|Canada's Last Hangman - John Ellis|
Arthur Ellis was actually a pseudonym. The first Arthur Ellis was Arthur B. English who had emigrated from
Most sources say he was related to English hangman, John Ellis. England
official hangman in 1913 and continued in that role until 1935. It was claimed
he presided or assisted in over 600 executions in Canada ,
the England Middle East and . Canada
B.A. McKelvie in an article My Friend, the Hangman, from the book Outlaws and Lawmen of Western
– Volume Two, discusses his personal
relationship with Ellis: Canada
Arthur Ellis was an artist. I like artists who take a pride in their work. Besides, he was a genial, kind hearted little chap, always ready to alleviate distress. I’ve seen him cry when told of the sufferings of a poor family.
His work he regarded as purely impersonal. His was a duty to perform, and he did it. “I am an executioner (he shunned the word “hangman” as being vulgar) because I believe that I can carry out the judgement of the law with less pain and anguish to the condemned than can any other man in the world,” he once told me.
Later McKelvie was provided an explanation on the knot that sent a chill up my back:
“I’ll show you,” exclaimed Arthur. He grabbed his club bag, which I naturally thought had his pyjamas and brush and comb. He opened it and displayed a fine assortment of ropes and black caps. Deftly he tied a noose. “Now,” he said with mounting enthusiasm, “I’d place it right there,” and he indicated a point just beyond my left ear – and his cold hands rather fondly felt my neck. “I’d break the third vertebrae,” he boasted. Honestly, I didn’t quite like being a guinea pig for a hangman’s lecture on his art. Especially so, when to further demonstrate the exactitude with which the rope should be adjusted, he wanted to put a black cap over my head and the noose around my neck.
He was forced into retirement in 1935 when he relied on a weight given to him for Thomasina Sarao in making his calculations for the execution. She was actually 35 pounds heavier. When she dropped she was decapitated. It was the last public execution in
His successor also took the name of Arthur Ellis.
Our nation’s last executioner used the name John Ellis. As abolition was being debated in
’s Parliament in the 1960’s he gave an interview to the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The interview can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLKDsjLFx4s.
Wearing a hood for the interview as seen in the photo with this post was
chillingly apt. I found the interview disturbing. Canada
As often the case I found the real story more powerful than fiction. I am grateful Canada no longer has a hangman.