Scottish Graveyard Scandals

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Currie
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Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Currie » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:23 am

Scottish Graveyard Scandals.

This week starts a series of Scottish graveyard scandals. Just about every town and city in Scotland seems to have had one. Many were simply just a case of overcrowding, both in a vertical and horizontal sense, but sometimes it went to extremes. Some stories will be a bit distressing and perhaps best not read too close, either side, to mealtime. The headline should give an indication of this. Particularly bad cases were usually followed by a flood of letters to the editor which gives an idea of attitudes prevailing at the time.



Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday, February 25, 1891

AN AYR GRAVEYARD SCANDAL. — Sheriff Orr Paterson, Ayr, has been hearing evidence from the Magistrates and Town Council of Ayr in connection with a Petition by them to close the churchyard attached to the Old Church of Ayr. Dean of Guild Hunter stated that the burying ground in question had been formed in 1654. Up till 1862, the average annual number of interments had been 210, but latterly they had decreased to about 50, the decrease being due to the opening of the new cemetery. The ground had latterly become very much crowded, and he had seen coffins laid not more than from eighteen to twenty-six inches under the surface. In consequence of the ground being filled up, he had to get men to cart away the surplus soil to the beach, and he had afterwards to employ men to gather up small bones which had been washed out by the tide, and have them buried on the beach. The superintendent of the graveyard said that he had seen as many as five skulls taken from one grave, and that in general at a depth of three feet they came upon such a rickle of bones that they could not go down further. In many cases coffins were found to be so fresh when the grave was opened that they did not lift out the old coffin, but just put the new coffin on the top of it, sometimes not more than two feet below the surface. The Sheriff took the case to Avizandum.


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Aberdeen Journal, Saturday, September 9, 1893

GRAVEYARD SCANDAL AT PERTH.—An unusual case of official blundering has just come to light in Perth in connection with the interment of a woman who died sometime since. About two months ago the death of Mrs Wood, wife of an engine-driver, residing at Friarton, Perth, took place, and the funeral arrangements were duly carried out. A lair in Wellshill Cemetery was purchased, and the body of the deceased woman interred therein. A few days ago, however, it transpired that the remains had been deposited in piece of ground which had already been sold to another party, and the latter, on becoming aware of what had taken place, demanded that the body of the woman in question should be lifted. The graveyard officials, of course, had no alternative but to comply with the request of the original owner of the ground.


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Edinburgh Evening News, Friday, March 25, 1892
ALLEGED GRAVEYARD SCANDAL.

The inhabitants of a Dumfriesshire village are at present much exercised over a burial scandal. The wife of a respectable young tradesman gave birth to a child, which only lived a brief period. The man asked that a grave should be made for his child’s body in the parish churchyard, where his grandmother’s remains were interred more than twenty years since. The gravedigger declined until he had consulted the minister, who, it is alleged, declared he would not allow any member of the family to be interred in the churchyard. At his wit’s end what to do, the young man consulted a neighbour, upon whose advice he went under friendly cover of the night, and, aided by a relative, dug a grave where his grandmother was buried. Late at night a female neighbour carried the coffin containing the child’s body through the deserted streets of the village, and having handed it over the back wall of the churchyard to the father and his friend, they completed their sad task in the early hours of the morning.


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Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Monday, December 16, 1895
DUNFERMLINE GRAVEYARD SCANDAL.
REVOLTING REVELATIONS.

In connection with a petition praying for the closing of the northern part of Dunfermline Abbey Churchyard Sheriff Gillespie held an inquiry in Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Saturday into the circumstances connected with recent interments.

Alexander Robertson, superintendent of the churchyard, deponed that only four Interments had taken place within the dates specified. In two cases coffins were not interfered with; but the circumstances were different in the other two. A child had to be buried at a depth of three feet from the surface. There was a coffin in the bottom of the grave, and coffins were struck on each side. The soil was greasy mud, and a great quantity of water rushed into the grave. One of the gravediggers bailed out water for some time, and when the interment was about to take place a quantity of straw was thrown in the grave to hide the water from the mourners. In the other case, that of an adult, the circumstances were worse. In digging the grave a child’s coffin was come on at a depth of two feet. There was nothing in the coffin, and it was removed to the toolhouse. Immediately below the child’s coffin an adult's coffin was struck. Some bones were in the coffin, and the bones were thrown into a box and covered with earth. Below this second coffin a third coffin was struck. Water rushed into the grave, and on getting the water out the third shell was broken into.

