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On This Day

On This Day... 17th May 1718: Friared to a crisp

By Alexander Clapperton, May 17, 2020 - 12:55am
Greyfriars Kirk after the fire of 1845

17th May 1718: On this date Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirk was accidentally blown up by gunpowder. Not quite the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 on London's House of Lords but instead just a simple accident.

Edinburgh Town Council at that time stored their gunpowder in a small tower at the west end of the church. "This was surely asking for trouble!" I hear you loudly shout, and you'd be right. The west end of the church was obliterated, and a new west wall was built.

On This Day... 17th March 1514: We're taxing you all, to pay for a wall

By Alexander Clapperton, March 17, 2020 - 4:21pm
Section of the Flodden Wall in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh

17th March 1514 - From the Burgh Records:

"Extent for walling of the toun.

The president baillies counsall and communite hes grantit and consentit that ane extent be gatherit of the haill communitie extending to the sowme of V li., with the dettis awand to the toun for the furnesing and defens of the samyn, efter the forme and effect of our Souerane Lordis writingis direct for that intent."

On This Day... 19th January 1586: Who clenges the clengers?

By Alexander Clapperton, January 19, 2020 - 12:52am
A foule clenger getting a good clengeing from a colleague

19th January 1586 - Yet another outbreak of the dreaded Plague drew to an end in Edinburgh around this time, and on this date the Burgh Council "Ordanis Alexander Fraynche, fowle clenger, to be clengeit and ane vther conducet in his rowme als guid cheip as can be."

That is to say: "Ordains Alexander French, foule clenger, to be cleansed [of the Plague] and another [should be] appointed in his place as cheaply as possible."

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.

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