Books & Music
Food & Wine
Health & Fitness
Hobbies & Crafts
Home & Garden
News & Politics
Religion & Spirituality
Travel & Culture
TV & Movies
Maggie Dickson - Convicted and Executed Yet Lived
In Edinburgh, Scotland, when walking through the Close at night near Grassmarket, one may encounter the ghost of a woman named Maggie who was accused of murdering her baby in 1729 -- Maggie Dickson was convicted and hanged, yet lived another forty years after her "execution".
A close is a passageway under buildings in the old part of Edinburgh. It makes for easy access from one area to another, avoiding traffic and busy walkways above ground. These passageways under the main streets are shrouded in myths and urban legends. Many witnesses from times past, and even today, claimed to have seen the ghost of Maggie in the close near where she she was hanged.
Maggie Dickson was born sometime around 1702, in Musselburgh, five miles east of Edinburgh. She grew up in the same area and married a fisherman when she was about 20. The husband abandoned her not long after they married. It is not sure why he left or where he took off to. Being alone, Maggie had to find a way to support herself and was able to find a job at an inn in Kelso, in exchange for room and board. Kelso lies in the bend of River Tweed and the confluence of River Teviot, which in early days, made Kelso the center for commerce. Kelso is still the largest market square in Scotland.
Working at the pub, Maggie was in daily contact with the innkeeper's son, whom she had a relationship with -- it is uncertain if Maggie's lover was the son or the innkeeper himself. When Maggie found herself pregnant, she did not tell anyone. Concealing her pregnancy, she continued to work. She knew that if anyone found out she was pregnant, she would lose her job and be destitute. Apparently she did not tell her lover about the pregnancy, or if she did, he did nothing to help her in any way. Although alone and pregnant, Maggie was technically still married. Maggie continued to work till the day her child was born in a field, where she had gone to give birth in secrecy. Whether the baby was stillborn or died shortly after birth, is not known for sure. It is known, however, that Maggie left her dead baby on the bank of River Tweed.
A man working in his fields found the baby and took it to authorities in town. Somehow the dead baby incident was traced back to Maggie.
Maggie was arrested and charged either with the "Concealment of Pregnancy Act", or the murder of her baby -- quite possibly with both charges. Yet, the Concealment of Pregnancy Act, which was passed in 1690, was enough on its own to sentence Maggie to death, for, it was a capital punishment law at that time.
On September 2, 1724, Maggie was taken, along with other prisoners who were sentenced to death, to the Grassmarket public square and hanged. She was taken down and pronounced dead. Maggie was put into a coffin, onto a wagon, then taken by family and friends to Musselburgh for burial.
The journey by foot to Maggie's final resting place would be a long one. On the way there, the group stopped at a pub to have drinks and refresh themselves. As they returned to the wagon, a loud banging came from the coffin. They quickly pried open the lid and found Maggie was alive. They helped her out, gave her the care she needed, then took her home.
The news of Maggie's survival spread quickly -- lore and legends began soon after as the story was verbally repeated over and over. The law declared that since Maggie's survival was an act of God, she was absolved of all charges. She had been tried, sentenced and executed according to the law.
Maggie lived for another forty years. A pub in Grassmarket, facing the public square where Maggie was hanged, bears the name of Maggie Dickson's Pub. Out front of the pub is a stone marker that tells Maggie's story.
Dates and actual details have become fuzzy over the years, but, Maggie was real, as is her story. For the rest of her life, she was known by locals as "Half Hangit Maggie."
| Related Articles | Editor's Picks Articles | Top Ten Articles | Previous Features | Site Map
Content copyright © 2013 by Phyllis Doyle Burns. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Phyllis Doyle Burns. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Phyllis Doyle Burns for details.
Website copyright © 2013 Minerva WebWorks LLC. All rights reserved.