Places still up for grabs for talk on bodysnatching

17 October 2012

A limited number of places are still available for a free illustrated talk on the history of bodysnatching in the 19th century, at 12.30pm on Wednesday 24 October, at Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow.

 In the 18th and 19th centuries the law permitted medical students to obtain and dissect the bodies of those condemned to hang but demand was greater than supply as executions were relatively uncommon. This led to the notorious trade of bodysnatching or grave robbing; the illegal removal of bodies from new graves which were then sold on, usually to medical faculties.

Bodysnatching, at its height in the early 19th century, provoked strong feelings of fear and anger in Scotland. In 1823 a riot broke out in Glasgow over this issue and in Stirling the army opened fired on rioters. The anxiety felt by the public was made worse by the infamous Burke and Hare murders between November 1827 and October 1828 in Edinburgh.

Graveyards out with Aberdeen's town centre such as St Fittick's, at the Bay of Nigg and Newhills Parish Church, were most at risk from grave robbers.

Chris Croly, historian with Aberdeen City Council, who will give the talk, said: "In Aberdeen, in the early 19th century, Dr Andrew Moir set up an Anatomy Theatre on St Andrew Street. On the morning of Monday 19 December 1831 two boys saw a dog tugging at something buried in the grounds so they went to investigate. When they pulled out what the dog was attempting to dig up they realised it was human remains. A riot soon erupted at the location as news of the grisly find spread across town."

Advance booking is required for the talk by telephoning Aberdeen Maritime Museum on (01224) 337714. The talk will last approximately 30 minutes.

Opening times
Tuesday - Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 12noon-3pm
Closed Monday
Admission free