And what did you see ?—The remains of a body. Not merely a skeleton?—Not at all. Practically the whole body. Some of the gentlemen in the Court will remember that I showed them it. I lifted it up from amongst the water with a hook, and showed the body from end to end. The body was quite exposed. There was a terrible smell. The stuff the gravedigger dug out was just like mortar. The gravedigger had to bail out water till near the hour of the interment, and the water was hidden by grass when the coffin was being lowered.

Robert Brown, an assistant gravedigger, said that the stuff he dug out of the grave seemed like the remains of bodies.

William Forbes, Sanitary Inspector for the burgh, deponed that his attention had been called to the grave of the adult mentioned. When he looked into the grave he noticed exposed coffins in the sides of the grave, and the coffin at the bottom was filled with water.

Did you see any remains?—A body was drawn up with a hook while I was standing at the grave. The newly dug soil was very wet.

Sheriff Gillespie made avizandum of the case, after Mr J. R. Stevenson had spoken for the petitioners and Mr A. Burt for the objectors to the closing of the churchyard.


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Edinburgh Evening News, Monday, December 6, 1897

ALLEGED GRAVEYARD SCANDAL NEAR DUNDEE.

Certain alleged grievances in connection with the management of the graveyards in the parish of Mains and Strathmartine, near Dundee, which have been receiving the attention for some time of the members of the Parish Council, came up at that body on Saturday. Mr Henry, solicitor, Dundee, clerk to the heritors, who had been waited on by a deputation of the Council, wrote stating that the heritors denied that the Parish Council had any locus standi to inquire, but out of courtesy they had asked him to state that they must be left to manage the graveyards according to their own ideas, and without interference from any outside body, unless they devolved their duties on the Parish Council. The law had given the kirk-session the right to charge for the hiring of the mortcloth whether it was used or not, and on the other points it was submitted that there was a regular register of burials, that there was no difficulty in the way of parties visiting the graveyards, that there was a regular scale for interments, and that the heritors had done everything they could to discourage the burial in the graveyards of parties who had left the parish.

Mr Durkie said that the letter amounted to an evasion of the points placed before the heritors. The parish was concerned about the non-fulfilment of duties by the heritors. With regard to the mortcloth, he had been informed that on its being placed on a coffin it was in such a condition that the relatives ordered it to be removed at once. If the mortcloth was still in existence, he thought it would be worthy of a place in a museum. (Laughter.) He also said that graves had been opened in a fresh condition. That would not have occurred if a proper register of burials had been kept. In the course of the discussion, Mr Durkie remarked that the mortcloth, if it existed, was a disgrace. It was no longer snuffy brown; it was a changing colour silk, all the colours of the rainbow. (Laughter.) He had been informed that, in connection with a funeral recently in Mains churchyard, the grave was so disgracefully dug that the coffin did not touch the bottom. Mr W. Smith, Downfield, said the agitation would probably result in their having to take over the graveyards, and they did not want to do that. Mr Durkie said they were not bound to take over the graveyards. In one of the churchyards the people were lying choke-a-block. (Laughter.) A proposal was made to appoint a committee to lay specific grievances before the heritors, but ultimately it was agreed to delay the matter, in order to give the heritors an opportunity to take any steps they desired.


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Edinburgh Evening News, Wednesday, December 22, 1897
ALLEGED LARBERT GRAVEYARD SCANDAL.

In the Falkirk Sheriff Court to-day, Sheriff Bell gave judgement in an action for £12 damages as solatium at the instance of Wm. Inglis, moulder, Steps Road, Stenhousemuir, against Robert Webster, session clerk, Larbert. Pursuer alleged that defender in July last caused the remains of a person named Inglis to be interred in a lair belonging to pursuer and in which six of pursuer’s children were buried. This, pursuer said, was done without authority. After representations the body was removed. Pursuer alleged that in opening the grave, and in interring the body, the defender caused the whole of the coffins and remains of the pursuers children to be removed, and the body placed at the bottom, the coffins of the children being reduced to fragments, and the remains thrown in a heap on the top of the new coffin. The remains were again disturbed and grossly abused on the disinterment and removal of the body. The defender, it was averred, had failed to restore the grave to its original condition, or to properly replace the monument or gravestone thereon.

