Burial Grounds Search.

This selection of article gives an account of the subsequent court case which ensued after Elizabeth Irving gave birth and subsequently abandoned the child ( Isabella ) in the Howff. What does come across in these articles is how sympathetic and understanding the sheriff is throughout the case.


The Dundee Courier and Argus, Saturday, October 10, 1874


A woman named Elizabeth Irvine, belonging to Kirriemuir, has been apprehended on a charge of exposing the new born child that was found yesterday afternoon in the Howff. The occupants of the house in which she had been acting as a domestic servant gave the police a full description, and by means of this and other infoprmation which had been obtained regarding the localities in which some of the woman's friends resided, the police were enabled to apprehend her. It appears that she has a brother who resides near Jeanfield, about six miles from Dundee, and suspecting that she would go in that direction Inspector Lamb and Detective Ferguson set out for that place in the afternoon. While hanging about in the vicinity of her brother's house they discovered a woman walking along the road. She had her dress pulled over her head, and appeared worn out. Suspecting that this was the mother of the child, the police officers spoke to her, but she declined to reply, and sat down. Her relatives were then called out, and they at once identified her, but it was with the utmost difficulty she was persuaded to go to their house. A cup of tea was made for her, which she gratefully drank, and appeared to be somewhat refreshed by it. Having left her in the custody of Detective Ferguson, Inspector Lamb left for Dundee. He returned to Jeanfield with Dr Pirie, who examined the woman; and we understand she made a full confession of her guilt. It will be a week before she can be removed to Dundee, when she will likely be charged with concealment of pregnancy, and exposing her child to the danger of life. It is supposed that after leaving the howff she had gone to Jeanfield by way of Lochee and Camperdown.

The Dundee Courier and Argus, Saturday, November 14 1874

Elizabeth Irvine, domestic servant, residing at Jeanfield, in the parish of Mains and Strathmartine, was brought up on a charge of having, "on Thursday the 8th October, in the Howff Burying Ground, Meadowside, Dundee, wickedly and felonously exposed a female child, to which she had then and there given birth, and reckless of consequences, deserted and abandoned the child, and left it on the ground without any covering, helpless and exposed, to the danger of its life." She plead not guilty, and the trial was adjourned til the 26th instant. She held the child in her arms, and during the few minutes she was in Court sobbed very loudly.

The Dundee Courier and Argus, Friday, November 27, 1874

A Second Diet Jury Court was held yesterday - Sheriff Cheyne on the bench.

Elizabeth Irvine, domestic servant, residing at Jeanfield, in the parish of Mains and Strathmartine, was brought up on a charge of having "on Thursday the 8th October, in the Howff Burying Ground, Meadowside, Dundee, wickedly and felonously exposed a female child, to which she had then and there given birth, and reckless of consequences, deserted and abandoned the child, and left it on the ground without any covering, helpless and exposed, to the danger of its life." She pleaded not guilty, and Mr Andrew Hendry, solicitor, conducted the defence. A special defence was lodged for the prisoner to the effect that at the time the occurence took place, the woman was insane.
The first witness called was
Mrs Eliza Brown of Leask - I live with my husband, the master of the Eastern Club. Prisoner was nurserymaid with me from 27th May last until 8th October. She previously lived with her brother in the country. During her service with me I noticed something peculiar in her appearance about a month before she left. I told her I did not like her appearance. I told her so on three different occasions, the last time on Monday previous to her leaving. She said it was an attack of blood spitting which she has previously had coming on her again. When I engaged her she had told me that she had had a child before. It was arranged that she was to leave at November term. I saw her in the house on the morning of the 8th October about nine o'clock. That was the last time I saw her. She went to bring some tea to me, but did not return. She did not ask leave to go away. She didn't say anything about going to her brother's that day.

Cross-examined by Mr HENDRY- I have been poorly myself. I was in bed that morning. When I said I did not like her appearance I didn't directly charge her with anything. I thought she would be able to work up until the term. She was accustomed to walk in the howff Burying Ground. She never went there before ten o'clock. She left the whole of her clothing in the Club. She just left in the same state, as regards clothing, as she had been going about the house. I expected her to come back. She was kind and attentive to the children.

