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Dunecht School

Last updated 29th May 2015

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The Dunecht mystery, 1882.


 THE DUNECHT MYSTERY                                                                    page 248.

But who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried ?
Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered ? 
Hydriotaphia, Sir Thomas Browne.

The body-snatcher is a type of felon happily obsolete in our
criminal practice, save for one signal instance, since the passing
of the Anatomy Act in 1832. Prior to the introduction of
Warburton's Bill, Scotland had paid a high price for the pre-
eminence of her medical schools in the outraged feelings of the
living and the violated sepulchres of the dead. The revelation
of the hideous traffic driven by Burke and Hare, that hellish
partnership whose transactions horrified mankind, at length
roused the nation from its apathy. Science, wilfully blind or
culpably incompetent, had seen nothing amiss, and as the
doctors either would or could give no aid in securing the
conviction of the murderers. Justice was forced to loose her
hold on the more fiendish of the pair, lest both miscreants
should escape unpunished. Legislation followed, to render need-
less and unremunerative for the future a form of sacrilege which
had made possible the perpetration of such fearful crimes.
The methods of the professional resurrectionist became but
an unclean memory, and only the ugly iron mortsafes in
our older graveyards served as reminders of his power in
the past.

When, therefore, on 3rd December 1881, the readers of the
daily journals learned, some twelve months after the death and
burial of the late Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, that his
remains had been stolen from the family vault at Dunecht
House, near Aberdeen, in circumstances inexplicable and
mysterious, the excitement throughout the country was intense........
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