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WILLIAM & MftRV DARLINGTON 

MEMORIAL LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH 



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TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH 



'.'WILLIAM a MARV D?vRLlHC 
UNIVERSITY 6F Fi i 



TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH 

BY 

ROBERT CHAMBERS. 



NEW EDITION. 




a-^^ -Ji^z^ix:^ J^n^ic^-, ,x^^^' iM>^/z/r, 

W&R. CHAMBERS. 
LONDON AND EDINBURGH. 



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INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. 



I AM about to do what very few could do without emotion — • 
revise a book which I wrote forty-five years ago. This httle 
work came out in the Augustan days of Edinburgh, when 
Jeffrey and Scott, Wilson and the Ettrick Shepherd, Dugald 
Stewart and Alison, were daily giving the productions of their 
minds to the public, and while yet Archibald Constable acted 
as the unquestioned emperor of the publishing world. I was 
then an insignificant person of the age of twenty ; yet, destitute 
as I was both of means and friends, I formed the hope of 
writing something which would attract attention. The subject 
I proposed was one lying readily at hand, the romantic things 
connected with Old Edinburgh. If, I calculated, a first _parf or 
member could be issued, materials for others might be expected 
to come in, for scores of old inhabitants, even up perhaps to 
the very ' oldest,' would then contribute their reminiscences. 

The plan met with success. Materials almost unbounded 
came to me, chiefly from aged professional and mercantile 
gentlemen, who, usually, at my first introduction to them, 
started at my youthful appearance, having formed the notion 
that none but an old person would have thought of writing such 
a book. A friend gave me a letter to Mr Charles Kirkpatrick 
Sharpe, who, I was told, knew the scandal of the time of 
Charles II. as well as he did the merest gossip of the day, 
and had much to say regarding the good society of a hundred 
years ago. 



VI 



INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. 



Looking back from the year 1868, I feel that C. K. S. has 
himself become, as it were, a tradition of Edinburgh. His thin 
effeminate figure, his voice pitched i7i alt. — his attire, as he took 
his daily walks on Princes Street, a long blue frock-coat, black, 
trousers, rather wide below, and sweeping over white stockings 
and neat shoes — something like a web of white cambric round 
his neck, and a brown wig coming down to his eyebrows — had 
long established him as what is called a character. He had 
recently edited a book containing many stories of diablerie, and 
another in which the original narrative of ultra-presbyterian 
church history had to bear a series of cavalier notes of the most 
mocking character. He had a quaint biting wit, which people 
bore as they would a scratch from a provoked cat. Essentially, 
he was good-natured, and fond of merriment. He had con- 
siderable gifts of drawing, and one caricature portrait by him, of 
Queen Elizabeth dancing, 'high and disposedly,' before the 
Scotch ambassadors, is the delight of everybody who has seen 
it. In jest upon his own peculiarity of voice, he formed an 
address-card for himself consisting simply of the following 
anagram f 




quasi dicitur C sharp. He was intensely aristocratic, and cared 
nothing for the interests of the great multitude. He complained 
that one never heard of any gentlefolks committing crimes now 
a days, as if that were a disadvantage to them or the public. 
Any case of a Lady Jane stabbing a perjured lover would have 
delighted him. While the child of whim, Mr Sharpe was 



INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. VU 

generally believed to possess respectable talents by which, with 
a need for exerting them, he might have achieved distinction. 
His ballad of the * Murder of Caerlaverock,' in the Minstrelsy, 
is a masterly production ; and the concluding verses haunt one 
like a beautiful strain of music : 

' To sweet Lincluden's haly cells 
Fu' dowie I 'II repair ; 
There Peace wd' gentle Patience dwells, 
Nae deadly feuds are there. 

In tears I '11 wither ilka charm, 

Like draps o' balefu' yew ; 
And wail the beauty that cou'd harm 

A knight, sae brave and true.' 

After what I had heard and read of Charles Sharpe, I called 
upon him at his motlier's house, No. 93 Princes Street, in a 
somewhat excited frame of mind. His servant conducted me 
to the first floor, and shewed me into what is generally called 
amongst us the back drawing-room, which I found carpeted 
with green cloth, and full of old family portraits, some on the 
walls, but many more on the floor. A small room leading off 
this one behind, was the place where Mr Sharpe gave audience. 
Its diminutive space was stuffed fiill of old curiosities, cases 
with family bijouterie, &c. One petty object was strongly 
indicative of the man — a calling-card of Lady Charlotte 
Campbell, the once adored beauty, stuck into the frame of 
a picture. He must have kept it at that time about thirty years. 
On appearing, Mr Sharpe received me very cordially, telling me 
he had seen and been pleased with my first two numbers. 
Indeed, he and Sir Walter Scott had talked together of writing 
a book of the same kind in company, and calling it Reekiana, 
which plan, however, being anticipated by me, the only thing 
that remained for him was to cast any little matters of the kind 
he possessed into my care. I expressed myself duly grateful, 
and took my leave. The consequence was, the appearance of 
notices regarding the eccentric Lady Anne Dick, the beautiful 
Susanna^ Countess of Eglintoune, the Lord Justice-clerk Alva, 



Vlll . INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. 

and the Duchess of Queensbeny (the ' Kitty ' of Prior), before 
the close of my first volume. Mr Sharpe's contributions were 
all of them given in brief notes, and had to be written out on 
an enlarged scale, with what I thought a regard to literary effect 
as far as the telling was concerned. 

By an introduction from Dr Chalmers, I visited a living lady 
who might be considered as belonging to the generation at the 
beginning of the reign of George III. Her husband, Alexander 
Murray, had, I believe, been Lord North's solicitor-general for 
Scotland. She herself, born before the Porteous Riot, and well ■ 
remembering the Forty-five, was now within a very brief space 
of the age of a hundred. Although she had not married in her 
earlier years, her children, Mr Murray of Henderland and others, 
were all elderly people. I found the venerable lady seated at a 
window in her drawing-room in George Street, with her daughter, 
Miss Murray, taking the care of her which her extreme age 
required, and with some help from this lady, we had a conver- 
sation of about an hour. She spoke with due reverence of her 
mother's brother, the Lord Chief-justice Mansfield, and when I 
adverted to the long pamphlet against him Avritten by Mr 
Andrew Stuart at the conclusion of the Douglas Cause, she 
said that, to her knowledge, he had never read it, such being his 
practice in respect of all attacks made upon him, lest they should 
disturb his equanimity in judgment. As the old lady was on 
intimate terms with Boswell, and had seen Johnson on his visit 
to Edinburgh — as she was the sister-in-law of Allan Ramsay the 
painter, and had lived in the most cultivated society of Scotland 
all her long life — there were ample materials for conversation 
with her ; but her small strength made this shorter and slower 
than I could have wished. When we came upon the poet 
Ramsay, she seemed to have caught new vigour from the 
subject : she spoke with animation of the child-parties she had 
attended in his house on the Castle-hill during a course of ten 
years before his death — an event which happened in 1757. He 
was ' charming,' she said ; he entered so heartily into the plays 
of children. He, in particular, gained their hearts by making 



INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. IX 

houses for their dolls. How pleasant it was to learn that our 
great pastoral poet was a man who, in his private capacity, loved 
to sweeten the daily life of his fellow-creatures, and particularly 
of the young ! At a warning from Miss Murray, I had to tear 
myself away from this delightful and never-to-be-forgotten 
interview. 

I had, one or two years before, when not out of my teens^ 
attracted some attention from Sir Walter Scott, by writing for 
him and presenting (through Mr Constable) a transcript of the 
songs of the Lady of the Lake, in a style of peculiar caligraph'y, 
whieh I practised for want of any better way of attracting 
the notice of people superior to myself When George IV. 
some months afterwards came to Edinburgh, good Sir Walter 
remembered me, and procured for me the business of -writing 
the address of the Royal Society of Edinburgh to his Majesty, 
for which I was handsomely paid. Several other learned bodies 
followed the example, for Sir Walter Scott was the arbiter of 
everything during that frantic time, and thus I was substantially 
benefited by his means. 

According to what Mr Constable told me, the great man 
liked me, in part because he understood I was from Tweedside. 
On seeing the earlier numbers of the Traditions, he expressed 
astonishment as to 'where the boy got all the information.' 
But I did not see or hear from him till the first volume had 
been completed. He then called upon me one day, along with 
Mr Lockhart. I was overwhelmed with the honour, for Sir 
Walter Scott was almost an object of worship to me. I literally 
could not utter a word. While I stood silent, I heard him 
tell his companion that Charles Sharpe was a writer in the 
Traditiojis, and taking up the volume, he read aloud what he 
called one of his quaint bits. ' The ninth Earl of Eglintoune 
was one of those patriarchal peers who live to an advanced 
age — indefatigable in the frequency of their marriages and the 
number of their children — who linger on and on, with an unfail- 
ing succession of young countesses, and die at last leaving a 
progeny interspersed throughout the whole of Douglas's Peerage, 



X INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. 

two volumes, folio, re-edited by Wood.' And then both gentle- 
men went on laughing for perhaps two minutes, with interjec- 
tions : ' How like Charlie ! ' — ' What a strange being he is ! ' — 
* Two volumes, folio, re-edited by Wood — ha, ha, ha ! There you 
have him past all doubt;' and so on. I was too much abashed 
to tell Sir Walter that it was only an impudent little bit of writing 
of my own, part of the solution into which I had diffused the 
actual notes of Sharpe. But, having occasion to write next 
day to Mr Lockhart, I mentioned Sir Walter's mistake, and he 
was soon after good enough to inform me that he had set his 
friend right as to the authorship, and they had had a 'second 
hearty laugh on the subject. 

A very few days after this visit, Sir Walter sent me, along 
with a kind letter, a packet of manuscript, consisting of sixteen 
folio pages, in his usual close handwriting, and containing all 
the reminiscences he could at the time summon up of old 
persons and things in Edinburgh. Such a treasure to me ! 
And such a gift from the greatest literary man of the age to the 
humblest ! Is there a literary man of the present age who 
would scribble as much for any humble aspirant ? Nor was this 
the only act of liberality of Scott to me. When I was preparing 
a subsequent work. The Popular Rhymes of Scotland, he sent me 
whole sheets of his recollections, with appropriate explanations. 
For years thereafter, he allowed me to join him in his walks 
home from the Parliament House, in the course of which he 
freely poured into my greedy ears anything he knew regarding 
the subjects of my studies. His kindness and good-humour on 
these occasions were untiring. I have since found, from his 
journal, that I had met him on certain days when his heart was 
overladen with woe. Yet his welcome to me was the same. 
After 1826, however, L saw him much less frequently than 
before, for I knew he grudged every moment not spent in 
thinking and working on the fatal tasks he had assigned to 
himself for the redemption of his debts. 

All through the preparation of this book, I was indebted a good 
deal to a gentleman who was neither a literary man nor an artist 



INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. XI 

himself, but hovered round the outskirts of both professions, and 
might be considered as a useful adjunct to both. Every votary 
of pen or pencil amongst us knew David Bridges at his draper}' 
establishment in the Lawnmarket, and many had been in- 
debted to his obliging disposition. A quick, dark-eyed little 
man, -with lips full of sensibility and a tongue unloving of rest, 
such a man in a degree as one can suppose Garrick to have 
been, he held a sort of court every day, where wits and painters 
jostled with people wanting coats, jerkins, and spotted hand- 
kerchiefs. The place was small, and had no saloon behind; 
so, whenever David had got some ' bit ' to shew you, he dragged 
you down a dark stair to a packing-place, lighted only by a 
grate from the street, and there, amidst plaster-casts numberless, 
would fix you with his glittering eye, till he had convinced you of 
the fine handling, the ' buttery touches ' (a great phrase with him), 
the admirable ' scummling ' (another), and so forth. It was in 
the days prior to the Royal Scottish Academy and its exhibitions ; 
and it was left in a great measure to David Bridges to bring 
fonvard aspirants in art. Did such a person long for notice, 
he had only to give David one of his best ' bits,' and in a short 
time he would find himself chattered into fame in that profound, 
the grate of which I never can pass without recalling something 
of the buttery touches of those old days. The Blackwood wits, 
who laughed at everything, fixed upon our friend the title of 
'Director-general of the Fine Arts,' which was, however, too 
much of a truth to be a jest. To this extraordinary being I 
had been introduced somehow, and, entering heartily into my 
views, he brought me information, brought me friends, read and 
criticised my proofs, and would, I dare say, have written the 
book itself if I had so desired. It is impossible to think of 
him without a smile, but at the same time a certain melancholy, 
for his life was one which, I fear^ proved a poor one for 
himself. 

Before the Traditions were finished, I had become favourably 
acquainted with many gentlemen of letters and others, who were 
pleased to think that Old Edinburgh had been chronicled. 



XU INTRODUCTORY NOTICE. 

Wilson gave me a laudatory sentence in the Nodes Amirosianos. 
The Bard of Ettrick, viewing my boyish years, always spoke of 
and to me as an unaccountable sort of person, but never could 
be induced to believe otherwise than that I had written all my 
traditions from my own head. I had also the pleasure of 
enjoying some intercourse with the venerable Henry Mackenzie, 
who had been bom in 1745, but always seemed to feel as if the 
Man of Feeling \i2A been written only one instead of sixty years 
ago, and as if there was nothing particular in antique occur- 
rences. The whole affair was pretty much of a triumph at the 
time. Now, when I am giving it a final revision, I reflect with 
touched feelings, that all the brilliant men of the time when it 
was written are, without an exception, passed away, while, for 
myself, I am forced to claim the benefit of Horace's humanity : 

' Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne 
Peccet ad extremum ridendus, et ilia ducat.' 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

The Changes of the last Hundred Years .....". ii 

The Castle-hill 21 

Hugo Amot — Allan Ramsay — House of the Gordon Family — Sir 
David Baird — Dr Webster — House of Mary de Guise. 

The West Bow 36 

The Bowhead — Weigh -house — Anderson's Pills — Oratories — 
Colonel Gardiner — ' Bowhead Saints ' — ' The Seizers ' — Story of 
a Jacobite Canary — Major Weir — Tulzies — The Tinklarian 
Doctor — Old Assembly Room — Paul Romieu — ' He that Tholes 
Overcomes' — Provost Stewart — Donaldsons the Booksellers — 
Bowfoot — The Templars' Lands — The Gallows Stone. 

James's Court 68 

David Hume — James Boswell — Lord Fountainhall. 

Story of the Countess of Stair 76 

The Old Bank Close 82 

The Regent Morton— The Old Bank— Sir Thomas Hope— Chiesly 
of Dairy — Rich Merchants of the Sixteenth Century — Sir 
William Dick — The Birth of Lord Brougham. 

The Old Tolbooth 95 



XIV ' CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

Some Memories of the Luckenbooths 109 

Lord Coalstoun and his Wig — Commendator' Bothwell's House 
— Lady Anne Bothwell — Mahogany Lands and Fore-stairs — 
The Krames — Creech's Shop. 

Some Memoranda of the Old Kirk of St Giles 118 

The Parliament Close 121 

Ancient Churchyard — Booths attached to the High Church — Gold- 
smiths — George Heriot — The Deid-chack. 

^ Memorials of the Nor' Loch 129 

The Parliament House 131 

Old Arrangements of the House — Justice in Bygone Times — Court 
of Session Garland — Parliament House Worthies. 

convivialia 152 

Taverns of Old Times 174 

The Cross — Caddies 191 

The Town-guard 196 

Edinburgh Mobs 200 

The Blue Blanket — Mobs of the Seventeenth Century — Bowed 
Joseph. 

Bickers 207 

Susanna, Countess of Eglintoune 210 

Female Dresses of Last Century. .' 218 

The Lord Justice-Clerk Alva 223 

Ladies Sutherland and Glenorchy — The Pin or Risp. 

Marlin's and Niddry's Wynds 228 

Tradition of Marlin the Pavier — House of Provost Edward — Story 
of Lady Grange. 



CONTENTS. XV 

PAGE 

Abbot of Melrose's Lodging 244 

Sir George Mackenzie — Lady Anne Dick. 

Blackfriars Wynd 249 

Palace of Archbishop Bethune — Boarding-schools of the Last 
Century — The Last of the Lorimers — Lady Lovat, 

The Cowgate 262 

House of Gavin Douglas the Poet — Skirmish of Cleanse-the- 
Causeway — College Wynd — Birthplace of Sir Walter Scott — 
The Horse Wynd — Tarn o' the Cowgate — Magdalen Chapel. 

St Cecilia's Hall 272 

The Murder of Darnley 280 

Mint Close 282 

The Mint — Robert Cullen — Lord Chancellor Loughborough. 

Miss Nicky Murray 288 

The Bishop's Land 291 

John Knox's Manse 293 

Hyndford's Close 297 

House of the Marquises of Tweeddale — The Begbie 
Tragedy 301 

The Ladies of Traquair 308 

Greyfriars Churchyard 310 

Signing of the Covenant — Henderson's Monument — BothweU 
Bridge Prisoners — A Romance. 

Story of Mrs Macfarlane 313 

The Canongate 316 

Distinguished Inhabitants in Former Times — Story of a Burning — 
Morocco's Land — New Street. 



XVI CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

St John Street 322 

Lord Monboddo's Suppers — The Sister of Smollett — Anecdote of 
Henry Dundas. 

Moray House 326 

The Speaking House 332 

Panmure House— Adam Smith 337 

John Paterson the. Golfer , ;.. 339 

Lothian Hut 34^ 

Henry Prentice and Potatoes 343 

The Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth 345 

Claudero 348 

Queensberry House 353 

Tennis Court 362 

Early Theatricals — The Canongate Theatre — Digges and Mrs 
Bellamy — A Theatrical Riot. 

Marionville — Story of Captain Macrae 368 

Alison Square 376 

Leith Walk 378 

Gabriel's Road 384 



INDEX 387 



TRADITIONS OF EDINBURCxH; 



THE CHANGES OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS. 

EDINBURGH was, at the beginning of George III.'s 
reign, a picturesque, odorous, inconvenient, old-fashioned 
town, of about seventy thousand inhabitants. It had no 
court, no factories, no commerce; but there was a nest of 
lawyers in it, attending upon the Court of Session ; and a con- 
siderable number of the Scotch gentry — one of whom then passed 
as rich with a thousand a year — gave it the benefit of their 
presence during the winter. Thus the town had lived for some 
ages, during which political discontent and division had kept the 
country poor. A stranger approaching the city, seeing it piled 
'close and massy, deep and high' — a series of towers, rising from a 
palace on the plain to a castle in the air — ^would have thought it a 
truly romantic place ; and the impression would not have subsided 
much on a near inspection, when he would have found himself 
admitted by a fortified gate through an ancient wall, still kept in 
repair. Even on entering the one old street of which the city 

* The framework of the Traditions was largely improved in an edition 
of 1846, which is here reprinted, with little alteration, but with a few 
additional paragraphs given in brackets. 

B 



12 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

chiefly consisted, he would have seen much to admire — houses 
of substantial architecture and lofty proportions, mingled with 
more lowly, but also more arresting wooden fabrics ; a huge and 
irregular, but venerable Gothic church, surmounted by an aerial 
crown of masonry ; finally, an esplanade towards the castle, from 
which he could have looked abroad upon half a score of 
counties, upon firth and fell, yea, even to the blue Grampians. 
Everywhere he would have seen symptoms of denseness of 
population ; the open street a universal market ; a pell-mell of 
people everywhere. The eye would have been, upon the whole, 
gratified, whatever might be the effect of the clangor strepitusque 
upon the ear, or whatever might have been the private medita- 
tions of the nose. It would have only been on coming to 
close quarters, or to quarters at all, that our stranger would have 
begun to think of serious drawbacks from the first impression, 
For an inn, he would have had the White Horse, in a close in 
the Canongate ; or the White Hart, a house which now appears 
like a carrier's inn, in the Grassmarket. Or, had he betaken 
himself to a private lodging, which he would have probably done 
under the conduct of a ragged varlet, speaking more of his 
native Gaelic than English, he would have had to ascend four 
or five stories of a common stair, into the narrow chambers of 
some Mrs Balgray or Luckie Fergusson, where a closet bed in 
the sitting-room would have been displayed as the most comfort- 
able place in the world ; and he would have had, for amuse- 
ment, a choice between an extensive view of house-tops from 
the window, and the study of a series of prints of the four 
seasons, a sampler, and a portrait of the Marquis of Granby, 
upon the wall. 

On being introduced into society, our stranger might have 
discovered cause for content with his lodging, on finding how 
poorly off were the first people with respect to domestic accom- 
modations. I can imagine him going to tea at Mr Bruce of 
Kennet's, in Forrester's Wynd — a country gentleman and a 
lawyer (not long after raised to the bench), yet happy to live 
with his wife and children in a house of fifteen pounds of rent, 



THE CHANGES OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS. I3 

in a region of profound darkness and mystery, now no more. 
Had he got into familiar terms with the worthy lady of the 
mansion, he might have ascertained that they had just three 
rooms and a kitchen ; one room, ' my lady's ' — that is, the kind 
of parlour he was sitting in ; another, a consulting-room for the 
gentleman; the third, a bedroom. The children, with their 
maid, had beds laid down for them at night in their father's 
room ; the housemaid slept under the kitchen dresser ; and the 
one man-servant was turned at night out of the house. Had 
our friend chanced to get amongst trades-people, he might have 
found Mr Kerr, the eminent goldsmith in the Parliament Square, 
stowing his menage into a couple of small rooms above his booth- 
like shop, plastered against the wall of St Giles's Church ; the 
nursery and kitchen, however, being placed in a cellar under the 
level of the street, where the children are said to have rotted off 
like sheep. 

But indeed everything was on a homely and narrow scale. 
The College — ^where Munro, CuUen, and Black were already 
making themselves great names — was to be approached through 
a mean alley, the College Wynd. The churches were chiefly 
clustered under one roof; the jail was a narrow building, half- 
filling up the breadth of the street ; the public offices, for the 
most part, obscure places in lanes or dark entries. The men of 
learning and wit, united with a proportion of men of rank, met 
as the Poker Club in a tavern, the best of its day, but only a 
dark house in a close, to which our stranger could have scarcely 
made his way without a guide. In a similar situation across the 
way, he would have found, at the proper season, the Assembly; 
that is, a congregation of ladies met for dancing, and whom the 
gentlemen usually joined rather late, and rather merry. The 
only theatre was also a poor and obscure place in some inde- 
scribable part of the Canongate. 

The town was, nevertheless, a funny, familiar, compact, and not 
unlikable place. Gentle and semple living within the compass 
of a single close, or even a single stair, knew and took an interest 
in each other. Acquaintances might not only be formed, 



14 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Pyramus-and-Thisbe fashion, through party-walls, but from win- 
dow to window across alleys, narrow enough in many cases to 
allow of hand coming to hand, and even lip to lip. There was 
little elegance, but a vast amount of cheap sociality. Provokingly 
comical clubs, founded each upon one joke, were abundant. The 
ladies had tea-drinkings at the primitive hour of six, from which 
they cruised home under the care of a lantern-bearing, patten-shod 
lass ; or perhaps, if a bad night, in Saunders Macalpine's sedan- 
chair. Every forenoon, for several hours, the only clear space 
which the town presented — that around the Cross — was crowded 
with loungers of all ranks, whom it had been an amusement to 
the poet Gay to survey from the neighbouring windows of Allan 
Ramsay's shop. The jostle and huddlement was extreme every- 
where. Gentlemen and ladies paraded along in the stately attire 
of the period ; tradesmen chatted in groups, often bare-headed, 
at their shop-doors ; caddies whisked about, bearing messages, 
or attending to the affairs of strangers ; children filled the kennel 
with their noisy sports. Add to all this, corduroyed men from 
Gilmerton, bawling coals or yellow sand, and spending as much 
breath in a minute as could have served poor asthmatic Hugo 
Amot for a 'month ; fishwomen crying their caller haddies from 
Newhaven j whimsicals and idiots going along, each with his or 
her crowd of listeners or tormentors ; sootymen with their bags ; 
to^vn-guardsmen with their antique Lochaber axes ; water-carriers 
with their dripping barrels; barbers with their hair-dressing 
materials; and so forth — and our stranger would have been 
disposed to acknowledge that, though a coarse and confused, it 
was a perfectly unique scene, and one which, once contemplated, 
was not easily to be forgotten. 

A change at length began. Our northern country had settled 
to sober courses in the reign of George II., and the usual results 
of industry were soon apparent. Edinburgh by and by felt 
much like a lady who, after long being content with a small and 
inconvenient house, is taught, by the money in her husband's 
pockets, that such a place is no longer to be put up with. 
There was a wish to expatiate over some of the neighbouring 



THE CHANGES OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS. 1 5 

grounds, so as to get more space and freer air; only it was 
difficult to do, considering the physical circumstances of the 
town, and the character of the existing outlets. Space, space ! 
— air, air ! was, however, a strong and a general cry, and the old 
romantic city did at length burst from its bounds, though not in 
a very regular way, or for a time to much good purpose. 

A project for a new street on the site of Halkerston's Wynd, 
leading by a bridge to the grounds of Mutrie's Hill, where a 
suburb might be erected, was formed before the end of the 
seventeenth century.* It was a subject of speculation to John, 
Earl of Mar, during his years of exile, as were many other 
schemes of national improvement which have since been real- 
ised — for example, the Forth and Clyde Canal. The grounds 
to the north lay so invitingly open, that the early formation of 
such a project is not wonderful. Want of spirit and of means 
alone could delay its execution. After the Rebellion of 1745, 
when a general spirit of improvement began to be she^vn in 
Scotland, the scheme was taken up by a public-spirited provost, 
Mr George Drummond, but it had to struggle for years with 
local difficulties. Meanwhile, a sagacious builder, by name 
James Brown, resolved to take advantage of the growing taste : 
he purchased a field near the town for ;^i2oo, and 7^7/^^ it out 
for a square. The speculation is said to have ended in some- 
thing like giving him his own money as an annual return. This 
place (George Square) became the residence of several of the 
judges and gentry. I was amused a few years ago hearing an 
old gentleman in the country begin a story thus : ' When I was 
in Edinburgh, in the year '67, I went to George Square, to call 
for Mrs Scott of Sinton,' &c. To this day, some relics of gentry 
cling to its grass-green causeways, charmed, perhaps, by its 
propinquity to the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links. Another 
place sprung into being, a smaller quadrangle of neat houses, 
called Brown's Square. So much was thought of it at first, that 
a correspondent of the Edi7iburgh Advertiser, in 1764, seriously 
counsels his fellow-citizens to erect in it an equestrian statue of 

* Pamphlet circa 1700, Wodrow Collection, Adv. Lib. 



1 6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the then popular young king, George III. ! This place, too, had 
some distinguished inhabitants; till 1846, one of the houses 
continued to be nominally the town mansion of a venerable 
judge. Lord Glenlee. We pass willingly from these traits of 
grandeur to dwell on the fact of its having been the residence of 
Miss Jeanie Elliot of Minto, the authoress of the original song, 
The Flowers of the Forest; and even to bethink ourselves that 
here Scott placed the ideal abode of Saunders Fairford and the 
adventure of Green Mantle. Sir Walter has informed us, from 
his own recollections, that the inhabitants of these southern 
districts formed for a long time a distinct class of themselves, 
having even places of polite amusement for their own recreation, 
independent of the rest of Edinburgh. He tells us that the 
society was of the first description, including, for one thing, 
most of the gentlemen who wrote in the Mirror and the 
Lounger. There was one venerable inhabitant who did not die 
till half the New Town was finished, yet he had never once 
seen it ! 

The exertions of Drummond at length procured an act (1767) 
for extending the royalty of the city over the northern fields ; 
and a bridge was then erected to connect these with the elder 
city. The scheme was at first far from popular. The exposure 
to the north and east winds was felt as a grievous disadvantage, 
especially while houses were few. So unpleasant even was the 
North Bridge considered, that a lover told a New-Town mistress 
— to be sure only in an epigram — that when he visited her, he 
felt as performing an adventure not much short of that of 
Leander. The aristocratic style of the place alarmed a number 
of pockets, and legal men trembled lest their clients and other 
employers should forget them, if they removed so far from the 
centre of things as Princes Street and St Andrew Square. Still, 
the move was unavoidable, and behoved to be made. 

It is curious to cast the eye over the beautiful city which now 
extends over this district, the residence of as refined a mass of 
people as could be found in any similar space of ground upon 
earth, and reflect on what the place was a hundred years ago. 



THE CHANGES OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS. ^^ 

The bulk of it was a fanii, usually called Wood's Farm, from its 
tenant (the father of a clever surgeon, well known in Edinburgh 
in the last age under the familiar appellation of Lajzg Sandy 
Wood). Henry Mackenzie, author of the Man of Feeling, who 
died in 183 1, rerpembered shooting snipes, hares, and partridges 
about that very spot to which he alludes at the beginning of the 
paper on Nancy Collins, in the Mirror (July 1779): 'As I 
walked one evening, about a fortnight ago, through St Afidrew 
Square, I observed a girl meanly dressed,' &c. Nearly along 
the line now occupied by Princes Street, was a rough enclosed 
road, called the Lang Gait or Za7ig Dykes, the way along which 
Claverhouse went with his troopers in 1689, when he retired in 
disgust from the Convention, with the resolution of raising a 
rebellion in the Highlands. On the site of the present Register 
House was a hamlet or small group of houses called Mictriis 
Hill; and where the Royal Bank now stands was a cottage 
wherein ambulative citizens regaled themselves with fruit, and 
curds and cream. Broughton, which latterly has been surprised 
and swamped by the spreading city, was then a village con- 
sidered as so far afield, that people went to live in it for the 
summer months, under the pleasing idea that they had got into 
the country. It is related that Whitefield used to preach to vast 
multitudes on the spot which by and by became appropriated 
for the Theatre Royal. Coming back one year, and finding 
a playhouse on the site of his tub, he was extremely incensed. 
Could it be, as Burns suggests, 

* There was rivalry just in the job ! ' 
James Craig, a nephew of the poet Thomson, was intrusted with 
the duty of planning the new city. In the engraved plan, he 
appropriately quotes from his uncle : 

« Augxist, around, what PUBLIC WORKS I see ! 
Lo, stately streets ! lo, squares that court the breeze ! 
See long canals and deepened rivers join 
Each part with each, and with the circling main, 
The whole entwined isle.' 

The names of the streets and squares were taken from the royal 



l8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

family, and the tutelary saints of the island. The honest citizens 
had originally intended to put their own local saint in the fore- 
ground; but when the plan was shewn to the king for his 
approval, he cried : ' Hey, hey — what, what — Sf Giles Street ! — 
neyer do, never do 1' And so, to escape from an unpleasant 
association of ideas, this street was called Princes Street, in 
honour of the king's two sons, afterwards George IV. and the 
Duke of York. So difficult was it at the very first to induce 
men to build, that a premium of twenty pounds was offered by 
the magistrates to him who should raise the first house ; it was 
awarded to Mr John Young, on account of a mansion erected by 
'him in Rose Court, George Street. An exemption from burghal 
taxes was also granted to Mr John Neale, a mercer, for an elegant 
house built by him, the first in the line of Princes Street (Crown 
Hotel), where his son-in-law, Archibald Constable, afterwards 
was established. These now appear whimsical circumstances. 
So does it that a Mr Shadrach Moyes, on ordering a house to be 
built for himself in Princes Street, in 1769, took the builder 
bound to rear another further along besides his, to shield him 
from the west wind ! Other quaint particulars are remembered ; 
as, for instance : Mr Wight, an eminent lawyer, who had planted 
himself in St Andrew Square, finding he was in danger of having 
his view of St Giles's clock shut up by the advancing line of 
Princes Street, built the intervening house himself, that he might 
have it in his power to keep the roof low, for the sake of the 
view in question ; important to him, he said, as enabling him ta 
regulate his movements in the morning, when it was necessary 
that he should be punctual in his attendance at the Parliament 
House. 

The foundation was at length laid of that revolution which 
has ended in making Edinburgh a kind of double cxiy— first, 
an ancient and picturesque hill-built one, occupied chiefly by 
the humbler classes; and second, an elegant modern one, of 
much regularity of aspect, and possessed almost as exclusively 
by the more refined portion of society. The New Town, 
keeping pace mtli the growing prosperity of the country, had, ia 



THE CHANGES OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS. 1 9 

1790, been extended to Castle Street; in 1800, the necessity for 
a second plan of the same extent still further to the north had 
been felt, and this was soon after acted upon. Forty years saw 
the Old Town thoroughly changed as respects population. One 
after another, its nobles and gentry, its men of the robe, its 
' writers,' and even its substantial burghers, had during that time 
deserted their mansions in the High Street and Canongate, till 
few were left. Even those modem districts connected with it, 
as St John Street, New Street, George Square, &c. were 
beginning to be forsaken for the sake of more elegantly circum- 
stanced habitations beyond the North Loch. Into the remote 
social consequences of this change it is not my purpose to enter, 
beyond the bare remark, that it was only too accordant with 
that tendency of our present form of civilisation to separate the 
high from the low, the intelligent from the ignorant — that dis- 
sociation, in short, which would in itself run nigh to be a 
condemnation of all progress, if we were not allowed to suppose 
that better forms of civilisation are realisable. Enough that I 
mention the tangible consequences of the revolution — a flooding 
in of the humbler trading classes where gentles once had been ; 
the houses of these classes, again, filled with the vile and 
miserable. Now were to be seen hundreds of instances of such 
changes as Provost Creech indicates in 1783: 'The Lord 
Justice-clerk Tinwald's house possessed by a French teacher — 
Lord President Craigie's house by a rouping-wife or salewoman 
of old furniture — and Lord Drummore's house left by a chair- 
man for want of accommodation.' ' The house of the Duke of 
Douglas at the Union, now possessed by a wheelwright!' To 
one who, like myself, was young in the early part of the present 
century, it was scarcely possible, as he permeated the streets 
and closes of ancient Edinburgh, to realise the idea of a time 
when the great were housed therein. But many a gentleman in 
middle life, then living perhaps in Queen Street or Charlotte 
Square, could recollect the close or the common stair where 
he had been bom, and spent his earHest years, now altogether 
given up to a different portion of society. And when the 



20 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

younger perambulator inquired more narrowly, he could dis- 
cover traces of this former population. Here and there a carved 
coat-armorial, with supporters, perhaps even a coronet, arrested 
attention amidst the obscurities of some wyjid or court. Did he 
ascend a stair and enter a floor, now subdivided perhaps into 
four or five distinct dwellings, he might readily perceive, in the 
massive wainscot of the lobby, a proof that the refinements of 
life had once been there. Still more would this idea be 
impressed upon him when, passing into one of the best rooms of 
the old house, he would find not only a continuation of such 
wainscoting, but perhaps a tolerable landscape by Norie, on a 
panel above the fireplace, or a ceiling decorated by De la Cour, 
a French artist, who flourished in Edinburgh about 1740. Even 
yet he would discover a very few relics of gentry maintaining 
their ground in the Old Town, as if faintly to shew what it had 
once been. These were generally old people, who did not think 
it worth while to make any change till the great one. There is 
a melancholy pleasure in recalling what I myself found about 
1820, when my researches for this work were commenced. In 
that year I was in the house of Governor Fergusson, an ancient 
gentleman of the Pitfour family, in a floor, one stair up, in the 
Luckenbooths. About the same time I attended the book-sale 
of Dr Arrot, a physician of good figure, newly deceased, in the 
Mint Close. For several years later, any one ascending a now 
miserable-looking stair in Blackfriars Wynd, would have seen a 
door-plate inscribed with the name Miss Oliphant, a member of 
the Gask family. Nay, so late as 1832, 1 had the pleasure of break- 
fasting with Sir William Macleod Bannatyne in Whiteford House, 
Canongate (afterwards a type-foundry), on which occasion the 
venerable old gentleman talked as familiarly of the levees of the 
sous-ministre for Lord Bute in the old villa at the Abbey Hill, as 
I could have talked of the affairs of the Canning administration; 
and even recalled, as a fresh picture of his meniory, his father 
drawing on his boots to go to make interest in London in behalf 
of some of the men in trouble for the forty-five, particularly his 
own brother-in-law, the Clanranald of that day. Such were the 



THE CASTLE-HILL. 21 

connections recently existing between the past system of things 
and the present. Now, alas ! the sun of Old-Town glory has set 
for ever. Nothing is left but the decaying and rapidly diminish- 
ing masses of ancient masonry, and a handful of traditionary 
recollections, which be it my humble but not unworthy task to 
transmit to future generations. 



THE CASTLE-HILL. 

Hugo Amot — Allan Ramsay — House of the Gordon Family — Sir David 
Baird — Dr Webster — House of Mary de Guise. 

The saunter which I contemplate through the streets and 
stories, the lanes and legends, of Old Edinburgh, may properly 
commence at the Castle-hill, as it is a marked extremity of the 
city, as well as its highest ground. 

The Castle-hill is partly an esplanade, serving as a parade 
ground for the garrison of the Castle, and partly a street, the 
upper portion of that vertebral line which, under the various 
names of Lawnmarket, High Street, and Canongate, extends to 
Holyrood Palace. The open ground — a scene of warfare during 
the sieges of the fortress, often a place of execution in rude 
times — the place, too, where, by a curious legal fiction, the Nova 
Scotia baronets were infeoffed in their ideal estates on the other 
side of the Atlantic — was all that Edinburgh possessed as a 
readily accessible promenade before the extension of the city. 
We find the severe acts for a strict observance of the Sabbath, 
which appeared from time to time in the latter part of the 
seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth century, denouncing 
the King's Park, the Pier of Leith, and the Castle-hill, as the 
places chiefly resorted to for the profane sport of walking on 
'the Lord's Day.' Denounce as they might, human nature 
could never, I believe, be altogether kept off the Castle-hill ; 
even the most respectable people walked there in multitudes 
xiuring the intervals between morning and evening service. We 



22 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

have an allusion to the promenade character of the Castle-hill 
in Ramsay's city pastoral, as it may be called, of The Young 
Laird a?id Edinburgh Katy — 

' Wat ye wha I met yestreen, 

Coming down the street, my jo ? 
My mistress in her tartan screen, 
Fu' bonny, braw, and sweet, my jo. 

' " My dear," quoth I, "thanks to the night, 

That never wished a lover ill. 
Since ye 're out o' your mother's sight. 
Let 's tak' a walk up to the hill" ' 

A memory of these Sunday promenadings here calls me to 
introduce what I have to say regarding a man of whom there 
used to be a strong popular remembrance in Edinburgh. 

HUGO ARNOT. 

The cleverly executed History of Edifiburgh, published by 
Arnot in 1779, and which to this day has not been superseded, 
gives some respectability to a name which tradition would have 
otherwise handed down to us as only that of an eccentric gentle- 
man, of remarkably scarecrow figure, and the subject of a few 
boji-mots. 

He was the son of a Leith shipmaster, named Pollock, and 
took the name of Arnot from a small inheritance in Fife. Many 
who have read his laborious work will be little prepared to hear 
that it was written when the author was between twenty and 
thirty ; and that, antiquated as his meagre figure looks in Kay's 
Portraits, he was, at his death in 1786, only thirty-seven. His 
body had been, in reality, made prematurely old by a confirmed 
asthma, accompanied by a cough, which he himself said would 
carry him off like a rocket some day, when a friend remarked, 
with reference to his known latitudinarianism : ' Possibly, Hugo 
in the contrary direction.' 

Most of the jokes about poor Hugo's person have been 
frequently printed — as Harry Erskine meeting him on the street 
when he was gnawing at a spelding or dried haddock, and 



HUGO ARNOT. 23 

congratulating him on looking so like his meat — and his offending 
the piety of an old woman who was cheapening a Bible in 
Creech's shop, by some thoughdess remark, when she first burst 
out with : ' Oh, you monster ! ' and then turning round and 
seeing him, added : ' And he 's an anatomy too ! ' An epigram 
by Erskine is less known : 

' The Scriptures assure us that much is forgiven 
To flesh and to blood hy the mercy of Heaven ; 
But I 've searched the whole Bible, and texts can find none, 
That extend the assurance to skin and to bone.'' 

Arnot was afflicted by a constitutional irritability to an extent 
which can hardly be conceived. A printer's boy, handing papers 
to him over his shoulder, happened to touch his ear with one of 
them, when he started up in a rage, and demanded of the 
trembling youth what he meant by insulting him in that manner ! 
Probably from some quarrel arising out of this nervous weakness 
■ — for such it really was — the Edinburgh booksellers, to a man, 
refused to have anything to do with the prospectuses of his 
Criminal Trials, and Arnot had to advertise that they were to 
be seen in the coffee-houses, instead of the booksellers' shops. 

About the time when he entered at the bar (1772), he had a 
fancy for a young lady named Hay (afterwards Mrs Macdougall), 
sister of a gentleman who succeeded as Marquis of Tweeddale, 
and then a reigning toast. One Sunday, when he contemplated 
making up to his divinity on the Castle-hill, after forenoon 
service, he entertained two young friends at breakfast in his 
lodgings at the head of the Canongate. By and by, the affairs 
of the toilet came to be considered. It was then found that 
Hugo's washerwoman had played false, leaving him in a total 
destitution of clean linen, or at least of clean linen that was also 
whole. A dreadful storm took ! place, but at length, on its 
calming a little, love found out a way, by taking the hand-ruffles 
of one cast garment, in connection with the front of another, 
and adding both to the body of a third. In this eclectic form of 
shirt the meagre young philosopher marched forth with his 
friends, and was rewarded for his perseverance by being allowed 



24 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

a very pleasant chat with the young lady on 'the hill.' His 
friends standing by had their own enjoyment, in reflecting what 
the beauteous Miss Hay would think if she knew the struggles 
which her admirer had had that morning in preparing to make 
his appearance before her. 

Arnot latterly dwelt in a small house at the end of the Meuse 
Lane in St Andrew Street, with an old and very particular lady 
for a neighbour in the upper floor. Disturbed by the enthusiastic 
way in which he sometimes rang his bell, the lady ventured to 
send a remonstrance, which, however, produced no effect. This 
led to a bad state of matters between them. At length a very 
pressing and petulant message being handed in one day, insisting 
that he should endeavour to call his servants in a different 
manner, what was the lady's astonishment next morning to hear 
a pistol discharged in Amot's house ! He was simply complying 
with the letter of his neighbour's request, by firing, instead of 
ringing, as a signal for shaving-water. 

ALLAN RAMSAY. 

On the north side of the esplanade — enjoying a splendid view 
of the Firth of Forth, Fife, and Stirling shires — is the neat little 
villa of Allan Ramsay, surrounded by its miniature pleasure- 
grounds. The sober industrious life of this exception to the 
race of poets having resulted in a small competency, he built 
this odd-shaped house in his latter days, designing to enjoy in it 
the Horatian quiet which he had so often eulogised in his verse. 
The story goes, that, shewing it soon after to the clever Patrick, 
Lord Elibank, with much fussy interest in all its externals and 
accommodations, he remarked that the wags were already at 
work on the subject — they likened it to a goosei-pie (owing to 
the roundness of the shape). ' Indeed, Allan,' said his lordship, 
* now I see you in it, I think the wags are not far wrong.' 

The splendid reputation of Bums has eclipsed that of Ramsay 
so effectually, that this pleasing poet, and, upon the whole, 
amiable and worthy man, is now little regarded. Yet Ramsay 
can never be deprived of the credit of having written the best 



ALLAN RAMSAY. 2$ 

pastoral poem in the range of British literature — if even that be 
not too narrow a word — and many of his songs are of great 
merit. 

Ramsay was secretly a Jacobite, openly a dissenter from the 
severe manners and feelings of his day, although a very decent 
and regular attender of the Old Church in St Giles's. He 
delighted in music and theatricals, and, as we shall see, 
encouraged the Assembly. It was also no doubt his own taste 
which led him, in 1725, to set up a circulating library, whence 
he diffused plays and other works of fiction among the people of 
Edinburgh. It appears, from the private notes of the historian 
Wodrow, that, in 1728, the magistrates, moved by some 
meddling spirits, took alarm at the effect of this kind of reading 
on the minds of youth, and made an attempt to put it down, 
but without effect One cannot but be amused to find amongst 
these self-constituted guardians of morality. Lord Grange, who 
kept his wife in unauthorised restraint for several years, and 
whose own life was a scandal to his professions. Ramsay, as is 
well known, also attempted to establish a theatre in Edinburgh, 
but failed. The following advertisement on this subject appears 
in the Caledonian Mercury, September 1736: 'The New 
Theatre in Carrubber's Close being in great forwardness, will be 
opened the ist of November. These are to advertise the 
gentlemen and ladies who incline to purchase annual tickets, to 
enter their names before the 20th of October next, on which day 
they shall receive their tickets from AUan Ramsay, on paying 
30s. — no more than forty to be subscribed for; after which none 
will be disposed of under two guineas.' 

The late Mrs Murray of Henderland knew Ramsay for the 
last ten years of his life, her sister having married his son, the 
celebrated painter. She spoke of him to me in 1825 with kindly 
enthusiasm, as one of the most amiable men she had ever 
known. His constant cheerfulness and lively conversational 
powers had made him a favourite amongst persons of rank, 
whose guest he frequently was. Being very fond of children, he 
encouraged his daughters in bringing troops of young ladies 



26 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

about the house, in whose sports he would mix with a patience 
and vivacity wonderful in an old man. He used to give these 
young friends a kind of ball once a year. From pure kindness 
for the young, he would help to make dolls for them, and cradles 
wherein to place these little effigies, with his own hands. But 
here a fashion of the age must be held in view ; for, however 
odd it may appear, it is undoubtedly true that to make and 
dispose of dolls, such as children now alone are interested in, 
was a practice in vogue amongst grown-up ladies who had little 
to do about a hundred years ago. 

Ramsay died in 1757. An elderly female told a friend of 
mine that she remembered, when a girl living as an apprentice 
with a milliner in the Grassmarket, being sent to Ramsay 
Garden to assist in making dead-clothes for the poet. She could 
recall, however, no particulars of the scene, but the roses 
blooming in at the window of the death-chamber. 

The poet's house passed to his son, of the same name, eminent 
as a painter — portrait-painter to King George III. and his queen 
— and a man of high mental culture ; consequently much a 
favourite in the circles of Johnson and Boswell. The younger 
Allan enlarged the house, and built three additional houses to 
the eastward, bearing the title of Ramsay Garden. At his death 
in 1784, the property went to his son. General John Ramsay, 
who, dying in 1845, left this mansion and a large fortune to Mr 
Murray of Henderland. So ended the line of the poet. His 
daughter Christian, an amiable, kind-hearted woman, said to 
possess a gift of verse, lived for many years in New Street. At 
seventy-four, she had the misfortune to be thrown down by a 
hackney-coach, and had her leg broken ; yet she recovered, and 
lived to the age of eighty-eight. Leading a solitary life, she 
took a great fancy for cats. Besides supporting many in her 
own house, curiously disposed in bandboxes, with doors to go 
in and out at, she caused food to be laid out for others on her 
stair and around her house. Not a word of obloquy would she 
listen to against the species, alleging, when any wickedness of a 
cat was spoken of, that the animal must have acted under 



ALLAN RAMSAY. 



27 



provocation, for by nature, she asserted, cats are harmless. 
Often did her maid go with morning messages to her friends, 
inquiring, with her compliments, after their pet cats. Good Miss 
Ramsay was also a friend to horses, and indeed to all creatures. 
When she observed a carter ill-treating his horse, she would 
march up to him, tax him with cruelty, and, by the very 
earnestness of her remonstrances, arrest the barbarian's hand. 
So also, Avhen she saw one labouring on the street, with the 







Ramsay's House, as it appeared in 1S45. 



appearance of defective diet, she would send rolls to its master, 
entreating him to feed the animal. These peculiarities, although 
a little eccentric, are not unpleasing ; and I cannot be sorry to 
record them of the daughter of one whose heart and head were 
an honour to his country. 

[1868. — It seems to have been unknown to the biographers of 
Allan Ramsay the painter, that he made a romantic marriage. In 

c 



28 " TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

his early days, while teaching the art of drawing in the family of 
Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick, one of the young ladies fell in 
love with him, captivated probably by the tongue which after- 
wards gave him the intimacy of princes, and was undoubtedly a 
great source of his success in life. The father of the enamoured 
girl was an old proud baronet; her. mother, a sister of the Chief- 
justice Earl of Mansfield. A marriage with consent of parents 
was consequently impossible. The young people, nevertheless, 
contrived to get themselves united in wedlock. 

The speedily developed talents of Ramsay, the illustrious 
patronage they secured to him, and the very considerable wealth 
which he acquired, must have in time made him an acceptable 
relation to those proud people. A time came when their 
descendants held the connection even as an honour. The 
wealth of the painter ultimately, on the death of his son in 1845, 
became the property of Mr Murray of Henderland, a grandson 
of Sir Alexander Lindsay, and nephew of Mrs Allan Ramsay ; 
thence it not long after passed to Mr Murray's brother, Sir John 
Archibald Murray, better known by his judicial name of Lord 
Murray. This gentleman admired the poet, and resolved to 
raise a statue to him beside his goose-pie house on the Castle- 
hill; but the situation proved unsuitable, and since his own 
lamented death in 1858, the marble full-length of worthy Allan, 
from the studio of John Steell, has found a noble place in the 
Princes Street Gardens, resting on a pedestal, containing on its 
principal side a medallion portrait of Lord Murray, on the 
reverse one of General Ramsay, on the west side one of the 
General's lady, and on the east similar representations of the 
General's two daughters. Lady Campbell and Mrs Malcolm. 
Thus we find — owing to the esteem which genius ever com- 
mands — the poet of the Gentle Shepherd in the immortality of 
marble, surrounded by the figures of relatives and descendants 
who so acknowledged their aristocratic rank to be inferior to his, 
derived from mind alone.] 



HOUSE OF THE GORDON FAMILY. 



29 



HOUSE OF THE GORDON FAMILY. 

Tradition points out, as the residence of the Gordon family, 
a house, or rather range of buildings, situated between Blair's 
and Brown's Closes, being almost the first mass of building in 
the Castle-hill Street on the right- 
hand side. The southern portion 
is a structure of lofty and massive 
form, battlemented at top, and 
looking out upon a garden which 
formerly stretched down to the old 
town-wall near the Grassmarket, 
but is now crossed by the access 
from the King's Bridge. From the 
style of building, I should be dis- 
posed to assign it a date a little 
subsequent to the Restoration. 
There are, however, no authentic 
memorials respecting the alleged 
connection of the Gordon family 
with this house, unless we are to 
consider as of that character a 
coronet resembling that of a mar- 
quis, flanked by two deer-hounds, 
the well-known supporters of this 
noble family, which figures over a finely moulded door in Blair's 
Close. The coronet will readily be supposed to point to the 
time when the Marquis of Huntly was the principal honour of 
the family — that is, previous to 1684, when the title of Duke of 
Gordon was conferred.* 




Doorway of Duke of Gordon's 
House. 



* George, sixth Earl of Huntly, took his last illness, June 1636, in 'his house in the 
Canongate.' George, the first duke, who had held out the Castle at the Revolution, died 
December 1716, at his house in the Citadel of Leith, where he appears to have occasionally 
resided for some years. I should suppose the house on the Castle-hill to have been 
inhabited by the family in the interval between these dates. 

The Citadel seems to have been a little nest of aristocracy, of the Cavalier party. In 1745, 
one of its inhabitants was Dame Magdalen Bruce of Kinross, widow of the baronet who had 



30 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

In more recent times, this substantial mansion was the abode 
of Mi" Baird of Newbyth ; and here it was that the late gallant 
Sir David Baird, the hero of Seringapatam, was bom and 
brought up. Returning in advanced life from long foreign 
service, this distinguished soldier came to see the home of his 
youth on the Castle-hill. The respectable individual whom I 
found occupying the house in 1824 received his visitor with due 
respect, and after shewing him through the house, conducted 
him out to the garden. Here the boys of the existing tenant 
were found actively engaged in throwing cabbage-stalks at the 
tops of the chimneys of the houses of the Grassmarket, situated 
a little below the level of the garden. On making one plump 
down the vent, the youngsters set up a great shout of triumph. 
Sir David fell a-laughing at sight of this example of practical 
waggery, and entreated the father of the lads ' not to be too 
angry : he and his brother, when living here at the same age, 
had indulged in precisely the same amiable amusement, the 
chimneys then, as now, being so provokingly open to such 
attacks, that there was no resisting the temptation.' 

The whole matter might have been put into an axiomatic 
form — Given a garden with cabbage - stalks, and a set of 
chimneys situated at an angle of forty-five degrees below the 
spot, any boys turned loose into the said garden will be sure 
to endeavour to bring the cabbage-stalks and the chimneys into 
acquaintance. 

DR WEBSTER, 

An isolated house which formerly stood in Webster's Close, 
a little way down the Castle-hill, was the residence of the Rev. Dr 
Webster, a man eminent in his day on many accounts — a lead- 
ing evangelical clergyman in Edinburgh, a statist and calculator 

assisted in the Restoration. Here lived with her the Rev. Robert Forbes, Episcopal 
minister of Leith [afterwards Bishop of Orkney], from whose collections regarding Charles 
Edward and his adventures a volume of extracts was published by me in 1834. Through- 
out those troublous days, a little Episcopal congregation was kept together in Leith ; their 
place of worship being the first floor of an old dull-looking house in Queen Street (dated 
1615), the lower floor of which was, in my recollection, a police-office. 



DR WEBSTER. 3 1 

of extraordinary talent, and a distinguished figure in festive 
scenes. The first population returns of Scotland were obtained 
by him in 1755; and he was the author of that fund for the 
widows of the clergy of the Established Church, which has 
proved so great a blessing to many, and still exists in a flourish- 
ing state.* He was also deep in the consultations of the magis- 
trates regarding the New Town. 

It is not easy to reconcile the two leading characteristics of 
this divine — his being the pastor of a flock of noted sternness, 
called, from the church in which they assembled, the Tolbooth 
Whigs ; and his at the same time entering heartily and freely 
into the convivialities of the more mirthful portion of society. 
Perhaps he illustrated the maxim, that one man may steal horses 
with impunity, &c. ; for it is related that, going home early one 
morning with strong symptoms of over-indulgence upon him, 
and being asked by a friend who met him, ' what the Tolbooth 
Whigs would say if they were to see him at this moment?' he 
instantly replied : ' They would not believe their own eyes.' 
Sometimes he did fall on such occasions under plebeian obser- 
vation j but the usual remark was : ' Ah, there 's Dr Webster, 
honest man, going hame, nae doubt, frae some puir afilicted 
soul he has been visiting. Never does he tire o' welldoing ! ' 
And so forth. 

The history of Dr Webster's marriage is romantic. When a 
young and unknown man, he was employed by a friend to act 
as go-between, or, as it is termed in Scotland, black-fit, or black- 
foot, in a correspondence which he was carrying on with a young 
lady of great beauty and accomplishment. Webster had not 
acted long in that character, till the young lady, who had never 
entertained any affection for his constituent, fell deeply in love 
with himself. Her birth and expectations were better than his ; 

* Before the government bounty had supplemented the poor stipends of the Scotch church 
up to ;£i5o, many of them were so small, that the widow's allowance from this fund nearly 
equalled them. Such was the case of Cranshaws, a pastoral parish among the Lammermoor 
hills. A former minister of Cranshaws having wooed a lass of humble rank, the father of 
the lady, when consulted on the subject, said: 'Tak' him, Jenny; he's as gude deid as 
living !' meaning of course that she would be as well off as a widow, as in the quality of a 
wife. 



32 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and however much he might have been disposed to address her 
on his own behalf, he never could have thought of such a thing 
so long as there was such a difference between their circum- 
stances. The lady saw his difficulty, and resolved to overcome 
it, and that in the frankest manner. At one of these interviews, 
when he was exerting all his eloquence in favour of his friend, 
she plainly told him that he would probably come better speed 
if he were to speak for himself. He took the hint, and, in a 
word, was soon after married to her. He wrote upon the 
occasion an amorous lyric, which exhibits in warm colours the 
gratitude of a humble lover for the favour of a mistress of superior 
station, and which is perhaps as excellent altogether in its way 
as the finest compositions of the kind produced in either ancient 
or modem times. There is one particularly impassioned verse, 
in which, after describing a process of the imagination by which, 
in gazing upon her, he comes to think her a creature of more 
than mortal nature, he says that at length, unable to contain, he 
clasps her to his bosom, and — 

' Kissing her lips, she turns woman again ! ' 

HOUSE OF MARY DE GUISE. 

The restrictions imposed upon a city requiring defence, 
appear as one of the forms of misery leading to strange associa- 
tions. We become in a special degree sensible of this truth, 
when we see the house of a royal personage sunk amidst the 
impurities of a narrow close in the Old Town of Edinburgh. 
Such was literally the case of an aged pile of buildings on the 
north side of the Castle-hill, behind the front line of the street, 
and accessible by Blyth's, Nairn's, and Tod's Closes, which was 
declared by tradition to have been the residence of Mary de 
Guise, the widow of James V., and from 1554 to 1560 regent of 
this realm. 

Descending the first of these alleys about thirty yards, we 
came to a dusky, half-ruinous building on the left-hand side, 
presenting one or two lofty windows and a doorway, surrounded 
by handsome mouldings; the whole bearing that appearance 



HOUSE OF MARY DE GUISE. 33 

which says : ' There is here something that has been of conse- 
quence, all haggard and disgraced though it now be.' Glancing 
to the opposite side of the close, where stood another portion of 
the same building, the impression was confirmed by further 
appearances of a goodly style of architecture. These were, in 
reality, the principal portions of the palace of the Regent Mary ; 
the former being popularly described as her house, thfe latter as 
her oratory or chapel. The close terminated under a portion of 
the building; and when the visitor made his way so far, he found 
an exterior presented northwards, with many windows, whence 
of old a view must have been commanded, first of the gardens 
descending to the North Loch, and second, of the Firth of 
Forth and Fife. One could easily understand that, when the 
gardens existed, the north side of the house might have had 
many pleasant apartments, and been, upon the whole, tolerable 
as a place of residence, albeit the access by a narrow alley could 
never have been agreeable. Latterly, the site of the upper part 
of the garden was occupied by a brushmaker's workshops and 
yard, while the lower was covered by the Earthen Mound. In 
the wall on the east side there was included, as a mere portion 
of the masonry, a stray stone, which had once been an architrave 
or lintel; it contained, besides an armorial device flanked by 
the initials A. A., the legend Nosce Teipsum, and the date 

1557- 

Reverting to the door of the queen's house, which was simply 
the access of a common stair, we there found an ornamented 
architrave, bearing the legend, 

LAUS ET HONOR DEO, 

terminated by two pieces of complicated lettering, one much 
obliterated, the other a monogram of the name of the Virgin 
Mary, formed of the letters M. R.* Finally, at the extremities 

* ' The monograms of the name of our blessed lady are formed of the letters M. A., M. R., 
and A. M., and these stand respectively for Maria, Maria Regina, and Ave Maria. The 
letter M. was often used by itself to express the name of the blessed virgin, and became a 
vehicle for the most beautiful ornament and design ; the letter itself being entirely composed 
of emblems, with some passage from the life of our lady in the void spaces. — Ptigitis 
Glossary 0/ Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume, 1844. 



34 TRAJ)ITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of this Stone, were two Roman letters of larger size — I. R. — 
doubtless the initials of James Rex, for James V., the style of 
cutting being precisely the same as in the initials seen on the 
palace built by that king in Stirling Castle ; an indirect proof, it 
may be remarked, of this having been the residence of the 
Regent Mary. 

Passing up a spiral flight of steps, we came to a darksome 
lobby, leading to a series of mean apartments, occupied by 
persons of the humblest grade. Immediately within the door 
was a small recess in the wall, composed of Gothic stonework, 
and supposed by the people to have been designed for contaia- 
ing holy-water, though this may well be matter of doubt. Over- 
head, in the ceiling, was a round entablature, presenting a faded 
coronet over the defaced outline of a shield. A similar object 
adorned the ceiling of the lobby in the second flpor, but in 
better preservation, as the shield bore \\\x^^fleiirs de lis, with the 
coronet above, and the letters H. R. below. There was a third 
of these entablatures, containing the arms of the city of Edin- 
burgh, in the centre of the top of the staircase. The only other 
curious object in this part of the mansion was the door of one 
of the wretched apartments — a specimen of carving, bearing all 
the appearance of having been contemporary with the building, 
and containing, besides other devices, bust portraits of a gentle- 
man and lady. This is now in the possession of the Society of 
the Antiquaries of Scotland. 

A portion of the same building, accessible by a stair nearer 
the head of the close, contained a hall-like apartment, with 
other apartments, all remarkable for their unusually lofty ceilings. 
In the large room were the remains of a spacious decorated 
chimney, to which, in the recollection of persons still living, 
there had been attached a chain, serving to confine the tongs to 
their proper domain. This was the memorial of an old custom, 
of which it is not easy to see the utility, unless some light be 
held as thrown upon it by a Scottish proverb, used when a child 
takes a thing and says he found it : ' You found it, I suppose, 
where the Highlandman found the tongs.' In the centre of. 



HOUSE OF MARY DE GUISE. 35 

almost all the ceilings of this part of the mansion I found, in 
1824, circular entablatures, with coats of arms and other devices, 
in stucco, evidently of good workmanship, but obscured by- 
successive coats of whitening. 

The place pointed out by tradition as the queen-regent's 
oratory was in the first floor of the building opposite — a spacious 
and lofty hall, with large ^vindows designed to make up for the 
obscurity of the close. Here, besides a finely carved piscina, 
was a pretty large recess, of Gothic structure, in the back-wall, 
evidently designed for keeping things of importance. Many 
years ago, out of the wall behind this recess, there had been 
taken a small iron box, such as might have been employed to 
keep jewellery, but empty. I was the means of its being gifted 
to Sir Walter Scott, who had previously told me that ' a passion 
for such little boxes was one of those that most did beset him ; ' 
and it is now in the collection at Abbotsford. 

The other portions of the mansion, accessible from different 
alleys, were generally similar to these, but somewhat finer. One 
chamber was recognised as the Deid-room; that is, the room 
where individuals of the queen's establishment were kept between 
their death and burial. 

It was interesting to wander through the dusky mazes of this 
ancient building, and reflect that they had been occupied three 
centuries ago by a sovereign princess, and one of the most 
illustrious lineage. Here was the substantial monument of a 
connection between France and Scotland, a totally past state of 
things. She whose ancestors owned Lorraine as a sovereignty, 
who had spent her youth in the proud halls of the Guises in 
Picardy, and been the spouse of a Longueville, was here content 
to live — in a dose in Edinburgh ! In these obscurities, too, was 
a government conducted, which had to struggle with Knox, 
Glencaim, James Stewart, Morton, and many other powerful 
men, backed by a popular sentiment which never fails to 
triumph. It was the misfortune of Mary to be placed in a 
position to resist the E^eformation. Her own character deserved 
that she should have stood in a more agreeable relation to what 



$6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Scotland now venerates, for she was mild and just, and sincerely 
anxious for the good of her adopted country. It is also proper 
to remember on the present occasion, that ' in her court she 
maintained a decent gravity, nor would she tolerate any licen- 
tious practices therein. Her maids of honour were always 
busied in commendable exercises, she herself being an example 
to them in virtue, piety, and modesty.' * When all is considered, 
and we further know that the building was strong enough to 
have lasted many more ages, one cannot but regret that the 
palace of Mary de Guise, reduced as it was to vileness, should 
not now be in existence. The site having been purchased 
by individuals connected with the Free Church, the buildings 
were removed in 1846, to make room for the erection of an 
academical institution or college for the use of that body. 



THE WEST BOW. 

The Bowhead — Weigh-house — Anderson's Pills — Oratories — Colonel Gar- 
diner — ' Bowhead Saints ' — ' The Seizers ' — Story of a Jacobite Canary — 
Major Weir — Tulzies — The Tinklarian Doctor — Old Assembly Room — 
Paul Romieu — ' He that Tholes Overcomes ' — Provost Stewart — Donald- 
sons the Booksellers — Bowfoot — The Templars' Lands — The Gallows 
' Stone. 

[supposed to be written in 1822.] 

In a central part of Old Edinburgh — the very Little Britain 
of our city — is a curious, angular, whimsical-looking street, of 
great steepness and narrowness, called the West Bow. Serving 
as a connection between the Grassmarket and Lawnmarket, 
between the Low and the High Town, it is of considerable fame 
in our city annals as a passage for the entry of sovereigns, and 
the scene of the quaint ceremonials used on those occasions. 
In more modem times, it has been chiefly notable in the 
recollections of country-people as a nest of the peculiarly 

* Keith's History. 



THE WEST BOW. 



37 



noisy tradesmen, the white-iron smiths, which causes Robert 
Fergusson to mark, as one of the features of Edinburgh deserted 
for a holiday : 

' The tinkler billies * o' the Bow ^ 

Are now less eident + clinkin.' 

Another remarkable circumstance connected with the street in 
the popular mind, is its having been the residence of the famed 
wizard, Major Weir. All of these particulars serve to make it a 
noteworthy sort of place, and the impression is much favoured 
by its actual appearance. A perfect Z in figure, composed of 




The Bowhead. 



tall antique houses, with numerous dovecot-like gables projecting 
over the footway, full of old inscriptions and sculpturings, 
presenting at every few steps some darksome lateral profundity, 
into which the imagination wanders without hindrance or ex- 
haustion, it seems eminently a place of old grandmothers' tales, 



* Fellows. 



t Busy. 



38 . TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and sure at all times to maintain a ghost or two in its community. 
When I descend into particulars, it will be seen what grounds 
there truly are for such a surmise. 
To begin with 

THE BOWHEAD. 

This is a comparatively open space, though partially straitened 
again by the insertion in it of a clumsy detached old building 
called the Weigh-house, where enormous masses of butter and 
cheese are continually getting disposed of Prince Charles had 
his guard at the Weigh-house when blockading the Castle ; using, 
however, for this purpose, not the house itself, but a floor of 
the adjacent tall tenement in the Lawnmarket, which appears to 
have been selected on a very intelligible principle, in as far as 
it was the deserted mansion of one of the city clergy, the same 
Rev. George Logan who carried on a controversy with Thomas 
Ruddiman, in which he took unfavourable views of the title of 
the Stuart family to the throne, not only then, but at any time. 
It was, no doubt, as an additional answer to a bad pamphlet 
that the Highlanders took up their quarters at Mr Logan's. 

Anderson's pills. 

In this tall la?id, dated 1690, there is a house on the second 
floor where that venerable drug, Dr Anderson's pills, is sold, 
and has been so for above a century. As is well known, the 
country-people in Scotland have to this day a peculiar reverence 
for these pills, which are, I believe, really a good form of aloetic 
medicine. They took their origin from a physician of the time 
of Charles L, who gave them his name. From his daughter, 
Lillias Anderson, the patent came to a person designed Thomas 
Weir, who left it to his daughter. The widow of this last 
person's nephew, Mrs Irving, is now the patentee ; a lady of 
advanced age, who facetiously points to the very brief series of 
proprietors intervening between Dr Anderson and herself, as no 
inexpressive indication of the virtue of the medicine. [Mrs 
Irving died in 1837, at the age of ninety-nine.] Portraits of 



Anderson's pills. 39 

Anderson and his daughter are preserved in this house : the 
physician in a Vandyke dress, with a book in his band ; the 
lady a precise-looking dame, with a pill in her hand about the 
size of a walnut, saying a good deal for the stomachs of our 
ancestors. The people also shew a glove which belonged to 
the learned physician. 

[1868. — In 1829, Mrs Irving lived in a neat, self-contained 
mansion in Chessels's Court, in the Canongate, along with her 
son, General Irving, and some members of his family. The old 
lady, then ninety-one, was good enough to invite me to dinner, 
when I likewise found two younger sisters of hers, respectively 
eighty-nine and ninety. She sat firm and collected at the head 
of the table, and carved a leg of mutton with, perfect propriety. 
She then told me, at her son's request, that, in the year 1745, 
when Prince Charles's army was in possession of the town, she, 
a child of four years, walked with her nurse to Holyrood Palace, 
and seeing a Highland gentleman standing in the doorway, she 
went up to him to examine his peculiar attire. She even took 
the liberty of lifting up his kilt a little way ; whereupon her 
nurse, fearing some danger, started forward for her protection. 
But the gentleman only patted her head, and said something 
kind to her. I felt it as very curious to sit as guest with a 
person who had mingled in the Forty-five. But my excitement 
was brought to a higher pitch when, on ascending to the 
drawing-room, I found the general's daughter, a pretty young 
woman recently married, sitting there, dressed in a suit of 
clothes belonging to one of the nonogenarian aunts — a very fine 
one of flowered satin, with elegant cap and lappets, and silk 
shoes three inches deep in the heel — the same having been worn 
by the venerable owner just seventy years before at a Hunters' 
Ball at Holyrood Palace. The contrast between the former 
and the present wearer — the old lady shrunk and taciturn, and 
her young representative full of life, and resplendent in joyous 
beauty — had an effect upon me which it would be impossible to 
describe. To this day, I look upon the Chessels's Court dinner 
as one of the most extraordinary events in my life.] 



40 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

ORATORIES — COLONEL GARDINER. 

This house presents a feature which forms a curious memorial 
of the manners of a past age. In common with all the houses 
built from about 1690 to 1740 — a substantial class, still abund- 
ant in the High Street — there is at the end of each row of 
windows corresponding to a separate mansion, a narrow slit-like 
window, such as might suffice for a closet. In reality, each of 
these narrow apertures gives light to a small cell — much too 
small to require such a window — usually entering from the 
dining-room, or some other principal apartment. The use of 
these cells was to serve as a retreat for the master of the house, 
wherein he might perform his devotions. The father of a 
family was in those days a sacred kind of person, not to be 
approached by wife or children^ too familiarly, and expected to 
be a priest in his own household. Besides his family devotions, 
he retired to a closet for perhaps an hour each day, to utter his 
own prayers ; * and so regular was the custom, that it gave rise, 
as we see, to this peculiarity in house-building. Nothing could 
enable us more clearly to appreciate that strong outward demon- 
stration of religious feeling which pervaded the nation for half 
a century after the agonies of ' the Persecution.' I cannot help 
here mentioning the interest with which I have visited Bankton 
House, in East Lothian, where, as is well known, Colonel 
Gardiner spent several years of his life. The oratory of the 
pious soldier is pointed out by tradition, and it forms even 3, 
more expressive memorial of the time than the closets in the 
Edinburgh houses. Connected with a small front room, which 
might have been a library or study, is a little recess, such as 
dust-pans and brooms are kept in, consisting of the angular 
space formed by a stair which passes overhead to the upper 
floor. This place is wholly without light, yet it is said to have 
been the place sacred to poor Gardiner's private devotions. 

* Not improbably this was done in a spirit of literal obedience to the injunction (Matthew 
vi. 6) : ' Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet.' Commentators on this passage 
mention that every Jewish house had a place of secret devotion built over the porch. 



BOWHEAD SAINTS — SEIZERS. 4 1 

What leaves hardly any doubt on the matter is, that there has 
been a wooden bolt within, capable only of being shot from the 
inside, and therefore unquestionably used by a person desiring 
to shut himself in. Here, therefore, in this darksome, stifling 
little cell, had this extraordinary man spent hours in those 
devotional exercises by which he was so much distinguished 
from his class.* 

BOWHEAD SAINTS — SEIZERS — A JACOBITE BLACK-BIRD. 

In the latter part of the seventeenth century, the inhabitants 
of the West Bow enjoyed a peculiar fame for their piety and 
zeal in the Covenanting cause. The wits of the opposite faction 
are full of allusions to them as ' the Bowhead Saints,' ' the godly 
plants of the Bowhead,' and so forth. [This is the basis of an 
allusion by a later Cavalier wit, when describing the exit of 
Lord Dundee from Edinburgh, on the occasion of the settle- 
ment of the crown upon William and Mary : 

' As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow, 
Ilka carline was flyting, and shaking her pow ; 
But some young plants of grace, that looked couthie and slie, 
Said : "Luck to thy bonnet, thou bonnie Dundee !'" 

It is to be feared that Sir Walter has here shewn a relenting, 
towards the 'young plants,' for which they would not have 
thanked him.] All the writings of the wits of their own time 
speak of the system to which they were opposed as one of 
unmitigated sternness. It was in those days a custom to patrol 
the streets during the time of divine service, and take into 
captivity all persons found walking abroad ; and indeed make 
seizure of whatever could be regarded as guilty of Sabbath- 
breaking. It is said that, led by a sneaking sense, the patrol 
one day lighted upon a joint of meat in the course of being 
roasted, and made prize of it, leaving the graceless owner to 
chew the spit. On another occasion, about the year 1735, a 
capture of a different kind was made. ' The people about that 

• Bankton House has been burned down and rebuilt since this was written. 



42 ' TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

time,' says Arnot, 'were in use to teach their birds to chant the 
songs of their party. It happened that the black-bird of an 
honest Jacobitical barber, which from his cage on the outside of 
the window gave offence to the zealous Whigs by his songs, 
was neglected, on a Saturday evening, to be brought within the 
house. Next morning he tuned his pipe to the usual air. The 
king shall enjoy his owti again. One of the seizers, in his holy 
zeal, was enraged at this manifestation of impiety and treason in 
one of the feathered tribe. He went up to the house, seized the 
bird and the cage, and with much solemnity lodged them in the 
City-Guard.'* Pennycook, a burgess bard of the time, repre- 
sents the officer as addressing the bird : 

' Had ye been taught by me, a Bowhead saint. 
You 'd sung the Solemn League and Covenant, 
Bessy of Lanark, or the Last Good-night ; 
But you 're a bird prelatic — that 's not right. . . 
Oh could my baton reach the laverocks too, 
They 're chirping yatnie, Jamie, just like you : 
I hate vain birds that lead malignant lives. 
But love the chanters to the Bowhead wives.' 

MAJOR WEIR. 

It must have been a sad scandal to this peculiar community 
when Major Weir, one of their number, was found to have been 
so wretched an example of human infirmity. The house 
occupied by this man still exists, though in an altered shape, in 
a little court accessible by a narrow passage near the first angle 
of the street. His history is obscurely reported ; but it appears 
that he was of a good family in Lanarkshire, and had been one 
of the ten thousand men sent by the Scottish Covenanting 
Estates in 1641 to assist in suppressing the Irish Papists. He 
became distinguished for a life -of peculiar sanctity, even in an 
age when that was the prevailing tone of the public mind. 
According to a contemporary account: 'His garb was still a 
cloak, and somewhat dark, and he never went without his staff. 

* History of Edinburgh, p. 205, note. 



MAJOR WEIR, 43 

He was a tall black man, and ordinarily looked down to the 
ground; a grwt countenance, and a big nose. At length he 
became so notoriously regarded among the Presbyterian strict 
sect, that if four met together, be sure Major Weir was one. 
At private meetings he prayed to admiration, which made many 
of that stamp court his converse. He never married, but lived 
in a private lodging with his sister, Grizel Weir. Many resorted 
to his house, to join with him, and hear him pray ; but it was 
observed that he could not officiate in any holy duty without 
the black staff, or rod, in his hand, and leaning upon it, which 
made those who heard him pray admire his flood in prayer, his 
ready extemporary expression, his heavenly gesture ; so that he 
was thought more angel than man, and was termed by some of 
the holy sisters ordinarily Angelical Thomas.^ Plebeian imagina- 
tions have since fructified regarding the staff, and crones will 
still seriously tell how it could run a message to a shop for any 
article which its proprietor wanted; how it could answer the 
door when any one called upon its master ; and that it used to 
be often seen running before him, in the capacity of a link-boy, 
as he walked down the Lawnmarket. 

After a life characterised externally by all the graces of 
devotion, but polluted in secret by crimes of the most revolting 
nature, and which little needed the addition of wizardry to excite 
the horror of living men. Major AVeir fell into a severe sickness, 
which affected his mind so much, that he made open and 
voluntary confession of all his wickedness. The tale was at first 
so incredible, that the provost, Sir Andrew Ramsay, refused for 
some time to take him into custody. At length himself, his 
sister (partner of one of his crimes), and his staff, were secured 
by the magistrates, together with certain sums of money, which 
were found wrapped up in rags in different parts of the house. 
One of these pieces of rag being thrown into the fire by a bailie 
who had taken the whole in charge, flew up the chimney, and 
made an explosion like a cannon. While the wretched man lay 
in prison, he made no scruple to disclose the particulars of his 
guilt, but refused to address himself to the Almighty for pardon. 



44 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

To every request that he would pray, he answered in screams : 
'Torment me no more — I am tormented enough already!' 
Even the offer of a Presbyterian clergyman, instead of an 
established Episcopal minister of the city, had no efifect upon 
him. He was tried April 9, 1670, and being found guilty, was 
sentenced to be strangled and burnt between Edinburgh and 
Leith. His sister, who was tried at the same time, was 
sentenced to be hanged in the Grassmarket. The execution of 
the profligate major took place, April 14, at the place indicated 
by the judge. When the rope was about his neck, to prepare 
him for the fire, he was bid to say : ' Lord, be merciful to me !' 
but he answered, as before : ' Let me alone — I will not — I have 
lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast ! ' After he had 
dropped lifeless in the flames, his stick was also cast into the 
fire; and, 'whatever incantation was ia it,' says the contem- 
porary writer already quoted,* ' the persons present own that it 
gave rare turnings, and was long a-buming, as also himself.' 

The conclusion to which the humanity of the present age 
would come regarding Weir — that he was mad — is favoured by 
some circumstances ; for instance, his answering one who asked 
if he had ever seen the devil, that ' the only feeling he ever had 
of him was in the dark.' What chiefly countenances the idea, is 
the unequivocal lunacy of the sister. This miserable woman 
confessed to witchcraft, and related, in a serious manner, many 
things which could not be true. Many years before, a fiery 
coach, she said, had come to her brother's door in broad day, 
and a stranger invited them to enter, and they proceeded to 
Dalkeith. On the way, another person came and whispered in 
her brother's ear something which afi"ected him ; it proved to be 
supernatural intelligence of the defeat of the Scotch army at 
Worcester, which took place that day. Her brother's power, 
she said, lay in his stafi". She also had a gift for spinning above 
other women, but the yam broke to pieces in the loom. Her 
mother, she declared, had been also a vntch. 'The secretest 

* The Rev. Mr Frazer, minister of Wardlaw, in his Divine Providewes (MS. Adv. Lib.), 
dated 1670. 



MAJOR WEIR. 45 

thing that I, or any of the family could do, when once a mark 
appeared upon her brow, she could tell it them, though done at 
a great distance.' This mark could also appear on her own 
forehead when she pleased. At the request of the company 
present, 'she put back her head-dress, and seeming to fro^vn, 
there was an exact horse-shoe shaped for nails in her wrinkles, 
terrible enough, I assure you, to the stoutest beholder.'* At 
the place of execution she acted in a furious manner, and with 
difficulty could be prevented from throwing off her clothes, in 
order to die, as she said, 'with all the shame she could.' 

The treatise just quoted makes it plain that the case of Weir 
and his sister had immediately become a fruitful theme for the 
imaginations of the vulgar. We there receive the following 
story : ' Some few days before he discovered himself, a gentle- 
woman coming from the Castle-hill, where her husband's niece 
was lying-in of a child, about midnight perceived about the 
Bowhead three women in windows shouting, laughing, and 
clapping their hands. The gentlewoman went forward, till, at 
Major Weir's door, there arose, as from the street, a woman 
about the length of two ordinary females, and stepped forward. 
The gentlewoman, not as yet excessively feared, bid her maid 
step on, if by the lantern they could see what she was; but 
haste what they could, this long-legged spectre was still before 
them, moving her body with a vehement cachinnation and great 
unmeasurable laughter. At this rate the two strove for place, 
till the giantess came to a narrow lane in the Bow, commonly 
called the Stinking Close, into which she turning, and the gentle- 
woman looking after her, perceived the close full of flaming 
torches (she could give them no other name), and as if it had 
been a great number of people stentoriously laughing, and gaping 
with tahees of laughter. This sight, at so dead a time of night, 
no people being in the windows belonging to the close, made 
her and her servant haste home, declaring all that they saw to 
the rest of the family.' 

For upwards of a century after Major Weir's death, he 

* Satan's Invisible World Discovered. 



46 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

continued to be the bugbear of the Bow, and his house remained 
uninhabited. His apparition was frequently seen at night, flit- 
ting, hke a black and silent shadow, about the street. His house, 
though known to be deserted by everything human, was some- 
times observed at midnight to be full of lights, and heard to 
emit strange sounds, as of dancing, howling, and, what is 
strangest of all, spinning. Some people occasionally saw the 
major issue from the low close at midnight, mounted on a black 
horse without a head, and gallop off in a whirlwind of flame. 
Nay, sometimes the whole of the inhabitants of the Bow would 
be roused from their sleep at an early hour in the morning by 
the sound as of a coach and six, first rattling up the Lawn- 
market, and then thundering down the Bow, stopping at the 
head of the terrible close for a few minutes, and then rattling 
and thundering back again — being neither more nor less than 
Satan come in one of his best equipages to take home the major 
and his sister, after they had spent a night's leave of absence in 
their terrestrial dwelling. 

About fifty years ago, when the shades of superstition began 
universally to give way in Scotland, Major Weir's house came to 
be regarded with less terror by the neighbours, and an attempt 
was made by the proprietor to find a person who should be bold 
enough to inhabit it. Such a person was procured in William 
Patullo, a poor man of dissipated habits, who, having been at 
one time a soldier and a traveller, had come to disregard in a 
great measure the superstitions of his native country, and was 
now glad to possess a house upon the low terms offered by the 
landlord, at whatever risk. Upon its being known that Major 
Weir's house was about to be reinhabited, a great deal of curiosity 
was felt by people of all ranks as to the result of the experiment ; 
for there was scarcely a native of the city who had not felt, since 
his boyhood, an intense interest in all that concerned that awful 
fabric, and yet remembered the numerous terrible stories which 
he had heard respecting it. Even before entering upon his 
hazardous undertaking, William Patullo was looked upon with 
a flattering sort of interest, similar to that which we feel respecting 



MAJOR WEIR. 47 

a regiment on the march to active conflict. It was the hope of 
many that he would be the means of retrieving a valuable 
possession from the dominion of darkness. But Satan soon let 
them know that he does not tamely relinquish any of the out- 
posts of his kingdom. 

On the very first night after PatuUo and his spouse had taken 
up their abode in the house, as the worthy couple were lying 
awake in their bed, not unconscious of a certain degree of fear 
— a dim uncertain light proceeding from the gathered embers of 
their fire, and all being silent around them — they suddenly saw 
a form like that of a calf, which came forward to the bed, and, 
setting its fore-feet upon the stock, looked steadfastly at the 
unfortunate pair. When it had contemplated them thus for a 
few minutes, to their great relief it at length took itself away, 
and, slowly retiring, gradually vanished from their sight. As 
might be expected, they deserted the house next morning ; and 
for another half century no other attempt was made to embank 
tliis part of the world of light from the aggressions of the world 
of darkness. 

It may here be mentioned that, at no very remote time, there 
were several houses in the Old Town which had the credit of 
being haunted. It is said there is one at this day in the Lawn- 
market (a flat), which has been shut up from time immemorial. 
The story goes that one night, as preparations were making for 
a supper-party, something occurred which obliged the family, as 
well as all the assembled guests, to retire with precipitation, 
and lock up the house. From that night it has never once been 
opened, nor was any of the furniture withdra\vn : the very goose 
which was undergoing the process of being roasted at the time 
of the occurrence, is still at the fire ! No one knows to whom 
the house belongs; no one ever inquires after it; no one living 
ever saw the inside of it ; it is a condemned house ! There is 
something peculiarly dreadful about a house under these circum- 
stances. What sights of horror might present themselves if it 
were entered ! Satan is the -ultitnus hares of all such unclaimed 
property ! 



48 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Besides the many old houses that are haunted, there are several 
endowed with the simple credit of having been the scenes of 
murders and suicides. Some contain rooms which had particular 
names commemorative of such events, and these names, handed 
down as they had been from one generation to another, usually 
suggested the remembrance of some dignified Scottish families, 
probably the former tenants of the houses. There is a common- 
stair in the Lawnmarket, which was supposed to be haunted by 
the ghost of a gentleman who had been mysteriously killed, 
about a century ago, in open daylight, as he was ascending to 
his own house : the affair was called to mind by old people on 
the similar occasion of the murder of Begbie. A deserted house 
in Mary King's Close (behind the Royal Exchange), is believed 
by some to have met with that fate for a very fearful reason. 
The inhabitants at a remote period were, it is said, compelled 
to abandon it by the supernatural appearances which took place 
in it on the very first night after they had made it their residence. 
At midnight, as the good-man was sitting -svith his wife by the 
fire reading his Bible, and intending immediately to go to bed, 
a strange dimness which suddenly fell upon his light caused him 
to raise his eyes from the book. He looked at the candle, and 
saw it burning blue. Terror took possession of his frame. 
Turning away his eyes, there was, directly before him, and 
apparently not two yards off, the head as of a dead person, 
looking him straight in the face. There was nothing but a head, 
though that seemed to occupy the precise situation in regard to 
the floor which it might have done had it been supported by a 
body of the ordinary stature. The man and his wife fainted 
with terror. On awaking, darkness pervaded the room. Presently 
the door opened, and in came a hand holding a candle. This 
came and stood — that is, the body supposed to be attached to 
the hand stood — beside the table, whilst the terrified pair saw 
two or three couples of feet skip along the floor, as if dancing. 
The scene lasted a short time, but vanished quite away upon 
the man gathering strength to invoke the protection of Heaven. 
The house was of course abandoned, and remained ever after- 



TULZIES. 49 

wards shut up. Such were grandams' tales at no remote period 
in our northern capital : 

* Where Learning, -with his eagle eyes, 
Seeks Science in her coy abode.' 



TULZIES. 

At the Bowhead there happened, in the year 1596, a combat 
between James Johnston of Westerhall and a gentleman of the 
house of Somerville, which is thus related in that curious book, 
the Memorie of the Somervills. 

'The other actione wherin Westerhall was concerned happened 
three years thereftir in Edinburgh, and was only personal on the 
same account, betwext Westerhall and Bread (Broad) Hugh 
Somervill of the Writes. This gentleman had often formerly 
foughten with Westerhall upon equal termes, and being now in 
Edinburgh about his privat affaires, standing at the head of the 
West Bow, Westerhall by accident comeing up the same, some 
officious and unhappy fellow says to Westerhall : " There is 
Bread Hugh Somervill of the Writes." Whereupon Westerhall, 
fancying he stood there either to waitt him, or out of contempt, 
he immediately marches up with his sword drawen, and with the 
opening of his mouth, crying: " Tume, villane;" he cuttes 
Writes in the hint head a deep and sore wound, the fouUest 
stroak that ever Westerhall was knoune to give, acknowledged 
soe, and much regrated eftirwards by himself. Writes finding 
himself strucken and wounded, seeing Westerhall (who had not 
offered to double his stroak), drawes, g,nd within a short tyme 
puttes Westerhall to the defensive part ; for being the taller man, 
and one of the strongest of his time, with the advantage of the 
hill, he presses him sore. Westerhall reteires by little, traverseing 
the breadth of the Bow, to gain the advantage of the ascent, to 
supply the defect of nature, being of low stature, which Writes 
observeing, keepes closse to him, and beares him in front, that 
he might not quyte what good-fortune and nature had given him. 
Thus they continued neer a quarter of ane hour, clearing the 



5© TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

callsay,* so that in all the strait Bow there was not one to be 
seen without their shop doores, neither durst any man attempt 
to red them, every stroak of their swords threatening present 
death both to themselves and others that should come neer 
them. Haveing now come from the head of the Bow neer to 
the foot thereof, Westerhall being in a pair of black buites, 
which for ordinary he wore closse drawen up, was quyte tyred. 
Therefore he stepes back within a shop doore, and stood upon 
his defence. The very last stroak that Writes gave went neei 
to have brocken his broad sword in peaces, haveing hitt the 
lintell of the door, the marke whereof remained there a long 
• tyme. Thereftir, the toune being by this tyme all in ane uproar, 
, the halbertiers comeing to seaze upon them, they wer separated 
and privatly convoyed to ther chambers, Ther wounds but 
slight, except that which Writes had upon his head proved very 
dangerous ; for ther was many bones taken out of it ; however, 
at lenth, he was perfectly cured, and the parties themselves, 
eftir Hugh Lord Somerville's death, reconcealled, and all injuries 
forgotten.' 

In times of civil war, personal rencontres of this kind, and 
even skirmishes between bands of armed men — usually called 
tulzies — were of no unfrequent occurrence upon the streets of 
Edinburgh. They abounded during the troublous time of the 
minority of James VI. On the 24th of November 1567, the 
Laird of Airth and the Laird of Wemyss met upon the High 
Street, and, together with their followers, fought a bloody battle, 
* many,' as Birrel the chronicler reports, ' being hurte on both 
sides by shote of pistoll.' Three days afterwards there was a 
strict proclamation, forbidding ' the wearing of guns or pistolls, 
or aney sick-like fyerwork ingyne, under ye paine of death, the 
king's guards and shouldours only excepted.' This circumstance 
seems to be referred to in The Abbot, where the Regent Murray, 
in allusion to Lord Seyton's rencontre with the Leslies, in which 
Roland Grseme had borne a distinguished part, says : * These 

• The causeway. A skirmish fought between the Hamiltons and Douglases, upon the 
High Street of Edinburgh, in the year 1515, was popularly termed Cleanse the Causeway. 



TULZIES. 51 

broils and feuds would shame the capital of the Great Turk, let 
alone that of a Christian and reformed state. But if I live, this 
gear shall be amended ; and men shall say,' &c. 

On ttie 30th of July 1588, according to the same authority, 
Sir William Stewart was slain in Blackfriars Wynd by the Earl 
of Bothwell, who was the most famed disturber of the public 
peace in those times. The quarrel had arisen on a former 
occasion, on account of some despiteful language used by Sir 
William, when the fiery earl vowed the destruction of his enemy 
in words too shocking to be repeated ; ' sua therafter rancoun- 
tering Sir William in ye Blackfriar Wynd by chance, told him he 
void now . . . ; and vith yat drew his sword ; Sir William stand- 
ing to hes defence, and having hes back at ye vail, ye earle mad 
a thrust at him vith his raper, and strake him in at the back and 
out at the belley, and killed him.' 

Ten years thereafter, one Robert Cathcart, who had been 
with the Earl of Bothwell on this occasion, though it does 
not appear that he took an active hand in the murder, was 
slain in revenge by William Stewart, son of the deceased, while 
standing inoffensively at the head of Peebles Wynd, near the 
Tron. 

In June 1605, one William Thomson, a dagger-maker in the 
West Bow, which was even then remarkable for iron-working 
handicraftsmen, was slain by John Waterstone, a neighbour of 
his own, who was next day beheaded on the Castle-hill for his 
crime. 

In 1640, the Lawnmarket was the scene of a personal combat 
between Major Somerville, commander of the forces then in the 
Castle, devoted to the Covenanting interest (a relation of Braid 
Hugh in the preceding extract), and one Captain Crawfuird, 
which is related in the following picturesque and interesting 
manner by the same writer : ' But it would appear this gentleman 
conceived his affront being publict, noe satisfactione acted in a 
private way could save his honour ; therefore to repair the same, 
he resolves to challange and fight Somervill upon the High 
Street of Edenburgh, and at such a tyme when ther should be 



52 , TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

most spectators. In order to this designe, he takes the occasione, 
as this gentleman was betwext ten and eleven hours in the 
foimoon hastily comeing from the Castle (haveing been then 
sent for to the Committie of Estates and General Leslie anent 
some important busines), to assault him in this manner ; Somer- 
vill being past the Weigh-house, Captaine Crawfuird observeing 
him, presentlie steps into a high chope upon the south side of 
the Landmercat, and there layes by his cloak, haveing a long 
broad sword and a large Highland durke by his side ; he comes 
up to Somervill, and without farder ceremonie sayes : " If you 
be a pretty man, draw your sword;" and with that word pulles 
out his oune sword with the dagger. Somervill at first was 
somewhat stertled at the impudence and boldnesse of the man 
that durst soe openly and avowedly assault him, being in publict 
charge, and even then on his duty. But his honour and present 
preservatione gave him noe tyme to consult the conveniency or 
inconveniency he was now under, either as to his present charge 
or disadvantage of weapons, haveing only a great kaine staff* in 
his hand, which for ordinary he walked still with, and that same 
sword which Generall Rivane had lately gifted him, being a half- 
rapper sword backed, hinging in a shoulder-belt far back, as the 
fashion was then, he was forced to guaird two or three strokes 
Avith his kaine before he got out his sword, which being now 
drawne, he soon puts his adversary to the defencive part, by 
bearing up soe close to him, and putting home his thrusts, 
that the captaine, for all his courage and advantage of weapons, 
was forced to give back, having now much adoe to parie the 
redoubled thrusts that Somervill let in at him, being now 
agoeing. 

'The combat (for soe in effect it was, albeit accidental) begane 
about the midle of the Landmercat. Somervill drives doune the 
captaine, still fighting, neer to the goldsmiths' chops, where, 
fearing to be nailled to the boords (these chops being then all of 
timber), he resolved by ane notable blow to revenge all his 
former affronts ; makeing thairfor a fent, as if he had designed 

* Cane. 



THE TINKLARIAN DOCTOR. 53 

at Somervill's right side, haveing parried his thrust with his 
dagger, he suddenly tumes his hand, and by a back-blow with 
his broadsword he thought to have hamshekelled * him in one, 
if not both of his legges, which Somervill only prevented by 
nimbly leaping backward at the tyme, interposeing the great 
kaine that was in his left hand, which was quyte cut through 
with the violence of the blow. And now Providence soe 
ordered it, that the captaine missing his mark, overstrake him- 
self soe far, that in tyme he could not recover his sword to a fit 
posture of defence, untill Somervill haveing beaten up the dagger 
that was in the captaine's left hand with the remaineing part of 
his oune stick, he instantly closes with him, and with the pummil 
of his sword he instantly strikes him doune to the ground, where 
at first, because of his baseness, he was mynded to have nailled 
him to the ground, but that his heart relented, haveing him in 
his mercy. And att that same instant ther happened several of 
his oune soulders to come in, who wer soe incensed, that they 
wer ready to have cut the poor captaine all in pieces, if he had 
not rescued him out of theire hands, and saw him safely con- 
voyed to prisone, where he was layd in the irones, and continued 
in prisone in a most miserable and wretched condition somewhat 
more than a year,' t ' 



THE TINKLARIAN DOCTOR. 

In the early part of the last century, the Bowhead was distin- 
guished as the residence of an odd half-crazy varlet of a tinsmith 
named William Mitchell, who occasionally held forth as a 
preacher, and every now and then astounded the quiet people 
of Edinburgh with some pamphlet full of satirical personalities. 
He seems to have been altogether a strange mixture of fanati- 
cism, humour, and low cunning. In one of his publications — a 
single broadside, dated 17 13 — ^he has a squib upon the magis- 
trates, in the form of a kit, or list, of a new set, whom he 
proposes to introduce in their stead. At the end he sets forward 

* Hamstringed. f Memorie of the Somervills, vol. ii., p. 271. 



54 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

a claim on his own behalf, no less than that of representing the 
city in parliament. In another of his prose pieces he gives a 
curious account of a journey which he made into France, where, 
he affirms, ' the king's court is six times bigger than the king 
of Britain's ; his guards have all feathers in their hats, and 
their horse-tails are to their heels; and their king [Louis 
XV.] is one of the best-favoured boys that you can look upon 
— bUthe-like, with black hair; and all his people are better 
natured in general than the Scots or English, except the priests. 
Their women seem to be modest, for they have no fardingales. 
The greatest wonder I saw in France, was to see the braw 
people fall do\^m on their knees on the clarty ground when the 
priest comes by, carrying the cross, to give a sick person the 
sacrament' 

The Tinklarian Doctor, for such was his popular appellation, 
appears to have been fully acquainted with an ingenious 
expedient, long afterwards held in view by publishers of juvenile 
toy-books. As in certain sage little histories of Tommy and 
Harry, King Pepin, &c. we are sure to find that ' the good boy 
who loved his lessons ' always bought his books from ' kind, 
good, old Mr J. Newberry, at the corner of St Paul's Church- 
yard, where the greatest assortment of nice books for good boys 
and girls is always to be had ' — so in the works of Mr Mitchell 
we find some sly encomium upon the Tinklarian Doctor con- 
stantly peeping forth ; and in the pamphlet from which the 
above extract is made, he is not forgetful to impress his pro- 
fessional excellence as a whitesmith, ' I have,' he says, ' a good 
pennyworth of pewter spoons, fine, like silver — none such made 
in Edinburgh — and silken pocks for wigs, and French white 
pearl-beads ; all to be sold for little or nothing.' Vide ' A part 
of the works of that Eminent Divine and Historian, Dr William 
Mitchell, Professor of Tinklarianism in the University of the 
BowHEAD ; being a Syze of Divinity, Humanity, History, Philo- 
sophy, Law, and Physick; Composed at Various Occasions for 
his own Satisfaction and the World's Illumination.' In his 
works — all of which were adorned with a cut of the Mitchell 



THE TINKLARIAN DOCTOR. 55 

arms — he does not scruple to make the personages whom he 
introduces speak of himself as a much wiser man than the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, all the clergymen of his native country, 
and even the magistrates of Edinburgh ! One of his last 
productions was a pamphlet on the murder of Captain Porteous, 
which he concludes by saying, in the true spirit of a Cameronian 
martyr: * If the king and clergy gar hang me for writing this, I 'm 
content, because it is long since any man was hanged for 
religion.' The learned Tinklarian was destined, however, to die 
in his bed — an event which came to pass in the year 1740. 

The profession of which the Tinklarian Doctor subscribed 
himself a member, has long been predominant in the West Bow. 
We see from a preceding extract that it reckoned dagger-makers 
among its worthy denizens in the reign of James VI. But this 
trade has long been happily extinct everywhere in Scotland; 
though their less formidable brethren the whitesmiths, copper- 
smiths, and pewterers, have continued down to our own day to 
keep almost unrivalled possession of the Bow. Till within these 
few years, there was scarcely a shop in this street occupied by 
other tradesmen ; and it might be supposed that the noise of so 
many hammermen, pent up in a narrow thoroughfare, would be 
extremely annoying to the nighbourhood. Yet however dis- 
agreeable their clattering might seem to strangers, it is generally 
admitted that the people who lived in the West Bow became 
habituated to the noise, and felt no inconvenience whatever 
from its ceaseless operation upon their ears. Nay, they rather 
experienced inconvenience from its cessation, and only felt 
annoyed when any period of rest arrived and stopped it. 
Sunday morning, instead of favouring repose, made them rest- 
less; and when they removed to another part of the town, 
beyond the reach of the sound, sleep was unattainable in the 
morning for some weeks, till they got accustomed to the 
quiescence of their new neighbourhood. An old gentleman 
once told me, that having occasion in his youth to lodge for a 
short time in the West Bow, he found the incessant clanking 
extremely disagreeable, and at last entered into a paction with 



56 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

some of the workmen in his immediate neighbourhood, who 
promised to let him have another hour of quiet sleep in the 
mornings for the consideration of some such matter as half-a- 
crown to drink on Saturday night. The next day happening 
(out of his knowledge) to be some species of Saint Monday, his 
annoyers did not work at all ; but such was the force of a habit 
acquired even in a week or little more, that our friend awoke 
precisely at the moment when the hammers used to commence ; 
and he was glad to get his bargain cancelled as soon as possible, 
for fear of another morning's want of disturbance. 

OLD ASSEMBLY-ROOM. 

At the first angle of the Bow, on the west side of the street, is 
a tall picturesque-looking house, which tradition points to as 
having been the first place where the fashionables of Edinburgh 
held their dancing assemblies. Over the door is a well-cut 
sculpture of the arms of the Somerville family, together with the 
initials P. J. and J. W., and the date 1602. These are 
memorials of the original owner of the mansion, a certain Peter 
Somerville, a wealthy citizen, at one time filling a dignified 
situation in the magistracy, and father of Bartholomew Somer- 
ville, who was a noted benefactor to the then infant university 
of Edinburgh. The architrave also bears a legend (the title of 
the eleventh psalm) : 

IN DOMINO CONFIDO. 

Ascending by the narrow spiral stair, we come to the second 
floor, now occupied by a dealer in wool, but presenting such 
appearances as leave no doubt that it once consisted of a single 
lofty wainscoted room, with a carved oak ceiling. Here, then, 
did the fair ladies whom Allan Ramsay and William Hamilton 
celebrate, meet for the recreation of dancing with their toupeed 
and deep-skirted beaux. There, in that little side-room, formed 
by an outshot from the building, did the merry sons of Euterpe 
retire to rosin their bows during the intervals of the performance. 
Alas! dark are the walls which once glowed with festive light; 



OLD ASSEMBLY-ROOM. 57 

burdened is that floor, not with twinkling feet, but with the most 
sluggish of inanimate substances. And as for the fiddlers-room 
— enough: 

* A merry place it was in days of yore, 
But something ails it now — the place is cursed.'* 

Dancing, although said to be a favourite amusement and 
exercise of the Scottish people, has always been discounten- 
anced, more or less, in the superior circles of society, or only 
indulged after a very abstemious and rigid fashion, until a 
comparatively late age. Everything that could be called public 
or promiscuous amusement was held in abhorrence by the 
Presbyterians, and only struggled through a desultory and 
degraded existence by the favour of the Jacobites, who have 
always been a less strait-laced part of the community. Thus, 
there was nothing like a conventional system of dancing in 
Edinburgh till the !year 1710, when at length a private associa- 
tion was commenced under the name of 'the Assembly;' and 
probably its first quarters were in this humble domicile. The 
persecution which it experienced from rigid thinkers, and the 
uninstructed populace of that age, would appear to have been 
very great. On one occasion, we are told, the company were 
assaulted by an infuriated rabble, and the door of their hall 
perforated with red-hot spits.t Allan Ramsay, who was the 
friend of all amusements which he conceived to tend only 
to cheer this sublunary scene of care, thus alludes to the 
Assembly : 

' Sic as. against the Assembly speak, 

The rudest sauls betray, 
When matrons noble, wise, and meek, 

Conduct the healthfu' play, 
Where they appear nae vice daur keek, 

But to what 's guid gies way. 
Like night, sune as the morning creek 

Has ushered in the day. 

* This house was demohshed in 1836. 
t Jackson's History of the Stage, p. 418. 



58 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Dear E'nburgh, shaw thy gratitude, 

And o' sic friends mak sure, 
Wha strive to mak our minds less rude, 

And help our wants to cure ; 
Acting a generous part and guid. 

In bounty to the poor : 
Sic virtues, if right understood, 

Should every heart allure.' 



We can easily see from this, and other symptoms, that the 
Assembly had to make many sacrifices to the spirit which sought 
to abolish it. In reality, the dancing was conducted under such 
severe rules, as to render the whole affair more like a night at 
La I'rappe than anything else. So lately as 1753, when the 
Assembly had fallen under the control of a set of directors, and 
was much more of a public affair than formerly, we find Gold- 
smith giving the following graphic account of its meetings, in a 
letter to a friend in his own country. The author of the Deserted 
Village was now studying the medical profession, it must be 
recollected, at the university of Edinburgh : 

' Let me say something of their balls, which are very frequent 
here. When a stranger enters the dancing-hall, he sees one 
end of the room taken up with the ladies, who sit dismally in 
a group by themselves ; on the other end stand their pensive 
partners that are to be ; but no more intercourse between the 
sexes than between two countries at war. The ladies, indeed, 
may ogle, and the gentlemen sigh, but an embargo is laid upon 
any closer commerce. At length, to interrupt hostilities, the 
lady-directress, intendant, or what you will, pitches on a gentle- 
man and a lady to walk a minuet, which they perform with a 
formality approaching to despondence. After five or six couple 
have thus walked the gauntlet, all stand up to country-dances, 
each gentleman furnished with a partner from the aforesaid 
lady-directress. So they dance much, and say nothing, and 
thus concludes our Assembly. I told a Scotch gentleman that 
such a profound silence resembled the ancient procession of the 
Roman matrons in honour of Ceres ; and the Scotch gentleman 



PAUL ROMIEU. 59 

told me (and, faith, I believe he was right) that I was a very 
great pedant for my pains.' 

In the same letter, however. Goldsmith allows the beauty of 
the women, and the good-breeding of the men. 

It may add to the curiosity of the whole affair, that, when the 
Assembly was reconstituted in February 1746, after several years 
of cessation, the first of a set of regulations hung up in the hall * 
was : 

' No lady to he admitted in a night-gown, a?id no gentleinan in 
boots.^ 

The eighth rule was : ' No misses in skirts and jackets, robe- 
coats, nor stay-bodied gowns, to be allowed to dance in country- 
dances, but in a sett by themselves.' 

In all probability it was in this very dingy house that Gold- 
smith beheld the scene he has so well described. At least it 
appears that the improved Assembly Room in Bell's Wynd 
(which has latterly served as a part of the accommodations of 
the Commercial Bankt) was not built till 1766. Arnot, in his 
History of Edinburgh, describes the Assembly Room in Bell's 
Wynd as very inconvenient, which was the occasion of the 
present one being built in George Street in 1784, 

, PAUL ROMIEU. 

At this angle of the Bow the original city-wall crossed the 
line of the street, and there was, accordingly, a gate at this spot, 
of which the only existing memorial is one of the hooks for the 
suspension of the hinges, fixed in the front wall of a house, at 
the height of about five feet from the ground. It is from the 
arch forming this gateway that the street takes its name, bow 
being an old word for an arch. The house immediately without 
this ancient port, on the east side of the street, was occupied, 
about the beginning of the last century, and perhaps at 
an earlier period, by Paul Romieu, an eminent watchmaker, 

* See Notes from the Records qftlie Assetnbly Roo)ns of Edinburgh. Edinburgh : Neill 
and Co. 1842. 

i Now [1868) the Free Tron Church. 

E 



6o TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

supposed to have been one of the French refugees driven over 
to this country in consequence of the revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes. This is the more likely, as he seems, froiii the work- 
manship of his watches, to have been a contemporary of Tompion, 
the famous London horologist of the reign of Charles II. In 
the front of the house, upon the third story, there is still to be 
seen the remains of a curious piece of mechanism ; namely, a 
gilt ball representing the moon, which was made to revolve by 
means of a clock.* 

'he that tholes overcomes.' 

Pursuing our way down the steep and devious street, we pass 
an antique wooden-faced house, bearing the odd name of the 
Mahogany Land, and just before turning the second comer, 
pause before a stone one of equally antiquated structure,t 
having a wooden-screened outer stair. Over the door at the 
head of this stair is a legend in very old lettering — certainly not 
later than 1530 — and hardly to be deciphered. With difficulty 
we make it out to be 

HE YT THOLIS OVERCVMMIS. 

He that tholes (that is, bears) overcomes ; equivalent to what 
Virgil says : • 

' Quidquid erit, superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est.' 

^7ieid, V. 

We may safely speculate on this inscription being antecedent in 
date to the Reformation, as after that period merely moral 
apothegms were held in little regard, and none but biblical 
inscriptions were actually put upon the fronts of houses. 

On the other side of the street is a small shop (marked No. 
69), now occupied by a dealer in small miscellaneous wares, :{: 
and which was, a hundred years ago, open for a nearly similar 
kind of business, under the charge of a Mrs Jeffrey. When, on 

* This house was demolished in 1835, to make way for a passage towards George IV. 
Bridge. 
t Taken down in 1839. t DemoHshed in 1833. 



PROVOST STEWART'S HOUSE. 6 1 

the night of the 7th September 1736, the rioters hurried their 
victim Porteous down the West Bow, with the design of executing 
him in the Grassmarket, they called at this shop to provide 
themselves with a rope. The woman asked if. it was to hang 
Porteous, and when they answered in the affirmative, she told 
them they were welcome to all she had of that article. They 
coolly took off what they required, and laid a guinea on the 
counter as payment j ostentatious to mark that they ' did all in 
honour.' 

PROVOST Stewart's house — Donaldsons the booksellers. 

The upper floors of the house which looks down into the 
Grassmarket formed the mansion of Mr Archibald Stewart, 
Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1745. This is an abode of 
singular structure and arrangements, having its principal access 
by a close out of another street, and only a postern one into 
the Bow, and being full of curious little wainscoted rooms, 
concealed closets, and secret stairs. In one apartment there is 
a cabinet, or what appears a cabinet, about three feet high : 
this, when cross-examined, turns out to be the mask of a trap- 
stair. Only a smuggler, one would think, or a gentleman 
conducting treasonable negotiations, could have bethought him 
of building such a house. Whether Provost Stewart, who was a 
thorough Jacobiie, was the designer of these contrivances, I 
cannot tell ; but fireside gossip used to have a strange story as 
to his putting his trap-stair to use on one important occasion. 
It was said that, during the occupation of Edinburgh by the 
Highland army in '45, his lordship was honoured one evening 
with a secret visit from the Prince and some of his principal 
officers. The situation was critical, for close by was the line 
between the Highland guards and the beleaguered environs of 
the castle. Intelligence of the Prince's movements being 
obtained by the governor of the fortress, a party was sent to 
seize him in the provost's house. They made their approach 
by the usual access from the Castle-hill Street; but an alarm 
preceded them, and before they obtained admission, the provost's 



62 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

visitors had vanished through the mysterious cabinet, and made 
their exit by the back-door. What real foundation there may 
have been for this somewhat wild-looking story, I do not pretend 
to say. 

The house was at a subsequent time the residence of Alexander 
Donaldson the bookseller, whose practice of reprinting modern 
English books in Edinburgh, and his consequent litigation with 
the London booksellers, attracted much attention sixty years 
since. Printing and publishing were in a low state in Edinburgh 
before the time of Donaldson. In the frank language of Hugo 
Amot : ' The printing of newspapers and of school-books, of 
the fanatick effusions of Presbyterian clergymen, and the law 
papers of the Court of Session, joined to the patent Bible 
printing, gave a scanty employment to four printing-offices.' 
About the middle of the century, the English law of copyright 
not extending to Scotland, some of the booksellers began to 
reprint the productions of the English authors of the day ; for 
example, the Rambler was regularly reproduced in this manner 
in Edinburgh, with no change but the addition of English 
translations of the Latin mottoes, which were supplied by Mr 
James Elphinstone. From this and minor causes, it came to 
pass that, in 1779, there were twenty-seven printing-offices in 
Edinburgh. The most active man in this trade was Alexander 
Donaldson, who likewise reprinted in Edinburgh, and sold in 
London, English books of which the author's fourteen years' 
copyright had expired, and which were then only protected by 
a usage of the London trade, rendering it dishonourable as 
between man and man, among themselves, to reprint a book 
which had hitherto been the assigned property of one of their 
number. Disregarding the rule of his fraternity, Donaldson set 
up a shop in the Strand for the sale of his cheap Edinburgh 
editions of the books of expired copyright. They met an immense 
sale, and proved of obvious service to the public, especially to 
those of limited means j though, as Johnson remarked, this 
made Donaldson ' no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the 
rich in order to give to the poor.' In reality, the London 



DONALDSONS THE BOOKSELLERS. 63 

booksellers had no right beyond one of class sentiment, and 
this was fully found when they wrestled with Mr Donaldson at 
law. Waiving all question on this point, Donaldson may be 
considered as a sort of morning-star of that reformation which 
has resulted in the universal cheapening of literary publications. 
Major Topham, in 1775, speaks of a complete set of the English 
classics which he was bringing out, 'in a very handsome binding,' 
at the rate of one-and-sixpence a volume ! 

[Donaldson, in 1763, started a twice-a-week newspaper under 
the name of the Edinburgh Advertiser, which was for a long 
course of years the prominent journal on the Conservative side, 
and eminently lucrative, chiefly through its multitude of adver- 
tisements. All his speculations being of a prosperous nature, he 
acquired considerable wealth, which he left to his son, the late 
Mr James Donaldson, by whom the newspaper was conducted 
for many years. James added largely to his wealth by successful 
speculations in the funds, where he held so large a sum, that the 
rise of a per cent, made him a thousand pounds richer than he 
had been the day before. Prompted by the example of Heriot 
and Watson, and partly, perhaps, by that modification of egotism 
which makes us love to be kept in the remembrance of future 
generations, James Donaldson, at his death in 1830, devoted 
the mass of his fortune — about ^^240,000 — for the foundation 
of a hospital for the maintenance and education of poor children 
of both sexes ; and a structure for the purpose was erected, on a 
magnificent plan furnished by Mr Playfair, at an expense, it is 
said, of about ;^i 20,000. 

The old house in the West Bow — which was possessed by 
both of these remarkable men in succession, and the scene of 
their entertainments to the literary men of the last age, with 
some of whom Alexander Donaldson lived on terms of intimacy 
— stood unoccupied for several years before 1824, when it was 
burnt down. New buildings now occupy its site.] 



64 traditions of edinburgh. 

templars' lands. 

We have now arrived at the Bow-foot, about which there is 
nothing remarkable to be told, except that here, and along one 
side of the Grassmarket, are several houses marked by a cross 
on some conspicuous part — either an actual iron cross, or one 
represented in sculpture. This seems a strange circumstance in 
a country where it was even held doubtful, twenty years ago, 
whether one could be placed as an ornament on the top of a 
church tower. The explanation is, that these houses were built 
upon lands originally the property of the Knights Templars, and 
the cross has ever since been kept up upon them, not from any 
veneration for that ancient society, neither upon any kind of 
religious ground ; the sole object has been to fix in remembrance 
certain legal titles and privileges which have been transmitted 
into secular hands from that source, and which are to this day 
productive of solid benefits. A hundred years ago, the houses 
thus marked were held as part of the barony of Drem in 
Haddingtonshire, the baron of which used to hold courts in 
them occasionally ; and here were harboured many persons not 
free of the city corporations, to the great annoyance of the 
adherents of local monopoly. At length, the abolition of 
heritable jurisdictions in 1747 extinguished this little barony, but 
not certain other legal rights connected with the TemJ>lar Lands, 
which, however, it might be more troublesome to explain than 
advantageous to know. 

the gallows stone. 

In a central situation at the east end of the Grassmarket, 
there remained till very lately a massive block of sandstone, 
having a quadrangular hole in the middle, being the stone which 
served as a socket for the gallows, when this was the common 
place of execution. Instead of the stone, there is now only a 
St Andrew's cross, indicated by an arrangement of the paving- 
stones. 



*rHE GALLOWS STONE. 65 

This became the regular scene of executions after the Restora- 
tion, and so continued till the year 1784. Hence arises the 
sense of the Duke of Rothes's remark, when a Covenanting 
prisoner proved obdurate — ' Then e'en let him glorify God in the 
Grassmarket !' — the deaths of that class of victims being always 
signalised by psalm-singing on the scaffold. Most of the 
hundred persons who suffered for that cause in Edinburgh 
during the reigns of Charles II. and James II. breathed their 
last pious aspirations at this spot; but several of the most 
notable, including the Marquis and Earl of Argyll, were executed 
at the Cross. 

As a matter of course, this was the scene of the Porteous riot 
in 1736, and of the subsequent murder of Porteous by the mob. 
The rioters, wishing to despatch him as near to the place of his 
alleged crime as possible, selected for the purpose a dyer's pole 
which stood on the south side of the street, exactly opposite to 
the gallows stone. 

Some of the Edinburgh executioners have been so far notable 
men as to be the subject of traditionary fame. In the reign of 
Charles II,, Alexander Cockbum, the hangman of Edinburgh, 
and who must have officiated at the exits of many of the 
* martyrs ' in the Grassmarket, was found guilty of the murder of 
a bluegown, or privileged beggar, and accordingly suffered that 
fate which he had so often meted out to other men. One 
Mackenzie, the hangman of Stirling, whom Cockbum had 
traduced and endeavoured to thrust out of office, was the 
triumphant executioner of the sentence. 

Another Edinburgh hangman of this period was a reduced 
gentleman, the last of a respectable family who had possessed 
an estate in the neighbourhood of Melrose. He had been a 
profligate in early life, squandered the whole of his patrimony, 
and at length, for the sake of subsistence, was compelled to 
accept this wretched office, which in those days must have been 
unusually obnoxious to popular odium, on account of the 
frequent executions of innocent and religious men. Notwith- 
standing his extreme degradation, this unhappy reprobate could 



66 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

not altogether forget his original station, and his former tastes 
and habits. He would occasionally resume the garb of a 
gentleman, and mingle in the parties of citizens who played at 
golf in the evenings on Bruntsfield Links. Being at length 
recognised, he was chased from the ground with shouts of 
execration and loathing, which affected him so much, that he 
retired to the solitude of the King's Park, and was next day 
found dead at the bottom of a precipice, over which he was 
supposed to have thrown himself in despair. This rock was 
afterwards called the Ha7igmaiis Craig. 

In the year 1 700, when the Scottish people were in a state of 
great excitement, on account of the interference of the English 
government against their expedition to Darien, some persons 
were apprehended for a riot in the city of Edinburgh, and 
sentenced to be whipped and put upon the pillory. As these 
persons had acted under the influence of the general feeling, 
they excited the sympathy of the people in an extraordinary 
degree, and even the hangman was found to have scruples about 
the propriety of punishing them. Upon the pillory they were 
presented with flowers and wine ; and when arrayed for flagella- 
tion, the executioner made a mere mockery of his duty, never 
once permitting his whip to touch their backs. The magistrates 
were very indignant at the conduct of their servant, and sentenced 
him to be scourged in his turn. However, when the Haddington 
executioner was brought to officiate upon his metropolitan brother, 
he was so much frightened by the threatening aspect of the mob, 
that he thought it prudent to make his escape through a 
neighbouring alley. The laugh was thus turned against the 
magistrates, who, it was said, would require to get a third 
executioner to punish the Haddington man. They prudently 
dropped the whole matter. 

At a somewhat later period, the Edinburgh official was a man 
named John Dalgleish. He it was who acted at the execution 
of Wilson the smuggler, in 1736, -and who is alluded to so 
frequently in the tale of the Heart of Mid-Lothiaii. Dalgleish, 
I have heard, was esteemed, before his taking up this office, as a 



EDINBURGH HANGMEN. 67 

person in creditable circumstances. He is memorable for one 
pithy saying. Some one asking him how he contrived, in 
whipping a criminal, to adjust the weight of his arm, on which, 
it is obvious, much must depend : ' Oh,' said he, ' I lay on the 
lash according to my conscience.' Either Jock, or some later 
official, was remarked to be a regular hearer at the Tolbooth 
Church. As no other person would sit in the same seat, he 
always had a pew to himself. He regularly communicated ; but 
here the exclusiveness of his fellow-creatures also marked itself, 
and the clergyman was obliged to serve a separate table for the 
hangman, after the rest of the congregation had retired from the 
church. 

The last Edinburgh executioner of whom any particular notice 
has been taken by the public was John High, commonly called 
Jock Heich, who acceded to the office in the year 1784, and 
died so lately as 181 7. High had been originally induced to 
undertake this degrading duty, in order to escape the punish- 
ment due to a petty offence — that of stealing poultry. I remem- 
ber him living in'his official mansion in a lane adjoining to the 
Cowgate — a small wretched-looking house, assigned by the 
magistrates for the residence of this race of officers, and which 
has only been removed within the last few years, to make way 
for the extension of the buildings of the Parliament Square. He 
had then a second wife, whom he used to beat unmercifully. 
Since Jock's days, no executioner has been so conspicuous as to 
be known by name. The fame of the occupation seems some- 
how to have departed. 

I have now finished my account of the West Bow ; a most 
antiquated place, yet not without its virtues even as to matters 
of the present day. Humble as the street appears, many of its 
shopkeepers and other inhabitants are of a very respectable 
character. Bankruptcies are said to be very rare in the Bow. 
Most of the traders are of old standing, and well to do in the 
world ; few but what are the proprietors of their own shops and 
dwellings, which, in such a community, indicates something like 



68 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

wealth. The smarter and more dashing men of Princes Street 
and the Bridges may smile at their homely externals, and dark- 
some little places of business, or may not even pay them the 
compliment of thinking of them at all ; yet, while they boast not 
of their ' warerooms,' or their troops of ' young men,' or their 
plate-glass windows, they at least feel no apprehension from the 
approach of rent-day, and rarely experience tremulations on the 
subject of bills. Perhaps, if strict investigation were made, the 
* bodies ' of the Bow could shew more comfortable balances at 
the New Year, than at least a half of the sublime men who pay 
an income by way of rental in George Street. Not one of them 
but is respectfully known by a good sum on the creditor side at 
Sir William Forbes's ; not one but can stand at his shop-door, 
with his hands in his pockets, and his hat on, not unwilling, it 
may be, to receive custom, yet not liable to be greatly distressed 
if the customer go by. Such, perhaps, were shopkeepers in the 
golden age ! 



JAMES'S COURT. 

David Hume — James Boswell — Lord Fountainhall. 

James's Court, a well-known pile of building of great altitude at 
the head of the Earthen Mound, was erected about 1725-27 by 
James Brownhill, a joiner, as a speculation, and was for some 
years regarded as the quartier of greatest dignity and importance 
in Edinburgh. The inhabitants, who were all persons of conse- 
quence in society, although each had but a single floor of four 
or five rooms and a kitchen, kept a clerk to record their names 
and proceedings, had a scavenger of their own, clubbed in many 
public measures, and had balls and parties among themselves 
exclusively. In those days it must have been quite a step in 
life when a man was able to fix his family in one of the flats of 
James's Court. 



DAVID HUME. 69 

Amongst the many notables who have harboured here, only 
two or three can be said to have preserved their notability till 
our day, the chief being David Hume and James Boswell. 

DAVID HUME. 

The first fixed residence of David Hume in Edinburgh 
appears to have been in RiddeVs Land, Lawnmarket, near the 
head of the West Bow. He commenced housekeeping there in 
1 75 1, when, according to his own account, he 'removed from 
the country to the town, the true scene for a man of letters.' It 
was while in Riddel's Land that he published his Political Dis- 
courses, and obtained the situation of librarian to the Faculty of 
Advocates. In this place also he commenced the writing of his 
History of England. He dates from Riddel's Land in January 
1753, but in June we find him removed to Jack's Land, a some- 
what airier situation in the- Canongate, where he remained for 
nine years. Excepting only the small portion composed in the 
Lawnmarket mansion, the whole of the History of England 
was written in Jack's Land ; a fact which will probably raise 
some interest respecting that locality. It is, in reality, a plain 
middle-aged fabric, of no particular appearance, and without 
a single circumstance of a curious nature connected with it, 
besides the somewhat odd one, that the continuator of the 
History, Smollett, lived, some time after, in his sister's house 
precisely opposite. 

Hume removed at Whitsunday 1762 to a house which he 
purchased in James's Court — the eastern portion of the third 
floor in the west stair (counting from the level of the court). 
This was such a step as a man would take in those days as a 
consequence of improvement in his circumstances. The philo- 
sopher had lived in James's Court but a short time, when he was 
taken to France as secretary to the embassy. In his absence, 
which lasted several years, his house was occupied by Dr Blair, 
who here had a son of the Duke of Northumberland as a pupil. 
It is interesting to find Hume, some time after, writing to his 
friend Dr Ferguson from the midst of the gaieties of Paris : ' I 



70 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

am sensible that I am misplaced, and I wish twice or thrice a 
day for my easy-chair and my retreat in James's Court.'' Then he 
adds a beautiful sentiment : ' Never think, dear Ferguson, that 
as long as you are master of your own fireside and your own 
time, you can be unhappy, or that any other circumstance can 
add to your enjoyment.' * In one of his letters to Blair, he 
speaks minutely of his house : ' Never put a fire in the south 
room with the red paper. It was so warm of itself, that all last 
winter, which was a very severe one, I lay with a single blanket; 
and frequently, upon coming in at midnight starving with cold, 
have sat down and read for an hour, as if I had had a stove in 
the room.' From 1763 till 1766 he lived in high diplomatic 
situations at Paris ; and thinking to settle there for life, for the 
sake of the agreeable society, gave orders to sell his house in 
Edinburgh. He informs us, in a letter to the Countess de 
Boufflers {General Correspondence, 4to, 1820, p. 231), that he was 
prevented by a singular accident from carrying his intention into 
effect. After writing a letter to Edinburgh for the purpose of 
disposing of his house, and leaving it with his Parisian landlord, 
he set out to pass his Christmas with the Countess de Boufiiers 
at L'Isle Adam ; but being driven back by a snow-storm, which 
blocked up the roads, he found on his return that the letter had 
not been sent to the post-house. More deliberate thoughts then 
determined him to keep up his Edinburgh mansion, thinking 
that, if any affairs should call him to his native country, 'it 
would be very inconvenient not to have a house to retire to.* 
On his return, therefore, in 1766, he re-entered into possession 
oiVxiflatAxv James's Court, but was soon again called from it, 
by an invitation from Mr Conway to be an under-secretary of 
state. At length, in 1769, he returned permanently to his native 
city, in possession of what he thought opulence — a thousand 
a year. We find him immediately writing from his retreat in 
James's Court to his friend Adam Smith, then commencing his 
great work On the Wealth of Nations in the quiet of his mother's 
house at Kirkcaldy : ' I am glad to have come within sight of 

* Burton's Life of Hume, u. 173. 



