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Legend of Sawney Bean
* Warning - Details of a Graphic Nature
I'll try to keep the details of this legend in simple terms and not get flashy with adjectives, since the Legend of Sawney Bean involves cannibalism and violence.
Alexander Sawney Beane - or Bean:
In late 15th or early 16th Century Scotland it is said that Sawney Beane was head of a 48-member clan, many members of which, Sawney shared his inclinations toward violence with.
The source for this legend is indisputably questionable, and many historians say that Sawney Beane never did exist, however, even if he did not ever truly exist, this legend is an extraordinary tribute, then, to the strength of Scottish storytellers.
Sawney Bean Was Notoriously Lazy and Fantastically Cruel
Though Alexander Sawney Beane was born to regular, hard-working folk, in East Lothian, he found out early on that he didn't share his father's drive for honest labour. He tried ditch-digging and hedge-trimming - trades that his father was skilled with, but Sawney just didn't have the gumption to exhibit any stick-with-it-ness!
He left home early either with a like-minded woman or he found his vicious female partner very shortly after leaving home. Right away, the pair turned to crimes, petty and otherwise, to eke out a living, and they made their home in a cave near Galloway.
Apparently, Bean and his partner lived in the hard-to-access cave for about 25 years, during which time they had children, then more children, and built a population of over 40 in their unwholesome clan. Some of the children and grandchildren were, of course, products of incest and rapes, and included 6 daughters, 8 sons, 14 granddaughters and 18 grandsons.
Without instruction in the arts of honesty and labour, the entire clan turned to crimes in order to survive. They conducted regular ambushes of travellers in the region and would murder individuals - and later, once the clan was larger, larger groups - and bring their victims back to their cave.
At the cave, they would dismember the victims, eat choice parts of their bodies, then often discard the rest, so that in the region, bodies with missing parts - or missing parts of bodies, were often found by local villagers and even authorities. If any extensive investigations about missing people were ever conducted, then the clan was so well hidden in their cave they were never found for around 25 years. The clan only committed their crimes at night, the old storytellers say, and 48 cannibalistic murderers were seemingly untouchable for the longest time.
Home Video, Tour of Sawney Beane's Cave
Growth of the Clan
Naturally, as the clan grew in number, so did their attacks on people. More clan members meant more mouths to feed - and feed, the clan did, until hardly anyone in the Galloway area could ignore that something was terribly wrong near Galloway.
Finally, several very extensive searches were organized, in order to find out who was murdering people and dismembering them at such a rate. At one point, the Sawney Beane-clan cave was probably located, but those who entered the cave and saw what state it was in concluded that nobody would actually live in such a place.
Hysteria and fear overtook the villagers around this time, and with the searches providing no answers, some lynching of innocents took place. Soon after, people noticed that the killings and human disappearances just kept right on happening, and from there, many inn-keepers were bothered incessantly while people suspected THEM of the grisly murders and unexplained disappearances.
Pointing the finger at Inn-Keepers seemed the logical next step, since Innkeepers were often the last ones to see people alive right before their partly mutilated bodies turned up near the sea or discarded outside of town.
More History on Cannibalism
The Clan's Bungled Ambush
Fortunately for the nearby villagers of Galloway - unfortunately for the clan, an ambush didn't turn out as planned one night when some of the clan members choose to attack a certain married couple who were travelling through the area on horseback, after having visited the fair during the daytime. Unbeknownst to the attackers, the husband was highly skilled in the arts of combat, and had with him on this night, a sword as well as pistol.
Although the husband's wife fell during the ruckus - and the clan mauled her to death, the man kept fighting bravely for his life and soon, a group of travellers happened along, took stock of the very disturbing scene, and rushed to the area, saving the now lone traveller.
The clan simply fled from the situation but with such a scene, their general location was revealed and reports of this location went all the way to the authority of the King. The King launched a massive manhunt, deployed at least 400 armed and trained men, along with hounds, and it was a very short time until the clan's hideout cave was uncovered.
The cave found found by the King's men was, indeed, the one which had already been looked upon but discarded as too unfit for human habitation. Finally, the Sawney Bean clan was apprehended. It is said that the entire clan was captured alive, chained together, and taken a jail while the cave left behind was found to be littered with human remains. It was hard to imagine the hundreds of murders and cannibalistic events which must have taken place there.