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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
Sawney Bean: Scotland's Hannibal Lecter

The essence of the stories contained in these 18th Century broadsheets formed the modern story, which was written by John Nicholson and published in his 'Historical and Traditional Tales Connected with the South of Scotland' in 1843. This became the standard version of the tale which was subsequently published in such widely read works as The Newgate Calendar – and was always printed as fact.

The Edinburgh Tolbooth
© SCRAN
There is certainly a good chance that cannibalism did occur in Scotland throughout the many periodic famines the country suffered – there are other folk tales from around the country involving this, such as the similar tale of Christie Cleek in the North East. However, there is no real evidence to support the story of Sawney Bean and in the absence of any real facts, it must be consigned as merely another folk tale, albeit one twisted for political ends.


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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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