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Unsavoury Hobby

11th Aug 2014
Unsavoury Hobby

In 1823 a certain John Forrest, a graduate physician practising in Stirling and former pupil of Robert Knox, made inquiries to two Stirling gravediggers regarding the acquisition of a fresh corpse to enable him to practise his newly acquired anatomical skills.

The two gravediggers, James McNab and Daniel Mitchell agreed, especially as the fee agreed was the then princely sum of 6 guineas.

The first opportunity followed the death of Mrs Mary Stevenson who was duly interred in the Castle Graveyard. That night McNab and Mitchell returned at 2am and disinterred her. They were carrying her off when spotted by some night watchmen.

Arrested, they were released on a technicality pending further investigation however the news got out and the Stirling mob, incensed by this violation decided to mete out their own justice. The reasoning was that the public were outraged and did not want this sort of crime taking place in Stirling the way it was commonplace in Edinburgh.

Accordingly they attacked the houses of MacNab and Mitchell. The Militia, having been prewarned, rearrested MacNab for his own safety but Mitchell was not so fortunate. To escape the mob he climbed onto the roof of his tenement and was leaping from one rooftop to another when he slipped and fell to his death. You can still see this spot at the corner of Baker Street and Bow Street. MacNab was duly sentenced to transportation for life, so somewhere in Australia the descendants of Stirling’s only bodysnatcher still roam...

As to Mary, she was reinterred in the same grave and if you visit it you will notice that the ground has sunk making it a spooky sight to behold. As to Dr Forrest, he fled Stirling and passed out of history.

If any of you wish to see any of this and other parts of the Castle Graveyard which is in the shadow of the Castle and next to the Church of the Holy Rude, I would be delighted to show you. It matches any graveyard in Edinburgh and there is a lot to see and discuss. It would also be a good excuse to visit Scotland’s finest City and Castle.

William, (like James IV, Billy Bremner and Andy Murray, a true son of the Rock).


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