A GOWN worn by the judge at the trial of the killer William Burke, one of Scotland’s most notorious criminals, has been discovered after lying forgotten in a trunk for decades.
The 200-year-old robe of David Boyle was found locked in a store cupboard along with a suit at Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire, the ancestral seat still occupied by the Boyle family, earls of Glasgow since the 18th century.
Boyle was the presiding judge at the trial over the infamous West Port murders, a series of barbaric slayings committed in 19th-century Edinburgh by William Burke and William Hare.
Patrick Boyle, the current Earl of Glasgow – David Boyle’s great, great, great, great, great, great nephew – said the items, which have been dated and authenticated, are among the most significant in the 800-year history of the family.
He intends to place them on display following a £2.4 million upgrade of the castle and its surrounding estate in Fairlie, near Largs, which were opened to the public in 1986.
Lord Glasgow, a Liberal Democrat peer, said: “The Burke and Hare murders are among the most notorious crimes to have been committed in Scotland. To have a relic so closely associated with the case is a significant find which adds to Kelburn’s importance as a central place in the nation’s history.”
David Boyle, Lord Justice Clerk at the time of Burke’s trial and later Lord Justice General of Scotland, was known for his “ardent and zealous” temper, which earned him the nickname The Black Man.
Passing the death sentence, he expressed regret that Burke’s body could not be gibbeted – hung on display in chains. The criminal’s skeleton remains on display at Edinburgh University Museum.
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