Friday, February 7, 2014

Were The Scottish Cannibals Real Or Myth...?

Here is something you don't here about too often, I'll bet! Trouble may or may not be true!

Either way, it makes for an interesting story and is worth wondering about. Like I said, it's not something we hear about very often!

The Cave-Dwelling Cannibals Of Scottish Legend
By Debra Kelly on Sunday, February 2, 2014

According to legend, Sawney Bean was the head of a cannibalistic clan that operated out of a network of caves on the coast of Scotland. It took 400 men and a pack of dogs to bring the clan to justice, and it was only after killing more than 1,000 people that they were executed. The problem is, no one knows how much—if any—of it is true.

According to the story, Alexander Sawney Bean was the patriarch of a Scottish family that made their home in the caves near either Galloway, Ayrshire or Ballantrae on Bennane Head. He ran away from his home village of East Lothian with a wife that was just as mean, lazy, and hateful as he was. In time, their family grew to include 14 children and 32 grandchildren, all from incestuous relationships.

Over the course of 25 years, it was said that they killed more than 1,000 people. They started out preying on single travelers, but as they grew in numbers they would accost groups of people on the road, then kill them and drag them back to their caves. Possessions would be stripped away and the bodies dismembered then eaten.

And more than just the people that the family killed and ate, there were other deaths attributed to them as well, albeit indirectly. Since the family was said to prey on travelers, suspicion would often fall on innkeepers who had guests regularly disappearing; it’s not known how many of these innocent innkeepers lost their lives after being falsely accused, but it’s said that the area around the Bean family caves became more and more desolate as the more honorable of the citizenry fled to safer grounds.

The Bean family eventually attacked a couple returning home from the fair. While the unfortunate wife was pulled from her horse, slaughtered, and butchered on the spot, the husband struggled long enough that a crowd appeared on the road behind them and forced the family to run away. When the husband took his case to the king, dogs were sent searching for the family and found a cave entrance that had been hidden from view for more than two decades decades. It took 400 men, but the Bean family was finally delivered to justice and dragged from their caves, which was described as being lined with body parts, both fresh and pickled in jars. The men were drawn and quartered, and the women were burnt at the stake.

But just how true is it? No one really knows.

The legend is told with a number of different elements, most drastically the time period it’s set in. According to some versions, the Bean family stalked the Scottish coast in the 15th century. In others, it’s a 17th-century tale. Sometimes, the king that brings the family’s rule to an end is James I, sometimes it’s James VI. Either way, there are no actual records of any such family or trial until at least the 18th century, and there are no records of large-scale murders or even of accusations hurled at local innkeepers and other scapegoats. And when the legend does first appear, it appears in England.

While some people believe the story to be a historical fact, others say it’s nothing more than some impressively gruesome English propaganda. It appeared in its earliest written forms during the Jacobite risings, and this was a time when the English particularly scoffed as the uncivilized, unnecessarily aggressive Scots to their north.

Now, it’s become a strange tale between truth and fiction, and a popular tradition that more people embrace than hate.

Now one thing to keep in mind about this or any other legend or myth. They all had at least a small kernel of truth to them at first. Over time most stories like this grow and expand with each telling, until at last the truth is hidden from view. I believe that all legends are like this, but what do I know?

Better stay inside for coffee this morning! How about some biscuits and honey...or peach jam?


Linda said...

Legends and myths have some basis in fact, a kernel of truth, for sure. Often these tales are told with an ulterior motive, such as keeping people from associating with another. Invoking fear is fun around a campfire. Those were fearsome tales you recounted. I am going to have to investigate more. Are there books about this legend? Thanks.

linda m said...

That is a gruesome story no matter if it is true or not. Don't think I would have wanted to travel in that area back then. Coffee inside (with biscuits and honey) sounds good -4 degrees here. Have a good weekend.

Sissy said...

Yes, it is definitely a gruesome tale yet we must keep in mind that we are descended from the earliest cave-dwellers; in earlier centuries, writing or education was only for the elite of society; thus, knowledge of what happened at any time was spread by word of mouth...and so could get distorted. Yet, from my bits of knowledge about the very early centuries, I think this tale is most likely true.

Isn't it wonderful to be living in these modern times, able to sit with a cup of coffee and be civilized? Count me in this morning; I love peach preserves.

BBC said...


JO said...

What a gruesome tale that is. But what makes it a little hard to believe is the pickled parts found. I find it hard to believe these people when shopping for jars. But yes as the years go by tales do grow.

I'll have a refill please.

a.rogue (Alice) said...

Oh my goodness that was gruesome! I agree they probably didn't have jars!
I think often such myths arise out of a need to explain an actual occurrence, such as travelers going missing though I doubt the escapades or the family grew to such numbers.
Thanks for the lively tale - I am sure I will remember it for quite sime time! :)

Dizzy-Dick said...

I knew a fellow named Bean, but he was a preacher. . then there is Mr. Bean on the educational TV channel. His antics still make me laugh. The Bean clan you describe is not so nice, for sure.

HermitJim said...

Hey Linda...
Whatever the motive behind the story, it is creepy!

There probably are some more books on this, but I haven't researched any!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Linda...
Scratch me off the travel list for that area as well!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Sissy...
Let's hope that most of those around are as civilized as we think!

I sure appreciate you dropping over today!

Hey BBC...
I know...right?

Thanks for the visit!

Hey Jo...
People used to use other containers other than jars to hold pickled items, I think.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

Hey Alice...
It is a tale that's hard to forget quickly.

Thanks so much for coming over today!

Hey Dizzy...
Was he by any chance Scottish? May somebody in his family tree?

I'd say nice wasn't a description for this family, for sure!

Thanks for coming over today!

Gorges Smythe said...

Sounds like a couple of my former inlaws!