The History of Leith

March 9, 2011

Murder on the High Seas

There occurred a case of “murder under trust, stouthrief, and piracie,” of considerable local interest, the last scene of which was enacted at Leith. In November, 1624, Robert Brown, mariner in Burntisland, with his son, John Brown.skipper there, David Dome, a burgess there,
and Robert Duff, of South Queensferry, were ail tried before the Criminal Court for slaying under trust three young Spanish merchants, and appropriating to themselves their goods and merchandise, which these strangers had placed on board John Brown’s ship to be conveyed from the Spanish port of San Juan to Calais three years before. ” Beeing in the middis of the sea and far fra lande,” runs the indictment, they threw the three Spaniards overboard, “ane eftir other in the raging seas,” after which, in mockery of Cod, they “maid ane prayer and sang ane psalm,” and then bore away for Middelburg in Zealand, and sold the property acquired—walnuts, chestnuts, and Spanish wines.
For this they were all hanged, their heads struck from their bodies and set upon pikes of iron in the town of Leith, the sands of which were the scene of many an execution for piracy, till the last, which occurred in 1822, when Peter Heaman and F rancois Gautiez were hanged at the foot of Constitution Street, withinthe floodmark, on the 9th of January,
for murder and piracy upon the high seas.

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