The History of Leith

January 26, 2013

The bellman-1681

When a parishioner died, the beadle, or
hand bellman, went round the town to proclaim the
death. The formula was as follows: “Brothers and
” sisters, I let you to wit that there is a brother
” departed this life at the pleasure of Almighty God.
” They called him . . . ; he lived at … All
” brothers and sisters are expected to attend his
” funeral, which is to take place on . . . ” A funeral
was an event of public interest, generally attended
with drinking and riotous behaviour. This was due
partly to custom and partly to the many gloomy
superstitions which lingered amongst the people, and
drove them to indulge in excesses. Thus there was a
superstition that the spirit of the last person interred
watched the churchyard until the next funeral. It
may be that the custom, like the ringing of church
bells, originated in the superstition that the sound of
bells scared away evil spirits. It may be added that
the post of town bellman was abolished about 30 years
ago. The last bellman was Willie Flucker, whose
intimations the children used to greet with a chorus of
amens.)

source-South Leith Records

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