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Old April 2nd, 2010, 01:01 PM   #1

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Burke and Hare...


Burke (1792 – 28 January 1829) was born in Urney, near Strabane, in the very west of County Tyrone, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. After trying his hand at a variety of trades and serving as an officer's servant in the Donegal Militia, he left his wife and two children in Ireland and emigrated to Scotland about 1817, working as a navvy for the Union Canal.

Hare's (born 1792 or 1804) birthplace is variously given as Newry or Derry, both of which are also in the Province of Ulster in Ireland. Like Burke, he emigrated to Scotland and worked as a Union Canal labourer. The pair then moved to Edinburgh, where they took lodgings with Maggie Laird and Nell Macdougal, two women of negotiable virtue, in the district of the West Port (this district is now known as “The Pubic Triangle”). In 1826, Hare married Margaret Laird. She continued to run the lodging house, and Hare worked on the canal.

Although common practice at the time, digging up corpses was a pretty dangerous business what with mort-safes, mort-gages and armed guards in the graveyards. Besides the fresher the bodies they delivered to Professor Robert Knox (on a no questions asked basis) the better. Contrary to popular belief, Burke and Hare didn't spend much time digging up bodies (too much work probably), so they cut out the middleman - in fact, they cut out the entire burying process....

In 1827 a lodger of Margaret Laird (Hares wife) named Donald died naturally owing him £4 in rent. Hare knew that there was a high demand for bodies for anatomical study and saw a way the dead man could pay back his debt. On the day of Old Donald's funeral the two men removed his body from the coffin and filled it with tanning bark. Later they took the body to Professor Knox at Surgeon Square and were paid 7 pounds and 10 shillings for it.

They celebrated their easily gained cash, but the money wasn't to last and when another of Hare's lodger's, Joseph, fell ill (although not seriously) Burke and Hare decided to take it upon themselves to end his suffering whilst seeing another opportunity for easy money and so their murderous career began. It isn't known accuratley how many they killed, but estimates generally run from 16-30.

Their tenure as Knoxes main supplier of stiffs came to an end on either October 31st or November 1st (depending on which source you refer to) when they were turned in by another couple, a James and Ann Gray who also lodged with them. The Greys became suspicious when they were warned to stay out of the spare room. Being good Calvinist Scots, this aroused their suspicions and they didn't stay out. When they entered they discovered Mary's body and immediately confronted Helen who panicked and offered them £10 per week to keep quiet. £10 was a significant chunk of money at the time, especially for a working class couple (AKA the “lower orders”).

The police investigation began immediately but it nearly fell apart just as quickly as there were no corpuses to habeas thanks to Knox. Except that there were, one of the victims, a children's entertainer known as 'Daft Jamie'. He had a deformed foot and was instantly recognised by paying students at Professor Knox's anatomy class. Knox strongly denied that the subject was James Wilson but immediately began his lecture by dissecting the face.

Eventually, the Lord Advocate, Sir William Rae, offered Hare immunity to turn King's Evidence and testify against Burke and Helen which he readily did. The short trial at the High Court of Justicuary began on Christmas Eve 1828 and the following morning Burke and Helen were charged with the murder of Mary Docherty and Burke alone was also charged with the murder of Mary Paterson and James Wilson and sentenced to death by hanging. Helen's part in the crimes were 'not proven' and she was freed.

On January 28th 1929 over 25,000 people attended and cheered the hanging of William Burke in the Lawnmarket. Ironically his body ended up being dissected in anatomy lectures and some students removed peices of his skin and bound a book from it, stamped on the front in gold 'Burke's Skin 1829' . Before dissection, Burke's body was put on public exhibition and thousands of people streamed passed his his naked corpse on the slab at a rate of 60 per minute. His skeleton can still be seen at Surgeon's Hall (part of the University of Edinburgh Medical School) along with his death mask and the life mask of Hare.
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Old April 2nd, 2010, 01:39 PM   #2

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Re: Burke and Hare...


Love it. Now I want to see a thread on Sawney Beane by the end of the day.
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 09:09 AM   #3

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Re: Burke and Hare...


So what happened to Hare?
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 10:02 AM   #4
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Re: Burke and Hare...


Bhí na fir sin ceart go leor in Éirinn ach rinne Alba dúnmharaitheoirí dóibh a Chookie?
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 10:51 AM   #5

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Re: Burke and Hare...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toltec View Post
So what happened to Hare?
That's a very interesting question and the short answer is "Nobody knows". After being released from jail in 1829, he escaped to England via the post coach. One story says that a mob in London discovered who he was and threw him into a pit of quicklime. This blinded him but he survived and lived as a blind beggar for a few more years.

But effectively he became a non-entity.

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Old April 3rd, 2010, 10:59 AM   #6

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Re: Burke and Hare...


Samhlachail fear-turais, tha, Cormac?
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 11:45 AM   #7
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Re: Burke and Hare...


Interesting, just how common was this sort of thing back then? I once saw a documentary where Ben Franklin's home in England (while he was serving as ambassador) was found to have a huge amount of skeletons of dead people in the basement. The going theory is that he helped another such surgeon for anatomical research.
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Old April 4th, 2010, 01:43 AM   #8
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Re: Burke and Hare...


[quote=Chookie;239253]Samhlachail fear-turais, tha, Cormac?[/quot

Chan eil mi a thuigsinn an bhfuil gach Éireannach in Alba mar sin?

There was nineteenth century Irish boxer called Dan Donnelly. He was an iconic figure and when he died sack-em-ups stole his body. Anyway his arm was on display in a pub in Co. Kildare until recently. He fought and beat the English champion in the same county in a marathon bout that attracted huge crowds.
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Old April 4th, 2010, 10:47 AM   #9

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Tha ceart agaibh Cormac, bi beo ar canain coltach ach ar leth.
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Old April 4th, 2010, 11:01 AM   #10
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Re: Burke and Hare...


Níl agaibh ag teastáil ach agat. Beidh muintir Ibrox sona leis an eolas sin. Céard é "ar leth"?
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