The Lives of HENRY GAHOGAN and ROBERT BLAKE
Notwithstanding the number of those who have been executed for this offence, yet of late years we have had frequent instances of persons who rather than groan under the burden of poverty or labour hard to get an honest livelihood, have chosen this method of supplying their extravagances and consequently have run their heads into a halter.
Henry Gahogan, an Irishman of mean parents (who had however bestowed so much education upon him that he attained writing a very fair hand), in order to get his bread set up the business of a writing-master in that part of Ireland, where there were few masters to strive against him. Here he behaved for some time so well, that he got the reputation of being an honest industrious young man; but whether business fell off, or that his roving temper could no longer be kept within bounds, the papers I have do not authorise me to determine.
He went upon his travels, and passed through a great part of Europe in the quality, as may be conjectured, of a gentleman's servant, until two or three years before his death, about which time he brought over the art of coining into England, which he had been taught by a countryman of his, as an easy and certain resource whenever his difficulties should straiten him so far as to make its assistance necessary. This happened no very long time after his coming over thence, for in a short time his extravagancies reduced him so much that one of his countrymen thought he did him a great service in recommending him to one Blake, for an usher, which Blake at that time set up to teach young gentlemen to fence, having a school for that purpose near the Temple.
Thither Gahogan came accordingly, and after staying for two days successively, and finding no scholars came, he opened the case to his master that was to have been and told him how easy it was to get money and live well, provided they had but utensils for coining, and soon after he showed him a specimen of his art, which he performed so dexterously that at first sight they promised themselves prodigious matters therefrom. They engaged one Ferris, who formerly had wrote as a clerk to a gentleman of Lincoln's Inn and the Temple, but adventuring to trust another person with that secret, he soon after made a confession and impeached them all. Upon which this Gahogan, Blake and the before-mentioned Ferris, together with two women, came to be tried for this offence on an indictment of high treason.
The evidence was very clear, and notwithstanding the assurance with which Blake and Gahogan behaved at the bar, and the perplexed defence which was made by Ferris (who fancied himself so sure of being acquitted that he directed horses to be hired in order to his going down to a country assizes, there to assist as solicitor for a notorious offender), the jury, after a short stay, brought them in guilty, but acquitted the women, of whom the one was the mother of this Gahogan and the other the mistress or wife of the said Robert Blake, of whom we are next to speak.
He was by birth also of the Kingdom of Ireland, his parents being people of some condition, who gave him a very good education and afterwards put him out apprentice to a linendraper. After he was out of his time he married a woman with some little fortune, by whom he had three children, and after misusing her greatly, went away from her into England. Here he led a loose, debauched life, and subsisted himself, to give it the best phrase, rather upon the ingenuity of his head than the industry of his hands. Here he found means to draw aside a farmer's daughter, to whom he was married, and whom he involved so far in his misfortunes, as to bring her to the bar with himself for high treason, where her marriage was so far of service to her that it excused her from bearing a share in his conviction.
After they were found guilty, Gahogan expressed much penitence and sorrow, acknowledged the heinous offences of which he had been guilty, and expressed particular concern for the ill-usage he had given his poor mother, whom he had often beaten and abused, for whom he was once committed to Bridewell on that score, which effectually ruined what little reputation be had left. Before the day of execution came he was exceedingly poor and destitute, so that he had scarce clothes wherewith to cover him, or food sufficient to preserve that life which was so suddenly to be finished at the gallows. As far as we are able to judge from the man's outward behaviour, he was a sincere and hearty penitent, only it was with great difficulty he forgave the persons concerned in his prosecution, which however at last he declared he did, and passed with great resignation and piety, though by a violent death from this world to another, and we may charitably hope, a better.
As to Blake, his behaviour was not so much of a piece at first, but when he perceived death inevitable, notwithstanding his having procured a reprieve for a week, and thereby escaped dying with his companion Gahogan, the prospect of his approaching dissolution wrought so far upon him that with much seeming penitence he made a frank confession of all his offences, reflecting chiefly on himself for having deserted his wife, and living for so many years with other women. When the week for which he had procured a reprieve was expired, he was carried alone on a hurdle, which is usual in cases of high treason, and being come to the place of execution he stood up and spoke to those who were present in the following terms:
I am brought here justly to suffer death for an offence the nature of which I did not so well comprehend at the time I committed it. I have been the greatest of all sinners, addicted to every kind of lust, and guilty of every manner of crime, excepting that of murder only. You that are assembled here to see the unfortunate exit of an unhappy man, take warning from my fate, and avoid falling into those extravagancies which necessarily bring persons to those straits which have forced me upon taking undue courses for a supply. This is the end proposed by the Law for making me a spectacle, and I pray God with my last breath that you may make that use of it.
After this he betook himself to some private devotions, and then suffered with great constancy and resignation of mind. He was executed on the 31st of March, 1729, being then about thirty-eight years of age. Gahogan died on the 24th of the same month, being then thirty years of age.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals