Margaret Balfour, 1825

Dundee, December 1825

On what we can safely assume was a cold, wintry day on 22nd December 1825, David Balfour murdered his wife using a butcher’s knife he had obtained from the Fleshmarket in Dundee. David was a sailor, and, as such, was prone to being away at sea for long bouts of time. Margaret, for all intents and purposes, appears to have been a lively, interactive type of woman, and it was reported that she had taken many lovers during her husband’s absence. In an attempt to bring in more money, Margaret would take in lodgers, some of whom she would then embark on sexual affairs with. As you could imagine, this caused many arguments in their household, and the events proceeding Margaret’s murder started off, once again, in this fashion. During this furious exchange, David Balfour stabbed his wife with the butcher’s knife.

In a bizarre turn of events, Balfour immediately made his way to the Town House where he ardently confessed to his crime, only to be advised that he would need to wait outside until someone could deal with him! Defying the odds, Balfour patiently waited, and eventually re-confessed to his crime and was jailed. The website at shows that Balfour was put on Trial in Perth on 20th April 1826 for the crime of murder in Dundee, and sentence was passed that he was to be executed on Friday 2nd June 1826. The Courier reported that a cast was made of Balfour’s head after his body had been sent for dissection, in an effort to find a link to identifying and understanding a typical “criminal” head. The cast of his head is still in existence, but sadly unseen and largely forgotten by the general public at the site of the old Barrack Street Museum, which is now a storage shelter for McManus.

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.


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