Odds & Ends 2

 

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Bits that Don't fit anywhere else!

Every researcher and family historian has them. You know, all the odd bits and pieces that don't fit your work and have no specific category! Well I too have the same problem, so rather than hide them away I thought I would share some of them with you. So here goes...

The Aberdeen Journal, May 23, 1899

Nellfield Cemetery Dispute - Alleged Tampering with Graves - Revolting Disclosures

Proof was led in Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday - before Sheriff Robertson - in an action at the instance of Andrew Harvey, insurance agent, 34 Hartington Road, and Elizabeth Harvey, 105 Summer Street, Aberdeen, against the Aberdeen Baker Incorporation, with respect to alleged interence with a grave in Nellfield Cemetery in which pursuers claim the right of burial. Defenders are proprietors of the cemetery, and pursuers sought to have them interdicted and prohibited from interfering with the burial lair no. 179, in which  pursuers' relatives were interred. The Sheriff was also asked to award pursuers 250 damages in consequence of the defenders or their servants, it was averred having removed coffins from the lair belonging to pursuers, broken up the coffins, scattered the remains about, and interred the body of a stranger in the grave.

An Assistant Gravedigger Examined -n William Raffan, labourer, 15 South Crown Street, said he was an assistant in Nellfield Cemetery for part of 1897 and 1898. He left of his own accord. He remembered having, in May, 1897, opened the grave belonging to the pursuers. Mr Coutts was superintendent at that time, and a temporary assistant, John Hay, was employed. The grave was opened on 1st May by witness. At that time Wilson was opening a grave in Section No.3, where a woman, no friend of Harveys, was buried. Witness was instructed by Mr Coutts to open Harvey's grave, and "take out the boxes." There was nothing but dry bones in the coffins, and witness threw the bones on the walk. He was afterwards told to clean out the grave, and to dig a hole at the east end of it, in which to inter the bones. Having done that he was instructed to dig a hole at the west end. While he was doing that Wilson came up with a barrow, on which was the body of a woman taken from the strangers' portion. That body was put into the hole at the west end of Harvey's grave. The body was quite fresh and had been complete but had been broken up.

The Aberdeen Journal June 1, 1899

The Nellfield Scandal - Latest Developments.

It was reported yesterday that Wm. Coutts formerly superintendent of the cemetery, who was apprehended on Friday night, had suffered severely in health since he was lodged in prison. Inquiries made at an official source elicited the fact that there is no truth in the statement.

The Mysteries of the Toolhouse - A stonecutter, who was frequently employed in Nellfield Cemetery - no tin the capacity of a gravedigger - stated in the course of an interview that he and his fellow workmen have frequently seen a number of coffins in the toolhouse. At times there would be as many as eight or nine, all with remains in them. Latterly, the man said, Coutts objected to outsiders entering the toolhouse, and would order them out, marking that there was nothing that could be of interest in their trade to be seen in the building.

Suspicions Aroused - The suspicions of several lairholders graves having been interfered with were aroused in a somewhat peculiar manner. In not a few cases those having ground in the cemetery undertake themselves the duty of attending to it in the way of planting flowers and paying other little tokens of respect to the dead. Recently on numerous occasions people found when they went to tend their graves in this way that some other persons were evidentally doing the same work, for plants and wreaths not provided by those by whom the graves were first purchased would appear on the top of the ground. This has naturally led people to believe that other interments have been permitted in their lairs.

The Aberdeen Journal June 2, 1899

Additional Disclosures - Two Bodies Missing

As has been suspected by many people it is to be feared that only a commencement has been made with the disclosures that will follow the inquiries as to the Nellfield Cemetery scandal, for yesterday, on a private lair being opened for the purpose of an interment, it was found that the coffins of two children, with their bodies, were missing. The grave is in the central portion of the ground, and the gentleman to whom it belongs determined to be present when it was opened in order, in view of recent discoveries, to ascertain if everything was right. Accordingly he attended in the morning with a relative, and the digging operations had not advanced far when it was found that there was something materially wrong. The first coffins that should have been reached were those of two children, but only the lids were found, there being no trace either of the remainder of the coffins or of the bodies. Naturally, the relatives were deeply grieved at this discovery, and they immediately communicated with their law agent, with the police and with the Baker Incorporation.

The Crowding of Lairs - More Revelations

The discovery made yesterday has also led to light being thrown on the alleged excessive crowding of bodies in some of the lairs. The grave from which the two children's bodies are missing was sold five years ago as a free grave, or one in which there had been only one interment; but an examination of the registers shows that since about 1865 no fewer than 17 bodies had been buried in it. In the course of further digging in the grave, no fewer than ten skulls were shovelled out, several of these being evidentally of women, for long hair, in some cases black and in others brown, still adhered to the skulls. The bones were put into the grave again as it was being filled up.

Visitors to the Cemetery

When it became known that two bodies were missing from a grave that had been opened, an unusually large number of people visited the cemetery and made inquiry as to where this particular lair was. Throughout the afternoon, groups of women stood in the vicinity of the grave, and animated discussions were engaged in as to the discoveries that had been made. Every day however, there is a large number of visitors, and in not a few cases people who have friends interred in the ground seem to be in deep distress. Within the past few days several lair holders have probed their graves with iron rods in the hope of ascertaining if there had been any interference with them. The results were not all deemed satisfactory. In some cases it was believed that there coffins far nearer the surface than should have been, while in other instances there is still a feeling of unrest in view of the apparent corroboration of the statement that coffins and bodies were frequently removed and only the lids left in the graves. In these circumstances, it is not unlikely that application will be made to have several lairs opened.

The Aberdeen Journal, June 7, 1899

Discovery of Fragments of Large Coffins

About seven o'clock a considerable quantity of bones and fragments were unearthed and the officials were kept busy with the "finds." One discovery was that of a large coffin handle which might not unnaturally be connected wit the large plate that had been taken up a few minutes earlier. At any rate, the two articles being found in close juxtaposition, one could not resist the conclusion that the remains of a grown-up person had been interred at the spot. Almost immediately afterwards a small neat plate was fished out from the mould, and Mr Maclennan took pains to decipher it by rubbing the surface on the grass. About the same spot was found what appeared to be a portion of a small rib and the handle of a small coffin. Five minutes later a large pelvic bone came to the surface. This was the largest fragment of human remains that had yet been found, and, naturally, the discovery excited much interest.

Shortly after seven o'clock Mr Maclennan pulled up from the heap what was evidently a coffin ornament or trapping, and no fewer than eight name plates of coffins had been dug out of the same spot. The eighth plate was, like the majority, not of large size, and it was pretty much corroded, and it is doubtful if the name could be deciphered.

400 Coffin Handles Unearthed - A significant feature of the discovery at this part of the ground however, was immense quantities of coffin handles, said to amount in all to about 400. The hole which was dug was only about 3ft 6in deep, 5ft long, and 2ft broad, and the quantity of material taken out of it was almost incredible. The explanation given is that this part of the debris taken from the furnace after coffins had been burned. Of the name plates taken out of the hole at least nine had inscriptions which were decipherable. The authorities have retained possession of these, and the names cannot be given, with the exception of one, which was "John Buchan Innes, 45 years."

Further Shocking Discoveries - Lumps of Putrifying Flesh Unearthed

In the course of the forenoon it transpired that the discoveries made in the side walk near Great Western Road were of a more horrible nature than at first reported. The diggers had not proceeded far in the second opening when lumps of human flesh in an advanced stage of decomposition were lifted and laid on the sward - a gruesome heap. Indeed, it is said that in one of the holes made practically a complete body was found.

Bodies Doubled up and Crammed Into a Hole

More revolting still was the spectacle presented when a hole was opened in a walk running at right angles to the one next the Great Western Road wall. When they had got only two feet below the surface, the diggers were horrified to come upon the body of a girl of about 15 years of age, which had been taken out of a coffin, of which there was no trace, thrown into the hole, and doubled up. Exclamations of horror and surprise came from all present when this revolting sight presented itself. The remains had been interred about two years ago, and while they were considerably decomposed, there had been comparatively little wasting. Below this was the body of and old man, which had been treated in the same manner, having been taken from the coffin and put into the hole, where it was found doubled in half. The sight was sickening, and such as those present were almost unable to bear. The bodies, it is said, had been originally buried in the strangers' portion of the cemetery, but had afterwards been removed, presumably with a view to making room for more "strangers." The remains were reverently reinterred, and everyone was glad when the ghastly task was finished.

At Mrs Caithness's Grave - Reported Suspicious Discovery

The party now proceeded to the grave in the central section of the cemetery where, it was said, the body of a Mrs Caithness was buried. After digging about three feet down the men came upon a coffin, on which was a name plate bearing the name of Mrs Caithness. It is said, however, that examination proved that the plate was not that which originally belonged to the coffin on which it was found. Gravediggers who were formerly employed at Nellfield assert that when Mr & Mrs Harvey complained, a coffin was taken out of another grave and the name plate of Mrs Caithness was put on it. Dr Matthew Hay examined the remains that were in the coffin, but it was not reported what opinion he had expressed regarding them.

Another Grave Opened

At Six o'clock on Saturday morning a commencement was made with the opening  of a grave in the second portion of Nellfield Cemetery, with a view to the interment of the body of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl taking place. Gravediggers soon came upon the small coffin of a seven-months-old boy, James Butler Moore, who was interred about 11 weeks ago. Further down were three coffins in a broken and decomposed condition, in which had been placed the bodies of two still-born infants in 1891 and 1884 respectively, and a child, Archie G Mavor, one month old, in 1888. The digging was resumed and the coffin containing the body of Ann M Rhynas, 3 years of age was uncovered. Immediately below that coffin, it was stated, had been interred the remains of James Butler, aged 11, buried in 1873.

The Burning of Bodies - A Horrible Story

In connection with the alleged burning of bodies in the toolhouse at the cemetery, a revolting story is told by a man who was at one time employed as a gravedigger at Nellfield. The man states that on one occasion the coffin of a child, with the body inside, was put into the furnace. Soon afterwards the corpse had swelled to such an extent with the heat that the lid of the coffin flew off, revealing inside the body of a fair-haired boy. The man fled from the toolhouse, unable to remain the witness of such a spectacle.

An Incident of Ten Years Ago

It is reported that nearly ten years ago a peculiar incident had occurred at Nellfield. The body of a boy had been buried in a private lair, and when, some months afterwards, the mother of the child was paying a visit to the cemetery she was surprised to see a widow placing flowers on the grave. The mother suggested that there were surely some mistake, but the widow emphatically declared that there was none, because her late husband had been buried shortly before in that lair. Inquiries were made and examination of the books showed that this was the case, but the assurance was given that the occurrence was purely accidental, and the mother was provided with another grave, to which the body of her child was transferred. This, it is understood, took place before Coutts was appointed superintendent.

The Aberdeen Journal, June 9, 1899

The Nellfield Scandals - Yesterday's Discoveries - Horrible Disclosures - Two Corpses Packed in a Coffin - The Burning of Children's Bodies

Several ghastly discoveries were made yesterday as the result of the resumed investigation by the Aberdeen criminal authorities into the state of matters existing at Nellfield Cemetery. Operations commenced at a grave close to the main entrance, within three yards of Great Western Road, and three coffins and bodies, all of which had been intered within the past seven years, could not be found. The diggers proceeded to a grave in a "strangers" portion, nearly opposite Great Western Place. The register showed that there had been no fewer than 27 interments in this lair, but only eight coffins could be found. One of these was packed with bones. This grave was opened because it was believed that the body of the man which had been taken out of a coffin and was found on Wednesday doubled up in another lair had originally been interred in it. That this was so was held to be proved by the fact that the name plate of his coffin was found in the grave that was opened. In a private lair, opened at the request of the owner, who suspected that all was not right, it was discovered that a child's body had been removed, while in one coffin taken out of this grave the bodies of two women were found packed together. A hole was dug in one of the walks, and in this was found the lead shell of a coffin, and nearly a cartload of human remains, portions of trunks, heads, with the flesh and hair still on them and a large quantity of bones. A grave in the third section was opened to see if the body of a woman which had been removed from a private lair was there, and the corpse, without a coffin, was found under other coffins. Some shocking statements have been made as to the burning of children's bodies. A feeling of indescribable horror prevails in the city owing to the revolting discoveries that are being made.

Beginning the Day's Work

A few minutes after six o' clock a commencement was made at a grave belonging to Mr John Thom, upholsterer, within two yards of the main entrance. This, indeed, might be said to be the first grave in the cemetery, for, standing on the public roadway, one could almost touch the tombstone with a walking stick, and it seemed incredible that there could have been any improper interference with a lair so fully exposed to public view; yet it was declared by former employees that on one occasion, when the grave had to be opened, two coffins, with bodies of children, were removed and buried in a walk. Between 1891 and 1897 five interments had been made in the grave, two being the bodies of Mr Thom's father and mother, and three those of children from four years downwards. The last burial was that of Mrs Thom, senior. 

Statement by Mr & Mrs Thom - Three Coffins Missing

Mr Thom and his wife, who had been present all morning, left the cemetery shortly after nine o'clock, for the purpose of ascertaining at the house where he is residing in Claremont Street, whether or not Mr John Hay, sen., a former employee at Nellfield, and who is at present in Aberdeen from Dundee, could give any information as to where the missing coffins and their contents might be found. They state that there are three coffins and bodies awanting from the grave. The coffin containing the remains of Mr Thom's father, who was buried eight years ago, was amongst those missing, as were also those with the remains of two children. The first coffin exhumed was that of Mr Thom's mother, while the one taken out of the walk is supposed to be that of his sister, buried 21 years ago. "It should certainly never have been in the walk," remarked Mrs Thom, "and it is dreadful to think of what has been going on there." As to the three skulls which were taken out of the grave they were those of three of Mr and Mrs Thom's children. "I knew one of them at once," remarked the mother, "by the shape of her head; it is strange how one can know them even when they are like  that; but it was the very shape of the head of my little girl, nine years of age, buried a few years ago." The poor woman had been somewhat deeply affected at first, but she remained to the end with wonderful composure, and saw the bones of her loved ones stretched out on the greenward. It was a pathetic sight.

A Family Bible Record

At his residence in Whitehouse Street, Mr Thom was seen by one of our representatives in the afternoon. He stated that there had been fourteen interments in the grave since it had been purchased in 1846, and a record of these could be seen in the family Bible. The Bible was produced, and the register showed that the first burial had been that of Margaret Hunter, a grandaunt of Mr Thom, in 1846. Mr Thom's grandfather, John Hunter, was interred in 1850, and his brother, Alexander Watt Thom, in 1853. There was then a lapse from that time till 1877, no funerals taking place in the family. On the 12th of December of the last-mentioned year, Mary Helen Thom, Mr Thom's sister, was interred in the grave along with her newly-born child; and in 1879 Mr Thom's first wife, with infant child. Annie, the nine-year-old daughter, was interred in 1881; a sister's child, Margaret Ann Murray, in 1887, aged 12; and Mr Thom's father in 1891. Then, between that date and 1897 there were interred the three children of Mr Watt, who is now in Glasgow, and who, as a friend of the family, received permission to have the children buried in the lair. The remains taken out of the grave yesterday morning were, in all probability, those of these children. In 1897, when the last interment took place, that of the remains of Mr Thom's mother, the grave was supposed to have been deepened, and the receipt in Mr Thom's possession shows that he paid 12s for the opening of the grave, 5s for deepening it, and 3s for removing the stone at the time. Evidently, however, the "deepening" of the grave had not been effected in the ordinary way, but by the simpler method of removing the coffins of the children and that of Mr Thom's father, only the name plate of the latter being discovered, along with the lid of the coffin in which Nicholas Watt had been interred. But there was one there which ought not to have been in that place, the coffin of a still-born baby found at the feet of the coffin of Mr Thom's mother, having evidently been pushed in there when the last interment took place in 1897, and when the grave had still been open.

Other Private Lairs Opened

In the course of the morning a private lair was opened for the interment of the body of Mr W L Henderson, and it was found that the grave had not been interfered with in any way. In section three a lair belonging to Mr James Wilson was opened, and also found to be all right.

29 In a Grave!

It was ascertained that the actual number of interments that had been made in the grave opposite Great Western Place was 29! Over what period these interments had been extended has not been ascertained, but although the digging was continued to a depth of 10 feet, no more than eight coffins could be found. It is a "strangers" lair, and the reason for opening it was to thrown light on one of the discoveries made on Tuesday.

It will be remembered that in one portion of the walk the bodies of a girl of 15 years and of an elderly man, with dark whiskers, were found with the grave clothes adhered to them, but no trace of coffins. It was stated at the time that the man's body had been originally interred in the usual way in the grave opposite Great Western Place, hence the reason for opening it. The statement was evidently perfectly correct, for in the grave was found the name plate from the man's coffin, but no trace of the woodwork. This, then, was evidently the method adopted to get one grave to hold the extraordinary number of 29 bodies. No sooner hardly had some of them been buried than they were disinterred, taken out of their coffins, thrown into pits dug in the walks, and the coffins burned, space thus being found for the next corner, whose fate would, in all likelihood, be the same. In the bottom of the grave were found ten skulls, and a large quantity of bones and pieces of decomposed flesh. One of the coffins was opened and its contents emptied on the walk, for it contained not one skeleton, but a vast collection of bones which must have formed part of several bodies.

Further Finds in the Walk

When operations were resumed at the pit in the walk the very first shovelful thrown out consisted entirely of bones. Then came a battered name-plate, followed by a large quantity of bones and several skulls. About this time a number of gentlemen who had attended the funeral of Mr W L Henderson approached the scene of operations, but they were gently but firmly ordered off by the policemen. By the time the digger had reached about four feet in the hole in the walk, he was shovelling out practically nothing but skulls, bones of different sizes, and lumps of putrid flesh. One of the skulls was practically a head, so to speak, for most of the flesh and hair still adhered to it. Ordinary bones were never looked at now, but by the side of the pit a heap of skulls and portions of bodies, in a more or less advanced state of decomposition, had accumulated, until the gruesome pile measured about three feet long by two feet high and two feet broad. Some of the pieces were of considerable size, and one appeared to be the almost complete side of a trunk, the ribs being quite visible. There were also large lumps of decayed adipose tissue. In short, the heap appeared to contain the greater portion of several bodies broken in pieces. Several name-plates were turned up, and the inscriptions on these were compared with entries in the books. Soon after three o'clock the matter was put into the hole again, and the bones and earth heaped above. It was the witness Raffan who advised the authorities to dig at this part, and he informed them of the nature of the discoveries that would be made.

Zinc Shell Found in a Walk

In the course of the digging in the walk in the central portion, a peculiar and significant discovery was made. The point at which the walk was opened is not far from the part excavated on the first day, and not far below the surface a zinc shell, which had at one time lined a coffin was unearthed. It was crushed up, and had evidently been trampled on. Some of the gravediggers present stated that the zinc shell was from the lair of Mr Mowat, jobbing gardener, Hardgate. They say that some time ago, when an interment was about to take place, Coutts called at Mr Mowat's house and said that the grave would have to be deepened. The he returned to the cemetery and gave orders for the "deepening" to be carried out. This was how it was done. The coffin was lifted, the remains emptied into the bottom of the grave the lid put over them, the remainder of the coffin burned, and the shell buried in the walk. Fee, 22s, most likely.

A Stricken Mother's Story - Horrible Conduct - Two Bodies Crushed into One Coffin

Shortly before 12.30 Mrs Gibb, 15 St Andrews Street, came out of the cemetery weeping bitterly, and, on being interviewed, told a terrible tale. She had been present at the opening of the lair, which there was reason to suspect had been tampered with. "There should," she said, between her sobs, "have been five coffins in the grave. The first one was all right, but in the second the remains of two women were found crushed together." The poor woman burst into a paroxysm of grief at this. It seems that she was unable to remain a witness of th horrible sights that were presented, and had to go home. Further investigation showed that the body of a child had been taken out of the grave, and could not be found.

