IN September 2000, the Old Tollbooth in Stirling was being changed into an arts centre.

During the works a skeleton in a pine coffin was discovered and it turned out it was the remains of Allan Mair, the last man to be hanged in Stirling.

Mair, an 84-year-old farmer from Candie End, Muiravonside, was convicted of murdering his wife Mary Fletcher, 85, by hitting her repeatedly over the head with his walking stick on the night of 14th-15th May, 1843.

She had been abused by him for years, including being starved as well as placed in a locked box-bed for long periods of time.

Their only child, a daughter Agnes, had escaped the family home many years before and was estranged from her father.

At his trial that September Mair declared his innocence.

Helen Bennie, or Nimmo, testified that she knew the Mairs and that she, along with others, visited Mary once or twice a day.

Around New Year when she had gone round, Mary had complained of having a sore back and she noticed she was not walking very well.

She stated, in front of Mair, that she had not had any food from him, as he had a habit of keeping the provisions locked so she could not get them.

He shouted at her and wished her in hell with her soul burning.

It was claimed he starved her frequently, but her neighbours provided her with what food they could spare, but this was always done when he was out. Countless times, Mair was witnessed abusing her.

Bennie last saw Mary on 14th May around seven o’clock when she gave her some supper. Soon afterwards she was aware of the sound of blows raining down and Mary crying out.

They sounded to her like hammering. She heard Mary say for Mair to stop hitting her and to let her die in peace.

The next morning, having been too afraid to knock on the door, Bennie went round with some tea.

It was then she saw Mary in the bed, bruised, blood covering her shirt and her arms bare. There was blood on the bed itself. She offered her the tea while Mair went to the minister’s house.

Mary told her Mair had beaten her. Bennie sent for a police officer and Mair was duly arrested.

Shortly afterwards, Mary died.

While he was incarcerated in the condemned cell with his legs shackled to a chain rooted in the flagstone floor, he refused food for four or five days in protest. He soon gave up.

CONDEMNED prisoner Allan Mair appealed to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but it fell on deaf ears with him stating: ‘The law must take its course’.

The conviction stood and the night before his execution he heard the scaffold being erected outside and said what a horrible thing it was to be hanged like a dog.

On waking at 5am on Wednesday, October 4, 1843, one of his keepers read the bible to him and later he was visited Rev Mr Stark.

Mair told him he was going to address the crowd and tell them how unjustly he had been treated.

At 8 o’clock the provost and magistrates entered the Court Hall and Mair was brought in soon afterwards accompanied by two officers as well as the clergymen who had seen to his spiritual guidance.

These were Rev Mr Stark, the jail’s chaplain, and ministers Gilfillan, Leitch, Watson and Harper. He was bent almost double and was weeping bitterly.

He was sat down opposite them and a short passage was read form the bible while he rocked himself back and forth. During all of this he kept wringing his hands.

Once this was complete, he was offered a glass of wine but refused, stating he would not go into the hands of god drunk.

The executioner, dressed in light jacket and trousers, with a large black mask entered and tied Mair’s arms behind him. He complained the ties were too tight.

He was brought to the scaffold in Broad Street, but he was weak, so a chair was brought to him.

He shouted at the crowd he was innocent, that he had been ‘unjustly condemned through false swearing’. He cursed those who had convicted him.

He paused so the executioner stepped forward and asked him if he was ready. ‘No, sir, I am not done,’ he replied.

Mair turned to the crowd again and stated, ‘I have been unjustly accused, falsely sworn against and unlawfully condemned.’

He went on for another five minutes by which time the crowd was becoming impatient.

The hood was placed over his head and the hangman adjusted the rope round his neck. He was forced out of his chair and while he was still muttering, he was hanged at 8.43am.

Before he finally died one of his hands managed to get free and he tried to release himself. Afterwards, his body was placed in the coffin and he was taken to a cell before being buried in the passage leading to the courtyard, where he lay undisturbed for over 150 years.