It's a familiar site in Edinburgh's West Bow to see visitors (and some locals) standing in front of our wee shop staring at the name above the door: The Cadies & Witchery Tours. Within seconds of spying our name, the front door creaks open and we prepare ourselves for the expected question: "What in the world is a Cadie?"
One does sometimes see some curious sights in the hideous heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, but this might just take the biscuit.
This morning as I pried up my cellar door and stepped outside to dispose of last night's gardy-loos, I was startled by a large, rainbow-coloured beach ball landing with a soft "poomp" right next to me upon the cobbles, as though having fallen from some height. Well, I thought, that's a funny time for a stag party to be out and about, but not unprecedented I suppose ...
Being the proud custodians of a calling-card case fashioned from the skin of the notorious murderer William Burke, we receive many intrigued enquiries from visitors. Such as: What precisely is a calling-card? How it is different from a modern business card? And why, precisely, would one think it a good idea to carry them around in such a gruesome device as that? Well, dear reader, we can answer most of these questions...
The Cadies & Witchery Tours are proud to support Scottish artists, and our shop on Victoria Street boasts work for sale by several highly talented individuals, but our longest-standing and most prolific contributor has undoubtedly been portrait artist and illustrator Katy Jones.
There is a unique and remarkable life-size painting in our wee Edinburgh shop which goes by the name of Monk's Close. It was painted by contemporary Scottish artist David Martin, who is not to be confused with the other Scottish artist called David Martin (born in 1737).
Many moons ago (31 years, whatever that is in moons) in a cold, windy city called Edinburgh, an Angel appeared at the front door of our founder, Mr. Robin Mitchell. "Fear not Robin, your future is bright. You will do tours and become busy. It will be your baby".
However, business premises were badly required; and all Robin had in his possession was £22.87, a scrubbing brush and a second hand Morris 1100.
All the rented office suites were full. "No room in this office block, shove off." said all the estate agents (politely).
In the early 1800s, Edinburgh's intellectuals faced a dilemma. The enlightened doctors of the Medical School required a regular supply of human cadavers on which to conduct their research. Their students also needed bodies to study in order to learn anatomy.
Unfortunately, the Law only allowed the bodies of executed criminals to be used for medical research, and a Judge would usually only add this to a criminal's sentence for particularly heinous crimes. Demand for fresh cadavers soon outstripped the number that even the harsh legal establishment of the time could supply.
Residing in our wee shop in Edinburgh's Old Town is a lucky dog known as 'West Bow Sheba'. Trained to stay deathly still at all times, Sheba -- resplendent with four small modest wheels and a scary mask to protect her anonymity -- is presently employed as our in-house guard dog.
As my gravelly-throated ghouls claw their way gingerly out of the rubble to face another day, I pause to take stock of another memorable night out for the Cadies. It won't surprise anyone that All Hallows' Eve, Samhuinn, or whatever you care to call it, is by far the most exercise our creaky corpses get all year round; I think we covered that last time.