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On This Day

On This Day... 1st October 1788: Poor Wullie

By Alexander Clapperton, October 1, 2018 - 12:45am
Deacon William Brodie and some of his tools

1st October 1788 - On this day Deacon William Brodie was hanged along with his accomplice George Smith for burglary and housebreaking.

Prior to his arrest, Brodie had been living a double life. By day he was known around the upper-class parts of town as a successful businessman, council member and deacon of the Edinburgh Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. He was a professional carpenter, and did work for some of the richest people in the city.

Years of April foolishness

By Alexander Clapperton, March 31, 2018 - 5:27pm
Poster for Grave Robbers: The Movie

Over the years we have created and implemented quite a few April Fool spoofs in and around Edinburgh.

In 1999, we worked with Scottish Television on an April Fool about Brazilian footballer Ronaldo. The challenge was to convince the public Ronaldo had Scottish ancestry and was eligible to play football for Scotland. The idea was conceived by Stuart Reid of Scottish Roots, who enlisted the help of our very own Robin Mitchell, and Tony Higgins from the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association.

The Life and Crimes of Adam Lyal

By Alexander Clapperton, March 27, 2017 - 5:01pm
Adam Lyal (deceased)

As today marks two hundred and six years since the execution of Adam Lyal (nice round number), we take the opportunity to look back at the life of Edinburgh's best-known working stiff.

Almost nothing has been learned of Adam's parentage or early life, other than that he was born in 1785 (he gave his age as 25 at his arrest), and had a younger brother John, born in 1789, and a sister Catharine whose age is unknown.

On This Day... 12 February 1829: Knox! Knox! Who's there? A lynch-mob

By Alexander Clapperton, February 12, 2017 - 3:30pm
Doctor Robert Knox (contemporary sketch)

12th February 1829 - Just over two weeks after the execution of William Burke for the notorious West Port murders, a crowd gathers on Calton Hill. Bearing an effigy of Dr Robert Knox, they march to his house in Newington and there, after hanging their effigy from a tree in view of his window and setting it alight, stage a riot.

Anatomical Anniversary Antics

By Adam Lyal, January 26, 2017 - 3:09pm
Skeleton of William Burke, in Edinburgh University's medical school

The twenty-eighth of January is a date very well-known to all my ghosts: it's the date when, in 1829, the notorious "Body Snatcher" (or more accurately, multiple murderer) William Burke made his appointment with the hangman's noose at Edinburgh's Mercat Cross, on The Royal Mile. The execution is said to have been attended by a crowd numbering in the thousands, with the cheer that arose at the fateful moment being clearly audible three miles away in the port of Leith.

On This Day... 21 June 1864: A Drop Too Much

By Alexander Clapperton, June 21, 2015 - 8:39pm
The plaque on the High Street.

If you should happen to be stravaiging The Royal Mile today, near the corner of the High Street and George IV Bridge, you might notice three curious brass plates set into the pavement. If you were to then look around you, you might also notice a brass plaque on the wall nearest these plates, which records that it was on this spot, on the 21st of June 1864, that George Bryce became the last person to be publicly executed in Edinburgh. What it does not record, however, is why he was the last.

On This Day... 21 May 1650: A Farewell to Arms. And Legs.

By Alexander Clapperton, May 21, 2015 - 9:12pm
The Arms of Montrose (and his sword)

It was on this day in 1650 that James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, known as "the Great Montrose", was hanged and ritually dismembered for treason at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. Despite being one of the King's most loyal supporters, his refusal to compromise his principles had led to his repeatedly falling in and out of favour with those in power; both before and after his death.

On This Day... 27 January 1591: Dr. Fian, the Women!

By Alexander Clapperton, January 27, 2015 - 2:02pm
Illustration of the case from the contemporary pamphlet, Newes from Scotland - declaring the damnable life and death of Dr. John Fian

Doctor John Fian, alias John Cunningham, is "worriett" [strangled and then burned] on the Castlehill for witchcraft. He was alleged to have been the leader of a coven of witches based in North Berwick who had conspired to take the life of King James VI and his new bride, Princess Anne of Denmark by raising terrible storms in the North Sea during the royal newlyweds' return voyage.

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