A full inquiry into the case reveals the fact that in 1894 Wm Gibb, mason, purchased the lair. Here he buried his wife, and erected a headstone, with the following inscription:- "The family burying ground of William Gibb. In loving memory of his wife, Isabella Bremner, who died 11th June 1894, aged 52 years." Subsequently a grandchild of the purchaser of the lair died, and the remains were buried in 1897 in the lair in question. Two months afterwards James Gibb, a son of the owner of the grave, died, and was buried in his father's ground, and a small coffin was exhumed to let the bigger coffin down. In 1898 a little son of a daughter of William Gibb died, and was buried in this lair, but as the coffin was a small one it was not deemed necessary to open the whole grave in order that it should be admitted. The gravedigger, therefore, opened only sufficient space to admit of the small coffin being laid to rest. Two months afterwards the mother of the child died, and her father, it is averred, went to Mr Wm. Coutts, superintendent of the cemetery, to make arrangements for the interment. Mr Coutts, it is said, stated that the deepening of the grave would cost 17s 6d. Mr Gibb paid the money, and the funeral of his daughter eventually took place. Only one little coffin was taken out to allow of the body of the daughter being interred. In view of the previous burials in the grave, suspicion was aroused, and the gravediggers were advised that at least one small body was amissing. The gravdiggers, it is alleged, stated that they knew nothing about the matter, and those interested consequently took no further action with regard to the supposed unaccounted for body. The subject was allowed to rest, and probably nothing more would have been heard about it but for the recent developments. A law agent was then consulted, and a warrant was obtained for the opening of the grave. When the lair was opened the coffin of a child was first unearthed. Then a second little coffin was exhumed, and, thirdly, came the coffin of an adult. This one seemed more than usually heavy, and a couple of ropes were passed round it. It was then lifted to the side of the grave. Dr Matthew Hay, observing that the lid did not fit the coffin, ordered the lid be taken off, and to the horror of the relatives and others who stood around the open grave, the remains of two bodies instead of one were in the wooden encasement, a skull being place at each end of the coffin. The remains were those of two adult females, and to the skull, of one them hair of a reddish colour adhered. A coffin plate was also found in the grave with the name, "Patrick O'Brien." The public officials and the relatives were naturally shocked at the discovery, and their feelings of indignation were accentuated by the circumstances that two unknown bodies were found in one coffin, and also by the fact that a name plate with "O'Brien" had been found in a lair which the representatives of the Gibb family stated William Gibb had purchased in 1894, and in which the remains of his wife were the first to be laid to rest. There was no trace of the body of a child which was missing from the grave.

Search for a Missing Coffin

The investigators paid a visit to the third section of the cemetery adjoining Nellfield Place, and in the "strangers" portion there opened lair No. 20 for the purpose of ascertaing if the body of Mrs Robertson, which is missing from a private grave, was interred there. It will be remembered that on Wednesday, with a similar object in view, the authorities opened in this section grave No. 19, from which seven coffins were taken, but the missing coffin was not to be found there. One of the former gravediggers told them that they had opened the wrong grave, and that it was almost certain the body had been removed to lair No. 20. Four coffins of infants were first taken out, but one was a chocolate box, which contained the body of a still-born child.

Still another coffin was brought to the surface, marking the fifth of about the same size. The next brought up was a little larger, and might have been that of a child five or six years of age. Then came another small one, making the seventh, although the grave was scarcely yet little more than two feet deep. The eighth taken out of the lair was that of an adult. It was about six feet in length, and had been place there when the grave was three feet deep. It was carefully measured by Dr Matthew Hay, while the earth was brushed off the name plate to ascertain, if possible, the name upon it. It was evident, from the attention which this coffin received, that it was deemed the most important of those as yet exhumed from the grave. The ninth coffin was that of a youth or young woman, judging from its length, but the tenth was again that of an adult, and measured about six feet in length. A in the case of the other full-sized coffin, it underwent a critical examination, while Dr Matthew Hay and Mr Maclennan, procurator-fiscal, consulted the papers which they had in their possession. Digging operations were once more resumed. At a depth of between five and six feet  the eleventh coffin was raised. It was about five feet in length. Among the earth thrown up when a depth of over six feet had been attained was a large piece of sacking sheet or sackcloth, containing what appeared to be human remains. The sheet was carefully removed and placed to the side. It turned out to be the stomach of the woman for whom the search was being made. The twelfth coffin having been raised, the next discovery was a most revolting one. It was a complete body wrapped in a piece of sackcloth, without coffin. When brought to the surface the skull fell off, and the remains when stretched upon the walk gave evidence of being in a state of decomposition. These were the remains of Mrs Ann Robertson or Yule, for whom the search had been made. She was a woman of over 90 years of age. Witnesses who had seen the body put into the grave were able to testify that these were the remains. Sill another large coffin, the thirteenth in the list, was exhumed from the grave, which by this time was about ten feet deep. It was examined, and then, when the gravedigger had ascended the ladder from the depths of the tomb, was once more consigned to what has by familiar expression been termed its "last resting place" - evidently a misnomer in the case of Nellfield. Then the human remains, which had been placed on a piece of canvas, were lowered into the grave and covered with earth. Above this all the other coffins were placed. The chocolate box, with its baby contents, was placed amongst the rest.

A Funeral Procession

About half-past two the funeral of Mr William Low Henderson arrived at the cemetery gate in Great Western Road, around which a large crowd had collected. As the cortege, headed by members of the Shore Porters' Society carrying the polished oak coffin, approached, the crowd fell back, the male members reverently uncovering. The police, however, were careful to allow only mourners to enter the gateway.

The Aberdeen Journal, June 10, 1899

Resumption of Official Investigation - Fifteen Hours' Digging - More Shocking Disclosures - Numerous Bodies Missing - The Toolhouse Pit - Complete Corpse Dug Up

The fourth installment of the gruesome work at present being conducted in Nellfield Cemetery by the Aberdeen criminal authorities commenced at six o'clock yesterday morning, and resulted in a succession of disclosures similar to those that have created a feeling of the most intense horror in the city. A grave from which it is said the body of a young woman was taken to substitute for that of Mrs Caithness, whose corpse had been broken up, was opened, and it was found that the body referred to had been removed, but the name plate of the coffin, which had been taken off in order that the plate from Mrs Caithness's coffin might be attached, was got in the lair. In one coffin, which had been placed inside a larger one, remains of two bodies were found. A hole was dug in the yard in front of the toolhouse, and from it were taken masses of putrid flesh, and finally, a complete body, without a coffin. A grave in which there had been 18 interments was opened, and only a child's coffin was in it.

The Missing Children's Coffins - A Receptacle for Bones and Rubbish

Mr F J Scott and Mr A C Morrison, solicitiors, were early at the cemetery on behalf of the representatives of Mr James Cooper, 18 Young Street; and there was still a small crowd of loiterers present, eager to see what was to be seen. The object of the gentlemen named was to discover the condition of a grave in which six persons - the father, James Cooper, and five children - had been interred. The father had been interred in 1898, and the children previously, up to 1892. On the grave being opened, the coffin of the last interment was discovered at a depth of five feet, and from the cemetery gates the operations were pretty clearly seen. The coffin was quite intact, and when the name-plate was revealed, the name of James Cooper, aged 79, could be read. On the top of the second coffin being laid bare, the lid came off. It ought to have contained the body of a girl aged nine years, but instead there was disclosed a heap of rubbish, containing the bones which, according to one version, belonged to persons obviously far past the age of early childhood. Search was made for the other three coffins, but none was discovered. The result of the investigations, according to parties interested, was to show that the coffin of a girl aged nine had been broken up, and used as a receptacle for bones and the refuse of other graves. Inside the coffin was one skull, while other five skulls were found in the grave, none of which could belong to the children originally interred. It was alleged that the grave was strangers' ground, but it is stated by the legal representatives of the parties interested that they have titles proving conclusively their rights for the last half-century. On the other had, it is said on behalf of the Baker Incorporation that, in the opinion of Dr Matthew Hay, the skulls completely accorded with the ages of the children interred.

The Burning of Coffins - An Offensive Stench

In connection with the statements that the burning of coffins and even of dead bodies in the furnace of the toolhouse at Nellfield Cemetery was not unusual occurrence for the purpose of "clearing" graves where that was desired, a "Journal" representative yesterday had a conversation with several workmen who were able to speak upon the subject  with authority. Masons who were employed in the late autumn of last year in building the houses off Holburn Street in the vicinity of the tool-house frequently had occasion to complain very much of the horrible smll which came from the smoke issuing from the furnace chimney. The nuisance was usually experienced about six o'clock in the morning as they were commencing work. One of the men stated that they had a pretty good idea of what caused the smell, being aware that coffin lids and pieces of old coffins were burned, and there was even a suspicion that parts of flesh must either be attached to the coffins or were being put into the furnace. Old pieces of coffins were frequently to be seen lying about the yard, but these, it was thought, were taken out of graves in the ordinary course of work when a grave was being deepened, to be interred again either before or after the new coffin had been put into the earth. A foreman mason who was occasionally employed to lay the foundations for monuments used to feel bad smells, but believed they arose from  from the coffins in the graves where he was working. He saw pieces of coffin lids and other sepulchral materials lying about in the vicinity of the tool house. It was a subject of remark by householders in Holburn Street and Nellfield Place that very often dense smoke issued from the furnace chimney, and they wondered what the cause could be, the supposition being, of course, that it was from rubbish which had been collected in keeping the cemetery tidy.

A Lairholder's Feverish Anxiety

Another visitor to the cemetery gates was a middle-aged spinster, who, unable to allay her suspicions as to the disturbance of her father's grave, could scarcely rest at night. Her mother had been buried  in the old ground 27 years ago, and her father 11 years past, while a brother-in-law , who had been killed in a terrible railway accident near Montrose, had also been interred in the same lair. It had been the dying wish of her father that she and her other sisters and brothers should also be interred there; and the mental anguish of the poor woman lest the family ground had been interfered with was plainly to be read in her face. It was suspicion only, she said, but she would not rest till she had induced her brother to take the necessary steps for having the grave opened.

 An Orphan's Mother Missing - A Pathetic Incident

Later in the day a most pathetic incident occurred at the gates of the cemetery. A respectably-dressed girl was seen issuing from the entrance with tears in her eyes, and her story revealed a most distressing case. Her father and mother were both dead, and she was the only one remaining. She had caused the necessary investigations to be made in the first section of the cemetery, with the result that the body of her mother was found to be missing; and her tale excited universal sympathy with the bystanders, many of whom were women.

Missing Bodies and Coffins

In the case referred to as having been place in the hands of Mr J M Ferguson, advocate, acting for Mrs Mitchell, widow, Chapel Street, everything, as anticipated, was no found right, the worst fears of the relatives being fully confirmed, and the state of matters being even worse than they had expected. Instead of six coffins being found intact, as there ought to have been, there was only one, that of William Mitchell, 49 years of age, interred a year and two months ago. The other contents of the grave were the lids belonging to the coffins of two children, of three and seven months' old, interred in 1894 and 1896, and the remains of a boy aged 14, whose skull was known because of the deep mark in it caused by and operation which had been performed previous to his death in 1894. There was no trace whatever of the coffins of the twins, and they did not appear ever to have been transferred to this grave. The reason for the proposed transference was that in 1892 they were buried in the strangers' ground, and in 1894 Mrs Mitchell bought a lair, to which she wished the coffins transferred. The investigation was conducted by Mr John Craig, acting for Mr J M Ferguson, advocate, and two of the sons of Mrs Mitchell were also present.

A Mother's Story

One lady, Mrs Davidson, was among those who could not be admitted, had a story to tell. The last interment in her lair was that of a son, many years ago. Her other son, she added with a pathetic aside, did not require interment. He went down with the ill-fated ss State of Georgia, on board of which he was an engineer. She had no positive knowledge that the grave had been surreptitiously opened, but she wished to set her mind at rest on the point.

The Mystery of Lair 19

It will be remembered that on Wednesday lair No 19 in the third section of the cemetery adjoining Nellfield Place, and known as the "strangers" portion, was opened for the purpose of ascertaining if the remains of Mrs Ann Robertson or Yule were to be found there, as they had been removed from the grave in which they were originally interred. The search was not successful, the body being discovered on Thursday in lair No 20 where it had been deposited coffin-less. The investigations in lair No 19 however, revealed the fact that everything was not right there. On Wednesday evening Mr Charles Collie, labourer, 27 Jack's Brae, Aberdeen, received an intimation asking him to attend at the cemetery yesterday, and when he attended in the afternoon, along with the receipts for two of the interment which had been made by him, he was questioned particularly regarding the burials. The first was that of a girl three years and five months, interred in 1896 in lair No 19, according to the receipt, and in lair 20 according to the books. The other interment was made in February last, and was that of a girl two years and four months. The coffin in this case was placed in lair 27. Mr Collie has been precognosced by the procurator-fiscal, and has been informed that he must be a witness in the case, but he has not yet been informed of what has been found amiss in the graves opened, though it seems certain it has something to do with one of the name-plates discovered.

More Suspicious Lairholders

Cases where lairholders have suspicions, and have expressed a determination to have the graves of their relatives opened, multiply. Among these were prominent Mrs M'Lennan, 8 Strachan's Lane; Mrs Muchan, and Mrs Autcliff, 211 Holburn Street, the first-named of whom declared her intention of having her grave opened by the Baker Incorporation. For this she would have to pay 6s 6d if everything was found right, which she said she would gladly do to set her mind at rest. Mrs Autcliff said that she had had a grave probed on Tuesday night, when it was found to contain a coffin nearer the surface than should have been the case. On Wednesday night, she said, the probe reached the necessary depth. Towards noon, lairholders were constantly coming and going, some for the purpose of seeing the graves, which was impossible under the circumstances; while others had obtained the necessary permission to open their lairs. Mr Sam Pope, on behalf of a client, had made investigations as to the condition of the lair, and the grave will accordingly be opened.

Three Times at the Gate

As the afternoon wore on the crowd increased, the crescent-shaped sweep of gravel in front of the gate being completely blocked with groups of people. The requests for admission became more frequent, but it was only occasionally that any one with the necessary passport put in an appearance. Among the former, however, was the widow of the late Mr John Stephen, hairdresser, who complained that she had been refused admittance three times. Her husband was buried near the wall bounding Great Western Road, and she was only too afraid that the grave had been opened, as when she approached Coutts about keeping it he had shown some resentment, she alleged, at the interference. She has also an uncle buried in another lair in the cemetery. Here and there stood groups discussing the general question of admittance, the opinion being unanimous that whilst the police had to obey orders, it would have been better to have allowed the press and public in.

Another Lairholder Summoned by The Crown

The case of another lairholder summoned by the Crown authorities to attend at Nellfield Cemetery was that of Mr William Strachan, 2 Gilcomston Terrace. His father, Mr A Strachan, had been buried in a lair in the central portion of the cemetery four years ago and his mother three years ago. The coffin of his mother was of polished pine; and he had been asked if we would known it. As the gravediggers were busily engaged with operations at the toolhouse, the work of opening the grave was 'postponed' for an hour. According to information given by one or other of the gravediggers, this grave had been tampered with, and one or other of the coffins removed. On the grave being opened before Mr T Maclennan, procurator-fiscal depute, and Dr Matthew Hay, both coffins were found intact, the diggers having gone to a depth of seven feet. Mr Strachan was completely set at rest, and when he left he expressed himself as completely satisfied that everything was right.

17 Bodies Missing from a Grave - What Has Become of Them?

While the operations were proceeding in the morning in section 2 of the cemetery in the grave from which one little coffin was taken, those who were standing at a distance were puzzled to observe the frequent references to books and plans. There was an evident mystery about the proceedings, which was unexplainable at the moment, but which became clear after the luncheon hour, when the officials were liberated from their duties. It then emerged that in the northmost of the two graves which were being searched, the register of interments showed that there should have been 18 coffins or bodies in the grave. Almost incredibly as it might seem, the one little coffin already referred to was all that could be discovered. It was no wonder, therefore, that the investigators were puzzled, and searched and re-searched the registers. The fact that 17 coffins were missing, if this story be true, seems incredible. What has become of them is meantime a matter of the merest guesswork or speculation. They may have been broken up and the bodies interred elsewhere, or disposed of in some way that may be left to the imagination. The fact remains that the coffins or bodies were not found in what would naturally be regarded as their last resting place; and that up to this stage of the investigations no light has been thrown upon the manner in which they have been disposed of.

Probing Private Lairs - A Case for Proof

Mr J D Mackie, solicitor, acting for Mr Bowman, plumber, was in the cemetery superintending the probing of a lair about which great doubts as to its condition have been expressed. The only interment which is known to have occurred in the grave is that of a child, and the coffin was deposited about six feet from the surface. The result of the probing seemed to indicate there was a coffin about a couple of feet from the surface. Further down from this, the rod descended to a depth of between three and four feet, and apparently struck on a coffin lid. The grave is to be opened this morning at seven o'clock. The grave belonging to Mr George Watson, fireman, 5 Jack's Brae, which should contain five coffins, is also to be opened, the owners being dissatisfied.

Inquiries from Edinburgh

The anxious inquirers at the cemetery gate were not all from Aberdeen and district. Miss Jane Grant, along with a lady friend, came down specially from Edinburgh to visit the grave of her father, James Grant, who died nine years ago, and her stepmother, who died some six years later. At first they were refused admission, but in view of their long journey and the fact that they had to return to Edinburgh the same night, they were eventually allowed in. Bothe left satisfied that the grave had been undisturbed, but as the titles of the grave are in the possession of a step-brother at Port-Erroll, it is not improbable that he will move in the matter.

Suspicions Allayed

More than one of those who made investigations yesterday were relieved to find that their suspicions were not confirmed. Among these were Mr James Knowles, granite merchant, Ashgrove Road, a grave belonging to whom  was opened in presence of himself and representatives of the Baker Incorporation. The only interment which had been made in the grave took place 17 years ago, when a child of the lairholder was buried. Fortunately it was found that the grave, which was situated in the third section, had not in any way been tampered with.

Lairs to be Opened on Monday

In the course of the afternoon Mr John Ewen, solicitor, and Mr George Wilson, solicitor, attended to make preliminary arrangements for the opening of the graves of their respective clients on Monday morning. Mr Ewen was acting on behalf of Messrs Strachan and Third., who have graves in the third section. The grave of the first named should contain five coffins, and the last interment was that of an adult, which took place four years ago. In the other case the last interment was that of a child. Mr Wilson was acting on behalf of Mrs M'Kay, 17 Canal Road, who had her suspicions aroused from the fact that the grave had sunk. The lair should contain the bodies of a child of four years and an adult buried fourteen years ago.

The Close of the Day's Work - Further Discoveries in the Walks

After completing operations at the toolhouse pit the party proceeded to one of the walks some distance south of the entrance lodge, and digging was commenced at a point indicated by Mr John Hay, sen. The very first dig of the pick turned up a large shin bone, and a minute or two later seven or eight skulls and a quantity of human remains were brought to light. At a depth of two feet a coffin containing a body which had been unclaimed at the time of death was found. Around this were packed several small coffins containing the bodies of children. These were subsequently re-interred in the walk for the time being, and the fifteen-hours-day operations ceased at nearly nine o' clock.

