The Wayfarer - The strange tale of Margaret Dixon who was very much alive

The world is full of oddities, they are the basis for many of the old tales told around a warm fireside on a cold winter’s night.

When something could not be explained satisfactorily it was put down to the supernatural and in many cases blamed on witches. A hare running about like they tend to do in the month of March has brought forth the idea that witches take the form of a hare to avoid being seen or caught. An old lady living alone is perhaps a little eccentric and either does not like company or frets for a little company and talks to herself to compensate, is often considered a witch and blamed for all that becomes unexplainable in an area.Now here is a strange true tale for you to ponder over, it concerns a Margaret Dixon from Musselburgh who in the early 1700s was found guilty of murdering her infant child and after a trial was sentenced to hang in November 1728. The hanging took place in Edinburgh and after the due period her body was taken down and placed in a coffin to be sent for burial in Musselburgh by her family. Some two miles from Edinburgh her transporters stopped for some refreshment when one of them noticed that the coffin lid had moved. He went to replace and secure the lid when the occupant sat up to the consternation of all present. Margaret Dixon’s body showed signs of life so it was moved to a room in the local hostelry and a doctor sent for.

After examination to find that she was very much alive and quite capable of walking home without any help. Now officially Margaret Dixon’s sentence of death had been carried out so she was considered legally dead and therefore could not be returned to the scaffold. Her death had also freed her from her marriage vows but she happily remarried her husband and lived to a ripe old age still pleading her innocence.

No doubt this was a tale that enthralled all the listeners and it was a wonder that Margaret Dixon should not have been considered a witch and tried for witchcraft. But that could have created further legal complications in view of all that went before and no doubt considered best left alone.On reflection, and in the light of the current advances in medical science it seems that Margaret Dixon’s only ‘crime’ was that of having suffered a miscarriage.

However, this brings to mind the thought of how many other ladies were considered guilty of murder under similar circumstances.

A thought best left alone and I will seek out more strange tales for next week.