DAVID HUME. J I 

you, and to have a view of Kirkcaldy from my windows ; but I 
wish also to be within speaking-terms of you,' &c. To another 
person he writes : ' I live still, and must for a twelvemonth, 
in my old house in James's Court, which is very cheerful, and 
even elegant, but too small to display my great talent for cookery, 
the science to which I intend to addict the remaining years of 
my life !' 

Hume now built a superior house for himself in the New 
Town, which was then Httle beyond its commencement, selecting 
a site adjoining to St Andrew Square. The superintendence of 
this work was an amusement to him. A story is related in more 
than one way regarding the manner in which a denomination 
was conferred upon the street in which this house is situated. 
Perhaps, if it be premised that a corresponding street at the 
other angle of St Andrew Square is called Si Andrew Street^a 
natural enough circumstance with reference to the square, whose 
title was determined on in the plan — it will appear likely that the 
choosing of ' St David Street ' for that in which Hume's house 
stood, was not originally designed as a jest at his expense, 
though a second thought, and the whim of his friends, might 
quickly give it that application. The story, as told by Mr 
Burton, is as follows : ' When the house was built and inhabited 
by Hume, but while yet the street of which it was the com- 
mencement had no name, a witty young lady, daughter of Baron 
Ord, chalked on the wall the words, St David Street. The 
allusion was very obvious. Hume's " lass," judging that it was 
not meant in honour or reverence, ran into the house much 
excited, to tell her master how he was made game of " Never 
mind, lassie," he said, " many a better man has been made a 
saint of before." ' 

That Hume was a native of Edinburgh, is well known. One 
could wish to know the spot of his birth; but it is not now 
perhaps possible to ascertain it. The nearest approach made to 
the fact is from intelligence conveyed by a memorandum in 
his father's handwriting among the family papers, where he 
speaks of ' my son David, born in the Tron Church parish ' — a 



72 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

district comprehending a large square clump of town between 
the High Street and Cowgate, east of the site of the church 
itself. 

One of Hume's most intimate friends amongst the other sex 
was Mrs Cockbum, author of one of the beautiful songs called 
The Flowers of the Forest. While he was in France in 1764, she 
writes to him horn., Baird^s Close, Castle-hill: ' The cloven foot 
for which thou art worshipped I despise ; yet I remember thee 
with affection. I remember that, in spite of vain philosophy, of 
dark doubts, of toilsome learning, God has stamped his image 
of benignity so strong upon thy heart, that not all the labours of 
thy head could efface it' After Hume's return to Edinburgh, 
he kept up his acquaintance with this spirited and amiable 
woman. The late Mr Alexander Young, W.S., had some 
reminiscences of parties which he attended when a boy at her 
house, and at which the philosopher was present. Hume came 
in one evening behind time for htx petit souper, when, seeing her 
bustling to get something for him to eat, he called out : ' Now, 
no trouble, if you please, about quality ; for you know I 'm only 
a glutton, not an epicure.' Mr Young attended at a dinner 
where, besides Hume, there were present Lord Monboddo and 
some other learned personages. Mrs Cockburn was then living 
in the neat first floor of a house at the end of Crighton Street, 
with windows looking along the Potterrow. She had a son of 
eccentric habits, in middle life, or rather elderly, who came in 
during the dinner tipsy, and going into a bedroom, locked him- 
self in, went to bed, and fell asleep. The company in time 
made a move for departure, when it was discovered that their 
hats, cloaks, and greatcoats were all locked up in Mr Cockbum's 
room. The door was knocked at and shaken, but no answer. 
What was to be done? At length, Mrs Cockburn had no 
alternative from sending out to her neighbours to borrow a 
supply of similar integuments, which was soon procured. There 
was then such fun in fitting the various savans with suitable 
substitutes for their own proper gear ! Hume, for instance, with 
a dreadnought riding-coat, Monboddo with a shabby old hat, as 



JAMES BOSWELL. 73 

unlike his own neat chapeau as possible ! In the highest exal- 
tation of spirits did these two men of genius at length proceed 
homeward along the Potterrow, Horse Wynd, Assembly Close, 
&c. making the old echoes merry with their peals of laughter at 
the strange appearance which they respectively made. 

I lately inspected Hume's cheerful and elegant mansion in 
James's Court, and found it divided amongst three or four 
tenants in humble life, each possessing little more than a single 
room. It was amusing to observe that what had been the 
dining-room and drawing-room towards the north, were each 
provided with one of those little side oratories which have been 
described elsewhere as peculiar to a period in Edinburgh house- 
building, being designed for private devotiop. Hume living in 
a house with two private chapels ! 

JAMES BOSWELL. 

It appears that one of the immediately succeeding lease- 
holders of Hume's house in James's Court was James Boswell. 
Mr Burton has made this tolerably clear {Life of Hume, ii. 137), 
and he proceeds to speculate on the fact of Boswell having there 
entertained his friend Johnson. ' Would Boswell communicate 
the fact, or tell what manner of man was the landlord of the 
habitation into which he had, under the guise of hospitality, 
entrapped the arch-intolerant ? Who shall appreciate the mental 
conflict which Boswell may have experienced on this occasion ? ' 
It appears, however, that by the time when Johnson visited 
Boswell in James's Court, the latter had removed into a better 
and larger mansion right below, and on the 'level of the court; 
namely, that now (1846) occupied by Messrs Pillans as a 
printing-office. This was an extraordinary house in its day ; for 
it consisted of two floors connected by an internal stair. Here 
it was that the Ursa Major of literature stayed for a few days, in 
August 1773, while preparing to set out to the Hebrides, and 
also for some time after his return. Here did he receive the 
homage of the trembling literati of Edinburgh; here, after 
handling them in his rough manner, did he relax in play with 



74 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

little Miss Veronica, whom Boswell promised to consider pecu- 
liarly in his will, for shewing a liking to so estimable a man. 
What makes all this evident, is a passage in a letter of Samuel 
himself to Mrs Thrale (Edinburgh, August 17), where he says : 
* Boswell has very handsome and spacious rooms, level with the 
ground on one side of the house, and on the other four stories 
high.' Boswell was only tenant of the mansion. It affords a 
curious idea of the importance which formerly attached to some 
of these Old Town residences, when we learn that this was part 
of the entailed estate of the Macdowalls of Logan, one of whom 
sold it by permission of an Act of Parliament, to redeem the 
land-tax upon his country property. 

Boswell ceased to be a citizen of Edinburgh in 1785, when he 
was pleased to venture before the English bar. He is little 
remembered amongst the elder inhabitants of our city ; but the 
late Mr William Macfarlane, the well-known small-debt judge, 
told me that there was this peculiarity about him — it was 
impossible to look in his face without being moved by the 
comicality which always reigned upon it. He was one of those 
men whose very look is provocative of mirth. Mr Robert Sym, 
W.S., who died in 1844, at an advanced age, remembered being 
at parties in this house in Boswell's time. 

LORD FOUNTAINHALL. 

Before James's Court was built, its site was occupied by 
certain closes, in one of which dwelt Lord Fountainhall, so 
distinguished as an able, liberal, and upright judge, and still 
more so by his industrious habits as a collector of historical 
memorabilia, and of the decisions of the Court of Session. 
Though it is considerably upwards of a century since Lord 
Fountainhall died,* a traditionary anecdote of his residence in 
this place has been handed down till the present time by a 
surprisingly small number of persons. The mother of the late 
Mr Gilbert Innes of Stow was a daughter of his lordship's son, 

• His Lordship died September 20, 1722. — Brunton and Haig's Historical Accouai of 
the Senators oftJie College of Justice, 



LORD FOUNTAINHALI,. 75 . 

Sir Andrew Lauder, and she used to describe to her children the 
visits she used to pay to her venerable grandfather's house, 
situated, as she said, where James's Court now stands. She and 
her sister, a Httle girl like herself, always went with their maid 
on the Saturday afternoons, and were shewn into the room 
where the aged judge was sitting — a room covered with gilt 
leather,* and containing many huge presses and cabinets, one of 
which was ornamented with a death's-head at the top. After 
amusing themselves for an hour or two with his lordship, they 
used to get each a shilling from him, and retire to the anteroom, 
where, as Mrs Innes well recollected, the waiting-maid invariably 
pounced upon their money, and appropriated it to her own use. 
It is curious to think that the mother of a gentlewoman living' 
in 1839 (for only then did Miss Innes of Stow leave this earthly 
scene) should have been familiar with a lawyer who entered at 
the bar soon after the Restoration (1668), and acted as counsel 
for the unfortunate Earl of Argyll in 1681 ; a being of an age 
as different in every respect from the present, as the wilds of 
North America are different from the long-practised lands of 
Lothian or Devonshire, 

The judicial designation of Lord Fountainhall was adopted 
from a place belonging to him in East Lothian, now the 
property of his representative, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, The 
original name of the place was Woodhead, When the able 
lawyer came to the bench, and, as usual, thought of a new 
appellative of a territorial kind — ' Woodhead — Lord Woodhead,' 
thought he; ' that will never do for a judge !' So the name of 
the place was changed to Fountainhall, and he became Lord 
Fountainhall accordingly, 

[1868, — The western half of James's Court having been 
destroyed by accidental fire, the reader will now find a new 
building on the spot. The houses rendered interesting by the 
names of Blair, Boswell, Johnson, and Hume are consequently 
no more.] 

* A stuff brought, I believe, from Spain, and which was at one time much in fashion in 
Scotland. -s 



76 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



STORY OF THE COUNTESS OF STAIR- 

In a short alley leading between the Lawnmarket and the 
Earthen Mound, and called Lady Stair's Close, there is a sub- 
stantial old mansion, presenting, in a sculptured stone over the 
doorway, a small coat-armorial, with the initials W. G. and G. S., 
the date 1622, and the legend : 

FEAR THE LORD, AND DEPART FROM EVILL. 

The letters refer to Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, the original 
proprietor of the house, and his wife. Within, there are marks 
of good style, particularly in the lofty ceiling, and an inner stair 
apart from the common one : but all has long been turned to 
common purposes ; while it must be left to the imagination to 
realise the terraced garden which formerly descended towards 
the North Loch. 

This was the last residence of a lady conspicuous in Scottish 
society in the early part of the last century — the widow of the 
celebrated commander and diplomatist, John, Earl of Stair. 
Lady Eleanor Campbell was, by paternal descent, nearly related 
to one of the greatest historical figures of the preceding century, 
being the granddaughter of the Chancellor, Earl of Loudon, 
whose talents and influence on the Covenanting side were at 
one time believed to have nearly procured him the honour of a 
secret death, at the command of Charles I. Her ladyship's first 
adventure in matrimony led to a series of circumstances of a 
marvellous nature, which I shall set down exactly as they used 
to be related by friends of the lady in the last century. It was 
her lot, at an early age, to be united to James, Viscount Prim- 
rose, a man of the worst temper and most dissolute manners. 
Her ladyship, who had no small share of the old chancellor in 
her constitution, could have managed most men with ease, by 
dint of superior intellect and force of character ; but the cruelty 
of Lord Primrose was too much for her. He treated her so 



STORY OF THE COUNTESS OF STAIR. 77 

barbarously, that she had even reason to fear that he would 
some day put an end to her life. One morning, she was 
dressing herself in her chamber, near an open window, when 
his lordship entered the room behind her with a dra^vn sword 
in his hand. He had opened the door softly, and although his 
face indicated a resolution of the most horrible nature, he still 
had the presence of ;nind to approach her with caution. Had 
she not caught a glimpse of his face and figure in the glass, he 
would in all probability have come near enough to execute his 
bloody purpose before she was aware, or could have taken any 
measures to save herself Fortunately, she perceived him in 
time to leap out of the open window into the street. Half- 
dressed as she was, she immediately, by a very laudable exertion 
of her natural good sense, went to the house of Lord Primrose's 
mother, where she told her story, and demanded protection. 
That protection was at once extended; and it being now 
thought vain to attempt a reconciliation, they never afterwards 
lived together. 

Lord Primrose soon afterwards went abroad. During his 
absence, a foreign conjurer, or fortune-teller, came to Edinburgh, 
professing, among many other wonderful accomplishments, to 
be able to inform any person of the present condition or 
situation of any other person, at whatever distance, in whom 
the applicant might be interested. Lady Primrose was incited 
by curiosity to go with a female friend to the lodgings of the 
wise man in the Canongate, for the purpose of inquiring regard- 
ing the motions of her husband, of whom she had not heard for 
a considerable time. It was at night ; and the two ladies went, 
with the tartan screens or plaids of their servants dra^vn over 
their faces by way of disguise. Lady Primrose having described 
the individual in whose fate she was interested, and having 
expressed a desire to know what he was at present doing, the 
conjurer led her to a large mirror, in which she distinctly per- 
ceived the appearance of the inside of a church, with a marriage- 
party arranged near the altar. To her astonishment, she recog- 
nised in the shadowy bridegroom no other than her husband. 



78 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

The magical scene was not exactly like a picture ; or if so, it 
was rather like the live pictures of the stage, than the dead and 
immovable delineations of the pencil. It admitted of additions 
to the persons represented, and of a progress of action. As the 
lady gazed on it, the ceremonial of the marriage seemed to 
proceed. The necessary arrangements had at last been made, 
the priest seemed to have pronounced the preliminary service, 
he was just on the point of bidding the bride and bridegroom 
join hands, when suddenly a gentleman, for whom the rest 
seemed to have waited a considerable time, and in whom Lady 
Primrose thought she recognised a brother of her own, then 
abroad, entered the church, and advanced hurriedly towards 
the party. The aspect of this person was at first only that of a 
friend, who had been invited to attend the ceremony, and who 
had come too late ; but as he advanced, the expression of his 
countenance and figure was altered. He stopped short; his 
face assumed a wrathful expression; he drew his sword, and 
rushed up to the bridegroom, who prepared to defend himself. 
The whole scene then became tumultuous and indistinct, and 
soon after vanished entirely away.*^ 

When Lady Primrose reached home, she wrote a minute 
narrative of the whole transaction, to which she appended the 
day of the month on which she had seen the mysterious vision. 
This narrative she sealed up in the presence of a witness, and 
then deposited it in one of her drawers. Soon afterwards, her 
brother returned from his travels, and came to visit her. She 
asked if, in the course of his wanderings, he had happened to 
see or hear anything of Lord Primrose. The young man only 

* ' Grace, Countess of Aboyne and Moray, in her early youth, had the weakness to 
consult a celebrated fortune-teller, inhabiting an obscure close in Edinburgh. The sybil 
predicted that she would become the wife of two earls, and how many children she was to 
bear ; but withal assured her, that when she should see a new coach of a certain colour 
driven up to her door as belonging to herself, her hearse must speedily follow. Many years 
afterwards. Lord Moray, who was not aware of this prediction, resolved to surprise his wife 
with the present of a new equipage ; but when Lady Moray beheld from a window a 
carriage of the ominous colour arrive at the door of Tarnaway, and heard that it was to be 
her own property, she sank down, exclaiming that she was a dead woman, and actually 
expired in a short time after, November 17, 1738.' — Notes to Lavis Memorials, p. xcii. 



STORY OF THE COUNTESS OF STAIR. 79 

answered by saying that he wished he might never again hear 
the name of that detested personage mentioned. Lady Primrose, 
however, questioned him so closely, that he at last confessed 
having met his lordship, and that under very strange circum- 
stances. Having spent some time at one of the Dutch cities 
— it was either Amsterdam or Rotterdam — he had become 
acquainted with a rich merchant, who had a very beautiful 
daughter, his only child, and the heiress of his large fortune. 
One day his friend the merchant informed him that his daughter 
was about to be married to a Scottish gentleman, who had lately 
come to reside there. The nuptials were to take place in the 
course of a few days ; and as he was a countryman of the bride- 
groom, he was invited to the wedding. He went accordingly, 
was a little too late for the commencement of the ceremony, but 
fortunately came in time to prevent the sacrifice of an amiable 
young lady to the greatest monster alive in human shape — his^ 
own brother-in-law. Lord Primrose ! 

The story proceeds to say that, although Lady Primrose had 
proved her willingness to believe in the magical delineations of 
the mirror, by writing down an account of them, yet she was so 
much surprised by discovering them to be the representation of 
actual fact, that she almost fainted. Something, however, yet 
remained to be ascertained. Did Lord Primrose's attempted 
marriage take place exactly at the same time with her visit to 
the conjurer ? She asked her brother on what day the circum- 
stance which he related took place. Having been informed, she 
took out her key, and requested him to go to her chamber, to 
open a drawer which she described, and to bring her a sealed 
packet which he would find in that drawer. On the packet 
being opened, it was discovered that Lady Primrose had seen 
the shadowy representation of her husband's abortive nuptials on 
the very evening when they were transacted in reality. 

Lord Primrose died in 1706, leaving a widow who could 
scarcely be expected to mourn for him. She was still a young 
and beautiful woman, and might have procured her choice 
among twenty better matches. Such, however, was the idea she 



So *, TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

had formed of the marriage state from her first husband, that she 
made a resolution never again to become a wife. She kept her 
resolution for many years, and probably would have done so till 
the last, but for a singular circumstance. The celebrated Earl 
of Stair, who resided in Edinburgh during the greater part of 
twenty years, which he spent in retirement from all official 
employments, became deeply smitten with her ladyship, and 
earnestly sued for her hand. If she could have relented in 
favour of any man, it would have been for one who had acquired 
so much public honour, and whose private character was also, in 
general respects, so estimable. But to him also she declared 
her resolution of reinaining unmarried. In his desperation, he 
resolved upon an expedient which strongly marks the character 
of the age in respect of delicacy. By dint of bribes to her 
domestics, he got himself insinuated overnight into a small 
room in her ladyship's house, where she used to say her prayers 
every morning, and the window of which looked out upon the 
principal street of the city. At this window, when the morning 
was a little advanced, he shewed himself, en deshabille, to the 
people passing along the street ; an exhibition which threatened 
to have such an effect upon her ladyship's reputation, that she 
saw fit to accept of him for a husband. 

She was more happy as Countess of Stair than she had been 
as Lady Primrose. Yet her new husband had one failing, 
which occasioned her no small uneasiness. Like most other 
gentlemen at that period, he sometimes indulged too much in 
the bottle. When elevated with liquor, his temper, contrary to 
the general case, was by no means improved. Thus, on 
reaching home after a debauch, he generally had a quarrel with 
his wife, and sometimes even treated her with violence. On 
one occasion, when quite transported beyond the bounds of 
reason, he gave her so severe a blow upon the upper part of the 
face, as to occasion the effusion of blood. He immediately 
after fell asleep, unconscious of what he had done. Lady Stair 
was so overwhelmed by a tumult of bitter and poignant feeling, 
that she made no attempt to bind up her wound. She sat do^vn 



STORY OF THE COUNTESS OF STAIR. 8 1 

on a sofa near her torpid husband, and wept and bled till 
morning. When , his lordship awoke, and perceived her dishev- 
elled and bloody figure, he was surprised to the last degree, 
and eagerly inquired how she came to be in such an unusual 
condition. She answe^d by detailing to him the whole history 
of his conduct on the preceding evening ; which stung him so 
deeply with regret — for he naturally possessed the most generous 
feelings — that he instantly vowed to his wife never afterwards to 
take any species of drink, except what was first passed through 
her hands. This vow he kept most scrupulously till the day of 
his death. He never afterwards sat in any convivial company 
where his lady could not attend to sanction his potations. 
Whenever he gave any entertainment, she always sat next him 
and filled his wine, till it was necessary for her to retire ; after 
which, he drank only from a certain quantity which she had 
first laid aside. 

With much that was respectable in her character, we must 
not be too much surprised that Lady Stair was capable of using 
terms of speech which a subsequent age has learned to look on 
as objectionable, even in the humblest class of society. The 
Earl of Dundonald, it appears, had stated to the Duke of 
Douglas that Lady Stair had expressed incredulity regarding the 
genuineness of the birth of his nephews, the children of Lady 
Jane Douglas, and did not consider Lady Jane as entitled to 
any allowance from the duke on their account. In support of 
what he reported, Dundonald, in a letter to the Lord Justice- 
clerk, gave the world leave to think him ' a damned villain ' if 
he did not speak the truth. This seems to have involved Lady 
Stair unpleasantly with her friends of the house of Douglas, and 
she lost little time in making her way to Holyroodhouse, where, 
before the duke and duchess and their attendants, she declared 
that she had lived to a good old age, and never till now had got 
entangled in any clatters — that is, scandal. The old dame then 
thrice stamped the floor with her staff, each time calling the 
Earl of Dundonald ' a damned villain ; ' after which she retired 
in great wrath. Perhaps this scene was characteristic, for we 



82 . TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

learn from letters of Lady M. W. Montagu, that Lady Stair 
■was subject to hysterical ailments, and would be screaming and 
fainting in one room, while her daughter, Miss Primrose, and 
Lady Mary, were dancing in another. 

This venerable lady, after being long*at the head of society 
in Edinburgh, died in November 1759, having survived her 
second husband twelve years. It was remembered of her that 
she had been the first person in Edinburgh, of her time, to keep 
a black domestic servant.* 



THE OLDBANK CLOSE. 

The Regent Morton— The Old Bank— Sir Thomas Hope— Chiesly of Dairy 
— Rich Merchants of the Sixteenth Century — Sir William Dick — The 
Birth of Lord Brougham. 

OLD BANK CLOSE, 

Amongst the buildings removed to make way for George IV.. 
Bridge, were those of a short blind alley in the Lawnmarket, 
called the Old Bank Close. Composed wholly of solid goodly 
structures, this close had an air of dignity that might have 
almost reconciled a modern gentleman to live in it. One of 
these, crossing and closing the bottom, had been the Bank of 
Scotland — the Auld Bank, as it used to be half-affectionately 
called in Edinburgh — previously to the erection of the present 
handsome edifice in Bank Street. From this establishment the 
close had taken its name; but it had previously been called 
JTope's Close, from its being the residence of a son of the 

* Negroes in a servile capacity had been long before known in Scotland. Dunbar has a 
droll poem on a female black, whom he calls ' My lady with the muckle lips.' In Lady 
Marie Stuarfs Household Book, referring to the early part of the seventeenth century, 
there is mention of ' ane inventorie of the gudes and geir whilk pertenit to Dame Lilias 
Ruthven, Lady Drummond,' which includes as an item, 'the black boy and the papingoe 
[peacock] ;' in so humble an association was it then thought proper to place a human being 
who chanced to possess a dark skin. 



OLD BANK CLOSE. 



S3 



celebrated Sir Thomas Hope, King's Advocate in the reign of 
Charles I. 

The house of oldest date in the close was one on the west 
side, of substantial and even handsome appearance, long and 
lofty, and presenting* some peculiarities of structure nearly 
unique in our city. There was first a door for the ground-floor, 




House of Robert Gourlay. 

about which there was nothing remarkable. Then there was a 
door leading by a stair to "Csxt first floor, and bearing this legend 
and date upon the architrave : 

IN THE IS AL MY TRAIST : 1 569. 

Close beside this door was another, leading by a longer, but 
distinct, though adjacent stair, to the second floor, and pre- 
senting on the architrave the initials R. G. From this floor 
there was an internal stair contained in a projecting turret, 
which connected it with the higher floor. Thus, it will be 
observed, there were three houses in this building, each having 
a distinct access ; a nicety of arrangement which, together with 
the excellence of the masonry, was calculated to create a more 



84 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

respectful impression regarding the domestic ideas of our 
ancestors in Queen Mary's time than most persons are prepared 
for. Finally, in the triangular space surmounting an attic 
window were the initials of a married couple, D. G., M. S. 

Our surprise is naturally somewhat increased when we learn 
that the builder and first possessor of this house does not 
appear to have been a man of rank, or one likely to own 
unusual wealth. His name was Robert Gourlay, and his 
profession a humble one connected with the law — namely, that 
of a messenger-at-arms. In the second book of Charters in the 
Canongate council-house, Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, 
and commendator of Holyrood, gave the office of messenger or 
officer-at-arms to the Abbey to Robert Gourlay, messenger, ' our 
lovit familiar servitor,' vnth a salary of forty pounds, and other 
perquisites. This was the Robert Gourlay who built the noble 
tenement in the Old Bank Close; and through his official 
functions it came into connection with an interesting historical 
event. In May 1581, when the ex-Regent Morton was brought 
to Edinburgh to suffer death, he was — as we learn from the 
memoirs of Moyses, a contemporary — 'lodged in Robert 
Gourlay's house, and there keeped by the waged men.' 
Gourlay had been able to accommodate in his house those 
whom it was his professional duty to take in charge as prisoners. 
Here, then, must have taken place those remarkable conferences 
between Morton and certain clergymen, in which, with the 
prospect of death before him, he protested his innocence of 
Darnley's death, while confessing to a foreknowledge of it. 
Morton must have resided in the house from May 29, when he 
arrived in Edinburgh, till June 2, when he fell under the stroke 
of the Maiden. In the ensuing year, as we learn from the 
authority just quoted, De la Motte, the French ambassador, 
was lodged in ' Gourlay's House.' 

David Gourlay — probably the individual whose initials 
appeared on the attic — described as son of John Gourlay, 
customer, and doubtless grandson of the first man Robert — 
disposed of the house in 1637 to Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall 



OLD BANK CLOSE. 85 

in liferent, and to his second son, Sir Thomas Hope of Kerse. 
We may suppose 'the Advocate' to have thus provided a 
mansion for one of his children. A grandson in 1696 disposed 
of the upper floor to Hugh Blair, merchant in Edinburgh — the 
grandfather, I presume, of the celebrated Dr Hugh Blair. 

This portion of the house was occupied early in the last 
century by Lord Aberuchil, one of King William's judges, 
remarkable for the large fortune he accumulated. About 1780, 
his descendant, Sir James Campbell of Aberuchil, resided in it 
while educating his family. It was afterwards occupied by 
Robert Stewart, writer, extensively known in Perthshire by the 
name of Rob Uncle, on account of the immense number of his 
nephews and nieces, amongst the former of whom was the late 
worthy General Stewart of Garth, author of the work on the 
Highland regiments. 

The building used by the bank was also a substantial one. 
Over the architrave was the legend : 

SPES ALTERA VITiE, 

with a device emblematising the resurrection — namely, a couple 
of cross-bones with wheat-stalks springing from them, and the 
date 1588, Latterly, it was occupied as the University Printing- 
office, and when I visited it in 1824, it contained an old wooden 
press, which was believed to be the identical one which Prince 
Charles carried with him from Glasgow to Bannockbum to print 
his gazettes, but then used as a proof-press, like a good hunter 
reduced to the sand-cart. This house was removed in 1834, 
having been previously sold by the Commissioners of Improve- 
ments for ^^150. The purchaser got a larger sum for a leaden 
roof unexpectedly found upon it. When the house was demol- 
ished, it was discovered that every window-shutter had a com- 
munication by wires with an intricate piece of machinery in the 
garret, designed to operate upon a bell hung at a comer on the 
outside, so that not a window could have been forced without 
giving an alarm. 

In the Cowgate, little more than fifty yards from the site of 



86 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

this building, there is a bulky old mansion, believed to have 
been the residence of the celebrated King's Advocate Hope, 
himself, the ancestor of all the considerable men of this name 
now in Scotland. One can easily see, amidst all the disgrace 
into' which it has fallen, something remarkable in this house, 
with two entrances from the street, and two porte-cocheres leading 
to other accesses in the rear. Over one door is the legend : 

TECUM HABITA : 1616 ; 

over the other a half-obliterated line, known to have been 

AT HOSPES HUMO. 

One often finds significant voices proceeding from the builders 
of these old houses, generally to express humility. Sir Thomas 
here quotes a well-known passage in Persius, as if to tell the 
beholder to confine himself to a criticism of his own house ; and 
then, with more certain humility, uses a passage of the Psalms 
(cxix. 19): 'I am a stranger upon earth,' the latter being an 
anagram of his own name, thus spelt : Thomas Houpe. It is 
impossible, without a passing sensation of melancholy, to behold 
this house, and to think how truly the obscurity of its history, 
and the wretchedness into which it has fallen, realise the 
philosophy of the anagram. Verily, the great statesman who 
once lived here in dignity and the respect of men, was but as 
a stranger who tarried in the place for a night, and was 
gone. 

The Diary of Sir Thomas Hope, printed for the Bannatyne 
Club (1843), is a curious record of the public duties of a great 
law-officer in the age to which it refers, as well as of the mixture 
of worldly and spiritual things in which the venerable dignitary 
was engaged. He is indefatigable in his rehgious duties, and 
his endeavours to advance the interests of his family; at the 
same time full of kindly feeling about his sons' wives and their 
little family matters, never failing, for one thing, to tell how 
much the midwife got for her attendance on these ladies. There 
are many passages respecting his prayers, and the * answers ' he 
obtained to them, especially during the agonies of the opening 



CHIESLY OF DALRY. 87 

civil war. He prays, for instance, that the Lord would pity his 
people, and then hears the words : ' I will preserve and saiff my 
people' — 'but quhither be me or some other, I dar not say.' 
On another occasion, at the time when the Covenanting army 
was mustering for Dunse Law to oppose King Charles, Sir 
Thomas tells that, praying : ' Lord, pitie thy pure [i.e. poor] 
kirk, for their is no help in man ! ' he heard a voice saying : ' I 
will pitie it;' 'for quhilk I blissit the Lord:' immediately after 
which he goes on : ' Lent to John my ^on^ carabi7i of rowet wark 
all indentit ; ' &c. 

The Countess of Mar, daughter of Esme, Duke of Lennox, 
died of a deadly brash in Sir Thomas's house in the Cowgate, 
May II, 1644. 

It is worthy of notice that the Hopes are one of several 
Scottish families, possessing high rank and great wealth, which 
trace their descent to merchants in Edinburgh. 'The Hopes 
are of French extraction, from Picardy. It is said they were 
originally Houblon, and had their name from the plant [hop], 
and not from esperance [the virtue in the mind]. The first that 
came over was a domestic of Magdalene of France, queen of 
James V. ; and of him are descended all the eminent families of 
Hopes, This John Hope set up as a merchant of Edinburgh, 
and his son, by Bessie or Elizabeth Cumming, is marked as a 
member of our first Protestant General Assembly, anno 1560.'* 

CHIESLY OF DALRY. 

The head of the Old Bank Close was the scene of the assassi- 
nation of President Lockhart by Chiesly of Dairy, March 1689. 
The murderer had no provocation -besides a simple judicial act 
of^ the president, assigning an aliment or income of ^^93 out of 
his estate to his wife and children, from whom it may be pre- 
sumed he had been separated. He evidently was a man abandoned 
to the most violent passions — perhaps not quite sane. In 

* See a Memoir by Sir Archibald Steuart Denham, in the publications of the Maitland 
Club. 



88 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

London, half a year before the deed, he told Mr Stuart, an 
advocate, that he was resolved to go to Scotland before Candle- 
mas and kill the president ; when, on Stuart remarking that the 
very imagination of such a thing was a sin before God, he 
replied: 'Let God and me alone; we have many things to reckon 
betwixt us, and we will reckon this too.' The judge was informed 
of the menaces of Chiesly, but despised them. 

On a Sunday afternoon, the last day of March — the town 
being then under the excitement of the siege of the castle by the 
friends of the new government — Lockhart was walking home 
from church to his house in this alley, when Chiesly came behind, 
just aS he entered the close, and shot him in the back with a 
pistol. A Dr Hay, coming to visit the president's lady, saw his 
lordship stagger and fall. The ball had gone through the body, 
and out at the right breast. He was taken into his house, laid 
down upon two chairs, and almost immediately was a dead man. 
Some gentlemen passing seized the murderer, who readily owned 
he had done the deed, which he said was * to learn the president 
to do justice.' When immediately after informed that his victim 
had expired, he said ' he was not used to do things by halves.' 
He boasted of the deed, as if it had been some grand exploit. 

After torture had been inflicted, to discover if he had any 
accomplices, the wretched man was tried by the magistrates of 
Edinburgh, and sentenced to be carried on a hurdle to the Cross, 
and there hanged, with the fatal pistol hung from his neck, after 
which his body was to be suspended in chains at the Gallow 
Lee, and his right hand affixed to the West Port. The body 
was stolen from the gallows, as was supposed, by his friends, 
and it was never known what had become of it, till more than a 
century after, when, in removing the hearth-stone of a cottage 
in Dairy Park, near Edinburgh, a human skeleton was found, 
with the remains of a pistol near the situation of the neck. No 
doubt was entertained that these were the remains of Chiesly, 
huddled into this place for concealment, probably in the course 
of the night in which they had been abstracted from the 
gallows. 



RICH MERCHANTS OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. 89 

RICH MERCHANTS OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY — 
SIR WILLIAM DICK. 

Several houses in the neighbourhood of the Old Bank Close 
served to give a respectful notion of the wealth and domestic 
state of certain merchants of an early age. Immediately to the 
westward, in Brodie's Close, was the mansion of William Little 
of Liberton, bearing date 1570. This was an eminent merchant, 
and the founder of a family now represented by Mr Little 
Gilmour of the Inch, in whose possession this mansion continued 
under entail till purchased and taken down by the Commissioners 
of Improvements in 1836. About 1780, it was the residence of 
the notorious Deacon Brodie, of whom something may be said 
elsewhere. Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, mentioned a few 
pages back as the original owner of the old house in Lady Stair's 
Close, was another affluent trafficker of that age. 

In Riddel's Close, Lawnmarket, there is an enclosed court, 
evidently intended to be capable of defence. It is the place 
where John Macmoran, a rich merchant of the time of James 
VI., lived and carried on his business;. In those days, even 
school-boys trusted to violence for attaining their ends. The 
youths of the High School, being malcontent about their holidays, 
barred themselves up in the school with some provisions, and 
threatened not to surrender till the magistrates should comply 
with their demands. John Macmoran, who held the office of 
one of the bailies, came with a j^osse to deal with the boys, but, 
finding them obdurate, ordered the door to be prized open with 
a joist. One within then fired a pistol at the baUie, who fell 
shot through the brain, to the horror of all beholders, including 
the school-boys themselves, who with difficulty escaped the 
vengeance of the crowd assembled on the spot. 

It was ascertained that the immediate author of the bailie's 
death was William Sinclair, son of the chancellor of Caithness. 
There was a great clamour to have justice done upon him ; but 
this was a point not easily attained, where a person of gentle 
blood was concerned, in the reign of James VI. The boy lived 



9© 



TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



to be Sir William Sinclair of Mey, and, as such, was the ancestor 
of those who have, since 1789, borne the title of Earls of 
Caithness. 

A visit to the fine old mansion of Bailie Macmoran may be 
recommended. Its masonry is not without elegance. The lower 
floor of the building is now used as ' The Mechanics' Library.' 
Macmoran's house is in the floor above, reached by a stone 
stair, near the corner of the court. This dwelling offers a fine 
specimen of the better class of houses at the end of the sixteenth 
century. The marble jambs of the fireplaces, and the carved 




House of Bailie Macmoran. 



Stucco ceilings, are quite entire. The larger room (occu- 
pied as a warehouse for articles of saddlery) is that in which 
took place two memorable royal banquets in 1598 — the first on 
the 24th of April to James VI. with his queen, Anne of Den- 
mark, and her brother the Duke of Holstein ; and the second 
on the 2d of May, more specially to the Duke of Holstein, but 
at which their majesties were present. These banquets, held, 
as Birrel says, with ' grate solemnitie and mirrines,' were at the 



WILLIAM DICK. 9I 

expense of the city. It need hardly be said that James VI. 
was fond of this species of entertainment, and the house of 
Macmoran was probably selected for the purpose, not only 
because he was treasurer to the corporation and a man of some 
mark, but because his dwelling offered suitable accommodation. 
The general aspect of the enclosed court which affords access 
to Macmoran's house has undergone little or no alteration since 
these memorable banquets; and in visiting the place, with its 
quietude and seclusion, oae almost feels as if stepping back into 
the sixteenth century. Considering the destruction all around 
from city improvements, it is fortunate that this remarkable 
specimen of an old mansion should have been left so singularly 
entire. One of the higher windows continues to exemplify an 
economical arrangement which prevailed about the time of the 
Restoration — namely, to have the lower half composed of 
wooden shutters. 

The grandest of all these old Edinburgh merchants v/as 
William Dick, ancestor of the Dicks, baronets of Prestonfield. 
In his youth, and during the lifetime of his father, he had been 
able to lend ;^6ooo to King James, to defray the expense of his 
journey to Scotland. The affairs in which he was engaged would 
even now be considered important. For example, he fanned 
the customs on wine at ^6222, and the crown rents of Orkney 
at ;^3ooo. Afterwards he farmed the excise. His fleets extended 
from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. The immense wealth he 
acquired enabled him to purchase large estates. He himself 
reckoned his property as at one time equal to two hundred 
thousand pounds sterling. 

Strange to say, this great merchant came to poverty, and died 
in a prison. The reader of the Waverley novels may remember 
David Deans telling how his father ' saw them toom the sacks of 
dollars out o' Provost Dick'.", window infill the carts that carried 
them to the army at Dunse Law ' — ' if ye winna believe his testi- 
mony, there is the window itsell still standing in the Lucken- 
booths — I think it 's a claith-merchant's buith the day.' This 
refers to large advances which Dick made to the Covenanters, 

G 



92 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH, 

to enable them to carry on the war against the king. The 
house alluded to is actually now a claith-merchant's booth, 
having long been in the possession of Messrs John Clapperton 
and Company. Two years after Dunse Law, Dick gave the 
Covenanters 100,000 merks in one sum. Subsequently, being, 
after all, of royalist tendencies, he made still larger advances in 
favour of the Scottish government during the time when Charles 
II. was connected with it ; and thus provoking the wrath of the 
English Commonwealth, his ruin was completed by the fines to 
which he was subjected by that party when triumphant, amount- 
ing in all to ;^65,ooo. 

Poor Sir William Dick — for he had been made a baronet by 
Charles I. — went to London to endeavour to recover some part 
of his lost means. Wlien he represented the indigence to which 
he had been reduced, he was told that he was always able to 
procure pie-crust when other men could not get bread. There 
was, in fact, a prevalent idea that he possessed some supernatural 
means — such as the philosopher's stone — of acquiring money. 
(Pie-crust came to be called Sir William Dick's Necessity.) The 
contrary was shewn when the unfortunate man died soon after 
in a prison in Westminster. There is a picture in Prestonfield 
House, near Edinburgh, the seat of his descendant, representing 
him in this last retreat in a mean dress, surrounded by his 
numerous hapless family. A rare pamphlet, descriptive of his 
case, presents engravings of three such pictures ; one exhibiting 
him on horseback, attended by guards as Lord Provost of' Edin- 
burgh, superintending the unloading of one of his rich ships at 
Leith ; another as a prisoner in the hands of the bailiffs ; the 
third as dead in prison. A more memorable example of the 
instability of fortune does not occur in our history. It seems 
completely to realise the picture in Job (chap, xxvii.) : ' The rich 
man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered : he openeth 
his eyes, and he is not. Terrors take hold on him as waters, a 
tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth 
him away, and he departeth : and as a storm, hurleth him out of 
his place. For God shall cast upon him, and not spare: he 



THE BIRTH OF LORD BROUGHAM. , 93, 

would fain flee out of his hand. Men shall clap their hands at 
him, and shall hiss him out of his place.' 

The fortunes of the family were restored by Sir William's 
grandson, Sir James, a remarkably shrewd man, who was like- 
wise a merchant in Edinburgh. There is a traditionary story 
that this gentleman, observing the utility of manure, and that 
the streets of Edinburgh were loaded with it, to the detriment of 
the comfort of the inhabitants, offered to relieve the town of this 
nuisance, on condition that he should be allowed, for a certain 
term of years, to carry it away gratis. Consent was given, and 
the Prestonfield estate became, in consequence, like a garden. 
The Duke of York had a great affection for Sir James Dick, and 
used to walk through the Park to visit him at his house very 
frequently. Hence, according to the report of the family, the 
way his Royal Highness took came to be called The Dukis 
Walk ; afterwards a famous resort for the fighting of duels. Sir 
James became Catholic, and, while provost in 1681, had his 
house burned over his head by the coUegianers ; but it was 
rebuilt, as it now stands, at the public expense. His grandson, 
Sir Alexander Dick, is referred to in kindly terms in Boswell's 
Tour to the Hebrides, as a venerable man of studious habits, and 
a friend of men of letters. The reader will probably learn with 
some surprise that, though Sir William's descendants never 
recovered any of the money lent by him to the state, a lady of 
his family, living in 1844, was in the enjoyment of a pension 
with express reference to that ancient claim. 

