GHOULISH VANDALISM AT MEIKLE-EARNOCK.

Skull

The following story was reported in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 20 April 1895.

“Cadzow” writes to the Glasgow Herald; Please give me space for the following statement of facts. In a secluded corner on the confines of Fairhill and Earnock estates, within two miles distance of Hamilton Cross, there lies a small burying-place of some old Meikle Earnock families.

It has long since been disused, but a sweeter and more peaceful resting place it were hard to find, or apparently one more unlikely to be disturbed. What was my horror then, sir, on taking a quiet walk along the road that passes this God’s acre to find a human skull lying on the side walk, and grinning in all its ghastliness at passers-by! I reverently lifted the “thing” intending to replace it in the hallowed ground, when I observed that the door and window of the mausoleum which stands within the graveyard had been forced, and on looking into the interior saw that the stone cists round the walls were prized open, the coffin lids wrenched off, and the remains of their contents scattered over the place.

In my hurried glance I saw three skulls and several thigh and arm bones, and a bystander informed me that shortly before I came up some youths had been enjoying a game of football with the hideous relics. Great shades of Yorick! and this on the evening of a beautiful Easter Sunday in the latter end of the nineteenth century! I have no doubt that those more immediately interested will take steps to bring the perpetrators on this gross outrage to speedy justice.

I may add that the scene of this ghoulish vandalism is quite near to where, not long since, a young man, after spending a convivial Saturday evening with some friends, was playfully kicked to death by his boon companions. (The condition of this burial place has long been a disgrace to all interested in it.)

The next day on the 21st April 1895 the following was written:

“Before Hon. Sheriff Patrick, yesterday, John Murphy, pony-driver, Eddlewood, was charged with malicious mischief in connection with the recent desecration of Meikle-Earnock graveyard.

The libel set forth that on 14th inst., be abstracted from a coffin in a vault in the old graveyard a human skull and bones, and, taking them outside, broke the skull with the bones or stick, and kicked the fragments up and down the graveyard. He pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned for trial.

John Murphy, pony driver, Eddlewood, was tried at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Tuesday 30th April 1895 before Hon. Sheriff Patrick–on a charge of malicious mischief, committed in the old graveyard, on 14th April. Murphy, a boy of 14, pleaded not guilty, and was undefended.

Five witnesses were examined for the prosecution. From the evidence of four young lads, companions of Murphy, it appeared that on Sunday afternoon they met, and one of them gave information that the vault in the old graveyard was open. They went down to see the place. Arriving there, they found a number of other lads congregated.

Accused went into the vault, and, according to one of the witnesses lighted a match. He went to one of the coffins, which was open and contained a number of loose bones, and then opened another coffin. According to the same witness, he inserted his hand and extracted a skull from one of the coffins, this he brought out on the end of a stick, and threw it to the ground. Remarking that he wished to know what was in the skull, he broke it with a stick.

Again he entered the vault and was about to bring out another skull, when his companions remonstrated, and he gave up the notion. Constable Steel of the County police, said two days before the day libelled he had visited the graveyard in consequence of a report that the vault was open. He found that this was correct. The door had parted from its fixing in the wall for a space of about six inches, through the effect of the underground workings, he fixed the door in such a way as to secure it, and communicated with the representatives of the owners who promised to see the door put right. On the Tuesday following.

On information he received, he again visited the vault and found the place broken into, and the coffins and bones in a disordered condition. He further stated that five years ago the vault had been broken into and coffin cords taken away, which the girls in the village used as skipping ropes.

Accused, when asked for an explanation of his conduct, simply denied that he had lighted a match. His Lordship said the evidence disclosed an extraordinary state of affairs, and but for the circumstances that the accused was only one of a large company, all young and thoughtless, and that the place was improperly secured, he would have passed a severe sentence. But he learned from the Fiscal that the present prosecution was brought more as a warning, so trusting that such sacrilegious misdeeds would not be repeated, he would only impose a fine of 15s with the option of 10 days’ imprisonment.

The following story was donated to Historic Hamilton by Wilma Bolton.

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