The History of Leith

November 11, 2011

Borne to the churchyard on a bier

24 January 1695.—The session considering that ye poor are in a very starving condition and yt much of ye money is spent in geting chists to them when they are removed by death Therefor they appoint ye bier to be made use of in burying ye poor of ye place and stranger poor.
(Note.—This minute indicates that the poor were to be borne to the churchyard on a bier, covered only by a shroud. It was customary also to have a poor’s coffin with a moveable bottom, which could empty its contents into the grave. These graves were often dug by friends. The minutes up to this date make no mention of mortcloths, which were a common source of revenue to parish churchyards. When a funeral entered the churchyard the beadle reverently spread over the coffin a funeral pall; and the palls, or mortcloths, of our parish are still preserved. We also have the heavy caps provided to the men who watched the churchyard at nights, in the Burke and Hare days, in case they were shot at. These days are denoted on many of our old tombstones by the remains of iron guards fastened to the stones to protect the graves from violation.)

Source-South Leith Record

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