The Aberdeen Journal June 13, 1899

The Operations Begun -Body Alleged to be Missing. Conflicts of Statements

The day's work commenced with the opening of two graves in the third section of the cemetery, adjoining Nellfield Place, at six o'clock. At the opening of the lair belonging to Mr Andrew Smith, mason, 136 Holburn Street, Mr Smith was present, along with his mother, Mrs Smith, and their agent, Mr John S Yule, solicitor, Aberdeen. The handsome Aberdeen granite monument at the head of the grave bore on two sides of the pedestal that it was erected by Andrew Smith in memory of his son, Andrew, who died August 23, 1869, aged 5 months; also of his mother, Mary Joss, who died May 31, 1881, aged 55; and his son Murdoch, who died 25th September, 1881, aged 5 months; and his son, Andrew, who died 5th December, 1883, aged 7 years; also his daughter Jane Maitland, who died March 31, 1890, aged 5 years; also his son William, who died 13th April 1895, aged 3 years and 4 months. There were also two other interments in the grave - John Petrie Watt and Andrew Smith Watt - whose names were not on the tombstone. It was expected to find 7 coffins altogether, the Andrew first mentioned on the tombstone not having been interred there. At a depth of three feet a coffin was raised in a perfectly fresh condition, and the engraving on the name-plate was easily legible as "William Smith, 3 years and 4 months." It was placed on the grass beside the grave while digging was resumed. At a depth of 3 feet 9 inches a coffin lid, without any trace of a coffin, was obtained. It measured about 4 feet in length, but the name-plate was so much rusted that the lettering on it could not be deciphered. Immediately below the lid was the larger coffin of Andrew Smith, aged 6 years and 11 months. It was in a fairly good state of preservation. Wehn the depth of 4 feet 4 inches had been reached human remains, coffin-less, were thrown up, including the skull of a young person, which was in pieces, but which was carefully placed together, and showed that it was complete. Adhering to the skull could be seen remnants of brown hair. Then a small coffin, broken at the foot, and revealing a human skeleton, was found at a depth of 4 feet 6 inches. It measured 2 feet 6 inches. Another coffin lid, measuring 33 inches, was brought up, but the  remains of the coffin and human remains were found beneath it, showing that the coffin had broken. It was identified as that of Andrew Watt. At a depth of 5 feet 5 inches the coffin of Mary Joss, aged 55 years, was discovered. It was decided, after investigation, that is was all right, and no attempt was made to lift it, seeing it had been in the ground for about 19 years. The net result of the opening of the grave was that six coffins, more or less intact, and a coffin lid had been found, and Dr Sheriffs, who was called in to give expert evidence as to the remains, stated that there were at least tow skulls, one belonging to a person of about 12 years and the other to one of about 2 years. Mr Alexander Bissett, medical student, who was present, along with his father, Rev. Alex. Bisset, Gilcomston Baptist Church, stated that, in his opinion, there were the remains of three skulls among the bones. Mr Troup, of Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, agents for the Baker Incorporation, expressed himself satisfied with the result of the opening of the grave, stating that there were sufficient remains in the grave to account for all the interments. Mr Yule, however, was not satisfied regarding the coffin of which only the lid had been found, and stated that the body was missing. It was the impression amongst a number of persons previous to the opening that this was the grave from which the body of the fair-haired boy alleged to have been cremated in the toolhouse furnace had been taken. The mother of the four children sat on one of the seats in the cemetery and appeared to be deeply affected, but as the grave was being filled up by Messrs Scorgie and Raffan she came near and watched the work proceeding. She did not know what to think of the result, and did not appear to be altogether satisfied.

Two Children's Bodies Undisturbed

One of the earliest graves to be opened was No 460, belonging to the late Mr James Davidson, 93 Upper Denburn, whose interment took place yesterday afternoon. The lair was bought six years ago, and the brother of the deceased, Mr Alex. Davidson, had no suspicion that more than two interments, those of Evelyn Davidson and Robert Davidson, infants of two years, had taken place, the one in March 1893, and the other in October. Both the coffins were discovered, and the names were easily deciphered. Mr Davidson, expressed himself quite satisfied, and the deepening of the grave was then proceeded with.

Alleged Serious Irregularities - The Cutting up of Bodies

William Reith, gardener, 9 Nellfield Place, owner of lair 919, in Section 3, had reason to suspect that the grave of his mother and relatives had been tampered with, and along with a neighbour was early on the scene. About seventeen months ago the body of his sister had been interred in the grave, in which already five others had been buried - Mr Reith's mother, aunt, grandmother, and two uncles. When the grave was being opened for the funeral of the sister, Mr Reith, it is staged, paid to Coutts, the late superintendent, for opening the grave, 12s; and for deepening it, 7s 6d - in all 19s 6d. The grave accordingly, had been deepened when Mr Reith's mother's funeral took place - about a year and a half before that of his sister. The superintendent, it is alleged, deepened the grave with the consent of the lair holders, and stated that the four coffins already deposited in the grave had been lowered to a depth of nine feet. On that occasion there was no reason to suspect that anything was wrong, everything on the day of the funeral having been found in order. It was different, however, on the day when Mr Reith's mother was interred. Early on the morning of the funeral, people living in Nellfield Place, who from their windows commanded an uninterrupted view of the cemetery, informed the relatives that they had seen strange ongoings. They stated that they had seen the gravdiggers lift coffins that were supposed to be those of the mother and of an aunt. The contents of both coffins, they alleged, were taken out, smashed up in a most unceremonious fashion, packed into one coffin, and reinterred. When the funeral took place, the mourners, it is said, could not get near the grave for the foul stench emitted from it. It is even said the walks were steeped with liquid like that which might have come from bodies that had been disembowelled. These unusual signs were naturally the subject of much comment among those who attended the last rites, and continued to be the talk of Nellfield Place and neighbourhood, where Mr Reith, his mother, and other members of his family were well known and respected. Mr Reith interviewed the superintendent on the subject, but he, it is said, denied the allegations, and asked Mr Reith who had given him the information. Mr Reith replied that the people in Nellfield Place had seen the gruesome work going on on the morning of his sister's funeral. The superintendent, however, Mr Reith states, denied the averments. When the lairowner informed him that he was to report the matter to the Baker Incorporation, the superintendent quietly informed him, he states, that "he could do anything he liked." Mr Reith, being a poor man, and not having means to raise an action, let the matter in the meantime drop. The revelations made in the Harvey action and since, however, impelled Mr Reith to consult an agent, and take action.

When the grave was opened, the scene of operations was the centre of attraction to a group inside, while the windows of Nellfield Place were also crowded with people, in the expectation of horrible revelations. There were also present Mr Yule, solicitor; Rev. Alex. Bisset, who was waiting for the opening of a grave belonging to certain relatives, and others. Up to the hour of breakfast however, although digging had been carried on by one man most of the morning, no mutilated remains were revealed. At a depth of six feet 5 inches a coffin was unearthed; it was found to be that of Mary Ann Reith (who had been interred in 1898), the sister, aged seventeen. This, as was expected, was found to be right, the nameplate being quite decipherable. The gravediggers then proceeded to carefully lift the earth with their spades. Presently a coffin lid was unearthed, and after the plate had been rubbed, it was found to bear the following inscription:- "Isabella Reith, aged 39." This was Mr Reith's mother, whose coffin had been taken up along with the aunt's for the purpose of allowing his sister to be buried. Both coffins, however, it was alleged, had been smashed up, and the two bodies in a more or less mutilated state crammed into one coffin. From the depth at which the lid was found, down to 7 feet 1 inch, there was a mass of human remains in a coffin, including half a body, five skulls, and a number of corresponding bones. These were taken out and laid out for the examination of Dr Sherriffs. His inspection went to show that these, so far as could be seen, belonged to four females and one male; and it is contended by Mr Yule that the allegations are substantiated.

A Child's Grave

There was a lull in the proceedings during the breakfast hour, but there were several graves waiting to be opened, among them belonging to Mr Wm. Meldrum, Great Northern Road, while Mr J. Ewen, solicitior, had now put in an appearance on behalf of his client, Mr Third. In the first case, Mr Meldrum had bought a lair in the third section in 1889, and between that year and 1892 he had buried no fewer than seven children - three were still-born, two of six months, and two others, the eldest being fifteen months. The last interment had taken place in November last, and Mr Meldrum had engaged Mr J. S. Yule, solicitor, to act on his behalf. Shortly after ten, digging operations were commenced, and at a depth of two feet, the coffin of a still-born infant, interred in November, 1898, was brought up. It measured 24 by 10 inches. At three feet below the surface the coffin of a child, Alfred William, aged five months, interred on 27th July, 1896, was found. A coffin lid, supposed to have belonged to the coffin of Charles, aged fifteen months, and interred in 1894, was next brought up, and then a coffin of a still-born infant. Subsequently, at a depth of 4 feet 1 inch, a lidless coffin, measuring 32 by 11 inches, was disinterred. The lid previously brought up did not fit this coffin, being too large, but there were remains in the coffin, which Mr Bissett, medical student, stated to have belonged to a child of about a year old. There were thus four coffins and a coffin lid, but a small coffin and a larger one were unaccounted for. Those present satisfied themselves that there were no other remains to be found at the bottom of the grave, and there was no trace of any of the missing coffins. The disinterred coffins and remains were then put back into the grave, and it was filled up. Mr Meldrum and Mr Yule expressed themselves as confident that the grave had been interfered with, all the interments having taken place within ten years.

At almost the extreme left-corner of the third section of the cemetery, lair 232, belonging to Mrs Adam M'Kay, 17 Canal Road, was opened, the sunken and distorted appearance of the ground on the top leading the relatives to suspect that something was wrong with the grave. There had been a couple of interments, the last one in 1895, of a child, James Black M'Kay, seven weeks old, and the first one that of Adam M'Kay, buried in April, 1885, aged 32. Mr George Wilson, solicitor, represented Mrs M'Kay, and there were also present at the opening of the grave Mrs Ross, 103 West North Street, a sister of the lairholder, and Miss Jane M'Kay, a daughter. At a depth of 2ft 9in. the coffin of James Black M'Kay, aged 7 weeks, was uncoverd, the lettering on the name-plate being quite legible, and the dry sandy nature of the soil having tended to keep the coffin in an excellent state of preservation. Digging was resumed, and at a depth of five feet the coffin of Adam M'Kay was reached. To make sure that there was not the lid only operations were continued, with the intention of raising the coffin. This was done so far, the top of the coffin, however, breaking, and leaving the skull and upper part of the remains lying in the grave. Mr G M Angus, of Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, advocates, who watched the opening of the grave for the Baker Incorporation, expressed himself satisfied with the result, as did also Mr Wilson, solicitor, and the relatives present, all being convinced that the grave had not been disturbed. The uneven appearance of the surface had no doubt been due to the soil sinking, through rain or otherwise.

A Small Coffin Opened

In lair 122, in section 3, the property of Mr William Cay, Aberdeen, which was purchased in May, 1898, there should be found interred the remains of a twin boy, aged three months. The burial took place on 9th May, 1898. The grave was first probed to a depth of about three feet, at which point a coffin was found, and as the father was not satisfied, he decided to have the ground opened, and at noon this was done. At a depth of three feet the coffin was found intact, the name on the lid being, "James A G R Cay, aged three months." It was lifted out and was found with the ropes still attached, but to further satisfy the parent the coffin lid was prized open and the shrunken remains were found with the grave clothes stained, but otherwise quite intact. Mr Cay then expressed himself satisfied, and he also stated that he was quite satisfied no other interments had been made in that grave.

Adjoining the Excavated Walks - A Legal Point

Towards one o'clock Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, arrived, along with two clients, who assisted one another in opening their respective graves. The first operated on was lair 455 in the first section, belonging to Mr William Thomson, 7 Skene Row. The ground had been bought in April, 1894, new, and the first and only interment was that of Isabella Milne Thomson, daughter, aged nine months. The lair was 10 feet in length, but as it was in the corner adjoining the walk, where the Crown authorities had made some of their discoveries, Mr Thomson said he feared the worst. In presence of Mr Scott and Mr Troup, Mr Thomson began operations himself. At the depth of four feet a coffin was found, and immediately below another coffin was discovered, with the inscription, "Ann C Merrylees, aged 11 weeks." As regards the other coffin, although the plate was not altogether legible, the words "6 months" were read, and Mr Thomson stated that from that circumstance and the size, it was his child's coffin. He said, however, that the lair belonged to him of right, and it was for the Baker Incorporation to take out he other coffin and place it elsewhere.

Quite Satisfied

Mr Wm. Yeoman, 2 View Terrace, proceeded to his lair in the first section, and, assisted by Mr Thomson, began to open the ground. The lair was bought in November, 1894, as a clean grave, and at that time a child of four and a half yeas was buried in it. This was the only interment that should have been in this lair, and it was for the purpose of ascertaining if it had been tampered with that the father decided to have it opened. At the depth of 3ft. 10in. Mr Thomson's spade came in contact with a coffin, on which Mr Cramond read the inscription "Leonora Isabella Yeoman, four years and five months." Mr Yeoman might probably have been satisfied; but the last case had no doubt made him somewhat sceptical, and he accordingly proceeded to take the coffin out. But a few more strokes of the spade served to show that there was nothing below but clay, and Mr Yeoman then expressed himself as quite satisfied.

An Extraordinary Case - 16 "Alien" Interments in a Private Lair

What was regarded as likely to prove one of the most remarkable cases yet unravelled was that of a client of Mr H Macdonald, SSC., His lair was purchased in 1892 as a "clean" grave, yet a glance at the books showed that, prior to the grave being sold, there had been no fewer than 15 interments in it, and four of these had been in the year immediately preceding the sale of the ground. Not only that, but while an interment took place after the grave was purchased, this being a child of the owner, the books proved that four days later another body was interred which had no right to be there. Mr Macdonald and his client were present at the opening, and sure enough, at a depth of 16 inches from the surface, a coffin containing the body of a still-born child was disinterred. A few more spadefuls of earth were thrown out and another small coffin was uncovered. It was very much decayed, but was not that of a still-born child, as there were handles on it, yet it was a coffin that was not interred by the owner of the grave. Still a few more spadefuls of earth were thrown out, and the coffin interred by the owner was brought to light, this being at a depth of 21 inches. Hardly had this been discovered when another coffin was laid bare, and this bore that it contained the body of Henry Badenoch, aged one month - of whom the owner of the lair knew nothing. At one o'clock, when operations ceased for the dinner hour, the lid of an adult coffin had been exposed to view. And this, to begin with, in a "clean" lair.

When operations were resumed the large coffin was lifted. It broke at the shoulder, revealing a much decayed skeleton inside. All that could be deciphered on the name-plate was Robert H.M. -- years. No sooner had this coffin been lifted than the lid of another appeared. This also was practically full-sized, and when it had been lifted it was seen that the surname was, quite plainly, Skinner, but the Christian name could not be made out. A little distance further down the broken coffin of a child was discovered, making the seventy found in this grave. Immediately afterwards a skull, evidently that of a grown-up person, was thrown up. Then came the coffin of a child with the name "Jennie Thomson Mark." This made the eighth. It was at a distance of 5 feet from the surface, and it seemed as if the bottom of the grave had been reached, but a little more digging turned up four skulls and a quantity of bones. This seemed to be all that was in the grave, but it was surely sufficient - eight coffins, five skulls, and many bones in a lair in which there should have been only one interment. "He must have been fine up to his work, that chiel," said an irate lairholder, as he surveyed the mass of stuff taken out of a grave in which there should have been only one interment. The whole of the coffins were reinterred, the one belonging to the lairholder being put on the top, as it was decided to claim a "clean" lair for its interment.

His Worst Suspicions Confirmed

Mr Alexander Craib, Dee Village Road, Aberdeen, had his lair, No. 1144, in the third section of the cemetery opened. He was present along with his representatives, Mr Francis J Scott and Mr Morrison, advocate. It was expected to find the coffin of Mr Robert Mitchell, and old man of 57, interred in July, 1895; Robert Craib, a child of three weeks, interred in October, 1888; and another child, John E Craib, aged three months, buried in October, 1887. Dr Shirreffs, Holburn Street, was present in the interests of the lairholder. The coffin of Robert Mitchell was found at a depth of 4 feet 9 inches, and the lettering on the nameplate could easily be read. The coffin was raised by Messrs Cramond and Scorgie, the gravediggers, and was found to be intact. In a few moments the lids of the coffins of two children were handed up. There was not even the trace of a bone, although the bottom of the grave was scraped to see if anything could be found. "My worst suspicions are confirmed," remarked Mr Craib. Mr Troup suggested that the bodies of the children might be in the large coffin, and Mr F J Scott said that seeing this suggestion had been made from the other side, it would be better to have the coffin opened. Mr Morrison, however, said that if the bodies of the children were in the large coffin they ought not to be there, and it was for Mr Troup to satisfy himself if he cared to do so, and the coffin was therefore replaced in the grave along with the coffin lids, and the grave filled up. Mrs Craib appeared about this time, and was deeply affected when she heard the result of the operations. She stated her suspicions had been aroused by the statement of a daughter of a Mrs Gordon, a friend of the family, who resided in Nellfield Place, and who had seen the coffins of the two children removed from the grave when the last interment took place. They had been covered with sackcloth and taken away, and it was feared had never been put back. In reply to Mr Scott, Mrs Craib stated that the woman who saw the coffins removed could be obtained to give evidence in any case which might be brought against the Baker Incorporation.

Only Bones - Coffins Missing

Another of Mr J.M.I. Scott's clients was Mrs Clark, 61 Loch Street, who expected to find seven coffins, containing the remains of three adults and four children, in her lair in section 3. The first interment, which took place on 25th May, 1886, was that of Elsie Clark. On 11th March, 1891, Marjory G Fowlie was buried. The next interment was that of Alexander Park on June 9th, 1893. On March 20th, 1894, the grave was deepened for the interment of James Fowlie, and on February 20th, 1895, James Clark was also buried there, the last being that of William Clark, aged nine months, who was buried on March 20th last. The grave was opened by Mr Thomson, who had already lent assistance to others of Mr Scott's clients. The first two coffins were found to be right, and the name-plate of a third was also discovered, while a number of bones were next thrown out. When Mr Troup learned that the grave had been opened he complained that it had been done without his consent, but ultimately the operations were allowed to proceed. The result of the investigations went to show that four coffins were missing, while only a skull and some bones were found in the bottom at a depth of close on six feet.

A Leading Witness

Mr John Hay, jun., formerly gravedigger at Nellfield, one of the principal witnesses against Coutts and during the investigations of last week, left yesterday morning by the 9.50 train for Fyvie Castle, where he is employed assisting masons. He states that so far as he is aware his work at Nellfield is finished, but he is to hold himself in readiness to come to the cemetery at any time if called upon. During his stay in Aberdeen, Mr Hay has been consulted by a great many lairholders as to whether or not he knows if their lairs are all right.

Fatal Effect of the Disclosures

Unfortunately the Nellfield revelations have not been without a tragic effect. In the first section of the cemetery is a lair owned by Mr Alen Douglas, 14 Broomhill Road, a guard on the Caledonian Railway. In it lie buried, or ought to, one of two children , and also other relatives. On Wednesday of last week Mrs Douglas paid a visit to the cemetery, and it seemed to her that there were signs of the grave having been tampered with. The lair was not opened, but some of Friday's disclosures produced such an effect on Mrs Douglas's mind that she was taken ill on Friday, and died in a few hours. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, but as Mr Douglas, who, along with his family, was much upset, significantly added, "Not to Nellfield"; the place of interment being Allenvale Cemetery.

A Baker has Doubts

On behalf of Mr Francis S Esson, baker, 49 Constitution Street, Aberdeen, Mr A C Morrison, advocated, and Mr F J Scott, solicitor, has made the necessary arrangements for opening a lair in the third section. In all there had been five interments since 1879, when the ground had been bought, and it was subsequently deepened. The first interment had been on 25th May, 1879, when Anthony Thomson Esson had been buried. Subsequently there had been interred Henry G Esson and two infant sons, while the last burial took place in 1898, when Christina Mowat, Mr Esson's mother-in-law, was interred. About four feet down a coffin was reached, and the name plate being laid bare, it was found to be right. On coming to the next coffin, howerver, it was found to be so full of water that the lifting of it was postponed till this morning, when a number of additional men will be employed.

A Deceptive Surface Appearance

Mr William Robertson, of Messrs A. and W. Robertson, solicitors, opened the grave in section No 2, near the place where the discovery was made, shortly after the Harvey case, that three childrens' coffins were missing from a grave. His client, Mrs Hall, suspected that the grave had been tampered with, because of the appearance of the surface, which showed very plainly two distinct marks of where turf had been cut, as though to admit the coffins of two young persons. Seeing that the last interment by the lairholder had been nine years ago, this disturbing of the grave, even although there had only been the steading of turf, as had been suggested, was not what should be, and it was affirmed by the lairholder and her agent that as the result of probing with the iron rod they had reason to believe that there were coffins in the grave which ought not to be there. There had been five interments since 1862, when Jessie, aged three years, was interred in May of that year; then a sister of Mrs Hall, then Christina Middleton on 25th April, 1885; then Mr Alexander Hall in November, 1889; and Ann Greig, aged 78, buried nine years ago in October. The last mentioned coffin was come upon at a depth of about three feet, and was raised, part of it breaking in the process. The nameplate was sufficiently preserved, however, to be decipherable. At a depth of four feet another coffin of an adult, intact, was discovered, but the nameplate was much eaten away with rust. The coffin of a third adult was brought up, and below that, at a depth of over six feet, there were some pieces of wood and bones; including the part of a child's skull, and the skull of a woman, in which the teeth were well preserved. As the result of the investigation, those present expressed themselves satisfied that hte grave had not been disturbed, except on the top where the turf had been cut, and where the appearances fully justified the investigation.

