The History of Leith

November 17, 2010

Cracking yarns and rib-ticklers

Burke and Hare were infamous suppliers of corpses to the Edinburgh medical establishment in a reign of terror 1827–8. History remembers them as body snatchers, but there is no proof that the pair ever robbed a grave; instead they created fresh corpses by suffocating hand-picked victims. This is just one of the myths exploded by this ‘bloody history’ featuring trial reports, confessions, prison records and contemporary illustrations. A rich cast of characters includes the pairs’ implicated lovers, Helen and Margaret; Professor Knox who received the bodies; and local victims from ‘Daft Jamie’ to ageing prostitute Mary Haldane. New light is thrown on the bodies trade through a recent find at The National Archives: a confession from John Bishop – perhaps a copycat ‘burker’ – who with Thomas Williams was executed for the murder of the ‘Italian boy’ in 1831. for more click here

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