Of course every Edinburgher worth his or her salt knew that old story. He had been a councillor and skilled cabinet maker by day and a gambler and rotten thief by night. The cabinet maker got invited into his victims’ homes where he took wax impressions of their keys, and the thief sneaked back while they were sleeping and robbed them blind. He led this double life until caught and hung on a gibbet ironically designed by his own fair hand.
Or so legend would have it.
But rumours persisted that he did not really die on the gallows and was instead spirited away to another life in the Americas.
The lesson to me was clear: don’t spend your time designing gibbets. If you do, you’d better have a rope-proof escape plan.