What Did Happen to William Hare?

William Hare

William Hare

Applecross in the North West of Scotland has held the reputation of being a sanctuary. Among locals there has long been whispered rumours that William Hare, half of the infamous Burke and Hare duo, lived out the remainder of his life in Applecross.

Burke and Hare were originally body snatchers in Edinburgh, digging up corpses to sell to the medical school for disection. Finding this too much effort for little return they turned to murder as a quicker and more reliable way of providing bodies when needed. They were eventually caught but Hare was released when he provided King’s evidence, being granted his freedom in return for convicting his partner Burke.

Hare disappeared shorly after his release and there is no evidence to where he ended his days. It was strongly believed by some that he came to the Sanctuary of Applecross under the new identity of William Maxwell in 1840 and worked in the lime kilns. On Maxwell’s birth certificate it said that he was born at sea, his Mother unknown. While Maxwell stayed at Applecross it was rumoured that official people came asking after him, but never actually approached Maxwell himself. Maxwell like Hare was deformed.

The last known evidence of Hare’s whereabouts was given in a report in The Edinburgh Evening Courant on Febuary 9th, 1829. It contained a report of Hare being recognized travelling on a coach from Edinburgh to Portpatrick (Stranraer), being threatened by a mob at Dumfries and being smuggled out of jail at night by police and being put on the Carlise road. If true this indicates that he was probably heading for Stranraer, perhaps to return to his birthplace in Ireland. It seems unlikely that he would have turned around and headed further north towards a remote part of Scotland, but who knows?

There are unconfirmed reports that Hare died a pauper in London, which is perhaps more likely. Interestingly, rumours reported that he was thrown into a lime pit and blinded and the person in Applecross reputed to have been Hare also had scars to his face said to have been from burns.

The stories and rumours continue to this day. Just 2 years ago a man visited the registrar at Dingwall looking for information on a relative called William Maxwell. He claimed to not have heard the rumours before and dismissed them perhaps a little too easily.


About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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2 thoughts on “What Did Happen to William Hare?

  1. Shaun Cheyne

    Retired genealogist, found when William Hare in 1778, married in Lisburn in 1813, discharged army 1814, consumption, presumably went to Union Canal, etc, etc, died in North of Ireland 1862, more research continued at moment, more details get in touch

    • Shaun Cheyne

      Retired genealogist, maybe retired too late? This is the wrong William Hare or O’Hare born in east of County Armagh circa 1792. Went to work Scotland Union Canal about 1818, eventually came back to Ireland County Louth in 1829, buried TB in Kilkeel Workhouse graveyard [I'm getting there?]


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