On This Day
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.
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.
27th April 1601: On this date Archibald Cornwall, town officer of Edinburgh, was hanged as a consequence of a terrible misunderstanding over his attempt to display a portrait of King James VI.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the evening of this date, King James II resolved his differences with William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, by stabbing him a couple of dozen times and throwing him out of a window. It may be understating matters to say that the two had many long-standing grudges against one another.