The defence was that the pursuer was not the proprietor, in any proper sense of the term, of the lair. The owners of the ground were the heritors. Pursuer was entered on the register as the proprietor of the lair, and he was such as long as he remained in the parish. The heritors had even the right, although he remained in the parish, if they could not find room elsewhere, to utilise his lair for the purposes of burial.

The Sheriff said the case must go to proof. He did not know whose warrant was necessary to exhume a corpse in this way. In England he thought a warrant was necessary. An agent for the defender said he did not know what the law was. The usual course had been followed. Pursuer’s agent said there were cases where interdict had been obtained against interference with the remains of one’s relatives in this way. The Sheriff continued the case till 19th January for
proof.


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Dundee Courier, Wednesday, June 7, 1899

ABERDEEN GRAVEYARD SCANDALS.
REVOLTING SCENES.

Acting on instructions from Crown counsel, the Aberdeen authorities yesterday made an official investigation in regard to the desecration of graves at Nellfield Cemetery, and the result of their action is that further revelations of an extraordinary character have been made.

At six o’clock another of the gravediggers commenced operations in opening the walks in the cemetery in which it was supposed the coffins that had been removed from certain graves had been deposited, and the lairs which were suspected to have been tampered with were also opened. Excavations were commenced at the end of the first cross walk, and when about 30 inches of earth had been removed as many as fourteen silver coffin plates were discovered. Pieces of coffins, with handles and rings attached, were also found, and skeletons and bones of children and adults were also thrown up with almost every shovelful of earth. The diggers afterwards continued their work in cross walks near Great Western Place, and there a large quantity of bones were unearthed.

400 COFFIN-HANDLES UNEARTHED.

A significant feature of the discovery at one part of the ground, however, was immense quantities of coffin handles, said to amount in all to about 400. The hole which was dug was only about 3 feet 6 inches deep, 5 feet long, and 2 feet broad, and the quantity of material taken out of it was almost incredible. The explanation given is that this was part of the debris taken from the furnace after coffins had been burned. Of the name plates taken out of the hole, at least nine had inscriptions which were decipherable. The authorities have retained possession of these, and the names cannot be given, with the exception of one, which was—“John Buchan Innes, 45 years.” More revolting still was the spectacle presented when a hole was opened in a walk running at right angles to the Great Western Road wall. When they had got only two feet below the surface, the diggers were horrified to come upon the body of a girl of about fifteen years of age, which had been taken out of a coffin, of which there was no trace, thrown into the hole, and doubled up.

EXCLAMATIONS OF HORROR

and surprise came from all present when this revolting sight presented itself. The remains had been interred about two years ago, and, while they were considerably decomposed, there had been comparatively little wasting. Below this was found the body of an old man, which had been treated in the same manner, having been taken from the coffin and put into the hole, where it was found doubled in half. The sight was sickening, and such as those present were almost unable to bear. At a depth of three feet in one hole the diggers came upon a complete coffin. This was lifted, and exposed another to view. The second was removed, and a third came to light. This process was repeated until no fewer than seven coffins were taken out of the hole, and still more remained. But the discovery of the coffins was not the most startling part of the revelations here made. Packed in at the sides were lumps of decomposed flesh and quantities of bone.

The investigations will be resumed to-day.


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Much more detail of the Nellfield Cemetery scandal is readily available via Google.


All the best,
Alan

Currie
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Currie » Wed Sep 09, 2020 6:43 am

Not much happening here. Maybe some of these stories are a bit too unpleasant, even for genealogists.

I was about to add a story about a Dundee scandal in 1898, when I found it had already been summarised by me on TS five years ago. So, I’ll just re-post the summary here but will add some of the Letters to the Editor from the Dundee Courier.


“On 2nd June 1898 there was a report in The Dundee Courier of a “Dundee Graveyard Scandal”.

