Life in Newburgh on Ythan

By Talpa

In the graveyard of Kirkton of Tough

Tonight I have to give a talk on graverobbers and some of the methods used to thwart them. This is an example of what I shall be talking about; it is a mortsafe, a device designed to prevent a coffin and corpse from being stolen.
Sometime around 1905 a gravedigger opening up a grave  in the kirkyard at Tough in Aberdeenshire came across an iron mort-safe of unusual design. The iron cage, 6 foot 8 inches in length was manhandled out of the grave and it still lies against the kirkyard wall.
The cage consists of 4 rectangles of iron bar  joined together by 4 riveted iron rods that run from end to end. The upper bar of the iron cage, which is particularly strong, is securely fastened into a heavy stone at each end with an iron bolt set into lead. It would appear that the device was constructed around the coffin and the stones attached prior to the burial. The whole mort-safe is so heavy and so robust that grave-robbers would have had the greatest of difficulty in raising it from the grave, let alone of breaking it open. This mort-safe had clearly been designed to be left in the ground after burial rather than to be retrieved for reuse. When it was finally raised, some 70 years after its burial, the coffin and skeleton had completely disintegrated but the mort-safe was fully intact showing that it had served its purpose.

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