Sunday, 15 April 2012

8th April - 14th April in Victorian Edinburgh

9th April 1884
On this date, a charge of Bigamy was heard in the Sheriff Court. Thomas Downie, a middle aged man, pleaded guilty to the charge, in which he had married Jane Macdonald, a domestic servant, whilst still being married to his wife of eight years, Mary Brady. Downie was sentenced to eight months imprisonment. 

10th April 1869

The Edinburgh Evening Courant features an article on ‘Velocipeding’ – 
‘A training school for instruction in the art of driving the Parisian bicycle, or two wheeled velocipede, has been opened in Broughton Market, Dublin Street, by Mr Munro, coach manufacturer. Mr Munro constructs the velocipedes himself; and has been able to introduce several improvements on the Parisian model, giving the driver more control over his machines, and rendering the management of it considerable less difficult. By these improvements, the drag can be more easily and promptly applied; and a sharp corner can be turned with less danger. Mr Munro himself has acquired a high degree of perfection in the driving of the velocipede, and several of his pupils have already learned to control and direct it with scarcely less skill. We understand that in the course of next week, a match will test at once the capabilities of the machine for swift running and the skill of the drivers is to take place between Mr Munro and one of his more experienced pupils. The greatest speed to which it is supposed the velocipede is capable of attaining is 13 miles an hour; but it is expected that it can be driven, without any great effort on the part of the rider, at the rate of 10, or even 12 miles an hour. Three lessons are generally considered sufficient to enable a pupil to propel himself with some degree of comfort over a straight level; but it requires about three times as many more lessons before the more apt pupils can be said to have obtained a perfect mastery over the velocipede.’ 

A Velocipede

Velocipedes were early bicycles, with the first pedal equipped bicycle being developed in the 1860s. The French design was referred to as the ‘boneshaker’, due to it being made of wood, with then later with metal tyres. As most roads of the day were cobbled, this was not a particularly comfortable mode of transport. Most large cities had indoor riding academies, such as the one described above.

10th April 1884 
Peter Morgan, described as ‘a rough looking man’, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, having assaulted a woman in a lodging house in the Grassmarket by knocking her down and fracturing two of her ribs by kicking her.

Grassmarket, Edinburgh © Peter Stubbs, Edinphoto

14th April 1869 

The Edinburgh Evening Courant reports on an ‘Alleged Fatal Assault by a Wife Upon Her Husband’ – ‘A painful case of an alleged assault, which is reported to have terminated fatally, was brought before Baillie Cousin, in the City Police Court, yesterday morning. The person against whom the charge is preferred is a woman named Mrs Graham, residing in No. 6 Pleasance. So far as we have been able to gather the particulars of the case, we learn that is understood that Mrs Graham and her husband – who will be best known to the public of Edinburgh as the persons who for a considerable period have sold fruit from a stand or small wagon, sometimes in from of the Tron Church, and at other times on the opposite side of the crossing of the South Bridge, High Street – had on Wednesday night last week quarrelled in their house at the Pleasance; and that Mrs Graham had stabbed her husband in the eye with a table fork. Graham died towards the end of the week, and his funeral was arranged to take place on Monday. Acting, however, on information which had been communicated to the police, the Procurator Fiscal caused the interment of the corpse to be postponed till Tuesday; and in the meanwhile directed a post mortem examination of the body to be made, and instructed an investigation into the circumstances connected with the man’s death. The funeral took place on Tuesday, but Mrs Graham was apprehended by the police, and conveyed to the Main Police Office in a cab. The authorities directed that she should be detained in custody, and yesterday morning she was brought before Baillie Cousin in the City Police Court. The case was remitted to the Sheriff.’

Saturday, 7 April 2012

1st April - 7th April in Victorian Edinburgh

3rd April 1887
Noisy Dancers at Oddfellows’ Hall - Magistrates considered a complaint by residents involving a nuisance caused by dancing in the Odfellows’ Hall.  A petition signed by 24 residents in Forrest Road, detailed that the dancing took place between the hours of 11 o’clock at night and 6 o’clock in the morning, causing unacceptable noise levels and creating the additional nuisance of the shouting and swearing of the cabmen coming to collect people.  The Magistrates however, decided that there was no nuisance and the complainers merely had ‘a prejudice against dancing’.

