Biomedical Sciences

Mob leader who tamed Edinburgh’s unruly masses returns to city

A notorious 18th century rabble rouser has returned to Edinburgh in the form of a life-sized model cast from his skeleton.

At less than four-feet tall and with a body ravaged by rickets, ‘Bowed Joseph’ is one of the most recognisable characters from Edinburgh’s past.

The model will be displayed alongside his skeleton in the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum on Wednesday 19 December for 24 Days of Advent, part of Edinburgh’s Christmas.

‘Bowed Joseph’ became the voice of the people who lived and worked in Edinburgh’s squalid Old Town in the late 18th Century.

A cobbler by trade, he was renowned for his ability to assemble a crowd of 10,000 strong with just a few beats of a drum.

The City Council regularly called on him to settle citizen grievances and help control Edinburgh’s unruly masses – known at the time as ‘The Beast’.

Joseph died in 1780 after falling from a stagecoach during a drunken return from Leith races. His bones are said to have been preserved in the University’s Anatomical Museum to honour his service to the city.

The model was produced by Lynn Morrison as part of her studies in forensic art at the University of Dundee.


Lynn’s work brings a fresh perspective to the story of Bowed Joseph, a character that has intrigued our museum visitors for many years. By using the latest forensic reconstruction techniques on our historic collections, we get a real idea of what this fascinating man actually looked like.

Malcolm MacCallum, Curator at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum,

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and learning about Joseph's life. He was quite a character! Despite the pain he must have suffered as a result of his condition, he was relentless in his pursuit of justice for the poor in 18th century Edinburgh. I really hope my reconstruction will help put him back in the public eye and give him the recognition he deserves as an important figure in Edinburgh's history.

Lynn Morrison,Forensic art masters student, University of Dundee