Tales from Edinburgh Graveyard (“Graveyard Shift” “Dead Ringer” “Saved by the Bell”)

“Fun Facts Saturday”

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. It is a beautiful, ancient, and fascinating city. It is my second favorite city in the word. (Of course, my namesake London is first.)

Famous Castle and Ancient Graveyard

The most prominent site in Edinburgh is the massive castle built atop a volcanic hill in the center of town. Directly below the castle is the ancient and famous graveyard. According to our Scottish tour guide, this graveyard gave birth to the phrases graveyard shift,” dead ringer,” and saved by the bell.”

“Graveyard Shift”

Centuries ago, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh paid people to donate dead bodies for medical research. The fresher the body, the bigger the payment. So, desperate people started stealing newly buried bodies from the nearby graveyard. The body snatching took place a night.  Thus, the families of the dead paid people to sit in the graveyard all night long to watch over the grave. Hence, the phrase, the “graveyard shift.” After several days, the body was not fresh enough to sell.   

“Dead Ringer” “Saved by the Bell”

Around that same time, when some coffins were reopened, they had scratch marks on the inside. These wretched people had mistakenly been buried alive. Therefore, relatives tied a string on the wrist of the corpse, threaded the string up through the coffin, up through the ground, and tied it to a bell. If the bell rang, the person was rescued. Thus, the phrases “saved by the bell,” and he’s a “dead ringer.”

Royal Infirmary

Near the castle and graveyard is the famous Royal Infirmary. This is the hospital where Florence Nightingale worked. This is also where Sir James Simpson discovered the anesthetic effects of chloroform.  (When Queen Victoria “slept” through her baby delivery without pain, she was so grateful, that she gave Simpson a knighthood, and Dr. Simpson became Sir James.)  

The Royal Infirmary was founded in 1729 as one of the first voluntary and public hospitals in the world. At that time, only the rich got hospital care. Plus, patients would only be admitted during set “banker’s hours.” The Royal Infirmary was unique. The hospital received anyone in need of medical care at any time, day or night, whether they were rich or poor.

The “Aye Door”

According to our tour guide, the entrance to the hospital became known as the “Aye Door.” In Scotland, “aye” means “yes.”  The “Aye,” or “yes,” door was an invitation to everyone. Everyone was welcome. No one was turned away because they were poor, or needed help “after hours.”

The “Aye Door” Principle

Aye door” is a wonderful concept. Our homes should have an aye door. Our churches should have an aye door. Our communities should have an aye door. Our hearts should have an aye door.  We should always welcome others into our homes, our churches, our communities, and our hearts.

More importantly, we should have an “aye door” for the Lord. We should welcome Him, any time day or night, into our homes, our churches, our communities, and our hearts. 

“Arthur’s Seat” hill, where Orson Pratt dedicated Scotland in 1840
The “Royal Mile” from the Castle to the Palace
“Old Town”
“New Town”

(See: http://www.londonedition.net)

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