Re-examined- She did not ask my permission to go out that morning. She did not have the children with her.

By the SHERIFF- Her manner was the same that morning as before. She was not confused of excited. She usually went out with the children between ten and eleven.

Mrs Isabella Dow of Robertson, Eastern Club- I last saw prisoner in the Club between fifteen and twenty minutes past nine on the morning of the 8th October. I exchanged a few words with her then. I missed her about ten minutes afterwards.

By the SHERIFF- I did not see her go out. She did not say anything about going out. There was nothing unusual about her that morning.

Cross-examined- She was kind to the children, and a quiet and agreeable fellow servant. She very often went to the burying-ground.

Mrs Mary King or McCabe- My husband used to take his breakfast in the Howff Burying Ground. I went with it there on the morning of the 8th October. It was about nine o'clock. My husband came about a quarter-past nine. There were a good many people like ourselves there. I had a little dog with me. It was scampering about the ground. It attracted my attention to a particular spot. This was about half past ten. I went to the place. There was a monument with a high rainling around it at the place. I found a newly born child, naked as it came into the world, and just as if it had been newly born. The child was inside the railing. The railing was not wide enough to admit of the child being passed through. From the position of the child, it appeared to have been thrown over. It was lying partly on its side. It was crying. There were some marks of blood outside the railing. I called on the people, and Mary Alcorn came and went over the railing, and handed the child over to me. It was a female child. The child's lip was cut and bleeding. The police came, and I carried the child to the Police Office. Dr Pirie came and sewed the childs lip. It was a fine morning. I did not see a person near the stone. The stone was out of sight during the time my husband was at breakfast.

By the SHERIFF- The stone was a good way off.

Cross-examined- A great many windows look into the Howff. There are always a good many people going about between nine and ten. The place is close to one of the walks. The child was lying on a large stone. It would not be possible to reach the hand through the railing from the place where the blood was on the oputside.

Mary Alcorn, sacksewer, Horsewater Wynd- I went with my boy's breakfast to the Howff on the morning of the 8th October. About half-past ten, I heard Mrs McCabe call for help. I went to the place, and saw the child inside the railing. I went over and handed the child to Mrs McCabe. The people said not to go until the police came. I said it might be dead by that time. I formed the opinion that the child had been thrown over the railing. The child was lying on its face.

Cross-examined- The child might have been put through the railing, but my opinion was that it was thrown over. I can't say there was not space to pass the child through.

Mr HENDRY- If the child had been thrown would the injuries not have been more severe?
Witness- It would just depend upon whether it was thrown down "hard or canny." I can't say whether the injuries would have been more severe.

John Manson, police constable- I went with the child to the Police Office. I returned to the burying ground after the child was left in the Police Office. I saw traces of blood from the place where the child was found towards the gate in the north-west corner in Ward Road, then across the street to Constitution Road up to Euclid Street, across Bell Street towards Irelands Lane, where the traces were lost.

Cross-examined- The blood marks were about a foot or two off from the monument. The height of the railings is about four feet. The space between the railings I think would be about five of six inches. There was a stone beside the monument on which a person might have stood and reached the child over the railing. I don't think the child was tossed or dropped over. It had been placed on the stone.

Inspector Lamb- In consequence of information we received I and another officer went to Jeanfield, a place about six miles from Dundee. I arrived there shortly after seven o'clock, and went to the house of the prisoners brother. After I had been at her brother's house, and was on the way to Dundee again, I met prisoner on the road coming from the Dundee direction. I allowed her to pass, and afterwards followed her. I told her we were officers from Dundee, and that we had come to apprehend her on a charge of having a child in the howff and leaving it there. She did not say anything but gave a long sigh, and wanted to get away from her brother's house. We had great difficulty in getting her to go to the house. In the house she said that she did not intend to do it. She said she intended to come out with the ten o'clock train. She also said "the last one was bad, but this was a great deal worse." She appeared to be perfectly aware of what she was doing. She became excited after she knew she was in our hands. She did not appear to be a woman out of her mind. I left her there and came for Dr Pirie, who went out.

