Monday, 9 August 2010

Hammer Horror

Wi a title like that ye micht expect this wee story tae be a bit saucy an no awfy serious, but ah'm sorry tae disappoint ye. This tale's a gey tragic yin, an if ye're no in great fettle mibbe ye should look awa fer a meenit. Ah'll gie ye a shout when ye can turn back... dinnae worry, ah'll shout ye...

Right. Noo ma story starts aff up the High Street, but ends up doon somewhaur we've been afore...

The Shaws had bided oan oor landin fer years. Ah can barely mind Mrs Shaw noo, she had passed awa giein birth tae wee Cathy no long efter we'd moved in, an Wullie Shaw had nivver re-mairrit. He went right intae hissel efter that, an kept wee Cathy awfy close, ye barely saw them oot. She kept the hoose fae a young age while Wullie scraped a livin as an upholsterer doon in the Coogate. They had precious few freens an no much in the way o faimly, but fer aw their hardships Cathy turned oot a bonnie lass, no whit ye wid cry 'awfy-bonny', but weel-mannert an quiet-spoken...

Though she nivver went oot o an evenin Cathy had got hersel awfy close-in wi a wee jeweller fae yin o the Luckenbooths up at St Giles kirk by the name o Johnny Lawson. They must've been seein quite a bit o each ither, fer it seems that Cathy had set her heart oan mairryin the laddie. Howanever her faither Wullie had ither ideas an in his een the young Johnny wis aw the wrang sort fer his lassie. Mibbe he'd heard aboot the boy's drinkin, or his fondness fer gamblin at the races doon oan Leith Sands, or mibbe it wis aw the jewellery he wore, but whitever his reasons were, Wullie barred Cathy fae seein him an widnae let the lad come onywhaur near the hoose, little kennin that Cathy wis seein wee Johnny ahint her faither's back...

Insteid, Wullie had set his lassie up wi the son o yin o his ain pals, Sanny Robertson fae the next close up but yin, an wis adamant that Cathy went through wi the match, somethin tae dae wi upholsterers stickin th'gither. Cathy fer her pairt wis jist as adamant that she wid nivver be Mrs Robertson, that she'd nivver liked that eedjit since they were at school th'gither an he gave her the creeps, an so the twa o them were at loggerheids oan the subject. The rows got worse an worse until, this yin nicht, things were reachin burstin point...

The first ah kent things were as bad as whit they were wis when auld Mr Morrison came bangin oan ma door. He stayed through the wa fae the Shaws, an though he wis nae nosey-parker, he couldnae help but hear the rammy gaun oan through the wa fae him. The puir auld sowel wis near greetin as he telt me whit he had heard. Apparently, in amangst aw the rowin he had heard Cathy shoutin the words "barbarity, cruelty an death" a number o times, follaed by Wullie leavin the hoose, slammin an lockin the door ahint him. Efter a wee while o quiet Mr Morrison wis sure he could hear Cathy groanin, like as if she wis hurt, an that wis why he had come tae get me. We went runnin back through intae his hoose an listened at the wa...

Sure enough, ye could hear the puir lassie moanin clear as onythin, an when ah pressed ma lug hard in tae the wa ah could jist mak oot these words, "Cruel faither, thou art the cause o ma death!" Thae words put a chill straight intae ma heart, an they'll bide wi me forever, ma blood run cauld. We ran tae the Shaws' door an startit bangin, but got nae response, an yet still we could hear Cathy's groans, so ah chapped oan the door ower the landin an got yin o the bairns tae run fer a constable. While we were waitin ah chapped oan a few mair doors, an by the time the polis arrived there wis quite a wee crowd oan the stairheid. When he got there he pit his shooder tae the door an burst in. Puir Cathy wis lyin oan their front room flair drenched in blood, white as a sheet, an wi a bloody big knife lyin at her side. The polisman wis first at her side, liftit her up, an asked her if it wis her faither that had done this.

Cathy gave a wee nod o her heid, jist yin nod, an expired, right there oan the flair in front o us...

