have been more thorough in their search and selection of their witnesses if they were to accuse National Party politicians or religious leaders into spiteful murder. Moreover, one can be certain that a public outcry would immediately follow if such accusations were made.

Paul Dexter was a small blip in the early days of HIV in Australia, but by setting himself as a self-appointed spokesman on the epidemic, and managing to gain as much exposure as he did, he created a lot of controversy, misinformation, and bias which in turn created its own problems. It is now difficult to even find any information on him…though like all bad history, he should not be forgotten! 

Tim Alderman (2017)

References

Learning to Trusr: Australian Responses to AIDS – Google Books https://books.google.com.au/books?id=1trSx2c_pEYC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=paul+dexter+%26+the+gay+army&source=bl&ots=kyGf7ZjoJ9&sig=HaTIJYsl4eDZAyjNRCxgzB-QB7I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjTs7TsnrLVAhUPNpQKHUuaAhIQ6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=paul%20dexter%20%26%20the%20gay%20army&f=false

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    Fractured Reflections From My Dotage! Life On The Melbourne & Sydney Gay Scene 1970/1980 Pt.1

    First published in the Dolphin Motor Clubs newslatter “Quid Nunc” in 1990.

    It would have been 1975. I can remember that I had just passed my 21st burthday and moved out of home to my first apartment in Allowah (thanks to a legacy from my grandmother, which allowed me to live surrounded by all life’s comforts). I hadn’t come out, but was on the brink of doing so. I had a female friend (I would love to know what has become of her – does anyone know Jo Conway?) who used to come over and play “the girlfriend” whenever my father was coming to visit. He was convinced that this was his future daughter-in-law, the girl from whose loins would spring the fruit that was to ge forever stamped with the family name. Fortunately, he died before finding out that (a) she was a lesbian, (b) I was gay, and (c) I changed my name – lock, stock & barrel.

    My lesbian friend was also the first to introduce me to Oxford St, which had its reputation even back then! We would catch the train from Allawah on Saturday nights and start out in Kings Cross, which gack in those days still had its mixed bohemian atmosphere, unlike today. The evening would usually start at  Chez Ivy in Bondi Junction, then to the Cross with the Barrel Inn, move onto the Bottom’s Up bar (strictly rough trade back in those days – not that I knew what that was…then!),Mother’s Cellar in Elizabeth Bay, then down to Jools, and up to Oxford St.

    First port of call was usually Caps, followed in succession by Flo’s palace (not filled with the clientele it later gecame associated with), then onto the small, but popular coffee and jaffle haven in Boyrke St called Nana’s ( later to become Chu Bay Vietnamese restaurant). 

    My friend was a close friend of the propriator, who was called Nana by everyone, and we had the privilege of being invited back to his terrace one night. Nana was the epitome of 1960’s camp – the bouffant hair, the wiggle walk, the limp wrist, the iver-the-top clothes, the works. The terrace was the ultimate in Victoriana – restored and decorated so. It was like entering another time! I vividly remember  sitting on the edge of an extremely dainty looking lounge, sipping Twinings tea out of giant amber Duralax cups, and nibbling on Iced Vovo’s (truly), all the time keeping a very hervoys eye on Nana (who kept leering at me) and his flatmate, affectionately called Cupcake, who kept flouncing down the stairs in various flowing creations, loudly declaring that he one of Sydney’s premiere designers under the auspicious label of “Margot of Sydney”.

    The final stop if our outings was Central station, at 6 o’clock in the morning for the first train back home.

    Ocford St confused me in those days. I wouldn’t let Jo’s hand go all night. I thought I should have been looking at the girls, being straight for all intents and purposes, but couldn’t stop myself looking at all the men and fantasizing over how great it would be to get off with one. On my solo stints into the city, I felt too intimidated to come to Oxford St. I frequented The Zoo in William St, (I think I now know who it was that tried to pick me up there…Paul Costello!), and the Downunder Disco in the Hyatt Kingsgate, all filled to the hilt with Italian John Travolta look-alikes, who all had with them girls who looked like Maria Venutti. I always went home alone. I was almost tempted  to go into the Zig Zag Disco in Darlo Rd, Kings Cross – which was reputedly gay – but nerves sent me fleeing at the last moment.

    The Oxford Hotel

    By 1979, I had settled for terminal, eternal celibacy! My one attempt at a straight relationship was a dismal failure. I nearly – which would have been a disaster – married her. She had a 6-year-old daughter who I thought the sun shone out of (and vice versa). She almost topped the scales in her mothers favour. Sexually, the relationship was doomed! I could not envisage a life of making love to a woman, while orgasming to the fantasy of a man. The body shape was – to me – all wrong, anyway. And coming down from the fantady was disillusioning. Celibacy seemed the only answer! My father also died at this time, so I had no need of pretense anymore. My company offered me a lucrative position in Melbourne – initially for 6-months, but ended up as 2 years.

    In Melbourne, I came out – and not with a whimper! 

    Another time, another name!

    Melbourne was my chance for a new start. Nobody knew me, no family to watch me! I needed to make friends, so I joined a gay group. My very first meeting with the group, and I scored my first man. Being naive, I was an easy target for anyone. I hadn’t learnt to say no to a man at that stage, and he wasn’t exactly the most desirable of men, but what the hell – one had tostart  somewhere. I used him as much as he used me. He initially picked me up, after the meeting, at the old University Club. Shit – my first encounter with a gay group, my first solo venture to a gay venue, and my first man…all in one night!
    He drove me to his place (with my dick out all the way), which was a good hours drive from Melbourne. The next morning, I had to get a train back. I wasn’t impressed. To this day, he doesn’t know he was my first. I’m a great actor!

    I discovered The Laird. I discovered Mandate. I became a clone, and still am (albiet a 90s version). And bought my first leather harness, and vest, from The Beat. I fell in lust with Laurie Lane, but didn’t get to mert him until many years later.  I still have a pin-up of him from a 1981 magazine. Between The Laird and Mandate, I started my tally sheet. Inperformed my one and only act of public sex – a blow job in the barred areas around Mandate’s dance floor. We danced to “Fade to Gray” at Smarties, drank beer at the Elizabeth Hotel, watched drag at Pokies. I discovered that trying to have a relationship with another bottom was a sure recipe for disaster. I was attracted to him, he loved me – but the beats more! My first broken heart, and one of the few times I have cried over a man! Getting drunk is a better cure! No man is worth the vile hangover the next day! I met a man from Sydney. I came gack…but on my terms! This relationship was also a disaster. The fact that I had teavelled 800-odd kilometres for it, made it worse. I met a friend of his, and we used to go to the 253 sauna to get off. My first intro to the baths. I disliked them, but it was convenient for both of us. 

    Bob – the Melbourne clone

    Signal, the Barracks, and Club 80 were going strong, but not my scene. I saw the 4th Mardi Gras, and joined the parade for the 5th. I remember the first Sleaze Ball at the Paddington Town Hall, and Parties 1, 2 & 3. I drank at the Albury, Flinders, and Beresford, and danced at the Shift.

    The Shift back then was clone and leather heaven! Split level dance floor, and lots if dark, wooden tables. Very barn-like, actually. The front bar was xalled “Charlie’s Bar”…and Charlie ruled it! The toilets were infamous, not to mention the goings-on around the dance floor. There was flesh everywhere – usually…okay, almost always, naked! People danced in Speedo’s and jockstraps, bandana and key codes meant something, and pick-ups were easy!

    We often partied until 9am, falling out the door into full sunlight, then off to The Spirit Cafe in Crown St for breakfast. Home for a few hours sleep (maybe someone elses home, and not much sleep) then back out again.

    We shopped at the Portuguese Deli (where Ian Roberts worked, and everyone wanted things from the top shelf just to get a rear view as he climbed the ladder); paid for over-priced groceries at Clancy’s; went clothes shopping at Daly Male (still going, though moved to a new spot), and Aussie Boys, Wheels & Doll Baby, Route 66; our leather and fetish gear from The Link, Jayar & Sax; books from The Bookshop; novelties from the Pop Shop; cakes from Pandora’s; flowers from Christopher’s Florist. We ate from the Bagel House; The Schnitzel Hut; Green Park Diner; Angkor Wat; Rockerfeller’s; Old Saigon; Billy Bunters; Betty’s Soup Kitchen; Loreto’s Larder; Raquel’s; The Californian (originally King’s coffee shop, named after the  mother establishment, of the same name, in King St, Newtown); Olympic Yerros(pizza slices on the way home from a big night out); Tin Hong (food poisoning central); La Boheme; Alfredo’s; The Balkan; una’s (Victoria St); Oddy’s; the list was endless. We read the Sydney Star – then the Sydney Star Observer, Capital Q, SX, Campaign, Outrage,  and the Village Voice; bought medical supplies from Serafim and Rely’s chemists (under-the-counter Ephedrine & Amyl); our hewspaper, magazines & stationery from Pigott’s Neesagency, or the newsryand outside The Oxford; hired video’s from Video Capers, then Videorama; costume accoutrement from Dita’s Feathers; bibs & bobs from Mother Of Pearl & Sons: records from Central Station (originally in the vicinity of what became the Bagel House) and Red Eye. There was even 2 butchers and a green grocer…once upon a time! And not to forget a very brief appearance from Gowings.

