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The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM RILEY


A young Soldier, whose Zeal for Sport led to a Murder, for which he was executed at Tyburn in 1750

WILLIAM RILEY served the greater part of his apprenticeship to a watchmaker at Liverpool, but on his master dying he turned his mind to the sea, and sailed one voyage, which it appears was sufficient to induce him to quit the watery element for the service of the land; and to this end he enlisted into the second regiment of Foot Guards.

Walking matches, now lately revived, were in great vogue. Considerable bets were depending on a man walking three hundred miles in six days -- a feat little inferior to Captain Barclay's thousand miles in as many successive hours. This wager was determined in Tothill Fields, Westminster, in favour of the pedestrian.

Riley, also a great walker, was so much interested in the man's success that he undertook to clear the way; but on the last day the crowd became so great that he, in his anxiety, struck several who did not fall back, and among the rest one Sutton, who returned the blow, whereupon a scuffle ensued, and Riley, being thrown down by the mob, drew his sword and stabbed him, of which wound he died, and Riley was found guilty of wilful murder.

After sentence of death he was very penitent, and expressed his deep contrition for taking away the life of a fellow-creature. He was executed, along with George Robins, George Anderson and Thomas Reynolds, when only nineteen years of age.


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