THE BIRTH OF LORD BROUGHAJI. 

[1868. — It has been remarked elsewhere that, for a great 
number of years after the general desertion of the Old Town by 
persons of condition, there were many denizens of the New who 
had occasion to look back to the Canongate and Cowgate as 
the place of their birth. The nativity of one person who 
achieved extraordinary greatness and distinction, and whose 
death was an occurrence of yesterday, Henry, Lord Brougham, 
undoubtedly was connected with the lowly place last 'mentioned. 



>g4 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

The Edinburgh tradition on the subject was that Henry 
Brougham, younger of Brougham Hall, in the county of 
Cumberland, in consequence of a disappointment in love, 
came to Edinburgh for the diversion of his mind. Principal 
Robertson, to whom he bore a letter of introduction, recom- 
mended the young man to the care of his sister — Mrs Syme, 
wadow of the minister of Alloa — who occupied what was 
then considered as a good and spacious house, at the head of 
the Cowgate — strictly the third floor of the house now marked 
No. 8— a house desirable from its having an extraordinary space 
in front. Here, it would appear, Mr Brougham speedily con- 
soled himself for his former disappointment, by falling in love 
with Eleonora, the daughter of Mrs Syme; and a marriage, 
probably a hurried one, soon united the young pair. They set 
up for themselves (Whitsunday 1778) in an upper-floor of a 
house in the then newly built St Andrew Square, where, in the 
ensuing September, their eldest son, charged with so illustrious 
a destiny, first saw the light* 

Mr Brougham conclusively settled in Edinburgh; he subse- 
quently occupied a handsome house in George Street. He was 
never supposed to be a man of more than ordinary faculties ; 
but any deficiency in this respect was amply made up for by his 
wife, who is represented by all who remember her as a person 
of uncommon mental gifts. The contrast of the pair drew the 
attention of society, and was the subject of a gently satiric 
sketch in Henry Mackenzie's Lounger, No. 45, published on the 
loth December 1785, which, however, would vainly be looked 
for in the reprinted copies, as it was immediately suppressed.] 

* The house is marked No. 21. Its back windows enjoy a fine view of the Firth of Forth 
and the Fife hills. The registration of his lordship's birth appears as follows : 'Wednesday, 
30th September 1778, Henry Brougham, Esq., parish of St Gilles (sic), and Eleonora 
Syme, his spouse, a son born the igth current, named Henry Peter. Witnesses, Mr 
Archibald Hope, Royal Bank, and Principal Robertson.' The parts of the New Town 
thee built belonged to St Giles's parish. 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. 



95 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. 

The genius of Scott has shed a peculiar interest upon this 
ancient structure, whose cant name of the Heart of Mid-Lothian 
has given a title to one of his happiest novels. It stood in a 
singular situation, occuppng half the width of the High Street, 
elbow to elbow, as it were, with St Giles's Church, Antique in 
form, gloomy and haggard in aspect, its black stanchioned 





Mh '3- iJ ' H 



-m^. 

The Old Tolbooth, 




windows opening through its dingy walls like the apertures of a 
hearse, it was calculated to impress all beholders with a due and 
deep sense of what was meant in Scottish law by the squalor 
carceris. At the west end was a projecting ground-floor, formed 
of shops, but presenting a platform on which executions took 
place. The building itself was composed of two parts, one 
more solid and antique than the other, and much resembling, 
with its turret staircase, one of those tall narrow fortalices which 



■96 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

are so numerous in the Border counties. Indeed the probability 
is, tliat this had been a kind of peel or house of defence, 
required for public purposes by the citizens of Edinburgh, when 
liable to predatory invasions. Doubtless, the house or some 
part of it was of great antiquity, for it was an old and ruinous 
building in the reign of Mary, and only narrowly saved at that 
time from destruction. Most likely it was the very pretorium 
l/urgl de jEdinkirgi in which a, -psirliaxnent assembled in 1438, to 
deliberate on the measures rendered necessary by the assassina- 
tion of the poet-king, James I. In those simple days, great and 
humble things came close together : the house which contained 
parliaments upstairs, presented shops in the lower story, and 
thus drew in a little revenue to the magistrates. Here met the 
Court of Session in its earliest years. Here Mary assembled 
her parliaments, and here — on the Tolbooth door — did citizens 
affix libels by night, charging the Earl of Bothwell with the 
murder of Darnley. Long, long since, all greatness had been 
taken away from the old building, and it was condemned to be 
a jail alone, though still with shops underneath. At length, in 
181 7, the fabric was wholly swept away, in consequence of the 
erection of a better jail on the Calton Hill. The gateway, with 
the door and padlock, was transferred to Abbotsford, and, with 
strange taste on the part of the proprietor, built into a con- 
spicuous part of that mansion. 

The principal entrance to the Tolbooth, and the only one 
used in later days, was at the bottom of the turret next the 
church. The gateway was of tolerably good carved stone-work, 
and occupied by a door of ponderous massiness and strength, 
having, besides the lock, a flap-padlock, which, however, was 
generally kept unlocked during the day. In front of the door 
there always paraded, or rather loitered, a private of the town- 
guard, with his rusty red clothes, and Lochaber axe or musket. 
The door adjacent to the principal gateway was, in the final 
days of the Tolbooth, ' Michael Ketten's Shoe-shop,' but had 
formerly been a thiefs hole. The next door to that, stepping 
westward, was the residence of the turnkey ; a dismal unlighted 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. 97 

den, where the gray old man was always to be found, when not 
engaged in unlocking or closing the door. The next door west- 
ward was a lock-up house, which in later times was never used. 
On the north side, towards the street, there had once been 
shops, which were let by the magistrates; but these were con- 
verte^d, about the year 1787, into a guard-house for the city- 
guard, on their ancient capitol in the High Street being 
destroyed for the levelling of the streets. The ground-floor, 
thus occupied for purposes in general remote from the character 
of the building, was divided lengthwise by a strong partition 
wall j and communication between the rooms above and these 
apartments below, was effectually interdicted by the strong 
arches upon which the superstructure was reared. 

On passing the outer door — where the rioters of 1736 thun- 
dered with their sledge-hammers, and finally burnt down all that 
interposed between them and their prey — the keeper instantly 
involved the entrant in darkness, by reclosing the gloomy portal. 
A flight of about twenty steps then led to an inner door, which, 
being duly knocked at, was opened by a bottle-nosed personage 
denominated Peter, who, like his sainted namesake, always 
carried two or three large keys. You then entered the Hall^ 
which, being free to all the prisoners except those of the East 
End, was usually filled with a crowd of shabby-looking, but very 
merry loungers. A small rail here served as an additional 
security, no prisoner being permitted to come within its pale. 
Here also a sentinel of the city-guard was always walking, 
having a bayonet or ramrod in his hand. The Hall, being also 
the chapel of the jail, contained an old pulpit of singular fashion 
— such a pulpit as one could imagine John Knox to have 
preached from ; which, indeed, he was traditionally said to have 
actually done. At the right-hand side of the pulpit was a door 
leading up the large turnpike to the apartments occupied by the 
criminals, one of which was of plate-iron. The door was alw^ays 
shut, except when food was taken up to the prisoners. On the 
west end of the hall hung a board, on which were inscribed the 
following emphatic lines : 



g8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

' A prison is a house of care, 

A place where none can thrive, 
A touchstone true to try a friend, 
A grave for men alive — 

Sometimes a place of right, 

Sometimes a place of wrong, 
Sometimes a place for jades and thieves, 

And honest men among.' * 

A part of tlie hall on the north side was partitioned off into 
two small rooms, one of which was the captain's pantry, the 
other his counting-room. In the latter hung an old musket or 
two, a pair of obsolete bandoleers, and a sheath of a bayonet, 
intended, as one might suppose, for his defence against a 
mutiny of the prisoners. Including the space thus occupied, 
the hall was altogether twenty-seven feet long by about twenty 
broad. The height of the room was twelve feet. Close to the 
door, and within the rail, was a large window, thickly stan- 
chioned, and at the other end of the hall, within the captain's 
two rooms, was a double window, of a somewhat extraordinary 
character. Tradition, supported by the appearance of the 
place, pointed out this as having formerly been a door by 
which royalty entered the hall, in the days when it was the 
Parliament House. It is said that a kind of bridge was thrown 
between this aperture and a house on the other side of the 
street, and that the sovereign, having prepared himself in that 
house to enter the hall in his state robes, proceeded at the 
proper time along the arch — an arrangement by no means 
improbable in those days of straitened accommodation. 

The window on the south side of the hall overlooked the 
outer gateway. It was therefore employed by the inner turnkey 
as a channel of communication with his exterior brother when 
any visitor was going out. He used to ciy ovei" this window, in 
the tone of a military order upon parade : ' Turn your hand^ 

* These verses are to be found in a curious volume, which appeared in London in 1618, 
under the title oi Essayes and Characters of a Prison and Prisoners, by Geffray Mjmshul, 
of Grayes Inn, Gent. Reprinted, 1821, by W. & C. Tait, Edinburgh. The lines were 
applied specially to the King's Bench Prison. 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. 99 

whereupon the gray-haired man on the pavement below opened 
the door and permitted the visitor, who by this time had 
descended the stair, to walk out. 

The floor immediately above the hall was occupied by one 
room for felons, having a bar along part of the floor, to which 
condemned criminals were chained, and a square box of plate- 
iron in the centre, called the cage, which .was said to have 
been constructed for the purpose of confining some extra- 
ordinary culprit, who had broken half the jails in the kingdom. 
Above this room was another of the same size, also appro- 
priated to felons. 

The larger and western part of the edifice, of coarser, and 
apparently more modem construction, contained four floors, all 
of which were appropriated to the use of debtors, except a part 
of the lowest one, where a middle-aged woman kept a tavern for 
the sale of malt liquors. A turnpike stair gave access to the 
different floors. As it was narrow, steep, and dark, the visitor 
was assisted in his ascent by a greasy rope, which, some one 
was sure to inform him afterwards, had been employed in 
hanging a criminal. In one of the apartments on the second 
floor, was a door leading out to the platform v/hereon criminals 
were executed, and in another on the floor above, was an ill- 
plastered part of the wall, covering the aperture through which 
the gallows was projected. The fourth flat was a kind of 
barrack, for the use of the poorest debtors. 

There was something about the Old Tolbooth which would 
have enabled a blindfolded person, led into it, to say that it was 
a jail. It was not merely odorous from the ordinary causes of 
imperfect drainage, but it had poverty's own smell — the odour 
of human misery. And yet it did not seem at first a downcast 
scene. The promenaders in the hall were sometimes rather 
merry, cutting jokes perhaps upon Peter's nose, or chatting ^vith 
friends on the benches regarding the news of the day. Then 
Mrs Laing drove a good trade in her little tavern ; and if any 
messenger were sent out for a bottle of whisky — why, Peter 
never searched pockets. New men were hailed with : 



100 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

' Welcome, welcome, brother debtor, 

To this poor but merry place ; 

Here nor bailiff, dun, nor fetter, 

Dare to shew his gloomy face. 

They would be abashed at first, and the first visit of wife or 
daughter, coming shawled and veiled, and with timorous 
glances, into the room where the loved object was trying to 
become at ease with his companions, was always a touching 
affair. But it was surprising how soon, in general, all became 
familiar, easy, and even to appearance happy. Each had his 
story to tell, and sympathy was certain and liberal. The whole 
management was of a good-natured kind, as far as a regard to 
regulations would allow. It did not seem at all an impossible 
thing that a debtor should accommodate some even more 
desolate friend with a share of his lodging for the night, or 
for many nights, as is said to have been done in some noted 
instances, to which we shall presently come. 

It was natural for a jail of such old standing to have passed 
through a great number of odd adventures, and have many 
strange tales connected with it. One of the most remarkable 
.traits of its character was a sad liability to the failure of its 
ordinary powers of retention when men of figure were in 
question. The old house had something like that faculty 
attributed by Falstafif to the lion and himself — of knowing men 
who ought not to be too roughly handled. The consequence 
was, that almost every criminal of rank donfined in it made his 
escape. Lord Burleigh, an insane peer, who, about the time of 
the Union, assassinated a schoolmaster who had married a girl to 
whom he had paid improper addresses, escaped, while under 
sentence of death, by changing clothes with his sister. Several 
of the rebel gentlemen confined there in 1716 were equally 
fortunate; a fact on which there was lately thrown a flood of 
light, when I found, in a manuscript list of subscriptions for the 
relief of the other rebel gentlemen at Carlisle, the name of 
the Guidman of the Tolbooth — so the chief-keeper was called 
— down for a good sum. I am uncertain to which of all these 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. lOI 

personages the following anecdote, related to me by Sir Walter 
Scott, refers. 

It was contrived that the prisoner should be conveyed out of 
the Tolbooth in a trunk, and carried by a porter to Leith, 
where some sailors were to be ready with a boat to take him 
aboard a vessel about to leave Scotland. The plot succeeded 
so far as the escape from jail was concerned, but was knocked 
on the head by an unlucky and most ridiculous accident. It 
so happened that the porter, in arranging the trunk upon his 
back, placed the end which corresponded with the feet of the 
prisoner uppermost. The head of the unfortunate man was 
therefore pressed against the lower end of the box, and had to 
sustain the weight of the whole body. The posture was the 
most uneasy imaginable. Yet life was preferable to ease. He 
permitted himself to be taken away. The porter trudged along 
with the trunk, quite unconscious of its contents, and soon 
reached the High Street. On gaining the Netherbow, he met 
an acquaintance, who asked him where he was going with that 
large burden. To Leith, was the answer. The other inquired 
if the job was good enough to afford a potation before pro- 
ceeding farther upon so long a journey. This being replied to 
in the affirmative, and the carrier of the box feeling in his throat 
the philosophy of his friend's inquiry, it was agreed that they 
should adjourn to a neighbouring tavern. Meanwhile, the third 
party, whose inclinations had not been consulted in this arrange- 
ment, was wishing that it were at once well over with him in 
the Grassmarket. But his agonies were not destined to be of 
long duration. The porter, in depositing him upon the cause- 
way, happened to make the end of the trunk come down with 
such precipitation, that, unable to bear it any longer, the 
prisoner screamed out, and immediately after fainted. The con- 
sternation of the porter, on hearing a noise from his burden, 
was of course excessive; but he soon recovered presence of 
mind enough to conceive the occasion. He proceeded to 
unloose and to burst open the trunk, when the hapless noble- 
man was discovered in a state of insensibility. As a crowd 



102 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

collected immediately, and the city-guard were not long in 
coming forward, there was of course no further chance of 
escape. The prisoner did not recover from his swoon till he 
had been safely deposited in his old quarters ; but, if I recollect 
rightly, he eventually escaped in another way. 

In two very extraordinary instances an escape from justice 
has, strange as it may appear, been effected by meam of the 
Old Tolbooth. At the discovery of the Rye-House Plot, iuv 
the reign of Charles II., the notorious Robert Fergusson, 
usually styled 'The Plotter,' was searched for in Edinburgh, 
with a view to his being subjected, if possible, to the extreme 
vengeance of the law. . It being kno^vn almost certainly that he 
was in town, the authorities shut the gates, and calculated 
securely upon having him safe within their toils. The Plotter, 
however, by an expedient worthy of his ingenious character, 
escaped by taking refuge in the Old Tolbooth. A friend of his 
happened to be confined there at the time, and was able to 
afford protection and concealment to Fergusson, who, at his 
leisure, came abroad, and betook himself to a place of safer 
shelter on the continent. The same device was practised in 
1746 by a gentleman who had been concerned in the Rebellion, 
and for whom a hot search had been carried on in the High- 
lands. 

The case of Katherine Naime, in 1766, excited in no small 
degree the attention of the Scottish public. This lady was allied, 
both by blood and marriage, to some respectable families. Her 
crime was the double one of poisoning her husband, and having 
an intrigue with his brother, who was her associate in the murder. 
On her arrival a,t Leith in an open boat, her whole bearing 
betrayed so much levity, or was so different from what had been 
expected, that the mob raised a cry of indignation, and were on 
the point of pelting her, when she was with some difficulty 
rescued from their hands by the public authorities. In this case 
the Old Tolbooth found itself, as ustial, incapable of retaining a 
culprit of condition. Sentence had been delayed by the judges, 
on account of the lady's pregnancy. The midwife employed at 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. I03 

her accouchement (who continued to practise in Edinburgh so 
lately as the year 1805) had the address to achieve a jail-delivery 
also. For three or four days previous to that concerted for the 
escape, she pretended to be afflicted with a prodigious toothache; 
went out and in with her head enveloped in shawls and flannels ; 
and groaned as if she had been about to give up the ghost. At 
length, when the Peter of that day had become so habituated to 
her appearance, as not very much to heed her exits and her 
entrances, Katherine Nairne one evening came down in her 
stead, with her head wrapped all round with the shawls, uttering 
the usual groans, and holding down her face upon her hands, as 
with agony, in the precise way customary with the midwife. 
The inner doorkeeper, not quite unconscious, it is supposed, of 
the trick, gave her a hearty thump upon the back as she passed 
out, calling her at the same time a howling old Jezebel, and 
wishing she would never come back to trouble him any more. 
There are two reports of the proceedings of Katherine Nairne 
after leaving the prison. One bears that she immediately left 
the town in a coach, to which she was handed by a friend 
stationed on . purpose. The coachman, k is said, had orders 
from her relations, in the event of a pursuit, to drive into the 
sea, that she might drown herself — a fate which was considered 
preferable to the ignominy of a public execution. The other 
story runs, that she went up the Lawnmarket to the Castle-hill, 

where lived Mr , a respectable advocate, from whom, as he 

was her cousin, she expected to receive protection. Being 
ignorant of the town, she mistook the proper house, and applied 
at that of the crown agent,* who was assuredly the last man in 
the world that could have done her any service. As good-luck 
would have it, she was not recognised by the servant, who civilly 
directed her to her cousin's house, where it is said she remained 
concealed many weeks. Her future life, it has been reported, 
was virtuous and fortunate. She was married to a French 
gentleman, became the mother of a large family, and died at a 

* A large white house near the Castle, on the north side of the street, and now {1868) no 
mere. 



I04 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. ^ 

good old age. Meanwhile, Patrick Ogilvie, her associate in the 
dark crime which threw a shade over her younger years, . suffered 

in the Grassmarket. He had been a lieutenaht in the 

regiment, and was so much beloved by his fellow-soldiers, who 
happened to be stationed at that time in Edinburgh Castle, that 
the public authorities judged it necessary to shut them up in 
that fortress till the execution was over, lest they might have 
attempted a rescue. 

The Old Tolbooth was the scene of the suicide of Mungo 
Campbell, while under sentence of death (1770) for shooting the 
Earl of Eglintoune. In the district where this memorable event 
took place, it is somewhat remarkable that the fate of the 
murderer was more generally lamented than that of the murdered 
person. Campbell, though what was called ' a graceless man,' 
was rather popular in his profession of exciseman, on account of 
his rough, honourable spirit, and his lenity in the matter of 
smuggling. Lord Eglintoune, on the contrary, was not liked, 
on account of his improving mania, which had proved a serious 
grievance to the old-fashioned farmers of Kyle and Cunningham. 
There was one article, called rye-grass, which he brought in 
amongst them, and forced them to cultivate ; and black prelacy 
itself had hardly, a century before, been a greater evil. Then, 
merely to stir them up a little, he would cause them to exchange 
farms with each other; thus giving their ancient plenishings, 
what was doubtless much wanted, an airing, but also creating a 
strong sense that Lord Eglintoune was 'far ower fashious.' His 
lordship had excited some scandal by his private habits, which 
helped in no small degree to render unpopular one who was in 
reality an amiable and upright gentleman. He was likewise 
somewhat tenacious about matters respecting game — the besetting 
weakness of British gentlemen in all ages. On the other hand, 
Campbell, though an austere and unsocial man, acted according 
to popular ideas both in respect of the game and excise laws. 
The people felt that he was on their side ; they esteemed him 
for his integrity in the common affairs of life, and even in some 
degree for his birth and connections, which were far from mean. 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH. I05 

It was also universally believed, though erroneously, that he had 
only discharged his gun by accident, on falling backward, while 
retreating before his lordship, who had determined to take it 
from him. In reality, Mungo, after his fall, rose on his elbow 
and wilfully shot the poor earl, who had given him additional 
provocation by bursting into a laugh at his awkward fall. The 
Old Tolbooth was supposed by many, at the time, to have had 
her usual failing in Mungo's case. The interest of the Argyll 
family was said to have been employed in his favour ; and the 
body which was found suspended over the door, instead of being 
his, was thought to be that of a dead soldier from the Castle, 
substituted in his place. His relations, however, who were very 
respectable people in Ayrshire, all acknowledged that he died 
by his own hand ; and this was the general idea of the mob of 
Edinburgh, who, getting the body into their hands, dragged it 
down the street to the King's Park, and, inspired by different 
sentiments from those of the Ayrshire people, were not satisfied 
till they got it up to the top of Salisbury Crags, from which they 
precipitated it down the Cat Nick. 

One of the most remarkable criminals ever confined in the 
Old Tolbooth was the noted William Brodie. This was a man 
of respectable connections, and who had moved in good society 
all his life, unsuspected of any criminal pursuits. It is said that 
a habit of frequenting cock-pits was the first symptom he 
exhibited of a decline from rectitude. His ingenuity as a 
mechanic gave him a fatal facility in the burglarious pursuits 
to which he afterwards addicted himself. It was then customary 
for the shopkeepers of Edinburgh to hang their keys upon a 
nail at the back of their doors, or at least to take no pains in 
concealing them during the day. Brodie used to take impressions 
of them in putty or clay, a piece of which he would carry in the 
palm of his hand. He kept a blacksmith in his pay, who forged 
exact copies of the keys he wanted, and with these it was his 
custom to open the shops of his fellow-tradesmen during the 
night. He thus found opportunities of securely stealing whatever 
he wished to possess. He carried on his malpractices for many 



I06 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

years, and never was suspected, till, having committed a daring 
robbery upon the Excise Office in Chessels's Court, Canongate, 
some circumstances transpired, which induced him to disappear 
from Edinburgh. Suspicion then becoming strong, he was 
pursued to Holland, and taken at Amsterdam, standing upright 
in a press or cupboard. At his trial, Henry Erskine, his counsel, 
spoke very eloquently in his behalf, representing, in particular, 
to the jury, how strange and improbable a circumstance it was, 
that a man whom they had themselves known from infancy as a 
person of good repute, should have been guilty of such practices 
as those with which he was charged. He was, however, found 
guilt}', and sentenced to death, along with his accomplice Smith. 
At the trial he had appeared in a full-dress suit of black clothes, 
the greater part of. which was of silk, and his deportment 
throughout the affair was composed and gentlemanlike. He 
continued during the period which intervened between his 
sentence and execution to dress well, and keep up his spirits. 
A gentleman of his acquaintance, calling upon him in the 
condemned room, was surprised to find him singing the song 
from the Beggars' Opera, ' 'Tis woman seduces all mankind.' 
Having contrived to cut out the figure of a draughtboard on the 
stone floor of his dungeon, he amused himself by playing -svith 
any one who would join him, and, in default of such, with his 
right hand against his left. This diagram remained in the room 
where it was so strangely out of place till the destruction of the 
jail. His dress and deportment at the gallows (October i, 1788) 
displayed a mind at ease, and gave some countenance to the 
popular notion that he had made certain mechanical arrange- 
ments for saving his life. Brodie was the first who proved the 
excellence of an improvement he had formerly made on the 
apparatus of the gibbet. This was the substitution of what is 
called the drop, for the ancient practice of the double ladder. 
He inspected the thing with a professional air, and seemed to 
view the result of his ingenuity with a smile of satisfaction. 
When placed on that insecure pedestal, and while the rope was 
adjusted round his neck by the executioner, his courage did not 



THE OLD TOLBOOTH, I07 

forsake him. On the contrary, even there he exhibited a sort of 
levity ; he shuffled about, looked gaily around, and finally went 
out of the world with his hand stuck carelessly into the open 
front of his vest. 

As its infirmities increased with old age, the Tolbooth shewed 
itself incapable of retaining prisoners of even ordinary rank. 
Within the recollection of people living not long ago, a youth 
named Hay, the son of a stabler in the Grassmarket, and who 
was under sentence of death for burglary, effected his escape in 
a way highly characteristic of the Heart of Mid-Lothian, and of 
the simple and unprecise system upon which all public affairs 
were managed before the present age. 

A few days before that appointed for the execution, the father 
went up to the condemned room, apparently to condole with his 
unhappy son. The irons had been previously got quit of by 
files. At nightfall, when most visitors had left the jail, old Hay 
invited the inner turnkey, or man who kept the hall-door, to 
come into the room and partake of some liquor which he had 
brought with him. The man took a few glasses, and became 
mellow just about the time when the bottle was exhausted, and 
when the time of locking up the jail (ten o'clock at that period) 
was approaching. Hay expressed unwillingness to part at the 
moment when they were just beginning to enjoy their liquor; a 
sentiment in which the turnkey heartily sympathised. Hay 
took a crown from his pocket, and proposed that his friend 
slipuld go out and purchase a bottle of good rum at a neigh- - 
bouring shop. The man consented, and staggering away down 
stairs, neglected to lock the inner door behind him. Young 
Hay followed close, as had been concerted, and after the man 
had gone out, and the outer turnkey had closed the outer door, 
stood in the stair just within that dread portal', ready to spring 
into the street. Old Hay then put his head to the great window 
of the hall, and cried : ' Turn your hand ! ' — the usual drawling 
cry which brought the outer turnkey to open the door. The 
turnkey came mechanically at the cry, and unclosed the outer 
door, when the young criminal sprang out, and ran as fast as he 

H 



108 ; TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

could down Beth's Wynd, a lane opposite the jail. According 
to the plan which had been previously concerted, he repaired to 
a particular part of the wall of the Greyfriars Churchyard, near 
the lower gate, where it was possible for an agile person to 
climb up and spring over ; and so well had every stage of the 
business been planned, that a large stone had been thrown 
down at this place to facilitate the leap. 

The youth had been provided with a key which could open 
Sir George Mackenzie's mausoleum — a place of peculiar horror, 
as it was supposed to be haunted by the spirit of the bloody 
persecutor; but what will not be submitted to for dear life? 
Having been brought up in Heriot's Hospital, in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the churchyard, Hay had many boyish 
acquaintances still residing in that establishment. Some of 
these he contrived to inform of his situation, enjoining them 
to be secret, and beseeching them to assist him in his distress. 
The Herioters of those days had a very clannish spirit — 
insomuch, that to have neglected the interests or safety of any 
individual of the community, however unworthy he might be of 
their friendship, would have been looked upon by them as a sin 
of the deepest dye. Hay's confidants, therefore, considered 
themselves bound to assist him by all means in their power. 
They kept his secret faithfully, spared from their own meals as 
much food as supported him, and ran the risk of severe punish- 
ment, as well as of seeing eldritch sights, by visiting him every 
night in his dismal abode. About six weeks after^ his escape 
from jail, when the hue and cry had in a great measure subsided, 
he ventured to leave the tomb, and it was afterwards kno^vn 
that he escaped abroad. 

So ends our gossip respecting a building which has witnessed 
and contained the meetings of the Scottish parliament in the 
romantic days of the Jameses — which held the first fixed court 
of law established in the country — ^which was looked to by the 
citizens in a rude age as a fortified place for defence against 
external danger to their lives and goods— which has immured 
in its gloomy walls persons of all kinds liable to law, from the 



SOME MEMORIES OF THE LUCKENBOOTHS. I09 

gallant Montrose, and the faithful Guthrie and Argyll, down to 
tiie humblest malefactor in the modem style of crime — and 
which, finally, has been embalmed in the imperishable pages of 
the greatest writer of fiction our country has produced. 



SOME MEMORIES OF THE LUCKENBOOTHS. 

Lord Coalstoun and his Wig — Commendator Both well's House — Lady 
Anne Bothwell — Mahogany Lands and Fore-stairs — The Krames — • 
Creech's Shop. 

A PORTION of the High Street facing St Giles's Church was called 
the Luckenbooths, and the appellation was shared with a middle 
row of buildings which once burdened the street at that spot. 
The name is supposed to have been conferred on the shops in 
that situation as being close shoJ>s, to distinguish them from the 
open booths which then lined our great street on both sides ; 
lucken signifying closed. This would seem to imply a certain 
superiority in the ancient merchants of the Luckenbooths ; and 
it is somewhat remarkable that, amidst all the changes of the 
Old Town, there is still, in this limited locality, an unusual 
proportion of mercers and clothiers of old standing and reputed 
substantiality. 

Previous to 1811, there remained unchanged in this place 
two tall massive houses, about two centuries old, one of which 
contained the town mansion of Sir John Byres of Coates, a 
gentleman of figure in Edinburgh in the reign of James VI., 
and whose faded tombstone may yet be deciphered in the west 
wall of the Greyfriars Churchyard. The Byreses of the Coates 
died out towards the end of the last century, and their estate 
has since become a site for streets, as our city spread westwards. 
The name alone survives, in connection with an alley beneath 
their town mansion — Byres' s Close, 



no TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

LORD COALSTOUN AND HIS WIG. 

^^Mi fourth floor, constituting the Byres mansion, after being 
■occupied by such persons as Lord Coupar, Lord Lindores, and 
Sir James Johnston of Westerhall, fell into the possession of Mr 
Brown of Coalstoun, a judge under the designation of Lord 
Coalstoun, and the father of the late Countess of Dalhousie. 
His lordship lived here in 1757, but then removed to a more 
spacious mansion on the Castle-hill. 

A strange accident one morning befell Lord Coalstoun while 
residing in this house. It was at that time the custom for 
advocates, and no less for judges, to dress themselves in gown, 
wig, and cravat at their own houses, and to walk in a sort of 
state, thus rigged out, with their cocked hats in their hands, to 
the Parliament House. They usually breakfasted early, and, 
when dressed, would occasionally lean over their parlour 
windows, for a few minutes before St Giles's bell sounded the 
starting peal of a quarter to nine, enjoying the morning air, 
such as it was, and perhaps discussing the news of the day, or 
the convivialities of the preceding evening, with a neighbouring 
advocate on the opposite side of the alley. It so happened that 
one morning, while Lord Coalstoun was preparing to enjoy his 
matutinal treat, two girls, who lived in the second floor above, 
were amusing themselves with a kitten, which, in thoughtless 
sport, they had swung over the window by a cord tied round its 
middle, and hoisted for some time up and down, till the creature 
was getting rather desperate with its exertions. In this crisis his 
lordship popped his head out of the window directly below that 
from which the kitten swung, little suspecting, good easy man, 
what a danger impended, like the sword of Damocles, over his 
head, hung, too, by a single — not hair, 'tis true, but scarcely 
more responsible material — garter, when down came the exas- 
perated animal at full career directly upon his senatorial Avig. 
No sooner did the girls perceive what sort of a landing-place 
their kitten had found, than, in terror and surprise, they began 
to draw it up ; but this measure was now too late, for along 



COMMENDATOR BOTHWELL'S HOUSE. Ill 

^vith the animal up also came the judge's wig, fixed fiill in its 
determined talons. His lordship's surprise on finding his wig 
lifted off his head, was much increased when, on looking up, he 
perceived it dangling its way upwards, without any means, 
visible to him, by which its motions might be accounted for. 
The astonishment, the dread, the almost awe of the senator 
below — the half mirth, half terror of the girls above — together 
^vith the fierce and relentless energy of retention on the part of 
Puss between — altogether formed a scene to which language 
could not easily do justice. It was a joke soon explained and 
pardoned; but assuredly the perpetrators of it did afterwards 
get many lengthened injunctions from their parents never again 
to fish over the -window, with such a bait, for honest men's 
wigs. 

COMMENDATOR BOTHWELL's HOUSE. 

The eastern of the tenements, which has only been renovated 
by a new front, formerly Avas the lodging of Adam Bothwell, 
Commendator of Holyrood, who is remarkable for having per- 
formed the Protestant marriage-ceremony for Mary and the Earl 
of Bothwell. This ecclesiastic, who belonged to an old Edin- 
burgh family of note, and was the uncle of the inventor of 
Logarithms, is celebrated in his epitaph in Holyrood Chapel as 
a judge, and the son and father of judges. His son was raised 
to the peerage in 1607, under the title of Lord Holyroodhouse, 
the lands of that abbacy, with some others, being erected into a 
temporal lordship in his favour. The title, however, sunk in 
the second generation. The circumstance which now gives 
most interest to the family, is one which they themselves would 
probably have regarded as its greatest disgrace. Among the old 
Scottish songs, is one which breaks upon the ear with the wail 
of wronged womanhood, mingled with the breathings of its 
indestructible affections : 

' Baloo, my boy, lie still and sleep, 
It grieves me sair to see thee weep. 



112 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

If thou 'It be silent, I '11 be glad ; 

Thy mourning makes my heart full sad. . . « 

Baloo, my boy, weep not for me. 

Whose greatest grief's for wranging thee, 

Nor pity her deserved smart, 

Who can blame none but her fond heart. 

Baloo, my boy, thy father 's fled, 
When he the thriftless son hath played ; 
Of vows and oaths forgetful, he 
Preferred the wars to thee and me : 
But now perhaps thy curse jind mine 
Makes him eat acorns with the swine. 

Nay, curse not him ; perhaps now he, 

Stung with remorse, is blessing thee ; 

Perhaps at death, for who can tell 

But the great Judge of heaven and hell 

By some proud foe has struck the blow, 

And laid the dear deceiver low,' &c. ^ 

Great doubt has long rested on the history of this piteous ditty ; 
but it is now ascertained to have been a contemporary effusion 
on the sad love-tale of Anne Bothwell, a sister of the first Lord 
Holyroodhouse. The only error in the setting down of the 
song, was in calling it Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament, as the 
heroine had no pretension to a term implying noble rank. Her 
lover was a youth of uncommon elegance of person, the Honour- 
able Alexander Erskine, brother of the Earl of Mar, of the first 
Earl of Buchan, and of Lord Cardross. A portrait of him, 
which belonged to his mother (the countess mentioned a few 
pages back), and which is now in possession of James Erskine, 
Esq. of Cambo, Lady Mar's descendant, represents him as 
strikingly handsome, with much vivacity of countenance, dark- 
blue eyes, a peaked beard, and moustaches. The lovers were 
cousins. The song is an evidence of the public interest excited 
by the affair : a fragment of it found its way into an English 
play of the day. Broom's comedy of The Northern Lass (1632). 
This is somewhat different from any of the stanzas in the 
common versions of the ballad : 



COMMENDATOR BOTHWELL'S HOUSE. II3 

* Peace, wayward bairn. Oh cease thy moan ! 
Thy far more wayward daddy 's gone, 
And never will recalled be, 
By cries of either thee or me ; 

For should we cry. 

Until we die, 
We could not scant his cruelty. 

Baloo, baloo, &c. 

He needs might in himself foresee 
What thou successively mightst be ; 
And could he then (though me forego) 
His infant leave, ere he did know 

How like the dad 

Would prove the lad. 
In time to make fond maidens glad. 

Baloo, baloo,' &c. 

The fate of the deceiver proved a remarkable echo of some of 
the verses of the ballad. Having carried his military experience 
and the influence of his rank into the party of the Covenanters, 
he was stationed (1640) with his brother-in-law, the Earl of 
Haddington, at Dunglass Castle, on the way to Berwick, 
actively engaged in bringing up levies for the army, then newly 
advanced across the Tweed ; when, by the revenge of an 
offended page, who applied a hot poker to the powder maga- 
zine, the place was blown up. Erskine, with his brother-in-law 
and many other persons, perished. A branch of the Mar family 
retained, till no remote time, the awe-mingled feeling which had 
been produced by this event, which they had been led to regard 
as a punishment inflicted for the wrongs of Anne Bothwell. 

At the back of the Commendator's house there is a projection, 
on the top of which is a bartisan or flat roof, faced with three 
lettered stones. There is a tradition that Oliver Cromwell lived 
in this house, and used to come out and sit here to view his 
navy on the Forth, of which, together with the whole coast, it 
commands a view. As this commander is said to have had his 
guard-house in the neighbouring alley called Dunbar's Close, 
there is some reason to give credit to the story, though it is in 



114 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH, 

no shape authenticated by historical record. The same house 
was, for certain, the residence of Sir WiUiam Dick, the hapless 
son of Croesus spoken of in a preceding article. 

These houses preserved, until their recent renovation, all the 
characteristics of that ancient mode of architecture which has 
procured for the edifices constructed upon it the dignified appel- 
lative of Mahogany Lands. Below were the booths or piazzas, 
once prevalent throughout the whole town, in which the mer- 
chants of the laigh shops, or cellars, were permitted to exhibit 
their goods to the passengers. The merchant himself took his 
seat at the head of the stair, to attend to the wants of passing 
customers. By the ancient laws of the burgh, it was required 
that each should be provided with 'lang wappinis, ' sick as a 
spear or a Jeddart staff',' with which he was to sally forth and 
assist the magistrates in time of need; for example, when a 
tulzie took place between the retainers of rivaHioblemen meeting 
in the street. ^'•' 

This house could also boast of that distinguished feature in 
all ancient wooden structures, a fore-stair, an antiquated con- 
venience, or inconvenience, now almost extinct, consisting of a 
flight of steps, ascending from the pavement to the first floor of 
the mansion, and protruding a considerable way into the street. 
Nuisances as they still are, they were once infinitely worse. 
What will my readers think when they are informed that imder 
these projections our ancestors kept their swine ? Yes; otitside 
stairs was formerly but a term of outward respect for what were 
as frequently denominated swine's cruives ; and the rude inhabit- 
ants of these narrow mansions were permitted, through the day, 
to stroll about the ' High Gait,' seeking what they might devour 
among the heaps of filth which then encumbered the street,* as 

* Edinburgh was not in this respect worse than other European cities. Paris, at least, 
was equally disgusting. Rigord, who wrote in the twelfth century, tells us that the king, 
standing one day at the window of his palace near the Seine, and observing that the dirt 
thrown up by the carriages produced a most offensive stench, resolved to remedy this intol- 
erable nuisance by causing the streets to be paved. For a long time swine were permitted 
to wallow in them ; till the young Philip being killed by a fall from his horse, from a sow 
running between its legs, an order was issued that no swine should in future run about the 
Street. The monks of the Abbey of St Anthony remonstrated fiercely against this order. 



COMMENDATOR BOTHWELL's HOUSE. ' II5 

barn-door fowls are at the present day suffered to go abroad 
in country towns; and, like them (or like the town-geese of 
Musselburgh, which to this day are privileged to feed upon 
the race-ground), the sullen porkers were regularly called home 
in the evening by their respective proprietors. 

These circumstances will be held as sufficient evidence, not- 
withstanding all the enactments for the ' policy of bigginis ' and 
' decoring the tounes,' that the stranger's constant reproach of 
the Scots for want of cleanliness was not unmerited. Yet, to 
shew that our countrymen did not lack a taste for decent 
appearances, let it be recollected that on every occasion of a 
public procession, entry of a sovereign, or other ceremonial, 
these fore-stairs were hung with carpets, tapestry, or arras, and 
were the principal places for the display of rank and fashion ; 
while the windows, like the galleries of a theatre compared with 
the boxes, were chiefly occupied by spectators of a lower degree.* 
The strictest proclamations were always issued, before any such 
occasion, ordaining the 'middinis' and the 'swine' to be removed, 
and the stairs to be decorated in the manner mentioned. 

Beneath the stair of the house now under review, there abode 
in later times an old man named Bryce, in whose life and 
circumstances there was something characteristic of a pent-up 
city like Edinburgh, where every foot of space was valuable. 
A stock of small hardwares and trinkets was piled up around 
him, leaving scarcely sufficient room for the accommodation of 

alleging that the prevention of the saint's swine from enjoying the liberty of going where 
they pleased, was a want of respect to their patron. It was therefore found necessary to 
grant them the privilege of wallowing in the dirt without molestation, requiring the monks 
only to turn them out with bells about their necks. 

* ' To recreat hir hie renoun, 

Of curious things thair wes all sort, 

The stairs and houses of the toun ' 

With tapestries were spread athort : 

Quhair histories men micht behould. 

With images and anticks auld. 

The description of the qveen's maiesties 
maist honorable entry into the town of 
edinbvrgh, vpon the i9. day of maii, 159o. 
By JOHN BVREL.' — Watsoti's Collection of Scots 
Poems (1709). 



Il6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

his own person, which completely filled the vacant space, as a 
hermit crab fills its shell. There was not room for the admission 
6f a customer ; but he had a half-door, over which he sold any 
article that was demanded ; and there he sat from morning till 
night, with his face turned to this door, looking up the eternal 
Lawnmarket. The place was so confined that he could not 
stand upright in it; nor could he stretch out his legs. Even 
while he sat, there was an uneasy obliquity of the stair, which 
compelled him to shrink a httle aside; and by accustoming 
himself to this posture for a long series of years, he had insensibly 
acquired a twist in his shoulders, nearly 'approaching to a hump- 
back, and his head swung a little to one side. This was Tair 
boutiquier in a most distressing sense. 