    The Oxford opened, and became to a whole clique for many years (until the trendy set made it too uncomfortable for us). The Flinders and Beresford sponsored street parties. Sleaze Ball became a major event (remember  the one with all the wrecked cars on the dance floor?). Pere’s Beat (originally the Purple Onion) came and went (Wendy Wayne & Tiny Tina live on in memory), the Handle Bar came and went, as did The Man. The Link moved from Crown St north to Crown St south, and finally to Newtown. Jools, Signal, The Barracks, Club 80, Hip Hop, the Roman Baths, 253, The Spirit cafe, Caps, T.C’s (Crown St), the Geresford, French’s (not gay, but certainly memorable), all slowly closed and entered the realms of Gay nostalgia. Friends and lovers started to die, and it seemed that the scene was going with them. Life became abbreviated to the Oxford, the Shift, Mardi Gras & Sleaze Ball. 

    Tiny Tina, Wendy Wayne, Barry Costello – Mardi Gras ’86

    My (our?) lives moved on also. I tested Positive for HIV, as did many others I knew. Some of us passed on (and still are), though thankfully many of us sre still hale & hearty. Eight years under a sentence is a long time! Still, most of oyr old haunts are gone, though we still have a good time – somewhat more quietly these days. Forgive us our reminiscences. We have a lotnto remember, and ai still claim we gad the best of it! The eleven years since coming out,mand now seems to have gone amazingly quickly. Lovers, friends, venues have all come and gone in the blink of an eye. 

    I am very hsppy now. My mother knows I’m gay, and reluctantly accepts it – ievidently she always knew. My half-sister will carry on the family line, if nothing else. I chucked the rest of my family years ago. To sever those ties, I changed my name. I like the empowerment derived from beginning & ending a family line. I am in several groups, which fulfils my nerd to ferl that I am doing something on the gay scene. I have made friends on the Lesbian scene, whichn takes me back to my gay roots. My social life is fulfilling enough. I am healthy, and will hopefully remain so. That is the only question mark in my life. I am in a relationship…again! Not the first dince the Sydney/Melbourne  episode, may I say, but certainly the most fulfilling I have ever had. I think the sun shines out of him, and he has added a dimension of happiness I don’t think he knows he has contributed. I see a lot of changes on the scene. I don’t necessarily like, or approve of, a lot of them, but ai guess I’ll lesrn yo live with them. It saddens me a bit to not have a venue for people in my age group who feel more comfortable with others from our generation. I won’t hive up hope on this point yet.

    The Beresford, Christmas ’85

    I guess to some, this is just another odyssey of coming out. I see it as the encapsulation of 10 years of change on the gay scene, from someone who saw the scene as ut was in the 70s, before coming out into the msdness of the 80s.

    As you dan see, the sdage of “the more things vhange, the more they stay the ssme” doesn’t always apply!

    Tim Alderman ©1990 (revised 2017)

    Peter McCarthy, Peter Gilmore, Bevan, Steve Thompson, Tim Alderman – Quilt unfolding, Government Pavilion, late 80s.

      

    The Final Two Executions For Sodomy In Britain – 1835. James Pratt & John Smith – A Travesty Of Justice!

    Old Bailey judgements in this case:

    “1934. JOHN SMITH and JAMES PRATT were indicted for b—g—y at the parish of Christ Church, Surrey; and WILLIAM BONILL was indicted as an accessory before the fact.

    SMITH— GUILTY.— DEATH . Aged 40.

    PRATT— GUILTY.— DEATH . Aged 30.

    BONILL— GUILTY . Aged 68.— Transported for Fourteen Years.

    Third Jury, before Mr. Justice Williams..”

    James Pratt (1805–1835)[1][2] also known as John Pratt, and John Smith (1795–1835)[1][2] were two London men who, in November 1835, became the last two to be executed for sodomy in England.[3] Pratt and Smith were arrested in August of that year after being convicted of having sex in the room of another man, William Bonill.

    William Bonill, aged 68, had lived for 13 months in a rented room at a house near the Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London. His landlord later stated that Bonill had frequent male visitors, who generally came in pairs, and that his suspicions became aroused on the afternoon of 29 August 1835, when Pratt and Smith came to visit Bonill. The landlord climbed to an outside vantage point in the loft of a nearby stable building, where he could see through the window of Bonill’s room, before coming down to look into the room through the keyhole. Both the landlord and his wife later claimed they both looked through the keyhole and saw sexual intimacy between Pratt and Smith, so the landlord broke open the door to confront them. Bonill was absent, but returned a few minutes later with a jug of ale. The landlord went to fetch a policeman and all three men were arrested.[1]

    Pratt, Smith and Bonill were tried on 21 September 1835 at the Central Criminal Court, before Baron Gurney,[4] a judge who had the reputation of being independent and acute, but also harsh.[5] Pratt and Smith were convicted under section 15 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828, which had replaced the 1533 Buggery Act, and were sentenced to death.[Note 1][Note 2] William Bonill was convicted as an accessory[6] and sentenced to 14 years of penal transportation.[4] James Pratt was a groom,[3] who lived with his wife and children at Deptford, London. A number of witnesses came forward to testify to his good character.[1] John Smith was from Southwark Christchurch[1] and was described in court proceedings[4] and newspaper reports as an unmarried labourer[2] although other sources state he was married and worked as a servant.[3] At the trial, no character witnesses came forward to testify on his behalf.[4]

    The conviction of the three men rested entirely on what the landlord and his wife claimed to have witnessed through the keyhole; there was no other evidence against them. One modern commentator has cast doubt on their testimony, based on the narrow field of vision afforded by a keyhole and the range of acts the couple claimed to have witnessed during the brief length of time they were looking.[7]
    The magistrate Hensleigh Wedgwood, who had committed the three men to trial,[8] subsequently wrote to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russel, arguing for the commutation of the death sentences, stating:
    “It is the only crime where there is no injury done to any individual and in consequence it requires a very small expense to commit it in so private a manner and to take such precautions as shall render conviction impossible. It is also the only capital crime that is committed by rich men but owing to the circumstances I have mentioned they are never convicted.”
    Wedgwood described the men as “degraded creatures” in another letter. Nevertheless, he argued that the law was unfair in their case as wealthy men who wished to have sex could easily afford a private space in which to do it with virtually no chance of discovery. Pratt and Smith were condemned only because they could only afford to use a room in a lodging house, in which they were easily spied upon.[9]
    On 5 November 1835, Charles Dickens and the newspaper editor John Black visited Newgate Prison; Dickens wrote an account of this in Sketches by Boz and described seeing Pratt and Smith while they were being held there:[10]
    “The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other was leaning on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him, and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks in the opposite wall.”

    — A Visit to Newgate
    The jailer who was escorting Dickens confidently predicted to him that the two would be executed and was proven correct. Seventeen individuals were sentenced to death at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court for offences that included burglary, robbery and attempted murder. On 21 November, all were granted remission of their death sentences under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy with the exceptions of Pratt and Smith.[11] This was despite an appeal for mercy submitted by the men’s wives that was heard by the Privy Council.[12]

    Pratt and Smith were hanged in front of Newgate Prison on the morning of 27 November. The crowd of spectators was described in a newspaper report as larger than usual;[13] this was possibly because the hanging was the first to have taken place at Newgate in nearly two years.[14][Note 3] The event was sufficiently notable for a printed broadside to be published and sold. This described the men’s trial and included the purported text of a final letter that was claimed to have been written by John Smith to a friend.[15]
    William Bonill was one of 290 prisoners transported to Australia on the ship Asia, which departed England on 5 November 1835 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) on 21 February 1836.[16] Bonill died at the New Norfolk Hospital in Van Diemen’s Land on 29 April 1841.[17]

    Newspaper Reports on the Execution

    Monday 23 November 1835

    On Saturday the Recorder made his report to his Majesty, at Brighton, of the undermentioned capital convicts under sentence of death in Newgate, convicted at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court: – . . . Robert Swan, 28; for robbery. John Smith, 49, and James Pratt, 30, for an unnatural crime. . . . to all of whom his Majesty has extended his royal mercy, except John Smith and James Pratt, who are left for execution on Friday next. (London Standard)

