'Hanging must run in the blood, it requires a natural flair'

Published date20 September 2021
Publication titleHuddersfield Daily Examiner
Yet Albert Pierrepointwasn't just any old publican running a northern boozer - he was also the most prolific and famous hangman in British history.

In a career spanning 25 years, it's estimated Albert Pierrepointwas involved in the executions of between 435 and 600 people, among them Nazi war criminals.

Albert, who was born in Clayton, near Bradford, and later lived in Huddersfield, travelled all over the country in his part-time post as official executioner.

He saw his role as something of a calling, having wanted to be a hangman from an early age.

Indeed, when asked at school what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wrote: "When I leave school I should like to be public executioner like my dad is, because it needs a steady man with good hands like my dad and my Uncle Tom and I shall be the same."

The young Albert had grown up reading his uncle Tom's diaries of the job, while his dad had recommended it as a sideline with opportunities for continental travel.

"Hanging must run in the blood," Albert Pierrepointsaid after his retirement. "It requires a natural flair.

"The judgment and timing of a first-rate hangman cannot be acquired."

Unlike his father and uncle before him, Pierrepoint's professionalism at the trapdoor was never questioned.

He prided himself on delivering as quick, dignified and as humane a death as possible, paying meticulous attention to the height, weight and build of the condemned, to ensure the fatal drop was as efficient and as painless as possible.

Albert's father, Henry, and uncle were official hangmen before him and it was with his Uncle Tom that he carried out his first execution as an assistant executioner in 1932 when he was 27.

Albert's first job as an assistant executioner was the hanging of a young Irish farmer, who had murdered his brother.

Uncle Tom took Albert with him to Mountjoy prison in Dublin for the hanging.

As an assistant executioner, Albert's job would be to follow the prisoner onto the scaffold, bind the prisoner's legs together, then step back off the trapdoor before the lead executioner sprung the mechanism.

And this is what he did for the remainder of the 1930s, alongside continuing his work in the grocery business, until 1941 when he became a lead executioner.

His first hanging as lead executioner was in 1941.

Between 1932 and 1956, at least 433 men and 17 women died at the end of his rope.

His personal record included 17 hangings in one day - of which he said, 'was my arm stiff!'

Diminutive, always...

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