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Broadside entitled 'Elegy'


This memorial notice begins: 'ELEGY / ON / WILLIAM BURKE, / Who was Executed at Edinburgh, Jan. 28, 1829. / Now Willie Burke he's een awa' / And ta'en his last adieu'. The poem was written by 'A Countryman' and would have cost a penny to buy. It carries a woodcut profile of Burke at the top of the sheet.

There are many elegies contained in the National Library of Scotland's collection, which cover a vast range of characters. This man, however, was infamous at the time of his death due to the outrage caused by his murders, which were solely for profit. Some of these other broadsides describe his last morning and death throes on the gallows in great detail. Alongside this broadside is a newspaper cutting from a Sheffield paper concerning the Burke and Hare case and a advertisement for a publication on the case.

Burke and Hare were Irish bodysnatchers and murderers, who worked around Edinburgh's Canongate area - eventually becoming local legends. They hit upon the idea of murdering vulnerable or solitary people (in an attempt not to get caught) so that they could sell the bodies for dissection. Hare turned King's Evidence and so was acquitted, but this secured the conviction of Burke, who was hanged on the 28th January 1829.

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Probable date published: 1829   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.6(031)
Broadside entitled 'Elegy'
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