    Saturday 28 November 1835

     RECORDER’S REPORT – On Friday the Recorder made his Report to his Majesty in Council at Brighton, of the prisoners who were capitally convicted at the September and October Sessions of the Central Criminal Court: – viz James Pratt and John Smith, for a nameless offence, committed in the borough of Southwark; Robert Swan, for extorting money from Thomas Reynolds, a Quaker, under a threat of accusing him of a nameless offence; R. Lavender, D. Ward, B. Vines, M. Collins, J. Coleman, and M. Harris, for burglary; . . . [and others] all of whom his Majesty was graciously pleased to respite, except James Pratt and John Smith, upon whom the law is left to take its course, and who were ordered for execution yesterday. The Council were in deliberation a considerable time on the case of Robert Swan, and did not break up until half-past eight o’clock in the evening. The Recorder came immediately to town by post, and made known the result of the Council to the Governor of Newgate, who lost no time in communicating it to the convicts whose cases had been reported. (Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette; virtually the same report appeared in the Derby Mercury for 25 Nov. 1835, the Manchester Courier for 29 Nov. 1835, and many others)
    Charles Dickens, in his essay “A Visit to Newgate” published in Sketches by Boz in 1836, describes his visit to the press-room of the condemned ward of Newgate where he saw Pratt and Smith awaiting their execution, together with Joseph Swan who would eventually be transported rather than executed (for extortion involving the threat to swear sodomy against someone – see Newspaper Reports for 1835). All three men were kept separate from the other condemned men becasue of the sodomitical nature of their offences, and Swann also distanced himself from Pratt and Smith because he was a blackmailer of sodomites rather than a sodomite himself.
    In the press-room below, were three men, the nature of whose offence rendered it necessary to separate them, even from their companions in guilt. It is a long, sombre room, with two windows sunk into the stone wall, and here the wretched men are pinioned on the morning of their execution, before moving towards the scaffold. The fate of one of these prisoners [Swan] was uncertain; some mitigatory circumstances having come to light since his trial, which had been humanely represented in the proper quarter. The other two [Pratt and Smith] had nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown; their doom was sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of their crime, and they well knew that for them there was no hope in this world. ‘The two short ones,’ the turnkey whispered, ‘were dead men.’ 
              The man to whom we have alluded as entertaining some hopes of escape [i.e. Swan], was lounging, at the greatest distance he could place between himself and his companions, in the window nearest to the door. He was probably aware of our approach, and had assumed an air of courageous indifference; his face was purposely averted towards the window, and he stirred not an inch while we were present. The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One of them [probably Smith], who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other [probably Pratt] was leaning on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him, and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks in the opposite wall. We passed this room again afterwards. The first man [i.e. Swan] was pacing up and down the court with a firm military step – he had been a soldier in the foot-guards – and a cloth cap jauntily thrown on one side of his head. He bowed respectfully to our conductor, and the salute was returned. The other two still remained in the positions we have described, and were as motionless as statues.

    Saturday 28 November 1835

    EXECUTION.
    Yesterday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged 32, and John Smith, aged 34, who were convicted at the September Sessions of the Central Criminal Court of a capital offence. The Sheriffs arrived at Newgate about half-past seven o’clock, and immediately proceeded to visit the prisoners, whom they found engaged in prayer with the Rev. Mr. Cotton, the chaplain of the gaol, and Mr. Baker. Both the culprits appeared in a very weak state, and when eight o’clock arrived, the hour of execution, it was found necessary almost to carry them from their cell to the press room. Pratt, especially, appeared dreadfull weak and dejected. While Smith was being pinioned, Pratt appeared to suffer dreadfully. His groans resounded through the prison, and while he was pinioning he repeatedly exclaimed, “Oh God, this is horrible, this is indeed horrible.” He at this time was so weak that the executioner’s assistants found it necessary to hold him in their arms to prevent him from falling to the ground. All the preparations having been completed the melancholy procession proceeded to the scaffold, and in the room leading from the debtors’ door, as it is called, the ceremony of delivering up the prisoners to the Sheriffs of Middlesex was performed by Mr. Cope, the Governor of Newgate. Smith was the first who ascended the scaffold, and immediately afterwards Pratt was also assisted up the seps and placed under a beam. The moment the culprits were perceived they were received with groans and hisses, which lasted during the whole of the time the hangman was making the necessary preparations. These having been performed the bolt was drawn, and after a very short struggle the culprits ceased to exist. Pratt was a married man, the other culprit was single. (Morning Post)

    Sunday 29 November 1835

    EXECUTION. – On Friday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged thirty-two, and John Smith, aged thirty-four, who were convicted at the September session of the Central Criminal Cour, of an unnatural offence. There were very few persons present at the execution. Both the wretched men to the last moment denied their guilt; they were convicted on the testimony of their landlady. The soldier, Swan, has been respited. (The Examiner)

    Monday 30 November 1835

    LONDON,
    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23.

    Brighton, Sunday. – On Friday, his Majesty held a Privy Council, at which the Recorder attended, when two miserable convicts, John Smith and James Pratt, was ordered for execution on Friday next. In the evening, the Ministers and a large party dined with their Majesties. – This morning, their Majesties attended Divine Service in the Palace chapel. In the afternoon, the Queen attended at St. George’s chapel. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

    Monday 30 November 1835

    LONDON,
    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28.

    The two wretched culprits, James Pratt and John Smith, suffered the last penalty of the law yesterday morning in front of Newgate. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

    Wednesday 2 December 1835

    LONDON, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28.
    EXECUTION. – Yesterday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged 32, and John Smith, aged 34, who were convicted at the September sessions of the Central Criminal Court, of an unnatural offence. Thursday night Pratt was visited by a respectable Dissenting Minister. The Rev. gentleman exhorted him to repentance, and he confessed his guilt. The Sheriffs arrived at Newgate about half-past seven o’clock yesterday morning, and immiedately proceeded to visit the prisoners, whom they found engaged in prayer. While Smith was being pinioned, Pratt appeared to suffer horribly. His groans resounded through the prison, and while he was being pinioned he repeatedly exclaimed “Oh, God, this is horrible; this is indeed horrible!” He at this time was so weak that the executioner’s assistants found it necessary to hold him in their arms, to prevent him from falling to the ground. All the preparations having been completed, the melancholy procession proceeded towards the scaffold, which was first ascended by Smith with a firm step, but his companion needed support to the last moment. The executioner with amazing celerity adjusted the ropes, and cause the plank to fall which closed the world upon them. The crowd was excessive, but exceedingly decorous. (Hereford Journal)

    The following is an account of the case, with personal observations, by Father Frank Ryan & Peter Tatchell, who were convinced that the men were innocent!

