Lamentation of Margaret Bell,


Lamentation of Margaret Bell,


at present under Sentence of Death in Paisley Jail.


Margaret Bell murders her baby, is brought to Paisley to be executed by hanging. This song ends with her awaiting her death. But as we discover in a related ballad, 'Margaret Bell's Lament' she would be reprieved by the appeals of the people of Paisley and would be banished instead.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

Copy of original in Bodleian Library, Universit of Oxford, Shelfmark: 2806 c. 14(159); Bodlein Ballads Online Bod1370;  Original available in the Murray Collection, Glasgow University Library


From my dungeon in Paisley I send you this warning,
To shun paths of vice which leads on to crime.
too long I have run in the broad path of ruin,
But now I must die in the height of my prime.
O! col dis my cell and my chains they are weighty,
But the weight of my sins are heavier on me,
For I murdered my child, how can I look for mercy;
Oh! no, I must die upon the gallows tree.

Cold was the night on the sixteenth of November,
As straight with my child close press'd to my breast;
My bosom was swelling, my tears fast were falling,
As hush, hush, I cried, to lull my baby to rest.
By the Crofthead Bleachfield I careless did wander
To the edge of the pond where I thought none did see,
There I murdered my babe, and threw it in the water,
For which I must die upon the gallows tree.

That night with my cousin I slept at the bleachfield,
And early next morning prepared to depart;
I was told by the workers a child was found murdered,
And, oh! how the words pearc'd my poor guilty heart.
Then to Bogshaw I fled for to join my service,
But the stern hands of justice soon laid hold of me;
I was brought back to Paisley for to stand my trial,
Now my sentence is pass'd -- I must die on a tree.

The grey morn will dawn on the 26th of January
'Tis the last in this world that's allotted for me,
From my dark dreary dungeon I'll be taken that morning.
To face a gazing multitude, when hanged I shall be.
When I think of my childhood and my poor aged mother,
And the precepts she taught as I knelt at her knee;
Oh, little she thought as I lay on her bosom,
That her child Margaret Bell was to die on a tree.

And now, in conclusion, I give you all warning,
To shun evil company before its too late;
If e'er vicious thoughts should arise in your bosom,
O think on Margaret Bell and her untimely fate.
Now, farewell, vain world, and all thy false pleasures,
Your bright show of vanity is no more for me,
My days they are numbered and the moments are flying,
On the 26th of January I must die on a tree.

Method of Punishment






Execution Location


Printing Location

James Lindsay, 9 King St, Glasgow


From National Records of Scotland:
Accused: Margaret Bell, Verdict: Guilty, Verdict Comments: Guilty - recommendation for leniency, Sentence: Death - hanging by public executioner, Petition: Remission of sentence granted under the Great Seal at High Court, Edinburgh, 7 February 1853 (see JC8/60, f.13v).. Note: Pannel drowned infant in a bleachfield dam and was sentenced to hang at Paisley on 26 January, 1853.
Victim Unnamed, female infant


ulf_19_Lamentation of Margaret Bell.jpg


“Lamentation of Margaret Bell,,” Execution Ballads, accessed April 13, 2024,

Output Formats