In the description of this old tenement given in the title-deeds, 
it is called ' All and haill that Lodging or Timber Land lying in 
the burgh of Edinburgh, on the north side of the High Street 
thereof, forgainst the place of the Tolbooth, commonly called 
the Poor Folks' Purses.' The latter place was a part of the 
northern wall of the prison, deriving its name from a curious 
circumstance. It was formerly the custom for the privileged 
beggars, called Blue-gowns, to assemble in the palace yard, 
where a small donation from the king, consisting of as many 
pennies as he was years old, was conferred on each of them ; 
after which they moved in procession up the High Street, till 
they came to this spot, where the magistrates gave each a 
leathern ;purse and a small sum of money ; the ceremony con- 
cluding by their proceeding to the High Church, to hear a sermon 
from one of the king's chaplains. 

THE KRAMES. 

The central row of buildings — the Luckenbooths Proper — ^was 
not wholly taken away till 1817. The narrow passage left 
between it and the church will ever be memorable to all who 
knew Edinburgh in those days, on account of the strange scene 
of traffic which it presented — each recess, angle, and coigne of 
vantage in the wall of the church being occupied by little shops, 



Creech's shop. 117 

of the nature of Bryce's, devoted to the sale of gloves, toys, 
lollipops, &c. These were the Krames, so famous at Edinburgh 
firesides. Singular places of business they assuredly were ; often 
not presenting more space than a good church-pew, yet support- 
ing by their commerce respectable citizenly families, from which 
would occasionally come men of some consequence in society. 
At the same spot the constable (Earl of Enrol) was wont to sit 
upon a chair at the ridings of the parliament, when ceremonially 
receiving the members as they alighted. 

I am told that one such place, not more than seven feet by 
three, had been occupied by a glover named Kennedy, who with 
his gentle dame stood there retailing their wares for a time 
sufficient to witness the rise and fall of d)Tiasties, never enjoying 
all that time the comfort of a fire, even in the coldest weather ! 
This was a specimen of the life led by these patient creatures ; 
many of whom, upon the demolition of their lath and plaster 
tenements, retired from business with little competencies. Their 
rents were from ;^3 to ;^6 per annum j and it appears that, 
huddled as the town then was around them, they had no incon- 
siderable custom. At the end of the row, under the angle of the 
church, was a brief stair, called The Lady's Steps, thought to be 
a corruption of Our Lady's Steps, with reference to a statue of 
the Virgin, the niche for which was seen in the east wall of 
the church till the renovation of the building in 1830. Sir 
George Mackenzie, however, in his Observations on the Statutes, 
states that the Lady's Steps were so called from the infamous. 
Lady March (wife of the Earl of Arran, James VI. 's profligate 
chancellor), from whom also the nine o'clock evening-bell, 
being ordered by her to an hour later, came to be called The 
Lady's Bell. When men made bargains at the Cross, it was 
customary for them to go up to the Lady's Steps, and there 
consummate the negotiation by wetting thumbs, or paying arles. 

Creech's shop. 

The building at the east end of the Luckenbooths proper had 
a front facing down the High Street, and commanding not only 



Il8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

a view of the busy scene there presented, but a prospect of 
Aberlady Bay, Gosford House, and other objects in Haddington- 
shire. The shop in this east front was that of Mr Creech, a 
bookseller of facete memory, who had published many books by 
the principal literary men of his day, to all of whom he was 
known as a friend and equal. From this place had issued works 
by Kames, Smith, Hume, Mackenzie, and finally the poems of 
Bums. It might have been called the Lounger's Observatory, 
for seldom was the doorway free of some group of idlers, engaged 
in surveying and commenting on the crowd in front; Creech 
himself, with his black silk breeches and powdered head, being 
ever a conspicuous member of the corps. The flat above had 
been the shop of Allan Ramsay, and the place where, in 1725, 
he set up the first example of a circulating library known in 
Scotland. 



SOME MEMORANDA OF THE OLD KIRK OF 
ST GILES. 

The central portion or transept of St Giles's Church, opening 
from the south, formed a distinct place of worship, under the 
name of the Old Church, and this seems to have been the first 
arranged for Protestant worship after the Reformation. It was 
the scene of the prelections of John Knox (who, it will be 
remembered, was the first minister of the city under the reformed 
religion), until a month before his death, when it appears that - 
another portion of the building — styled the Tolbooth Kirk — was 
fitted up for his use. 

It also happened to be in the Old Kirk that the celebrated 
riot of the 23d of July 1637 took place, when, on the opening 
of the new Episcopal service-book, Jenny Geddes, of worthy 
memory, threw her cutty-stool at the dean Avho read it — the first 



SOME MEMORANDA OF THE OLD KIRK OF ST GILES. II9 

weapon, and a formidable one it was, employed in the great 
civil war,* 

Jenny Geddes was an herbwoman — Scottice, a greenwife — at 
the Tron Church, where, in former, as well as in recent times, 
that class of merchants kept their stalls. It seems that, in the 
midst of the hubbub, Jenny, hearing the bishop call upon the 
dean to read the collect of the day, cried out, with unintentional 
wit: 'Deil colic the wame o' ye!'t and threw at the dean's 
head the small stool on which she sat; 'a ticket of remembrance,' 
as a Presbyterian annalist merrily terms it, so well aimed, that 
the clergyman only escaped it by jouking; J that "is, by suddenly 
bending his person. 

Jenny, like the originators of many other insurrections, appears 
to have afterwards repented of her exertions on this occasion. 
We learn from the simple diarist, Andrew Nichol, that when 
Charles II. was known, in June 1650, to have arrived in the 
north of Scotland, amidst other rejoicings, ' the pure \^.d. poor] 
kaill-Avyves at the Trone [Jenny Geddes, no doubt, among the 
number] war sae overjoyed, that they sacrificed their standis and 
creellis, yea, the verie stoollis they sat on, in ane fyre.' What 
will give, however, a still more unequivocal proof of the repent- 
ance of honest Jenny (after whom, by the way. Bums named a 
favourite mare), is the conduct expressly attributed to herself on 
the occasion of the king's coronation in 1661 by the Mercuriiis 
Caledonius : 

' But among all our bontados and caprices,' says that curious 
register of events, § 'that of the immortal Jenet Geddis, Princesse 

* We learn from Crawford's History oftJie University (MS. Adv. Lib.), that the service 
was read that day in the Old Kirk, on account of the more dignified place of worship towards 
the east being then under the process of alteration, for the erection of the altar, ' and other 
pendicles of that idolatrous worship.' 

+ Notes 7ipon the Phoenix edition of the Pastoral Letter, by S. Johnson, 1694. 

J Wodrow, in his Diary, makes a statement apparently at issue with that in the text, 
both in respect of locality and person : 

' It is the constantly believed tradition that it was Mrs Mean, wife to John Mean, 
merchant in Edinburgh, who threw the first stool when the service-book was read in the 
New Kirk, Edinburgh, 1637, and that many of the lasses that carried on the fray were 
preachers in disguise, for they threw stools to a great length.' 

{ A newspaper commenced after the Restoration, and continued through eleven numbers. 



I20 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of the Trone adventurers, was most pleasant ; for she was not 
only content to assemble all her Creels, Basquets, Creepiest 
Furmes, and other ingredients that composed the Shope of her 
Sallets, Radishes, Turnips, Carrots, Spinage, Cabbage, with all 
other sorts of Pot Merchandise that belongs to the garden, but 
even her Leather Chair of State, where she used to dispense 
Justice to the rest of her Langkale Vassals, were all very orderly 
burned ; she herself countenancing the action with a high-flown 
flourish and vermilion majesty.' 

The Scottish Society of Antiquaries nevertheless exhibit in 
their Museum a clasp-stool, for which there is good evidence 
that it was the actual stool thrown by Mrs Geddes at the dean. 

In the southern aisle of this church, the Regent Murray, 
three weeks after his assassination at Linlithgow, February 
14, 1569-70, was interred: 'his head placed south, contrair 
the ordour usit; the sepulchre laid with hewin wark maist 
curiously, and on the head ane plate of brass.' John Knox 
preached a funeral-sermon over the remains of his friend, and 
drew tears from the eyes of all present. In the Tolbooth 
Church, immediately adjoining to the west, sat the convention 
which chose the Earl of Lennox as his successor in the 
regency. Murray's monument was not inelegant for the time ; 
and its inscription, written by Buchanan, is remarkable for 
emphatic brevity. 

This part of the church appears to have formerly been an 
open lounge. French Paris, Queen Mary's servant, in his con- 
fession respecting the murder of Damley, mentions that, during 
the communings which took place before that deed was deter- 
mined on, he one day * took his mantle and sword, and went to 
walk {promener) in the High Church.' Probably, in consequence 
of the veneration entertained for the memory of * the Good 
Regent,' pr else, perhaps, from some simple motive of con- 
veniency, the Earl of Miuray's tomb was a place frequently 
assigned in bills for the payment of the money. It also appears 
to have been the subject of a similar jest to that respecting the 

» Small stools. 



ANCIENT CHURCHYARD. 121 

tomb of Duke Humphrey. Robert Sempill, in his Banishment 
of Poverty, a poem referring to the year 1680 or 1681, thus 
expresses himself: 

' Then I knew no way how to fen' ; 

My guts rumbled like a hurle-barrow ; 
I dined with saints and noblemen, 

Even sweet Saint Giles and Earl of Murray.' 

In the immediate neighbourhood of the Earl of Murray's 
tomb, to the east, is the sepulchre of the Marquis of Montrose, 
executed in 1650, and here interred most sumptuously, June 
1 66 1, after the various parts of his body had been dispersed for 
eleven years in different directions, according to his sentence. 



THE PARLIAMENT CLOSE. 

Ancient Churchyard — Booths attached to the High Church — Goldsmiths — 
George Heriot — The Deid-Chack. 

Previous to the seventeenth century, the ground now occupied 
by the Parliament House, and the buildings adjacent to the 
south and west, was the churchyard of St Giles's, from the south 
side of which edifice it extended down a steep declivity to the 
Cowgate. This might formerly be considered the metropolitan 
cemetery of Scotland; as, together with the internal space of 
the church, it contained the ashes of many noble and remark- 
able personages, John Knox amongst the number. After the 
Reformation, when Queen Mary conferred the gardens of the 
Greyfriars upon the town, the churchyard of St Giles's ceased to 
be much used as a burjdng-ground ; and that extensive and 
more appropriate place of sepulture succeeded to this in being 
made the Westminster Abbey of Scotland. 

The west side of the cemetery of St Giles's was bounded by 
the house of the provost of the church, who, in 1469, granted 
part of the same to the citizens, for the augmentation of the 



122 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

burying-ground. From the charter accompanying the grant, it 
appears that the provost's house then also contained the pubUc 
school of Edinburgh, 

In the lower part of the churchyard there was a small place 
of worship denominated the Chapel of Holyrood. Walter 
Chapman, the first printer in Edinburgh, in 1528, endowed an 
altar in this chapel with his tenement in the Cowgate ; and, by 
the tenor of the charter, I am enabled to point out very nearly 
the residence of this interesting person, who, besides being a 
printer, was a respectable merchant in Edinburgh, and, it would 
appear, a very pious man. The tenement is thus described : 
* All and haill this tenement of land, back and foir, with houses, 
biggings, yards, and well* thereof, lying in the Cowgate of 
Edinburgh, on the south side thereof, near the said chapel, 
betwixt the lands of James Lamb on the east, and the lands of 
John Aber on the west, the arable lands called Wairam's Croft 
on the south, and the said street on the north part.' 

BOOTHS. 

The precincts of St Giles's being now secularised, the church 
itself was, in 1628, degraded by numerous wooden booths being 
stuck up around it. Yet, to shew that some reverence was still 
paid to the sanctity of the place, the Town-council decreed that 
no tradesmen should be admitted to these shops except book- 
binders, mortmakers (watchmakers), jewellers, and goldsmiths. 
Bookbinders must here be meant to signify booksellers, the latter 
term not being then known in Scotland. Of mortmakers there 
could not be many, for watches were imported from Germany 
till about the conclusion of the seventeenth century. The gold- 
smiths were a much more numerous tribe than either of their 
companions \ for at that time there prevailed in Scotland, 
amongst the aristocracy, a sort of rude magnificence and taste 
for show extremely favourable to these tradesmen. 

In 1632, the present great hall of the Parliament House was 

* Previous to i6Si, the inhabitants of Edinburgh were supplied with water from pump- 
wells in the south side of the Cowgate. 



BOOTHS. 123 

founded upon the site of the houses formerly occupied by the 
ministers of St Giles's. It was finished in 1639, at an expense of 
;^i 1,630 sterling, and devoted to the use of parhament. 

It does not appear to have been till after the Restoration 
that the Parliament Close was formed, by the erection of a 
line of private buildings, forming a square with the church. 
These houses, standing on a declivity, were higher on one side 
than the other : one is said to have been fifteen stories altogether 
in height. All, however, were burned down in a great fire which 
happened in 1700, after which buildings of twelve stories in 
height were substituted. 

Among the noble inhabitants of the Parliament Close at an 
early period, the noble family of Wemyss were not the least 
considerable. At the time of Porteous's affair, when Francis, the 
fifth earl, was a boy, his sisters persuaded him to act the part of 
Captain Porteous in a sort of drama which they got up in 
imitation of that strange scene. The foolish romps actually 
went the length of tucking up their brother, the heir of the 
family, by the neck, over a door; and their sports had well- 
nigh ended in a real tragedy, for the helpless representative of 
Porteous was black in the face before they saw the necessity 
of cutting him down. 

The small booths around St Giles's continued, till 181 7, to 
deform the outward appearance of the church. Long before 
their destruction, the booksellers at least had found the space of 
six or seven feet too small for the accommodation of their fast- 
increasing wares, and removed to larger shops in the elegant 
tenements of the square. One of the largest of the booths, 
adjacent to the south side of the New or High Church, and 
having a second story, was occupied, during a great part of the 
last century, by Messrs Kerr and Dempster, goldsmiths. The 
first of these gentlemen had been member of parliament for the 
city, and was the last citizen who ever held that office. Such 
was the humility of people's wishes in those days respecting 
their houses, that this respectable person actually lived, and had 
a great number of children, in the small space of the flat over 

I 



124 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the shop, and the cellar under it, which was lighted by a grating 
in the pavement of the square. The subterraneous part of his 
house was chiefly devoted to the purposes of a nursery, and 
proved so insalubrious, that all his children died successively at 
a particular age, with the exception of his son Robert, who, 
being bom much more weakly than the rest, had the good-luck 
to be sent to the country to be nursed, and afterwards grew up 
to be the author of a work entitled The Life of Robert Bruce, and 
the editor of a large collection of voyages and travels. 

GOLDSMITHS. 

The goldsmiths of those days were considered a superior class 
of tradesmen; they appeared in public with scarlet cloak, cocked 
hat, and cane, as men of some consideration. Yet, in their 
shops, every one of them would have been found working with 
his own hands at some light labour, in a little recess near the 
window, generally in a very plain dress, but ready to come forth 
at a moment's notice to serve a customer. Perhaps, down to 
1780, there was not a goldsmith in Edinburgh who did not 
condescend to manual labour. 

As the whole trade was collected in the Parliament Close, 
this was of course the place to which country couples resorted, 
during the last century, in order to make the purchase of silver 
tea-spoons, which always preceded their nuptials. It was then 
as customary a thing in the country for the intending bridegroom 
to take a journey, a few weeks before his marriage, to the 
Parliament Close, in order to buy the silver spoons, 2J~, it was for 
the bride to have all her clothes and stock of bed-furniture 
inspected by a committee of matrons upon the wedding eve. 
And this important transaction occasioned two journeys : one, 
in order to select the spoons, and prescribe the initials which 
were to be marked upon them ; the other, to receive and pay 
for them. It must be understood that the goldsmiths of Edin- 
burgh then kept scarcely any goods on hand in their shops, and 
that the smallest article had to be bespoken from them some 
time before it was wanted. A goldsmith, who entered as an 



GEORGE HERIOT. 1 25 

apprentice about the beginning of the reign of George III., 
informed me that they were beginning only at that time to keep 
a few trifling articles on hand. Previously, another old custom 
had been abolished. It had been usual, upon both the occa- 
sions above mentioned, for the goldsmith to adjourn with his 
customer to John's Cofifee-house, or to the B'aij en-hole, and to 
receive the order or the payment, in a comfortable manner, over 
a dram and a caup of small ale; which were, upon the first 
occasion, paid for by the customer, and, upon the second, by 
the trader; and the goldsmith then was perhaps let into the 
whole secret counsels of the rustic, including a history of his 
courtship — in return for which he would take pains to amuse his 
customer with a sketch of the city news. In time, as the views 
and capitals of the Parliament Close goldsmiths became extended, 
all these pleasant customs were abandoned.* 

GEORGE HERIOT. 

The shop and workshop of George Heriot existed in this 
neighbourhood till 1809, when the extension of the Advocates' 
Library occasioned the destruction of some interesting old doses 
to the west of St Giles's Klirk, and altered all the features of this 
part of the town. There was a line of three small shops, with 
wooden superstmctures above them, extending between the door 
of the Old Tolbooth and that of the Laigh Council-house, which 
occupied the site of the present lobby of the Signet Library. A 
narrow passage led between these shops and the west end of St 
Giles's ; and George Heriot's shop, being in the centre of the 
three, was situated exactly opposite to the south window of the 
Little Kirk. The back windows looked into an alley behind, 
called Beith's or Bess Wynd. In confirmation of this tradition, 
George Heriot's name was discovered upon the architrave of 

* In the early times above referred to, £,iao was accounted a sufficient capital for a young 
goldsmith — being just so much as purchased his furnace, tools, &c., served to fit up his 
shop, and enabled him to enter the Incorporation, which alone required £i,o out of the £xoq. 
The stock with which George Heriot commenced business at a much earlier period (1580) — 
said to have been about ;^2oo — must therefore be considered a proof of the wealth of that 
celebrated person's family. 



126 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the door, being carved in the stone, and apparently having 
served as his sign. Besides this curious memorial, the booth 
was also found to contain his forge and bellows, with a hollow 
stone, fitted with a stone cover or hd, which had been used as a 
receptacle for, and a means of extinguishing, the living embers 
of the furnace, upon closing the shop at night. All these 
curiosities were bought by the late Mr E. Robertson of the 
Commercial Bank, who had been educated in Heriot's Hospital, 
and by him presented to the governors, who ordered them to be 
carefully deposited and preserved in the house, where they now 
remain. George Heriot's shop was only about seven feet square ! 
Yet his master. King James, is said to have sometimes visited 
him, and been treated by him here. There is a story, that one 
day when the goldsmith visited his majesty at Holyrood, he 
found him sitting beside a fire, which, being composed of 
perfumed wood, cast an agreeable smell through the room. 
Upon George Heriot remarking its pleasantness, the king told 
him that it was quite as costly as it was fine. Heriot said that 
if his majesty would come and pay him a visit at his shop, he 
would shew him a still more costly fire. 

' Indeed !' said the king; ' and I will.' He accordingly paid 
the goldsmith a visit, but was surprised to find only an ordinary 
fire. ' Is this, then, your fine fire ?' said he. 

'Wait a little,' said George, 'till I get my fuel.' So saying, he 
took from his bureau a bond for two thousand pounds which 
he had lent to the king, and laying it in the fire, added : ' Now, 
whether is your majesty's fire or mine most expensive ? ' 

' Yours most certainly. Master Heriot,' said the king. 

Adjacent to George Heriot's shop, and contiguous to the 
Laigh Council-house, there was a tavern, in which a great deal 
of small legal business used to be transacted in bygone times. 
Peter Williamson, an original and singular person, who had long 
been in North America, and therefore designated himself ' from 
the other world,' kept this house for many years.* It served 

* Peter had, in early life, been kidnapped and sold to the plantations. After spending 
some time among the North American Indians, he came back to Scotland, and began 



THE DEID-CHACK. 12 7 

also as a sort of vestry to the Tolbooth Church ; and was the 
place where the magistrates took what was called the Deid-chack 
— that is, a refreshment or dinner, of which those dignitaries 
always partook after having attended an execution. The Deid- 
chack is now abjured, like many other of those fashions which 
formerly rendered the office of a magistrate so much more com- 
fortable than it now is.* 

The various kirks which compose St Giles's had all different 
characters in former times. The High Kirk had a sort of 
dignified aristocratic character, approaching somewhat to prelacy, 
and was frequented only by sound church-and-state men, who 
did not care so much for the sermon, as for the gratification of 
sitting in the same place with his majesty's Lords of Council 
and Session, and the magistrates of Edinburgh, and who desired 
to be thought men of sufficient liberality and taste to appreciate 
the prelections of Blair. The Old Kirk, in the centre of the 
whole, was frequented by people who ^vished to have a sermon 
of good divinity, about three-quarters of an hour long, and who 
did not care for the darkness and dreariness of their temple. 
The Tolbooth Kirk was the peculiar resort of a set of rigid 
Calvinists from the Lawnmarket and the head of the Bow, 
termed the Towbuith- Whigs, who loved nothing but extempore 
evangelical sermons, and would have considered it sufficient to 
bring the house down about their ears if the precentor had 
ceased, for one verse, the old hillside fashion of reciting the 
lines of the psalm before singing them. Dr Webster, of con- 
vivial memory, was long one of the clergymen of this church, 

business in Edinburgh as a vintner. Robert Fergusson, in his poem entitled The Rising of 
tlie Session, thus alludes to a little tavern he kept within the Parliament House : 
'This vacance is a heavy doom 
On Indian Peter's coffee-room. 
For a' his china pigs are toom ; 

Nor do we see 
In wine the soukar biskets soora 
As light's a flee.' 

Peter afterwards established a penny-post in Edinburgh, which became so profitable in his 
hands, that the General Post-ofEce gave him a handsome compensation for it. He was alas 
the first to print a street directory in Edinburgh. He died January 19, 1799. 
• Provost Creech was the first who had the good taste to abandon the practice. 



128 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and deservedly admired as a pulpit orator; though his social 
habits often run nigh to scandalise his devout and self-denying 
congregation. 

The inhabitants and shopkeepers of the Parliament Square 
were, in former times, very sociable and friendly as neighbours, 
and formed themselves into a sort of society, which was long 
known by the name of The Parliament-Close Council. Of this 
association there were from fifty to a hundred members, who 
met once or twice a year at a dinner, when they usually spent 
the evening, as the newspaper phrase goes, ' in the utmost 
harmony.' The whim of this club consisted in each person 
assuming a titular dignity at the dinner, and being so called all 
the year after by his fellow-members. One was Lord Provost of 
Edinburgh — another was Dean of Guild — some were bailies — 
others deacons — and a great proportion state-officers. Sir 
William Forbes, who, with the kindness of heart which charac- 
terised him, condescended to hold a place in this assemblage of 
mummers, was for a long time Member for the City. 

Previous to the institution of the police-court, a bailie of 
Edinburgh used to sit, every Monday, at that part of the Outer 
Parliament House where the statue of Lord Melville now stands, 
to hear and decide upon small causes — such as prosecutions for 
scandal and defamation, or cases of quarrels among the vulgar 
and the infamous. This judicature, commonly called the Dirt 
Court, was chiefly resorted to by washerwomen from Canonmills, 
and the drunken ale-wives of the Ganongate. A list of Dirt- 
Gourt processes used always to be hung up on a board every 
Monday morning at one of the pillars in the piazza at the out- 
side of the Parliament Square ; and that part of the piazza being 
the lounge of two or three low pettifoggers, who managed such 
pleas, was popularly called the Scoufidrels' Walk. Early on 
Monday, it was usual to see one or two threadbare personages, 
with prodigiously clean linen, bustling about with an air of 
importance, and occasionally accosted by viragoes with long, 
eared caps flying behind their heads. These were the agents of 
the Dirt Gourt, undergoing conference with their clients. 



MEMORIALS OF THE NOR' LOCH. 1 29 

There was something lofty and august about the Parliament 
Close, which we shall scarcely ever see re\dved in any modem 
part of the town; so dark and majestic were the buildings all 
round, and so finely did the whole harmonise with the ancient 
cathedral which formed one of its sides ! Even the echoes 
of the Parliament Square had something grand in them. Such, 
perhaps, were the feelings of William Julius Mickle, when he 
wrote a poem on passing through the Parliament Close of Edin- 
burgh at midnight,* of which the foUomng is one of the best 
passages : 

* In the pale air sublime, 
St Giles's column rears its ancient head. 
Whose builders many a century ago 
Were mouldered into dust. Now, O my soul, 
Be filled with sacred awe — I tread 
Above our brave forgotten ancestors. Here lie 
Those who in ancient days the kingdom ruled, 
The counsellors and favourites of kings, 
High lords and courtly dames, and vaHant chiefs. 
Mingling their dust with those of lowest rank 
And basest deeds, and now unkno^vn as they.' 



MEMORIALS OF THE NOR' LOCH. 

He who now sees the wide hollow space between the Old and 
New Towns, occupied by beautiful gardens, having their con- 
tinuity only somewhat curiously broken up by a transverse 
earthen mound and a line of railway, must be at a loss to realise 
the idea of the same space presenting in former times a lake, 
which was regarded as a portion of the physical defences of the 
city. Yet many, in common with myself, must remember the 
by no means distant time when the remains of this sheet of 
water, consisting of a few pools, served as excellent sliding 
and skating ground in winter, while their neglected grass-green 

* See Collection of Original Poevis iy Scotch Gentlemen, vol. ii. 137 (1762). 



130 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

precincts too frequently formed an arena whereon the high and 
mighty quarrels of Old and New Town cowlies [etymology of the 
word unkno^vn] were brought to a lapidarian arbitration. 

The lake, it after all appears, was artificial, being fed by 
springs under the Castle Rock, and retained by 9. dam at the 
foot of Halkerston's Wynd; which dam was a passable way 
from the city to the fields on the north. Bower, the continuator 
of Fordun, speaks of a tournament held on the ground, uhi mine 
est lacus, in 1396, by order of the queen [of Robert III.], at 
which her eldest son, Prince David, then in his twentieth year, 
presided. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, a ford 
upon the North Loch is mentioned. Archbishop Beatoun 
escaped across that ford in 15 17, when flying from the unlucky 
street-skirmish called Cleame the Causeway. In those early 
times, the town corporation kept ducks and swans upon the 
loch for ornament's sake, and various acts occur in their register 
for preserving those birds. An act, passed in council between 
the years 1589 and 1594, ordained ' a boll of oats to be bought 
for feeding the swans in the North Loch ;' and a person was 
unlawed at the same time for shooting a swan in the said loch, 
and obliged to find another in its place. The lake seems to 
have been a favourite scene for boating. Various houses in the 
neighbourhood had servitudes of the use of a boat upon it ; and 
these, in later times, used to be employed to no little purpose in 
smuggling whisky into the town. 

The North Loch was the place in which our pious ancestors 
used to dip and drown offenders against morality, especially of 
the female sex. The Reformers, therefore, conceived that they 
had not only done a very proper, but also a very witty thing, 
when they threw into this lake, in 1558, the statue of St Giles, 
which formerly adorned their High Church, and which they had 
contrived to abstract. 

It was also the frequent scene of suicide, and on this point 
one or two droll anecdotes are related. A man was deliberately 
proceeding to drown himself in the North Loch, when a crowd 
of the towns-people rushed down to the water-side, venting cries 



THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE. I3I 

of horror and alarm at the spectacle, yet without actually 
venturing into the water to prevent him from accomplishing the 
rash act. Hearing the tumult, the father of the late Lord 
Henderland threw up his window in James's Court, and leaning 
out, cried down the brae to the people : ' What 's all the noise 
about ? Can't ye e'en let the honest man gang to the de'il his 
ain gate?' ^Vhereupon the honest man quietly walked out of 
the loch, to the no small amusement of his lately appalled 
neighbours. It is also said that a poor woman, having resolved 
to put an end to her existence, waded a considerable way into 
the water, designing to take the fatal plunge when she should 
reach a place where the lake was sufficiently deep. Before she 
could satisfy herself on that point, her hoop caught the water, 
and lifted her off her feet. At the same time the wind caught 
her figure, and blew her, whether she would or not, into the 
centre of the pool, as if she had been sailing upon an inverted 
tub. She now became alarmed, screamed for help, and waved 
her arms distractedly ; all of which signs brought a crowd to the 
shore she had just left, who were unable, however, to render her 
any assistance, before she had landed on the other side — fairly 
cured, it appeared, of all desire of quitting the uneasy coil of 
mortal life. 



THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE. 

Old Arrangements of the House — ^Justice in Bygone Times — Court of 
Session Garland — Parliament House Worthies. 

The Parliament House, a spacious hall with an oaken arched 
roof, finished in 1639 for the meetings of the Estates or native 
parliament, and used for that purpose till the Union, has since 
then, as is well kno^vn, served exclusively as a material portion 
of the suite of buildings required for the supreme civil judicatory 
— the Court of Session. This hall, usually styled the Outer 
House, is now a nearly empty space, but it was in a very dififerent 



132 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

State within the recollection of aged practitioners. So lately as 
1779, it retained the divisions, furnishings, and other features 
which it had borne in the days when we had a national legisla- 
ture — excepting only that the portraits of sovereigns which then 
adorned the walls had been removed by the Earl of Mar, to 
whom Queen Anne had given them as a present when the Union 
was accomplished. 

The divisions and furniture, it may be remarked, were under- 
stood to be precisely those which had been used for the Court 
of Session from an early time ; but it appears that such changes 
were made when the parliament was to sit, as left the room one 
free vacant space. The southern portion, separated from the 
rest by a screen, accommodated the Court of Session. The 
northern portion, comprising a sub-section used for the Sheriif- 
court, was chiefly a kind of lobby of irregular form, surrounded 
by little booths, which were occupied as taverns, booksellers' 
shops, and toy-shops, all of very flimsy materials. These k?'at}ies, 
or boxes, seem to have been established at an early period, the 
idea being no doubt taken from the former condition of West- 
minster Hall. John Spottiswoode of Spottiswoode, who, in 
1718, published the Forms of Process before the Court of Session, 
mentions that there were ' two keepers of the session-house, who 
had small salaries to do all the menial offices in the house, and 
that no small part of their annual perquisites came from the 
kramers in the outer hall.' 

JUSTICE IN BYGONE TIMES. 

The memories which have been preserved of the administra- 
tion of justice by the Court of Session in its earlier days, are not 
such as to increase our love for past times.* This court is 
described by Buchanan as extremely arbitrary, and by a nearly 
contemporary historian (Johnston) as infamous for its dishonesty. 
An advocate or barrister is spoken of by the latter writer as 

* Several of the illustrations in the present section are immediately derived from a curious 
volume, full of entertainment for a denizen of the Parliament House — T/ie Court 0/ Session 
Garland. Edinburgh : Thomas Stevenson. 1839. 



JUSTICE IN BYGONE TIMES. 133 

taking money from his clients, and dividing it among the judges 
for their votes. At this time we find the chancellor (Lord 
Fyvie) superintending the lawsuits of a friend, and writing to 
him the way and manner in which he proposed they should be 
conducted. But the strongest evidence of the corruption of 
'the lords' is afforded by an act of 1579, prohibiting them 'be 
thame selfifis or be their wiffis or servandes, to tak in ony time 
cuming, buddis, bjybes, gudes, or geir, fra quhatever persone or 
persons presentlie havand, or that heirefter sail happyne to have, 
any acfionis or caussis pursewit befoir thajne, aither fra the persewer 
or defender,' under pain of confiscation. Had not bribery been 
common amongst the judges, such an act as this could never 
have been passed. 

In the curious history of the family of Somerville, there is a 
very remarkable anecdote illustrative of the course of justice at 
that period. Lord Somerville and his kinsman, Somerville of 
Cambusnethan, had long carried on a litigation. The former 
was at length advised to use certain means for the advancement 
of his cause with the Regent Morton, it being then customary 
for the sovereign to preside in the court. Accordingly, having 
one evening caused his agents to prepare all the required papers, 
he went next morning to the palace, and being admitted to the 
regent, informed him of the cause, and entreated him to order it 
to be called that forenoon. He then took out his purse, as if 
to give a few pieces to the pages or servants, and slipping it 
down upon the table, hurriedly left the presence-chamber. The 
earl cried several times after him : ' My lord, you have left your 
purse ; ' but he had no wish to stop. At length, when he was 
at the outer porch, a servant overtook him with a request that 
he would go back to breakfast with the regent. He did so, was 
kindly treated, and soon after was taken by Morton in "his coach 
to the court-room in the city. * Cambusnethan, by accident, as 
the coach passed, was standing at Niddry's Wynd head, and 
having inquired who was in it with the regent, he was answered : 
"None but Lord Somerville and Lord Boyd;" upon which he 
struck his breast, and said: "This day my cause is lost!" and 



134 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

indeed it proved so.' By twelve o'clock that day, Lord Somerville 
had gained a cause which had been hanging in suspense for 
years. 

In those days, both civil and criminal procedure was conducted 
in much the same spirit as a suit at war. When a great noble 
was to be tried for some monstrous murder or treason, he 
appeared at the bar with as many of his retainers, and as many 
of his friends and their retainers, as he could muster, and justice 
only had its course if the government chanced to be the strongest, 
which often was not the case. It was considered dishonourable 
not to countenance a friend in troubles of this kind, however 
black might be his moral guilt. The trial of Bothwell for the 
assassination of Damley is a noted example of a criminal out- 
braving his judges and jury. Relationship, friendly connection, 
solicitation of friends, and direct bribes were admitted and 
recognised influences to which the civil judge was expected to 
give way. If a difficulty were found in inducing a judge to 
vote against his conscience, he might at least perhaps be induced 
by some of those considerations to absent himself, so as to 
allow the case to go in the desired way. The story of the 
abduction of Gibson of Durie by Christie's Will, and his immure- 
ment in a Border tower for some weeks, that his voice might 
be absent in the decision of a case — as given in the Border 
Minstrelsy by Scott — is only incorrect in some particulars. (As 
the real case is reported in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, it appears 
that, in September 1601, Gibson was carried off from the 
neighbourhood of St Andrews by George Meldrum, younger of 
Dumbreck, and hastily transported to the castle of Harbottle in 
Northumberland, and kept there for eight days.) But, after all, 
Scotland was not singular among European nations in these 
respects. In Moli^re's Misanthrope, produced in 1666, we find 
the good-natured Philinte coolly remonstrating with Alceste on 
his unreasonable resolution to let his lawsuit depend only on 
right and equity. 

' Qui voulez-vous done, qui pour vous soUicite ? ' says 
Philinte. . 'Aucun juge par vous ne sera visite?' 



JUSTICE IN BYGONE TIMES. 1 35 

* Je ne remuerai point,' returns the misanthrope. 

Fhilifite. Votre partie est forte, et pent par sa cabale entrainer. 

Akeste. II n'importe. . . . 

Philinte. Quel homme ! . . . On se riroit de vous, Akeste, 
si on vous entendoit parler de la fagon. {People would laugh 
at you, if they heard you talk in this maimer!) 

It is a general tradition in Scotland that the EngHsh judges 
whom Cromwell sent down to administer the law in Scotland, 
for the first time made the people acquainted with impartiality 
of judgment. It is added, that after the Restoration, when 
native lords were again put upon the bench, some one, in 
presence of the President Gilmour, lauding the late English 
judges for the equity of their proceedings, his lordship angrily 
remarked: 'De'il thank them; a wheen kinless loons!' That 
is, no thanks to them ; a set of fellows without relations in the 
country, and who, consequently, had no one to please by their 
decisions. 

After the Restoration, there was no longer direct bribing, but 
other abuses still flourished. The judges were tampered with 
by private solicitation. Decisions went in favour of the man of 
most personal or family influence. The following anecdote of 
the reign of Charles II. rests on excellent authority : ' A Scotch 
gentleman having entreated the Earl of Rochester to speak to 
the Duke of Lauderdale upon the account of a business that 
seemed to be supported by a clear and undoubted right, his 
lordship very obligingly promised to do his utmost endeavours 
to engage the duke to stand his friend in a concern so just and 
reasonable as his was ; and accordingly, having conferred with 
his Grace about the matter, the duke made him this very odd 
return, that though he questioned not the right of the gentleman 
he recommended to him, yet he could not promise him a 
helping-hand, and far less success in business, if he knew not 
first the man, whom perhaps his lordship had some reason to 
conceal ; " because," said he to the earl, " if your lordship were 
as well acquainted with the customs of Scotland as I am, you 
had undoubtedly known this among others — Shew me the man, 



136 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and lUl shew y oil the law;'''' giving him to understand that the 
law in Scotland could protect no man, if either his purse were 
empty, or his adversaries great men, or supported by great ones.'* 

One peculiar means of favouring a particular party was then 
in the power of the presiding judge : he could call a cause when 
he pleased. Thus he would watch till one or more judges who 
took the opposite view to his own were out of the way — either 
in attendance on other duties, or from illness — and then calling 
the cause, would decide it according to his predilection. Even 
the first President Dalrymple, afterwards Viscount Stair, one of 
the most eminent men whom the Scottish law-courts have ever 
produced, condescended to favour a party in this way. An act, 
enjoining the calling of causes according to their place in a 
regular roll, was passed in the reign of Charles II. ; but the 
practice was not enforced till the days of President Forbes, 
sixty years later. We have a remarkable illustration of the 
partiality of the bench in a circumstance which took place 
about the time of the Revolution. During the pleadings in a 
case between Mr Pitilloch, an advocate, and Mr Aytoun of 
Inchdairnie, the former applied the term briber to Lord Harcarse, 
a judge seated at the moment on the bench, and who was 
father-in-law to the opposite party. The man was imprisoned 
for contempt; but this is not the point. Not long after, in this 
same cause, Lord Harcarse went down to the bar in his gown, 
and pleaded for his son-in-law Aytoun ! 

About that period a curious indirect means of influencing the 
judges began to be notorious. Each lord had a dependant or 
favourite, generally some young relative, practising in the court, 
through whom it was understood that he could be prepossessed 
with a favourable view of any cause. This functionary was 
called a Peat or Pate, from a circumstance thus related in 
Wilkes's North Briton: ' One of the former judges of the Court 
of Session, of the first character, knowledge, and application to 
business, had a son at the bar whose name was Patrick ; and 

• A Moral Discourse on the Power of Interest. By David Abercromby, M.D. 
London, 1691. P. 60. 



JUSTICE IN BYGONE TIMES. I37 

when the suitors came about, soHciting his favour, his question 
was : " Have you consulted Pat 1 " If the answer was affirmative, 
the usual reply of his lordship was : " I '11 inquire of Fat about 
it : I '11 take care of your cause : go home and mind your 
business." The judge, in that case, was even as good as his 
word, for while his brother-judges were robing, he would tell 
them what pains his son had taken, and what trouble he had 
put himself to, by his directions, in order to find out the real 
circumstances of the dispute; and as no one on the bench 
would be so unmannerly as to question the veracity of the son, 
or the judgment of the father, the decree always went according 
to the information of Pat At the present era, in case a judge 
has no son at the bar, his nearest relation (and he is sure to 
have one there) officiates in that station. But, as it frequently 
happens, if there are Pats employed on each side, the judges 
differ, and the greatest interest — that is, the longest purse — is 
sure to carry it.' 

I bring the subject to a conclusion by a quotation from the 
Coicrt of Session Garland: 'Even so far down as 1737, traces of 
the ancient evil may be found. Thus, in some very curious 
letters which passed between William Foulis, Esq. of Woodhall, 
and his agent, Thomas Gibson of Durie, there is evidence that 
private influence could even then be resorted to. The agent 
writes to his client, in reference to a pending lawsuit (23d 
November 1735) : "I have spoke to Strachan and several of the 
lords, who are all surprised Sir F[rancis Kinloch] should stand 
that plea. By Lord St Clair's advice, Mrs Kinloch is to wait 
on Lady Caimie to-morrow, to cause her ask the favour of Lady 
St Clair to solicit Lady Betty Elphingston and Lady Dun. My 
lord promises to back his lady, and to ply both their lords, also 
Leven and his cousin Murkle.* He is your good friend, and 
wishes success; he is jealous Mrs Mackie will side with her 
cousin Beatie. St Clair says Leven t has only once gone wrong 

* John Sinclair of Murkle, appointed a Lord of Session in 1733. 

t Alexander Leslie, advocate, succeeded his nephew as fifth Earl of Leven, and fourth 
Earl of Melville, in 1729. He was named a Lord of Session, and took his seat on the 
bench on the nth of July 1734. He died 2d February 1754. 



138 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Upon his hand since he was a Lord of Session. Mrs Kinloch has 
been with Miss Pringle, Newhall. Young Dr Pringle is a good 
agent there, and discourses Lord Newhall * strongly on the law of 
nature" &c. 

'Again, upon the 23d of January 1737, he writes: "I can 
assure you that when Lord Primrose left this town, he stayed all 
that day with Lord J[ustice] C[lerk],t and went to Andrew 
Broomfield at night, and went off post next morning ; and what 
made him despair of getting anything done was, that it has been 
so long delayed, after promising so frankly, when he knew the 
one could cause the other trot to him like a penny-dog, when he 
pleased. But there 's another hindrance : I suspect much Penty :{: 
has not been in town as yet, and I fancy it 's by him the other 
must be managed. The Ld. J[ustice] C[lerk] is frank enough, 

but the other two are clippies. I met with Bavelaw and 

Mr William on Tuesday last. I could not persuade the last to 
go to a wine-house, so away we went to an aquavity-house, 
where I told Mr Wm. what had passed, as I had done before 
that to Bavelaw. They seemed to agree nothing could be done 
just now, but to know why Lord Drummore § dissuaded bringing 
in the plea last winter. I have desired Lord Jlainifig to sj>eak, 
but only expect his answer against Tuesday or Wednesday." 

