Saturday, 9 May 2009

Higgins boys cremated a century on

Two years ago, whilst researching the family history of a client in the US, I made the shocking discovery that two of her cousins had been brutally murdered by their father in 1911. The boys, William and John Higgins, aged 7 and 4, were drowned in Hopetoun Quarry and their bodies not discovered until 1913.

The boys' bodies had been so well preserved in the water that the pathologist sent to examine them, Sir Sydney Smith, stole some of their remains for the forensic museum at the University of Edinburgh, using extremely dubious means, even by the ethical standards of the time. In his own autobiography, "Mostly Murder", he himself described the incident as "bodysnatching". Having made enquiries with the museum, it was discovered that the institution still held the purloined remains of the two boys. The full story was carried by the BBC in January last year (Plea for Return of Stolen Remains) and in the Scotsman (Stolen Lives).

I can now announce a happy outcome to this situation. On Wednesday, on behalf of my client, the University of Edinburgh held an extremely dignifed requiem mass service for the two boys in Edinburgh, attended by the members of the current pathology department, students and university staff, after which their remains were finally cremated.

I would like to publically thank the university for their assistance in this matter, and for doing the right thing, finally restoring to the two boys some dignity after their death.

For university comment, and more on the story, the Herald has the story: After a Century Two Tragic Young Brothers are Finally Laid to Rest.

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