It’s almost Halloween! That frightful night when we remember those things that scare us the most. Ghosts, ghouls, saints and martyrs – all play a special role in the All Hallows’ Eve festivities. However, none may be as distasteful as that of the common Grave Robber. Stealing trinkets from the dead or perhaps spiriting the whole body away for few coins to better advance science – the grave robber holds a sinister place in history.
Body Snatching was especially prevalent in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin where the 124 acre cemetery provided boundless opportunities for the brave, poor, and unprincipled. Dublin schools of medicine required vast numbers of bodies for dissection. Adult remains fetched £2, while children’s bodies were sold by the inch. But with cadavers in short supply — a situation presented itself for grave robbers of the time to become quite well-off.
However, the case of Mrs. Margorie McCall, wife of prominent Dublin physician John McCall, might have been enough to scare the grave robbers into a new field of work – at least for a day or two. In 1705, Margorie McCall was stricken with “the fever” and her condition rapidly deteriorated, much to the anguish of her beloved husband John. Margorie succumbed to her bout of fever and was buried in the Shankill Church of Ireland Cemetery, not far from her home in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. She was hastily buried for fear of the fever spreading, and for most of us that’s the end of the story. But for Margorie, she still had to make history.
Her husband had her buried with the large gold wedding band he had given her when he pledged his love and somehow the grave robbers found this out. In the dead of the very night she was buried, they went in to retrieve their treasure. There it was! Unfortunately for the grave robbers, her fingers had swollen with the fever, so it was impossible to pull the ring off successfully. Luckily for Margorie, one thief carried a sharp knife that he wasn’t afraid to use.
The pain of knife on flesh woke Margorie from her catatonic state and made the robbers run headlong for the nearest pub. Disoriented and bleeding from her cut finger, but very much alive, Margorie stumbled to her home. Her husband and family were holding her wake when she arrived, muddy, dressed in a burial shroud, and bleeding profusely from her hand. John McCall was so thoroughly frightened, he passed out in the doorway.
Margorie went on to live many happy years with her husband and when she was finally put to rest for the last time, her tombstone reads in the Shankill Cemetery, MARGORIE MCCALL – LIVED ONCE, BURIED TWICE