' It is not our intention to pursue these remarks further, 
although we believe that judicial corruption continued long after 
the Union. We might adduce Lord President Forbes as a 
witness on this point, who, one of the most upright la^vyers 
himself, did not take any pains to conceal his contempt for 
many of his brethren. A favourite toast of his is said to have 
been : " Here 's to such of the judges as don't deserve the 
gallows." Latterly, the complaint against the judges was not 
so much for corrupt dealing, with the view of enriching them- 
selves or their "pet" lawyer, but for weak prejudices and 

• Sir Walter Pringle of Newhall, raised to the bench in 1718. 

t Andrew Fletcher of Milton was appointed, on the resignation of James Erskine of 
Grange, Lord Justice-clerk, and took his seat on the bench 21st June 1735. 
t Probably Gibson of Pentland. 
§ Hew Dahymple of Drummore, appointed a Lord of Session in 1726. 



COURT OF SESSION GARLAND. 139 

feelings, which but ill accorded with the high office they 
filled. 

'These abuses, the recapitulation of which may amuse and 
instruct, are now only matter of history — the spots that once 
sullied the garments of justice are efiaced, and the old compend, 
"Shew me the man, and I'll shew you the law," is out of 
date.' 

COURT OF SESSION GARLAND. 

A curious characteristic view of the Scottish bench about the 
year 1 7 7 1 is presented in a doggerel ballad, supposed to have 
been a joint composition of James Boswell and John Maclaurin, 
advocates, and professedly the history of a process regarding a 
bill containing a clause of penalty in case of failure. This Court 
of Session Garland, as it is called, is here subjoined, with such 
notes on persons and things as the reader may be supposed to 
require or care for. 

PART FIRST. 

The bill charged on was payable at sight, 
And decree was craved by Alexander Wight ; ^ 
But because it bore a penalty in case of Tailzie, 
It therefore was null, contended Willie Baillie.^ 

The Ordinary, not choosing to judge it at random. 
Did with the minutes make avisandum ; 
And as the pleadings were vague and windy, 
His lordship ordered memorials hinc inde. 

We, setting a stout heart to a stay brae, 

Took into the cause Mr David Rae.^ 

Lord Auchinleck,'' however, repelled our defence. 

And, over and above, decerned for expense. 

1 Author of a Treatise on Election Laws, and Solicitor-general during the Coalition 
Ministry in 1783. 

- Afterwards Lord Polkemmet. 

3 Afterwards- Lord Eskgrove and Lord Justice-clerk. 

* Alexander Boswell, Esq., of Auchinleck, the author's father — appointed to the bench in 
I7S4 ; died 1782. This gentleman was a precise old Presbyterian, and therefore the 
most opposite creature in the world to his son, who was a cavalier in politics, and an 
Episcopalian. 

J 



I40 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

However, of our cause not being ashamed, 
Unto the whole lords we straightway reclaimed ; 
And our Petition was appointed to be seen. 
Because it was drawn by Robbie Macqueen.'- 

The Answer by Lockhart^ himself it was wrote, 
And in it no argument nor fact was forgot. 
He is the lawyer that from no cause will flinch, 
And on this occasion divided the bench. 

Alemore ^ the judgment as illegal blames ; 

* 'Tis equity, you bitch,' replies my Lord Kames.* 

' This cause,' cries Hailes,^ ' to judge I can't pretend, 
"For justice, I perceive, wants an e at the end.' 

Lord Coalstoun ^ expressed his doubts and his fears ; 
And Strichen ^ threw in his weel-weeh and oh dears. 

* This cause much resembles the case of Mac-Harg, 
And should go the same way,' says Lordie Barjarg.^ 

* Let me tell you, my lords, this cause is no joke ! ' 
Says, with a horse-laugh, my Lord Elliock.^ 

' To have read all the papers I pretend not to brag ! ' 
Says my Lord Gardenstone,^' with a snuff and a wag. 

1 Afterwards Lord Braxfield — appointed 1776 ; died 1800, while holding the office of Lord 
Justice-clerk. 

2 Alexander Lockhart, Esq., decidedly the greatest lawyer at the Scottish bar in his day 
— appointed to the bench in 1774 ; died in 1782. 

3 Andrew Pringle, Esq. — appointed a judge in 1759 ; died 1776. This gentleman was 
remarkable for his fine oratory, which was praised highly by Sheridan the lecturer (father of 
R. B. Sheridan), in his Discourses on English Oratory. 

* Henry Home, Esq. — raised to the bench 1732 ; died 17S3. This great man, so remark- 
able for his metaphysical subtlety and literary abilities, was strangely addicted to the use of 
the coarse word in the text. 

5 Sir David Dabymple — appointed a judge in 1766 ; died 1792. A story is told of Lord 
Hailes once making a serious objection to a law-paper, and, in consequence, to the whole 
suit to which it belonged, on account of the word jtistice being spelt in the manner mentioned 
in the text. Perhaps no author ever affected so much critical accuracy as Lord Hailes, and 
yet there never was a book published with so large an array of corrigenda et addenda as 
the first edition of the Annals of Scotland. 

^ George Brown, Esq., of Coalstoun — appointed 1756 ; died 1776. 

' Alexander Eraser of Strichen — appointed 1730 ; died 1774. 

^ James Erskine, Esq., subsequently titled Lord Alva — appointed 1761 ; died 1796. He 
was of exceedingly small stature, and upon that account denominated ' Lordie.' 

' James Veitch, Esq. — appointed 1761 ; died 1793. 

1" Francis Garden, Esq. — appointed 1764; died 1793 — author of several respectable literary 
productions. 



COURT OF SESSION GARLAND. 141 

Up rose the President, ^ and an angiy man was he — 

' To alter the judgment I can never agree ! ' 

The east wing cried * Yes,' and the west wing cried ' Not ;' 

And it was carried ' Adhere ' 2 by my lord's casting vote. 

The cause being somewhat knotty and perplext, 

Their lordships did not know how they 'd determine next ; 

And as the session was to rise so soon, 

They superseded extract till the 12th of June.^ 



PART SECOND. 

Having lost it so nigh, we prepare for the summer. 
And on the I2th of June presented a reclaimer ; 
But dreading a refuse, we gave Dundas * a fee, 
And though it run nigh, it was carried ' To See.'^ 

In order to bring aid from usage bygone, 

The Answers were drawn by quondam Mess John.^ 

He united with such art our law vrith the civil. 

That the counsel on both sides wished him to the deviL 

The cause being called, my Lord Justice-clerk/ 

With all due respect, began a loud bark : 

He appealed to his conscience, his heart, and from thence 

Concluded — ' To Alter,' but to give no expense. 

1 Robert Dundas, Esq., of Amis^n — appointed 1760 ; died 1787. 

2 The bench being semicircular, and the President sitting in the centre, the seven judges 
on his right hand formed the east wing, those on his left formed the "west. The decisions 
were generally announced by the words ' Adhere ' and ' Alter ' — the former meaning an 
affirmance, the latter a reversal, of the judgment of the Lord Ordinary. 

3 The term of the summer session was then from the 12th of June to the 12th of August. 

* Henry, first Viscount Melville, then coming forward as an advocate at the Scottish bar. 
When this great man passed advocate, he was so low in cash, that, after going through the 
necessary forms, he had only one guinea left in his pocket. Upon coming home, he gave 
this to his sister (who lived with him), in order that she might purchase him a gown ; after 
which he had not a peimy. However, his talents soon filled his coffers. The gown is yet 
preserved by the family. 

5 ' To See,' is to appoint the petition against the judgment pronounced to be answered. 

* John Erskine of Camock, author of the Ifistitiite of the Law of Scotland. 

' Thomas Miller, Esq., of Glenlee — appointed to this office in 1766, upon the death of 
Lord Minto. He filled this situation till the death of Robert Dundas, in 17S7, when 
(January i788)"he was made President of the Court of Session, and created a baronet, ' 
in requital for his long services as a judge. Being then far advanced in life, he did not 
live long to enjoy his new accession of honours, but died in September 1789. 



142 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Lord Stonefield,^ unwilling his judgment to pother, 
Or to be atiticipate, agreed with his brother : 
But Monboddo ^ was clear the bill to enforce, 
Because, he observed, it was the price of a horse. 

Says Pitfour,' with a wink, and his hat all a-jee, 
' I remember a case in the year twenty-three — 
The Magistrates of Banff contra Robert Carr ; 
I remember weel — I was then at the bar. 

Likewise, my lords, in the case of Peter Caw, 

Stiperflua non nocent was found to be law.' 

Lord Kennet * also quoted the case of one Lithgow, 

Where a penalty in a bill was held pro nott scripto. i 

The Lord President brought his chair to the plumb. 
Laid hold of the bench, and brought forward his bum ; 
' In these Answers, my lords, some freedoms are used, 
"Which I could point out, provided I choosed. 

I was for the interlocutor, my lords, I admit, 
But am open to conviction as long 's I here do sit. 
To oppose your precedents, I quote a few cases ;' 
And TaitjS di priori, hurried up the causes.. 

He proved it as clear as the sun in the sky. 
That their maxims of law could not here apply ; 
That the writing in question was neither bill nor band, 
But something unknown in the law of the land. 

The question — ' Adhere,' or ' Alter,' being put. 
It was carried — *To Alter,' by a casting vote ; 
Baillie then moved — ' In the bill there 's a raze ;' 
But by this time their lordships had called a new cause. 

A few additions to the notes, in a more liberal space, will 
complete what I have to set down regarding the lawyers of the 
last age. 

1 John Campbell, Esq., of Stonefield. 

2 James Burnet, Esq. — appointed 1767 ; died 1799. 

s James Fergusson, Esq. — appointed 1761 ; died 1777. He always wore his hat on the 
bench, on account of sore eyes. 
* Robert Bruce, Esq. — appointed 1764 ; died 1785. 
» Alexander Tait, Clerk of Session. 



' LOCKHART OF COVINGTON. 1 43 

LOCKHART OF COVINGTON. 

Lockhart used to be spoken of by all old men about the 
Court of Session as a paragon. He had been at the bar from 
1722, and had attained the highest eminence long before going 
upon the bench, which he did at an unusually late period of 
life; yet so different were those times from the present, that, 
according to the report of Sir William Macleod Bannatyne to 
myself in 1833, Lockhart realised only about a thousand a year 
by his exertions, then thought a magnificent income. The first 
man at the Scottish bar in our day is believed to gain at least 
six times this sum annually. Lockhart had an isolated house 
behind the Parliament Close, which was afterwards used as the 
Post-office.* It was removed, some years ago, to make way for 
the extension of the buildings connected with the court ; leaving 
only its coach-house surviving, now occupied as a broker's shop 
in the Cowgate. 

Mr Lockhart and Mr Fergusson (afterwards Lord Pitfour) 
were rival barristers — agreeing, however, in their politics, which 
were of a Jacobite complexion. While the trials of the poor 
forty-five men were going on at Carlisle, these Scottish lawyers 
heard with indignation of the unscrupulous measures adopted 
to procure convictions. They immediately set off for Carlisle, 
arranging with each other that Lockhart should examine 
evidence, while Fergusson pleaded and addressed the jury — 
and offering their services, they were gladly accepted as counsel 
by the unfortunates whose trials were yet to take place. Each 
exerted his abilities, in his respective duties, with the greatest 
solicitude, but with very little effect. The jurors of Carlisle had 

* Within the memory of an old citizen, who was living in 1833, the Post-office was in 
the first floor of a house near the Cross, above an alley which still bears the name of 
the Post-office Close. Thence it was removed to a floor in the south side of the Parliament 
Square, which was fitted up like a shop, and the letters were dealt across an ordinary 
counter, like other goods. At this time all the out-of-door business of delivery was 
managed by one letter-carrier. About 174s, the London bag brought on one occasion no 
more than a single letter, addressed to the British Linen Company. From the Parliament 
Square the office was removed to Lord Covington's house, above described ; thence, after 
some years, to a house in North Bridge Street ; thence to Waterloo Place ; and finally, to 
a new and handsome structure on the North Bridge. 



144 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

been so frightened by the Highland army, that they thought 
everything in the shape or hue of tartan a damning proof of 
guilt ; and, in truth, there seemed to be no discrimination what- 
ever exerted in inquiring into the merits of any particular 
criminal; and it might have been just as fair, and much more 
convenient, to try them by wholesale, or in companies. At 
length one of our barristers fell upon an ingenious expedient, 
which had a better effect than all the eloquence he had 
expended. He directed his man-servant to dress himself in 
some tartan habiliments, to skulk about for a short time in the 
neighbourhood of the town, and then permit himself to be 
taken. The man did so, and was soon brought into court, and 
accused of the crime of high treason, and would have been 
condemned to death, had not his master stood up, claimed him 
as his servant, and proved beyond dispute that the supposed 
criminal had been in immediate attendance upon his person 
during the whole time of the Rebellion. This staggered the 
jury; and, with the aid of a little amplification from the mouth 
of the young advocate, served to make them more cautious 
afterwards in the delivery of their important fiat. 

To shew the estimation in which Lockhart of Covington was 
held as an advocate, the late Lord Newton, when at the bar, 
wore his gown till it was in tatters, and at last had a new one 
made, with a fragment of the neck of the original sewed into 
it, whereby he could still make it his boast that he wore 
' Covington's gown.' 

'LORD KAMES. 

This able judge and philosopher in advance of his time — for 
such he was — is described by his biographer. Lord Wood- 
houselee, as indulging in a certain humorous playfulness, which, 
to those who knew him intimately, detracted nothing from the 
feeling of respect due to his eminent talents and virtues. To 
strangers, his lordship admits, it might convey 'the idea of 
lightness.' The simple fact here shadowed forth is, that Lord 
Karnes had a roughly playful manner, and used .phrases of an 



LORD KAMES. 145 

ultra-eccentric character. Among these was a word only 
legitimately applicable to the female of the canine species. 
The writer of the Garland introduces this characteristic phrase. 
When his lordship found his end approaching very near, he 
took a public farewell of his brethren. I was informed by an 
ear-and-eye witness, who is certain that he could not be mis- 
taken, that, after aJ&ressing them in a solemn speech, and 
shaking their hands all round, in going out at the door of the 
court-room he turned about, and casting them a last look, cried, 
in his usual familiar tone : ' Fare ye a' weel, ye bitches ! ' He 
died eight days after. 

It was remarked that a person called Sinkum the Cawdy, 
who had a short and a long leg, and was excessively addicted to 
swearing, used to lie in wait for Lord Karnes almost every 
morning, and walk alongside of him up the street to the Parlia- 
ment House. The mystery of Sterne's little flattering French- 
man, who begged so successfully from the ladies, was scarcely 
more wonderful than this intimacy, which arose entirely from 
Lord Kames's love of the gossip which Sinkum made it his 
business to cater for him. 

These are not follies of the wise. They are only the tribute 
which great genius pays to simple nature. The serenity which 
marked the close of the existence of Kames was most creditable 
to him, though it appeared, perhaps, in somewhat whimsical 
forms to his immediate friends. For three or four days before 
his death, he was in a state of great debility. Some one coming 
in, and finding him, notwithstanding his wesikness, engaged in 
dictating to an amanuensis, expressed surprise. ' How, man,' 
said the declining philosopher, ' would you ha'e me stay wi' my 
tongue in my cheek till death comes to fetch me?' 

LORD HAILES. 

When Lord Hailes died, it was a long time before any will 
could be found. The heir-male was about to take possession 
of his estates, to the exclusion of his eldest daughter. Some 
months after his lordship's death, when it was thought that all 



146 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

further search was vain, Miss Dalrymple prepared to retire from 
New Hailes, and also from the mansion-house in New Street, 
having lost all hope of a will being discovered in her favour. 
Some of her domestics, however, were sent to lock up the house 
in New Street, and in closing the window-shutters, Lord Hailes's 
will dropped out upon the floor from behind a panel, and was 
found to secure her in the possession of^itiis estates, which she 
enjoyed for upwards of forty years. 

The literary habits of Lord Hailes were hardly those which 
would have been expected from his extreme nicety of phrase. 
The late Miss Dalrymple once did me the honour to shew me 
the place where he wrote the most of his works — not the fine 
room which contained, and still contains, his books — no 
secluded boudoir, or den, where he could shut out the world, 
but the parlour fireside, where sat his wife and children. 

[1868. — Now that the grave has for thirty years closed over 
Miss Dalrymple, it may be allowable to tell that she was of 
dwarfish and deformed figure, while amiable and judicious above 
the average of her sex. Taking into view her beautiful place 
of residence and her large wealth, she remarked to a friend one 
day : ' I can say, for the honour of man, that I never got an 
offer in my life.'] 

LORD GARDENSTONE. 

This judge had a predilection for pigs. One, in its juvenile 
years, took a particular fancy for his lordship, and followed him 
wherever he went, like a dog, reposing in the same bed. When 
it attained the mature years and size of swinehood, this of course 
was inconvenient. However, his lordship, unwilling to part 
with his friend, continued to let it sleep at least in the same 
room, and, when he undressed, laid his clothes upon the floor 
as a bed to it. He said that he liked it, for it kept his clothes 
warm till the morning. In his mode of living he was full of 
strange, eccentric fancies, which he seemed to adopt chiefly 
with a view to his health, which was always that of a 
valetudinarian. 



LORD MONBODDO. 1 47 



LORD PRESIDENT DUNDAS. 



This distinguished judge was, in his latter years, extremely 
subject to gout, and used to fall backwards and forwards in his 
chair — whence the ungracious expression in the Garland. He 
used to characterise his six clerks thus : ' Two of them cannot 
read; t^vo of them cannot write; and the other two can neither 
read nor write P The eccentric Sir James Colquhoun was one 
of those who could not read. In former times, it was the practice 
of the Lord President to have a sand-glass before him on the 
bench, with which he used to measure out the utmost time that 
could be allowed to a judge for the delivery of his opinion. 
Lord President Dundas would never allow a single moment after 
the expiration of the sand, and he has often been seen to shake 
his old-fashioned chronometer ominously in the faces of his 
brethren, when their 'ideas upon the subject' began, in the 
words of the Garla?id, to get vague and ^vindy. 

LORD MONBODDO. 

Lord Monboddo's motion for the enforcement of the bill, on 
account of its representing the value of a horse, is partly an 
allusion to his Gulliverlike admiration of that animal, but more 
particularly to his having once embroiled himself in an action 
respecting a horse which belonged to himself His lordship had 
committed the animal, when sick, to the charge of a farrier, 
with directions for the administration of a certain medicine. 
The farrier gave the medicine, but went beyond his commission^ 
in as far as he mixed it in a liberal menstruum of treacle, in order 
to make it palatable. The horse dying next morning, Lord 
Monboddo raised a prosecution for its value, and actually 
pleaded his own cause at the bar. He lost the case, however ; 
and is said to have been so enraged in consequence at his 
brethren, that he never afterwards sat with them upon the bench, 
but underneath, amongst the clerks. The report of this action 
is exceedingly amusing, on account of the great quantity of 



I4o TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Roman law quoted by the judges, and the strange circumstances 
under which the case appeared before them. 

Lord Monboddo, with all his oddities, and though generally- 
hated or despised by his brethren, was by far the most learned, 
and not the least upright, judge of his time. His attainments 
in classical learning, and in the study of the ancient philosophers, 
were singular in his time in Scotland, and might have qualified 
him to shine anywhere. He was the earliest patron of one of 
the best scholars of his age, the late Professor John Hunter of 
St Andrews, who was for many years his secretary, and who 
chiefly wrote the first and best volume of his lordship's Treatise 
on the Origin of Languages. 

The manners of Lord Monboddo were not more odd than his 
personal appearance. He looked rather like an old stufi"ed 
monkey, dressed in a judge's robes, than anything else. His 
face, however, ' sicklied o'er ' with the pale cast of thought, bore 
traces of high intellect. So convinced is he said to have been 
of the truth of his fantastic theory of human tails, that whenever 
a child happened to be bom in his house, he would watch at 
the chamber-door, in order to see it in its first state, having a 
notion that the midwives pinched off the infant tails. 

There is a tradition that Lord Monboddo attended and \At- 
nessed the catastrophe of Captain Porteous in 1736. He had 
just that day returned from completing his law education at 
Leyden, and taken lodgings near the foot of the West Bow, 
where at that time many of the greatest la\vyers resided. When 
the rioters came down the Bow with their hapless victim, Mr 
Burnet was roused from bed by the noise, came down in his 
night-gown with a candle in his hand, and stood in a sort of 
stupor, looking on, till the tragedy was concluded. 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE WORTHIES. 

Scott has sketched in Peter Peebles the type of a class of 
crazy and half-crazy litigants, who at all times haunt the Parlia- 
ment House. Usually they are rustic men possessing small 
properties, such as a house and garden, which they are constantly 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE WORTHIES. 1 49 

talking of as their 'subject.' Sometimes a faded shawl and 
bonnet is associated with the case — objects to be dreaded by 
every good-natuxed member of the bar. But most frequently it 
is simple countrymen who become pests of this kind. That is 
to say, simple men of difficult and captious tempers, cursed with 
an over-strong sense of right, or an over-strong sense of wrong, 
under which they would, by many degrees, prefer utter ruin to 
making the slightest concession to a neighboiu:. Ruined these 
men often are ; and yet it seems ruin well bought, since they 
have all along had the pleasure of seeing themselves and their 
little affairs the subject of consideration amongst men so much 
above themselves in rank. 

Peebles was, as we are assured by the novelist himself, a real 
person, who frequented the Edinburgh courts of justice about 
the year 1792, and ' whose voluminous course of litigation sensed 
as a sort of essay piece to most young men who were called to 
the bar.' * Many persons recollect him as a tall, thin, slouching 
man, of homely outworn attire, understood to be a native of 
Linlithgow. Having got into law about a small house, he 
became deranged by the cause going against him, and then 
peace was no more for him on earth. He used to tell his friends 
that he had at present thirteen causes in hand, but was only 
going to ' move in ' seven of them this session. When anxious 
for a consultation on any of his affairs, he would set out from 
his native burgh at the time when other people were going to 
bed, and reaching Edinburgh at four in the morning, would go 
about the town, ringing the bells of the principal advocates, in 
the vain hope of getting one to rise and listen to him, to the 
infinite annoyance of many a poor serving-girl, and no less of the 
Town-guard, into whose hands he generally fell. 

Another specimen of the class was Campbell of Laguine, who 
had perhaps been longer at law than any man of modem times. 
He was a store-farmer in Caithness, and had immense tracts of 
land under lease. When he sold his wool, he put the price in 
his pocket (no petty sum), and came down to waste it in the 

-* Notes to Redgauntlei. 



150 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Court of Session. His custom — an amusing example of method 
in madness — was to pay every meal which he made at the inns 
on the road double, that he might have a gratis meal on his 
return, knowing he would not bring a cross away in his pocket 
from the courts of justice. Laguine's figure was very extra- 
ordinary. His legs were like two circumflexes, both curving 
outward in the same direction ; so that, relative to his body, they 
took the direction of the blade of a reaping-hook, supposing the 
trunk of his person to be the handle. These extraordinary legs 
were always attired in Highland trews, as his body was generally 
in a gray or tartan jacket, with a bonnet on his head ; and duly 
appeared he at the door of the Parliament House, bearing a 
tin case, fully as big as himself, containing a plan of his farms. 
He paid his lawyers highly, but took up a great deal of their 
time. One gentleman, afterv/ards high in official situation, 
observed him coming up to ring his bell, and not wishing that 
he himself should throw away his time, or Laguine his fee, 
directed that he should be denied. Laguine, however, made his 
way to the lady of the learned counsel, and sitting down in the 
drawing-room, went at great length into the merits of his cause, 
and exhibited his plans ; and when he had expatiated for a 
couple of hours, he departed, but not without leaving a handsome 
fee, observing that he had as much satisfaction as if he had 
seen the learned counsel himself He once told a legal friend 
of the writer that his laird and he were nearly agreed now — there 
was only about ten miles of comttry contested betwixt them ! 
When finally this great cause was adjusted, his agent said : 
'Well, Laguine, what will ye do now?' rashly judging that one 
who had, in a manner, lived upon law for a series of years, 
would be at a loss how to dispose of himself now. * No difficulty 
there,' answered Laguine ; ' I '11 dispute your account, and go 
to law with youP Possessed as he was by a demon of litigation, 
Campbell is said to have been, apart from his disputes, a shrewd 
and sensible, and, moreover, an honourable and worthy man. 
He was one of the first who introduced sheep-farming into Ross- 
shire and Caithness, where he had farms as large as some whole 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE WORTHIES. 15! 

Lowland or English counties ; and but for litigation, he had the 
opportunity of making much money, 

A person usually called, from his trade, the Heckler, was 
another Parliament House worthy. He used to work the whole 
night at his trade — then put on a black suit — curled his hair 
behind, and powdered it, so as to resemble a clergyman — and 
came forth to attend to the great business of the day at the 
Parliament House. He imagined that he was deputed by 
Divine Providence as a sort of controller of the Court of 
Session; but, as if that had not been sufficient, he thought 
the charge of the General Assembly was also committed to him ; 
and he used to complain that that venerable body was ' much 
worse to keep in good order' than the la\vyers. He was a little, 
smart, well-brushed, neat-looking man, and used to talk to him- 
self, smile, and nod with much vivacity. Part of his lunacy was 
to believe himself a clergyman ; and it was chiefly the Teind 
Court which he haunted, his object there being to obtain an 
augmentation of his stipend. The appearance and conversation 
of the man were so plausible, that he once succeeded in imposing 
himself upon Dr Blair as a preacher, and obtained permission to 
hold forth in the High Church on the ensuing Sunday. He was 
fortunately recognised when about to mount the pulpit. Some 
idle boys about the Parliament House, where he was a constant 
attendant, persuaded him that, as he held two such dignified 
offices as his imagination shaped out, there must be some salary 
attached to them, payable, like others upon the Establishment, 
in the Exchequer. This very nearly brought about a serious 
catastrophe; for the poor madman, finding his applications 
slighted at the Exchequer, came there one day with a pistol 
heavily loaded, to shoot Mr Baird, a very worthy man, an officer 
of that court. This occasioned the Heckler being confined in 
durance vile for a long time, though, I think, he was at length 
emancipated. 

Other insane fishers in the troubled waters of the law were the 
following : 

Macduff of Ballenloan, who had two cases before the court 



152 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

at once. His success in the one depended upon his shewing 
that he had capacity to manage his own affairs; and in the 
other, upon his proving himself incapable of doing so. He 
used to complain, with some apparent reason, that he lost them 
both! 

Andrew Nicol, who was at law thirty years about a midden- 
stead — Anglice, the situation of a dunghill. This person was a 
native of Kinross, a sensible-looking country-man, with a large 
flat blue bonnet, in which guise Kay has a very good portrait of 
him, displaying, with chuckling pride, a plan of his precious 
midden-stead. He used to frequent the Register House, as 
well as the courts of law, and was encouraged in his foolish 
pursuits by the roguish clerks of that establishment, by whom he 
was denominated Muck Andrew, in allusion to the object of his 
litigation. This wretched being, after losing property and credit, 
and his own senses, in following a valueless phantom, died at 
last (18 1 7) in Cupar jail, where he was placed by one of his 
legal creditors. 



CONVIVIAL! A. 

' Auld Reekie ! wale o' ilka toon 
That Scotland kens beneath the moon ; 
Where coothy chields at e'enin' meet, 
I Their bizzin' craigs and mous to weet, 

And blithely gar auld care gae by, 
Wi' blinkin' and wi' bleerin' eye.' 

Robert Fergusson. 

Tavern dissipation, now so rare amongst the respectable classes 
of the community, formerly prevailed in Edinburgh to an incred- 
ible extent, and engrossed the leisure hours of all professional 
men, scarcely excepting even the most stern and dignified. No 
rank, class, or profession, indeed, formed an exception to this 
rule. Nothing was So common in the morning as to meet men 



CON VI VI ALIA. 153 

of high rank and official dignity reeUng home from a close in the 
High Street, where they had spent the night in drinking. Nor 
was it unusual to find two or three of his majesty's most honour- 
able Lords of Council and Session mounting the bench in the 
forenoon in a crapulous state. A gentleman one night stepping 
into Johnnie Dowie's, opened a side-door, and looking into the 
room, saw a sort of agger or heap of snoring lads upon the floor, 
illumined by the gleams of an expiring candle. ' Wha may thae 
be, Mr Dowie ?' inquired the visitor. ' Oh,' quoth John, in his 
usual quiet way, ' just twa-three o' Sir Willie's drucken clerks 1 ' 
— meaning the young gentlemen employed in Sir William 
Forbes's banking-house, whom, of all earthly mortals, one 
would have expected to be observers of the decencies. 

To this testimony may be added that of all published works 
descriptive of Edinburgh during the last century. Even in the 
preceding century, if we are to believe Taylor the Water-poet, 
there was no superabundance of sobriely in the town. 'The 
worst thing,' says that sly humorist in hfe Journey (1623), 'was, 
that wine and ale were so scarce, and the people such misers of 
it, that every night, before I went to bed, if any man had asked 
me a civil question, all the wit in my head could not have made 
him a sober answer.' 

The diurnal of a Scottish judge of the beginning of the last 
century, which I have perused, presents a striking picture of the 
habits of men of business in that age. Hardly a night passes 
without some expense being incurred at taverns, not always of 
very good fame, where his lordship's associates on the bench 
were his boon-companions in the debauch. One is at a loss to 
understand how men who drugged their understandings so habit- 
ually, could possess any share of vital faculty for the consideration 
or transaction of business, or how they contrived to make a 
decent appearance in the hours of duty. But, however difficult 
to be accounted for, there seems no room to doubt that deep 
drinking was compatible in many instances with good business 
talents, and even application. Many living men connected with 
the Court of Session can yet look back to a juvenile period of 



154 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

their lives, when some of the ablest advocates and most esteemed 
judges were noted for their convivial habits. For example, a 
famous counsel named Hay, who became a judge under the 
designation of Lord Newton, was equally remarkable as a 
bacchanal and as a lawyer. He considered himself as only 
the better fitted for business, that he had previously imbibed six 
bottles of claret ; and one of his clerks afterwards declared that 
the best paper he ever knew his lordship dictate, was done after 
a debauch where that amount of liquor had fallen to his share. 
It was of him that the famous story is told of a client calling for 
him one day at four o'clock, and being surprised to find him at 
dinner ; when, on the client saying to the servant that he had 
understood five to be Mr Hay's dinner-hour — ' Oh but, sir,' said 
the man, ' it is his yesterdays dinner P M. Simond, who, in 
1811, published a Tour in Scotland, mentions his surprise on 
stepping one morning into the Parliament House to find, in the 
dignified capacity of a judge, and displaying all the gravity 
suitable to the character, the very gentleman with whom he had 
spent most of the preceding night in a fierce debauch. This 
judge was Lord Newton. 

Contemporary with this learned lord was another of marvellous 
powers of drollery, of whom it is told, as a fact too notorious at 
the time to be concealed, that he was one Sunday morning, not 
long before church-time, found asleep amongst the paraphernalia 
of the sweeps, in a shed appropriated to the keeping of these 
articles, at the end of the Town Guard-house in the High Street. 
His lordship, in staggering homeward alone from a tavern during 
the night, had tumbled into this place, where consciousness did 
not revisit him till next day. Of another group of clever, but 
over-convivial lawyers of that age, it is related that, having set 
to wine and cards on k Saturday evening, they were so cheated 
out of all sense of time, that the night passed before they thought 
of separating. Unless they are greatly belied, the people passing 
along Picardy Place next forenoon, on their way to church, 
were perplexed by seeing a door open, and three gentlemen 
issue forth, in all the disorder to be expected after a night of 



CONVIVIALIA. 155 

drunken vigils, while a fourth, in his dressing-gown, held the 
door in one hand and a lighted candle in the other, by way of 
shewing them out ! 

The High Jinks of Counsellor Pleydell, in Guy Mannering, 
must have prepared many for these curious traits of a bypast 
age ; and Scott has further illustrated the subject by telling, in 
his notes to that novel, an anecdote which he appears to have 
had upon excellent authority, respecting the elder President 
Dundas of Amiston, father of Lord Melville. ' It had been 
thought very desirable, while that distinguished lawyer was 
king's counsel, that his assistance should be obtained in drawing 
up an appeal case, which, as occasion for such writings then 
rarely occurred, was held to be a matter of great nicety. The 
solicitor employed for the appellant, attended by my informant, 
acting as his clerk, went to the Lord Advocate's chambers in the 
Fishmarket Close, as I think. It was Saturday at noon, the 
court was just dismissed, the Lord Advocate had changed his 
dress and booted himself, and his servant and horses were at the 
foot of the close, to carry him to Arniston. It was scarcely 
possible to get him to listen to a word respecting business. The 
wily agent, however, on pretence of asking one or two questions, 
which would not detain him half an hour, drew his lordship, who 
was no less an eminent bon-vivafit than a lawyer of unequalled 
talent, to take a whet at a celebrated tavern, when the learned 
counsel became gradually involved in a spirited discussion of 
the law points of the case. At length it occurred to him that 
he might as well ride to Amiston in the cool of the evening. 
The horses were directed to be put into the stable, but not to 
be unsaddled. Dinner was ordered, the law was laid aside for 
a time, and the bottle circulated very freely. At nine o'clock at 
night, after he had been honouring Bacchus for so many hours, 
the Lord Advocate ordered his horses to be unsaddled — paper, 
pen, and ink were brought — he began to dictate the appeal 
case, and continued at his task till four o'clock the next 
morning. By next day's post the solicitor sent the case 
to London — a chef-d'' ceuvre of its kind ; and in which, my 

K 



156 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

informant assured me, it was not necessary, on revigal, to 
correct five words.' 

It was not always that business and pleasure were so success- 
fully united. It is related that an, eminent lawyer^ who was 
confined to his room by indisposition, having occasion for the 
attendance of his clerk at a late hour, in order to draw up a 
paper required on an emergency next morning, sent for and 
found him at his usual tavern. The man, though remarkable 
for the preservation of his faculties under severe application to 
the bottle, was on this night further gone than usual. He was 
able, however, to proceed to his master's bedroom, and there 
' take his seat at the desk with the appearance of a sufficiently 
collected mind, so that the learned counsel, imagining nothing 
more wrong than usual, began to dictate from his couch. This 
went on for two or three hours, till, the business being finished, 
the barrister drew his curtain — to behold Jamie lost in a pro- 
found sleep upon the table, with the paper still in virgin white- 
ness before him ! 

One of the most notable jolly fellows of the last age was 
James Balfour, an accountant, usually called Singing Jamie 
Balfour, on account of his fascinating qualities as a vocalist. 
There used to be a portrait of him in the Leith Golf-house, 
representing him in the act of commencing the favourite song of 
When I hde a saxpence under my tJioom, with the suitable 
attitude, and a merriness of countenance justifying the tradition- 
ary account of the man. Of Jacobite leanings, he is said to 
have sung The wee German lairdie, Awa, Whigs, awa, and The 
sow's tail to Geordie, with a degree of zest which there was no 
resisting. 

Report speaks of this person as an amiable, upright, and able 
man ; so clever in business matters, that he could do as much 
in one hour as another man in three ; always eager to quench 
and arrest litigation, rather than to promote it; and consequently 
so much esteemed professionally, that he could get business 
whenever he chose to undertake it, which, however, he only did 
when he felt himself in need of money. Nature had given him 



CON VI VI ALIA. 157 

a robust constitution, which enabled him to see out three sets of 
boon-companions ; but, after all, gave way before he reached 
sixty. His custom, when anxious to repair the effects of intem- 
perance, was to wash his head and hands in cold water ; this, it 
is said, made him quite cool and collected almost immediately. 
Pleasure being so predomiijant an object in his life, it was 
thought surprising that at his death he was found in possession 
of some little money. 

The powers of Balfour as a singer of the Scotch songs of 
all kinds, tender and humorous, are declared to have beea^ 
marvellous j and he had a happy gift of suiting them to 
occasions. Being a great peacema.ker, he would often accom- 
plish his purpose by introducing some ditty pat to the purpose, 
and thus dissolving all rancour in a hearty laugh. Like too 
many of our countrymen, he had a contempt for foreign music. 
One evening, in a company where an Italian vocalist of 
eminence was present, he professed to give a song in the 
manner of that country. Forth came a ridiculous cantata to 
the tune of Aiken Drum, beginning : ' There was a wife in 
Peebles,' which the wag executed with all the ' proper graces, 
shakes, and appogiaturas, making his friends almost expire 
with suppressed laughter at the contrast between the style of 
singing and the ideas conveyed in the song. At the conclusion, 
their mirth was doubled by the foreigner saying very simply : 
' De music be very fine, but I no understand de words.' A lady, 
who lived in the Parhament Close, told a friend of mine that she 
was wakened from her sleep one summer morning by a noise 
as of singing, when, going to the window to learn what was the 
matter, guess her surprise at seeing Jamie Balfour, and some of 
his boon-companions (evidently fresh from their wonted orgies), 
singing The king shall enjoy his own again, on their knees, 
around King Charles's statue ! One of Balfour's favourite 
haunts was a humble kind of tavern called Jenny Hds, opposite 
to Queensberry House, where, it is said, Gay had boosed during 
his short stay in Edinburgh, and to which it was customary for 
gentlemen to adjourn from dinner-parties, in order to indulge in 



158 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

claret from the butt, free from the usual domestic restraints. 
Jamie's potations here were principally of what was called cappie 
ale — that is, ale in little wooden bowls — with wee thochts of 
brandy in it. But indeed no one could be less exclusive than 
he as to liquors. When he heard a bottle drawn in any house 
he happened to be in, and observed the cork to give an 
unusually smart report, he would call out : * Lassie, gi'e me a 
glass o' that ;^ as knowing that, whatever it was, it must be good 
of its kind. 

Sir Walter Scott says, in one of his droll little missives to his 
printer Ballantyne : ' When the press does not follow me, I get 
on slowly and ill, and put myself in mind of Jamie Balfour, who 
could run, when he could not stand still.' He here alludes to a 
matter of fact, which the following anecdote will illustrate : 
Jamie, in going home late from a debauch, happened to tumble 
into the pit formed for the foundation of a house in James's 
Square. A gentleman passing heard his complaint, and going 
up to the spot, was entreated by our hero to help him out, 
' What would be the use of helping you out,' said the by-passer, 
'when you could not stand though you zvere out?' 'Very true, 
perhaps ; yet if you help me up, I '11 rtm you to the Tron Kirk 
for a bottle of' claret.' Pleased with his humour, the gentleman 
placed him upon his feet, when instantly he set off for the Tron 
Church at a pace distancing all ordinary competition; and 
accordingly he won the race, though, at the conclusion, he had 
to sit down on the steps of the church, being quite unable to 
stand. After taking a minute or two to recover his breath — 
'Well, another race to Fortune's for another bottle of claret!' 
Off he went to the tavern in question, in the Stamp-office Close, 
and this bet he gained also. The claret, probably with con* 
tinuations, was discussed in Fortune's ; and the end of the story 
is, that Balfour sent his new friend home in a chair, utterly done 
up, at an early hour in the morning. 

It is hardly surprising that habits carried to such an extrava- 
gance amongst gentlemen should have in some small degree 
affected the fairer and purer part of creation also. It is an old 



CONVIVIALIA. 159 

Story in Edinburgh, that three ladies had one night a merry- 
meeting in a tavern near the Cross, where they sat till a very 
late hour. Ascending at length to the street, they scarcely 
remembered where they were ; but as it was good moonlight, 
they found little difficulty in walking along till they came to the 
Tron Church. Here, however, an obstacle occurred. The 
moon, shining high in the south, threw the shadow of the 
steeple directly across the street from the one side to the other ; 
and the ladies, being no more clear-sighted than they were clear- 
headed, mistook this for a broad and rapid river, which they 
would require to cross before making further way. In this 
delusion, they sat down upon the brink of the imaginary stream, 
dehberately took off their shoes and stockings, kilted their lower 
garments, and proceeded to wade through to the opposite side ; 
after which, resuming their shoes and stockings, they went on 
their way rejoicing, as before ! Another anecdote (from an aged 
nobleman) exhibits the bacchanalian powers of our ancestresses 
in a different light. During the rising of 17 15, the officers of 
the crown in Edinburgh, having procured some important 
intelligence respecting the motions and intentions of the 
Jacobites, resolved upon despatching the same to London by 
a faithful courier. , Of this the party whose interests would have 
been so materially affected got notice ; and that evening, as the 
messenger (a man of rank) was going down the High Street, 
with the intention of mounting his horse in the Canongate, and 
immediately setting off, he met two tall handsome ladies, in full 
dress, and wearing black velvet masks, who accosted him with 
a very easy demeanour, and a winning sweetness of voice. 
Without hesitating as to the quaUty of these damsels, he 
instantly proposed to treat them with a pint of claret at a 
neighbouring tavern ; but they said that, instead of accepting his 
kindness, they were quite willing to treat him, to his heart's 
content. They then adjourned to the tavern, and sitting down, 
the whole three drank plenteously, merrily, and long, so that the 
courier seemed at last to forget entirely the mission upon which 
he was sent, and the danger of the papers which he had about 



l6o TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

his person. After a pertinacious delDauch of several hours, the 
luckless messenger was at length fairly drunk under the table ; 
and it is needless to add, that the fair nymphs then proceeded 
to strip him of his papers, decamped, and were no more heard 
of; though it is but justice to the Scottish ladies of that period 
to say, that the robbers were generally believed at the time 
to be young men disguised in women's clothes.* 

The custom which prevailed among ladies, as well as gentle- 
men, of resorting to what were called oyster-cellars, is in itself 
a striking indication of the state of manners during the last 
century. In winter, when the evening had set in, a party of 
the most fashionable people in town, collected by appointment, 
would adjourn in carriages to one of those abysses of darkness 
and Qomfort, called, in Edinburgh, laigh shops, where they pro- 
ceeded to regale themselves with raw oysters and porter, 
arranged in huge dishes upon a coarse table, in a dingy room, 
lighted by tallow candles. The rudeness of the feast, and the 
vulgarity of the circumstances under which it took place, seem 
to have given a zest to its enjoyment, with which more refined 
banquets could not have been accompanied. One of the chief 
features of an oyster-cellar entertainment was, that full scope 
was given to the conversational powers of the company. Both 
ladies and gentlemen indulged, without restraint, in sallies the 
merriest and the wittiest ; and a thousand remarks and jokes, 
which elsewhere would have been suppressed as improper, were 
here sanctified by the oddity of the scene, and appreciated by 
the most dignified and refined. After the table was cleared of 
the oysters and porter, it was customary to introduce brandy or 
rum-punch — according to the pleasure of the ladies — after which 

* It was very common for Scotch ladies of rank, even till the middle of the last century, 
to wear black masks in walking abroad, or airing in a carriage ; and for some gentlemen 
too, who were vain of their complexion. They were kept close to the face by means of a 
string, having a button of glass or precious stone at the end, which the lady held in her 
mouth. This practice, I understand, did not in the least interrupt the flow of tittle-tattle 
and scandal among the fair wearers. 

