Jessie’s Statement

The following story is from Jessie’s statement regarding the night of the 4th July 1862

When Jessie McLachlan arrived at Sandyford Place, according to her statement Jessie McPherson let her through the door. James Fleming who is otherwise known as the “the Ole Man” the “Ole Deil” or “Ole Fleming” was sat in the kitchen on the lower level of the property. The three of them had a drink before Jessie McLachlan says James handed her a bottle, 1s. 2d. and sent her out for half-a-munchkin from the whisky shop on North Street. Jessie McPherson provided Jessie McLachlan with the key to the back door lane and states she left the kitchen back door open. Unfortunately, the Whisky shop was closed and so Jessie made her way back to the house at Sandyford.

On returning Jessie’s statement reads that she found the kitchen door closed, the door she had left open before setting off upon her journey to the whisky shop. She knocked but received no answer. She went to peer through the kitchen window, but no one was in sight. She then rapped the door with the door lane key to which eventually ole Fleming answered blaming the door closing on “them brutes o’ cats”. Placing the bottle on the table Jessie then enquired as to the whereabouts of her friend. Fleming left the room, she thought to find Jessie McPherson and so she followed him. Upon passing the laundry Jessie states she heard the sound of moaning and so she passed the ole man who was inclined at first to prevent her passage. Jessie McLachlan found her friend on the floor of the laundry with a large wound across her brow and a cut to her nose, she appeared insensible. James Fleming it was an accident and he had not intended to do this to the girl. Jessie McPherson was lying there with nothing on but her polka and her shift. Sending Ole Fleming to fetch lukewarm water to bathe her friend, Jessie McLachlan asked her what had happened but she did not respond. Jessie thought Fleming may have been “attempting something wrong with her” but Fleming did not appear in a passion.

“However did you do such a thing to the girl?” Jessie asked Fleming. He said he did not know and appeared vexed by the situation. Jessie then asked him to fetch a doctor, he said she would be better soon and he would fetch one when she was sorted and left ‘ben the hoose’. Jessie continued to bathe Jessie McPherson’s head as she came around, giving one-word answers but no explanation for her injuries. When McPherson began to appear less dazed McLachlan offered to go get a doctor to which Jessie McPherson responded “No! Stay here beside me”. As the ladies sat on the floor James Fleming entered the room with a basin of water, cleaning up the blood which was laying around them. He spilled the basin as he moved and soaked Jessie McLachlan’s feet. McLachlan then attempted to raise Jessie to a sitting position on her bedroom chair, but she appeared too ill and asked to be laid on her bed. Jessie asked Fleming to assist her in putting McPherson into her bed. When in the bed, Jessie continued to bathe her friend’s wounds, fetching a crocheted nightcap to keep the handkerchief covering her head wound in place. McPherson appeared to be getting weaker, but Fleming said there was no fear and so he would fetch on in the morning. Jessie sat by her friend for some time whilst they spoke. Jessie McPherson told her friend about James Flemings attempt to climb into her bed some weeks ago, and how she had told him if he attempted the same again she would tell his son John Fleming, the master of the house, and that there had been words between them since as the ole man was terrified she would tell his son. The poor woman told Jessie McLachlan that she and James had been having words whilst she was away for he thought she had threatened to tell Jessie about him having had tried to climb into bed with her. Upon leaving the kitchen when Jessie was out, the ole man had attacked her, striking her with something that felled her whilst using bold language.

When James next entered the room Jessie asked him how he had allowed himself to be provoked enough to strike the girl after his own doings with her. James responded that ‘It couldna be helped now’. Before the ole man Jessie McPherson said she feared when the doctor came in the morning, and when John Fleming returned home she would just need to tell ‘who did it and why’. “No, No, Jess, ye’ll no need to do that”, followed by begging Jessie McLachlan never to speak of it, and he would put everything to rights. James would not take Jessie McLachlan’s word that she would not talk about it and fetched a large black bible for her to swear upon. James continued to promise he would take care of Jessie McPherson for all her life. From this point Jessie McPherson felt cold and so James and Jessie put her next to the fire where she slept for a little time under a blanket with a pillow under her head. Upon waking Jessie McPherson appeared to have worsened and at around 4 or 5am she rapidly deteriorated, she asked Jessie McLachlan to run for a doctor. Fleming did not wish a doctor to be called for and would not tell McLachlan where one lived but she knew their was one in the neighbourhood and so dashed upstairs only to find the door locked. Running back down to the basement she seen that her friend was worse still, and James Fleming was stood over her he told a fearful Jessie he would fetch a doctor in his own time, this is when Jessie thought for the first time that her friend would die that night. Jessie ran upstairs and into the parlour room, opening the shutters to see if she could see someone out with the house, she was going to the dining room to see if she could find someone out the front of the house when she heard a noise in the kitchen.

Through the kitchen door Jessie seen an awful sight, James Fleming stood over Jessie McPherson with the meat chopper, striking her on the side of the head. As her head lay on the pillow in front of the fire in the kitchen he struck her repeatedly. Frightened she screamed, and turned around to run back upstairs when he saw her. Jessie called for help! as she saw him come toward her with the meat cleaver in his hand. James said he would not hurt her, but he had ‘kent frae the first she couldna live’ and that if any doctor had come in he would have to answer for her death for she would have told. Convincing Jessie not to tell for if she did she would be pulled in for the crime as he would inform on her should she report him for the deed.

My Life is in your power, and your life is in my power, but if both of us would keep the secret it would never be found out who did it”

Jessie begged him to let her away from the house as he dragged Jessie McPhersons dead body into the laundry and began to wipe up the sheet Jessie McPherson had had over her by the fire. Jessie promised she would never reveal what she had seen that night. James told her the best thing for him was to tell people that the house had been robbed, he would leave the larder window open. He gave over some of Jessie McPhersons dresses to her, and gave her instructions to buy a box and send them off on the railways to be left until collected. James busied himself burning items of clothing in front of her and telling Jessie he knew the girl would never live when he struck her first. When the doorbell rang James attempted to get Jessie McLachlan to answer the door but she would not, it was the milk boy. Upon returning James gave Jessie a silver plate and bade her to pawn it and at Lundies Pawn, providing her with the false name to use. James gave her some money, and she promised never to tell of what happened that night. He promised to set her up with a shop, and said he would ensure she would never want for anything.

Jessie McLachlan left the Sandyford house that morning at around 8 am through the back door, James accompanied her to the lane where he used the lane key to let her out. She returned home via Kelvingrove Street and along the Broomielaw where she avoided people she knew by going up Washington Street and down James-Watt Street. When she returned home Mrs Campbell let a weary Jessie inside.