John the Painter

The First ' Modern' Terrorist..and he's American!!

This tale might be a bit of an eye opener to the so-called Septics here, but I'm sure, all the Brits studied about ' John' in school..

Great Read:
The Incendiary: The Misadventures of john the Painter, the First modern Terrorist. by Jessica warner, McClelland and Stewart [ 298 pages, $ 32.99 CAN ]..

Seems he was a young Yank who , caught up in the fervor of the revolution decided to take matters into his own hands and attack Mother england on her own turf..James Aitken started out life as a Scotsman dfoing odd jobs as a burglar, highwayman and housepainter [hence the name ]..
his plan was to set fire to the British dockyards.. Using a tiny device of his own invention [ a miniature lantern fuelled by turpentine, cotton waste and a candle ] he set out..

Burned part of the hempworks at Plymouth as his first 'test ' then seet half of the Bristol docks on fire second time out..someone ratted him out and he was caught.. Justice was swift..brought before Sir Beaumont Hotham, he was duly sentenced at Winchester.."arson to the naval dockyard.." [escaping the more severe crime of treason ] with the sentence thus reduced to ' death '..
He was dulty transported to Plymouth where he was strangeld, then hoisted up the 64 foot miszzenmast of the HMS Arethusa [ specially unbolted and placed on land for the occasion ] then they evicerated his body, tarred it, hauled it back up the mast and placed thousands of nails around the bottom of the mast to deter souvenir hunters from shinneying up the pole and left him to waft in the wind for years as a warning to all and sundry...

He appearently lasted a long time in situ and was only ' removed' by the Germans who bombed and set the dockyards alight with -um - incendiary devices - in 1942 air raids.. [ apparently his mummified finger was ' retained' and used as a tobacco stopper on a jar..]

I see thqat arson in a naval dockyard, until recently, remained the only crime in Britain that could still carry the death penalty..

anyway.. its a cracking good read..

Got to love English justice in the old he'd get community service and be sent to use his painting skills to cover over the fire damage he caused...

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