The Queensland Hangmen

Queensland hangman William Clarke.Nine different men worked as hangman in Brisbane and Queensland during 1830-1920, executing 94 prisoners between them. Until the 1880s the job was very unpopular and normally taken up by people with a prisoner or convict background. The move from public to private executions in the 1850s and the prospect of a good income started to attract more 'respectable' citizens, although the social stigma attached to the job always remained. The eight men were:

Thomas Hughes
Duration: 1811-34 (New South Wales)
Number of hangings conducted in Moreton Bay penal settlement and Brisbane: 2 prisoners
Total number of hangings conducted in New South Wales: 452 (approx.)
Origin: Britain
Former occupations: Blacksmith

Alexander Green
Duration: 1834-55 (New South Wales)
Number of hangings conducted in Moreton Bay penal settlement and Brisbane: 9 prisoners
Total number of hangings conducted in New South Wales: 251 (approx.)
Origin: Holland/Britain
Former occupations: Acrobat; convict
Green was a former convict who continued to get into trouble with the law after his appointment as executioner. He faced court on numerous petty charges throughout his life, but was always treated leniently because the job of hangman was unpopular and it would be difficult to replace him. He was eventually sacked and discharged to a mental asylum.

Thomas Woodby
Duration: 1857
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 1 prisoner
Origin: New York (African-American)
Former occupation: Ship’s cook
In early 1857 Woodby was working on a whaling brig that was shipwrecked, and he and the rest of the crew spent four days adrift at sea before being rescued. They were all brought to Brisbane, but shortly afterwards Woodby received a one-year sentence for larceny. When no executioner arrived from Sydney in time for the execution of William Teagle, Woodby was granted a pardon and £25 in return for conducting the hanging.

Robert Elliot
Duration: 1855-early 1870s
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 3 prisoners
Elliott, another former prisoner, replaced Alexander Green in 1855. He was already old when he took up the job, and by the time he retired in the early 1870s he was described a ‘dilapidated man’. His conduct on the scaffold was often criticised, and he was required to burn used execution ropes in a prison yard in order to prevent him selling them off as macabre souvenirs.

John Hutton
Duration: 1862-85
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 38 prisoners
Origin: England
John Hutton (real name Hatton) was a prisoner serving two years for the sexual assault of a young girl when he conducted his first hanging. He grew to be quite wealthy from his long time in the position, and owned a number of properties in Brisbane, some of which he used as brothels. He was pensioned off in 1885 at the age of 81.

Henry Flude (aka ‘John Brown’)
Duration: 1885-86
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 2 prisoners
Origin: England
Former occupations: Imperial army; greengrocer
Fortitude Valley greengrocer Henry Flude was the first non-prisoner or convict to be appointed as hangman in Queensland, and he took the job on condition that his identity was not be revealed. He worked under the pseudonym ‘John Brown’. Although the job paid well, executioners were still generally despised and had low social standing, so when Flude’s real name was exposed eight months later he resigned, and seems to have left Brisbane shortly afterwards.

William Ware
Duration: 1886-99
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 18 prisoners
Origin: Scotland
Former occupations: Clerk, mill labourer, hawker, Queensland Volunteer Defence Force
Although he was a ‘respectable’ figure, William Ware’s time as hangman was marked by his frequent attempts to get pay rises, bonuses, and even compensation for commuted death sentences on account of the ‘dangers, sneers and slurs that I have to put up with’. He died in 1899.

Samuel Hudson
Duration: 1900-05
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 10 prisoners
Former occupations: Blacksmith, Taringa
Samuel Hudson probably suffered more in his work than any other Queensland hangman. He was social vilified to the extent that his blacksmithing business went out of business, and sections of the press turned on him after the controversial execution of Patrick Kenniff in 1903. As a measure of disguise, Hudson wore a false black beard, a hat and blue goggles during the ten executions that he conducted. He resigned in 1905, unable to cope with the pressures of the job any longer.

William Henry Clarke (aka William ‘Duffy’)
Duration: 1905-20
Number of hangings conducted in Queensland: 10 prisoners
Origin: England
Former occupations: soldier, coachman and groom
William Clarke also wore false beards and hats, and he worked under the name ‘William Duffy’. Clarke was to be the last Queensland hangman, as capital punishment was abolished in 1922. He hanged ten men during his career, the last in 1913, after which time 20 death sentences were commuted. He was ‘retired’ in 1920 and not replaced.

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