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Grave Robbers Scotland

The time chosen in the dark winter nights was, for the town churchyards, from six to eight o'clock; at which latter hour the churchyard watch was set, and the city police also commenced their night rounds. A hole was dug down to the coffin only where the head lay a canvas sheet being stretched around to receive the earth, and to prevent any of it spoiling the smooth uniformity of the grass. The digging was done with short, flat dagger shaped implements of wood, to avoid the clicking noise of iron striking stones. On reaching the coffin, two broad iron hooks under the lid, pulled forcibly up with a rope broke off a sufficient portion of the lid to allow the body to be dragged out and sacking was heaped over the whole to deaden the sound of the cracking wood. The body was stripped of the grave clothes, which were scrupulously buried again; it was secured in a sack; and the surface of the ground was carefully restored to its original condition, which was not difficult, as the sod over a fresh-filled grave must always present signs of a recent disturbance. The whole process could be completed in an hour, even though the grave might be six feet deep, because the soil was loose, and the digging was done impetuously by frequent relays of active men. Transference over the churchyard wall was easy in a dark evening - and once in the street, the carrier of the sack drew no attention at so early an hour.

Sir Robert Christison, 1797-1882.

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