Just up Braid Road, heading south from Morningside Station at about number 66 Braid Road, lie two sets of stones seen cut under the tarmac of the road surface. They represent one of the more gruesome aspects of Edinburgh history.
These are the foundations stones of a pair of gibbets from which were conducted one of the last public hangings in Edinburgh.
Back in November 1814 two Irish immigrants Thomas Kelly and Henry O’Neil robbed one David Loch, a carter, in broad daylight at the point where the stones stand. Given the ill-feeling of those days to Irish immigrants the jury found no trouble in finding them guilty without even the need to retire to consider their verdict.
Thereafter in an act of almost medieval theatre of the macabre they were led from their incarceration in a procession of the condemned, Police, the High Constables of Edinburgh City, city officials all decked out in their finery and complete with ancient halberds, Magistrates and ministers of the Church of Scotland, a Catholic priest and any number of local hangers on and ghouls, walking the three miles from the city centre to the newly erected gibbets; and all in a tremendous snowstorm.
Thereafter we are told by no less than R L Stevenson, their bodies were wrapped in chains and left swinging off the scaffold for years as a warning.
There are those in Morningside today who might vote to see the stones used again as foundations of gibbets for that species of latter-day highway robbers – the plague of Council Parking Wardens trading on the locals being unable to spot the hidden signage or distinguish where the damn parking bays are.
Copyright David Macadam 2013