Graphic account of daring escape from Georgetown Jail

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Jim Hornby
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The Islander, May 6

ESCAPE OF MCGILVRAY THE ROBBER FROM GEORGETOWN JAIL! McGilvray who was flogged at Georgetown about a month ago for highway robbery, succeeded in effecting his escape from jail on Tuesday morning last, and is at large again to the terror of the country. It appears that as usual the jailer [James] Heggs opened the cell on Tuesday morning where [Hugh] McGilvray was confined, along with another prisoner (Whitty, who was in for shopbreaking in Souris), and ordered them to come out for their day’s rations; they went into the storeroom for that purpose, and whilst Heggs was stooped, handling the bread, the prisoners suddenly sprung out of the room, shut the door, banged in the iron bar, and fastened the jailer in. McGilvray, through the key hole, wished Heggs “good morning,” and hoped “he would enjoy the nice biscuit for his breakfast.”

Heggs roared like a caged lion, and the robbers took up the cry, shouting “fire! fire!” and soon the whole establishment was alive, some in their night dresses, and all roaring “fire!” and the jailer’s gruff husky roars adding to the concert. McGilvray and Whitty made for the wood yard, and whilst climbing the fence were noticed by Miller and Conner Hughes, who very creditably gave them battle. Miller being a strong powerful man, after a severe fight held Whitty, whilst the battle raged between the robber and the coiner, but in a minute was over, the coiner being not strong after his four years imprisonment was knocked stunned to the ground.

McGilvray then in an instant climbed the fence, stood for a second at the top, and jumped out a free man, making short work of the three years to run, and the winding-up whipping. Pursuit was at once made, and all the forks guarded, and it is to be hoped he may be recaptured.

Jim Hornby: The description of two prisoners tackling two others attempting to escape, and holding one, is unusual. Hugh McGilvray was not heard from again.

The Examiner, May 9

MEETING OF FREEHOLDERS AT SQUAW BAY, LOT 49. Verbal information having circulated among the independent and respectable Freeholders of that portion of Township No. 49, that a meeting of the worthy inhabitants of said District would be held at the School House in that locality, on Monday the 25th inst. at 3 o’clock p.m., for the express purpose of deliberating upon the present pernicious protracted and agitated land question, the source and origin of the apparent dissatisfaction and distracted state of this unparalleled Colony, and the propriety, constitution and feasibility of the tenant organizations throughout this Island.

The feelings of the meeting cannot be more cogently illustrated than by adopting the following poetical quotation:

“Oh yes, ‘tis thus aggrieved Isle, thy doom

 Hath hitherto been sealed,

 These Politicians dig thy tomb,

 But leave thy wounds unhealed.

 Thy vexed land question never can

 Be set to rights by them,

 Thy sons alone, joined as one man,

 Thy tide of ills can stem.”

J.H.: These lines express concisely why many who owned their lands (freeholders), shared the concerns of the longtime tenant farmers (leaseholders), whose lands were held by proprietors large and small, resident or far-off. Leasehold tenure seemed an Old World relic: across North America, freehold was believed to be a basic human right of settlers to the New World. “Squaw Bay” later became known as “Alexandra Bay.”

Ross’s Weekly, May 12

We hear much complaint concerning the condition of Minchin’s Point Wharf, Southport. In consequence of the dilapidated state of the piles which enclose the two sides of the Ferry-boat’s berth. She [Ora] cannot land at the proper place, and she is compelled to take in passengers, horses and carriages & c., at the side of the wharf. The process of taking on board horses and carriages is highly inconvenient, and sometimes dangerous to property; and therefore the present condition of things should not be allowed to continue.

Ross’s Weekly, May 12

CALEDONIA CLUB. On Monday evening last a number of gentlemen of this City met for the purpose of organizing a CALEDONIA CLUB, the principal object of which is to revive ancient Scottish games, dress, music, &c. Scotchmen, or persons of Scotch descent, are eligible for membership.

J.H.: “Scotch” was the term most commonly used by John Ross, (a native of Inverness, Scotland), and other journalists, speakers and correspondents of 1864; today the terms “Scots” or “Scottish” are generally employed. This year the Caledonian Club of Prince Edward Island celebrates the 150th anniversary of this first organizing meeting on May 9, 1864.

Ross’s Weekly, May 12

TENANT MEETING AT DONAGH, LOT 35. Whereas, This meeting having no confidence in the sincerity of the government in settling the Land Question, therefore be it resolved, that the tenantry on this Lot do act in conjunction with the rest of the tenantry throughout the Colony, in forming a “Tenant League” to defend their rights until the time arrives when they will be granted fair and equitable terms. (OWEN BEGAN, Secretary. Donagh, Lot 35, April 23, 1864.)

Jim Hornby’s column, “1864: The Way We Were: gleanings from Charlottetown’s newspapers,” will be presented in The Guardian every Monday throughout 2014 (on holiday Mondays when there is no paper, it will appear on Tuesdays). It contains excerpts from various newspapers of that era, as well as Hornby’s comments on what he has found. To give feedback on this feature, which is presented in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference, contact the author at hornby@pei.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Caledonian Club of Prince Edward Island, Land Question

Geographic location: GEORGETOWN, North America, Alexandra Bay Minchin Charlottetown Inverness Scotland

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