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Judicial CP - February 1877

Corpun file 25484 at

Evening Post, Wellington, 14 February 1877, p.2

The flogging of John M'Cann and Owen Kane.

Press cutting

John M'Cann and Owen Kane, who were convicted of rape at the recent sittings of the Supreme Court, and sentenced to lengthened terms of imprisonment and two floggings each, underwent the first instalment of the latter portion of their punishment at the Gaol this morning. M'Cann had to receive two floggings of 30 lashes each, and Kane two of 25 lashes.

Shortly before 9 o'clock, Dr. Johnston, the visiting surgeon, was in attendance at the Gaol. Punctually at 9 o'clock, M'Cann was taken to a yard in the right wing of the Gaol, where the triangle stood ready for him to be tied up. The persons present were Mr. M. Read, the Gaol Warden, Dr. Johnston, the representative of the Evening Post, and two warders. One of the latter administered the flogging, while the other strapped the prisoner to the triangle.

M'Cann, who is a middle-sized man of about 50, with a thorough animal and forbidding expression of face, appeared to be in a state of much trepidation as he stepped into the yard. He at once stripped to the waist, and was then strapped to the triangle. This latter is a strong portable apparatus of wood with four legs, two of which were attached to the wall of the yard, while the other two were in a slightly sloping position, standing about nine feet high.

M'Cann stretched his arms separately at length along the wood of the triangle, and straps were quickly passed round at the wrists, the forearms, and the elbow. In this position M'Cann was bending slightly forward, with his bare back a little arched, and his feet resting on the ground. Straps were then passed round his legs at the ankles and knees, while another strap passing round the back of the neck kept his head out of the way of the strokes of "the cat." This modified process of "seizing up," as it is termed in the navy, did not take beyond three minutes to accomplish. Then all being ready, the warder, "cat" in hand, took up a position about four feet from the left shoulder of M'Cann, and awaited the order to begin.

"The cat," we may inform the uninitiated, consists of a wooden handle about 18 inches long, with a loop at the end from which depend nine cords, each about three feet in length, and each cord haying nine knots at intervals towards the ends. It is an innocent looking scourge enough, but it "flays" the human back with telling severity. At this point Mr. Reid gave the brief order "Proceed." Obedient to it, the warder, holding the handle of "the cat" in his right hand, spread out the cords over the palm of his left. Then, with a whistling sound, the cat's tail swung through the air, and the first lash struck the flesh of the prisoner, making a pink broad welt from the top of the right shoulder right across the back. As the stroke came down, the muscles and flesh of the prisoner's back seemed to rise up with the pain. M'Cann, at the first lash, gave a loud groan, and as each of the first half-dozen followed, he groaned deeply, again and again, like a man enduring the most intense pain. The fastenings were so secure that he could not move, but his shoulders rose and fell and quivered, as if he were in the very extremity of physical suffering.

After the tenth lash, his voice partly failed, but he seemed to feel the pain of the strokes as keenly as ever. As the twentieth lash struck, he was silent, his head fell to one side, and he seemed as if about to faint. Mr. Read, carefully on the watch, called out "slower," and there was a cessation in the administration of the punishment for a few seconds. It became evident, however, that the prisoner was in no danger of fainting, and that, in fact, though he was in a paroxysm of temporary terror and pain, he was quite able enough to take the remainder of his punishment. By this time his back was much scored, and the light pink stripes had changed to a deep blood red. The flesh was not broken, except at the under part of the right shoulder, where the knots hit and indented the flesh. Number twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, and so on up to number thirty -- the final lash -- were expeditiously administered, and M'Cann's punishment for the time was at an end.

Although the flesh on the surface of the prisoner's back remained uncut, yet the raised welts showed full of blood, which would have trickled out at the puncture of a needle. Blood, too, was dropping from the under part of the right shoulder, and there was every evidence that the punishment had been administered with considerable severity. When unstrapped, M'Cann for a minute or two leaned against the triangle for support. Then he was given a drink of water, which revived him a little, and with shirt thrown across his shoulders, he was led away to his cell by a warder, trembling, shaking, and apparently thoroughly prostrated for the time. Some men suffer more than others under the lash, and it is clear that M'Cann did suffer most severely. It need not, however, be supposed that the flogging will do him any permanent harm, as his back will probably be healed in about a fortnight. Nevertheless, that flogging completely prostrated him both physically and morally.

Almost from the date of his sentence, the prisoner M'Cann has been behaving badly, constantly endeavoring to create disturbances among his fellow-prisoners, and threatening violence either to them or to the warders. He recently threatened to thrust a spade down the throat of one prisoner, and to the officers of the Gaol he used such expressions as the following, with numerous expletives: -- "I'll do for some of you yet. I'll work this week, but it'll be the last week I'll work. I'll murder some, and go and get hanged." His conduct has been reported to the Visiting Justices, but as his punishment of this morning has intervened, it will probably be the means of working a salutary and radical reformation in his conduct. On a future date he is to receive the second and final instalment of thirty lashes more.

How Owen Kane Took It.

Owen Kane is a man of different stuff altogether from M'Cann. He is a lithe lightly built man, of 37 years of age -- though he looks far younger -- and is apparently possessed of considerable muscular strength. He has not an unpleasing face, with a somewhat dare-devil look about it. He stepped jauntily into the yard, stripped, and was tied up. As the cat was raised the muscles of his back involuntarily winced, and at the first cut he gasped with pain. He winced and gasped at each further stroke, but, with supreme resolution, refrained from uttering a single moan or cry. At the fifteenth stroke his back was severely marked, and by the time the full quantum of twenty-five lashes had been administered, the right shoulder was much cut, and bits of the flesh or cuticle had been picked out by the knots in "the cat."

Directly he was cast loose Kane picked up and put on his shirt, assuming an air of indifference to the punishment. As the warders moved him away to his cell he gave one vengeful angry look at the small group of persons who had witnessed his punishment, and then walked quietly off. He bore the flogging with the greatest possible pluck, although it was quite evident that he suffered severely. He has still to receive another twenty-five lashes, but that will be a considerable time hence.

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