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.
News reaches us today of the death of Christopher Lee, a true giant of the horror genre, and one to whom my wardrobe-mistress owes a considerable debt.
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 a departure from our regular On This Day strand, we present a new companion series: Around This Time, wherein we look back at events that happened at approximately this time of year, but are not associated with any particular date. You get a lot of that sort of thing in April: throughout Scotland's turbulent history, it's never been a month for momentous days.
They say old ghosts never die; they just fade away. Actually it's more a case of their ectoplasmic bodies wearing a bit thin and threadbare, at which point it's time for me to wistfully throw them over the hedge at the bottom of the garden, and begin the process of replacing them.
Yes, we're hiring again! Anyone who has had the "pleasure" of meeting one of our famous Jumper-Ooters up a dark Old Town alleyway in the dead of night will know that they are a singular breed: fearsome, implacable... and a bit silly at times.
Could this be you?
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.
It's now just over four months since our great big revamp of this very website, and the ghosts have just about gotten the hang of using it by now. Our much-expanded collection of goodies are flying off the virtual shelves, and our Byzantine Booking System is leading more brave souls than ever down the dark path that leads to a Witchery Tour.
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.
From the Burgh Records of January 1587, we learn that Edinburgh Town Council starts the new year pragmatically (as do we all) with a bit of a tidy-up, and so:
"Ordanis James Ros, thesaurer, to caus red the rowme of the awld gallows; baynes, deid corssis and all."
["Orders James Ross, treasurer, to have cleared the space around the old gallows; bones, dead corpses and all."]