Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Richard Hughs


Highwaymen and Footpads

Idleness, lewd women and bad company are the sum total of those excuses urged by criminals when they come to be punished, even for the most flagrant offences. With just reason Richard Hughs exclaimed on them all, for from youth upwards he had ever addicted himself to laziness and a dislike to that business to which he was bred, viz., that of a bricklayer. Following loose women was the thing in which he took most delight, and was probably the occasion of his subsequent misfortunes. The immediate cause of them was his acquaintance with William Sefton before-mentioned, with whom he joined in a confederacy to rob on the highway, a thing to which his necessities in some measure drove him, since he had squandered all he had in the world on those abandoned women with whom he conversed, and had contracted so bad a reputation that he found it hard to be employed in his business.

Into this wretched confederacy entered also the other offender, Bryan Macguire, an Irishman born in the county of Wicklow. He had been bred a sawyer, but was never very well pleased with the trade which required so much hard labour. However, he worked at it some time after he came to England, but some of his countrymen persuading him that it was much easier to live by sharping, a practice they very well understood, he readily fell into their sentiments and soon struck out a new method of cheating, which brought them in more and with less hazard than any of the ways pursued by his associates. The artifice was this: by repeated practice he found a way to pull his tongue so far back into his throat that he really appeared to have none at all, and by going to coffee-houses and other places of public resort for the better sort of people, he, by pretending to be dumb and then opening his mouth and showing them what looked only like the root of a tongue, obtained large charities. He had great success in this cheat for a long time, but at last was discovered by a gentleman's blowing some snuff into his throat, which, by setting him a-coughing, detected the imposture.

Then, being very straitened, he fell in with Sefton and Hughs with whom having cheated and tricked for a little space, they at last came all to an agreement of going together upon the highway and sharing their booty equally amongst them. However, their partnership was of no very long continuance, for in nine or ten days they were all apprehended and brought to condign punishment. Hughs had been a soldier as well as Sefton, and had quitted the Army to go upon the highway, which was a very luckless occasion for him. Being quickly apprehended he was charged with five several capital indictments, to all of which, when he came to be arraigned, he resolutely pleaded guilty; and when admonished by the Court that the crimes with which he was charged were felonies without benefit of clergy, he persisted therein, saying that he would not give the judge nor the gentlemen of the jury unnecessary trouble.

Macguire was indicted on four of the indictments which had been preferred against Hughs, and capitally convicted upon them all. He was no sooner under sentence than he declared himself to be of the communion of the Church of Rome. However, he attended constantly at the chapel, seemed to listen earnestly to what was said there, and made responses very regularly to the several prayers, a thing which Papists very seldom comply with. However, Bryan appeared to be a very reasonable man in this respect, saying that he hoped God would be satisfied with that imperfect atonement which he was able to make for his offences, and would not impute it to him as a sin that he had taken all occasions which offered of presenting his petitions for remission. In this disposition he continued until the day of his execution, when both he and Hughs appeared very composed and penitent, desiring the prayers of those who were witnesses of their death, submitting thereto with all exterior marks of proper resignation, on the 26th day of June, 1728; Hughs being twenty-four and Macguire twenty-eight years of age or thereabouts.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals