John Carr

John Carr

Ann Tierney (2014)

This is the story of a young man whose life ended in London in the year 1750 when he was sentenced to death by hanging. The young man’s story started in Kilkenny, though he wasn’t born there. His name was John Carr and, on his very first visit to the city, he fell in love with a young woman. She, like him, was passing through Kilkenny on that day.
John and a friend had set out from Dublin by horseback, heading for the friend’s home. As they arrived in Kilkenny, so did the stagecoach. It stopped at a city-centre inn and a beautiful young lady alighted.
John Carr was instantly taken with this elegant woman. He helped her from the coach, and handed her into the inn. He suggested to her friends that they might all sup together. That evening, during the meal, he persuaded the group to spend the following day seeing the beauties of Kilkenny, which he described in most exalted terms. He raised their expectations to such a pitch that they agreed to defer their journeys.
Next morning, the young woman arrived to breakfast dressed in a most extraordinary manner and adorned with jewels. Mr Carr stood motionless at her entrance. She perceived her conquest and, soon after, gave him an opportunity to declare his mind. This happened in the gallery at the Duke of Ormond’s palace where they were viewing the curiosities. John and the young woman purposely strayed from the rest of the company. When alone, he opened his soul. She responded cooly but added that his person was not entirely displeasing to her. She was, she said, an English lady of distinction and that if he proved to be a gentleman with fortune and family she might in time consider giving him her hand and her heart.
The lady was on her way to the Spa at Mallow. She planned to spend the summer there. John Carr abandoned the companion with whom he had been travelling and accompanied her. In the weeks that followed, John spent every penny of his fortune in high living. Before long, the funds ran out and the couple decided to return to Dublin and travel together to England.
When they reached Dublin, he managed to raise sufficient money for their onward journey. He went off to procure a ship’s passage, leaving her to wait. In his absence, the young woman boarded another ship, bound for Amsterdam. She disappeared with all of John Carr’s money and possessions.
Devastated, embarrassed and destitute, the 19 year-old John used whatever he could scrape together and went alone to England and made his way to London. He got involved in trade, and in smuggling. And he married. But not for long. Under financial pressure, he abandoned his wife. Then, he got into the business of selling corks to country inns but, unfortunately, frequented their gaming tables also. The gaming led to sharp practice and very nearly into a bigamous marriage. To secure funds, John began to cheat on his friends. He was soon reduced to penury, even selling his clothes.
He enlisted in the navy. The Austrian wars were at their height and his ship captured two vessels. Like the rest of the crew, he shared the lucrative booty. Next he joined a privateer. When the captain of this ship died, John started to woo the man’s widow. She returned John’s affections but was apparently seized with a sudden fit of illness and died. This is as John told it at his trial at the Old Bailey. On her death, John inherited a fortune. He put the money into the wine and spirit trade in London. It proved lucrative and he soon owned several warehouses. But the smuggling started again and the business didn’t last long. John found himself bankrupt.
His next and final enterprise was to act as agent for the transferrance the money of sailors who had died abroad. He cheated their families in the process. It was this venture that led to his indictment and trial. John Carr was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was brought to Tyburn on a cart on 16 November 1750, to be hanged. He was 31 years of age. At the trial he said it would never have happened were it not for that fateful meeting in Kilkenny 12 years before.

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