Out of his skull

A fantastically bizarre tale which could have come from a macabre and phantasmagorical 19th century Gothic novel. Two young ne’er do wells have become the first criminals in over 100 years to be charged with disturbing a sepulchre. A tour guide spotted them running from Greyfriars Kirkyard in the middle of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It turned out they had broken into the MacKenzie tomb, broken open the coffina nd taken a skull. Known as ‘bloody MacKenzie’ because of his vicious enthusiasm in dealing with covenanters, the occupant of the tomb was not a terribly nice man. The tale has wonderful overtones of other Boneyard visitors in Edinburgh’s foggy past – the Resurrectionists, also known as body snatchers. A dead body is not property under law and so cannot legally be stolen. However centuries ago to combat such problems it was made illegal to disturb a properly sealed tomb or interfere with a correctly interred corpse, hence this old charge being dusted down from the statute books to charge these little hooligans. No doubt it will eventually become a part of the tales told by the ghost walk guides and be absorbed into the city’s mythos. I rather like that.

This area is also now infamous for the alleged MacKenzie Poltergeist which is reputed to attack tourists being taken round the anicent Kirkyard. Greyfriars is one of my favourite spots in Edinburgh. It’s steeped in Scottish history, large and small events. Much of the National Deed of Covenant was signed here by simple farmers, wealthy merchants, practical engineers, doctors of the university and lords and ladies. It’s also home to the famous Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who sat watch each day on his master’s grave and whose statues is surrounded by small armies of American and Japanese tourists daily taking snaps. Part of the Flodden Wall is here – hastily built fortifications for the city after a terrible defeat brought the threat of invasion and sacking, as is the covenanter’s prison. Many of the tombs are magnificent examples of Gothic carving, with skulls and dancing skeletons making mockeries of human mortality, now crumbling in their turn like the bodies they cover. I spent many happy hours using these for my student photography work (followed by visit to Greyfriars pub afterwards of course) – these tombs look fabulous blown up on grainy black and white. I must go and play there with my new digital camera this spring. I took my dear chum Jan there when she was over from the US staying with me – I knew she had the right Gothicky-vampish sensibilities to enjoy it. I also knew she’d enjoy the nearby pubs afterwards too, of course. An ancient, mouldering graveyard and then a nice pint of ale – do I know how to show a girl a good time or what?