A gentleman who resided in the neighbourhood had his curiosity aroused by the operations of workman connected with the cemetery. Originally he had supposed they were making preparations for a very large number of burials in Sections S. and I. of the Necropolis which had been full, and had not been opened for many years. He investigated and alleged that between 1000 and 2000 bodies of paupers had been dug up, removed from their coffins, and placed higgledy piggledy in trenches, dug to about a foot below the normal grave depth, without any regard for an individuals religious denomination.

The cemeteries superintendent subsequently stated that the ground dealt with was pauper ground, unused for funerals for nearly 30 years, and could now be regarded as “clear” and suitable for reuse. He claimed that the practice of clearing ground was quite common in Scotland, and thought the number cleared would have been 500. One of the workman estimated about 1000, and there were descriptions of gruesome finds including some quite well preserved.

A subsequent investigation reported on 15 June that the reuse of common ground was common after about 15 to 30 years. The correct practice was to remove the remains, deepen the grave, and put the remains back in. Sometimes they were put in adjoining graves. Sometimes five or more bodies were put into the deepened section. Their estimate was 800 bodies.

The ground in question was in the line of junction between the old and new portions of the cemetery, where the original eastern wall would have been. On the map sections S, T, and U are missing, but originally fitted neatly as a narrow strip between R and V.”S and I” in the newspaper article would have been a typo.

I think that the most reliable description of this work would be that of the original curious gentleman. Likely a trench opened at the end of the row and working along with the coffins thrown out and the pauper's remains thrown to the rear.

The matter generated quite a few more articles and letters in the Dundee papers, but seems to have been successfully covered up, and fizzled out after a couple of months. It has remained buried ever since, even to Google.”

viewtopic.php?t=18176#p144505

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Dundee Courier, Friday, June 3, 1898
DUNDEE GRAVEYARD SCANDAL

To The Editor Of The Dundee Courier.
Sir,—I read with interest your exposure of Dundee Eastern Cemeteries’ officials tampering with the dead bodies of our poor. It is high time that the apathy that seems to cling to the majority of citizens had worn off. Here we have, as was stated by a Parish Councillor some time ago, the bodies of the poor dissected by our city doctor without even the consent of their relations. Our poor (I object to the word pauper) are tossed about through life, and even in death the tossing goes on, no question of the superstitious idea of a head to the west in a case of this kind. These bones are thrown in the hole topsy-turvy; the coffins in some cases are kept out and dried and burned. What is said of the Eastern can be said of the Dundee Western Cemetery also; the very same practice is carried on there. The Directors of this Company are some of our prominent citizens, and must know of this. The ground is usually dug down seven feet, but in a case of cleaning out they go eight feet, and level up first foot with the bones thus taken out. This ground is for sale now, and may be bought by the first comer. Mr Carnochan may talk about thirty years, but I venture to say that in many cases the third of that time doesn’t elapse. It’s a bad case shifting bones, but it is a worse case when the flesh is sticking to them. Hoping you will give this nefarious practice a thorough investigation,—I am, &c., Citizen.

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Dundee Courier, Saturday, June 4, 1898
THE DUNDEE GRAVEYARD SCANDAL.

To The Editor Of The Dundee Courier.
Sir,—I am inclined to think that far too much is being made of the action of Mr Carnochan and his men in “clearing the ground” at the Eastern Necropolis. The ground referred to is pauper ground, and a great amount of sentimentality is worked up on that account. I wish the family history of many of those who are loudest in their complaints could be raked up and laid bare to the eyes of the public. Hundreds of cases would be found where the absorbing greed and devilish selfishness of relatives and children was the main factor in sending many of our old people to the workhouses, and from that to pauper graves. But why this outcry against mixing the bones: Would the question be saved were a few years more given for the bodies to crumble into nothingness, and assimilate with mother earth: It seems strange to me that anyone can see great wrong in tenderly removing all that is left of a man, when we mentally view with complacency the orgies of our “brither worms” beneath the sod. The soul has passed away, and it is all one to the lifeless clay whether it is touched by a burrowing worm, the keel of a passing vessel on the broad Atlantic, or the “gathering’ spade of an aged sexton. I do not view this matter in the light of a public scandal. The world has been dug several times over to bury its dead. The man who delves his garden and the navvy who picks the earth are in all likelihood committing as much sacrilege as the minions of our Cemetery Superintendent. Let us concentrate all our energies on behalf of the living. A living man is worth a battalion of dead heroes. Our burial system, with its black hearses and horses, nodding plumes, cemetery estates, yawning graves, and hideous trappings of woe, ought to be entirely remodelled, and cremation substituted. Gallons of crocodilish tears are oftentimes shed over the graves of parents and relatives and the nameless paupers by the very ones who had it in their power to make these lost lives contented and happy while on earth. Self, as it always does, however, blocked the way.—I am, &c.,
R. B.

