Two stories about Travellers escaping from burkers.

Date 17 March 1979
Track ID 65217
Part 1

Track Information

Original Track ID

SA1979.30.A3; SA1979.30.A4

Original Tape ID



Two stories about Travellers escaping from burkers.

Two spinsters, Mall and Kistie, who were related to Stanley Robertson, were lacemakers who travelled around selling their work. One of them had an adopted baby. One summer evening they got lodgings in a barn on Speyside, but something made them suspicious that it was a burkers' ken [house]. They used a rope to lower the baby out of a high window and escaped. They hid in the cornfield for five or six hours until the burkers' coach went away. The baby was crying so Kistie gave it her breast.

Another story concerns a Traveller girl who went down to a burn [stream] on Donside to wash her clothes, and was chased by two men with cudgels. She warned her father that there were burkers and he was ready for them with a whip. He whipped the ear off one of the men - or perhaps it was Burke himself, with his missing ear. This story was told to Stanley by Lizzy Mary Hutchison. The burker tales go back to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

Item Notes

'Burkers' were named after the notorious Wiliam Burke, of Burke and Hare, hanged in 1829. 'Mall' is a Scots form of 'Molly'.

Recording Location

County - Aberdeenshire

Parish - Aberdeen

Village/Place - Aberdeen


English, Scots



Source Type

Reel to reel

Audio Quality