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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Galbraith (c.1804–1879) carried a poem with her — literally — all her life.

Her family’s greatest treasure was a secret poem which was passed down the generations, from mother to eldest daughter, and then to her daughter in turn. The poem was never written down, but passed on by word of mouth.

We don’t know exactly what happened in Elizabeth’s case, but it seems as she spent her last days in the newly built Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, a family feud denied her the chance to pass the poem on. So, weak and desperate, she wrote it down, breaking the tradition. She never saw her daughter again, but became one of the first patients to die in the Infirmary after it opened in Lauriston Place.

What happened to the poem after that is even more of a mystery. Elizabeth had three daughters, and someone came to collect her effects after her death. Amongst the effects was the precious family poem, but it seems to have been separated, line by line, and the pieces lost across the city.

Why are we finding clues to the lines’ location after all this time? Could it be because so many people are carrying a poem in Edinburgh this month?

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