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The Life and Death of “Murderer” Patrick Whelan

The Ottawa Jail (or Carleton) was opened in 1862. Served as the Capital’s local jail for over a century. This was the site for the Hanging of Patrick Whelan.

He led a solitary life from as young as 14 years old, travelling all over until ending in Canada.  It’s 1865 and Whelan would serve in the military fighting the Fenian’s who went against British rule.  But many believed him to be sympathetic to the enemy.

He’d live in Buffalo, Hamilton and Montreal before the 27 year old Whelan settled down with 57 year old woman Bridget Boyle.  They lived in Ottawa and Patrick worked as a merchant tailor.

Murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee

Then in April of 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee returned to his residence. 

Once an advisory to British politics. After a political defeat, McGee changed his mind. 

That didn’t sit well with Fenian’s who sought Irish rule. Including Whelan.

At his boarding house, McGee fumbled to find his keys as owner Mary Ann Trotter opened the door.

A .32 pistol went off in the darkness.  Hit McGee hard, across his neck, knocking the dentures from his mouth. 

He died there on Sparks Street.

Whelan Claimed as Murderer

Whelan was a top suspect, eventually found with a .32 pistol in his pocket.  A trial, a verdict and sentenced to hang.

As he walked out of the courthouse, Whelan said to his jury,

“I am held to be a murderer. I am here standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and to my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed”

On February 11th 1869 in front of 5,000 eager witnesses. They publicly displayed Patrick Whelan and hanged him in the gallows of the Ottawa Jail.

Ottawa Jail Gallows - View for the People during hanging of Patrick Whelan
Ottawa Jail Gallows – View for the People during hanging of Patrick Whelan

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