THE SQUARE PIANO: MRS RAY’S ‘INGENIOUS CONTRIVANCE’
Professor Alun Evans, Queens University, Belfast
Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, History of Medicine Section, Wednesday 4th May 2016 at 6.15pm Setanta House, (First Floor) Setanta Place, Dublin 2
In the 1820s, Wilson Ray and his wife Frances transformed grave-robbing from a minor sport, enjoyed by Dublin’s medical students and petty crooks, into a thriving export trade. This was driven by an increasing demand for cadavers and the introduction of steamships on Irish Sea routes. In March 1829, Frances was discovered with cadavers concealed in a square piano case, a ‘contrivance’ which she must have employed before. The Rays’ activities were condoned, at least, by some of the leading doctors of the day. In May that year Wilson Ray was tried and found guilty – but guilty of what, precisely?