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This is a petition written by group of people on behalf of Catherine Gillis who was convicted of manslaughter in 1845, Catalogue ref: HO18/149/40

[Note: Not all the signatories are shown here.]



To Her Most Gracious Majesty, The Queen


The humble Petition of various Individuals residing on Liverpool and the neighbourhood on behalf of Catherine Gillis convicted of Manslaughter.


Sheweth, [This reveals]


That your Petitioners have taken a deep interest in the unfortunate situation of the said Catherine Gillis who was tried before the Honourable M. Baron Gurney at the last Liverpool Assizes for having caused the death of Mary Soughan of Craven Street Liverpool in an affray which took place in the month of September last, and sentenced to be transported for Seven Years.


That your petitioners verily [truly] believe that from the previous good conduct of the said Catherine Gillis, and from various circumstances connected with the above distressing occurrence, she the said Catherine Gillis at the time the offence was committed was labouring under strong feelings of momentary excitement, occasioned by the provoking and insulting language used by the deceased in allusion [referring to] to the Daughter of the said Catherine Gillis, and that there was no intention of the part of the said Catherine Gillis to inflict any serious bodily injury –


That the said Catherine Gillis is about fifty eight years of age; is well known in Liverpool as an honest industrious [hard working] and deserving person, and has generally been considered humane, quiet, and peaceable in her ordinary disposition and habits – That she is now, and had been for a period of nearly twenty five years, a widow, having during that time supported herself and brought up a family by her own individual exertions [efforts] with great credit and propriety [correctness].


That under such circumstances your petitioners are deeply impressed with the melancholy and awful reflection, that an aged and meritorious [praiseworthy] female should, for the single offence of which she has been convicted (admitting as your petitioners really believe of many extenuating features [justified reasons]) be banished from her Country and friends, with but little other prospect at her advanced age than


to terminate a long and arduous [hard] life in a strange land, deprived of her consolation of domestic comforts, and under the contaminating [bad] influence of criminal associates.


That much as your petitions deplore [hate] the distressing calamity [disaster] which her momentary indiscretion may have occasioned they cannot but consider her a fit object for Royal Clemency [mercy] and humbly presume to recommend her to your Majesty’s merciful consideration.


Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Majesty will be please to take her case into your gracious consideration and to order a mitigation [reduction] of her sentence, if she should not be thought worthy of your Royal pardon – And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray


Samuel HolmeRenshaw St.
… TomkinsonHenry St.
E.d Bradley surgeon Falkner square
Richard MounGreat G Street
Matthew KitchenBenson Street
Wm … ChidsonBolostreet
Daniel BellGreenside House – Wavertree
… MasonNo. 21 St. Anne Street
John …N. 93 Islington
Thomas Pennigton112 London Road
James …23 Soho Street
W. J Callon
Frederick Cripps
13 Islington and 111 Dale St} The two medical witnesses. Called in support of the prosecution.
John …
Ann Cockshot
Craven Street and Craven Street} Two other witnesses called in support of the prosecution.
David Cook …4 Knight St Low Hill


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Task Source 1

  • Catherine Gillis was convicted for manslaughter. Why has this petition been made on her behalf?
  • Why is this petition addressed to the Queen and not the Home Secretary?
  • What factors of Catherine Gillis’ circumstances and past conduct were used to build support for her case?
  • Why have her supporters objected to the sentence of transportation?
  • Why was it important for people to sign their names and address at the bottom of a petition?
  • How could the inclusion of the signatures from prosecution witnesses be seen to add support to this petition? [Clue: check meaning of prosecution and defence witnesses in a criminal trial]