    Father Frank Ryan casts new doubt on the 1835 convictions
    The wrongful conviction & execution of James Pratt & John Smith for ‘buggery’ in 1835
    By Father Frank Ryan
    The last Saturday of August 1835 was a beautiful hot day. James Pratt (30) left his wife and two young daughters in Deptford, searching for work – promising to return by 6pm. He was a labourer and needed a better job.
    Pratt first visited his aunt in Holborn, before heading to Blackfriars. His aunt thought he’d had too much to drink and needed a rest, but he pressed on. In an ale house he met John Smith, a labourer aged 40, and William Bonill (sometimes spelled Bonell), aged 68. Neither could offer him a job to improve his financial situation but their company was hospitable. Bonill invited Pratt and Smith back to his rented flat and they accepted.
    Little did they know as they made their way to his premises in nearby George Street, that this encounter would result in their execution – and that Bonill would be banished to the penal colony of Australia – all within a mere three months.
    The landlords of 45 George Street, Southwark, Jane and George (also known as John) Berkshire, were determined to curtail the activities of their tenant, William Bonill, who they regarded as an “old villain.” He had been bringing male “couples” back to his flat on a regular basis; sometimes two a day. George was determined to put a stop to this practice and get rid of what he regarded as a disagreeable and troublesome lodger.
    Shortly after the three men arrived, the suspicious, antagonistic George spied into Bonill’s room through a nearby window. A little later, over tea, he told his wife that he saw Pratt sitting on Bonill’s knees and then on Smith’s. There was much laughing and conversation, he said. Jane slipped upstairs and peeped through Bonhill’s keyhole. After a brief look, she returned to tell her husband that she had witnessed sexual acts. He became enraged, went upstairs and also looked through the keyhole. He then burst into the room to confront Pratt and Smith, who were in a compromising position, according to George Berkshire.
    At this point, Bonill, who had gone out for a drink, returned and entered the room. An effort to calm down Berkshire was unsuccessful. George went off to seek the police.
    Pratt, Smith and Bonill were soon arrested and taken into custody. Pratt and Smith were charged with ‘buggery’ (anal sex) and Bonill as an accessory. They went on trial for their lives before Judge Baron Gurney at the Old Bailey on 21 September 1835.
    The arresting police officer had no material evidence to support the charge. The account that Jane Berkshire told the jury is improbable. She said she watched for less minute but claimed to have witnessed the alleged sex acts, from the men undressing to laying on the floor and the “appearance” of anal penetration. She said she saw the men’s private parts but did not answer when asked whether either man had an erection. It seems doubtful that the keyhole could have provided the range of vision needed to see what she claimed.
    The testimony of George was very similar to Jane’s. It had a whiff of coordination. His evidence supported the charge that buggery had taken place. However, he failed to testify if the men had an erection or if he had seen actual penetration; though he claimed to have sighted their genitals and their bodies in motion.
    The anatomical description of intimacy described by George Berkshire would have been very difficult to witness. As in the case with Jane’s testimony, the keyhole probably could not have provided a sufficient angle of sight to provide the evidence he imparted to the jury.
    Neither James Pratt nor John Smith were allowed to give evidence at their trial. Both pleaded “not guilty” to the charge. Nevertheless, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
    The law against ‘buggery’ (not repealed until 2003) was based on an interpretation of the Bible that regarded homosexual acts as an abomination and worthy of death; a particularly evil sin that must be severely punished and eradicated. It was a capital crime.
    The judge had no hesitation in sentencing James Pratt and John Smith to death. He warned them their chances on appeal were hopeless and they could expect no reprieve. They had to prepare, he said, to receive God’s judgement upon departing this life. Both men left the dock in tears.
    William Bonill was sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia. He died in Tasmania in 1841.
    As well as Pratt and Smith, there were many death sentences for different crimes handed down during the autumn 1835. The process of petitioning for clemency and commutation began.
    While being held in Newgate Prison, Pratt and Smith were visited by Charles Dickens who wrote they “had nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown, their doom was sealed.” The turnkey whispered to Dickens that they were “dead men.”
    John Smith, it seems, had no friends. But the friends of James Pratt commenced a vigorous campaign to save him. They gathered a substantial petition which included the trial prosecutor, former employers, neighbours and even George and Jane Berkshire, their accusers.
    All the documents were prepared for a Privy Council meeting with the King, William IV, to be held in Brighton.
    On 24 November, 12 men sentenced to death were reprieved by the King’s mercy. Pratt and Smith were not among them. Judge Baron Gurney’s warning had prevailed. In their case, the law was to be allowed to take its course.
    News of the pending execution spread around London, confirmed by the erection of the scaffold outside Newgate Prison.
    On Friday 27 November, the two prisoners were taken from their cells and brought to the place of execution, still protesting their innocence. Pratt was weak and had to be helped up the scaffold. The crowd began to hiss, possibly in disagreement with the execution. These were probably the last sounds the men heard. The hangman pulled the bolt and after a short struggle on the rope Pratt and Smith were dead.
    They are buried in a common grave, with others executed at Newgate, in the City Cemetery, Manor Park, London E12.
    In 2014, I petitioned the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling MP, to grant a posthumous pardon to James Pratt and John Smith on the grounds that even by the standards of those days their convictions were unsafe. Further, the ‘buggery’ law itself was unjust. Consenting adult homosexuality should have not been a crime.
    In reply, the Justice Ministry regretted the men’s execution, acknowledging that it should never have happened, but said the conditions for granting a pardon had not been met. However, since the pardoning of Alan Turing for same-sex relations has established a legal precedent, hopefully the Justice Minister will, with further pressure, re-examine the case and grant a long overdue pardon to Pratt and Smith.
    • The full story of Pratt and Smith is retold in the book, The law to take its course – Redeeming the past, securing our future. It is available as a self-printed manuscript from the author, Father Frank Ryan, for the cost of printing (about £14): fmryan33@hotmail.com 
    • The book and this article are based on Ryan’s original research at the National Archives, British Library and London Metropolitan Archives, plus newspapers reports. 

    • This article was written by Frank Ryan, with the assistance of Peter Tatchell.



    And what of William Bonill?

    Convicted on the 25 September, 1835 to 14 years transportation at the Old Bailey, in London. He was shipped onboard the convict shop “Asia” on the 5 November 1835, to Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land).

    He arrived in Tasmania on the 21 February 1836. He died on the 29 April 1841. 

    We have an entry from the Daily Sick Book, onboard the Asia “William Bonill, aged 71, Convict; disease or hurt, febris ephemera. Put on sick list, 9 November 1835. Discharged, 14 November 1835. Folio 2: ”

    There does not appear to be any other records for him.

    Notes

    1.  In the period from 1810 to 1835, 46 people convicted of sodomy were hanged and 32 sentenced to death but reprieved. A further 716 were imprisoned or sentenced to the pillory, before its use was restricted in 1816 (See: Lauterbach and Alber (2009), p.49).
    2. The sentence of death was mandatory, but under the Judgement of Death Act 1823, Gurney would have had the power to commute it to imprisonment.
    3. ^Pratt and Smith were the only people to be executed at Newgate in the three year period 1834–1836; this partial, temporary moratorium may have been for political reasons and because of a change in the law. Prior to 1834, individuals had been executed for any of 20 different offences; after 1836, only convicted murderers were hanged outside Newgate, until the ending of public execution in 1868. See A history of London’s Newgate Prison

    References 1

    •  Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0, 08 March 2013), September 1835 (t18350921)
    • “Execution”. The Morning Post (20273). London. November 28, 1835.
    • Cook et al (2007), p.109
    • Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0, 26 December 2012), September 1835, trial of JOHN SMITH JAMES PRATT WILLIAM BONILL (t18350921-1934).
    • Hamilton, J.A. (2004). “Oxford DNB article: Gurney, Sir John (subscription needed)”. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
    • “Central Criminal Court, Saturday, Sept. 26.”. The Times (15906). London. September 28, 1835. p. 4.
    • Ryan, Frank (24 March 2015). “Pratt & Smith – Last UK men hanged for sodomy”. Peter Thatchell Foundation. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
    • Cocks (2010) p.38
    •  Upchurch (2009), p.112.
    •  Lauterbach and Alber (2009), p.49
    • “Multiple News Items”. The Standard (2664). London. November 23, 1835.
    • Cook et al (2007), p.110
    •  “Execution”. The Times (15959). London. November 28, 1835. p. 3.
    • “A history of London’s Newgate prison.”. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
    • Anonymous, “The Particulars of the Execution of James Pratt & John Smith” (1835), London printed by T. Birt. OCLC 83814830, Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collection
    • “Asia voyage to Van Diemen’s Land, Australia in 1835 with 290 passengers”. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
    • William Bonill”. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 14 October 2013.

    Bibliography

    1. Cocks, Dr Harry (2010). Nameless Offences, Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century. I.B.Taurus & Co. ISBN 9781848850903.
    2. Cook, Matt; Mills, Robert; Trumback, Randolph; Cocks, Harry (2007). A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages. Greenwood World Publishing. ISBN 1846450020.
    3. Lauterbach, Frank; Alber, Jan (2009). Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802098975.
    4. Upchurch, Charles (2009). Before Wilde: Sex between Men in Britain’s Age of Reform. University of California Press. ISBN 0520258533.

    References 2

    Extinguishment of Historical Homosexual Convictions in NSW

    On 24 November 2014, the Criminal Records Act 1991 (the ‘Act’) was amended to allow historical homosexual offences to be extinguished.

    Homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW in 1984, but prior to this time consensual sex between gay men was a criminal act. People with convictions for these historical offences have dealt with the stigma of a criminal conviction for a ‘sex’ offence which can affect employment opportunities, volunteering and travel. These amendments will allow a person with an eligible historical homosexual conviction to apply to the Secretary of the Department of Justice to have the conviction extinguished.
    Under the changes made to the Act, the Secretary has the authority to decide that an eligible conviction should be extinguished but only if if he or she is satisfied that the other person involved in the sexual activity consented to the sexual activity and was above the age of consent. The Secretary has powers under the Act to require certain persons or bodies to provide information for the purposes of making a decision under the Act.
    Applications may be made to the Department of Justice to have the following offences extinguished:

    • Buggery (s79 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Attempted Buggery (s80 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Indecent Assault on a male (s81 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Act of Indecency with another male person (or procuring) (s81A Crimes Act 1900)
    • Soliciting or inciting offences under ss79, 81 or 81A of the Crimes Act 1900 (s81B Crimes Act 1900)
    • Homosexual intercourse with a male over the relevant age (s 78K Crimes Act 1900)
    • Attempt or assault with intent to have homosexual intercourse with a male over the relevant age (s 78L Crimes Act 1900)
    • Acts of gross indecency with a male person under 18 (or procures) (s78Q Crimes Act 1900)- but only if the other person was over the relevant age
    • Indecent behaviour (s12 Police Offences Act 1901) or behaving in an indecent or offensive manner (s7 Summary Offences Act 1970) if the offence involved:
    • Sexual activity with another person of the same sex, or
    • Procuring another person of the same sex to engage in sexual activity.
    • ​​Exposure or an indecent act committed by an adult (s43(b) Crimes Act 1900), indecent exposure (s11 Summary Offences Act 1970; s78 Police Offences Act 1901) or wilful and obscene exposure (s6 Offences in Public Places Act 1979; s12 Summary Offences Act 1970; s4(2)(d) Vagrancy Act 1902) if the offence involved:
    • ​​The offender engaged in a form of sexual activity with a person of the same sex, and
    • ​​The offenc​e was not witnessed by​ anyone except the other person engaged in the sexual activity or a police officer, and
    • It was the offender’s first conviction for the offence.

