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The Story of "Half-Hangit Maggie"

The Story of
Photo Information
Copyright: John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1927 W: 427 N: 7230] (29026)
Genre: Places
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2019-04-14
Categories: Architecture
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Hoya 77mm Pro1D UV(0)
Exposure: f/0.6, 30 seconds
Map: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Date Submitted: 2019-04-19 17:37
Viewed: 941
Points: 44
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Please click here for a larger version of this photograph on "beta" TE.

This is very much a "nothing special" photograph of a pub called "Maggie Dickson's" in an old street in the Old Town of Edinburgh called the "Grassmarket". The Grassmarket in times past was a place where farmers' markets took place with the buying and selling of farm produce as well as livestock: but it was also where the majority of Edinburgh's public executions took place.

Now, Maggie Dickson lived from about 1702 to about 1765. Born in Musselburgh, a few miles from Edinburgh, she married a fisherman but he quickly left the scene after (depending on the version of the story you read) either being press ganged into the Royal Navy or, perhaps, going to work on the fishing fleet in Newcastle.

Left alone with two young children and no means of support, poor Maggie, in 1723, managed to find work at an inn in Kelso but unfortunately "fell pregnant" after a relationship with the innkeeper's son. Maggie concealed the fact of her pregnancy and the baby duly arrived, but prematurely. It is unclear whether the baby was stillborn or died shortly after birth and, if the latter, how it died. Either way, Maggie, distressed at the loss of her newborn child, abandoned the dead infant on the banks of the River Tweed, where it was found the next day and reported to the police.

Maggie was quickly traced and arrested and subsequently tried in Edinburgh. Some sources say she was charged under the Concealment of Pregnancy Act but it seems more likely she was tried with causing the death of her child. Based on very questionable medical evidence that the child had been born alive, she was unfortunately convicted and sentenced to death.

Maggie was duly hanged at a public execution in Edinburgh's Grassmarket on 2 September 1724, right next to where this pub now stands. Her execution was followed by a near riot as friends and relatives fought with medical students for possession of her body because in those days there was great demand for fresh corpses for anatomical dissection. But the friends and relatives won and Maggie was placed in a coffin to be transported by cart to Musselburgh for burial. However, while the funeral party paused en route for refreshment in a roadside tavern, the lid of the coffin was seen to move, and Maggie was found to be alive. She was given food and drink and was well enough to walk the rest of the way to Musselburgh the next day.

As the sentence of the court had been carried out, Maggie was beyond further prosecution and she lived for another 40 years, known universally as "Half-Hangit Maggie" ("Half-hanged Margaret").

Just a few yards from here is another pub, "The Last Drop", referring to the last public hanging here in Edinburgh in 1864.

ISO 200, 1/60 sec at f/8, focal length 73mm.

papagolf21, ikeharel, pajaran, jhm, Royaldevon, snunney, holmertz, jean113, macjake, COSTANTINO, alvaraalto has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To willperrett: Another pub in the workshop!tyro 1 2019-04-20 01:50
To jhm: Canon 24 -105mm f/4L IS USM.....tyro 1 2019-04-20 05:36
To macjake: Great spectator sport!tyro 1 2019-04-21 06:14
To kasianowak: A grim life..... and scanners....!tyro 1 2019-04-21 03:16
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • ifege Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1575 W: 79 N: 4525] (20969)
  • [2019-04-19 22:18]

Hi John
It is a decent looking pub and well photographed but, yes, the great story of Maggie Dickson is the main interest.

Bonjour, cher John,
Jolie contribution photographique de ce pub dans un lieu chargé d'Histoire.
J'ai bien aimé la note très intéressante.
Très bonne journée.

Hi John,
Well presented this shop, good quality for your photo, exposure and sharpness, tfs.

  • Great 
  • emka Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 11641 W: 123 N: 29576] (139254)
  • [2019-04-19 23:28]

Hello John, What a wonderful story about Maggie! Nice picture of the Edinburgh pub. Excellent quite special picture, great composition.
May this Easter makes all your dreams come true and brings a lot of love, happiness and health to your family!

Hello John,

Oh, what a story!
I love details like this!
But, it shows just how savage the punishments were in those days! But, no blame on the husband that went to sea or the inn-keeper's son ....!
This is a wonderful photograph to carefully peruse.
The photograph has excellent clarity so the details are easily collected.
There are so many different figures to watch, without return stares and so many different signs and names to read and consider!
Your nicely angled shot means that we start in the f/g and move inwards and don't miss a thing!

Have a lovely Easter w/e,
Bev :-)

  • Great 
  • jhm Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 26241 W: 523 N: 44924] (191415)
  • [2019-04-20 0:34]
  • [+]

Hello John,

I see that you use *Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM* I've this lens have to sell, was not perfect on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, I think to calibration!
Your picture is real wonderful, sure of quality.
Both pictures are main a key photo.
Great architectonic picture.
Colours and sharpness are fantastic.
Very well done, TFS.