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Dundee Courier, Friday, June 24, 1898
THE GRAVEYARD SCANDAL.

To The Editor Of The Dundee Courier.
Sir,—To show the ratepayers there was no necessity for clearing the ground, I would point out that there are 8½ acres of ground that do not contain a single corpse, so that there was no want of clear ground. The ratepayers may be hard-fisted and grumble when they see their hard-earned money thrown away on foolish experiments, but never did I hear them complain or grudge in any way the supply of ground for the purpose of burying the dead. They are too generous-hearted to do anything of the kind. The sub-committee has made a very weak defence. They may rest assured they will not escape censure. They say in their report that what has been done in the Eastern has been quite common throughout Scotland. That is a very bold assertion, but they take good care not to supply any proofs to support it. I decline to believe their reckless statement. I have spoken to men who have worked in cemeteries, and they never in the whole course of their experience saw, read, or heard of such a wholesale disinterment of bodies. If the sub-committee want the ratepayers to believe their statement they will have to cite cases where such an inhuman piece of work has been done. A bold assertion will convince nobody. If such a practice prevails in any part of Scotland it is highly dishonourable to it. It is altogether out of keeping with our Christian principles We are taught to respect and reverence the dead, whether they be rich or poor. The Cemeteries Committee and their superintendent have forgotten that lesson. They will be made to learn it again.—I am, &c.,
A. Gow., 35 Alexander Street, Dundee.

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My Scottish Great-Grandparents both died of Typhoid in 1885/86, after only three years in Australia. This was allegedly caused by the run off from a cemetery getting into the water supply of a dairy. They were aged only in their 30s. They were both buried in Balmain Cemetery in Sydney. During WW2 the Cemetery was broken up and turned into a park. The stones were either buried or used to build memorial walls around the park, so that’s something, I suppose. Here’s what happened https://youtu.be/zxkVyxgRHfI

All the best,
Alan

SarahND
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by SarahND » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:16 am

:shock: What a story, Alan. I suppose those stones make a great and easy wall, given that they're already flat and squared off, but... That said, my great grandmother also died of typhoid fever in 1873 and the cemetery is also gone and built over. No idea what happened to the bodies and the stones, but I don't think it's a park :(

Sarah

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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Anne H » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:21 am

Hi Alan,

I thought I responded to the first lot - not sure what happened to my reply. I'll just say a bit too much for me.

A sad ending for your great-grandparents and although I always cringe when I read about graveyards being desecrated in any way for whatever purpose, I suppose a memorial park is a lot better than a car park.

[cheers]
Anne

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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by AndrewP » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:38 pm

In Edinburgh, construction work to extend the tramway through Leith is progressing. Archaeologists have been involved, particularly in Constitution Street, where under the existing roadway, they have found many skeletons. These are just outside the current boundary wall of South Leith Parish Church burial ground, and are hundreds of years old. These are being removed and investigated for forensic examination and recording.

See https://theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2020 ... on-street/

All the best,

AndrewP

SarahND
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by SarahND » Fri Sep 11, 2020 11:14 am

Thanks, Andrew... That skeleton in the photos has amazingly good teeth! Should tell us something about their diet back then. I wonder if they will be trying to extract DNA to find out who they might have been.

Best wishes,
Sarah

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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Anne H » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:38 pm

Thanks, Andrew... That skeleton in the photos has amazingly good teeth!
My thoughts exactly, Sarah. A lot of those skeletons have great looking teeth. Wonder who they were!!

[cheers]
Anne

Currie
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Currie » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:11 am

Fascinating stuff Andrew,

The fellow with the teeth looks like he was going to say something. I hope it wasn’t “I’m not dead yet, I’m getting better”. And the one with the pipe across him looks more like a 19th Century workplace accident.

