The Hanging Stanes
A pair of stones embedded in an Edinburgh street memorialize one of the city's last public hangings.
In the middle of a residential street in the Morningside neighborhood of Edinburgh, you’ll find a pair of strange stones embedded in the pavement. The nearby plaque on the curb tells the story of the last highwaymen to be publicly hanged in Scotland.
On a cold November night in 1814, David Loch was hauling his goods by cart when he was set upon by two Irish immigrants, Henry O’R Neil and Thomas Kelly. He was savagely beaten and had his horse stolen along with about a month’s worth of wages.
Both men were quickly apprehended due to their notoriety for similar crimes. The trial was expedient and may have been biased due to prejudice against the Irish. Their case was unusual, as the judge ordered that men be chained and led from the Old Tolbooth in the center of Edinburgh and forced to walk several miles to be executed at the very spot where the crime took place.
Even though it was snowing, a large procession of magistrates, clergymen, and eager onlookers led the men to this gruesome site. On January 25, 1815, the two men were hanged in front of the large crowd. The bodies were left hanging as a stern reminder and warning to other potential criminals.
The story of the hanging took root in the public consciousness. Sympathy for the hanged has grown over the years. Local folklore among those who think the men were unfairly hanged says the cement in the road never fully dries. The two cobblestones at the center of each square represent the gibbets from which they were hanged.
Know Before You Go
The stones are accessible 24/7. Due to their location in the middle of the road, caution is advised.
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