Coffins Expected to be Missing - Worst Fears Confirmed

At lair 898, in section 1, there had been four interments. The first was that of a tall woman of about 5 feet 10 inches, interred in March 1886; next that of a man buried in 1887; than a woman about seven years ago; and finally a young woman of about 16, buried seven months ago. When the last interment took place Coutts, the former superintendent, intimated that the grave would have to be deepened, and the lair holders had to pay a fee accordingly, the total amount for opening and deepening the grave being 22s. The owner of the lair, however, was not very well satisfied in his own mind all was right, for on the occasion of the last interment, seven months ago, while he saw that there was a coffin underneath, it was so far down that he feared there could not be room in the lair for the other three coffins. On behalf of Messrs Paull and Williamson, advocates, Mr Sykes (of Messrs Galloway and Sykes) watched the operations, a commencement being made at a quarter to four o'clock with the opening of the ground. At half-past four o'clock the coffin of the girl of sixteen years was uncovered, and the owner of the lair declared that this was right. The coffin was removed, and the operations recommenced, and about five o'clock the diggers came upon the lid of a coffin at a depth of 5 feet 9 inches, and the inscription on it was undecipherable except that there was the figure "6" near the centre, which, it was understood, was the last figure of the age. That age might have been sixteen, judging by the size of the coffin. A few more spadefuls of earth revealed a lidless coffin, from which two skulls were taken and a large quantity of bones. The owner of the lair declared that the lid previously taken out did not belong to any coffin that should be in the grave. In digging at a depth of 5 feet 10 inches or thereby, the spade of the digger penetrated the bottom board of the lidless coffin, and reached the    hard "pan." This showed that no further interments had been made, and it justified the owner of the lair in the action he had taken and in the fears he had expressed that all the remains that should have been in the grave were not there. It was decided not to lift the remains in the bottom of the grave, as it was evident that such a depth had been attained that it was useless to expect more coffins.

An Advocate Loses Count of his Cases

As showing the determination on the part of lair-holders to have their ground opened it may be said that one legal gentleman who visited the cemetery in the afternoon to arrange for a grave being opened, said, in answer to a question as to how many cases he had on hand, that he had really lost count of them, he had had so many application.

The lair belonging to Mr Isaac Sycamore, 7 Roslin Street, was opened, but the coffins of four children interred in it appeared to have been undisturbed.

More Applications for Opening Graves

It is reported that the number of applications to have graves opened in order to ascertain if they have been tampered with is so large that the more recent applicants cannot get an earlier date than some day next week on which to get their lairs opened.

A Funeral Procession

Yesterday afternoon the crowd at all the gates was considerably increased, and several of the bystanders attempted to pass in in the rear of the funeral procession of the late Mr Davidson, Upper Denburn, whose grave was opened this morning. One lady, who carried a watering pan, was particularly persistent, but the police gently but firmly refused admission. A number of the mourners, however, after the last rites had been performed, took the opportunitiy of seeing what was to be seen before leaving this cemetery.

The Aberdeen Journal June 14, 1899

The Toolhouse Pit - Complete Corpse Dug Up - Shocking Allegations

The investigations at Nellfield Cemetery were continued on Wednesday by the authorities. Several graves were opened. In one in particular there were signs of interference. In another, in which the books showed there had been 16 interments, only 7 bodies were found, but, as there are cross entries in the books, showing that transferences had taken place, it is possible the missing coffins may be found in other parts of the cemetery. Some shocking disclosures were made as the result of the investigation on Thursday. Three coffins were missing from a grave at the principal entrance; and in a lair in which, according to the register, there had been 29 interments only eight coffins were found. From another grave a coffin was taken in which the bodies of two women were packed closely together. One of the walks was opened, and in a small hole there was found a ghastly collection of human remains. The body of a woman which had disappeared from the lair in which it was interred was found, without a coffin, in a "strangers" grave. Further shocking discoveries were made as the result of the fourth day's investigation at Nellfield Cemetery. A Number of bodies were found to be missing from graves, and on a hole being dug in the yard in front of the toolhouse a considerable quantity of human remains and an entire body, without a coffin, were brought up. Bodies were also found below the walks. A most exciting incident  occurred after the operations had ceased at nine o'clock at night, Mr Warrack, factor of the Baker Incorporation, being mobbed by a howling crowd as he left the cemetery. The excitement amongst lair holders is intense. A number of private lairs were opened on Saturday at the instance of relatives who feared that the ground had been tampered with. In most cases bodies were missing, including some that were interred less than three years ago.

Discovery of Human Remains - A Ghastly Spectacle

When the workers had got down to a a depth of between three and four feet it was evident that something had been reached which created unusual interest. The hole was surrounded by the entire company, who bent earnestly over it and watched the cautious operations of the digger. Before anything was thrown to the surface, however, a peculiar thing happened. The digger was requested to hand up his spade for some purpose, and one of the party measured its blade. Getting back his implement, he cautiously resumed his work, and at ten minutes to ten o'clock deposited at the mouth of the hole a most repulsive-looking relic. It appeared to be either the trunk of a body or a complete skeleton, with masses of putrid flesh adhering to it. It was, at any rate, in a very soft condition, and the adherent particles of soil had been firmly wedged into the interstices of the flesh and bones. Dr Matthew Hay mad an examination of the loathsome-looking mass, and by means of a trowel endeavoured to clear away the adhering soil and to show the form of the mass. So far as could be judged, it was a mass of about 18 inches to two feet or thereby, and it was no easy matter to make out its precise form. The remains were rolled over and over repeatedly, and portions of what seemed to be cartiliginous substances were separated from trunk. Eventually some form began to emerge, and bones were moved with the trowel in the fleshy mass. There was no appearance of a skull, unless a stumpy-like protuberance at one end might have been a portion of the cranium. When the remains had been placed where they were, it is impossible to say, but there was no appearance of a coffin, and the probability is that the remains had been flung in where they were discovered, and that the coffin had been consumed.

 

By a quarter past eleven o'clock the depth attained in the pit was so great that it was found necessary to obtain a ladder to allow the toiling sexton to get some relief from his long and continuous labour. The pit was now about seven feet in depth, and it required some exertion to fling up the earth and stones which were here encountered.

What Was in the Pit

It was officially ascertained when the luncheon hour arrived that the numerous masses of flesh which had been disinterred were very much decomposed, and apparently belonged to a large number of bodies or at least to several. It was impossible, however, with the somewhat superficial examination which Dr Hay and others were able to give at the moment to reach a very definite opinion as to what particular parts of the bodies had been revealed. Adhering to them and battered into them were portions of grave clothes worn away to shreds. These shreds were moist with the contact with the decomposing remains, and to the non-scientific eye some of it looked like ligaments and muscles. At any rate the fact was established that in this piece of gound, forming no part of the cemetery, bodies or portions of bodies, had been placed in the pit, unprotected, so far as could be seen, by any coffin or covering other than the cemements of the tomb. Just as work ceased at luncheon time, the digger had come upon what seemed to be a complete body.

Operations Resumed - Uncovering the Corpse

At two o'clock the "investigators" resumed operations in the toolhouse yard pit. As the members of the party arrived, the yard once more presented a "business like aspect." The diggers threw off their coats, Dr Hay, Mr Maclennan, and the other officials took up positions by the side of the pit, one of the men descended, and in a moment the earth that surrounded the shrouded corpse below was being thrown out. It was know, of course, that the body could not be lifted whole, but care was taken to expose it to view in its entirety. Meantime Dr Hay and Mr Maclennan could be seen peering into the pit as its ghastly contents were being laid bare. The sides of the opening were enlarged by the removal of part of the earth, and this was taken to mean that an attempt was to be made to get the body out in as complete a state as possible. The man who had been working in the pit was relieved, another taking his place. Still more earth was thrown out, and then a skull came up. It was subjected to a very close examination by Dr Matthew Hay, who with a trowel scraped off the adherent particles of earth. So far as could be seen, the skull was not of large size, and might have belonged to a young woman, or, at anyrate, a person not very far advance in years.

Ghastly Work

Almost immediately afterwards the gravedigger handed up a small bone to one of the party, who in turn passed it to Dr Matthew Hay, who put it aside after little more than a glance at it. At three o'clock a very considerable depth of soil had been excavated, the shovelfuls of earth only being seen as they were pitched off the spade, the implement itself being invisible even from a considerable elevation above the pit. Among the earth cast up was a bone and some other remains. By means of a trowel the bone was cleaned, and the other remains, about the size of a pair of closed fists, were broken up and examined. A little later, about a quarter past three o'clock, it was evident that in the bottom of the pit more remains had been found, the nature of which was such as to require something different from ropes to bring it to the surface. Two pieces of board were handed down to the digger, but they were soon returned, and the rope which had been handed to the man was not used. The earth was shovelled away from the mouth of the pit to allow a firmer foothold on the edge. The boards and a rope were again handed down. Something was evidently placed upon the boards, and they were hoisted to the surface, but they slipped, and whatever was upon them fell off. As the discovery was evidently of some importance, very careful measures were now taken to bring to the surface whatever remains there might be in as entire a state as possible. A narrow board, about seven feet in length was handed down the pit, and by the careful manipulation of the men below, as well as of those above, and almost entire human body was, at a quarter past four o'clock, drawn up from the pit. It was first placed on a ledge and covered with matting, and carried thus concealed to the toolhouse. The remains, as far as could be seen, were in a very advanced state of decomposition, and required the most careful handling to prevent them falling to pieces. The portion of the remains might measure, roughly, about four or five feet or thereby. They had not been secured entire, as one of the workmen carried a portion of them on a spade to the toolhouse. A small piece of board which had come out of the pit was carried to the toolhouse, whither also went Dr Matthew Hay. Shortly afterwards the representative of one of the local undertakers received instructions presumably to prepare a shell for the remains, which were meantime left in the toolhouse.

Less than Two Days in the Grave

Messrs Davidson and Scorgie, solictors, are making immediate application for warrants in other three cases, the facts regarding which appear perfectly clear. In one case there is said to be evidence that the child was not allowed to be in the grave for two days. One child was buried on the 15th January last year, and the grave was then quite full. Two days later, however, another interment of a child was made in the same grave, and in order to make room for it, the child buried two days before had evidently been removed. Both coffins are now missing, and there appears little doubt as to their fate.

An Actress's Funeral and it's Sequel

Inquiries mad on Saturday afternoon at the cemetery by Rev Dr Danson resulted in the disclosure of a sad sequel to an interment at which the rector of St Andrew's officiated some four years ago. It was that of an actress. She had been mistress of the robes in a company then playing at Her Majesty's Theatre. Her husband, the son of an Edinburgh banker, and an Oxford man, had a prt in the play staged by the company, Anxious that the last rites in connection with his dead wife should be becomingly performed, he spent all his available funds on the funeral, and requested Dr Danson to officiate at the services. The doctor readily consented, and in the upper section of the cemetery, in strangers' ground, the actress was laid to rest. The last spadeful of earth had scarcely been laid on the grave when the husband, evidently beside himself with grief, brought to his aid in giving expression to his emotion his histrionic training. Posing in stage attitude, he delivered with measured utterance lines from Shakesperare; and when the sexton approached him as he stood at the foot of the steps, with the bill for the cemetery expenses, with a fine command of contempt, he said - "What is filthy lucre? I will discharge thy account." And this he did. So strange a scene stuck to Dr Danson's memory, and when the recent investigations at Nellfield were entered upon, it came vividly back to him. Hence his inquiries; and the result disclosed the worst. According to John Hay, jun., the lair had been sold, and the coffin with the remains taken out. The coffin was destroyed, while the body, which was quite fresh, was put back into the bottom of the grave.

17 Bodies Missing from a Grave - What has become of Them?

While the operations were proceeding in the morning in section 2 of the cemetery in the grave from which one little coffin was taken, those who were standing at a distance were puzzled to observe the frequent references to books and plans. There was an evident mystery about the proceedings, which was unexplainable at the moment, but which became clear after the luncheon hour, when the officials were liberated from their duties. It then emerged than in the northmost of the two graves which were being searched, the register of interments showed that there should have been 18 coffins or bodies in the grave. Almost incredible as it might seem, the one little coffin already referred to was all that could be discovered. it was no wonder, therefore, that the investigators were puzzled, and searched and re-searched the registers. The fact that 17 coffins were missing, if this story be true, seems incredible. What has become of them is meantime a matter of the merest guesswork or speculation. They may have been broken up and the bodies interred elsewhere, or disposed of in some way that may be left to the imagination. The fact remains the the coffins or bodies were not found in what would naturally be regarded as their last resting place; and that up to this stage of the investigations no light has been thrown upon the manner in which they have been disposed of.

Too Many Coffins Found - Two Children's Bodies Missing

In section three, in one of the graves belonging to Mr Jas. Forbes, 3 North St Andrews Street, for whom Mr J M I Scott, solictor, was acting, the father stated that there should be found the bodies of three full-grown children - two of them about three months old and the other eighteen days. According to Mr Forbes's recollection, the coffins were interred about 18 inches below the surface, the one above the other, without any, or much, intervening soil. The gravediggers, however, had only got to the depth mentioned when they came upon the coffin of a still-born child, know by the star upon it. Hay, who was digging, declared he did not put the coffin there. Other two coffins of still-born children were disinterred, and Mr Forbes declared that neither of them was his. At the depth of about two feet a coffin was discovered, with the name, "Robert Forbes, aged three months." This, he said, was the coffin of one of his children, and the other should be beside it. The workers came next upon the lid of a coffin, much the same size and construction as the lid of the other one that was found to be correct. The name-plate, however, was so much corroded that the name could not be deciphered, and no remains were found. In one of the coffins, too, in which there were the remains of a still-born child, no body was seen, but the coffin was decayed. At a depth of 2 feet 8 inches, a full-sized coffin was reached which Mr Forbes knew nothing about. The lid appeared to be scraped clean, and no name-plate could be seen. The gravedigger then put his spade further down, beyond the first large coffin, and came upon another; but at this stage it was decided to make no further investigations. The grave, Mr Forbes stated, was bought as a free grave in May 1896. Three guineas was paid for. It was in the strangers' ground, but no statement had been made that there had been previous interments when the ground ws bought. At the conclusion of the investigation, Mr Scott called for Mr Troup, the representative of Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, acting for the Baker Incorporation, and informed him of what had been found. The result is that only one coffin out of three that should have been in the grave was there, and that there were three coffins of still-born children and two adult coffins in addition. Beyond that there may be more, but, as stated, the investigation did not proceed further.

Eight Children's Bodies Disappear

Mr John Roberson, 185 Holburn Street, had lair No.1510 in the central portion of the cemetery opened. Mr Robertson was present, and also Mrs Robertson, Mrs Findlay, who had four children buried in the grave; and Mrs Pirie, who had one. It was expected to find the coffins of eight children and two adults. At a depth of about five feet the coffin of an adult was reached, and Mr Robertson, asked if he wished it to be raised, replied that he wished to see what was underneath, as he was by no means satisfied regarding the other coffins, considering the depth at which the first one had been reached. The coffin was raised, and was found to be that of a Mrs Cook. Below that were found a couple of coffin lids, without the coffins, and the lids were identified as having belonged to the coffins of two of Mrs Pirie's children. The remains of a skeleton were also brought to the surface, along with a quantity of other bones. Mr Robertson identified the skull as that of his first wife, buried seven and a half years ago. Asked how he could identify the remains, he pointed out the the knew how the hair had been twisted in a knot at the top of her head when she died, and the hair still adhering to the scalp showed the way in which it had been arranged. The teeth, which were still in a good state of preservation, could also be identified by little peculiarities of formation of the front molars; while here sister also declared that she recognised the formation of the jaw bone. From the grave there was missing the coffins of eight children, exclusive of that of one buried 31 years ago, and of which no trace was expected.

An Extraordinary Case - 16 "Alien" Interments in a Private Lair

What was regarded as likely to prove one of the most remarkable cases yet unravelled was that of a client of Mr H Macdonald, SSC., His lair was purchased in 1892 as a "clean" grave, yet a glance at the books showed that, prior to the grave being sold, there had been no fewer than 15 interments in it, and four of these had been in the year immediately preceding the sale of the ground. Not only that, but while an interment took place after the grave was purchased, this being a child of the owner, the books proved that four days later another body was interred which had no right to be there. Mr Macdonald and his client were present at the opening, and sure enough, at a depth of 16 inches from the surface, a coffin containing the body of a still-born child was disinterred. A few more spadefuls of earth were thrown out and another small coffin was uncovered. It was very much decayed, but was not that of a still-born child, as there were handles on it, yet it was a coffin that was not interred by the owner of the grave. Still a few more spadefuls of earth were thrown out, and the coffin interred by the owner was brought to light, this being at a depth of 21 inches. Hardly had this been discovered when another coffin was laid bare, and this bore that it contained the body of Henry Badenoch, aged one month - of whom the owner of the lair knew nothing. At one o'clock, when operations ceased for the dinner hour, the lid of an adult coffin had been exposed to view. And this, to begin with, in a "clean" lair.

When operations were resumed the large coffin was lifted. It broke at the shoulder, revealing a very much decayed skeleton inside. All that could be deciphered on the name-plate was Robert H. M. ---- years. No sooner had this coffin been lifted than the lid of another appeared. This also was practically full-sized, and when it had been lifted it was seen that the surname could not be made out. A little distance farther down the broken coffin of a child was discovered, making the seventh found in this grave. Immediately afterwards a skull, evidently that of a grown-up person, was thrown up. Then came the coffin of a child with the name, "Jennie Thomson Mark." This made the eighth. It was at a distance of 5 feet from the surface, and it seemed as if the bottom of the grave had been reached, but a little more digging turned up four skulls and a quantity of bones. This seemed to be all that was in the grave, but it was surely sufficient - eight coffins, five skulls, and many bones in a lair in which there should have been only one interment. "He must have been fine up to his work, that chiel," said an irate lairholder, as he surveyed the mass of stuff taken out of a grave in which there should have been only one interment. The whole of the coffins were reinterred, the one belonging to the lairholder being put on the top, as it was decided to claim a "clean" lair for its interment.

Fatal Effect of the Disclosures

Unfortunately the Nellfield revelations have not been without a tragic effect. In the first section of the cemetery is a lair owned by Mr Alex. Douglas, 14 Broomhill Road, a guard on the Caledonian Railway. In it lie buried, or ought to, one or two children, and also other relatives. On Wednesday of last week Mrs Douglas paid a visit to the cemetery, and it seemed to her that there were signs of the grave having been tampered with. The lair was not opened, but some of Friday's disclosures produced such an effect on Mrs Douglas's mind that she was taken ill on Friday, and died in a few hours. The funeral took place on Monday afternoon, but as Mr Douglas, who, along with his family, was much upset, significantly added, "Not to Nellfield"; the place of interment being Allenvale Cemetery.

