Please note: due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak the Centre is currently closed, but our website is still open for business.

East Lothian’s Criminal Past

The lush green hills and pretty towns of East Lothian hide a dark past.

Delve into our collections to read about James Watherstone’s escape from Musselburgh Tollbooth or John Kello, minister at Spott, who murdered his wife and then calmly went to preach his sermon.

Hear the stories of Half-Hangit Maggie, a fishwife from Musselburgh who was hanged in 1724 but who went on to live another 40 years, or Robert Emond of North Berwick, who was tried and convicted of the gruesome double murder of Catherine Franks and her daughter Madeline in 1829.

Discover tales of East Lothian witch trials and the grim methods of torture the accused were subjected to before their fiery death. Read about the Saturday night brawls, the music pirates and the sheep stealers and petty thieves who were whipped through the town and told never to return.

Learn how the Church also took a strong line on wrongdoers. Adulterers, fornicators and gossips were punished by a variety of methods being put in the jougs (an iron collar), or kneeling on the stool of repentance in front of the whole congregation, or sometimes even being put to death.

Was your ancestor one of East Lothian’s criminals? Come see what you can find out at the John Gray Centre.

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