The Edinburgh Dead Photo-Trailer 3: Guarding the Dead

Graveyards as fortresses. Not for fear of the rising dead, but – as a character in The Edinburgh Dead puts it – for the protection of the dead against the avaricious living.  Corpses had value in 18th and 19th century Edinburgh, as educational material for the city’s famous medical schools.   The bodysnatchers (or, as they were more dramatically known, the resurrectionists) emptied graves at night.  Yes, if you died in Edinburgh in 1828, when The Edinburgh Dead is set, and left a reasonably presentable corpse, there was a chance your mortal remains would be surreptitiously dug up, bagged, sold to an anatomist, possibly pickled, and then displayed and dissected for the edification of medical students.  The good folk of the city, not unreasonably, thought that more than a little uncalled for.  They took steps to deter the nocturnal corpse-thiefs.

They built and manned watchtowers in their cemeteries. (The one shown above is at Duddingston – a location that’s featured in this photo-trailer before).

They set cages about the graves of their loved ones.

They even resorted to massive, impenetrable iron coffins.

It could all easily be an array of defences against the undead, inspired by superstitious fear of revenants clawing their way out of the soil.  What’s more unsettling, though?  Those fantastical notions, or the truth: that men thought nothing of digging up their recently deceased fellows and selling them for dissection, and that respected – indeed internationally lauded – teachers of medicine found the imperatives of their calling so pressing that they thought it an acceptable way of obtaining cadavers for their anatomy lessons?

Previous instalments of The Edinburgh Dead photo-trailer:

The Arthur’s Seat Coffins

Duddingston Loch

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  1. Silver Thistle’s avatar

    Hi Brian, not my first visit to your photo blog (and probably not my last) but just popping by again to see if I can get the photo’s on the trailer’s to load…they didn’t want to last time.

    Anyhoo, finally got a copy of Edinburgh dead and started it last night and am really enjoying it. Even though it’s not my usual ‘go to’ genre I couldn’t resist seeing Edinburgh on the pages with zombie dogs 🙂

    About a third through and it’s brilliant so far, I’m loving all the little details. Favourite line up to now? By a mile it has to be, ‘I’m not wanting any butter’. Love that. Probably not the line you had hoped would stick in the mind of readers but it just tickled me for some reason 🙂

    I’m in Edinburgh about once or twice a fortnight and will be looking at the places mentioned with a lot more interest now. I’ve passed that watchtower in the kirkyard umpteen times and never give it a second glance. Funny the things you tune out due to familiarity.

    Anyway, I’ll away back to reading..just wanted to say ‘Hi’ in passing 🙂

  2. Brian’s avatar

    Hi, SIlver Thistle. Here’s a surprise for you: ‘I’m not wanting any butter.’ is a line I was pretty pleased with when I wrote it, and I still am. Was happy with the way that whole scene turned out. So I’m not at all disappointed to hear it pleased a reader – quite the opposite. In its context, I think it’s a perfectly sensible choice for a favourite line. You and the author are clearly on the same wavelength!

  3. Silver Thistle’s avatar

    I love everything about that scene. I could see and hear them with perfect clarity. Genius!

    Just finished the last page less than an hour ago and have a wee review up on my blog, if you’ve the inclination to see what I thought?


    Are there any plans to give Adam some more cases to solve? Please? 🙂

  4. Brian’s avatar

    Thanks for the generous review, Silver Thistle.

    As to what the future holds for Adam Quire … well, put it this way: I don’t think his further adventures are going to be the next thing I write. Whether or not he’ll ever return is, at this point, a bit of an open question, so I can’t really promise you anything.

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