Gilderoy's Kite

   Gilderoy is not a fictitious name. It was a nickname of a noted robber and cattle stealer of Perthshire, England. The nickname Gilderoy came from "gillie roy," a red-haired lad, a sobriquet that fit because Gilderoy had flaming red hair.
   Gilderoy was said to have committed some incredible crimes. He picked the pocket of Cardinal Richelieu, and, to make matters worse, did so in the presence of the king. England's Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell fared no better: Gilderoy picked his pockets, too. Clearly, Gilderoy had very deft fingers. But he made a strategic blunder. According to reports, Gilderoy and his associates got into trouble and came before a judge who gave them a rough time. He sentenced them to a term longer than usual. When the hooligans were finally released, they retaliated by hanging the judge. For that misadventure, Gilderoy and his five gang members were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.
   The presiding judge was a hanging judge who took no chances on becoming a hanged judge. He sentenced Patrick MacGregor (Gilderoy's real name) to be hanged higher than the others. The legal axiom then was, the greater the crime, the higher the gallows. Gilderoy's gibbet from ground to pinnacle was thirty feet high. Thousands came to Gallowlee. i near Edinburgh, to see Gilderoy hanging in the breeze. His corpse, moving to and fro with the wind, remained on exhibition for weeks. No kite or body had ever been hung higher than Gilderoy's. The year was 1636.
   The phrase "to be hung higher than Gilderoy's kite" means to be punished more severely than the very worst criminal.
Of Gilderoy sae fraid they were,
They bound him mickle strong,
Tull Edenburrow they led him thair,
And on a gallows hung;
They hung him high aboon the rest,
He was sae trim a boy . . .
Percy's Reliques

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.