Friday 28 January 2022

The Hanging of William Burke

The hanging of William Burke took place on this date in 1829. I have had an almost lifelong fascination with Burke, and his comrade in crime, William Hare. 

My mother trained as a nurse in Edinburgh and had a particular fascination for the more sinister side of the town's history. While other children learned of princesses and frogs, I learned of body snatchers and grave robbers. 

I always took this as folklore and not an actual tale from history until I was in my early teens, and while visiting family in Scotland, took a tour of the city by bus. Lo and behold - the stories of Burke and Hare as well as the mortsafes and watch towers in cemeteries. It wasn't just fantasy and my mum's vivid imagination after all. 

Tanner's Close - home to Burke and Hare

In a nutshell, Burke and Hare were notorious for showing up at the anatomy department at the University of Edinburgh's medical school and offering fairly fresh bodies to anatomist, Dr Robert Knox. Knox didn't seem to question them but did pay handsomely for the cadavers that his medical students needed in order to study anatomy. 

I will leave the details to Robert Howie, of Historic Edinburgh Tours, who will be sharing more of about Burke and Hare at the June #KiltedKulture event on Crime and Punishment in support of Scotland's #YearofStories #YS2022. 

Burke and Hare's skulls form part of the rather large collections of skulls at the Museum of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh. Burke's skeleton is also on display in the museum. In an ironic twist of fate, Burke's body was handed over to the anatomy department after his hanging and the students used his skin to create a wallet. The wallet is on display at the Surgeon's Hall Museum. 

To register for the June #KiltedKulture Conference and hear more of the story:

Remember if you register for all four of the conference events, you get FREE attendance at the October 15th conference on Creating Your Family Story. 

Thursday 13 January 2022

Registration OPEN for #KiltedKulture in Support of #YS2022


Registration is now open for the #KiltedKulture #YS2022 quarterly events.

We have four conference style events happening throughout the year:

March 19 - Immigration/emigration

June 18 - Crime and Punishment

Sept 10 - Occupations and Industry

Dec 10 - Uniquely Scottish

Each event has 4 guest speakers. There will be time for questions as well. Recordings for these events will be available to those who register for a period of 30 days following each event.

If you register for all 4 events, you will also be registered for a free workshop on Creating Your Family Stories, being held October 15th.

To find out more about the speakers and topics, or to register:

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Today is National Hot Tea Day.


Tea is an amazing beverage. It is warm. It is soothing. It is calming. And it is often at the centre of long conversations at the kitchen table, around the fireplace or even in a café.

Whenever anyone dropped by, the kettle was put on and a pot of tea was made. Usually mum had a sweet to go along with it. Problems were solved, plans were made, friendships were cemented and memories were both shared and made. All over a pot of tea.

My children were tea grannies from a young age. My aunts introduced them to it. Usually a splotch of tea and sugar and topped with warm milk. As they aged, the amount of milk was reduced until they were actually drinking tea. When my daughter was three, my aunt sent her a china tea set. That tea set was used often. Blankets spread on the carpet, tea and cookies enjoyed and imaginations unleashed. We held a teddy bear tea and each friend was invited to bring their favourite teddy bear to join us for an afternoon cuppa.

After my mum and her sisters came to Canada, they would send care packages home to my gran. Sweets, clothing, photos and a letter. And anything else she had requested. Following one package being sent, mum didn’t hear from Gran that the parcel had been received. Curious, she asked about it during a Sunday phone call:

Ma, did you get the last parcel I sent?


Was it alright?

Aye but next time dinnae send me they stupit wee packets o tea. Too me oors te get the tea oot fer a decent cuppa.

Apparently Gran was unfamiliar with tea bags!

Tuesday 11 January 2022

Registration for the Scottish ViC ends January 20/22


You don't want to miss this one! I have had the great pleasure of listening to Hugh Allison speak about the Battle of Culloden and the fallout which led to emigration. I have had the great pleasure of speaking to Matthew Smith and hearing about the stories that will be uncovered during the talk about the British Slave Owner Database. These stories are not just about the slave owners but also about the enslaved. The connections between the Caribbean and Scotland run strong.

I have also had the great pleasure of hearing Ciaran Jones talk about the Witches of Scotland and the information available in the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database in conjunction with the Interactive Map of Scottish Witches. And I have heard about the Covenanters in Scotland and the tragedy of those who were presecuted simply for wanting to hold onto their Presbyterian religion.

