Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First

by Peter C. Jupp (Author) Hilary J. Grainger (Author)
©2019 Edited Collection XVIII, 364 Pages


For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Introduction (Jane Dawson)
  • 1 The Death of a Queen and the Birth of a Saint: The Memorialisation and Canonisation of St Margaret of Scotland (Claire Harrill)
  • 2 Advanced Statistical Methods Identify Cultural Differences in Gravemarker Design (George Thomson)
  • 3 ‘Ubi locum meum elegi’ [where I chose my place]: Noble Burial at the Medieval Cistercian Abbey of Coupar Angus (Victoria Hodgson)
  • 4 The Architectural Setting of Prayers for the Dead in Later Medieval Scottish Churches (Richard Fawcett)
  • 5 Negotiating Burial in Early Modern Scotland (Catherine McMillan)
  • 6 Keening in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd (Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart)
  • 7 Robert Mylne and the First Baroque Mural Monument in Greyfriars Kirkyard, 1675 (Cristina González-Longo)
  • 8 ‘I am resolved to avoid being made a public spectacle’: Suicide and the Scottish Criminal Body (Rachel Bennett)
  • 9 Approaching the End: Hogg’s Confessions (Ian Campbell)
  • 10 Following Death: Pauper Bodies and the Medical Schools of Aberdeen, 1832–1914 (Dee Hoole)
  • 11 The Third Marquess of Bute and the Supernatural (Rosemary Hannah)
  • 12 Deadbirth or Stillbirth? Medical and Legislative Implications in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Maelle Duchemin-Pelletier)
  • 13 A Portrayal of Life Beyond Death: Helen Duncan’s Spirit Guide and His Portrait (Michelle Foot)
  • 14 Local Authority Funerals in Early Twenty-first-century Scotland (Glenys Caswell)
  • 15 Private Sector, Collective Need: The Architecture and Design of Scottish Crematoria, 1973–2018 (Hilary J. Grainger)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Death in Scotland: Chapters from the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First is the successor volume to Death in Modern Scotland 1855–1955: Beliefs, Attitudes and Practices, ed. Susan Buckham, Peter C. Jupp and Julie Rugg (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang, 2016).

The origin of both books began when Professor Stewart J. Brown of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University accepted an invitation as an Honorary Consultant to a Leverhulme-funded project at Durham University (2008–2011), led by Professors Douglas J. Davies and Hilary J. Grainger. This project resulted in the publication of the book Cremation in Modern Scotland: History, Architecture and the Law (co-authored by Peter C. Jupp, Douglas J. Davies, Hilary J. Grainger, Gordon D. Raeburn and Stephen R. G. White, Edinburgh: John Donald, 2017). In 2011 Stewart Brown invited Peter Jupp to become an Honorary Fellow in the Divinity School with a brief to organise conferences on ‘death in Scotland’.

Death in Modern Scotland emerged from the first conference (2013); this second volume springs from the conferences held in 2014 and 2016, all three hosted by New College. The three conferences generated over 120 papers. They have been deliberately inter-disciplinary. Whilst human mortality has long been a major focus for such subjects as anthropology, archaeology, demography, medicine and religion, the interdisciplinary perspective from the early 1990s has encouraged increasing scholarly and public interest in death. Specialist studies of Scottish death have steadily increased and are represented in this new book.

The editors wish to acknowledge the work and commitment of many individuals, especially other members of the conference committees for 2014 and 2016, including Jean Reynolds of the Divinity School, Dr Susan Buckham, Dr Julie Rugg, Dr Alexandra Bergholm and Dr Victoria Whitworth, and New College student volunteers. Professor Stewart Brown and Professor Jane Dawson with Dr Elizabeth Cumming and Dr Margaret Mackay recommended a number of the participating speakers and subsequent authors. Friends and colleagues who have given us the benefit ← ix | x → of their advice and support include Dr Arnar Arnason; Dr Brian Parsons, Joanne Patterson-Gordon, Dr Gordon Raeburn, Dr Michael Smith, Mr Theo Smith (The Society of Authors) and Mr Stephen White. We also thank the managers and staff of all the crematoria cited in Chapter 15.

The editors and committee members alike are grateful to the Principal of New College, the Revd Professor David Fergusson, and to the School of Divinity for their hospitality and; to the Cremation Society of Great Britain and Edinburgh Crematorium Ltd for their generous financial support to the conferences. The Cremation Society’s staff have been prompt and generous with enquiries. The editors of this book thank The London Cremation Company plc for its generous financial assistance towards the illustration costs for this publication.

We thank our authors and wish them well in this and all their future contributions to death studies.

We are grateful for the guidance, patience and experience of the staff at Peter Lang, particularly Lucy Melville, Natasha Collin, Michael Garvey, Jonathan Smith, Dr Philip Dunshea (Commissioning Editor) and Dr Valentina Bold (Series General Editor).

We are indebted to three particular colleagues and friends: Susan de la Rosa (University of the Arts London) for her invaluable contribution to the organisation of illustrations; Katherine Walker Brodie for the critical benefit of her editorial advice; and Katherine Riley for her secretarial and administrative skills.