Cross-examined- I believe she had not been at her brother's house before she was taken there by us. She had either a petticoat or shawl on her head when I met her. I believe she had been without shelter from the morning till the time she went to her brother's house with us. She appeared to be very weak. She was put about, and apparently thought shame of her position. I think she could easily have given us and intelligent account of the affair at the time, but she seemed to be more inclined to say nothing about it.

By the SHERIFF- She understood the charge.

Re-examined- She said she had just been coming out the road from the morning till the time I saw her. She said she walked the whole road.

Mrs Isabella Strachan or Irvine- My husband is a miller in Jeanfield, and brother of the prisoner. Prisoner's parents live at Kirriemuir. She lived with her parents for six months before she went to the Club. I called upon her twice during her service at the Club. I didn't see anything peculiar in her appearance. She never hinted to me that she was pregnant. If she had done so I would have taken her out of my house. Inspector Lamb came to my house about half-past seven on the night of the 8th October and asked me to come out, and with my assistance Elizabeth was brought into the house. I had not seen her before for some weeks. I expected her out on a visit two Sabbaths previous. I asked her what was the matter. She told me she had had a child. I asked the officers if it was dead or alive. They said it was alive, and a fine child and Isabella immediately said to bring it out to her. That was the first information I had of her being pregnant, I asked her why she didn't come to me. She said she intended to come out on the sabbath previous to tell me. I have asked her since where she was from the morning till the evening, and she says she "wandered, but she didn't know where." She was very weak, and seemed ashamed of her position. She looked as if she was in an unsound state of mind, On the following day she was insensible, and always thought she was in her position at the Club, and amongst the children. She has nursed the child, and has been very poorly since the occurrence, especially this week. She had a child before. It lives with her parents at Kirriemuir.

Cross-examind- She was violent, and always wanted up to her work.

Re-examind- On the Thursday night she told me who the father of the child was. She told me where he resided. It was not Dundee.

Mrs Margaret Robertson or Reid- I took charge of the child from the parochial authorities. After the child was seen by the doctor, I took it to prisoner, and when there asked her why she left it. She said she intended to go back for it. I said she would go back for it perhaps after it was dead. She made no reply.

Cross-examind- At that time she appeared to be weak in bodily health.

Mr HENDRY- And you twitted her with going back for it after it was dead!

Witness- I did.

Dr Pirie- Was called to see the child at the Police Office. He sewed the child's lip. When he saw the woman early on the following morning she was very much depressed, and seemed greatly ashamed and sunk in spirits, but was perfectly sound mentally. The doctor then spoke as to the state of prisoner's health at the different times he visited her. Judging from all he knew of the case, through fever, she might have been unconcious on the following day.

Cross-examind- I can't say that I knew anything about her previous history except that she had had a child. I have known fever to attack a mother between twenty four and thirty-six hours after the birth of a child. I think the injuries I saw on the child were not more than might have been received through the child falling over the railing. I saw the woman was in a weak bodily condition. I made no suggestions in regard to the woman when I first saw her. She was in charge of a married woman, who I though would be able to supply her ordinary wants.

By the SHERIFF- When I saw the woman that morning she acted perfectly freely and rationally.

By Mr HENDRY- I think it quite possible that deliriul might have come on after I left her. I was three-quarted of an hour with her.

By the SHERIFF- There is nothing very extra-ordinary in her walking out to Jeanfield after the birth.

This closed the evidence for the procecution.


Mrs Susan Clark or Irvine, mother of the prisoner- I live near Kirriemuir. My daughter elizabeth was a servant at the Club. I saw her in the month of August this year. She told me she would have a child shortly. She expected to be able to work out her half-year at the Club. This is her second child. She nursed her first child and left it with me to keep, and paid me for it. The present child is now healthy and thriving.