The Aberdeen Journal June 15, 1899

How a Coffin was "Transferred"

John M'Kenzie, 26 Jasmine Terrace, had grave No.279, in the third section, opened at six o'clock in the morning. The young lad was himself present, and was also represented by his uncle and by Mr John S  Yule, solicitor; while Mr Samuel Pressly watched the opening of the grave in the interests of the Baker Incorporation. The lair holder's father died on 26th May, 1892, and was interred in a grave in the same section of the cemetery, but three years afterwards it was desired to remove the remains from the grandfather's grave to the present lair. The representatives were asked to be at the graveside to see the coffin put down, but they had not seen this done, and they had now doubts as to the transference having been made. There should have been three coffins in the grave belonging to the lairholder - a sister, who died on 31st May 1896; the mother, who died on 29th April, 1899; and the father, who should have been transferred to the grave when the interment of 1896 took place. The relatives, when they went to the graveside then to bury the lairholder's sister, had seen no trace of the father's coffin, supposed to have been removed from the other lair, and their suspicions had been aroused by the recent revelations. At a depth of four feet the gravediggers, Raffan and Scorgie, came upon the coffin of Euphemia Gillespie, aged 45 years. A second coffin, bearing on the name-plate "Euphemia M'Kenzie, aged 16," and the words "Simply to the Cross I cling," was then raised. Both of these were stated to be correct. A name-plate bearing the words "Alexander -------- (supposed to be M'Kenzie), aged 44," was then unearthed, together with the broken remains of a coffin lid. Below that were a quantity of adult human remains, but no trace of a coffin. As the coffin had only been seven years in the ground altogether, it was expected to find traces of it, but there was none, and it was concluded that it had been removed when the transference too place. Mr Yule stated that there were was doubt as to whether the human remains where those of Mr M'Kenzie or of a woman who had been interred in the grave ten years ago, before the lair was bought by the present lairholder; but seeing that it had been proved that the grave had been tampered with on account of the disappearance of the coffin, he did not deem it necessary to proceed further, and the relatives present consented to the grave being filled up, the bones, coffin lid, and coffins being replaced.

 A Mother's Anxiety

Mrs Kidd, Great Western Road, with her two children, was present at the cemetery before the breakfast our to see the opening of the grave in the third section, in which a child of four and a half months had been interred last month. She was anxious to know if everything was right, more especially after having heard of the methods alleged to have been employed in disposing of children's coffins. The grave was a new one, and at a depth of 2 feet the coffin was unearthed almost as new-like as on the day it was put into the ground. Below that was the hard pan of earth and stones which, the gravediggers stated, had no been disturbed. The mother and her agent, Mr W Robertson, of Messrs A. and W. Robertson, solicitors, expressed themselves satisfied with the result of the investigation.

A Satisfactory Lair

One of the first lairs to be opened was No. 1352, in the second section, where, on 15th April last, a girl, Annie T Blacklock, aged 7 years, had been interred. Mr Blacklock had already buried several children in another part of the cemetery, and, accordingly, he purchased this grave in the strangers' ground. At a depth of four feet the coffin was unearthed and everything found satisfactory.

No Receipts Received

The lair 1475, in the first section, was opened between six and seven o'clock. It had been purchased as a clean lair in 1892 by Mr Henry A Frith, 36 Thomson Street, and he had also paid for having it dressed. For the last three years, however, he had received no receipt for the dressing; and fearing that everything was not right, he had determined to have it opened. There had been two interments, the first being in June, 1892, and the last in January, 1893. At a depth of some four feet the first coffin was discovered, and a little lower down the second one was come upon, and the name-plate having been deciphered, Mr Frith declared himself satisfied.

A Grave Intact

A lair in the third section belonging to Mr Alex. Mackie, 31 Spa Street, was bought as a clean lair fifteen years ago. In it five children had been buried, the last on 7th April of this year, and the first two side by side in December, 1884. The lairholder was present, along with his grandson, Mr Robert Davidson, in order to see that everything was properly carried out. The five coffins, those first interred being more or less broken, were brought to the surface, and the lairholder expressed himself as perfectly satisfied that the grave had not been disturbed.

Suspicions Removed

The grave belonging to Mr Joseph Findlay, 35 Prospect Terrace, Aberdeen, was opened about ten o'clock in presence of Mr Findlay and his agent, Mr Alexander Wilson, solicitor. Mr Findlay's suspicions were that his wife was interred the method of "deepening" had been by the removal of the three coffins of the children. The lairholder expressed himself as well pleased with the result of the investigation.

Another Untouched Lair

Mr J M Scott, superintended the opening of lair 1476, in section three, belonging to John Brodie, 41 Union Street. Mrs Brodie was also present. The body of a child had been interred in this grave in 1891, at which time 1 was paid to account for the purchase of the ground. In 1893 it was bought as a clean lair. The opening showed that there had been no interference with it, and the representatives present were satisfied.

A Husband's Mind Set at Rest

Lair 822, in section three, belonging to Mr James M'Kessar, 8 Esslemont Avenue, was opened and found all right, there having been no interference with the coffin containing the body of Mr M'Kessar's wife, and no other coffins in the grave.

"Alien" Bones in a Grave - The Coffins Missing

Lair No. 1444, in the central section of the cemetery, was opened at the instance of Mr William B. Farquharson, 188 Gallowgate, at present residing at Newhills, who came into town specially to have the grave opened. There had been three interments in the grave, namely, those of a girl, 13 years of age, in 1879; of another girl of 15, in 1881; and of Mr Farquharson's father, aged 48, in March last. At a depth of four feet the coffin of the last-mentioned was found intact, but below that there was no trace of the two other coffins, though a couple of skulls, one with long fair hair, supposed to have belonged to a young woman, and the other that of an elderly person, together with a large quantity of arm, thigh, and other bones were thrown up. There was also a name-plate, on which the name "Christina B-----," and the motto " The dead shall be raised." could be deciphered. The mother of the children, who was present at the grave-side, stated that the hair round the head of the skull was not that of any of her daughters, the hair in one case having been cut close to the head during a long illness. A careful examination of the bones was made by Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, who represented the lairholder; by Mr Troup and Mr Angus, for the Baker Incorporation; and by the lairholder and his wife and the mother of the childrent. Mr Scott mentioned that one of the skills was that of a male, and that among the remains were five pelvis bones, indicating that the remains of many more persons than should have been placed in the grave were there. The grave had been bought as a clean one when the first interment had taken place. On the other name-plate the letters "13 years" could be made out. One of the sides of a coffin, smaller than could have belonged to any of the young folks interred in the grave, was also found. The result of the opening was considered altogether unsatisfactory.

A Long-Undisturbed Grave

Mr A C Morrison, of Messrs F J Scott and Morrison, advocates, superintended the opening of a grave, No.1515, in the central section, which belonged to the late Mr David Scott, who resided at 17 View Terrace, Aberdeen. There had been two interments in the lair, namely, that of Mrs Scott, who died in 1881, and of Mr Scott himself, who died in 1884. Mr Morrison satisfied himself that the two coffins were intact, and although the name-plate of the undermost one could not be reached, expressed himself as so far satisfied, in the circumstances, that the coffins were those of Mr and Mrs Scott. The grave was accordingly filled.

A Ghastly "Find" - Three Skeletons in one Coffin

Mr Alexander Sands, solicitor, and Mr Harry Wilson were present at the opening of a lair in the second section, belonging to Miss Cattanach, 8 Brighton Place. There had been five interments in this grave, the years in which burials took place being 1862, 1867, 1869, 1891, and 1896. When the lair was opened for the last interment, Coutts told Miss Cattanach that it would have to be deepened, and that the four coffins that were in it had been returned to the grave. Yesterday the uppermost coffin, that of James Cattanach, was found intact, and was lifted. Beneath this was what seemed to be merely a lid. It was brought out, and then it was found that the coffin was below, but it was covered with earth, which had evidently been thrown in while the lid was off. As the coffin was being lifted, it broke at the shoulder, revealing a ghastly sight. The remains were in a decomposed state and emitted a very disagreeable odour. Digging a little further, the men came upon a large quantity of leg and arm bones, and three complete skulls - all in a decayed coffin in the bottom of the grave. It was quite evident that the three skeletons had been packed into this coffin when the grave was "deepened." After the examination had been completed, the remains were re-committed to the grave.

Another "Clean" Lair Filled

 Immediately after the interval for dinner, lair No. 749, in section three, belonging to Mr James Corbet, 12 St Andrews Street, was opened. Mr Corbet bought it in August 1898, as a clean lair, and his son Ernest, aged 18 months, was then interred in it. At a depth of two feet the digger came upon the coffin. No sooner was it lifted than another came to view, yet this was purchased as a clean lair, and Mr Corbet had only one interment in it. There were also some human remains. The second coffin was seen to be that of an adult, but it was not lifted. Mr Troup informing Mr Corbet that he would get a clean lair for the body of his child.

A Widow Satisfied

Mrs Charles Beattie, 19 Richmond Street, had lair 1245, in the central section of the cemetery, opened, fearing that all was not right with the two interments of a girl of three years in 1888, and of her husband in 1891. Mrs Beattie, who had been somewhat affected at the idea of the opening, was fully satisfied with the result.

"To the Memory of My Mother."

Mr R H Urquhart, S.S.C., was present at the opening of a lair in the third section, belonging to Mrs Thomson, Skene Street, who suspected that all was not right because some time ago she found that the surface of the grave was being dressed and planted with flowers by some outsider. Then a polished granite heart, bearing the inscription, "In memory of my mother." had been laid on the grave. Mrs Thomson informed Coutts that the heart had no right to be there, and he removed it, saying a mistake had been made. At a depth of four and a half feet the lid of of the first coffin was exposed to view. There should have been other two adult coffins, but, as in many other cases, only a lid was found below the first one, and this covered the remains of the other two bodies, which were interred in 1883 and 1884.

Searching for Last Month's Interment

Another of Mr J M I Scott's clients was Mr William E Rudder, 22 Great Western Place, who last month purchased as a clean grave a lair in the second section of the cemetery, and then interred the body of his boy of two and a half years. He was not satisfied with the result of probing. The digging showed that the grave was not clean. The coffin was got all right, but at one end of the grave, on nearly the same level, was a quantity of bones, including a complete skull and a portion of one - both adults. Then came a broken, full-sized coffin, with remains, while below this it was found that there were other three decayed coffins, which had evidently been buried in the walk, but the ends of them projected into Mr Rudder's lair, and were broken as the digging proceeded. A name plate, on which could be traced "Alexander Davidson," was also found. Mr Rudder received an assurance from Mr Troup that he would get a new lair in which to inter the body of his child.

A Grave near the Central Entrance

In section 2 Mr George Rennie, 671 George Street, had his lair, No. 416, opened. He was represented by Mr A Martin Macphail, solicitor. The lairholder and his friends were not satisfied with the appearance of the grave on their last visit to it, the surface having been disturbed, and the globe-covered immortelle wreath having been removed to another grave about a dozen yards further along. The examination yesterday showed that the grave had not been tampered with in any way.

The Aberdeen Journal June 16, 1899

Rescued from Lair 19

Mr William Paterson, 45 Thistle Street, had lair No. 1825, in the third section of the cemetery opened shortly after six o'clock in the morning. The lairholder's suspicions were aroused when he read of the revelations at lair 19, in the strangers' portion of the same section, where so many coffins and remains were stuffed into one grave. The lairholder had had his child buried in this lair on 12th October, 1896, but on learning that it was in strangers' ground, he had the coffin transferred the same day to the private lair he had then purchased. He wished to be satisfied that the transference had been properly effected. The superintendent of John Knox Cemetery supervised the opening of the grave, and at a depth of a little over three feet the coffin containing the remains of a six month old child was found intact. The lairholder expressed himself thoroughly satisfied with the result.

"Not Dead, but Sleeping There"

Another lair in section three opened between six and seven o'clock was No. 444, belonging to Mr John Lawson, contractor, Gallowgate. The lairholder was present, along with his two sisters and his agents. There were four interments in the grave - those of two grandchildren and of the lairholder's wife and daughter - the first interments being in 1879, when Jeannie B Adams died in October and Alex. Adams in December of that year, aged 10 and 8 years respectively. The next interment was that of his wife in January, 1882, aged 58 years, and the last that of his daughter, Betsy Lawson, in June 1885 aged 38 years. Considering that they had been in the grave from 13 to 20 years, the coffins were much decayed, but the remains were brought to the surface, along with pieces of the skeletons, and the relatives were satisfied that the motto at the foot of the tombstone, "We are not dead, but sleeping here," would still hold good in this case.

A Grave which had been Tampered With

Mr Gavin Sinclair, solicitor, acting for Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, had a client's grave opened a short distance opposite the main entrance in the first section. At a depth of two and a half feet was found a coffin with "Jane H Fraser" upon the name-plate, and a foot further down another coffin bearing the words "Margaret Henry, aged 61." These had been interred in 1895 nothing but the lid and a few small broken pieces remained. There had been a deepening of the grave in 1895. Nothing more was found in the grave but a quantity of bones, all trace of the coffins of two adults interred in 1892 and in 1877 being gone. Mr Sinclair stated that he was not satisfied regarding the grave, the proof being that it had been tampered with.

Parents Satisfied

Mr Alexander Grant, Thomson Street, and his wife had lair 1229 in the central section of the cemetery opened to satisfy themselves that the coffin of their eight-months-old child, interred last December, was still there. The coffin was found all right, perfectly fresh, at a depth of 3 feet. The hard pan of earth immediately below the coffin proved that the grave was still a "clean" one as it had been purchased. The mother was especially pleased to find that the coffin of her little one was all right.

How Children's Bodies Were Buried

Mr Peter Green, 63 Castle Street, had doubts as to everything being right in his lair No. 1236 in section one, under a beautifully flowering laburnum tree, about a dozen yards from the entrance lodge formerly occupied by Coutts, the ex-superintendent. His reason for being dissatisfied was that at the time of the last interment, of his son of three years and five months in April 1897, the grave was only partly filled then, the gravediggers being called away. This action had evidently been to enable three small coffins to be placed into the grave beside the one which had just been interred, because the gravediggers had not reached a depth of three feet yesterday morning before the three small coffins, alongside that of Peter Lorimer Green, were found. Two were evidently those of stillborn children, the name-plates being seen, while on the other could be distinctly read "Bartle Jamieson, 1 month." As the grave was purchased as a clean lair those small coffins ought not to have been there. Nor were these the only "alien" coffins in the grave, for a little further down was found that of Martha Mackie, aged 38 years.

After and interval for breakfast, the gravediggers resumed work at this grave. They found another adult coffin, with "John B...." aged 60." on the name-plate. Below this was the coffin for which search was being made. The lairholder was informed that he would have the two coffins belonging to him re-interred in a clean grave when he got intimation to this effect, but meantime the graves were filled up, the five coffins which ought not to have been there being also replaced.

Clean Lair All Right

In section 3, Mr David Inglis, 50 Gerrard Street, who was represented for Mr W M Sellar by Mr Gavin Sinclair, solicitior, and Mr B Gill, opened a lair which was bought in 1897. Two interments had been mad - one of the owner's mother-in-law in 1897 and another of a child in 1898. Both coffins were found intact.

Another Clean Lair

Mr Frederick Hyland, 31 Ashvale Place, was represented by Mr Davie, for Mr Blacklaw, solicitor. His lair, No. 803, in the third section, was bought as a clean one in June, 1897, when the coffin of Mary Joss Hyland was interred. Grave and coffin were found to have been undisturbed, and the lairholder was satisfied.

Very Unsatisfactory Work - Coffins Missing

So many of the lairs in the cemetery have been found on opening to be in a satisfactory condition that it was with some hope that the burying ground of Mr W Ross, 37 Nellfield Place, No. 215, in section three, was opened. Mr Ross is a client of Mr Blacklaw, solicitor, and his interest were watched by a representative on his behalf. The ground has been purchased as a free lair, and, if everything had been right, five coffins should have been found in it. The first coffin disinterred was that of John Ross, buried in October, 1898, and it was found to be intact. The second coffin, found at a considerable depth, was that of Elizabeth Ross, interred in 1897. That coffin was also in a fairly good state of preservation. The next stage of the proceedings, however, revealed a state of matters that was far from satisfactory, and seemed to point to the breaking up of coffins and the emptying out of bodies. At any rate, at a depth of about six feet the lid of a coffin bearing the name of Mary Ross was brought to the surface. It may be explained that the owner of the lair had a son who died in the Royal Infirmary in 1890, but when Mary Ross, the sister of the lad, died in 1896, his remains were taken from the Infirmary ground, where they were buried, to be laid in the grave in Nellfield. Prior to that, in September, 1895, a daughter of Mr Ross - Jessie - was buried in the lair, making five interments in all. When the lid of the coffin of Mary Ross was found, suspicions were at once aroused that all was not right. The engraved lid was perfectly clear, and as the coffin had been in the ground only four years it should have been complete. As it was, no wood was found, but beneath the lid a quantity of bones and other remains. Raffan, who was digging, soon discovered that the surmise that all was not right was confirmed. The lid of one coffin was all that remained of three, and it was perfectly evident that they had been smashed up when still in a good state of preservation and the bodies emptied out. The spectacle was indeed a ghastly one. The entire chest of one body was discovered, and bones and other remains were scattered about the grave, and in such a condition that the gravedigger, to save the feelings of the relatives, died not lift them. While all the bodies were accounted for, there was no doubt, therefore, that coffins that had been only in the grave since 1895 and 1896 had been broken up and disposed of, and the remains flung back to the grave.

A Mistake with the Turf

One of the cases with which Mr Francis J Scott, solicitor, was entrusted with was that of Mr Johnston, 18 Marywell Street, whose lair, 1019, in the third section of the cemetery. The only interments, in what had been bought as a clean grave, were those of a child and a grown-up person. The lairholder happened to be in the cemetery about a year ago, and discovered that the turf on the grave had been cut. He at once went to Coutts and asked an explanation, and he said the cutting of the turf would just have been a mistake. He was satisfied with the explanation at the time, bt since the recent disclosures he had been of opinion that everything was not right in the grave. On the grave being opened, the coffin of Ann Westland, aged 77 years, interred in October of last year, was reached at a depth of about three feet. This was as it should have been. Below that the remains of a child were found, but the coffin interred thirteen years ago was broken. The lettering on the name-plate, however, could easily be deciphered as "Agnes M Johnston, aged 2 years and 8 months." Both Mr and Mrs Johnston, who were present, stated that they were satisfied the grave had not been interfered with, whatever may have been done with the turf on the top.

A Widow's Mind set at Rest

Mrs Shand, Victoria Road, Torry, had a large tombstone removed from a grave in the central section, and the grave opened to satisfy herself that the remains of her late husband, interred in December, 1892, had not been interfered with. When the gravediggers had reached a depth of about four feet, they came upon the coffin bearing the name-plate with the engraving, "William Shand, aged 43 years," upon it. Below that are supposed to be the remains of James Shand, interred in November, 1867, but as there ws little hope of finding much after the lapse of 30 years, it ws decided that the first coffin reached should not be lifted, the widow stating that she was perfectly satisfied with the result of the investigation.

Found in Order

In section 3, Mr Edward Milne, 22 Bridge Street, opened a grave in which three children had been buried between 1886 and 1894. Mr Gavin Sinclair, acting for Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, superintended the operations, and the results were satisfactory, all the coffins being found intact.

A Paisley Interment

Mr Gavin Sinclair, for Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, superintended the opening of lair 1497, in section two, on behalf of Mr John Calder, Paisley, in which ther had been two interments of adults - one in 1895 and the other in 1890. Both coffins were found intact, and the representatives of Mr Calder expressed themselves satisfied.

Suspicion Allayed

In section two, lair No. 1665, Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, acting for Mr David Pittendreigh, caused the lair to be opened., as some suspicion existed that other interments had been made, in addition to the one child interred in 1896. At the depth of three feet, however, the coffin of the child was got intact, and the parties were satisfied that no other interments had taken place in the lair.

Going Home with a Light Heart

In section 2, No 487, the property of Mr James Ross, Mrs Malcolm, 109 Gerrard Street, opened the lair for the purpose of discovering if a coffin containing the remains of her father, which had been interred three years ago, was intact. Mr J B Davidson, solicitor, watched the proceedings for Mrs Malcolm. There had been five interments, but as there was no appearance of the ground having been recently disturbed, it was resolved by the parties interested to be satisfied if the coffin last deposited in the grave was found to be intact. At the depth of four feet four inches the coffin complete was discovered. The daughter, however, was not after all quite satisfied, and wished the coffin lifted, and possibly opened, although some friends endeavoured to dissuade her from that course. In the end, she expressed herself satisfied, but wished the further satisfaction of seeing a coffin that had been interred underneath 16 years ago. This also, fortunately, turned out satisfactorily, and Mrs Malcolm expressed herself as thoroughly satisfied, sayign she would go home with a light heart.

 What Should be Done with the Old Broken Coffins?

