As schoolboys attending the old upper school in Lasswade, we were all aware that there had been a case of grave robbing which had been put down to the notorious duo, Burke and Hare.
Lore had it they had stayed nearby in the cottage, mid-way between the old church and Wadingburn and had even dug a tunnel from there to the graveyard where they then stole the recently interred to provide the anatomists of Surgeon’s Square with their much needed subjects for dissection and demonstration.
However, Burke would have had to have come back from the dead, as the event took place a month after he had been hanged on January 15, 1829, for the murder of Marjory Docherty.
Our story begins on the night of Tuesday, February 17, 1829, with widow Helen Begbie, who stayed with her mother and father at Melville Mill.She made her way to the house of a James Hewitt and his wife in Carrubbers Close in Edinburgh’s Canongate. Hewitt later told John Gow that the purpose of her visit had been to inform him of two newly interred bodies in the Lasswade graveyard.
One was her 40-year old cousin, John Braid, who had fallen off a hay cart, breaking his back in the fall. As the watch over the graveyard had been disbanded around February 14, the graveyard was now without protection.
He explained that sometimes she gave him good information, but sometimes false, just on the ruse of getting a belly-full of drink.
A little later, Helen Begbie returned and suggested they all go to Lasswade, promising them a bag and spade from her father’s house.
Part one of George Masterton’s feature is in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.