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Friday, 1 May 2020


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. & @JoeCushnan

I have a portfolio of features, reviews, poetry and short fiction published in all sorts of places - Belfast Telegraph, Tribune, Ireland's Own, Dalhousie Review, Fairlight Books, Reader's Digest, Reality, Lapwing Poetry, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Spillwords, Dear Reader, Amethyst Review, to name a selection.  Oh, and the odd BBC radio contribution. 

This is a series of very, very short items that have nothing to do with the current news agenda.  Swift diversions for a moment or two.

Apropos of Nothing #14 – 1 May 1820 

The Cato Street Conspiracy was an attempt to murder the entire British cabinet, including the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool in 1820.  The name comes from the plotters’ meeting place near the Edgeware Road in London.  A government spy, George Edwards, tipped off the police and thirteen people were arrested. One policeman was killed. Five conspirators (called the Spencean Philanthropists, named after an agitator called Thomas Spence) were executed on 1 May, 1820. Others were transported to Australia.  
The conspirators had planned to assassinate the cabinet at a dinner. They would then seize key buildings, overthrow the government and establish a ‘Committee of Public Safety’ to oversee a radical revolution. According to the prosecution at their trial, they had intended to form a provisional government headquartered in the Mansion House. 

At the executions, the hangman was John Foxton.  After the bodies had hung for half an hour, they were lowered one at a time and an unidentified individual in a black mask decapitated them against an angled block with a small knife. Each beheading was accompanied by shouts, booing and hissing from the crowd and each head was displayed to the assembled spectators, declaring it to be the head of a traitor, before placing it in a coffin with the remainder of the body.

As a footnote, in 1971, the actor Robert Shaw wrote a play, Cato Street, about the affair.

The arrest.

Sources: Wikipedia and others.

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