William Hare’s reputed birthplace in Ireland has given rise to some speculation. Some say he was born in Poyntzpass, others say Newry, and still others lay claim that he was born in Derry. Quite apart from the doubt over his place of birth, there is also some argument concerning the year in which he was born with some sources claiming it was 1792 while others state it was in 1804.
Whatever the origins of his birth, what is known is that Hare, like Burke with whom he would eventually become infamous, moved from Ireland to Scotland to work as a labourer on the Union Canal and eventually settled in Edinburgh.
He became friends with a man named Logue who ran a boarding house in Edinburgh’s West Port area of the city and this is where he met Margaret Laird who was Logue’s common-law wife. Following Logue’s mysterious disappearance in 1826, Hare and Margaret Laird began living together as man and wife and Logue’s boarding house was re-named Hare’s boarding house.
It was around this time that Hare met William Burke and his common-law partner, Helen McDougall, and they all lived together for a time at the boarding house, although they often quarrelled and squabbled together, particularly when they had been drinking. However, Burke and Hare were to become partners in crime when they embarked on their infamous killing spree.
Although not a great deal is known about the duo as individuals, what is known is that Hare had a much darker personality than did Burke, who was described as being charming and socially engaging.
True to his character, when the murders which they committed were discovered, Hare turned King’s Evidence against his erstwhile partner Burke in order to save his own neck. When he was released by the authorities in February of 1829, Hare abandoned Margaret and disappeared, never to be heard of again. There is some speculation that there was a sighting of him south of the English town of Carlisle and a popular tale is told that he made his way to London where his identity was discovered and he was thrown into a pit of lime, blinding him. The same tale has Hare living out the rest of his days in destitution as a blind beggar. Though there is no corroborative evidence to support this, there is little doubt that whatever happened to Hare there would have been little sympathy for him wherever he went.