Arthur B. English

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Arthur Bartholomew English was a British man who became Canada's hangman in 1912, when he was officially offered the job. Prior to this he had been an assistant to John Radclive, a veteran of twenty years of hangings. English served in this capacity until 1935. He probably used the pseudonym of Arthur Ellis after the famous English executioner, John Ellis: there is no truth in the story that John Ellis was his uncle, as John Ellis only had one brother, James Preston who was born in 1887, and therefore would have been only 25 when Arthur Ellis started his career. It is estimated that English carried out more than 600 hangings over his career.[1] Several of his successors adopted the same pseudonym.

Arthur English's career as Canada's hangman ended following the 28 March 1935 execution of Tommasina Teolis[2] in Montreal. An incorrect weight for Teolis was given to English and the resulting miscalculations meant that the condemned was accidentally beheaded. From January 1, 1870, executions in Canada were to be held in private, but could be attended by members of the public upon invitation. Following this event, the practice was discontinued.

The Crime Writers of Canada present annual literary awards – the Arthur Ellis Awards – named for this pseudonym. In 2009 Arthur Ellis was featured prominently in the documenatary Hangman's Graveyard. The film follows an archaeological investigation into a forgotten cemetery at Toronto's old Don Jail. Ellis hanged two of the individuals featured in the film.

He died in poverty in Montreal in July, 1938, and was interred at the Mount Royal Cemetery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frank W. Anderson, Hanging in Canada, Frontier Books (C) 1972, p. 42
  2. ^ Lorna Poplak, Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada, Dundurn, 2017, p91-94.