A Lucky Escape – Mary Ann Haldane
On Thursday 28 June 1827, Mary Ann Haldane was arrested for housebreaking and stealing at the property of Dr Thatcher in Elder Street, Edinburgh. At her trial on 9 November 1827 at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh she was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. Historically, transportation has been seen as a harsh punishment. Families were torn apart, never to see each other again. But for Mary it may have been an escape from a worse fate.
Mary was born to Elizabeth Haldane about 1810 in Glasgow, father is unknown nor is it known why or when they moved to Edinburgh. Mary’s mother, Elizabeth (or Betty), and sister, Margaret (or Peggy), became victims of the notorious Edinburgh murderers (also known as West Port murderers), Burke and Hare. William Burke and William Hare were Irish immigrants, and their accomplices, Burke’s defacto, Helen (or Nell) McDougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret, were responsible for at least 16 murders between November 1827 and 31 October 1828. The victims were to provide cadavers for dissection by Dr Robert Knox, a lecturer on anatomy at Edinburgh Medical College.
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