The History of Leith

April 7, 2012

Received a thousand lashes

Several military executions have taken place at Leith Links,
and among them we may note two.
The first recorded is that of a drummer, who was
shot there on the 23rd of February, 1686, by sentence
of a court-martial, for having, it was alleged,
said that he ” had it in his heart to run his sword
through any Papist,” on the occasion when the Foot
Guards and other troops, under General Dalzell and
the Earl of Linlithgow, w%re under arms to quell the
famous “Anti-Popish Riot,” made by the students
of the university.
One of the last instances was in 1754.
On the 4th of November in that year, John
Ramsbottom and James Burgess, deserters from
General the Hon. James Stuarf’s regiment (latterly
the 37th Foot), were escorted from Edinburgh
Castle to Leith Links to be shot. The former
suffered, but the latter was pardoned.
His reprieve from death was only intimated to
him when he had been ordered to kneel, and the
firing party were drawn up with their arms in
readiness. The shock so affected him that he
fainted, and lay on the grass for some time
motionless; but the terrible lesson would seem to
have been given to him in vain, as in the Scots
Magazine for the same year and month it is announced
that ” James Burgess, the deserter so
lately pardoned when on his knees to be shot, was
so far from being reformed by such a near view of
death, that immediately after he was guilty of theft,
for which he received a thousand lashes on the
parade in the Castle of Edinburgh, on November
22nd, and was drummed out of the regiment with
a rope round his neck.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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