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: https://www.genealogyvic.com/
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.