In 1850, Adelaide was a small colony, with very little to do once work had finished for the day. Gaol Executions, although distressing and grotesque, attracted large crowds of onlookers.
The execution day of James Yates was no different. On that day, the crowd grew to six hundred strong, despite the inclement weather.
Yates had been found guilty of murdering a Shepard at Skillagogee Creek, a fellow workman known locally as “The Sergeant” because of his past military service.
Without going into too much detail about eh case (as it is long an extensive – but if you want to read more, please visit here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3931229?zoomLevel=5&searchTerm=James%20yates&searchLimits=l-state=South+Australia|||l-decade=185 ) Yates was found guilt of a brutal murder by way of repeated blows to the head.
He denied any wrong doings in court, claiming loudly that he was innocent, and later that it was self defence as the old Sergeant had been quite drunk and came at him first..
Yates hanging was a horrible one, with the know of the noose getting caught behind his neck, and his constant struggling witnessed by the large crowd. He was eventually let down, and his body evaluated before being buried inside the stone walls of The Adelaide Gaol.
The following poem was written by condemned man, James Yates, this poetry, although badly written, was heartfelt and in appreciation of his lawyer, Mr G.M. Stephen, for his tireless, although unsuccessful, efforts to save him from the gallows.
If I had always refrained from drink
and paid attenshion to the word of God
I never would have had to have rued the day
Or on the wretched scaffold to have trod
Since i have now come to this untimely end
And in this world i found one onely friend
Who tried his utmost for me to defend
I hope God will reward him in the end
His honner the guge to me he has proved kind
Nearley three weeks he has gave me to make up my mind
For this wicked world to leave behind
And in the next i hope soon my God to find
I was brought up by my tender parents
Who always was to me so kind and free
But little did they ever think
That I should di on the gallows tree