Dr Webster, Kirriemuir- I have been in practice in Kirriemuir for 40 years. I know prisoner. I delivered her of a child on 4th February 1871. The fever in that case lasted for a fortnight, during which time she was frequently delirious and unconcious. It was from four or five weeks before she was able to leave the room. From what I know of prisoner's circumstances of the case I am of the opinion she was in such a state at the time of giving birth to this child, that she did not know what was right and what was wrong.

Dr Gray- I am in practice in Dundee. I saw prisoner three times on three successive days from 12th October. I found her in a delirious and very nervous and unconcious state. I knew she had a previous child. From what I know of the circumstances connected with the birth of this child I think her nervous system would be affected to an extreme degree.

By the SHERIFF- At the time she was seen by a doctor twenty hours after having given birth to the child she might have had a lucid interval. Previous, however, there was every likelihood of her suffering from what was called a homicidal fever, when her mind would be in such a state that she would not be able to distinguish between what was right and what was wrong.

Mr Dunbar then addressed the jury for the prosecution, and Mr Hendry for the defence, and the Sheriff summed up.
After an absense of fifteen minutes the jury returned a verdict finding the prisoner guilty as libelled, but strongly recommending her to the leniency of the Court.

Mr HENDRY briefly addressed the Court in mitigation of sentence.

The SHERIFF in passing sentence said- Elizabeth Irvine, the jury have returned a verdict which, in my humble opinion, is quite consistent with the facts brought out in evidence. I am quite satisfied that while you may have been in a sort of distracted state, and did not know what you were doing- as, I dare say, a great many women at such a time are- at the same time the evidence fell far short of that legal aberration of mind and alienation of reason which the law requires to avert a criminal charge. The jury have strongly recommended you to the leniency of the Court, and I very much desire to give effect to that recommendation, yet at the same time it is necessary that some punishment should be inflicted upon you, if only to warn other mothers of the consequences of an act such as yours. However a woman may have been led astray, however much she may feel ashamed of her position, it is her duty to think of the child she is to bring into the world, and not to go into a retired place for the purpose, as I am afraid you did, of trying to get rid of this child, apparently an illegitimate one. Providence has spared you this child, and I hope you will be a good mother to it in the future. In the meantime I feel I must send you to prison for fifteen days.
The woman, who had never looked up during the whole case, left the dock crying bitterly.


Elizabeth C Irvine in the 1881 Scotland Census

Name: Elizabeth C Irvine
[Elizabeth C Irwine]
Age: 31
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1850
Relationship: Daughter (Child)
Father's name: Andrew Irwine
Mother's name: Susan Clark Or Irwine
Gender: Female
Where born: Kirriemuir, Forfarshire
Registration Number: 299
Registration district: Kirriemuir
Civil Parish: Kirriemuir
County: Angus
Address: Balmuckety Or Maryton
Occupation: Factory Winder Jute

Andrew Irwine head 57
Susan Clark Or Irwine wife 58
Elizabeth C Irvine dau 31
Jessie Irvine dau 15....born - Kirriemuir, Forfarshire
Mary Gibson g-dau 10....born - Kirriemuir, Forfarshire
Isabella Irvine g-dau 5......born - Dundee, Forfarshire
Jessie Irvine g-dau 3......born - Kirriemuir, Forfarshire


Elizabeth Irvine passed away in 1920, being interred within Kirriemuir burial ground.

Isabella goes on to emigrate to the America and turns up in the U.S. Federal Census.

1900 United States Federal Census Census
Name: Bella Irvine
Birth Oct 1875, Scotland
Residence 1900, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA
Arrival 1898

She goes on to marry Patrick Walsh, who originated from Ireland.

Birth: 08 Oct 1874 (8 Oct 1874) - Angus, Scotland

Marriage: 28 May 1903 - Manhattan, New York, USA
Death: 3 Jan 1956
Parents: Alexander Logan Dear, Elisabeth Clarke Irvine
Spouse: Patrick Joseph Walsh