Jist at that very meenit in walks Wullie Shaw. He wis awready kind o shocked at his front door bein wide open an aw the wummen in the stair staunin in his front room, When he looked doon an saw Cathy lyin there deid oan the flair, he sortae sagged an sortae shrunk at the same time an went doon oan his knees. It wis at this point that we noticed the bloodstains oan Wullie's shirt. We aw jist looked at yin anither... Wullie Shaw... Wee Wullie Shaw... Wha wid've thocht that wee Wullie Shaw wis capable o sic an evil act?

The trial wis a short yin. Though Wullie admitted that the twa o them had been rowin, he maintained that he had left her alive an weel an in yin piece that nicht, an that the blood oan his shirt wis his ain blood fae a cut he had got at his work a couple o days afore. The jury though, oan hearin the words that we had heard her sayin through the wa fae auld Mr Morrisin's, took a different view an Wullie wis found guilty o the murder o his ain dauchter, an wis sentenced tae hing till he wis deid. He wis taken doon tae the Gallow Lee oan Leith Walk an hung in chains. This wid be in the November o' 1721...

The hoose lay empty fer a few month, but by August o the next year, 1722, a new tennant had been found fer it. As he wis settlin in he noticed that the fireplace in the front room wis comin awa loose fae the wa an wis a bit shoogly so he startit work tae fix it. When he moved it though, he noticed a bit scrap o paper had dropped doon ahint the mantlepiece. He got it oot. This is whit wis written oan it:-


BARBAROUS FATHER, —-
Your cruelty in having put it out of my power ever to join my fate to that of the only man I could love, and tyrannically insisting upon my marrying one whom I always hated, has made me form a resolution to put an end to an existence which is become a burthen to me. I doubt not I shall find mercy in another world; for sure no benevolent being can require that I should any longer live in torment to myself in this! My death I lay to your charge: when you read this, consider yourself as the inhuman wretch that plunged the murderous knife into the bosom of the unhappy
CATHERINE SHAW.

The handwritin wis confirmed tae be Cathy Shaw's. Puir Wullie wis innocent o the crime efter aw, an the order wis made tae tak his body doon fae the gibbet, where it wis still hingin efter aw these months, an tae gie it a proper Christian burial. A pair o flags were waved abune his grave as a testament tae his innocence...

As ye can imagine it took a while fer me tae get ower these events, ah had tae talk aboot it a lot tae get it oot o me, but puir auld Mr Morrison wis nivver quite the same again. We've got tae be michty thankfu fer the advances they've made in thae forensic maitters, an that these days a puir faither's life disnae rest oan whit his neebors hear through a connectin wa, or oan no haein a clean shirt. Maist o aw let's be thankful we've come tae oor senses an got past hingin fowk. At least oan the brightside Wullie's body didnae end up burnt an in the mortar fer buildin the New Toun, so that's a sma mercy...

Right, ye can look back noo, ah've feenished. Ah said ye can look- ach weel ignore me if ye like. Ah think ah'll awa up an lay some flooers fer Wullie an Cathy Shaw...

5 comments:

  1. What a sad tale... and it's not much in the way of a happy ending for poor auld Wullie...

    You describe tenement life so well... I can just imagine myself there...maybe I was....

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  2. Mibbe ye were tris, mibbe ye were the bairn ah sent tae get the polis. D'ye no mind me giein ye a wee bawbee fer gaun, tae buy some Coulter's candy?

    Bairns were aye haundy up tenement stairs, fer gettin the polis, or fer gaun the messages ah forgot tae buy oan account o' me bletherin tae somebody or ither, or arguin wi the shopkeeper, or jist bein plain glaikit...

    Aye it wis a sorry tale that yin. Puir auld Wullie richt enough. Ah guess that's whit ye ca rough justice, an' there wis a lot o' it aboot in thon days. It's a wonder we didnae aw end up hingin fae a gibbet...

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  3. I believe I recall that now.... I did get candy then I sat on ma mammy's kneee and gret for more.... Ungrateful wretch!

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  4. That wid be cos o' the cocaine they used tae mix in wi the candy, made the bairns aye come back fer mair. The aniseed the Coulters pit in their sweeties wis tae disguise the taste. Oh happy days...

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