Portland Year Book


Portland Year Book 1905

What is known as the "Easton Massacre" took place on April 2, 1803. It is a thrilling experience of the old time Press gang at Portland.

The following quaint description of the occurrence is taken from a local manuscript kindly lent by a friend :

APRIL, 1, 1803, came to anchor in Portland Roads, Eagle, frigate, George Wolfe, Esq., commander, for the purpose of impressing men ; and immediately put out his boat to impress seamen in the Road, whereof Nicholas Way, son of J. Way, of this Island, was impressed and carried on board. After examination, finding he was a captain of a small vessel was again sent on shore, being detained only two days. Nothing material else happened that evening.

APRIL 2, 1303, Landed the impress boat near Portland Castle about 5 o'clock in the morning, from the above mentioned frigate, with the captain, three more officers, a lieutenant of marines, and 24 private marines and a number of seamen, armed with muskets, bayonets, pistols, and cutlasses, and proceeded towards the village of Chissel and impressed one Henry Wiggatt, and going a little farther they saw Nich. Way, son of Elizabeth Way, run into his house, whereof they broke up the door and impressed the said Nich. Way. Both of them were guarded by some of the press gang to the Castle.

The inhabitants of this village then running up the hill to make their escape, but was closely followed by the press gang When they came upon the hill and reached Zach. White's house near the church, the said Zach. White, seeing them, asked them where they was going, and desired them to stop. They said, "we shall want your assistance to go with us," but he asked them by what authority. They immediately took out a warrant, and presented it to him, and asked him if he could read. He took the warrant and read it, and finding it was signed only by the Mayor of Weymouth he said his power do not extend to this Island unless it had been signed by one of the County Magistrates, therefore he should have nothing to do with them, but used all the persuasive language he could to stop them from going down the street. But they still proceeded on their mad career till they reached the bottom of the street, where they halted and drawed up in lines about, half-past six o'clock.

The inhabitants were then in several divisions in the street, but seeing the captain attempt to take one Robert Bennett they all collected together and advanced within ten yards of the Press gang to rescue him, the said Robert Bennett, the Press gang then commanding the passage leading up Reforne Street. The said Press gang attempting to take some more men, a scuffle commenced. In consequence thereof a pistol was fired by the Captain, and its contents supposed to be lodged in the ground supposed to be a signal for the marines to fire, which immediately took place, and the consequence thereof proved fatal to the inhabitants of the Island. Alexander Andrews, Rich. Flann, and William Lano was killed on the spot. Richard Bennett was badly wounded with a ball going through his thigh and Mary Way was dangerously wounded with a ball entering the right side of her back and supposed to be lodged near her left breast. The Press Gang had one man badly wounded and carried away on a hurdle and four or five more wounded. The inhabit inhabitants immediately fled, some through the Great Pool, some one way and some another, but none of them were taken. The gang soon left us. They walked as far as Duckstile, but made no stop. They went back again the same way, up through Reforne Street and proceeded on to the Castle much dejected, and took on board the two men they had impressed in the morning "

In 1903 the "Hampshire Telegraph" reprinted for its pages of 100 years ago a narrative of the event, similar to the above. Andrews was 47 years of age, Flann 42 and Lano 26, all married men, 2 of them quarrymen and one (Lano) a blacksmith. "An inquisition was held and a verdict given of wilful murder, against the whole, leaving the law to discriminate the ringleaders. One account says Lano was killed while standing at his blacksmith shop door ; another alleged that he was killed while in the act of cocking a musket.

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