Here’s a few more Leith multiple skeleton finds.


Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, August 15, 1857

DISCOVERY OF ABOUT TWENTY SKELETONS AT LEITH.—In February or March, this year, the Town-Council of Leith entered into arrangements with the Town-Council of Edinburgh for the lease of a piece of ground, situated at the East Links at Leith, and belonging to the city of Edinburgh, for the purpose of forming it into bowling-greens and cricket-grounds. Two bowling-greens have been already made, and workmen are now busily engaged in preparing accommodation for the cricketers. While making the necessary excavations on Thursday, the men came upon four or five human skeletons, and yesterday a number more were found. Altogether, about twenty have been discovered. Some of them are in a good state of preservation, and the hair still adhered to the skull of one; while others, again, are greatly decomposed. From the appearance which the skeletons present, it is thought that they must have been buried either at the siege of Leith, about the middle of the sixteenth century, or during the time of the terrible plague which raged in the town in the seventeenth century. The date of interment is considered to be the latter period, owing to the circumstance that a number of the bodies were found in coffins. It will perhaps be remembered that some years ago, when a ditch was formed in the same neighbourhood, several skeletons were discovered by the labourers. Those now found seem to have been buried at the same time; and it is expected that, as the workmen proceed with their excavations, they will find more of the relics.

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Caledonian Mercury, Monday, August 17, 1857

MORE SKELETONS DISCOVERED AT LEITH.—On Saturday, the workmen engaged in making the cricket-ground at the East Links, Leith, found several other skeletons, and deposited them, along with those previously discovered, in a hole dug in the Links for the purpose.

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Edinburgh Evening News, Saturday, January 12, 1884

DISCOVERY OF HUMAN SKELETONS AT LEITH.
This forenoon workmen were engaged excavating ground between Junction Street and Yardheads, Leith, in connection with the Improvement Scheme operations, when they came upon four large stones, which formed what appeared to be a stone coffin. The top and bottom slabs measured 3 feet 6 inches in length, and the side stones were about two feet in depth, while at both ends were stones about 18 inches high. On the top stone being raised the skeletons, apparently of a man and a woman, were found. They were in an excellent state of preservation, the teeth of the supposed male figure being almost entire. The head of this figure had been laid so as to look in a north-easterly direction, while that of the other looked almost due east. To the left of the male skeleton was a beautifully carved urn, but no other relics were found, of anything by which the date of the interment could be directly fixed. Several days ago, it will be remembered, the workmen discovered an old well in the same locality.

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Edinburgh Evening News, Wednesday, July 3, 1895

DISCOVERY OF HUMAN SKELETONS IN LEITH.
Yesterday five human skeletons were found in the foundation of an old building in Kirkgate which is presently being taken down. It is the property of Messrs Gibson, fish traders, who intend to erect a new block for the purpose of their business. Workmen have been lately engaged taking down the old building, and yesterday the human remains were found about two feet below the ground. The skeletons had been buried at different places, probably very many years ago. Four of them were considerably broken, but one was almost entire. They have not yet been properly examined, but the skulls of two at least show signs of violence. It is stated that the building was upwards of 600 years old.



Alan

SarahND
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by SarahND » Sat Sep 12, 2020 5:25 pm

Interesting! The ground under Leith appears to be well packed with burials from the past centuries. I wish we knew more about the people -- for example, who is the couple with the urn, looking towards the east and northeast? Fascinating.

Cheers,
Sarah

Currie
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Re: Scottish Graveyard Scandals

Post by Currie » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:58 am

Hello Sarah,

There’s no additional information about the pair of skeletons. There was a great deal of speculation at the time about who would end up with the eventual skeleton of a large whale which was towed into Dundee.


I think I’ll make this my very last post about graveyard scandals. It’s just all too much to take. But I’ll go out with a bang, and give you all this story, which would probably make a good base for a Monty Python sketch. It really is that bad. It’s from the Dundee Courier, Thursday, August 26, 1869.

Proceeding beyond this point is not recommended because the story is all about a ………............



REVOLTING SCENE AT A FUNERAL IN LOGIE KIRKYARD.