3rd April 1844 
A Brutal Murderer Executed - In the presence of an immense crowd of spectators, James Bryce was executed for brutally murdering his brother in law, John Geddes, after he refused to lend him money.  The remorseful Bryce, had gone to the gallows at the top of Libberton’s Wynd, having finally confessed to the crime the day before his execution.   It was reported that the mass of spectators stretched a considerable distance up the Lawnmarket and along George IV Bridge, with the windows in the vicinity, the roofs of houses, and every other available spot, thronged with onlookers.

5th April 1875
An Extension for Leith Hospital - Leith Hospital, formed from the combining of the Dispensary of the Humane Society Institution and the Casualty Hospital, saw the addition of a large extension, featuring additional wards, nurses quarters and operating facilities.    This important hospital, situated in Mill Lane, additionally made its mark by later granting the application from female medical students previously refused elsewhere, to attend for clinical instruction.

7th April 1861
The Introduction of the One O’Clock Gun - Work began on the famous Edinburgh One O’clock Gun.  The idea was to introduce the firing of a cannon at one o’clock every day in order to give an audible time signal by which ships could set their chronometers.  The one o’clock gun accompanied the daily dropping of the time ball which had been in operation for many years at the top of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, but which had its limitations, due to the potential for sailors missing the exact time the ball dropped.  

Saturday, 31 March 2012

25th March - 31st March in Victorian Edinburgh

27th March 1881  
New Premises for the Medical School - The Edinburgh University Medical School, at the forefront of many medical advances in this era, underwent continued expansion during the 19th century.  On this date it was reported that new premises at Nicholson Square had been purchased to accommodate the expanding School of Medicine and Pharmacy, previously situated in Marshall Street.  The new building provided space for classes in clinical surgery, public medicine and the emerging specialism of midwifery, a branch of medicine which had attracted a high patient mortality rate in this time.
29th March 1881
Five Years for Stealing a Duck – A young boy who stole a duck from a potato merchant, ended up with more than he bargained for on this date.  Having been found guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the ten year old was sentenced not only to ten days in Calton prison, but also to a further five years in the Reformatory, which was the institution used for the correction of youth offenders.

30th March 1856
The End of the Crimean War - The Treaty of Peace was signed in Paris, signifying the end of the Crimean War.  It was reported that ‘much excitement prevailed in town on the news of the signature’, with crowds assembling in the High Street and Princes Street for a salute of 101 guns fired from the Castle.  Throughout the day, bells were ringing and a holiday atmosphere was experienced throughout the city.

31st March 1868
The Industrial Museum of Edinburgh - The Government was urged to proceed with the completion of the Industrial Museum in Edinburgh.  Construction had commenced several years previously, with the various parts of the building opening to the public as soon as they were ready.  The museum had proved incredibly popular at the time, and has remained so, now known as the National Museum of Scotland, situated in Chambers Street.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

18th March - 24th March in Victorian Edinburgh

19th March 1869
On the subject of education, a letter to the editor appears in The Scotsman Newspaper - ‘Could not the immense amount of money now expended in hospitals in Edinburgh be devoted to building schools in the different districts in this city, which every poor child should be compelled to attend?

Education of children was a issue which often found itself in the news during this time.  In poor families children were often needed to go out to work, however the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872, finally made education compulsory for all.

23rd March 1875
A serious charge was made against a man named Thomas Anderson on this date, that in a ‘fit of passion’ he had seized the ten year old son of his landlord and put him on the fire.  Anderson denied the charge, stating that he had pushed the boy, who then fell against the fire.  The boy however stated that Anderson had forced him upon the fire, but that he had managed to get off before being burned.  The magistrate, stating that Anderson was fortunate that the boy had not been hurt, fined him one guinea.

