Exhumations today are only generally carried out if it transpires the death was suspicious. During the Victorian era, some exhumations took place at the request of the family.

In Clackmannan, 67-year-old John Whitecross, a teacher and author, was buried in the parochial burial ground in 1855. Three years later one of his sons died and he was interred in the same plot.

However, relatives of the two men later wished them to be reburied in New Cemetery in Clackmannan where a memorial tablet could be more easily erected.

The family made a formal application to the parochial board of the parish, and subsequently the heritors of Clackmannan.

After some consideration, permission was granted, but there was a condition. That was that the disinterment took place under the cover of darkness, and not during the daylight hours.

Having been informed of what was to happen, the Clackmannan gravedigger refused to carry out the work at night, so the Alloa sextons were tasked with the removal of the Whitecrosses.

On Tuesday, March 30, 1858, the sextons arrived around mid-day to open the graves, but they were refused permission to enter the churchyard and were forced to leave. They were threatened and told that if they returned in the evening, they would be mobbed. They were even threatened with murder.

Nonetheless, at around 10 o’clock that night, several workmen set out with a horse and cart, tools, implements required for the digging of the grave, and two boxes which were for the coffins once they had been extracted from the site. The men were allowed to begin their work without any problems, but soon word got round about what was happening, and little by little, the locals descended on the churchyard. They shouted ‘Let the dead rest!’ and ‘What a shame.’

Many clambered on to the top of the walls and started jeering and shouting at the men as they continued to open the grave. Someone threw a stone, then others followed suit. Even a firearm was discharged at one stage. That was enough for the Alloa sextons. They stopped working and left the graveyard for their own safety.

The boxes brought to the site for the coffins were then burned by the mob, and the town bell was rung. The rioters, as they were labelled by the police and local officials, remained in the area for a considerable time before dispersing.

The following day, under police protection, the two coffins were quietly transferred to the New Cemetery in Clackmannan.