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Broadside entitled 'Rumour of Burking in Leith'


This broadside report begins: 'A Full, True, and Interesting Account of the Serious Rumours at present afloat of Two Fish-Women being missed in Leith within a few days past, and of their bodies having been found hidden in a barrel, -- as also of the apprehension of the suspected individual.' The sheet was published by George Craig of Edinburgh, and cost one penny.

This broadside purports to report on a chilling murder of two fish-women from Leith, whose bodies were apparently found in a barrel. It could well be, however, that this is just a fictional story that fed on the fears that existed in Edinburgh after the notorious actions of Burke and Hare. Certainly, there are no definite details to prove the truth of the story, with the writer frequently employing doubtful phrases such as 'if true', 'it appears' and 'it is rumoured'. The word 'burking' entered the lexicon around the time that Burke and Hare committed their awful deeds, but, thankfully, has since become a dormant word.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Probable date published: 1831   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(119)
Broadside entitled 'Rumour of Burking in Leith'
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