March 23rd 1869
The Scotsman Newspaper reports - ‘Miss Garrett, who seven years ago strenuously endeavoured to induce the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh to admit her to study for a degree of Doctor of Medicine, but in vain – who subsequently passed the examinations, and became a licentiate of the Apothecaries’ Company of London – and who has now for several years been in successful practice of her profession in the Metropolis, has, we learn, just been admitted by the Faculty of Medicine of Paris to examination for a degree of M.D….It is curious to have to notice Miss Garrett’s continued success in other quarters at the very time at which we have also to record that another lady applicant is now knocking at the gates of our Scottish Colleges……It may well be that public opinion has now so far advanced in this matter that Miss Jex-Blake’s application to the Medical Faculty of the University will not be refused at all.’

University education for British women had been fairly unheard of prior to 1869, but on the application of Sophia Jex-Blake to attend lectures at the Edinburgh medical school and subsequently being granted permission, the medical school received its first female student. Sophia Jex-Blake later set up a practice at Manor Place in the New Town in 1878, becoming the city’s first female doctor, also establishing a clinic
for poor patients. This clinic later became known as Bruntsfield Hospital.

Edinburgh University Quadrangle (c) Peter Stubbs, Edinphoto

Sunday, 18 March 2012

11th March - 17th March in Victorian Edinburgh

13th March 1869 
The Edinburgh Evening Courant reports – ‘The subject of the number of young children in large towns who grow up without education, or coming under the educational provisions of the Factory Acts, was brought up by Mr Melly in the House of Commons yesterday. He suggested compulsory attendance on school as the remedy, and proposed a select committee to enquire into the present state of matters. Mr Forster, however, spoke in a dubious way regarding compulsory measures as anti-English, and finally the motion was withdrawn.’

The Factory Act was introduced in an attempt to improve conditions for children working in factories, and set a minimum age for child workers and maximum hours they could work depending on their age. It also stipulated that children were to receive two hours of schooling each day. This however was still far from ideal and it was not until 1870 that the Education Act came into place, which allowed many more children to attend school during the day. Though this was an improvement, it was not necessarily mandated that children attend school, therefore many children still spent the majority of their days working in the factories through financial necessity to provide food for their families.

13th March 1839
Thomas McEwen, a Market Trader in the Cowgate was convicted in the Police Court for selling ‘unwholesome hams’. McEwen had been attempting to sell a quantity of bacon hams, which were said to be ‘neither fit for the use of man nor beast’. He was fined two guineas and the hams were ordered to be buried.

14th March 1849
Mary Bone, Henry Grant and Elizabeth Henderson appeared in court, charged with having stolen a watch from a young man, whilst in a house in Leith Wynd. They pleaded not guilty, but after much evidence had been given the jury found the charge proven and all three were sentenced to ten years transportation.

15th March 1869
An advertisment for teeth appeared in the Scotsman newspaper (c) The Scotsman

16th March 1839
Peter Lays, a farm steward, residing in Morrison Street, appeared in the High Court of Justiciary accused of assaulting a young man named Rintoul by pushing him off one of the carriages of the train between Musselburgh and Edinburgh. Rintoul fell under the wheels of another carriage and received a fracture to one of his thighs and various other injuries. Lays was found guilty by the jury, however it was accepted that he had no premeditated malice against Rintoul, and the judge found the railway company more to blame, as overloading their carriages with people was a common practice. Lays was therefore sentenced to three months imprisonment.

16th March 1848
The theft of a pair of boots from a house in Cumberland Street, gave Ronald Marshall the sentence of seven years transportation.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

1st March - 10th March in Victorian Edinburgh

3rd March 1873
Cab Driver, John McDonald was accused of the crime of writing and sending a
threatening letter to a person in Edinburgh for the purpose of extorting money.
McDonald pleaded not guilty but after evidence had been given the jury unanimously
found him guilty and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

8th March 1869
Tonic wines, such as quinine wine and pepsine wine were very popular in
this era and pharmacists were permitted to prepare and sell them. Pepsine
wine was thought to be particularly useful due to pepsin being a naturally
occurring enzyme which helps digestion. There were many products such as
this which were thought to be good for health, including cocoa wine, which
contained half a gram of cocaine per fluid ounce. These ‘wines’ however
very much tasted like a medicine rather than a pleasant drink.