All of these talks fit well with VIsitScotland's Year of Scottish Stories. They will give you tremendous insight into the times in which your ancestors lived. The fear, the worry. Many of these events affected not just the individuals but also their families, and indeed, entire communities. 

This event will certainly let the Scottish ViC go out on a high note. I am incredibly proud of the depth of learning that these events have provided over the years, and this one is no exception. 

The ViC will run from 9:15 eastern and wraps up at 3:30 eastern. Access to the recordings remains open for 30 days for those with time zone challenges. 

To register:


Monday 10 January 2022

National Letter Writing Week

This is National Letter Writing Week. Letter writing seems to be a bit of a dying art, doesn't it? I used to love writing letters - really newsy ones so that family in Scotland could get a real flavour of our lives here in Canada. And I loved getting letters back.

My mum had a pen pal in Johannesburg through a scheme at her school in Scotland. Although they lost touch over the years, mum still remembered the address that the letters were mailed to.
I was pen pal with my same aged cousin for years. That went by the wayside when technology advanced. But I continued to send letters 'home' to aunts, uncles and my granny.

Are you interested in writing down the stories of your ancestors? Join us in the Kilted Ancestors Facebook group for free monthly themes, weekly prompts and monthly drop in guests via video.

Sunday 2 January 2022

Registration for #KILTEDKULTURE Quarterly Conferences is now OPEN!


As part of our support of Year of Stories #YS2022, we have four conference events happening throughout the year. Each conference has a theme, and the speakers will give presentations based on that theme. Here's the line-up:

19 March - Emigration/Immigration
Speakers & Topics:

Dr Marjory Harper - Voices of the Diaspora

Dr Keir Strickland - Excavating the Highland Clearances

Jessica Evershed - The Highland & Island Emigration Scheme Database

Christine Woodcock - Scots in Atlantic Canada

18 June - Crime and Punishment
Speakers & Topics

Donna Moore - The Lock Trilogy: historical crime fiction novellas

Chris Paton - The Mount Stewart Murder

Robert Howie - The Story of Jekyll & Hide (Deacon Brodie)

Roddy Greig - Fife FHS Kalendar of Convicts

10 Sept - Industry/Occupations
Speakers & Topics

Stephen Clancy - Paisley Weavers

Justin Parkes - Scottish Steelworks and the Coal-fired Ironworks Industry

Irene O'Brien - My Ancestors Was... Researching Ancestor Occupations

Neil Fraser - Historic Scotland's Industry Collections

10 December - Uniquely Scottish
Speaker and Topics

Paula Duncan - Kilt Making as a Heritage Craft

Nick Fiddes of DC Dalgleish - All About Tartan

Carol Jackson - Ellis Gin

Chef Gary MacLean - Scotland's Larder

You can register for one, all four or mix and match to suit your interests. Each conference is £10 ($17cad)

Just an FYI that if you book for all four events, you will be invited to a FREE event on October 15th to help you put your stories together so that they can be shared with others and across the generations.

Registration is OPEN

Saturday 1 January 2022

Kilted Ancestors Supports Year of Stories #YS2022


#Year of Stories kicks off tomorrow, January 2 at 9 am eastern. Join us in the Kilted AncestorsFacebook group where we will in the new year with an overview of some of the drop in sessions we have on tap throughout the year to get you fired up and ready to share the stories of your Scottish ancestors. 

Each month throughout the year will have a dedicated theme and each week, Clare and I will give you a prompt to help you along in getting your stories written down. And in addition, we will have a guest (or two) dropping by to help you even further. These drop in sessions will happen monthly. Lots to learn, so plan to join us. 

These events are 100% FREE. Just come along and join the Facebook group and you will get access to everything on offer. 

To give you an idea of what we will be sharing, here are the monthly topics: 

Jan – Folklore

Feb – They moved to Scotland

March – They Left Scotland

April – Crime Stories

 May – Police Stories

June – Skeletons & Scandals

July – Weaving & Textiles

Aug – Mining

Sept- Steel Works & Ships

Oct – Retail & Shopping

Nov – Food & Recipes

Dec – Scottish Drinks

You can interpret these any way you wish to fit the story of your ancestors. Join us for ideas, prompts and to hear from others in the group as well.