A special expression of gratitude goes to our team of peer reviewers for this volume. Essays drawing on ten centuries of Scottish life and history required a very wide range of specialisms. We have enormous admiration for our reviewers. Whilst anonymity is the sine qua non of the specialist knowledge they have placed at our disposal, it prevents us giving them all the credit they deserve.

This book has taken twenty months to complete. All this time, the editors have had unstinting and generous family support: Peter thanks his wife Elisabeth and their sons Ed Jupp and Miles Jupp with their families; Hilary thanks her husband Colin Viner and their daughters Alex and Jess. To them all we dedicate this book. They all deserve our love and gratitude.

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Figure 2.1. Charts derived from gravemarker data. A-bar chart: the relative frequency of letterform attributes in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, B-pie chart: the percentages of lettering styles in Buttevant, Co. Cork and Galbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, C-frequency map: the distribution of ligatures in Dumfries and Galloway, D-spindle chart: the evolution of script letterforms in Scotland, E-hierarchical tree: classification of gravemarkers in Dumfries and Galloway. ©George Thomson. Note: Thomson, G., Dead easy statistics for gravemarker research (Waterbeck: George Thomson, 2016).

Figure 2.2. Scatter plot (ordination) from a principle component analysis of letterform attributes in Dumfries and Galloway revealing a distinct group in southern Dumfriesshire (open circles). ©George Thomson. Note: Thomson, Research in inscriptional palaeography (RIP). Tombstone lettering in Dumfries and Galloway.’

Figure 2.3. Transformations of the letter g: A-the original form, B-displacement, C-rotation, and D-scale. Note that the actual shape does not change. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.4. Selected landmarks on the letter I for use in geometric morphometrics. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.5. Four grave slabs from St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.6. PCA from geometric morphometric data revealing a group of nine related gravemarkers from St Magnus Cathedral, based on inscriptional lettering. Labels refer to the ← xi | xii → gravestones as numbered in the study. ©George Thomson. Note: Thomson, A morphometric study of lettering on some distinctive grave slabs in Orkney.

Figure 2.7. Four gravestones by the Ards Carvers from (top left to bottom right) Portpatrick, Wigtownshire, and Bangor, Grey Abbey and Donaghadee, Co. Down, Ireland. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.8. PCA from geometric morphometrics based on lettering on gravemarkers highlighting three groups which probably suggest three different carvers in the Ards Peninsula. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.9. Four headstones from (top left to bottom right) Sande, Kirschwistedt, Bockhorn, and Wiefelstede, Oldenburger Land, northern Germany. ©George Thomson.

Figure 2.10. PCA from geometric morphometrics showing the difference between gravemarker inscriptions in Lower Saxony (open circles), Schleswig-Holstein (solid circles in large envelope) and south-west Denmark (solid circles in small envelope). ©George Thomson. Note: Thomson, ‘Gravestone inscriptions in north Germany and Denmark: A morphometric study’, Markers XXXII (2016), 96–133.

Figure 3.1. Effigy of a knight now displayed in the modern parish church at Coupar Angus. © Victoria Hodgson.

Figure 3.2. Section of a tomb chest now built into an interior wall of the modern parish church at Coupar Angus. © Victoria Hodgson.

Figure 4.1. Fowlis Easter Collegiate Church, the face of the font bowl on which the harrowing of hell is depicted. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.2. Fowlis Easter Collegiate Church, the Sacrament House, on which Christ is depicted as Salvator Mundi (David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. 3, 1897). ← xii | xiii →

Figure 4.3. St Andrews, St Salvator’s Collegiate Chapel, the tomb of the chapel’s founder, Bishop James Kennedy. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.4. Crossraguel Abbey, the site of the Lady Altar and the burial place of Egidia, Lady Row. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.5. Glasgow Cathedral, the screen and the altar platforms in front of which Archbishop Blackadder wished to be buried. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.6. Dunkeld Cathedral, the tomb of Bishop Robert Cardeny in the south nave chapel. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.7. Straiton Church, the chapel of the Kennedy of Blairqhan family. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.8. Arbuthnott Church, the chapel of the Arbuthnott family. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.9. Melrose Abbey, the chapels built along the south nave flank. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.10. Seton Collegiate Church, diagrammatic representation of the progressive stages of its construction. ©Richard Fawcett.

Figure 4.11. Edinburgh St Giles Church, elevation of the north flank before nineteenth-century restoration (Registrum Cartarum Ecclesie Sancti Egidii de Edinburgh, 1859).

Figure 7.1. Bethune’s monument in its context. © Cristina González-Longo.

Figure 7.2. Measured drawing of Bethune’s monument. © Cristina González-Longo.

Figure 7.3. Bethune’s monument. © Cristina González-Longo.

Figure 7.4. Frontispiece to Palladio’s Quattro Libri dell’Architettura. From Palladio, Andrea, I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura. Facsimile of the first edition (1570) with an illustrative note on the life and the work of Palladio by O. Cabiati (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore Libraio, 1990). Published with permission from the Casa Editrice Libraria Ulrico Hoepli. ← xiii | xiv →

Figure 10.1. Stairway at Marischal College, Aberdeen, to the Anatomy Dissecting Room, up which many pauper bodies would have been taken from the Funeratory (November 2018). ©J. D. Hoole.