February in Victorian Edinburgh

4th February 1869
The Scotsman Newspaper features a letter to the editor entitled ‘Move On!’ –
‘Sir, I have found a good deal of amusement and some instruction in
perusing the discussion in your columns as to the relative drunkenness of
Scotland and other countries, and have been greatly impressed by the stanch
patriotism of several of the writers. Having taken up my residence here
(after long residence abroad) within the last few months, I have seen a good
many things in this beautiful city – I will not venture on the whisky theme –
that I think would not be tolerated in any other place I have visited. There is
a busy thoroughfare here connecting the North and South Bridges,
intersected by the High Street of the city. At the intersection there is every
day and all day long at each of the four corners of the pavement a mob of
dirty and disreputable blackguards of the very lowest and worst sort, who
literally block up the way. No respectable person, male or female, can pass
along this great avenue of commerce without stepping into the road, and
passing round the mob of unwashed; for not a man of them will stir an inch
to accommodate passengers; and the police constable stands looking on hour
after hour without daring to utter a “Move on!”. If any patriotic Edinburgh
man will look on for ten minutes at the spectacle of this dirty mob, and their
bearing towards the respectable passers by, he will probably come to think
that perfection has not yet been attained here. That the tradesmen of the
Bridge should quietly tolerate such a state of things shows that the abuse
must be of very ancient standing indeed’.

11th February 1869
The Edinburgh Evening Courant features a ‘Warning to Butchers’ – ‘At the
City Police Court yesterday – before Baillie Russell – a lad named James
Baxter, a butcher’s apprentice, residing at Raeburn Place, was accused of
having on the 5th of this month contravened the 99th section of the
Provisional Order, by conveying along the streets in an open van the
carcasses of animals slaughtered for sale without having them covered with
clean cloths. Baxter pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 5s, or
be imprisoned three days.’

16th February 1874
In the Sheriff Summary Court on this date, Andrew Howieson, a Joiner, was charged
with a contravention of the Vaccination (Scotland) Act, in which it was alleged that
Howieson had refused to allow his infant daughter to be vaccinated. Pleading guilty,
Howieson stated that he considered one of his other children to have been poisoned as
a consequence of the vaccination. He was fined 35s or the option of ten days

