Men They Couldn't Hang, The band name meaning

One of the founders of The Men They Couldn't Hang, bass player Shanne Breadley, was also at the basis of The Nipple Erectors, the first band of Shane MacGowans of the later Pogues. For this reason it’s not so strange that The Men They Couldn't Hang from London added a drop of punk music to their folk rock style numbers.

The band is named after John 'Babbacombe' Lee, nicknamed The Man They Could Not Hang. Early 1885 Lee was convicted to the noose because he was accused of having killed his employer, Emma Keyse, at her home (she lived in Babbacombe Bay near Torquay) on 15 november 1884. The evidence against him was largely circumstantial, but an old criminal record and an inexplicable wound to his arm proved fatal to John. 

Meaning of band name The men they could not hang - John Lee

On 23 February 1885 the executioner, James Berry, made three futile attempts to hang Lee; three times the drop defied the laws of gravitation and stayed where it was. The execution was called off and later the Home Secretary at the time, Sir William Harcourt, changed Lee's penalty into life imprisonment. Technical research showed that the drop fell effortlessly as long as there was no weight on it. In 1907, after having put in many petitions for pardon, Lee was released.

By the way,  there has been another man in penitentiary history they could not hang: Englishman Joseph Samuel, condemned to death because of a brutal murder in Australia, whose noose failed three times. The public considered it a sign of God, which made the authorities decide that Samuel, who suffered no more than a sprained ankle during his adventures on the scaffold, to grant him pardon.

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