In the central section, lair 1563, belonging to Mr Andrew M'Bain, 31 Justice Street, was opened in the hope of finding the traces of six interments, the last which took place eleven years ago. At the depth of two feet some bones, the remains of a still-born child was found, and a foot further down a coffin interred twelve years ago was unearthed, much broken up. There were also three small coffins at the depth of 4 feet 6 inches, and immediately underneath two coffins of adults. Mr M'Bain expressed himself satisfied that the remains had been undisturbed. The cemetery books show that there had been eighteen interments in this grave, but with those previous to the time Mr M'Bain purchased the lair he had no interest. Before the grave was filled up, the question of disposing of the old pieces of coffin was discussed., the feeling being evidently that they should not be put back in the grave, but that only the human remains should be re-interred. Mr Troup, of Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, advocates, agents for the Baker Incorporation, did not see his way, however, to sanction the clearing of the grave at the present time, stating that if this were desired it could be done when the next interment was to take place, and not now. The whole of the broken wood was accordingly replaced in the grave along with the other remains.

A Burden off his Mind

In the third section Mr Robert Clark, Richmond Street, had a vault opened to see if the remains of his child of 8 months, interred in September, 1880, were still there. The coffin was found much decayed, as was expected, but Mr Clark was satisfied that the remains were those of his child. He had had his suspicions aroused because he believed the grave next the to the vault had been tampered with. He went a way satisfied, remarking that there was now a burden off his mind.

Eight Interments in a Grave

In section two, lair 57s, Mr B Gill, for Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, attended the opening of the grave belonging to Mrs John Moir, 6 Hill Street. There were also present Mr James Edward and Miss Moir. Eight interments were registered as having been made in the grave. The coffin of John Moir, aged 54, was taken out, but as the parties were then satisfied from what they saw that the ground had not been tampered with, the grave was consequently again filled up.

Another "Unclean" Lair

Mr Alexander Massie, 59 Chapel Street, purchased a lair at the left-hand side of the central section in February last, when he was informed by Coutts that there had been no interments in it for a very long time, and that it had been quite cleared out. After the recent revelations he doubted this, and resolved to see if the two coffins of his children, interred in February and April last, were still there, and if the lair had been a clean one. The two coffins were found all right, but immediately below them, at a depth of little more than three feet, the coffin of an adult was found, broken at the top and emitting a very disagreeable smell from the decaying remains and water inside. There were also the indications of another coffin below that. Mr Troup stated, on behalf of the incorporation, that a clean lair would be provided, and on this understanding the two coffins belonging to Mr Massie were reinterred, to  be lifted again when the fresh lair had been provided.

The Grave of a Drowned Child

Mr F J Scott, solicitor, acting on behalf of Mr Charles Kilgour, Wellington Road, opened lair No 1608 in section three, where three children were interred - one a year old, buried five weeks ago; another eighteen months old, and a third, five years old that was drowned in the river Dee. The whole three coffins were found intact, and as the bottom of had been reached the condition of things was regarded as quite satisfactory.

A Little Coffin Missing

In lairs 24 and 25 in the strangers' ground in section three, close to the wall in Nellfield Place operations began during the breakfast hour, on behalf of Mrs Angus, 12 Canal Street, who wished to find out if two children of relatives were still in the lair, for the purpose of transferring them to her own ground. She also wished to discover whether her own ground had been interfered with. The first coffin disinterred was found to be all right, but although some larger coffins were found there was no trace of the other small one, and as there some doubts as to the exact grave, it was resolved in the first place to consult the books. This was done, but no trace of the coffin could be found, and in the meantime it was resolved to transfer the first little coffin found from the strangers' ground to the lair of Mrs Angus, 1505 in the same section. Before doing that she wished to discover if the remains of her husband were in the grave. At a depth of about six feet the coffin was found with the plate clearly legible, and Mrs Angus expressed herself as quite satisfied. An endeavour is to be made to trace the missing little coffin from lairs 24 or 25.

Four Coffins Missing from a Grave

One of the most mysterious of the cases investigated was that where the lair No. 923 at the left hand side of the central section, belonging to Mr George Wilson, ironturner, 182 Gallowgate, was opened, and was found to have been seriously tampered with, four of the six coffins belonging to him being gone and there being found in the grave human remains which could not have belonged to any of the Wilson family. The last interment took place in August of last year, when a child was buried and previous to the lairholder had buried his wife in 1888. That coffin also was found, but there were no traces of the coffins interred in 1882, 1877, and 1870, and which had been place on the top of the wife's coffin when it was buried in 1888. Among the remains brought to the surface were the broken pieces of two skulls, which Dr Sherriffs, Holburn Street, stated must have belonged to very young children, while a jawbone was stated to be that of a person between seven and eight years of age, judging from the teeth. The bottom of the grave was carefully reached, but there were no further discoveries. It was regarded as altogether unsatisfactory that among the remains should be found bones which could not correspond to those of the persons interred, and Mr Gavin Sinclair, who watched the case for Mr W M Sellar, solicitor, stated that he was further to investigate the matter with the view of proving that some of the earlier interments had been unduly interfered with, the remains of a stranger's child having evidently been placed in the grave.

A Transferred Coffin Discovered

In lair No 548, in section two, Mr James M'Lennan, 8 Strachan Lane, Holburn Street, opened the grave for the purpose of ascertaining whether it contained the coffin of a child interred in 1891, after transference from a strangers lair. It appears that one of the gravediggers had some time ago stated that the coffin that was being looked for had been done away with long ago. This distressed the owner and friends of the owner of the lair, and they determined to have the grave opened. The result was unexpectedly satisfactory, the coffin being found intact. Naturally, those interested were greatly pleased that the body, which was expected to be missing, had been found.

A Miscellaneous Collection

Another lair at the left-hand side of the central section, at one time know as the poor or strangers' section, but which is now laid out in private lairs, was also found most unsatisfactory.

It was investigated by Mr William Robertson, of Messrs A and W Roberston, solicitors, acting for Mr Alexander Sinclair, 10 Kintore Place. There were two interments of children in the grave in October and November of last year at the ages of three and one year respectively. After digging for about two feet from the surface, the coffin of a full-sized adult was come upon. It contained the skull and all the other bones of the upper part of the body, and a name-plate on which could be deciphered "Alice Bates, 18 years." Then the coffins of the two children, for which search was being made, were found. Below these the gravediggers declared there was another coffin of an adult. It was raised, and below it were found three skulls of adults, together with a large quantity of bones. All this had been found before the depth of five feet had been reached in a grave which had been purchased as a clean one in the autumn of last year. Further digging revealed the fact that there were other two coffins below what had been already unearthed, but they were not taken up, Crammond, the gravedigger, stating that they were the coffins of unclaimed bodies. The remains were then put back into the grave, with the two small coffins on the top meantime, pending the result of negotiations between Messrs Roberstson and the agents for the Baker Incorporation.

Child's Coffin Secure

The lair of Mr James Shepherd, Mitchell Place, adjoining the wall at the left-hand side of the central section, was opened in presence of Mr Gavin Sinclair, solicitor, acting for Mr W M Sellar, solictior. The coffin of a child removed from strangers' ground and interred in the private lair in 1895 was found correct at a depth of three feet, and the relatives were well pleased that this was so.

The Entries in the Books

On examining the books of the Baker Incorporation Miss Elizabeth Booth, 136 Hardgate, found that there were ten entries of interments in a grave which had been sold to her as a clean lair in the central section last year. There had been only one interment, so far as she knew - that of James Mitchell, aged 17. Her anxiety was great to know whether or not everything was correct. The grave was opened in the afternoon, and the coffin, in a good state of preservation, was found at a depth of over 5 feet. Miss Booth, however, would not be satisfied until the coffin had been brought to the surface, and the lid prized open, so that she could see that the remains were there also. She left perfectly satisfied.

One Coffin and a Lid

Mr James Campbell, 72 Wales Street, for whom Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, was acting, opened lair 1425 in section 2, in which two coffins were expected to be found. The first was discovered  complete and untouched, but only the lid of the second could be got. Underneath the lid were the remains of an infant, but no portion of the coffin. The hard pan at the bottom was then reached, and Mr Campbell expressed himself satisfied with the examination.

Irregularities in Strangers' Lairs

Considerable interest was manifested in the opening of lair No 572, in section 3, beside the wall in Nellfield Place. In it Mrs Johnston, Summer Street interred the remains of a child. It was a strangers' lair and other bodies might be expected to be buried in it, and what Mrs Johnston wished to satisfy herself about was whether her child was in the ground. It appears that on the day of the funeral Coutts was not very pleasant with the mourners, and after about half a dozen spadefuls of earth had been thrown over the coffin he withdrew him men, saying they were busy, and could not overtake the work at that time, but that they would return and finish it. Coutts was therefore trusted to see the work done, but since the recent revelations doubts had arisen in Mrs Johnston's mind, and she determined to put them at rest. The first coffin disinterred was that of a stillborn child, which did not belong to her; but after that there were, it was stated, a great many coffins to be lifted. A commencement was made, and one coffin of an adult was with difficulty brought to the surface. The men employed were not the regular gravediggers, and whether that was the reason or not the coffin, which was by no means an old one, was broken, and the decaying remains of a woman protruded. The effluvia from the open coffin was very strong, and compelled those in the vicinity to beat a retreat. As it was seen that to disinter other coffins would be a very serious undertaking, the result of a consultation was that Mrs Johnston agreed meantime at least to defer taking further steps.

A Doubtful Case

On behalf of Mr John Clark, 7 Rosebank Place the opening of a lair in section 3, in which it was expected there should be found the remains of Hector A Forbes, a child who was buried in July, 1889, and the coffin of another child which had been previously interred. The first coffin was found to be all right, but below it was discovered the remains of a person apparently older than the one for which the owner of the lair was in search. In order to make certain, however, the bones were left out for the purpose of subsequent expert investigation.

Another Coffin Missing

In lair 896, section 3, Mr James Shand, Marywell Street, had two interments, one of which, that of a boy of 13, being made on the 20th September, 1897, and the other that of a child on 21st December, 1889. The first coffin was found intact, but of the second there was only the lid, or a lid of another coffin, and no remains nor any sign of wood - a result which was regarded as very unsatisfactory.

A "Clean" Lair Packed with Coffins

Mr J M I Scott had lair No. 967, in the central section, opened to satisfy his client, Mr Robert Macpherson, 46 Gordon Street. The grave was purchased as recently as the 8th March last as a clean lair for the interment of the remains of Robina Macpherson, a child of six months. After the coffin had been found all right, it was soon discovered that it was not the only one in the grave, for at a depth of some three feet were found the coffins of what appeared to have been two still-born children, as there were no nameplates. Underneath was a coffin with a nameplate bearing the words "William Davidson, aged 1 year and 5 months." It was in a very fresh condition. On digging further down, the coffin of Ann Deveron, 80 years of age, was reached. At the foot of this coffin the diggers found part of a child's skull, and also the part of the skull of a female with hair adhering. At a depth of over four feet the coffin of an adult was found to be that of "Susan Milne, aged 30," with the letters R.I.P. and other indications that the person interred had been a Roman Catholic. The nameplates of these coffins were washed and the names verified. Further down other coffins were met with, but it was decided not to raise them, but to cease operations. The lairholder was offered a new lair, but this Mr Scott meantime declined on behalf of his client, agreeing rather to have the coffins reinterred, with that belonging to Mr Macpherson on the top, so that it could be easily removed to another lair afterwards.

Four Bodies Packed into Two Coffins

The scene presented by the opening of a lair in the first section, almost opposite the entrance to the notorious toohouse yard, was a disgusting one. The grave belongs to Mrs Wyness, 229 Holburn Street, and on the headstone is the inscription - "In memory of Thomas Wyness who died 23rd July, 1863, aged 55 years." Mr J M L Scott conducted the investigation on behalf of the lairholder, who was herself present. The coffin of Thomas Wyness was found all right, but immediately underneath a horrible state of affairs was revealed. Two coffins were brought up in each of which were packed a couple of bodies "head to heel," so that the coffins might be able to hold them. The remains were much decayed, and were ghastly in their decompostion. There were also half a dozen skulls of adults, which were laid in a row by the side of the tombstone. There was also a considerable quantity of arm, leg, shoulder, and other bones, bits of old coffins, several broken name-plates, sodden grave linen, and general rubbish. Mr Scott expressed the opinion that these other coffins, etc., had been put into the grave at various periods after the interment of Mr Wyness, and he had a strong suspicion that the proximity of the grave to the toolhouse might have had something to do with the bodies being placed where they were found. The lair was bought as a clean one. The bones, skulls, etc., were replaced in the grave with the coffin of Mr Wyness on the top so that it might subsequently be remove if desired.

Coutts Committed for Trial on Additional Charges

William Coutts, the former superintendent of Nellfield, was yesterday formally committed for trial on the nine additional charges of desecration of graves preferred against him last Saturday. Accused was not brought from Craiginches, the copy of the petition and the warrant of commitment being served upon him prison by Mr Rutlege, governor. It may be mentioned that during the past ten days Mr Charles Wilson, procurator-fiscal, has precognosced upwards of 60 witnesses, whose statement cover more than 300 large pages of M.S.

The Aberdeen Journal June 17, 1899

A Suspicious Case - Three Coffins Missing

At eight o'clock in the morning Mr John Croll, solicitor, acting on behalf of Mr Alex. Shand, farmer, Brotherfield, Peterculter, superintended the opening of a family grave, in which four interments had been made. There was no appearance of the ground having been disturbed, but at the time of the last interment, in 1898, the grave was not filled up when the mourners left, and suspicions were recently aroused when the condition of affairs existing in the cemetery was brought to light that the grave might have been tampered with. The suspicions became stronger when it was remembered that at the time of the last interment Coutts suggested the deepening of the grave, which was done and paid for, although at the time the friends did not see any necessity for it. The grave is in section three of the cemetery, No 901, and has a substantial granite headstone, which bears the following inscription:- "Erected by his widow in memory of Mitchell Shand, died 5th May 1893, aged 64 years; James Shand, died 26th March 1862, aged 2 years; Mitchell Shand, died 6th March, 1889, aged 1 year and 10 months. Also of his wife, Agnes Melvin, who died at Fairfield Cottage, Peterculter, 2nd June, 1898, aged 68 years." All these interments had been made in the ground, with the exception of James Shand, whose remains were buried elsewhere. The gravediggers, at a depth of five feet, came upon the coffin of Agnes Melvin, interred in June, 1898, which was of course, in perfect condition. It ws however, found to be only a lid, with the name-plate detached, bearing the inscription "Mitchell Shand, aged 64." On raising the lid the skulls and remains of two adults and of a child were found, but there were no traces of coffins, although the whole four should have been found in comparatively fresh condition. It was quite evident that the coffins must have been broken up and the remains thrown together to the bottom of the grave, because a little further digging brought the men to the hard pan beneath at a depth of seven feet. The grave was then filled up, Mr Croll having first informed Mr Troup of the state of matters which had been revealed.

Suspicions Removed

At the left hand side of the terrace, in the third section of the cemetery, lair No. 1058, belonging to Mr James Edwards, 1 Marywell Street, was opened shortly before seven o'clock. Mr John Ewen, solicitor, represented the lairholder, and Mrs Edwards was also present during the opening of the grave. At a depth of 2 feet 2 inches the small coffin containing the remains of still-born twins was taken out. When the grave had been dug to a depth of about 4 feet the coffin containing the remains of Mrs Isabella Thomson, the name being distinctly decipherable on the name-plate, was reached. Two coffins of children interred in 1887 and 1889 had been lifted when the adult coffin had been laid down, and placed on top of it, but there was no trace of them now. Mrs Edwards stated that when the children's coffins were place above that of their grandmother, when the latter was interred, the grave had only partly been filled in at the time, the statement being made that there was another funeral for which the services of the gravediggers were required, and that the grave would be properly filled up afterwards. Her husband, however, objected to the grave being left in this condition for any length of time, and evidently when the gravediggers returned they had again raised the large coffin and place the smaller ones beneath, as they were found there all right. Mrs Edwards expressed herself as well pleased that all the coffins were in the grave intact.

A Mistake in Probing

Probing a grave in section 3, a gravedigger had informed the relatives of Mr James Stewart, 176 Crown Street, that a coffin in lair 1107 had been laid down cross-wise, in a way that it should not have been. In order to satisfy himself, Mr Stewart had the grave opened in the forenoon, to find at the depth of three feet the coffin of David Stewart, with the inscription on the plate perfectly legible, although the interment had been made 14 years ago. The coffin was, contrary to what had been stated, in a proper position, and the parties interested expressed themselves perfectly satisfied.

Disappearance of Coffins

Mr K M Simpson, acting on behalf of Mrs Miller, widow of George Miller, painter, Thomson Street, superintended the opening of lair No. 1237, in section two of the cemetery. Six interments had been made in the grave, the first of these being that of a child, five years old, buried in 1872, and since then other five interments have been made, so that six coffins in all should have been found. One coffin, intact, was discovered at a depth of between five and six feet, but underneath tha was the lid of the coffin of a child, with name-plate legible, which had been buried in 1872. There were also some small bits of wood and a quantity of remains, which, it was believed, were those of the child first interred. There was, however, found a jawbone of an adult, but no sign of any more coffins, and when the hard pan at the bottom was reached the search was given up.

Undisturbed

One of the cases in which Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, was agent was that of Mrs James Rose, 2 Great Western Road, whose lair, No 905, in the third section, contained three bodies. The suspicions that everything was not right with the grave were founded on a statement by Coutts the ex-superintendent, who had maintained that the original lairholder being dead, those who were acting as his representatives had no claim to the grave unless they paid to have the grave transferred to their own name in the books. The last interment took place about eight months ago, and the first five years ago. The three coffins were found to have been undisturbed.

A Well Filled "Clean" Lair

No 223, belonging to Mr John Greig, was opened in the forenoon. It was bought as a clean lair in 1892, and should have contained only one coffin, that of the lairholder's five year old daughter, Ann Greig, buried at the time the lair was purchased. The cemetery register does not correspond with the statement that the lair was a clean one, showing that there had been ten interments in the grave. Only six inches below the surface was found the coffin of "Mary W Lawson, aged 4 months." Tow and a half inches further down the coffin containing the remains of Ann Greig, aged 5 years, was discovered. At 2 feet 7 inches from the surface a large coffin was brought up, bearing on the name-plate "William Middleton, aged 68 years." According to the register, there should have been another between this coffin and that of Ann Greig. At a depth of 3 feet 8 inches no fewer than five small coffins were found packed close together. They were those of George Gerrard, aged 8 months; Elizabeth Craib, aged 2years; Eliza D S Riddell, aged 6 days; William S Clark, aged 1 month; and one apparently of a still-born infant, there being no name-plate on the coffin. There could be seen at a depth of 4 feet 6 inches a large coffin with the words "Isabella Phinn, aged 78." making the ninth coffin in a depth of less than 5 feet. Mr Alexander Sands, solicitor, who was watching the case in the interests of his client, called in the services of Mr Charles Hogg, of Messrs Gilchrist and Co., undertakers, Queen Street, to give evidence as to the coffins. A tenth coffin was reached, but the name-plate could not be deciphered. It was evident that what had been sold as a clean grave was not clean, and Mr Sands intimated in his dissatisfaction at the result.

Examining the Dead

On the opposite side of the footpath from the notorious lairs Nos. 19 and 20, opened in the third section of the cemetery during the Crown investigations, the private lair No. 247 was opened. It belongs to Mrs William Diack, 24 Craigie Street, and was purchased as a clean lair seven years ago, when an interment took place. Mr A C Morrison, solicitor, represented the lairholder, who was also present. When the grave had been dug to the depth of about five feet, the coffin of an adult, believed to be that containing the body of Mr Diack, was brought up, but the name-plate, being greatly worn away with rust, could not be deciphered satisfactorily. It was accordingly agreed that the services of Dr Sheriffs, Holburn Street, should be obtained to give expert evidence as to the remains, the widow not being satisfied that the coffin was that of her husband. Dr Sheriffs could not be obtained, however, so Raffan and Cramond, the gravediggers, were called on to give their testimony. They stated that the skeleton was that of a man measuring 6 feet and half an inch, probably over 50 years of age, with fair hair, and a good set of teeth. The coffin measured 6 feet 7 inches. The widow, who had been looking on while the remains were being examined, stated that she was not yet satisfied in regard to certain particulars. Mr Morrison agreed that the coffin should be reinterred meantime until he had made further inquiries as to what the undertaker who had made the coffin had to say as to its dimensions, etc., a careful note of these having been made. The coffin was therefore reinterred on the top of another broken one which was at the bottom of the grave.

