The story of Burke and Hare and of one of their victims, Mar...

Date April 1960
Track ID 22503
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Track Information

Original Track ID

SA1960.167.B2; SA1960.175.B11; SA1960.171.A1

Original Tape ID



The story of Burke and Hare and of one of their victims, Mary Paterson.

Mary Paterson was a girl who fell pregnant by Duncan Graham, a medical student. He was engaged to marry, so sent her to lodge with Ellen MacDougall, a rough woman who lived with William Burke, an Irish navvy. The doctor who attended Mary's confinement happened to tell Burke about a murder where two men had suffocated a drunk so that no marks were left on the body. This was two years before Burke's crimes, but planted the idea in his mind. Mary left her child with her late father's housekeeper and returned to Edinburgh, where she lodged with Mary Hadden, a prostitute.

Ellen MacDougall and Burke were now lodging with Hare, a cobbler. When one of Hare's lodgers died owing rent, he and Burke sold the body to Dr Knox at the medical college and filled the coffin with stones. They began to look out for people such as tramps, who would not be missed, and lured them to Hare's house in Tanners' Close, where they plied them with whisky, smothered them, and sold the bodies. Mary Hadden was one of their victims. The stories of a number of victims are recounted.

Mary Paterson had taken to drink, but she left a letter to be given to the woman looking after her son, if anything happened to her. Burke picked her up in a pub and murdered her. Dr Knox found her so beautiful he had her embalmed, and Dr Graham saw her. Mary was missed and there was a search, as there was for the next victim. Burke and Hare took in an old woman and a sick young man with his wife and child. The young man came down during the night while they were out and found the old woman's body. He escaped with his family, and Burke and Hare were arrested, with their women. Burke and Ellen turned King's evidence in return for a light sentence.

Mary's letter named Dr Graham as the father of her child and the cause of her downfall. His wife threw him out, and he was chased out of Edinburgh, as was Dr Knox, and likewise Burke and Ellen when they got out of jail. Ellen was drowned at sea en route to Ireland. Burke returned to Ireland. When he was dying, he was attended by Dr Graham, who was recognised and chased out of the country. Hare and his wife got life imprisonment.

Burke and Hare claimed their first victim in December 1827. Lucy Stewart's account is based on what she read in a book.

Item Notes

Hare testified against Burke. Burke was hanged in 1829.

Item Subject/Person

Burke, William; Hare, William; Paterson, Mary; Graham Dr Duncan; MacDougall, Ellen

Recording Location

County - Aberdeenshire

Parish - Old Deer

Village/Place - Fetterangus

Item Location

County - Midlothian

Parish - Edinburgh

Village/Place - Edinburgh





Source Type

Reel to reel

Audio Quality