Wiki Wednesday: Greyfriars Kirkyard

I’ve not been blogging much lately. Sometimes my head just feels so empty. (Don’t say it.) So in an attempt to make myself write more, I’m trying something new — Wiki Wednesdays.

I’m a Wikipedia addict. I love how I can see something on TV or read about something in a book and hop online to Wikipedia to read more about it. For me, using Wikipedia is like reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. While reading the original article, I’ll find myself opening links inside that article in new tabs, to read about something related to the original subject I had searched for… which will lead to more new tabs opened, and before I know it, I’ll have 15 tabs open on Firefox and have wasted an hour learning about things ranging from the cast of “Glee” to supposed secret government conspiracies.

So, every Wednesday (knock on wood), I figured I’d share one subject I learned about that week using Wikipedia. Remember to always take what you read on the Wiki with a grain of salt, but I do maintain it’s a good place to start to learn more information about something you may not have known before.

Subject: Greyfriars Kirkyard

Inspiration: “Afraid of the Dark” documentary on History Channel

A view of the north-eastern corner of Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh EH1, Scotland. On the left you can see the 'mortsafes' mentioned in the article, along with wall. (Photo by Tom Flynn)

My mother like to TiVo random documentaries during the summer to watch in between “Big Brother,” which she’s addicted to. (I plead the 5th.) This week we watched a two-hour special on why people are afraid of the dark. (Personally, I’m not so much afraid of the dark as I am the things lurking in the dark.)

One of the locales featured was Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland. I love Scotland. I love creepy cemeteries. I had to learn more about it, especially when the program mentioned that it wasn’t so much a cemetery as it was a hill of bones, since the town had run out of space to bury the deceased, so most of the graves actually had several bodies in them, one buried on top of the other.

The Wikipedia entry does not mention this (drat… I love the macabre), but it does contain the story of how Greyfriars came to be. The Town Council at the time declared the existing cemetery, St. Giles, to be full, and so ordered Greyfriars, on the site of a dissolved Franciscan friary, to be converted into a cemetery.

Because it is thought correct that there should be no more burials within St Giles, and because that kirkyard is not thought to have sufficient room for burying the dead, and taking into consideration the smell and inconvenience in the heat of summer, it would be provided ( by the council ) that a burial place be made further from the middle of town, such as in Greyfriars yard/ garden and the same ( should be ) built up and made secure. — Town Council records, April 23, 1561

The best know resident of Greyfriars is perhaps Greyfriars Bobby, a little Skye Terrier so devoted to his master that he kept watch over his master’s grave for 14 years. When Bobby passed away in 1872, the townsfolk buried him just inside the gates of the cemetery, near his master’s grave, since a dog could not be buried in the consecrated ground itself. He has his own headstone and a memorial statue erected nearby.

There is also a memorial to the Covenanters, where some 1200 members of the movement were imprisoned in the late 1600s.

The cemetery contains two mortsafes, which were ironwork cages that could be leased to protect bodies from “Resurraction Men” — grave robbers who would steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to Edinburg Medical College where medical students dissected them for study. (Which is damn creepy.)

I had heard of Greyfriars before, as one of the many ghost hunting shows I watch had visited. It’s supposed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Europe, and many people have reported injuries they don’t remember actually sustaining. Which means I must put it on my “haunted places to someday visit” list.

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1 Comment

Filed under history, wiki

One response to “Wiki Wednesday: Greyfriars Kirkyard

  1. Pingback: Your Garden

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