It is 200 years since the execution weavers John Baird and Andrew Hardie in Stirling. It sent shockwaves throughout Scotland due to the crime with which they had been charged – high treason.

During the early part of the 19th century the industrial revolution was underway, leading to high unemployment, especially following the return of soldiers at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Poverty was rife and workers were paid low wages while food prices were high.

This led to the formation of the Radical Reform Movement. Baird, a former soldier, became a member of the Condorrat Radicals in the then East Dunbartonshire where he lived.

Unfortunately, government spies infiltrated the group and in March 1820 members of the committee were arrested. The group countered with a call for a general strike.

Around 60,000 workers downed tools in numerous places including Glasgow, Stirling and Falkirk, and possibly with goading from the government spies, they conspired to steal weapons from the Carron Ironworks near Falkirk.

Among those in the group was Andrew Hardie of Glasgow, also ex-military. Early in the morning of 5th April 1820 Baird, Hardie and their fellow conspirators set off. While they rested Bonnymuir near Bonnybridge, they were intercepted by the 10th Hussars and Stirling Yeomanry, who attacked with sabres.

This was the Battle of Bonnymuir. Realising it was not a fight they could win, the radicals surrendered and were taken to Stirling Castle where they were imprisoned.

They were committed for trial the same day by Stirlingshire’s Sheriff Substitute John Fraser, along with 16 others. More followed over the next few months and in all 88 men were charged.

On 23rd June 1820, the preliminaries got underway at Stirling with the jury sworn in and addressed by the Lord President, Charles Hope, Lord Granton, who advised them why these men were facing the charge of treason.

The names of the accused were read out in the court and the prisoners brought down from the castle. Eighteen men stood in that courtroom including Baird and Hardie.

They were returned to their prison until 13th July, when at 9 am the court reconvened, and the trial of Hardie got underway. He was found guilty.

The following day Baird’s trial took place and he too was found guilty. On 4th August, the two friends were sentenced to death.

It was their wish to spend their last night in private prayer, but some relatives had wanted to spend the night with them. This was allowed and it was said they were in good spirits.