Untampered With

In the central section, the grave belonging to Mr William Mitchell, 28 Rosemount Place, was found to have been untampered with. Coffins were found with the name-plates on which were "Mary Rankine Mitchell, aged 38 years and "Catherine Murray, aged 86 years." When the third coffin was seen, it was decided not to go further, the lairholders being satisfied that the fourth interred about 30 years ago, would not be obtained, or, at least would be in a very great state of decay.

Not Absolutely Certain; But Satisfactory

John Penny, 95 Union Row, opened lair 135, in section three, belonging to him, in which there had been three interments. At a depth of nearly five feet the coffin of Margaret Smith, as sister of his wife, interred about six years ago, was found. At a depth of five feet nine inches, on the same level, was found the complete coffin of a child, which the owner of the lair identified as the one in which his child had been placed. On the same level, near the bottom of the grave a lid was found, together with a skull and some remains, and as the lid was that of a coffin which he owner of the lair admitted was about the size that he would expect to find, the result of the search was regarded as satisfactory.

Found Satisfactory

On behalf of Mrs Charles Bruce, 114 John Street, owner of a lair in section two, a grave was opened in which one interment had been made in August, 1898. Everything was found to be satisfactory.

Between six and seven o'clock in the evening lair 309, in the third section, was opened for the owner, Mr John Florence, 22 Catherine Street. Two and a half feet from the surface the coffin of a ten months old child, buried in March, 1897, was found, and the last of the four coffins in the grave was reached at a depth of about six feet. Everything connected with this lair was therefore correct.

A Lair Twice Sold

Early in the morning lair 432, in section three, belonging to Mr Alexander Cormack, 10 Great Western Road, was opened for the purpose of ascertaining if the coffin of a still-born child, interred in July, 1888, was in the grave. The ground was purchased as a new grave in 1888, but a reference to the cemetery register shows that the grave had been previously sold 8n 1876. Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, who was acting for Mr Cormack, had to leave, having some other cases to attend to, but in the afternoon the operations which had been suspended were resumed, and beneath the coffin which should have been there, and was found all right, there was another broken coffin of a child, with the name on the plate Margaret Procter. This coffin should not have been in the grave. Further digging showed that the pan had been reached, and the operations ceased.

Graveside Reminiscences - A Curious Coincidence - The Row with Coutts

Immediately after the dinner hour a commencement was made with the opening of lair No. 1682, in the central portion of the cemetery. Raffan and Scorgie were the gravediggers despatched to open this grave. On coming to it, Raffan said he could remember this lair well, for it was at this grave that he had had the row with Coutts which led to his leaving Nellfield. A reference to the date on the tombstone showed that the incident had occurred exactly a year ago to the very day, the interment taking place four days after the death of Miss Williamson, or on 17th June last. "I was in the grave," said Raffan, "just about this depth (some three feet) when Coutts came up and wanted me to do some o' his dirty work. There was nae daein' wi' him ava." "I mind fine," continued the gravedigger, as he threw up spadeful after spadeful of the earth. "I got mad at him for what he said. I widna' like to tell you a' he said an' the language he used, but I can tell you that if I had had my will o' him that day he would hae gone to the bottom o' this hole. If it hadna' been for Crammond bein' near by, I tell you I wad hae gien him what he deserved." A more forceful delve with the spade in the grave seemed to indicate Raffan's feelings in the matter. "But," he added, "hel'll get time noo to think o' what he did an' hoo he greated folk. I mind that after something he said I just jumped oot o' here an' had done wi' him. I left that very nicht." Turning to Mr Gordon, Kirkton, Methlick, who was representing the lair-owners, Raffan remarked, "You've me to thank for something no' bein' put doon here that would hae been, an' that shouldna' hae been; but I dinna ken what's below, for I never dug mair when aince I was oot." The coffin having been taken out, and the other one below apparently all right, Mr Gordon expressed himself satisfied that the coffins were right, but said it was apparent the grave had never been deepened, although Coutts had charged him 10s for this. Mr Troup, of Messrs Edmond and Ledingham, agents for the Baker Incorporation, stated that the 10s charged for deepening the grave would be refunded.

Suspicions Confirmed

Mr Alexander Davidson, 70 Hutcheon Street, represented by Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, had his lair, at the right-hand side of the third section, opened. He had had suspicions that everything was not right, because Cramond, the gravedigger, had told him that when the lairholder's wife was buried in February of last year a small coffin, containing the remains of his seven year old daughter, had been removed. It was found on opening the grave that the gravedigger's information was correct , the coffin of the wife being found intact, but that of the girl, buried six years ago, being gone, except the lid.

More Missing Coffins

The coffin of a child and of an adult person having been taken from a lair in the first section, no more was found except the lid of a coffin and a quantity of human remains. Other three coffins were missing, and Mr Robert Ewan, Strawberry Bank, Aberdeen, and his agent, Mr James A Hadden, solicitor, expressed themselves as being thoroughly dissatisfied with the investigation, the dictations being that the grave had been tampered with.

A Layer of Bones

In the grave belonging to Mr John Brown, 44 Leadside Road, No 868 of section J., there had been eight interments since 1848. It was expected to find at least four of the coffins interred in 1879, 1880, 1885, and 1894, the last-mentioned being that of the lairholder's mother. Mr George Mackenzie, represented the lairholder, who was also present. Only the coffin last interred was found, and below it was a great heap of human bones, which were brought to the surface for examination. There were no traces of the coffins. The sight of seven skulls, the leg, thigh, and arm bones of six adult persons and the broken bones of a child presented a ghastly sight as they were spread out on the walk. There was also the nameplate which had been on the coffin interred more than half a century ago. It had been a very good plate, as it was still fresh-like, and the clear-cut engraving could be read as "Jane Nicol, aged 77." The lairholder and his agent were convinced that three coffins had been removed and broken up, as, according to the statement of the undertaker, they ought still to have been seen in the grave. It was thought possible, however, that the human remains found might have been those of the persons interred.

A Surprised Lairholder

Three interments were made in lair No1121, section 1, in the grave of Mr Wm. Cockburn, Great Western Place, for whom Mr A C Morrison, solicitor, was acting. The coffins buried were those of his wife, interred in 1898, and of two children interred in August, 1894, and December, 1898. The grave was purchased by the owner as a clean grave, and Mr Morrison was therefore greatly surprised when after a commencement had been made with the opening of the grave a woman showed him a receipt for an interment in the same grave in 1896. The coffin of an adult was found untouched, but the unsatisfactory feature was that the lid of a child's coffin was next discovered, which, it was stated, was not one which the lairholder could claim. The owner of the lair, of course, considered this state of affairs as unsatisfactory.

Searching for Coffins

Mr Joseph Park, mason, owner of a lair in section 2, and who was represented by W Edmond Bell, of Messrs Cowie and Bell, solicitors, opened at half-past three o'clock a grave in which there had been nine interments. They dated from 1874 to 31st December last, when Frank H Park, aged 9 years was buried. The coffin of this boy was found a few feet from the surface untouched. Then the coffin of Ann Park, aged 53, was found complete, and underneath that the nameplate of a coffin having on it the name of "Joseph Park." A quantity of bones were found, and two bunches of red hair, which was evidently that of a young person interred who had hair of that colour. At a distance of 8 feet from the surface several skulls were found, and Dr Bell, 4 Albert Street, was sent for to report upon them. The further examination of the ground was postponed until today, as there were some signs of the grave giving way.

The Aberdeen Journal June 19, 1899

Bought as a Clean Lair

Mr James Simpson, 9 Skene Row, opened lair No 764, in the central section of the cemetery, which he had purchased two years ago as a clean lair. Only one interment had been made by him, namely, that of a child buried two years ago. On opening the grave the coffin of a still-born child, and below that the coffin of an adult having on the plate the name Wm. M'Gillan, aged 64. There were also signs of more coffins in the lair, but the gravedigger did not proceed further, as Mr Troup, on the part of the Baker Incorporation, undertook to give the owner a new lair, and to transfer the body of his child to it, and this will be done.

A Distressed Parent

Acting on behalf of Mr Alex M'Rae, Grampian Road, Mr F J Scott, solicitor, had lair No 1649, in section three, opened for the purpose of ascertaining whether the remains of two children were still in the grave. The lair was purchased in 1895 as a clean grave, and the two interments had been made since that time. One coffin was found intact, but although it is scarcely four years ago since the other child was interred, only a lid of a coffin was found, underneath it being a skull and some bones, which, it was contended on the part of the Baker Incorporation, were the remains of a seven months old child. To support that view, the opinion of a medical expert was obtained. The parent was in great distress on account of the coffin having apparently been broken up. Dr Farquhar, 180 Great Western Road, who examined the bones, declared the skull to be that, not of an infant, but of a young person of probably ten years of age or thereby. Some rib bones that belonged to an infant were found, but no complete skeleton. The lair seems to have been a receptacle for rubbish, judging from the fact that in addition to broken glass globes and large stones, etc., there was found the skull of a cat.

One More for the Incorporation

Mr A Reid, 32 Baker Street, opened lair No 909, section three, in which two interments had been made - one in March, 1892, and the other in September, 1898. Both coffins were found intact with the name-plates legible, and the result was considered to be satisfactory.

Bones from the Dissecting Room

On Saturday afternoon, when the rest of the work had been concluded, lair No 757, section 2, which had been purchased by Mr George Allan, 80 Leadside Road, was opened at the sight of Mr J M L Scott, solicitor. One interment had been made by the purchaser on 3rd March, 1899, and the coffin of a child of seven months was found all right. At the opposite end of the grave, at a less depth, were found a quantity of bones, which had evidently come from the dissecting room. At a depth of three feet a coffin was found without a lid, full of bones and decomposed matter, and a foot deeper a coffin was disinterred with the name on the plate, "Bridget Bosnan, aged 82 years - R.I.P" The coffin, on being opened, was found to contain the complete skeleton of an aged female. At a depth of five feet two skulls and a quantity of bones were found, and at the same depth a lidless coffin of great weight, filled with earth and bones, which had come from the dissecting room. In all four coffins of adults were removed, besides the body of the child of the owner, but other two coffins were still in the ground. Pending arrangement being made with the owner of the lair for a new grave, the coffins and bones were reinterred in the grave, that of the child of the owner of the lair being meantime placed at a depth of 18 inches for subsequent easy removal.

The Aberdeen Journal June 21, 1899

A Satisfactory Lair

Mr James Morrison, Muirfield, Mid-Stocket Road, had grave No 458, in the third section, opened. It was bought as a clean lair in 1881 when the interment of a child took place. The coffin was found at a depth of four feet, intact, after being 18 years in the ground, and everything was therefore considered satisfactory.

For the Sake of the Dead

The grave No 1081, in the first section, belonging to Mr A Douglas, railway guard, 14 Broomhill Road, was opened early in the morning in the presence of Mr Douglas and his son. A melancholy interest attached itself to the operations here, because of the recent death of Mrs Douglas through the effect which the revelations at Nellfield had upon her mind, and because she greatly feared that everything would not be right with this grave. It may be remembered the the remains of Mrs Douglas were not interred in this cemetery, but there had been six interments in the grave, four of adults and two of children, the last burial being in April seven years ago. The grave was found to have been untouched, and the lairholder expressed himself satisfied that everything was right.

Another Satisfactory Lair

In section two, lair No 1532, belonging to Mr William A Joss, 23 St Andrew Street, was opened. The coffin of a child interred in February last, and of an adult, were found as they had been place in the ground, the one at a depth of 2 feet 8 inches, and the other 5 feet 3 inches below the surface.

No Actress There

The suspicions of Mrs Gray, 1 Castlehill, had been aroused by the report that it was in her lair, in the third section of the cemetery, that the body of an actress had been buried. The last interment of an adult, made in February, 1897, was found at the requisite depth, and the lair holder and other relatives present expressed themselves as satisfied that there was no actress there.

Opening up Coffins - A Determined Lairholder

Mr Alexander Innes, undertaker, Broad Street, appeared at the cemetery shortly after eight o'clock, accompanied by Mr Robert Stevenson, 12 Union Grove, the lairholder of No 915, in the third section of the cemetery. The undertaker carried a hammer and screw-driver, having been engaged by the lairholder, a young man, to open the coffins which it was expected to find in the grave. There had been three interments - the last in October, 1898, another in August, 1893 and the first 20 years ago. The coffin last interred was brought to the surface, the nails unscrewed, and the lid taken off, revealing the decomposed body of the young man's mother in her winding sheet, which was of white flannel, wonderfully well preserved. At a depth of 5 feet 5 inches the coffin bearing on the name-plate "Margaret Davidson, aged 87 years," was reached. Cramond, the gravedigger, had informed the lairholder and others that he could remember, when the interment took place about half a dozen years ago, that the coffin which had been interred 20 years ago had been broken, and the remains had been placed in the new coffin then interred, instead of being laid at the bottom of the grave so that the remains of two persons would be found in the one coffin. The young man was not satisfied, and expressed a determination that the coffin should come up, even although the gravedigger informed him that it was broken at the shoulders, and would go to pieces in the operation. An attempt to raise the coffin was unsuccessful, and then the lid was taken off, and the two skulls were dug out of the coffin with the spade and thrown up the walk. After examining them the young man expressed himself satisfied that the skulls belonged to the man and woman whose remains had been interred in this grave. He seemed disappointed, however, that there were no remains of a third coffin, but he was informed by the undertaker that he could hardly expect to find one intact after being 20 years in the grave. The lairholder seemed reluctant to pay for the opening of the grave, when it ws found that the remains were there all right.

In the afternoon the lairholder once more appeared, on this cocasion accompanied by Mr J M I Scott, solicitor. He again expressed determination to have the coffin at the bottom lifted, asserting that beneath it should be found an oak coffin, or the remains of one. The grave was therefore, reopened, and, after some difficulty, the coffin, in two pieces, was brought to the surface. Therw was, however, no oak coffin under this, and the lairholder therefore notified the representative of Messrs Edmond and Ledingham that he was not satified with the grave. On the other hand, it is contended that whenthe coffin was in a broken and decayed condition it was only right that it should be removed, and that it was better to place the remains in the other coffin rather than to throw them into the earth at the foot of the grave.

Quite Satisfied

Mr James Henry Millar, 36 Constitution Street, a mulatto, had lair No.1576, in the central section of the cemetery, opened, to satisfy himself and his family that four interments, the last one in October, 1886, were all right. Considering the length of time the coffins had been in the ground, they were not intact when discovered, but the decayed, moulded pieces were brought to the surface, along with a couple of name-plates, on one of which could be read the engraving, "J.C.De La C. Millar, aged 5 years." A couple of skulls, from which some of the teeth were pulled to prove they belonged to young persons, were also found. Those present stated that they were satisfied with the result of the investigation.

"At Rest"

A grave in the central section was opened, when it was found that the coffin interred last year was intact, and the lettering on the granite heart laid on the grave "Little Walter Dawson. At Rest" was, therefore perfectly appropriate.

The Deception of Probing

Mr James Smith, 12 Canal Street, had his lair, No. 947, in the third section, probed on Saturday, and was then very much dissatisfied, as the prober assured him that wood was struck at a short distance from the surface, and if this had been a coffin it had no right to be where it was. The grave was opened yesterday and 10 minutes sufficed to show the lairholder that his suspicions were entirely unfounded, the coffins being all right. What had been struck on Saturday by the probe had been some of the "hard pan" from the bottom of the grave which had been placed there in filling it up, and which to the prober had appeared to be wood. The lairholder expressed his satisfaction that the grave was all right, and his conviction that probing was altogether unsatisfactory and not to be relied upon.

Everything Satisfactory

Lair 109 in the third section, on being opened to discover the trace of one interment, was found altogether satisfactory, and the lairholder, Mr David Yule, 8 Carmelite Street, expressed himself pleased with the result. This made the ninth grave opened up till midday, and in every case was the grave found to be untampered with.

Unpromising, but Right

In having grave No.888, in section 3 examined, Mrs Clark, 295 Bon-Accord Street, expected to find three coffins, first those of two children, and then that of her husband. About two feet from the surface the nameplate of one of the small coffins was found, but no coffins, and at this the mother was greatly distressed. At a depth of five feet, however, the coffin of the husband was found, and underneath it were the remains of two small coffins and bones, which, had been placed there when the husband had been interred. Mrs Clark, who threatened to become hysterical, was at length convinced that everything was right.

Five Years Afterwards

Mrs Alexander Williams, Gordon Mills, bought lair 733, in the central section, as a clean grave, in 1894 but the book of the incorporation show that there had been 17 interments in it since 1868 up to within two years of it being sold to her. She was present in the afternoon, along with Mr Robert Cumming, advocate, when the grave was opened. About three feet from the surface a small coffin was found bearing on the nameplate "Agnes Williams, aged 15 months." This coffin was interred in 1895. At a depth of six feet, the coffin of the lairholder's husband, interred in 1894, was found, and the lid having been taken off, those present could see the skeleton lying at the bottom. The sight appeared too much for Mrs Williams, who hurriedly left the graveside. The result of the opening was notified as satisfactory.

The "Clean" List

 Mr Milne, fishing tackle manufacturer, Castle Street, represented by Mr J M I Scott, solicitor, had a grave in the central section opened, and found that the three coffins interred there had been undisturbed.

In the third section, lair 1568, belonging to Mrs Donald, 6 Park Place, was found to be satisfactory, the coffin of Jemina Donald, aged 13 years, being found at a depth of 4 feet.

The Aberdeen Journal June 22, 1899

Satisfactory Lairs

Among the lairholders whose grave, on being opened in the morning were found satisfactory, was Mrs Paul, Holburn Street, who found the two coffins as they had been laid down; Mrs Peters, 37 Marischal Street, whose lair is in the second section; and Mr W Robertson, solicitor, who found his client's grave, in the central section, uninterferred with.

Coffins Removed

In section 3 the grave 480, belonging to Mre Eleanor Johnston or Calder and Miss Elizabeth Johneston, 18 Ashvale Place, was first looked into. There had been five interments in it, the last being in 1898, while others had been in 1894, 1887, and 1881. It was scarcely expected to find the coffin intact which had been interred previous to the last-mentioned date. At a depth of 2 feet the coffin of a stillborn infant was brought to the surface, and at a depth of 5ft 3in the coffin of "William Calder, aged 41." was reached. Then came a coffin lid at a depth of 6ft., with "John Johnson, aged 62." on the name-plate. Two skulls and other bones of a man and woman were found underneath the lid, but no trace of coffins. Mr Gray (of Messrs Gray and Kellas), who represented the lairowners, expressed dissatisfaction that two coffins of adults, one buried less than 12 years ago, should have been broken up and removed, while the remains were placed at the bottom of the grave.

A "Desecrated" Grave

When Mr Gordon Riddell, 9 Spa Street, had his lair 599 in the third section of the cemetery opened he expected to find the coffins of three children and an adult, one interred 10 years ago, one eight, and two three years ago. There was, however, much more, and at the same time much less, in the grave than was expected. At a depth of 2ft 10in the lid of a child's coffin was found with the skull and rib bones underneath. Half a foot further down was the coffin of an adult, with the name-plate unreadable through rust, except that the figure "8" could be deciphered. There was below this another coffin, with broken lid, and a mass of putrifying human remains inside. Then came another large coffin with a small one and a quantity of bones, including a couple of skulls, packed inside it. There were found in the grave altogether the coffins of three adults and of three children, with a coffin lid and piece of board. Mr W Robertson, of Messrs A and W Robertson, solicitors, who watched the opening of the grave in the interests of the lairholder, stated that several of the coffins did not belong to his client, and that one of Mr Riddell's coffins was missing. It was evident, it was stated, that in this case there had been desecration of the grave.

Evicting a Coffin

Mr Alexander Davidson, 160 Mid Stocket Road, had suspicions that there was more than one interment in lair 1566, of the third section. The interment made on June 10th, 1893, was found all right, but four feet down the coffin of a nineteen year old woman was come upon. This was taken from the foot of the grave and placed at the top, ready to be taken out and placed elsewhere, as soon as arrangement can be made for that, while the coffin belonging to Mr Davidson was placed at the bottom of the grave.

