Thursday 7th of September 2023 marks exactly 35 years to the day since we purchased at auction a small calling-card case made out of the skin of the notorious "body-snatcher" William Burke.
On This Day
On this day in 1590, King James VI of Scotland -- later also James I of England and Ireland -- made landfall at the port of Leith, after a perilous homeward voyage from his unplanned honeymoon in Denmark.
Our ongoing research into the history of Greyfriars cemetery has uncovered a number of fascinating characters buried in the kirkyard, and it's interesting to note that not all of these residents date back to the 17th or 18th centuries. One such later arrival is Leslie Balfour-Melville, who was buried in the graveyard in 1937. In some sporting circles, Balfour-Melville has been described as Scotland's greatest ever sportsman.
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.
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."
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."
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.