Have a nice Easter weekend,

Hello John,
A sad tale with a happy ending, how lovely is that? Excellent capture of the pub, which seems to have no shortage of customers. Great technical realisation. Have a Happy Easter.

  • Great 
  • Tue Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 11127 W: 57 N: 19211] (71944)
  • [2019-04-20 0:54]

Hello John,
A great photo from a good viewpoint of the façade of Maggie Dickson, as well as Scotland's smallest pub next to it. The people enliven the photo and also the flowers make a great addition to the picture. Well done.

Hello John,
Lucky for Maggie Dickson that beheadings were not used at that time and place...
In a good contribution to TE the note is as important as the photo, which would be the case here. The photo shows a lot of fine details of the buildings and the pavement, as well as a few persons having a chat and a beer. It's a lively and attractive photo and it fits the"nothing special" category perfectly well. And yet it's probably the note that will stay in my memory the longest. And there's nothing wrong with that, as someone else might say.
I wish you a Happy Easter.

Hello John, what an interesting and memorable story. A ‘nothing special’ picture, the story brings the place to life.
A distinctive description of the pub, Whisky and Ale house, I can’t recall seeing that on a public house before, I will have to be more observant! And as a bonus, ‘The smallest pub in Scotland’ next door. How small is it?
I like that the men are taking no notice of you, too busy chatting and drinking.
Thanks for sharing, regards Jean.

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 13512 W: 125 N: 24156] (121047)
  • [2019-04-20 3:46]

Hi John, the story is really interesting and I certainly appreciated it more than the pictures. One could write a book about the unfortunate life of Maggie but which lasted for many years after the execution, as a miracle, or as a prize of God for her difficult existence without her husband. Congratulations for telling us, of course I also appreciated the photos, which indicate the place of execution but which are also photos of bars always appreciated by a bartender like me. My best wishes for a Happy Easter and thank you!

Ciao John
bella la foto e bella la tua nota.
Un locale storico che meritava di essere condiviso e visto da tutti noi.
Buona Pasqua

  • Great 
  • Nicou Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 15529 W: 0 N: 16878] (188510)
  • [2019-04-20 7:39]


Quelle vue de cette rue avec cette terrasse superbe compo et vue ces panneau vert devant eux on voit ressortir les têtes et ce vert sur la façade la pu sur les panneaux superbe
Bravo et belle soirée

Hello John

I have to admit it: it was your title that initially attracted my attention, and then the bizarre and extraordinary tale of Maggie that kept my interest. And you admit that the photograph is a Gert "nothing special". Which makes it right up my street - especially as it features two pubs, including the Smallest Pub in Scotland (apparently a Mission Hall originally)! Got to visit...

Kind regards


Ciao caro John, nice scene in a beautiful pub, fine details, wonderful colors, excellent clarity and splendid light, very well done, my friend, Happy Easter to you and your family, ciao Silvio

Hi John
oh i'm going to have to read this one.
I have a confession to make...if there was a public hanging going on...um, I'd watch :) Wouldn't you? haha...how often do you get to see a hanging???? Come on! That is one wild wacky story. Family Guy should do a 30 min episode on it where Stewie and Brian time travel to the 1700's :) Wonderful note, wonderful photo of nothing special, great post for TE!

Hi John
A couple of great street photos that have enriched the gallery of the Nothing Special Club on TE. And what a story to accompany it! I was really glad to hear that Maggie survived but, still, I couldn't stop thinking "what a terrible life"...
The Smallest Pub in Scotland looks interesting too.
Best wishes
Ps. Thank you for your critiques of my photos. I've been meaning to reply to your question regarding scanning since you first asked it, apologies for the delay. I have a Nikon Coolpix 5000 scanner but I haven't used it for a few years, since I finished scanning all my transparencies. Like you, I also used it with Nikon XP, never tried it on the later OS's though. In fact, my main computer which I use for photo editing and retouching is still XP... :-)

  • Great 
  • CLODO Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2858 W: 1387 N: 3445] (42423)
  • [2019-04-23 2:44]

Hi John

What a story! It is written on the marble board at left. I wouln't have though of that looking at the picture! Everyday life in Edinburgh, apparently the street is full of pubs.

Hello dear friend and have a nice time
and a happy new day
simple but nice
pretty and eyecatching
useful notes for a decent
looking pub

Hello, John!

Beautiful façade of the store and very well framed! The people add life to the scene, and the light and colors are excellent! Very nice composition!

Hello John,

very fine and interesting shot from Edinburgh with this pub which I remember very well because during my last visit my hotel was on the other side of the street at Grassmarket. Very good composition, fine colors and sharpness. I like the shot very much.TFS.

With regards from Luxembourg


Hello John
I enjoyed your visual story about Maggy Dickson. and the accompanying photos.
It is wonderful how people in Edinburgh here let live the past in the names of the pubs.
It is hoped for "The Last Drop" that this does not apply to their beverage sales. 😉
Excellent presentation
Have a good weekend, groet Rob

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