An Unsatisfactory Lair

In the third section, lair 1097 had two lairholders desirous of having it opened. First, Mr James Harper, 24 Richmond Street, wished to find the coffins of five children and one adult. A child's coffin was found at a depth of 2 feet, and at a depth of 3 feet 9 inches the remains of a smashed coffin were found, along wwith some human remains, including parts of a skull, rib bones, etc. That was considered unsatisfactory. Another coffin of a child was found, and at a depth of 6 feet a large coffin was discovered. As far as these interments went, they were considered satisfactory, except that one of the coffins had been broken, but there were no traces of other coffins.

Messrs James and Robert Henry, How Moss, Dyce, also had an interest in this grave, in which there had been two interments - of an adult and young person - previous to the grave being sold to Mr Harper. The grave was deepened to nine feet. In one coffin was found the broken remains of another coffin and some bones, the wood having been crammed in there. The grave was regarded as altogether unsatisfactory. Mr P W L Clark, solicitor, represented the lairholders, and Dr Farquhar, Great Western Road, was called in to give evidence as to the two skulls of adults and one of a young person, together with a great quantity of bones thrown up from the grave.

A Cleared-Out Grave

Mr Peter Robbie, Holburn Street, formerly of 93 Walker Road, Torry, had made four interments in lair 553 of the third section, the last one in 1883. He expected to find some trace of the coffins, but on the grave being opened, nothing was found but a skull, which was certified by Dr Farquhar to be that of a female aged between 20 and 30 years. As the four interments had been those of children - the oldest of six years - it was deemed most unsatisfactory that only a the skull of a grown-up person should be found in the grave. Mr Francis J Scott, solicitor, represented the lairholder.

Family Lairs

Two lairs contiguous to each other, near the wall skirting the left section of the cemetery, the one belonging to Mr Alexander Harrow, Inverdee, Nigg, and the other to Mr John Rettie, Nigg, Nos. 179 and 180 respectively, were opened. When the first lair was purchased, about a couple of years ago, the coffins of two children which had been interred in 1863 and 1865 were transferred from another grave, and were then found to be intact. When the grave was opened yesterday only a coffin lid was found. In the other grave, belonging to Mr Rettie, the coffins of a child and of an adult, interred in 1895, were found as they ought to have been.

Satisfied with Little Trouble

Mrs Anderson, 58 Dee Street, had a lair opened in the second section, where there had been interred four coffins - two of children and two of adults. The lady expressed herself satisfied when the coffin last interred, fourteen years ago, had been discovered.

Additions to the Satisfactory List

During the course of the day the lairs belonging to the following lairowners were opened and were found satisfactory:- Mr James Wilson, Blenheim Place, in the third section; Mr James Burness, 307 Hardgate, lair 772, in section one; Mr Robert Alexander, 129 Park Street; Mr W Craigmyle, Park Street, whose grave is No. 208 in the third section; Mr J Wilson, who had a lair in the central section; Miss Lamb, who found everything right in lair 660, of the second section; and the lairowners of graves 1215 of the second section; 918, in the first section, where considerable difficulty was experienced in raising a very large coffin, in which there was a lead shell; other two lairs in the first and second sections; and 1093, belonging to Mrs George Forbes, in the section.

The Aberdeen Journal June 23, 1899

Uncleaned Graves

In the central section three uncleaned graves were found and they belonged to Messrs William Noble, 17 Rosebank Place; Wm. Fraser, 5 Seaview Place; and John Ross, 48 Esslemont Avenue, respectively. In Mr Noble's case the interment was made last year, and it was found intact, although it was soon seen that there were other interments in the grave which ought not to have been there when the ground was bought and paid for as a clean lair. The same was the case in the grave of Mr Fraser, purchased so recently as March last, when the interment of a child was made on 11th February last, and it was also found at a depth of two feet, with other coffins immediately below, although the lairholder was entitled to have a clean grave to the extent of six feet.

Satisfactory Lairs

The three lairs found in the morning to be satisfactory were in the first, second, and third sections. In the first, belonging to Mrs Thomson, 1 South Constitution Street, the one interment was found all right, and the same was the case with interments made by the other two lairholders.

The grave of William Low, Peebles, No 1010, in the third section, in which one interment had been made, was found satisfactory. As has previously been mentioned, Mr Low's suspicions were aroused on account of the placing of an additional globe-covered immortelle wreath on the grave by some persons unknown to him. The grave 823, in the central section, belonging to Mrs Milne, Woodside, was also found right.

A Lairholder from Perth

In the first section the grave belonging to Mrs Humphrey, Caledonian Road, Perth, was opened for the purposes of finding a coffin which had been interred 15 years ago. Everything was found right in this grave.

How Accommodation was Provided

The grave 268 in the third section, belonging to Mr Alexander Cooper, 25 Dee Village Road, was opened for the purpose of seeing if one interment, made on 30th May 1892, was correct. The grave was then bought as a clean lair. At a depth of 2 ft from the surface the coffin sought for was discovered, but at a depth of 3ft 3in. another coffin was obtained, bearing on the name-plate, "Robert Shearer, aged 6 months." There was also a coffin 4ft 9in long, but the name-plate could not be deciphered. The coffin of an adult, with the lid loose, was then found at a depth of 5ft 4in. Into the head of this coffin had been packed as many bones as could be got in, while a small coffin was also inside. The name on the plate of the latter could not be read. It was decided not to remove the large coffin and bones from the bottom of the grave, and the others were also replaced, with that of the lairholder on the top, so that it might either be removed to a clean lair or taken out to allow of the grave to being cleaned.

Opening a Coffin

The lair 654 in the right-hand side of the central section of the cemetery was opened on behalf of Mrs Tastard, 13 Marischal Street. Her son, a butcher, had provided himself with a screwdriver to open the coffin, and this he died when it was brought up. Seeing the interment only took place in March last the coffin was quite fresh, as were also the grave clothes. The flannel covering being lifted from the face of the dead man, James R Tastard, aged 72, the son looked on the decomposing face of his late father, and identified the remains. At the bottom of the grave were found a good many bones, including the skull of an adult, supposed to have belonged to one of the two interments made 20 years ago. The lairholder was, however, very much disappointed that he did not find the coffin of a brother, aged 16 years, interred 11 years ago. Only the name-plate of this coffin was to be found among the human remains. He expressed the conviction that the grave had been interfered with, and left the cemetery to consult Dr Rose and Mr Brander, of Messrs Brander and Lippe, advocates, on the subject, operations at the grave being meanwhile adjourned till the arrival of those gentlemen, and to enable the gravediggers to get dinner.

In the afternoon all the remains found at the bottom of the grave were examined by Dr Rose. He found four skulls, which appeared to be those of females, and a quantity of other bones, but none forming a complete skeleton. There were also broken pieces of a coffin scattered about at the bottom of the grave, at a depth of 5 feet 10 inches. Messrs Brander and Lippe, who represented the lairowner, agreed with the lairholder in stating that the grave was most unsatisfactory, for not only was the coffin not there which the lairholder expected to find, but there was a skull too many, and the pieces of coffin strewn about at the bottom of the grave were held to be additional evidence that the grave had been tampered with. When the last interment was made, the lairowner had paid 7s 6d to have the grave deepened. Coutts assured him that this was necessary, but the method of deepening the grave had, it was stated, been by means of removing the coffins.

A Dubious Lairholder

Although Mr John Rettie, Nigg, had expressed himself satisfied when first his lair, No. 180, in the central section was opened on Wednesday, he changed his mind, and desired to have the undertaker who made the coffin present to see if he cold identify it. Yesterday Mr Innes, undertaker, Broad Street, visited the cemetery, and expressed the opinion that the small coffin was not the one he had made for the lairholder four years ago, because, although the size was the same the name-plate ought to have been engraved, and this was not the case with the coffin found in the grave. The lairholder expressed himself as entirely dissatisfied with the result of the grave being opened.

Filled Graves Sold as "Clean"

A grave in the second section was found satisfactory so far as a couple of interments were concerned. It was agreed, however, that the coffins should be lifted to see that there was nothing underneath. Both coffins were therefore raised, the first in two and the last in three or more pieces, the lids being broken as well as the ends, and revealing a couple of skeletons in a bed of dust. Both coffins and remains were much decayed after being 18 years in the ground. Beneath the second coffin, at a depth of about six feet, another coffin was discovered, which, the lairowner stated, should not have been there, as he had bought the lair as a clean grave. This, he claimed, had not been the case. The "alien" coffin was not disturbed, and the remains of the other coffins were put back into the grave, pending the decision of the lairholder as to whether he would have his lair cleaned or a new one provided by the Baker Incorporation.

One coffin, that of a child a week old, buried on the 4th July last, was looked for in lair 765 at the lefthand side of the central portion of the cemetery. It was found at a depth of about two feet. At the head of the grave there was another small coffin, which did not belong to Mr Richard Paterson, 6 Union Grove, the lairowner. This was considered unsatisfactory, as the lair had been bought last November as a clean one.

According to the books of the Baker Incorporation, there should have been 14 interments in grave 968 of the central section, but when it was sold in March of last year it was as a clean lair. The coffin of the child then interred was found all right about a couple of feet from the surface and beneath that it was very evident that the grave was filled with coffins, for one of them, that of an adult, could be seen, while the iron rod used for probing showed that there were coffins immediately below that. Mr B E Gill, solicitor, acting for Mr Sellar, solicitor, intimated that his clients were not satisfied with the grave. It may be mentioned that over a dozen graves have been opened at this lefthand corner of the central section, and in almost every case lairs which were sold as clean have been proved to be not so, and this is explained by the fact that this was formerly the strangers' portion of the cemetery, though now laid out in private lairs.

How the Record Stands, Over 200 Graves Opened

The following table shows approximately the result of the examination of lairs at the instigation of the relatives of persons buried in the cemetery:-

Date Graves Examined Found Right Not Satisfactory
June 12 15 10 5
June 13 19 13 6
June 14 24 20 4
June 15 32 23 9
June 16 27 20 7
June 17 16 13 3
June 19 13 13 0
June 20 18 13 5
June 21 27 19 8
June 22 15 6 9
  206 150 56

 

The Aberdeen Journal June 26, 1899

Satisfactory Lairs

Amongst the lairs opened and found to be satisfactory were those of Mr James D Donald, The Schoolhouse, Cults, lair 1651 in the second section, who found the two coffins expected, one of them having been transferred from another lair, and the lairowner having had suspicions as to the transference; Mr James Carson, 19 Yeaman Place, Edinburgh, who had an interment four years ago in grave 1504 in the second section; Mrs William Steel, 28 Chapel Street, Aberdeen, who found the three interments in lair 502 of the central section all right: and Mr John Brown, 72 Skene Street, whose lair 556 was found as it should have been.

In the afternoon three lairs were opened, viz., 1732, in section 2, belonging to Mr Mackie; one in the first section, and lair 1654, in the second section, and lair 1654, in the second section, belonging to Mr Weir, Manchester, who was represented by Mr J P Dickson, odontographer, Aberdeen. All these were found to be satisfactory.

"Unclean Graves"

In the central section, grave 1277, belonging to Mr Robert Craigmyle, 126 Broomhill Road, Aberdeen, was opened for the purpose of finding one interment made in 1898. This was found at a depth of 2 feet 9 inches, but the suspicions of the lairholder that the grave was not altogether "clean," as he had expected it to be when he purchased it, were confirmed when, at a depth of 3 feet, were found a quantity of bones, including parts of a couple of skulls. The grave was there and then "cleaned" for the lairowner by the removal of the bones, and he expressed himself satisfied when this had been done, and the coffin belonging to him had been reinterred.

The grave 1390, in the third section, which had been sold to Mr Charles Moir, mason, The Bush, Peterculter, as a clean lair, when the one interment had been made in May, 1892, was found to contain other coffins than the one sought for, though it also was found. Mr Troup, on behalf of Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, offered the lairowner a clean lair, or to have his present one cleaned out.

Mr James Jamieson, 36 Pekin Street, Poplar, London, had grave 1630, in the second section, opened, and in this case, also, it was found that what had been sold to him as a clean lair was not really so, there being other interments in it. The same offer as in the other case was made.

The Aberdeen Journal June 27, 1899

Lairs Found Correct

The first grave opened, which was in section 1, was found all right, so also were the following:- Lair 1523, section 2, belonging to Peter Conn, 413 Holburn Street; 1731, section 2, belonging to Mrs Ritchie, 8 Gerrard Street; 1675, section 2, belonging to Mrs Robertson, 4 Charles Street; 391, section 2, belonging to Mrs Scotland, 20 King Street; 1099, section 1, belonging to Mrs Alexander Grant, 83 Rosemount Viaduct; 860, section 2, belonging to John Walker, 258 Union Grove, and the lair belonging to Alexander Reid, 43 King Street.

An Unsatisfactory Result

An unsatisfactory result was discovered in the case of lair 340, section 3, belonging to Andrew Fraser, 10 Whitehouse Street. The lair had been purchased as a clean one, and four interments had taken place in it - two adults and two children. The first coffin reached was that of a child, which was claimed by the lairholders as one of their own. Then the remains of a second child were come upon, and which were probably those of the second child buried. At 4 feet below the surface the coffin of Agnes Fraser, aged 63, was unearthed. So far, the lairholders were satisfied, but when at 5 feet down a coffin was reached containing four skulls and other bones of four adults, it was seen that something was wrong. The owners wished to retain their lair, and it was agreed between the parties that the Baker Incorporation should clean it out.

A Bad Case - The Plates Found in the Walks

One of the worst cases that have come under notice was that of lair 788, section 1, belonging to Mrs Berry, 16 Great Western Road. The owner of the lair had her suspicions aroused by reading in the "Journal" some time ago that certain name-plates had been found in the walks of the cemetery, and a description of one of those being given, she came to the conclusion that it belonged to one of the coffins in her lair. Accordingly, she consulted Messrs Cowie and Bell, solicitors, who accompanied Mrs Berry, and witnessed the opening operations. The revelations were such as to confirm Mrs Berry's fears. The grave should have contained the bodies of three adults and three children. A little below the surface were found a few handles of coffins. At a depth of about five feet the diggers came upon the coffin of "James M'Connach, aged 74 years." and immediately under that a name-plate, but no coffin was found. It bore the inscription "Jane M'Connach, aged 50." At a depth of 7ft 3 in. was found the skull of an adult. Still deeper was discovered the name-plate with the inscription, "James M'Connach, aged 2 years." Below that again was one complete skull, portions of two children's skulls, and other bones, all huddled together in one muss. The result showed that there was one complete adult coffin, two name-plates, and a few bones in the grave. One of the plates found in the vicinity of the toolhouse in the course of recent excavations was that of one of the children buried in Mrs Berry's lair, that of a child of 9 years, and one of those which had been found in walk No.10 was that of another child which had been buried in Mrs Berry's ground. Bothe these plates are in the hand of the Crown authorities.

Horrible Case of Overcrowding

A bad case of overcrowding was revealed at lair 1090 section 1, belonging to Alexander Grant, assistant clothier, 83 Rosemount Viaduct. The lair was purchased as a clean one about ten years ago. The first interment know to the holder was that of his aunt, Mary Mutch, wife of John Grant himself. The third interment took place about two months ago, when the body of Alexander Grant, for many years a respected employee in the "Aberdeen Journal" and "Express" office, where he was engaged as a fireman, was laid down. The coffin of "Sandy," as he was familiarly named by his colleagues in the office, was discovered, but there were no more coffins to be found. A lid and two plates, the latter being those of the coffins of John Grant and his wife Mary Mutch, were obtained. The coffins, however, had disappeared. The remains of nine other persons, the doctors certified, were in the grave. The bones were all lying together in an unseemly heap. The remains were afterwards deposited in the grave, and the coffin of Alexander Grant again laid to rest.

Another Ugly Case

In lair 1758, section 2, belonging to Alfred Martin, 252 Union Grove, in which there had been five interments - two adults and three children - the coffins of two adults were got, and in one of these was the coffin of a child. There were thus amissing three bodies.

Two Bodies in One Coffin

In lair 914, section two, belonging to Mr Haldane, 162 Wellington Road, a shocking revelation was made. There had been five interments in the ground, the last being in February, 1889. The two coffins buried last were found all right; but below them was a coffin containing the remains of two bodies. The lid had been taken off apparently for the purpose of cramming the bodies into the coffin. There was no trace of the body of a child buried 30 years ago, but, of course, the owners did not expect that it would be found after the lapse of so many years.

The Aberdeen Journal July 3, 1899

There was one application for grave-opening at Nellfield Cemetery on Saturday, that of Mr Alexander Morrison, Aboyne, who wished to satisfy himself that lair 1014, which belongs to him, was in order. Operations were commenced about noon, and it was found that the grave had remained undisturbed for the last thirty years.

The Aberdeen Journal July 6, 1899

Opening of More Graves at Nellfield

Application was made to Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, advocates, agents for the Baker Incorporation, for the opening of three graves in Nellfield Cemetery yesterday afternoon. The first was lair No 872, in section 2, which was bought as a clean lair over 25 years ago by the late Mr Charles Sleigh, mathematical master, Grammar School, Aberdeen. Three interments had taken place, namely those of two infants in 1873 and 1874, and that of Mr Sleigh himself, on June 25th, 1894. Mr A S Tawse, solicitor, appeared on behalf of the lairholder, along with three of the deceased's gentleman's relatives. Mr Troup was also present from Messrs Edmonds and Ledingham, while Mr Morrison, the new cemetery superintendent, who has commenced duty, was also in attendance superintending operations, which were begun by Cramond and Raffan. As far back as 1894, when Mr Sleigh was buried, there was a circumstance which, since the Nellfield investigations, has aroused the suspicions of the deceased's relatives. The receipt for opening the grave, which was signed by Coutts - the cost was 14s - gave the number of the grave as 406, whereas the receipt given at the time of purchase stated the number as 872. The first coffin was found at a depth of five feet, and everything was found to be right. At a little depth underneath the bits of the other two coffins were found, and the name-plate on one was quite legible. The other name-plate was found affixed to the lid, but although it was too decayed to be deciphered, the relatives of the deceased expressed themselves as entirely satisfied with the condition of the lair.

In lair No. 587, section 3, belonging to Mr James M'Hardy, who hails from the Ellon district, there had been tow interments, that of Mr M'Hardy's father, and a stranger. It had been bought as a clean lair; and the Baker Incorporation had agreed to find interment for the "alien" coffin somewhere else. To make certain that everything was right, Mr M'Hardy had the grave opened, and was was quite satisfied on finding his father's coffin intact.

Two Coffin Lids and Five Skulls

The opening, however, of lair No.974, in section 2, revealed a less satisfactory condition of things. It had been bought as a clean lair in 1881 by Mr James Dick, 20 Regent Quay. In 1883 his sister, then 48 years of age, was interred, and three years later his brother-in-law, George Barron, had also been buried in the same grave. Three years ago his mother, then 80 years of age, was also interred; and Mr Dick then paid Coutts for the deepening. From information received he was recently given to understand that the grave had not been deepened, and that the coffin lid, which he had seen at the time of this mother's interment, and had believed to be the top of his brother-in-law's coffin, was a lid and nothing more. At a depth of 5 feet 6 inches the coffin of his mother was found intact, and on the nameplate was read "Margaret Mortimer, aged 80 years." Underneath a coffin lid was found with a nameplate, on which was inscribed the name of Mr Dick's brother-in-law. Another nameplate, completely undecipherable, was also found. For the rest, at a depth of over 7 feet, there was nothing but bones. These included the skull of a man, four women's skulls, the skull of a boy or girl aged 10, part of the skull of a child, the complete leg bones of two adults, and also a quantity of smaller bones. At the depth of 8 feet 6 inches another coffin lid was found. Mr Dick considered that the result of the inspection confirmed his suspicions. The coffin lids were replace in the grave, and the coffin of his mother having been lowered, the grave was refilled.

William Coutts, Superintendent of Nellfield Cemetery, pleaded guilty at his trial, which was held at the High Court of Justiciary, Aberdeen. He was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

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