From the Archives

The Southern Democrat, July 27, 1933

A rogue’s name lives

Hundreds of thousands of stately derricks dot the many oil fields of the world, and many other thousands of smaller hoisting devices also bear the name of “derrick.” How this name came to be applied to various forms of lifting apparatus is interesting, for it confers a sort of immortality upon a rascal who became a famous hangman.

When Robert, Earl of Essex, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth of England, aided in the capture of Cadiz, Spain, in 1596, some sailors under his command engaged in the pillage of the city, even making attacks upon Spanish women.

Twenty-four of the culprits were condemned to death, but no one wanted to be the executioner. Essex thereupon pardoned one of them, a sailor named Derrick, in consideration of his hanging the other 23, which he proceeded to do.

Derrick evidently did a good job of it, for upon his return to England, he was made hangman at the famed Tyburn prison in London. In the meantime, Essex had incurred the disfavor of the queen, and had made a feeble attempt to incite a revolution against her. He was tried and condemned to death.

On Feb. 21, 1601, Hangman Derrick had the painful duty of beheading the man who had pardoned him in Cadiz five years before, and he wielded the axe as skillfully as he had hitherto manipulated the noose.

But his name became a synonym for a hangman, and by extension to a gallows or other hoisting device. Thus the useful derrick came to be so called.

-Darnall’s Newspaper Service

Brothers killed by freight train

George and James Burke, Nyota, Ala., brothers, were injured fatally Monday afternoon when run over by a Louisville & Nashville freight train near Nyota, Blount County, about 30 miles from Birmingham.

George, 50, was killed instantly, and his brother died early Monday night at a Birmingham hospital, about three hours after being admitted. The latter was brought to Birmingham by an L&N train, and was taken to Hillman Hospital in a Johns ambulance.

Deputy Coroner Earl Wilson began an investigation when it was first believed the accident occurred in Jefferson County. The investigation later was taken over by Blount County officers at Nyota.

Wilson said he was told by trainmen that the men apparently were asleep on the track. There were no eye witnesses except the trainmen.