    Reference

    Gay History: Piers Gaveston & Edward II

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    Piers Gaveston Executed
    By Richard Cavendish

    Published in History Today Volume 62 Issue 6 June 2012

    Richard Cavendish remembers the royal favourite who died on June 19th, 1312.

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    Soaring up from a comparatively humble background, King Edward II’s favourite flew too high and paid the penalty. Piers Gaveston was born around 1284, the son of a Gascon lord, who gave many years of loyal service to Edward I. In his early teens Piers became a member of the royal household. In 1300 he was moved to that of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward II. They were both about 16, took to each other and an extremely close friendship developed. There were many at the time who thought it was a homosexual relationship, but some modern historians see it as more like close brotherly love. The two may have been sworn blood-brothers and Edward referred to Gaveston as ‘my brother Piers’. Edward would have four children by his French queen, Isabella, but he could have been bisexual.

    Whatever the exact nature of the relationship, it spelled trouble. In 1307 Edward I banished Gaveston from England, though he was to be paid an allowance while awaiting recall, but the king died soon afterwards and the new king immediately brought Gaveston back to his side, made him Earl of Cornwall and bestowed on him an extremely well-connected aristocratic wife and substantial quantities of land and money. Edward II was not remotely the man his father was and he had serious trouble with some of his father’s most powerful barons, who bitterly resented being sidelined by a man they considered an arrogant, greedy upstart.

    In 1308 Edward allowed Gaveston a provocatively prominent role in his coronation and the ensuing banquet, at which he paid so much attention to the favourite that Queen Isabella’s French relatives walked out. The king was forced to send Gaveston away to Ireland later that year, but he was back in 1309 and resumed his dominant position at court as Edward’s principal adviser and controller of royal patronage. He behaved as arrogantly as ever and allegedly bestowed disparaging nicknames on leading figures in the realm. Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick was ‘the Black Dog of Arden’, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke was ‘Joseph the Jew’ and the generally much-respected Earl of Lincoln was ‘Burst Belly’. By March 1310 opposition had mounted to such a point that the king had to agree to the appointment of the Lords Ordainers, a committee of 21 earls, barons and bishops who were to draw up rules for the management of the royal household and the realm. Meanwhile the king led a military campaign in Scotland that failed to subdue Robert the Bruce.

    In August 1311 the Ordainers produced their new rules and demanded that Gaveston be sent into exile and never allowed to return. The horrified Edward offered to agree to the changes if Gaveston was allowed to stay, but the Ordainers would have none of it and in November the favourite left the country. He was back in England again by the following January, however, and Edward announced that Gaveston’s exile had been unlawful, restoring all his confiscated possessions.

    The country was now threatened with civil war as the barons gathered their private armies. The Earl of Lancaster (who was Edward I’s nephew) almost caught the king and Gaveston in Newcastle, but they just managed to escape and fled by sea to Scarborough, where Edward left Gaveston and went to York. Gaveston was besieged in Scarborough Castle by the earls of Pembroke and Warwick. In May Gaveston surrendered to Pembroke on condition that, if no agreement could be reached with the king by August 1st, he would be sent back to Scarborough Castle, which was not to be reinforced in the meantime. Pembroke took Gaveston to a town called Deddington, south of Banbury, and left him there for the moment. On the following day, to the dismay of Pembroke, who had guaranteed Gaveston’s safety, the favourite was seized by the Earl of Warwick and taken to Warwick, where he was paraded past a jeering crowd and put in a dungeon in the castle.

    Lancaster and Warwick decided that Gaveston must die. After some pretence of a trial, apparently, he was taken to Blacklow Hill, not far from Warwick, on land that belonged to Lancaster, and run through with a sword before his head was cut off. He would have been about 28 years old.

    Gaveston’s body was left lying there to rot, but was later rescued, embalmed and eventually buried in the Dominican friary at King’s Langley in Hertfordshire. In 1823 a monument was erected on Blacklow Hill by the local squire on the spot where Gaveston was thought to have been executed. The disapproving inscription describes him as ‘the Minion of a hateful King’ beheaded ‘by Barons as lawless as himself.’



    Reference

    History Today http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/piers-gaveston-executed

    “Edward II and Piers Gaveston” – detail of an engraving from a painting by Marcus Stone (1840-1921). Edward and Piers are on the left, Queen Isabella and the disapproving courtiers watch on.

      Further Reading

      1. http://queerstoryfiles.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/fate-that-waited-7-centuries.html
      2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piers_Gaveston,_1st_Earl_of_Cornwall
      3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piers_Gaveston_Society
      4. https://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2015/08/29/scandalanddownfallofpiersgaveston/
      5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9264564/Piers-Gaveston-bending-the-monarchs-ear-and-will.html

      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: 1578 – Five Sodomite Monks Executed in (Calvinist) Ghent

      DescriptionExecution of Monks in Ghent because of Sodomy, 28 June 1578; Five monks accused of sodomy about to be burnt at the stake, left, and three others flogged, background centre, in Ghent town square. 1578 Etching
      On June 28, 1578, five Catholic monks were burnt to death in Ghent for homosexuality.

      At our scene in the Spanish-controlled Low Countries, the revolt that would become known as the Eighty Years’ War and secure Dutch independence still had about 70 of those years to run.
      Stadtholder William of Orange, aka William the Silent, has his hands full with the Habsburg forces determined to crush their disobedient subjects.

      Half civil war, half proto-nationalist revolution, this conflict overlaid disputes over both political and religious authority, complicated by a catastrophic Spanish bankruptcy.

      Of this compelling history much beyond our scope, the piece of most moment for our unfortunate monks was a grudging agreement to chill out the sectional suppression as part of a temporary truce between the warring sides. Said “slackening of persecution inspired Reformed public worship and attempts to topple the Catholic stewpot.” (Source)

      Late in 1577, a political coup in the commercial powerhouse of Ghent did just that, part of a mini-Renaissance of Calvinist city-republics that Spanish arms would truncate in the 1580’s. But here in the 1570’s, the newly elevated slate of Calvinists implemented a “Reform” agenda that included aggressive moves against Catholic authority.

      On 18-22 May [1578], the Reformed launched an attack on the four mendicant monasteries. Their churches were purified and made ready for Reformed worship. On 1 June the first public preaching was organized in the Dominican and Carmelite churches. (Source, a pdf)

      Rumors of homosexuality in the religious orders swept the overheated city (assuming they were not put about intentionally), and this day opened a summer’s terror that saw 14 monks burned (pdf) for the love that dare not speak its name.

      Kenneth Borris translates the inscription on the Franz Hogenberg image linked above thus:

      “five monks are being burned in Flanders, in the city of Ghent. Four are Franciscans (Minnenbruder*) and the fifth Augustinian. Also three have been quickly flogged with switches on the market square as they deserve, because of their outrageous sexual offenses (unzuchtt) that greatly offended the authorities. That is why the four mendicant orders have now been driven out of Ghent.”

      William the Silent, made of more statesmanlike stuff than these zealots, would actually enter Ghent himself the next year to disarm the ruling clique, realizing that firebrands were driving Catholic cities back into Spanish arms.

      But he could not contain the schism. Spain ultimately kept the Catholic-leaning territories that today comprise Luxembourg and Belgium (including Ghent), while the Protestant Netherlands fought onward to independence.

      * “Minnenbroder,” Borris explains, “may be a satiric pun on the word minne (which had come to mean debauchery), suggesting ‘brothers in lust’ as opposed to brotherly love. Hogenberg connects sodomy with ‘godlessness,’ as was common.”

      References

      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: Ali bin Hittan bin Said, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad, and Muhammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah – 2002

      The three men – ‘Ali bin Hittan bin Sa’id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin ‘Abdullah, all Saudi Arabian nationals, were publicly beheaded in Abha, Asir province, on 1 January 2002.