18th February 1889
The Edinburgh Baby Murderer
A young woman named Jessie King was placed at the bar at the High Court of
Justiciary on this date, charged with the murder of three children. The details of the
charges were that: in April or May 1888, in a house in Ann’s Court, Canonmills,
Edinburgh, at that time occupied by Thomas Pearson, Jessie King murdered Alex
Gunn, aged twelve months by strangling him; in September 1888, in a house in
Cheyne Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, occupied by Thomas Pearson, Jessie King
murdered Violet Duncan Tomlinson, aged six weeks old by strangling or suffocating
her; also in October or November 1887, in a house in Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh,
occupied by Thomas Pearson, Jessie King murdered Walter Anderson Campbell, aged
five months, by strangling him. There was a large attendance of the public in the
court that day, and King, who was 27 years old and originally from Glasgow,
admitted the first two charges, but pleaded not guilty to the third charge. King’s
original statement was read out to the court, in which she stated that she had adopted
the child Gunn, and that her partner Thomas Pearson who at first was unwilling to
take the child in, changed his mind when she told him that she had received £3 from
the mother, at which time he agreed that the baby could stay for three or four weeks.
King said that they kept him from April until the end of May 1888, however when she
then found she was unable to support the child, she attempted to get him admitted to a
destitute home, however this was refused on the grounds that the child was
illegitimate. King stated that after this she had become very much the worse of drink
and strangled the child, as she had no means to support it. When the child was dead,
she placed the body in a locked box, and kept it there until the next day, when she
took it out and put it in a cupboard, where it remained for three days, after which the
couple moved from Canonmills to Stockbridge. At this point, the body was placed in
a cellar in the Stockbridge house, later being removed from there at the beginning of
October and placed on a piece of vacant ground at Cheyne Street. King stated that
Pearson had known nothing of this death, as she had told him she had managed to get
the child admitted to a home. On the matter of the child Tomlinson, King said that
this child had also been adopted by her, and this time she was paid the sum of £2 for
the baby. King maintained that Pearson had known nothing about this at the time, and
on getting the child home, she gave her some whisky to keep it quiet. However, it
would seem that the whisky was stronger that she thought and the child started to
choke. King responded by placing her hand on the child’s mouth, killing her. This
body was also placed in the cellar, where it remained until it was discovered by the
police. On the third charge, the murder of Walter Campbell, many witnesses were
called, with one witness, Janet Anderson, explaining that in May 1887, her sister
Elizabeth Campbell, had died and King had offered to adopt the child if the father
would pay a fee. The father, David Finlay, gave evidence that he had handed the
child to King and Pearson and paid them £5. He stated that they told him their
surname was Stewart. A neighbour from Dalkeith Road, where they were living at
this time, gave evidence that they arrived home suddenly with a child at that time,
however three months later the child disappeared, and when she asked King what had
happened, King told her she had taken him home as he was ill. Shortly afterwards,
King and Pearson left the locality. It seems that the house in Dalkeith Road was
thoroughly searched and no remains of a child were found. The third charge was
eventually disregarded and the jury found King guilty of the first two charges. The
judge, putting on his black cap, sentenced Jessie King to be hanged within the Calton
Jail on the 11th March. Whilst being sentenced, King gradually subsided into a
hysterical fit and had to be carried downstairs to the cells.
As Jessie King was thought to be a ‘woman of very low intelligence’, there was some
public opinion that she had been tempted by others due to living in poverty and that
she was bearing the blame for the wickedness of the others who gave their children
into her keeping. King had also later stated that she had been induced to confess in
her statement, being advised that if she did so, she would get off with a fairly brief
prison sentence. A petition was signed by 2000 persons asking for a reprieve for
King, however this proved unsuccessful.
The scaffold for the execution was erected close to a corridor between the male and
female sections of the prison. Berry, the executioner had arrived in Edinburgh a few
days previous to complete his preparations. King, a Roman Catholic, had been
attended by a priest the night before the execution was to take place. On the morning
of Friday 11th March 1889, at eight o’clock, Jessie King was hanged, death was said
to be instantaneous. A crowd of around 2000 people had gathered outside on the
Calton Hill to see the black flag raised.

22nd February 1869
The Edinburgh Evening Courant reports on an ‘Alarming Fire in Lothian
Road – Union Road Partially Destroyed’ – ‘Shortly after three o’clock
yesterday afternoon, an alarm was raised that fire had broken out in the
Union Hotel, Lothian Road, belonging to Mr Robert Kay. The alarm was
instantly given, and the outbreak of the fire reported to the Police Main
Office in the High Street; but meanwhile the increasing volume of smoke, and
the progress the flames were obviously making, spread terror among the
inmates of the whole building….In a very short space of time the fire engines
and fire brigade had arrived, and were ready for action…..The fire and 
A Victorian Fire Bucket
water together have worked much damage over the whole building….One little boy made his appearance at the foot of the staircase drenched with water, and his face blackened with the smoke, but carrying triumphantly a cat with its kittens which he had saved. A temporary covering for furniture brought to the street was found in Mr Quaglieni’s Curcus, the use of which
was readily given by the proprieter.’ Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, formed in 1824 following a series of disastrous fires, is Britain’s oldest municipal fire brigade. Edinburgh had particular difficulties for fire fighters due to the ‘built up’ and congested nature of the old town. Most fire engines had been manoeuvred by men until the mid-19th century, but with the introduction of horse-drawn fire engines, response time to incidents was much improved. In the absence of breathing apparatus, early firefighters had to grow beards to act as a form of smoke filter, which gave them the name ‘smoke-eaters’.

23rd February 1860
In the Police Court on this date, the case of the ‘Snowball Riot’ of Edinburgh came to
it’s conclusion after a nine day trial. This case seemed to involve fourteen students,
who on the date of the incident, had come into conflict with the police in the form of a
snowball fight. The disturbance seems to have descended into a riot, due to what
many witnesses describe as ‘rough usage’ by the police, who were reported to have
been using their batons vigorously. For the throwing of snowballs, one student was
fined £5, twelve other students were each fined £1 and the fourteenth student was