A handbill from 1767 tells a story of two Colne lads who fell in with a bad lot, followed a crooked path and eventually paid the ultimate price. Thomas and Richard Boys, a god fearing pair from a good home, ended their days in York at the end of a rope.
Their wives and children (all young? – the Boys were only in their twenties) waited for them to be cut down and prepared for the trip back over the Pennines .
Why were they carried home to Colne in white coffins ? Perhaps the coffins were simply lime-washed to provide their company with some protection against the early stages of decomposition. The “W” and “C” is very deliberate though: the colour of these coffins was significant to the anonymous author of the handbill – did it have some religious significance or was it a final protest of innocence?
If another handbill is to be believed, the Boys did insist on their innocence. It purports to be a letter from them to their parents in which they admit wrongdoing but talk of the “false and wicked” evidence which saw them convicted of highway robbery.
Source: both handbills can be found online at Weaver to Web http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/wtw/index.html