Again, I cannot discuss the production of this tele-drama about the Sandyford Murder of July 1862, but I can fill in some background - especially as most people don't know it.
Jessie Maclachlan worked as a servant in the home of the Fleming family in Glasgow in 1862. The Fleming family included an elderly "head", Mr. John Fleming. Although he had a certain air of dignity and even country charm (speaking with a "braid Scot" accent for effect), his reputation was not of the best - he had been sued when he was 80 for getting a young woman pregnant (and he was ordered to pay child support!). In the first week of July 1862, the Fleming family went off on a vacation leaving Old Fleming in town in the house with Maclachlan and her co-worker and friend Jessie MacPherson. MacPherson was found (on July 5, 1862) dead from blows with a cleaver. The police arrested Maclachlan, despite some odd features. A newsboy came to deliver the daily paper, and found Fleming awake and dressed at an hour he normally would be sleeping. There was evidence that Maclachlan was not physically able to do the attack on MacPherson (and Fleming, despite his age, was quite capable of doing it). Maclachlan had few traces of any blood on her, yet the killing was quite sanguinary. Moreover, Fleming (in court) would prove a difficult witness - he apparently never heard an attack that should have led to many screams. But then, neither did Maclachlan!
Maclachlan was found guilty and sentenced to death, but the public was sickened by the farce. The Judge, Lord Deas, was bending over backwards for old Fleming (who after all, was from his lairdship's class). His critics would call his lairdship, Lord "Death". No attempt was made to study the "possibility" that Fleming was guilty. Pressure mounted, and Maclachlan's sentence changed to life imprisonment. A model prisoner, she was released in 1877, and died in 1899 in Michigan, where she immigrated.
Did Fleming kill MacPherson? Did Maclachlan do the deed? We just don't know, and Jack House did not take a stand on it in his book SQUARE MILE TO MURDER (although he did feel Fleming was not entitled to the hand's off treatment he got). But he does make the point that Jessie Maclachlan did not get a fair trial in 1862.
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