The old burying ground of Logie bears a reputation which is none of the best, both on account of the “ghost stories” which are ever and anon being told in connection with it, and because of the much more serious fact that though situated in the immediate vicinity of densely-populated neighbourhoods, and promising soon to be actually surrounded with the latter, it is crowded to an excessive degree not only with the remains of the long-buried dead but also with those of persons whose demise does not even date a year back. As a consequence it not unfrequently happens that interments in Logie burying ground are accompanied by circumstances of the most unpleasant nature, sights being witnessed which are not the best calculated to deprive death of its horrors to mourning relatives. Indeed, some of the scenes which are to be witnessed at funerals in this burying ground are a scandal to the community — those loathsome mysteries of the grave the exhibition of which ought only to be tolerated in the dissecting-room, being here dragged into the open light of day and spread before the public gaze. An incident which occurred no later than Monday last fairly puts the climax to these scenes, converting as it did the last resting-place of a beloved wife into a veritable ‘‘chamber of horrors.” Our description may be accepted as thoroughly trustworthy, being taken from the lips of more than one eye-witness: —

On Monday a respectable gentleman residing in Lochee had the painful duty to perform of discharging the mortuary rites of his deceased wife. Having no right to a ‘‘lair” in any neighbouring burying ground he had applied for and obtained a ‘‘breadth” in Logie Kirkyard—that place being the most convenient for his purpose, and also made the necessary arrangements for the grave being dug, &c. The funeral procession left the village and gained the burying ground without the occurrence of any mishap, and the coffin being carried to the grave no one suspected that anything would happen to break in upon the solemnity of the interment. In this, however, the mourners were sadly mistaken. The first sight that met their eyes as they approached the grave with their melancholy burden was a perfect mound of ghastly relics piled all round the new-made grave. From the quantity of skulls, vertebrae, leg and arm bones—in fact specimens of all the osseous parts of the human body—which lay around, it seemed as if the gravedigger had actually been compelled to empty a closely-packed charnel-house in order to make room for the new comer. This was not a pleasant sight for mourning friends; but the worst was yet to come. Stifling their horror at this exposure of the tomb’s contents, they were proceeding to lower the coffin into its narrow bed when an unexpected obstacle presented itself. The grave was too narrow, and the coffin stuck in its downward passage, and could by no means be forced to the bottom, The truth was that the gravedigger in excavating the place had found it hemmed in by coffins on every side. Those which were thoroughly rotten he had no scruple in digging out, which accounted for the pile of bones above, but the idea of breaking in upon the comparatively fresh coffins did not occur to him at the time, so he allowed their ends to jut out undisturbed into the new grave. It was these old coffin ends which prevented the descent of the new one into its resting-place, and the gravedigger doubtless repented heartily of his over scrupulousness in avoiding them.

But he was a man of “resources,” and while the mourners stood distressed at the mouth of the grave, unable what to make of this most awkward incident, be rapidly made up his mind. Having first managed to haul the coffin out of the grave again, and lay it to one side, he seized his spade, jumped down into the grave, and began a remorseless onslaught on the offending coffins. This man of skulls had evidently become thoroughly imbued with the principle of his patron—the Great Leveller—for the manner in which he dealt his blows all around proved that respect of persons was none of his failings. Coffin after coffin was smashed, their ghastly contents exposed, skulls and bones—some quite bare, and some with the putrid flesh still adhering to them—tumbled out in profusion, and still the gravedigger went on with his horrid work. The smells which rose from out that bed of corruption were something awful. Sick with the noisome effluvia, and appalled by the fearful sights which met their eyes, the mourners stood back horrified and confounded. The gravedigger, however, kept up his chopping process with as much coolness as if the materials he was working among had been those of a common dust heap, instead of the remains of men and women, and not until he had obtained more than sufficient space for his purpose did he desist. He then shovelled out the broken wood, bones, &c., had the coffin lowered into the grave, and proceeded to fill it up with that unctious self-satisfaction which generally marks the features of the fraternity when engaged in that delectable occupation. The feelings which oppressed the hearts of the mourners as they turned away from that dreadful scene we leave our readers to imagine.



I suspect the reporter used up a few bucket loads of exaggeration when writing that story.

Next week I’ll try to post something a bit more palatable.

All the best,
Alan

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