      The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior issued a statement announcing that the three were convicted of homosexual acts, adding vaguely-worded charges of ‘luring Children’s rights and harming others’ without providing any further details. The trial proceedings – like most in Saudi Arabia – remain shrouded in secrecy.
      Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen said:
      ‘The execution of these three men is yet another gesture of defiance of international standards by the Saudi Arabian government.
      Widespread revulsion at these killings has led Amnesty International members to urgently contact the Saudi authorities expressing concern that these men may have been executed primarily because of their sexual orientation and seeking clarification of the exact charges and evidence brought against them.’
      No detailed information regarding the trial proceedings for these individuals is yet known. Amnesty International is now also seeking urgent clarification of the names of any further prisoners under sentence of death due to their sexual orientation and calling for the commutation of their sentences.
      This case is not an isolated case of people in Saudi Arabia being punished for alleged same-sex sexual relations. In April 2000 it was reported that a Saudi court had sentenced nine young men to prison sentences and up to 2,600 lashes each for ‘deviant sexual behaviour’. Six men were executed in July 2000 on charges partly relating to their sexual orientation and Amnesty International feared that these six may in fact have been among the nine men sentenced to the flogging and prison sentences. Like the recent executions, these six death penalties were carried out in Abha, Asir province.
      This latest action by Amnesty International follows the publication last year of a report – Crimes of hate, conspiracy of silence – revealing that over 70 countries continue to criminalise same-sex relations, with some such ‘offences’ incurring the death penalty.
      “Saudi Shame

      Maryam Namazie

      Published in Gay Times

      June 2005

      Gay people are routinely facing harassment, arrest, torture, flogging and execution in Saudi Arabia. It’s no wonder the gay rights group OutRage! has labelled Saudi Arabia one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

      In May alone, as many as 92 men were arrested as ‘deviants’. On March 10, over 100 men were arrested after a raid for attending a gay wedding and found to be dancing and ‘behaving like women’. According to Amnesty International, 31 of the men were sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months to a year and up to 200 lashes each; four namely two Saudi Arabians, a Jordanian and a Yemeni were given two years’ imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. As is usual in Saudi Arabia, the sentences were passed in a closed session in which defence lawyers were barred. According to Human Rights Watch, the more than 70 men who had initially been released were subsequently summoned back and informed they had also been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment each.
      These arrests closely follow the public beheading of Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, two gay lovers in Arar, in the north, for allegedly murdering a man who had found out about their relationship and was threatening to out them. The Saudi Interior Ministry’s statement announcing the execution said the two were found in a ‘shameful situation’, a term which is regularly used by the authorities to refer to homosexuality.
      Whilst the reports are alarming, and seem to be escalating, one can be certain that these are only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases of persecution go unreported for the mere reason that the government is a dictatorship with strict censorship rules. For every report that reaches the international media and organisations, there are thousands of nameless, faceless individuals whose fate goes unreported. Under such circumstances, it is exceedingly difficult to collect facts and highlight the persecution gay people face. In the case of those arrested at the party for example, it was someone close to a defendant who alerted international organisations of the arrests and not official reports. The Saudi authorities seldom release information about arrests until after a trial and it is impossible to independently verify reports. All Saudi executions are also not systematically reported; officials continue to deny that the death penalty is applied for homosexuality ‘alone’. Of course there is evidence otherwise. On 1 January 2002, for example, Ali bin Hittan bin Sa’id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin ‘Abdullah were executed in Abha, Asir province, solely for their sexual orientation. And this is not a problem faced by gays in Saudi Arabia alone. In Iran, for example, on March 15, a government affiliated newspaper, Etemad, reported on the execution sentence of two men for homosexuality. No further reports have been received and their fate is unknown.
      The abysmal situation of gay people in Saudi Arabia has to be looked at within the context of serious rights violations across the board. The beheadings of the two gay lovers in Arar brought the numbers beheaded for a variety of reasons this year alone to 24. People living in Saudi Arabia don’t have basic rights and freedoms and human rights violations are truly pervasive. Like all countries under Islamic rule, though, sexual ‘crimes’ are dealt with most severely because of their ‘shamefulness’ and ‘perversity’, especially since an Islamic state is usually most preoccupied with the control of sexuality and sex in order to assert its own ‘divine’ and ‘moral’ legitimacy.
      Certainly, Islam is not unlike other religions when it comes to sex and sexuality. It is just as inherently homophobic and misogynist as other religions but there is one important fundamental difference and that is that it is a religion in power or vying for power in many countries in the 21st century. Homosexuality is condemned as ‘indecency’, ‘lewdness’, ‘degenerate’, ‘transgressing beyond bounds’ and in need of ‘punishment’ in the Koran. In the Hadith, which are the sayings of the prophet Mohammad and part of Sharia or Islamic laws, it clearly states: ‘Kill the one who sodomises and the one who lets it be done to him.’ Under Islamic Hudud laws, ‘illicit’ gay or straight sex are considered offences for which the punishment is mandatory and corporal in nature – including flogging, execution and stoning to death. These ancient religious texts become all the more relevant because they are translated into the laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and effect real live human beings. Whilst according to Amnesty International, more than 80 countries around the world criminalise same sex relations, eight punish it by death (Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria – in states practising Sharia law, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, and Yemen) – all of which one might add are countries or parts of countries under Islamic law.
      This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an active gay community in Saudi Arabia, Iran or elsewhere or that gay tourists will be beheaded upon entry. Despite serious repercussions, people continue to live their lives, have sex and express their sexuality. Most Saudi cities have underground gay networks, which organise private parties. Some visitors find this pleasantly surprising and therefore mistakenly conclude that restrictions and repercussions are exaggerated. They are not. Or they often consider the legal restrictions and impositions as part of the ‘people’s culture and religion’ rather than that of the ruling class’. These visitors fail to make a distinction between the regime imposing these inhuman and medieval laws and the people forced to live under them.
      Of course homophobia exists everywhere including in countries that do not impose Islamic law. But Islam in power or political Islam has raised homophobia to another dimension. Those of us who have fled political Islam know full well the levels of threats and intimidation those with ‘unchaste’ and ‘perverse’ lifestyles have faced and continue to face. The political Islam behind the arrests, floggings, and beheadings in Saudi Arabia is part of the same right wing reactionary movement, which hung sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi from a city square in Iran for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’, beheaded prostitutes in Iraq and recently stoned to death a 29 year old woman, Amina, accused by her husband of adultery, in Afghanistan. [As I mentioned, in many cases, we are left with only a first name or no name at all.]
      This movement is also permeating into life in Britain and the west as well. Demands for child veiling, Islamic schools and a Sharia court in Britain for Muslims as well as Ken Livingstone’s love affair with al-Qaradawi are all evidence of this fact. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, political Islam kills, maims and brutalises, but here the ‘moderate Islamic scholar’ Qaradawi’s support for women’s ‘modesty’ and his condemnation of sexual acts as ‘perversions’ are deemed mere abstract questions of freedom of speech or academic/theological debates. Don’t be fooled. They are all part and parcel of the same movement and implement Islamic rules as soon as they have any power. [By the way, it was also an ‘Islamic scholar’ who issued the sentence for Amina’s stoning to death in Afghanistan.]
      The rise of political Islam here in Britain is affecting countless women, gays, and others who have sought refuge and safety in Britain from it. Moreover, whilst the UK government has close relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, it continues to refuse and deport its victims. Just last year, Hussein Nasseri, 26, a gay man who feared he would be executed if he were deported to Iran killed himself after the Home Office turned down his second appeal for asylum.
      To make matters worse, any attempt to criticise Islamic laws and states are now being deemed racist and Islamophobic. Even the Saudi government itself has labelled criticism of its policies and practices as such. Clearly though, the targets of racism and discrimination are human beings not beliefs or ideas belonging to or attributed to them nor social or political movements associated with belief systems. Such labels are often used by Islamic states and their apologists in the west to silence any criticism and opposition.
      Nonetheless, the Saudi government and its likes need to know that the world is watching them when they abuse rights with such impunity. They cannot be allowed to torture, imprison and behead gay people and others under cover of secrecy and carry on with business as usual with western governments such as the UK government, which has military links with the kingdom. Most importantly, though, those being abused and violated need to know they are not alone. That they are not just nameless, faceless individuals languishing in prison or facing torture and execution. They need to know that there are other people all over the world who will not stand by and remain silent.”
      References

      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: Three Molly-House Sodomites – 1726

      May 9th, 1726.

      Nine men and one notorious women died at Tyburn on this date in 1726 at a more than usually raucous execution-day.“At the Place of Execution, Map got himself loose, threw himself out of the Halter, and jump’d 3 or 4 Yards from the Cart, upon the Heads of the numerous Crowd of People, but the Officers following after him, wounded him with their Pikes, and the Executioner and some others soon brought him back again,” the Ordinary’s account remarked. “Vigous got himself free of the Halter also, which was immediately observ’d: Gillingham was the more desirous of Prayers, having the Night before taken Poyson, and conscious of his Guilt.”

      And that’s just what was happening under the nooses.

      Out in the audience,

      Just before the Execution, a Scaffold that had been built near Tyburn, and had about 150 People upon it, fell down. A Snuff Box Maker in Castle-Street, and a Gentleman then not known, were, as ’tis believed, mortally Wounded; and about 12 other Men and Women, Maimed and Wounded in a most cruel Manner: Some having their Legs, others their Arms, &c. broke.

      Some part of the Scaffold being left standing, the Mob gathered upon it again in Numbers; and in about Half an Hour more, that also fell down, and several were hurt. Soon after another Scaffold broke down, with about 100 Persons upon it; but the People that were damaged by it, being immediately carried off on Mens Backs, and in Coaches, we must defer the Particulars of that Mischief … (Daily Journal, May 10, 1726)

      We will leave for a future May 9th the notorious fate of the woman, Catherine Hayes, and focus for this post on the fate of the notorious men: sodomites Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright.

