I never saw him on Fridays

Fridays were his. They were sacred to Mr Darshan Singh, Singapore's long-time hangman.

Not even his wife Madam Jeleha Haji Said, a woman he married in 1960, could take Fridays away from him.

But he was fond of telling anyone willing to listen how his Fridays were spent playing hockey and cricket. In five visits by The New Paper, even as he struggled with dementia, he would always volunteer to tell us what he did on Fridays.

Fridays, Madam Jeleha explained, was also when he was the hangman.

She recounted: "Back then, shifts were shorter. He would leave for work at 5.30am, and after he was done, just after lunch, he'd be at the Singapore Recreation Club at the Padang.

"That's where he would play hockey or cricket."

Perhaps it was his way of dealing with his feelings, she said. He never discussed regret about his work, sticking to a line he had used with her for decades - it was his job.

On Friday mornings, Mr Singh would lead the condemned - they were mostly men - to the gallows, supported them if their legs went soft, but always encouraged them to be brave.

A hood would go over their heads first before the noose followed. Then the knot would be carefully placed, at a point in their necks, so the act would be swift.

And the deed was done.

Then it was off to the club and back home late at night.

Amid debate on the merits of the death penalty, the gallows have got more quiet. There were no hangings last year compared to four the year before.

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