June 12, 2022

Scottish Mysteries. Gilmerton Cove.

A small cottage in the Edinburgh suburb of Gilmerton hides the entrance to an unusual mystery. Buried in the sandstone underneath the town’s homes are a series of tunnels known as Gilmerton Cove. They are obviously man-made—on top of the building-like layout, there are benches, seats, and stairs carved from the stone—yet no one has any real idea who built them, when, or why.

A popular explanation, first recorded in 1769, is that the tunnel system was carved by a blacksmith named George Paterson between 1719 and 1724. The idea is that it was a home and workshop, but there are good reasons to doubt this. The area supposedly identified as a fireplace has no blackening around it, suggesting nothing has ever been burned there. There exists what appears to be a well, but it never went deep enough to hit water. Another possibility is that it was dug in the 17th century as a “trial bore” to search for coal. There are some tunnels heading north that are blocked but may once have reached the nearby Craigmillar Castle, suggesting that the cove could have been an escape tunnel. Some of the wilder suggestions include the idea that it was used as a hideaway by witches facing persecution.

An archaeological investigation was carried out between 2000 and 2002 to determine once and for all what purpose the tunnels served. Sadly, its only conclusion was that the cove had been so widely used over the last few centuries that any chance of figuring out its origins are long gone.

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Scotland and its History. (Mystery)

Who Hanged Mark Devlin?

In the 1830s, a ruthless gang of criminals who called themselves the Black Band dominated the city of Dundee. Since Dundee only had 14 police officers, it wasn’t difficult for the Band to indulge their penchant for robbery and rioting.

The law got a break in 1835, when they caught a Black Band member named Mark Devlin breaking into a property and decided to make an example of him. Devlin was tried and sentenced to death by hanging. That was a bit of a problem, though, because Dundee didn’t have a hangman. Hanging had been used by the English to execute supporters of Scottish rebels, so no one in Dundee wished to be associated with it.

Dundee old buildings H255 Old Dundee 1 of 4 H255_1_032 Whitehall Crescenet and Union Street, Dundee

They arranged for a hangman to travel from Edinburgh and made a makeshift platform on the side of a local Guild Hall. When the executioner didn’t show, officials scrambled to find a replacement. A man identified as local showman James Livingstone volunteered, and Devlin was sent to meet his maker. Livingstone’s reputation tumbled quickly as a result, which didn’t make him too happy, because Livingstone had actually been 24 kilometers (15 mi) away in the neighboring town of Forfar at the time. He had reliable witnesses who saw him there, and he was eventually able to persuade everyone that he wasn’t even present at Devlin’s hanging. But who did hang Mark Devlin? Nearly 180 years later, we don’t know and likely never will.

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