      A mere three months before, this trio had been among dozens of men rounded up in a raid on London’s thriving “molly house”.

      These establishments catered to what we might anachronistically call the gay scene of Georgian London — or the molly scene, if you like, from the slang term for effeminate, cross-dressing, or homosexual men encompassing a panoply of alternate sexual identities and preferences. What these behaviors “among Christians not to be named” had in common, of course, was the opprobrium of the surrounding world.

      Rictor Norton, who keeps the voluminous Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century Enland site and wrote a book about Mother Clap’s Molly House, records a 1726 letter to the editor demanding an exemplary punishment to check the misuse of genitalia.

      It being too notorious, that there are vile Clubs of Miscreants in and about this City, who meet to Practise and Propagate the detestable Sin of Sodomy, a Crime which drew down the flaming Vengeance of God upon the City of Sodom, in a Day when they had not that Light which we are bless’d with now, ’tis humbly propos’d that the following Method may not only destroy the Practice, but blot out the Names of the monstrous Wretches from under Heaven, viz. when any are Detected, Prosecuted and Convicted, that after Sentence Pronounc’d, the Common Hangman tie him Hand and Foot before the Judge’s Face in open Court, that a Skilful Surgeon be provided immediately to take out his Testicles, and that then the Hangman sear up his Scrotum with an hot Iron, as in Cases of burning in the Hand.

      Old Blighty was never favored with courtroom scrotum-searings, but connoisseurs of same-sex love “must risque our necks for” it well into the next century.

      But what pleasures welcomed the man who was ready to wager his life! An informant reported from that same Mother Clap’s that he

      found between 40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call’d it. Sometimes they would sit on one another’s Laps, kissing in a lewd Manner, and using their Hands indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the voices of Women. O, Fie, Sir! – Pray, Sir. – Dear Sir. Lord, how can you serve me so? – I swear I’ll cry out. – You’re a wicked Devil. – And you’re a bold Face. – Eh ye little dear Toad! Come, buss! – Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it.

      Several such informers were stalking the city’s molly-houses in the 1720s, goaded (or forced) by both police and private bluenoses. One of the resulting court records notes that “[t]he discovering of the Molly Houses, was chiefly owing to a Quarrel betwixt Mark Partridge and – Harrington: For upon this Quarrel Partridge to be revenged on Harrington, had blab’d something of the Secret, and afterwards gave a large Information of a great many others.”
      Many lives hung on this lover’s spat. Mother Clap’s was raided in February 1726, but it was just the most famous of a whole series that forced into public awareness “a new, distinct molly ‘sodomite’ identity.”

      The saving grace for the twoscore arrestees at Mother Clap’s was that even in Bloody Code England, a fairly high bar was required to execute for same-sex sodomy: “penetratio, that is res in re“ (“thing in thing”)* — often quite difficult to prove.** As nobody had actually been caught in flagrante delicto, most of those initially arrested were simply released un-charged.

      But the informants raise their scaly heads once more here: as they were themselves habitues of the molly circuit, they could provide firsthand eyewitness testimony about the acts of buggery several men had committed with them.

      Five men were put on trial for their lives in April on the strength of accusations made by informants Mark Partridge, Thomas Newton, and Edward Courtney. The cases are described in some detail at Norton’s site: Gabriel Lawrence and William Griffin, both 43-year-old married men, were Mother Clap regulars who implausibly claimed to have no idea it was a molly house. (The place was a coffee shop/tavern.) Griffin actually lived there. Both these men were easily condemned but refused to the end to admit their proclivities to the Newgate Ordinary, and insisted that they had been framed.

      Thomas Wright, seller of ale, had gone so far to set up his own molly house where he both slept with Newton, and procured Newton for his other customers. Wright, who “inclin’d to the Anabaptist-Way,” also said that Newton had perjured himself; nevertheless, he “could not deny his following this abominable Courses, only he refus’d to make particular Confessions.”

      A third informant keyed two additional capital trials that didn’t end at Tyburn. George Kedger (Keger) and George Whittle (Whytle) both mounted much stronger defenses casting much greater doubt on the circumstances of their entrapment.

      Charged with taking Courtney into his bed, Kedger contended that he had in fact resisted Courtney’s advances until the latter threatened to “swear my Life away”. Kedger was condemned, but pardoned. Whittle did still better by forcing his accuser to admit that he was a convict three times over and insinuating that rumors about his buggery were started by a disgruntled lodger. With a parade of character witnesses at his back, Whittle was acquitted outright.

      * This was also the standard for same-sex rape; we’ve seen in these pages a man’s life hang on a question of just the tip.

      ** Attempted buggery — a charge which could result from making a sexual advance on another man that he rejected, or as a judicial punt when same-sex activity was afoot but no penetration could be proven — might land one a fine and a trip to the pillory. This was no mean sentence; the pillory could be quite a dangerous (sometimes lethal) ordeal for homosexuals or for anyone else.

      Mother Clap herself, whose molly house we have referred to throughout this post, was also pilloried, not executed. Her eventual fate is not known; a marker in Holborn notes the former site of her famous establishment.

      Gabriel Lawrence’s Old Bailey Sodomy Trial 20th April 1726

      Gabriel Lawrence , was indicted for feloniously committing with Thomas Newton , aged 30 Years, the heinous and detestable Sin of Sodomy . Thomas Newton thus depos’d. At the End of last June, one Peter Bavidge (who is not yet taken) and – Eccleston (who dy’d last Week in Newgate) carry’d me to the House of Margaret Clap (who is now in the Compter) and there I first became acquainted with the Prisoner. Mrs. Clap’s House was next to the Bunch of Grapes in Field-lane, Holbourn . It bore the publick Character of a Place of Entertainment for Sodomites, and for the better Conveniency of her Customers, she had provided Beds in every Room in her House. She usually had 30 or 40 of such Persons there every Night, but more especially on a Sunday. I was conducted up one pair of Stairs, and by the Perswasions of Bavidge (who was present all the Time) I suffer’d the Prisoner to commit the said Crime. He has attempted the same since that Time, but I never would permit him any more. When Mrs. Clap was taken up, in February last, I went to put in Bail for her; at which Time, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Willis told me, they believ’d I could give Information, which I promis’d to do, and I went next Day, and gave Information accordingly. – Samuel Stephens thus depos’d. Mrs. Clap’s House was notorious for being a Molly-House. – In order to detect some that frequented it, I have been there several Times, and seen 20 or 30 of ’em together, making Love, as they call’d it, in a very indecent Manner. Then they used to go out by Pairs, into another Room, and at their return, they would tell what they had been doing together, which they call’d marrying. The Prisoner acknowledg’d, that he had been several Times at Clap’s House, but never knew that it was a Rendesvouz for such Persons. – He call’d several to his Character. Henry Hoxan thus depos’d. I have kept the Prisoner Company, and served him with Milk these 18 Years, for he is a Milk Man , and I am a Cow-Keeper, I have been with him at the Oxfordshire Feast, and there we have both got drink, and come Home together in a Coach, and yet he never offer’d any such thing to me. Thomas Fuller thus depos’d. The Prisoner married my Daughter, 18 Years ago; She has been dead these 7 Years, and he has a Girl by her, that is 13 Years old. – Several others deposd, that he was a very sober Man, and that they had often been in his Company when he was drunk; but never found him inclinable to such Practices. Guilty . Death . He was a 2d. Time indicted, for committing Sodomy with Mark Partridge , Nov. 10 . But being Convicted of the Former, he was not Try’d for this.

      “The Ordinary’s Account of Gabriel Lawrence.

      Gabriel Lawrence, aged 43 Years, was a Papist, and did not make any particular Confessions to me. He kept the Chapel with the rest for the most part; was always very grave,, and made frequent Responces with the rest, and said the Lord’s Prayer and Creed after me. He owned himself of the Romish Communion; but said, that he had a great Liking to the Church of England, and could communicate with them; but this I would not allow, unless he renounced his Error. He said Newton had perjured himself, and that in all his Life he had never been guilty of that detestable Sin; but that he had liv’d many Years with a Wife who had born several Children, and kept a good sober House. ——
      At the Place of Execution he said, that a certain Person had injured him when he took him before a Justice of the Peace, who committed him, in swearing or affirming, that fifteen Years ago he had been taken up for that unnatural Sin, and that it cost him Twenty Pounds, to get himself free, which, he said, was utterly false; for, ’till this Time, he was never suspected.

      He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.”

      William Griffin’s Old Bailey Sodomy Trial 20th April 1726

      William Griffin , was indicted for Committing Sodomy with Thomas Newton , May 10 . Thomas Newton thus depos’d. The Prisoner and Thomas Phillips , (who is since absconded,) were Lodgers for near 2 Years at Clap’s House. I went up stairs, while the Prisoner was a Bed, and there he committed the Act with me. Samuel Stevens depos’d, That he had seen the Prisoner, and his Gang at Clap’s House. Guilty . Death .

