The Auld Toun Blog explores Edinburgh’s stories and gives updates about our latest news.
Public hangings used to take place in the Grassmarket and could attract crowds as large as those you would see at football matches at Easter Road or Tynecastle today. One of the pubs in Grassmarket, the Last Drop refers not only to the final sip from your glass but the fall through the trap door of the gallows.
One woman who met that fate was Maggie Dickson. You can see she also has a pub in her name. A century before Burke and Hare’s crimes, Maggie was convicted of killing her new-born baby and sentenced to death. The baby may have been stillborn. In any case, she left it on the banks of the River Tweed in the borders.
It is said that after her execution, family and friends of Maggie battled with Edinburgh’s medical students for possession of her body. The family eventually managed to prize her away and prepared for her to be transported back to her home town of Musselburgh for burial. On the way, the lid of the coffin was seen to move and Maggie was found to be alive inside. As the courts had technically carried out their sentence of hanging, Maggie was set free and lived for another 40 years. She was known as half-hangit Maggie.