Maggie Dickson is believed to have been born in 1702 and died around 1765. Her claim to fame is surviving a hanging. She was the wife of a fishmonger who was convicted of killing her newly born baby. But after surviving her execution, she was proclaimed free and as a result, came to be known as Half-Hangit Maggie.
Maggie lived in Musselburgh in Scotland, she married a fisherman who quickly disappeared. Depending on the version of the story, her husband was either forced to join the Royal Navy which was called being press-ganged at the time. Or alternatively, he may just have voluntarily left to go work on a fishing fleet out of Newcastle.
By 1723 Maggie had found work in a small town called Kelso, working in an inn and it was at this time she became pregnant after a turbulent relationship with the innkeeper’s son. Maggie was able to keep her pregnancy a secret but of course, the baby still arrived and unfortunately, the baby arrived well before the due date. The records do not show if Maggie’s child was a stillborn or died shortly after birth, but their Maggie made the mistake of abandoning the body on the banks of a river. And her the corpse of the baby was found.
Maggie was quickly arrested and tried in Edinburgh, it seems she was tried with causing the death of her child. Even with little to no evidence of this, she was sentenced to death. A public execution in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket was held on 2 September 1724, which was followed by a fight between her family friends and medical students over who could keep the body.
Luckily for Maggie, her friends won the fight and her body was placed in a coffin. While en route the coffin lid moved and Maggie burst out, still alive. She even walked the rest of the way back home. As the sentence had been carried out she lived another 40 years without any further prosecution and was known as Half-Hangit Maggie. Many believe she was a very close friend of the ropemaker who supplied the hangman, which allowed her survival.