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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
The Black Dwarf's Legs in Glasgow


BOWED DAVIE RITCHIE, as the prototype of Sir Walter Scott’s Black Dwarf was called, died in 1811, and lies buried in Manor churchyard. All of him is not there, however, as many years ago the bones of his legs were exhibited in the farmhouse of Woodhouse, in the neighbourhood. These bones possess a history, besides having from their curvature acquired for their owner his descriptive sobriquet.

A rumour had gone abroad, in the resurrectionist times, that Davie’s body had been disinterred soon after his death, and taken to Glasgow to be dissected; but when his sister died, 1821, the occasion of her burial was, naturally, considered a suitable opportunity for testing the truth of the rumour, which was then discovered to have had no foundation. The leg bones, being objects of curiosity, were not interred, but were detained above ground, and at length found their way in reality to Glasgow, where the proprietor of Woodhouse was then resident, but they were afterwards returned to that place.

In Horoe Subsecivcae by Dr. John Brown, there is a curious account of the Black Dwarf’s bones, with a figure of the femur and tibia of the left limb. Dr. Brown says:- "They were given to me many years ago by the late Andrew Ballantyne, Esq. of Woodhouse, and their genuineness is unquestionable." A friend who furnished him with some particulars of Davie’s life, stated that "his legs beat all power of description; they were bent in every direction, so that Mungo Park, then a surgeon in Peebles, who was called to operate upon him, said he could compare them to nothing but a pair of corkscrews." His arms were of uncommon strength. This forlorn and misanthropic creature was introduced, in 1797, by Dr. Ferguson to Walter Scott, then a barrister of six-and-twenty years of age.


Thanks to Ranald MacIntyre for sending in a scan of this painting which is of the Black Dwarf's cottage. Here is what he said: The painter's name is John Blair and is dated 1893. The cottage is located SSW from Peebles, just off an unclassed road, and in an area by the name of Woodhouse. To the left of the door on the white painted wall, near the shrub is a small 'door'. I was led to believe that this was the entrance used by David Ritchie - the Black Dwarf.


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