Figure 10.2. MSU 1332/4/2/1, Aberdeen Anatomy Accounts Book, Dr Redfern 1852.

Figure 10.3. Cartoon of Professor Struthers as a Bone Collector, ASpL, Bon Accord, Vol. II, No. 1, 13 November 1886.

Figure 12.1. Schultze’s Method of Artificial Respiration. Egbert Grandin, and George Jarman, A Text-book on Practical Obstetrics comprising Pregnancy, Labor, and the Puerperal State, and Obstetric Surgery, 2 vols (Philadelphia, PA: The F. A. Davis Company, 1897), vol. i, plate XL, 198.

Figure 13.1. A photograph of ‘Albert’ from Helen Duncan’s séance. Copy from a private collection with permission.

Figure 13.2. A photograph of a ‘materialisation’ from a Helen Duncan séance. The identity of the spirit is sometimes attributed to ‘Peggy’. Originally published in Harry Price’s Leaves From A Psychist’s Case-Book (1933).

Figure 13.3. Frederick William George, The Disciple, c.1936; The portrait bust of ‘Albert’. Edinburgh College of Parapsychology. ©Michelle Foot.

Figure 13.4. A comparison between the two portraits of ‘Albert’. Slater’s depiction on the left, George’s on the right. Psychic News (31 July 1937).

Figure 13.5. Jacques James Tissot, The Mediumistic Apparition, 1885. Mezzotint print after the original painting. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Figure 15.1. Dunfermline Crematorium, 1973, Fife Council. Local Authority Architect George Alexander ← xiv | xv → Stenhouse. View of the Chapel interior with catafalque placed centrally between windows offering views of the natural landscape. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.2. Moray Crematorium, Broadley, Buckie, Moray. 1998–9 conversion of Enzie South Parish Church (1885–7) by local funeral directors, Christies. Now owned by Dignityplc. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.3. Houndwood Crematorium, Grantshouse, Berwickshire. 2015 conversion of Grantshouse and Houndwood Church (1836) by the Carlton Group, Edinburgh. Now owned by Dignityplc. View from the road. © Dr Brian Parsons.

Figure 15.4. Parkgrove Crematorium, Douglasmuir, Friockheim, Angus. Architect Inglis & Carr, Kirriemuir, 1993 for Parkgrove Crematorium Ltd. View of the main entrance. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.5. Inverness Crematorium, Invernesshire, 1995. Architect Graham Rennie for Highland Council. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.6. Holmsford Bridge Crematorium, Dreghorn, Irvine, 1997. Architects, Critchell, Harrington & Partners Ltd for The Caledonian Cremation Company. Now owned by Dignityplc. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.7. Holytown Crematorium, Holytown, North Lanarkshire, 2004. Architect Philip Baldry, Art Tech Ltd., Great Yarmouth for Dignityplc. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.8. Roucan Loch Crematorium, Collin, Dumfries, 2005. Robert Potter & Partners for the Roucan Loch Crematorium Company. View across the loch. © Ruth Jardine. ← xv | xvi →

Figure 15.9. West Lothian Crematorium, Livingston, 2010. Architects Stride Treglown for Westerleigh Group Ltd. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.10. South Lanarkshire Crematorium, Blantyre, 2006. Architect Robert Potter & Partners for South Lanarkshire Council. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

Figure 15.11. Borders Crematorium, Melrose, 2011. Architects Stride Treglown for Westerleigh Group Ltd. View from Wairds Cemetery. © Professor Hilary J. Grainger.

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Table 3.1. Burials at Coupar Angus in the documentary record up to c.1300.

Table 3.2. Information contained in ‘the coppy of the tabill quhilk ves at Cowper of al the erles of Erroll quhilk ver buryd in the abbey kirk thair’ (in order listed).

Table 8.1. Table of Cases. The Six Capitally Condemned Malefactors who Circumvented State-sanctioned Public Death Between 1752 and 1826.


XVIII, 364
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (June)
Scotland death funerals memorials crematoria cemeteries capital punishment keening architecture Scottish Reformation afterlife Calvinism Predestination the supernatural Spiritualism social class
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 364 pp., 22 fig. col., 25 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Peter C. Jupp (Author) Hilary J. Grainger (Author)

Peter Jupp is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, a United Reformed Church minister and former Chair of the Cremation Society of Great Britain. Co-founding editor of the journal Mortality and co-founder of the conference series «The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal», he has published several books in death studies. He was the recipient of the Robert Fulton Center for Death and Education Founder’s Award in 2010. Hilary J. Grainger OBE is Dean and Professor of Architectural History at the University of the Arts London and Honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University. She is the leading authority on both the late Victorian architect Sir Ernest George and the architecture of British crematoria. She is Chair of the Victorian Society, President of the Association for the Study of Death and Society and Vice-Chair of the Cremation Society of Great Britain.


Title: Death in Scotland
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