      “The Ordinary’s Account of William Griffin.

      William Griffin, aged forty-three Years, an Upholsterer by Trade, in Southwark; had, as he said, been a Man of good Business, but, haveing squandered away, or lost his Money, was fallen into Poverty. He denied the Fact for which he died, calling Newton, the Evidence, perjured; and saying, that the abominable Sin was always the Aversion of his Soul; for he had lived many Years with a good virtuous Wife, who had several Children, two of which, a Boy and a Girl, are living; and, he said, both of them behave mighty well, and to the Satisfaction of all concerned with them: And he hop’d that the World would not be so unjust, as to upbraid his poor Children with his unfortunate Death.
      At the Place of Execution, —— Griffin would not own the Commission of that detestable Sin.

      He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.”

      Thomas Wright’s Old Bailey Sodomite Trial 20th April 1726

      Thomas Wright , was indicted for committing Buggery with Thomas Newton . Jan 10 1724- 5. Thomas Newton thus depos’d. Last January 12 Month, the Prisoner had the Carnal Use of my Body at his own House, in Christophers Alley in Moor-fields : He was a Wooll-Comber by Trade, but he sold a Dram among such Company as came to his House. – He afterwards remov’d to Beech Lane, and there kept Rooms for the entertainment of Sodomites. He sold Ale, but he had it from other Ale-houses: He has often fetch’d me to oblige Company in that way, and especially to one Gregory Turner . William Davison and – Sellars thus depos’d. The discovering of the Molly Houses, was chiefly owing to a Quarrel betwixt Mark Partridge and – Harrington: For upon this Quarrel Partridge to be revenged on Herrington, had blab’d something of the Secret, and afterwards gave a large Information of a great many others. The Mollies had heard something of the first Discovery, but did not imagine how far he had proceeded, and what further Designs he had upon them. – By his means we were introduced to the Company, at the Prisoners Lodging’s. There were 8 or 9 of them in a large Room, one was playing upon a Fiddle, and others were one while dancing in obscene Postures, and other while Singing baudy Songs, and talking leudly, and Acting a great many Indecencies. – But they look’d a skew upon Mark Partridge , and call’d him a treacherous, blowing-up Mollying Bitch, and threatned that they’d Massacre any body that betray’d them . The Prisoner was very fond of us, and kist us all at parting in a most indecent manner, Edward Sanders in behalf of the Prisoner depos’d, That he never heard any such report of the Prisoner before; That he was born and bred at Newbury, and was esteem’d an honest Man, The Jury found him Guilty . Death .

      May 9 – 1726 – Three Men are Publicly Hanged for Sodomy at Tyburn

      The Productive Leisure Network
       Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright were initially arrested after a raid by authorities at a “molly house” owned by a Margaret Clap. Molly houses were gathering places for homosexual men in eighteenth century England. Since the reign of Henry VIII, homosexual sex between men, better known as “buggery” or “sodomy,” was illegal. On the other hand, its prosecution was varied, and in the early eighteenth century, after the Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession, the desire to prosecute men on sodomy charges was increased through the Society for the Reformation of Manners. The problem was the actual way to prosecute sodomy, which led to a reliance on informants, who were usually hustlers and male prostitutes who were arrested on other charges. That is how Margaret Clap’s establishment was raided and how evidence was brought against Lawrence, Griffin, and Wright. All three men tried to present some evidence that they had no idea that Clap’s house was a molly house, but the juries didn’t buy it. Thus, they were publicly hanged at Tyburn for the crime of sodomy, a public spectacle which was relatively rare in the history of Britain.

      References

      Gay History: Jan Quisthout van der Linde, Condemned to Drown in New Amsterdam – 1660.

      On June 17th in 1660, in the Netherlands’ little settlement on the tip of Manhattan Island, New Amsterdam, Jan Quisthout van der Linde was sentenced “to be taken to the place of execution and there stripped of his arms, his sword to be broken at his feet, and he to be then tied in a sack and cast into the river and drowned until dead.”We do not have an indication of the date this sentence was carried out, if it were not immediate.

      It was an unusual execution for an unnatural crime: Quisthout had been found guilty of sodomizing his servant.

      New Amsterdam is here just four years away from its seizure by the English, who rechristened it New York;* dour, peg-legged Calvinist Peter Stuyvesant had been hustling for 13 years to put the tenuous little settlement on some sort of sustainable, defensible footing even as its neighbor English colonies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island grew to dwarf little Manhattan.

      Stuyvesant was a crusty boss.** He’d been crestfallen on arrival to his new assignment to find New Amsterdam a rough-edged melting pot city with livestock roaming the streets, a slurry of languages (and religions), and dockside brawls spilling out of seedy taverns.†

      The “Castello Plan” map from 1660 shows the germ of Manhattan’s present-day layout. The defensive wall spanning the island on the right gives us Wall Street.

      His horror was practical as well as moral: the little colony, a few hundred souls when he took over and perhaps 1,500 when the English finally deposed him, was in danger on all sides and the cash-strapped West India Company was both slow and miserly in response to Stuyvesant’s desperate pleas for men and material. But the horror was also moral. Stuyvesant enforced a whole slew of unpopular injunctions against drunkenness, fisticuffs, and fouling public streets with refuse, and actually had to be reined in by the West India Company board when he got so overbearing as to try shouldering out Jews and prying into the devotional habits of suspected Quakers.

      A paragon of rectitude like Stuyvesant was in no way about to turn a blind eye to casual Atlantic-world buggery.

      Even his lax predecessor had come down hard on a previous sodomy case, viewing that sin as an existential threat to their depraved port: “such a man is not worthy to associate with mankind and the crime on account of its heinousness may not be tolerated or suffered, in order that the wrath of God may not descend upon us as it did upon Sodom.”

      The crime that we might see here with modern eyes, rape, was in no way foremost to Stuyvesant et al. The boy, an Amsterdam orphan named Hendrick Harmensen, stayed out of the drowning-sack — but he was whipped for same-sex contact and ordered “sent to some other place by the first opportunity” even though that very sentence acknowledged that it was Quisthout who had “committed by force the above crime” on the lad.

      View of Dutch Manhattan … and its gallows.

      References

      Executed Today http://www.executedtoday.com/tag/sodomy/

      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: John Markham – Abominable Offense 1819 

      The Morning Post of December 30, 1819

      The diary (pdf) of a man imprisoned at Newgate recorded for this date in 1819 that

      A man was hanged this morning for an unnatural crime. Had my windows fastened up but could not sleep. They began putting up the scaffold at 4 o’clock. The tolling of the bell at 8 was frightful. I heard the crash of the drop falling and a woman screech violently at the same moment. Instantly afterwards, the sound of the pye man crying, “all hot, all hot.” ‘Tis dreadful hanging a man for this practice.* There are two, a man and boy now in jail, who were caught in flagrante delictu — and yet only sentenced to two years imprisonment. The poor wretch was half dead, so they told me, before he was hanged.

      Of this poor soul fallen away into the indifferent cries of the pye-man we have this from The Morning Post of December 30, 1819.

      John Markham was obscure, no doubt; his condemnation literally was for unspeakable acts, since it barely rates a line at all in the Old Bailey’s archives.

      But the aural observer of his death was not obscure at all.

      John Hobhouse, though he would eventually become the first Baron Broughton, was a buddy of the queer-friendly Lord Byron (the fourth canto of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is dedicated to Hobhouse). Hobhouse was also a prominent radical rabble-rouser, which is precisely why he was in Newgate on the day of Markham’s hanging.

      All of this occurred in the tense wake of the Peterloo Massacre, which saw British cavalry ride down their countrymen in Manchester for assembling to demand the reform of a parliament long grown egregiously unrepresentative. (Manchester was a case in point: it had no M.P. at all based on a centuries-old allocation of boroughs even though it had now boomed into one of the realm’s leading centers of industry.**)

      Following the Peterloo outrage, our correspondent Mr. Hobhouse had suggested in one of his many combative pamphlets that absent such brutal exertions the members of Parliament “would be pulled out by their ears” at the hands of an aggrieved populace. Given the all-too-recent aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars — and their antecedent, the French Revolution — the potential threat in these words seemed to the powers that be a step beyond mere colorful rhetoric.


      Accordingly, the House of Commons judged Hobhouse guilty of a breach of privilege and had him arrested earlier that same December. His cause more advanced by the martyrdom than inconvenienced by a gentleman’s loose detention — Hobhouse’s at-liberty associates not only held political meetings in his ample prison apartments but planned and advertised them in advance — the man won election to that selfsame House of Commons from Westminster the following March.

      * A few days later, Hobhouse will record in his diary that he has been told that Markham “had committed his crime with a pauper in a workhouse on a coffin.”

      ** The U.K. finally enacted parliamentary reform in 1832. A few years after that, it even stopped hanging people for sodomy.

      Reference