We are told, in a curious paper in the Edinburgh Magazine for August 1S17, that at the 
period above mentioned, ' though it was a disgrace for ladies to be seen drunk, yet it was 
none to be a little intoxicated in good company.' 



CONVIVIALIA. l6l 

dancing took place ; and when the female part of the assemblage 
thought proper to retire, the gentlemen again sat down, or 
adjourned to another tavern, to crown the pleasures of the 
evening with an unhmited debauch. It is not (1824) more 
than thirty years since the late Lord Melville, the Duchess of 
Gordon, and some other persons of distinction, who happened 
to meet in town after many years of absence, made up an 
oyster-cellar party, by way of a frolic, and devoted one winter 
evening to the revival of this almost forgotten entertainment of 
their youth. '^ 

It seems difficult to reconcile all these things with the staid 
and somewhat square-toed character which our country has 
obtained amongst her neighbours. The fact seems to be, that a 
kind of Laodicean principle is observable in Scotland, and we 
oscillate between a rigour of manners on the one hand, and a 
laxity on the other, which alternately acquire an apparent 
paramouncy. In the early part of the last century, rigour was 
in the ascendant ; but not to the prevention of a respectable 
minority of the free-and-ea^y, who kept alive the flame of con- 
viviality with no small degree of success. In the latter half of 
the century — a dissolute era all over civilised Europe — the 
minority became the majority, and the characteristic sobriety of the 
nation's manners was only traceable in certain portions of society. 
Now we are in a sober, perhaps tending to a rigorous stage 
once more. In Edinburgh, seventy years ago (i 847), intemperance 
was the rule to such a degree that exception could hardly be 
said to exist. Men appeared little in the drawing-room in those 

* The principal oyster-parties, in old times, took place in Luckie Middlemass's tavern in 
the Cowgate (where the south pier of the bridge now stands), which was the resort of 
Fergusson and his fellow-wits — as witness his own verse : 

' When big as bums the gutters rin. 
If ye ha'e catched a droukit skin. 
To Luckie Middlemist's loup in. 

And sit fu' snug, 
Owre oysters and a dram o' gin, 
Or haddock lug.' 

At these fashionable parties, the ladies would sometimes have the oyster-women to dance 
in the ball-room, though they were known to be of the worst character. This went imder 
the convenient name ai frolic. 



l62 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

days ; when they did, not unfrequently their company had better 
have been dispensed with. When a gentleman gave an enter- 
tainment, it was thought necessary that he should press the 
bottle as far as it could be made to go. A particularly good- 
fellow would lock his outer door, to prevent any guest of dyspeptic 
tendencies or sober inclinations from escaping. Some were so 
considerate as to provide shake-down beds for a general bivouac 
in a neighbouring apartment. When gentlemen were obliged to 
appear at assemblies where decency was enforced, they of course 
wore their best attire. This it was customary to change for 
something less liable to receive damage, ere going, as they 
usually did, to conclude the evening by a scene of conviviality. 
Drinking entered into everything. As Sir Alexander Boswell 
has observed : 

' O'er draughts of wine the beau would moan his love, 
O'er draughts of wine the cit his bargain drove, 
O'er draughts of wine the writer penned the will, 
And legal wisdom counselled o'er a gill.' 

Then was the time when men, despising and neglecting the 
company of women, always so civilising in its influence, would 
yet half kill themselves with bumpers, in order, as the phrase 
went, to save them. Drinking to save the ladies is said to have 
originated with a catch-club, which issued tickets for gratuitous 
concerts. Many tickets with the names of ladies being prepared, 
one was taken up, and the name announced. Any member 
present was at liberty to toast the health of this lady in a bumper, 
and this insured her ticket being reserved for her use. If no 
one came forward to honour her name in this manner, the lady 
was said to be damned, and her ticket was thrown under the 
table. Whether from this origin or not, the practice is said to 
have ultimately had the following form. One gentleman would 
give out the name of some lady as the most beautiful object in 
creation, and, by way of attesting what he said, drink one bumper. 
Another champion Avould then enter the field, and offer to prove 
that a certain other lady, whom he named, was a great deal 
more beautiful than she just mentioned — supporting his assertion ■ 



CONVIVIALIA. 163 

by drinking two bumpers. Then the other would rise up, declare 
this to be false, and, in proof of his original statement, as well 
as by way of turning the scale upon his opponent, drink four 
bumpers. Not deterred or repressed by this, the second man 
would reiterate, and conclude by drinking as much as the chal- 
lenger ; who would again start up and drink eight bumpers ; and 
so on, in geometrical progression, till one or other of the heroes 
fell under the table; when of course the fair Delia of the survivor 
was declared the queen supreme of beauty by all present. I 
have seen a sonnet addressed on the morning after such a scene 
of contention to the lady concerned, by the unsuccessful hero, 
whose brains appear to have been woefully muddled by the 
claret he had drunk in her behalf. 

It was not merely in the evenings that taverns were then 
resorted to. There was a petty treat, called a ' meridian,' which 
no man of that day thought himself able to dispense with ; and 
this was generally indulged in at a tavern. ' A cauld cock and 
a feather ' was the metaphorical mode of calling for a glass of 
brandy and a bunch of raisins, which was the favourite regale of 
many. Others took a glass of whisky ; some few a lunch. 
Scott very amusingly describes, from his own observation, the 
manner in which the affair of the meridian was gone about by 
the writers and clerks belonging to the ParHament House. ' If 
their proceedings were watched, they might be seen to turn 
fidgety about the hour of noon, and exchange looks with each 
other from their separate desks, till at length some one of formal 
and dignified presence assumed the honour of leading the band; 
when away they went, threading the crowd like a string of wild- 
fowl, crossed the square or close, and following each other into 
the [John's] coffee-house, drank the meridian, which was placed 
ready at the bar. This they did day by day ; and though they 
did not speak to each other, they seemed to attach a certain 
degree of sociability to performing the ceremony in company.' 

It was in the evening, of course, that the tavern debaucheries 
assumed their proper character of unpalliated fierceness and 
destructive duration. In the words of Robert Fergusson : 



164 TRADITIONS OF EDINBT;RGH. 

' Now night, that 's cunzied chief for fiin. 
Is with her usual rites begun. 

* * * ♦ 
Some to porter, some to punch, 

Retire ; while noisy ten-hours' drum 
' Gars a' the trades gang danderin' hame. 

Now, mony a club, jocose and free, 
Gi'e a' to merriment and glee ; 
Wi' sang and glass they fley the power 
O' care, that wad harass the hour. 

* * * * 

Chief, O Cape ! we crave thy aid. 
To get our cares and poortith laid. 
Sincerity and genius true, 
O' knights have ever been the due. 
Mirth, music, porter deepest-dyed. 
Are never here to worth denied.' 

All the shops in the town were then shut at eight o'clock; and 
from that hour till ten — when the drum of the Town-guard 
announced at once a sort of license for the deluging of the 
streets with nuisances, and a warning of the inhabitants home 
to their beds — unrestrained scope was given to the delights of 
the table. No tradesman thought of going home to his family 
till after he had spent an hour or two at his club. This was 
universal and unfailing. So lately as 1824, I knew something 
of an old-fashioned tradesman who nightly shut his shop at eight 
o'clock, and then adjourned with two old friends who called 
upon him at that hour to a quiet old public-house on the opposite 
side of the way, where they each drank precisely one bottle of 
Edinburgh ale, ate precisely one halfpenny roll, and got upon 
their legs precisely at the first stroke of ten o'clock. 

The Cape Club alluded to by Fergusson aspired to a refined 
and classical character, comprising amongst its numerous mem- 
bers many men of talents, as well as of private worth. Fergusson 
himself was a member; as were Mr Thomas Sommers, his friend 
and biographer; Mr Woods, a player of eminence on the humble 
boards of Edinburgh, and an intimate companion of the poet ; 
and Mr Runciman the painter. The name of the club had its 



THE PIOUS CLUB. 1 65 

foundation in one of those weak jokes such as ' gentle dulness 
ever loves.' A person who lived in the Calton was in the 
custom of spending an hour or two every evening with one or 
two city friends, and being sometimes detained till after the 
regular period when the Netherbow Port was shut, it occasionally 
' happened that he had either to remain in the city all night, or 
was under the necessity of bribing the porter who attended the 
gate. This difficult pass — ^partly on account of the rectangular 
comer which he turned, immediately on getting out of the Port, 
as he went homewards down Leith Wynd — the Calton burgher 
facetiously called doubling the Cape; and as it was customary 
with his friends, every evening when they assembled, to inquire 
' how he turned the Cape last night,' and indeed to make that 
circumstance and that phrase, night after night, the subject of 
their conversation and amusement, ' the Cape ' in time became 
so assimilated with their very existence, that they adopted it as 
a title ; and it was retained as such by the organised club into 
which, shortly after, they thought proper to form themselves. 
The Cape Club owned a regular institution from 1763. It will 
scarcely be credited in the present day that a jest of the above 
nature could keep an assemblage of rational citizens, and, we 
may add, professed wits, merry after a thousand repetitions. 
Yet it really is true that the patron-jests of many a numerous 
and enlightened association were no better than this, and the 
greater part of them worse. As instance the following : 

There was the Antemanum Club, of which the members used 
to boast of the state of their hands, before-hand, in playing at 
* Brag.' The members were all men of respectability, some of 
them gentlemen of fortune. They met every Saturday, and 
dined. It was at first a purely convivial club ; but latterly, the 
Whig party gaining a sort of preponderance, it degenerated into 
a political association. 

The Pious Club was composed of decent orderly citizens, 
who met every night, Sundays not excepted, in z. pie-house, and 
whose joke was the equivoque of these expressions — similar in 
sound, but different in signification. The agreeable uncertainty 



1 66 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

as to whether their name arose from their piety, or the circum- 
stance of their eating //<?j-, kept the club hearty for many years. 
At their Sunday meetings, the conversation usually took a 
serious turn — perhaps upon the sermons which they had 
respectively heard during the day : this they considered as 
rendering their title of Pious not altogether undeserved. More- 
over, they were all, as the saying was, ten-ddock me?i, and of 
good character. Fifteen persons were considered as con- 
stituting a full night. The whole allowable debauch was a 
gill of toddy to each person, which was drunk, like wine, out 
of a common decanter. One of the members of the Pious Club 
was a Mr Lind, a man of at least twenty-five stone weight, 
immoderately fond of good eating and drinking. It was 
generally believed of him that, were all the oxen he had 
devoured ranged in a line, they would reach from the Water- 
gate to the Castle-hill, and that the wine he had drunk would 
swim a seventy-four. His most favourite viand was a very 
strange one — salmon skins. When dining anywhere, with 
salmon on the table, he made no scruple of raking all the 
skins off the plates of the rest of the guests. He had only one 
toast, from which he never varied : ' Merry days to honest 
fellows.' A Mr Drummond was esteemed poet-laureate to this 
club. He was a facetious, clever man. Of his poetical talents, 
take a specimen in the following lines on Lind : 

' In going to dinner, he ne'er lost his way, 
Though often, when done, he was carted away.' 

He made the folio-wing impromptu on an associate of small 
figure, and equally small understanding, who had been success- 
ful in the world : 

* O thou of genius slow, 
"Weak by nature ; 
A rich fellow, 

But a poor creature.' 

The Spendthrift Club took its name from the extravagance 
of the members in spending no less a sum than fourpence-half- 
penny each night ! It consisted of respectable citizens of the 



THE BOAR CLUB. 1 67 

middle class, and continued in 1824 to exist in a modified state. 
Its meetings, originally nightly, were then reduced to four a 
week. The men used to play at whist for a halfpenny — one, 
two, three — no rubbers ; but latterly, they had, with their 
characteristic extravagance, doubled the stake ! Supper origin- 
ally cost no less than twopence ; and half a bottle of strong ale, 
with a dram, stood every member twopence-halfpenny; to all 
which sumptuous profusion might be added still another half- 
penny, which was given to the maid-servant — in all, fivepence ! 
Latterly, the dram had been disused; but such had been the 
general increase, either in the cost or the quantity of the 
indulgences, that the usual nightly expense was ultimately from 
a shilling to one-and-fourpence. The winnings at whist were 
always thro\vn into the reckoning. A large two-quart bottle, or 
tappit-hen, was introduced by the landlady, with a small measure, 
out of which the company helped themselves ; and the members 
made up their own bill with chalk upon the table. In 1824, in 
the recollection of the senior members, some of whom were of 
fifty years' standing, the house was kept by the widow of a 
Lieutenant Hamilton of the army, who recollected having 
attended the theatre in the Tennis Court at Holyroodhouse, 
when the play was the Spanish Friar, and when many of the 
members of the U?iio?i Parlianie/it were present in the house. 

The Boar Club was an association of a different sort, con- 
sisting chiefly of wild, fashionable young men ; and the place of 
meeting was not in any of the snug profundities of the Old Town, 
but in a modern tavern in Shakspeare Square, kept by one 
Daniel Hogg. Thtjoke of this club consisted in the supposi- 
tion that all the members were boars — that their room was a sty 
— that their talk was grunting — and in the doubk-entendre of the 
small piece of stoneware which served as a repository of all the 
fines, being d.pig. Upon this they lived twenty years. I have, 
at some expense of eyesight, and with no small exertion of 
patience, perused the soiled and blotted records of the club, 
which in 1824 were preserved by an old vintner, whose house 
was their last place of meeting; and the result has been the 



1 68 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

following memorabilia. The Boar Club commenced its meetings 
in 1787, and the original members wei-e J. G. C. Schetky, a 
German musician ; David Shaw ; Archibald Crawfuird ; Patrick 
Robertson; Robert Aldridge, a famed pantomimist and dancing- 
master ; James Neilson ; and Luke Cross. Some of these were 
remarkable men, in particular Mr Schetky. He had come to 
Edinburgh about the beginning of the reign of ^George III. 
He used to tell that, on alighting at Ramsay's inn, opposite the 
Cowgate Port, his first impression of the city was so unfavour- 
able, that he was on the point of leaving it again, without further 
acquaintance, and was only prevented from doing so by the 
solicitations of his fellow-traveller, who was not so much 
alarmed at the dingy and squalid appearance of this part of 
Auld Reekie.* He was first employed at St Cecilia's Hall, 
where the concerts were attended by all the ' rank, beauty, and 
fashion' of which Edinburgh could then boast, and where, 
besides the professional performers, many amateurs of great 
musical skill and enthusiasm, such as Mr Tytler of Wood- 
houselee,t were pleased to exhibit themselves, for the entertain- 

* This highly appropriate popular sobriquet cannot be traced beyond the reign of 
Charles II. Tradition assigns the following as the origin of the phrase : An old gentleman 
in Fife, designated Durham of Largo, was in the habit, at the period mentioned, of regu- 
lating the time of evening worship by the appearance of the smoke of Edinburgh, which he 
could easily see, through the clear summer twilight, from his own door. \Vhen he observed 
the smoke increase in density, in consequence of the good folk of the city preparing their 
supper, he would call all the family into the house, saying: ' It's time now, bairns, to tak' 
the beuks, and gang to our beds, for yonder 's Auld Reekie, I see, putting on her nicht-cap !' 

t This gentleman, the ' revered defender of beauteous Stuart,' and the surviving friend of 
Allan Ramsay, had an unaccountable aversion to cheese, and not only forbade the appear- 
ance of that article upon his table, but also its introduction into his house.' His family, 
who did not partake in this antipathy, sometimes smuggled a small quantity of cheese 
into the house, and ate it in secret ; but he alniost always discovered it by the S7nell, 
which was the sense it chiefly offended. Upon scenting the object of his disgust, he would 
start up and run distractedly through the house in search of it, and not compose himself 
again to his studies till it was thrown out of doors. Some of his ingenious children, by 
way of a joke, once got into their possession the coat with which he usually went to the 
court, and ripping up the sutures of one of its wide old-fashioned skirts, sewed up therein 
a considerable slice of double Gloster. Mr Tytler was next day surprised when, sitting 
near the bar, he perceived the smell of cheese rising around him. ' Cheese here too !' 
cried the querulous old gentleman ; ' nay, then, the whole world must be conspiring against 
me !' So saying, he rose, and ran home to tell his piteous case to Mrs Tytler and the 
children, who became convinced from this that he really possessed the singular delicacy 
and fastidiousness in respect of the effluvia arising from cheese which they formerly thought 
to be fanciful. 



THE BOaR club. 1 69 

ment of their friends, who alone were admitted by tickets. Mr 
Schetky composed the march of a body of volunteers called the 
Edinburgh Defensive Band, which was raised out of the citizens 
of Edinburgh at the time of the American war, and was com- 
manded by the eminent advocate, Crosbie. One of the verses 
to which the march was set, may be given as an admirable 
specimen oi militia poetry : 

' Colonel Crosbie takes the field ; 
To France and Spain he will not yield ; 
But still maintains his high command 
At the head of the noble Defensive Band.'* 

Mr Schetky was primarily concerned in the founding of the 
Boar Club. He was in the habit of meeting every night with 
Mr Aldridge, and one or two other professional men, or gentle- 
men who affected the society of such persons, in Hogg's tavern ; 
and it was the host's name that suggested the idea of calling 
their society the ^ Boar Club.' Their laws were first written 
down in proper form in 1790. They were to meet ever)'- 
evening at seven o'clock ; each boar, on his entry, to contribute 
a halfpenny to the pig. Mr Aldridge was to be perpetual 
Grand-boar, with Mr Schetky for hife deputy; and there were 
other officers, entitled Secretary, Treasurer, and Procurator- 
fiscal. A fine of one halfpenny was imposed upon every 
person who called one of his brother-boars by his proper out-of- 
club name — the term ' sir ' being only allowed. The entry- 
moneys, fines, and other pecuniary acquisitions were hoarded 
for a grand annual dinner. The laws were revised in 1799, 
when some new officials were constituted, such as Poet-laureate, 
Champion, Archbishop, and Chief-grunter. The fines were 
then rendered exceedingly severe, and in their exaction no one 
met with any mercy, as it was the interest of all the rest that the 

* The dress of the Edinburgh Defensive Band was as follows : A cocked hat, black stock, 
hair tied and highly powdered ; dark-blue long-tailed coat, with orange facings in honour 
of the Revolution, and full lapels sloped away to shew the white dimity vest ; nankeen 
small-clothes ; white thread stockings, ribbed or plain ; and short nankeen spatterdashes. 
Kay has some ingenious caricatures, in miniature, of these redoubted Bruntsfield Links and 
Heriot's Green warriors. The last two survivors were Mr John M'Niven, stationer, and 
Robert Stevenson, painter, who died in 1832. 



170 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH, 

pig should bring forth as plenteous 2, farrow as possible at the 
grand dinner-day. This practice at length occasioning a violent 
insurrection in the sty, the whole fraternity was broken up, and 
never again returned to 'wallow in the mire.' 

The Hell-fire Club, a terrible and infamous association of 
wild young men, about the beginning of the last century, met 
in various profound places throughout Edinburgh, where they 
practised orgies not more fit for seeing the light than the Eleu- 
sinian Mysteries. I have conversed with old people who had 
seen the last worn-out members of the Hell-fire Club, which, in 
the country, is to this day believed to have been an association 
in compact with the Prince of Darkness. 

Many years afterwards, a set of persons associated for the 
purpose of purchasing goods condemned by the Court of 
Exchequer. For what reason I cannot tell, they called them- 
selves the Hell-fire Club, and their president was named the 
Devil. My old friend, Henry Mackenzie, whose profession was 
that of an attorney before the Court of Exchequer, wrote me a 
note on this subject, in which he says very naively : ' In my 
youngest days, I knew the Devil.' 

The Sweating Club flourished about the middle of the last 
century. They resembled the Mohocks mentioned in the 
Spectator. After intoxicating themselves, it was their custom to 
sally forth at midnight, and attack whomsoever they met upon 
the streets. Any luckless wight who happened to fall into their 
hands was chased, jostled, pinched, and pulled about, till he not 
only perspired, but was ready to drop down and die with 
exhaustion. Even so late as the early years of this century, 
it was unsafe to walk the streets of Edinburgh at night, on 
account of the numerous drunken parties of young men who 
then reeled about, bent on mischief, at all hours, and from 
whom the Town-guard were unable to protect the sober citizen. 

A club called the Industrious Company may serve to shew 
how far the system of drinking was carried by our fathers. It 
was a sort of joint-stock company, formed by a numerous set of 
porter-drinkers, who thought fit to club towards the formation of 



THE INDUSTRIOUS COMPANY. 171 

a Stock of that liquor, which they might partly profit by retailing, 
and partly by the opportunity thus afforded them of drinking 
their own particular tipple at the wholesale price. Their cellars 
were in the Royal Bank Close, where they met every night at 
eight o'clock. Each member paid at his entry ^^, and took his 
turn montlily of the duty of superintending the general business 
of the company. But the curse of joint-stock companies — 
negligence on the part of the managers — ultimately occasioned 
the ruin of the Industrious Company. 

About 1790, a club of first-rate citizens used to meet, each 
Saturday afternoon, for a coujitry dinner, in a tavern which still 
exists in the village of Canonmills, a place now involved within 
the limits of the New Town. To quote a brief memoir on the 
subject, handed to me many years ago by a veteran friend, who 
was a good deal of the laudator taiiporis acti : ' The club was 
pointedly attended; it was too good a thing to miss being 
present at. They kept their own claret, and managed all 
matters as to living perfectly well.' Originally, the fraternity 
were contented with a very humble room \ but in time they 
got an addition built to the house for their accommodation, 
comprehending one good-sized room with two windows ; in one 
of which is a pane containing an olive-dove, in the other, one 
containing a wheat-sheaf, both engraved with a diamond. 
'This,' continues Mr Johnston, 'was the doing of William 
Ramsay [banker], then residing at Warriston — the tongue of 
the trump to the club. Here he took great delight to drink 
claret on the Saturdays, though he had such a paradise near 
at hand to retire to ; but then there were Jamie Torry, Jamie 
Dickson, Gilbert Laurie, and other good old council friends with 
whom to crack [that is, chat] ; and the said cracks were of more 
value in this dark, unseemly place, than the enjoyments of 
home. I never pass these two engraved panes of glass but I 
venerate them, and wonder that, in the course of fifty years, they 
have not been destroyed, either from drunkenness within, or 
from misrule without' * 

* One of the panes is now (1847) destroyed, the other cracked. 
L 



172 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Edinburgh boasted of many other associations of the like 
nature, which it were perhaps best merely to enumerate, in a 
tabular form, with the appropriate joke opposite each, as 

The Dirty Club No gentleman to appear in clean linen. 

The Black Wigs....... Members wore black wigs. 

The Odd Fellows Members wrote their names upside down. 

The Bonnet Lairds Members wore blue bonnets. 

_, _ T-. ( Members regarded as physicians, and so 

The Doctors of Faculty \ , , , . , 

P < styled ; wearing, moreover, gowns and 

( wigs. 

And so forth. There were the Caledonian Club, and the 
Union Club, of whose foundation history speak eth not. There 
was the Wig Club, the president of which wore a wig of extra- 
ordinary materials, which had belonged to the Moray family for 
three generations, and each new entrant of which drank to the 
fraternity in a quart of claret without pulling bit. The Wigs 
usually drank twopenny ale, on which it was possible to get 
satisfactorily drunk for a groat ; and with this they ate souters' 
clods,* a coarse lumpish kind of loaf. There was also the 
Brownonian System Club, which, oddly enough, bore no 
reference to the license which that system had given for a 
phlogistic regimen — for it was a douce citizenly fraternity, 
venerating ten o'clock as a sacred principle — but in honour 
of the founder of that system, who had been a constituent 
member. 

The Lawnmarket Club was composed chiefly of the 
woollen-traders of that street, a set of whom met every morning 
about seven o'clock, and walked down to the Post-office, where 
they made themselves acquainted with the news of the morning. 
After a plentiful discussion of the news, they adjourned to a 
public-house, and got a dram of brandy. As a sort of ironical 

* Souters* clods, and other forms of bread fascinating to youngsters, as well as penny pies 
of high reputation, were to be had at a shop which all old Edinburgh people speak of with 
extreme regard and affection — the Baijen Hole — situated immediately to the east of 
Foi;rester's Wynd, and opposite to the Old Tolbooth. The name— a mystery to later 
generations — seems to bear reference to the Baijens or Baijen Class, a term bestowed in 
former days upon the junior students in the college. 



THE HORN ORDER. 173 

and self-inflicted satire upon the strength of their potations, they 
sometimes called themselves the Whey Club. They were always 
the first persons in the town to have a thorough knowledge of 
the foreign news ; and on Wednesday mornings, when there .was 
no post from London, it was their wont to meet as usual, and, 
in the absence of real news, amuse themselves by the invention 
of what was imaginary ; and this they made it their business to 
circulate among their uninitiated acquaintances in the course of 
the forenoon. Any such unfounded articles of intelligence, on 
being suspected or discovered, were usually called Lawnmarket 
Gazettes, in allusion to their roguish originators. 

In the year 1705, when the Duke of Argyll was commissioner 
in the Scottish parliament, a singular kind of fashionable club, 
or coterie of ladies and gentlemen, was instituted, chiefly by the 
exertions of the Earl of Selkirk, who was the distinguished beau 
of that age. This was called the Horn Order, a name which, 
as usual, had its origin in the whim of a moment. A horn- 
spoon having been used at some merry-meeting, it occurred to 
the club, which was then in embryo, that this homely implement 
would be a good badge for the projected society; and this being 
proposed, it was instantly agreed, by all the party, that the" 
* Order of the Horn ' would be a good caricature of the more 
ancient and better-sanctioned honorary dignities. The phrase 
was adopted ; and the members of the Horn Order met and 
caroused for many a day under this strange designation, which, 
however, the common people believed to mean more than met 
the ear. Indeed, if all accounts of it be true, it must have been 
a species of masquerade, in which the sexes were mixed, and 
all ranks confounded 



174 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



TAVERNS OF OLD TIMES. 

When the worship of Bacchus held such sway in our city, his 
pecuUar temples — the taverns — must, one would suppose, have 
been places of some importance. And so they were, com- 
paratively speaking; and yet, absolutely, an Edinburgh tavern 
of the last century was no very fine or inviting place. Usually, 
these receptacles were situated in obscure places — in courts or 
closes, away from the public thoroughfares ; and often they 
presented such narrow and stifling accommodations, as might 
have been expected to repel, rather than attract visitors. The 
truth was, however, that a coarse and darksome snugness was 
courted by the worshippers. Large, well-lighted rooms, with a 
look-out to a street, would not have suited them. But allow 
them to dive through some Erebean alley, into a cavern-like 
house, and there settle themselves in a cell unvisited of Phoebus, 
with some dingy flamen of either sex to act as minister, and 
their views as to circumstances and properties were fulfilled. 

The city traditions do not go far back into the eighteenth 
century with respect to taverns ; but we obtain some notion 
of the principal houses in Queen Anne's time, from the Latin 
lyrics of Dr Pitcaim, which Ruddiman published, in order to 
prove that the Italian muse had not become extinct in our land 
since the days of Buchanan. In an address To Strangers, the 
wit tells those who would acquire some notion of our national 
manners, to avoid the triple church of St Giles's : 

* Tres ubi Cyclopes fanda nefanda boant' — 
where three horrible monsters bellow forth sacred and profane 
discourse — and seek the requisite knowledge in the sanctuaries 
of the rosy god, whose worship is conducted by night and by 
day. ' At one time,' says he, ' you may be delighted with the 
bowls of Steil of the Cross Keys ; then other heroes, at the Ship, 
will shew you the huge cups which belonged to mighty bibbers 



TAVERNS OF OLD TIMES. 1 75 

of yore. Or you may seek out the sweet-spoken Katy at 
BuchafiaTis, or Tennanfs commodious house, where scalloped 
oysters will be brought in with your wine. But Hay calls us, 
than whom no woman of milder disposition or better-stored 
cellar can be named in the whole town. Now, it will gratify 
you to make your way into the Avemian grottoes, and caves 
never seen of the sun ; but remember to make friends with the 
dog which guards the threshold. Straightway Mistress Anne 
will bring the native liquor. Seek the innermost rooms and the 
snug seats : these know the sun, at least, when Anne enters. 
What souls joying in the Lethasan flood you may there see ! 
what frolics, God willing, you may partake of ! Mindless of all 
that goes on in the outer world, joys not to be told to mortal do 
they there imbibe. But perhaps you may wish by and by to 
get back into the world — which is indeed no easy matter. I 
recommend you, when about to descend, to take with you a 
trusty Achates [a caddy] : say to Anne, " Be sure you give him 
no drink." By such means it was that Castor and Pollux were 
able to issue forth from Pluto's domain into the heavenly spaces. 
Here you may be both merry and wise ; but beware how you 
toast kings and their French retreats,' &c. The sites of these 
merry places of yore are not handed down to us ; but respecting 
another, which Pitcaim shadows forth under the mysterious - 
appellation of Greppa, it chances that we possess some know- 
ledge. It was a suite of dark underground apartments in the 
Parliament Close, opening by a descending stair opposite the 
oriel of St Giles's, in a mass of building called the Pillars. By 
the wits who frequented it, it was called the Greping-qffice, 
because one could only make way through its dark passages by 
groping. It is curious to see how Pitcaim works this homely 
Scottish idea into his Sapphics, talking, for example, by way of 
a good case of bane and antidote, of 

' Fraudes Egidii, venena Greppse.' 

A venerable person has given me an anecdote of this singular 
mixture of learning, wit, and professional skill, in connection 



176 ^ TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

with the Greping-office. Here, it seems, according to a custom 
which lasted even in London till a later day, the clever physician 
used to receive visits from his patients. On one occasion, a 
woman from the country called to consult him respecting the 
health of her daughter, when he gave a shrewd hygienic advice 
in a pithy metaphor not to be mentioned to ears polite. When, 
in consequence of following the prescription, the young woman 
had recovered her health, the mother came back to the Greping- 
office to thank Dr Pitcaim, and give him a small present. 
Seeing him in precisely the same place and circumstances, and 
surrounded by the same companions as on the former occasion, 
she lingered with an expression of surprise. On interrogation, 
she said she had only one thing to speer at him (ask after), 
and she hoped he would not be angry. 

' Oh no, my good woman.' 

' Well, sir, have you been sitting here ever since I saw you 
last?' 

According to the same authority, small claret was then sold 
at twentypence the Scottish pint, equivalent to tenpence a 
bottle. Pitcaim once or twice sent his servant for a regale of 
this liquor on the Sunday forenoon, and suffered the disappoint- 
ment of having it intercepted by the seizers, whose duty it was 
to make capture of all persons found abroad in time of service, 
and appropriate whatever they were engaged in carrying that 
smelled of the common enjoyments of life. To secure his claret 
for the future from this interference, the wit caused the wine on 
one occasion to be drugged in such a manner as to produce 
consequences more ludicrous than dangerous to those drinking 
it. The triumph he thus attained over a power which there was 
no reaching by any appeal to common sense or justice, must 
have been deeply relished in the Greping-office. 

Pitcairn was professedly an Episcopalian, but he allowed 
himself a latitude in wit which his contemporaries found some 
difficulty in teconciling with any form of religion. Among the 
popular charges against him was, that he did not believe in the 
existence of such a place as hell; a point of heterodoxy likely 



TAVERNS OF OLD TIMES. 177 

to be sadly disrelished in Scotland. Being at a book-sale, where 
a copy of Philostratus sold at a good price, and a copy of the 
Bible was not bidden for, Pitcaim said to some one who 
remarked the circumstance : * Not at all wonderful ; for is it not 
written, " Verbum Dei manet in eternum V ' For this, one of the 
Cyclops, a famous Mr Webster, called him publicly an atheist. 
The story goes on to state that Pitcaim prosecuted Webster for 
defamation in consequence, but failed in the action from the 
foUo^ving circumstance : The defender, much puzzled what to 
do in the case, consulted a shrewd-witted friend of his, a Mr 
Pettigrew, minister of Govan, near Glasgow. Pettigrew came 
to Edinburgh to endeavour to get him out of the scrape. 
' Strange,' he said, ' since he has caught so much at your 
mouth, if we can catch nothing at his.' Having laid his 
plan, he came bustling up to the physician at the Cross, and 
tapping him on the shoulder, said : ' Are you Dr Pitcaim the 
atheist ? ' 

The doctor, in his haste, overlooking the latter part of the 
query, answered : * Yes.' 

' Very good,' said Pettigrew ; ' I take you all to witness that 
he has confessed it himself.' 

Pitcaim, seeing how he had been outwitted, said bitterly to 
the minister of Govan, whom he well knew : ' Oh, Pettigrevt^, 
that skull of yoiurs is as deep as hell.' 

'Oh, man,' replied Pettigrew, 'I'm glad to find you have come 
to believe there is a hell.' The prosecutor's counsel, who stood 
by at the time, recommended a compromise, which accordingly 
took place. 

A son of Pitcaim was minister of Dysart ; a very good kind 
of man, who was sometimes consulted in a medical way by his 
parishioners. He seems to have had a little of the paternal 
humour, if we may judge from the following circumstance : A 
lady came to ask what her maid-servant should do for sore or 
tender eyes. The minister, seeing that no active treatment 
could be recommended, said : ' She must do naething wi' them, 
but just rub them wi' her elbucks (elbows).' 



178 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Allan Ramsay mentions, of Edinburgh taverns in his day, 

* Cumin's, Don's, and Steil's,* 

as places where one may be as well served as at The Devil in 
London. 

* 'Tis strange, though true, he who would shun all evil, 
Cannot do better than go to the Devil.' 

John Maclaurin. 

One is disposed to pause a moment on Steil's name, as it is 
honourably connected with the history of music in Scotland. 
Being a zealous lover of the divine science, and a good singer of 
the native melodies, he had rendered his house a favourite resort 
of all who possessed a similar taste, and here actually was formed 
(1728) the first regular society of amateur musicians kno^vn in 
our country. It numbered seventy persons, and met once a 
week, the usual entertainments consisting in playing on the 
harpsichord and violin the concertos and sonatas of Handel, 
then newly published. Apparently, however, this fjraternity did 
not long continue to use Steil's house, if I am right in supposing 
his retirement from business as announced in an advertisement 
of February 1729, regarding 'a sale by auction, of the haill 
pictures, prints, music-books, and musical instruments, belonging 
to Mr John Steill.' — Caledonian Mercury. 

Coming down to a later time — 17 60-1 7 70 — we find the 
tavern in highest vogue to have been Fortune's, in the house 
which the Earl of EgHntoune had once occupied in the Stamp- 
ofiice Close. The gay men of rank, the scholarly and philo- 
sophical, the common citizens, all flocked hither ; and the royal 
commissioner for the General Assembly held his levees here, 
and hence proceeded to church with his cortege, then addition- 
ally splendid from having ladies walking in it in their court 
dresses, as well as gentlemen. Perhaps the most remarkable 
set of men who met here was the Poker Club, consisting of 
Hume, Robertson, Blair, Fergusson, and many others of that 
brilliant galaxy, but whose potations were, comparatively, of a 
moderate kind. 



Douglas's tavern. 179 

The Star and Garter, in Writers' Court, kept by one Clerihugh 
(the CleriJmgKs alluded to in Guy Mannering), was another 
tavern of good consideration, the favourite haunt of the magis- 
trates and Town-council, who in those days mixed much more 
of private enjoyments with public duties than would now be 
considered fitting. Here the Rev. Dr Webster used to meet 
them at dinner, in order to give them the benefit of his extensive 
knowledge and great powers of calculation, when they were 
scheming out the New Town. 

A favourite house for many of the last years of the bygone 
century was Douglas's, in the Anchor Close, near the Cross, a 
good specimen of those profound retreats which have been 
spoken of as valued in the inverse ratio of the amount of day- 
light which visited them. You went a few yards down the 
dark, narrow alley, passing on the left hand the entry to a scale 
stair, decorated with 'the lord is only my svport;' then 
passed another door, bearing the still more antique legend : ' o 
LORD, IN THE IS AL MY TRAiST j' immediately beyond, under 
an architrave calling out ' be mercifvl to me,' you entered the 
hospitable mansion of Dawney Douglas, the scene of the daily 
and nightly orgies of the Pleydells and Fairfords, the Hays, 
Erskines, and Crosbies of the time of our fathers. Alas ! hov/ 
fallen off is now that temple of Momus and the Bacchanals ! 
You find it divided into a multitude of small lodgings, where, 
instead of the merry party, vociferous with toasts and catches, 
you are most likely to be struck by the spectacle of some poor 
lone female, pining under a parochial allowance, or a poverty- 
struck family group, one-half of whom are disposed on sick-beds 
of straw mingled with rags — the terrible exponents of our 
peculiar phasis of civilisation. 

The frequenter of Douglas's, after ascending a few steps, 
found himself in a pretty large kitchen — a dark, fiery Pande- 
monium, through which numerous ineffable ministers of flame 
were continually flying about, while beside the door sat the 
landlady, a large fat woman, in a towering head-dress and large- 
flowered silk gown, who bowed to every one passing. Most 



l8o 'traditions of EDINBURGH. 

likely, on emerging from this igneous region, the party would 
fall into the hands of Dawney himself, and so be conducted to 
an apartment. A perfect contrast was he to his wife : a thin, 
weak, submissive man, who spoke in a whisper, never but in the 
way of answer, and then, if possible, only in monosyllables. He 
had a habit of using the word ' quietly ' very frequently, without 
much regard to its being appropriate to the sense 3 and it is told 
that he one day made the remark that ' the castle had been 
firing to-day — quietly ;'' which, it may well be believed, was not 
soon forgotten by his customers. Another trait of Dawney was, 
that some one lent him a volume of Clarendon's history to read, 
and daily frequenting the room where it lay, used regularly, for 
some time, to put back the reader's mark to the same place ; 
whereupon, being by and by asked how he liked the book, 
Dawney answered : ' Oh, very weel ; but dinna ye think it 's gay 
mickle the same thing o'er again?' The house was noted for 
suppers of tripe, rizzared haddocks, mince coUops, and hashes, 
which never cost more than sixpence a head. On charges of 
this moderate kind the honest couple grew extremely rich before 
they died. 

The principal room in this house Was a handsome one of 
good size, having a separate access by the second of the entries 
which have been described, and only used for large companies, 
or for guests of the first importance. It was called the Crown 
Room, or the Crown — so did the guests find it distinguished on 
the tops of their bills — and this name it was said to have 
acquired in consequence of its having once been used by Queen 
Mary as a council-room, on which occasions the emblem of 
sovereignty was disposed in a niche in the wall, still existing. 
How the queen should have had any occasion to hold councils 
in this place, tradition does not undertake to explain ; but 
assuredly, when we consider the nature of all public accommo- 
dations in that time, we cannot say there is any decided improb- 
ability in the matter. The house appears of sufficient age for 
the hypothesis. Perhaps we catch a hint on the general possi- 
bility from a very ancient house farther down the close, of whose 



Douglas's tavern. i8i 

original purpose or OAvners we know nothing, but which, is 
adumbrated by this legend : 

ANGVSTA AD VSVM AVGVSTA[m] 
W F B G 

The Crown Room, however, is elegant enough to have graced 
even the presence of Queen Mary, so that she only had not had 
to reach it by the Anchor Close. It is handsomely panelled, 
with a decorated fireplace, and two tall windows towards the 
alley. At present, this supposed seat of royal councils, and 
certain seat of the social enjoyments of many men of noted 
talents, forms a back-shop to Mr Ford, grocer. High Street, 
and, all dingy and out of countenance, serves only to store 
hams, firkins of butter, packages of groceries, and bundles of 
dried cod.* 

The gentle Dawney had an old Gaelic song called Crochallan, 
which he occasionally sung to his customers. This led to the 
establishment of a club at his house, which, with a reference to 
the militia regiments then raising, was called the Crochallan 
Corps, or Crochallan Fencibles, and to which belonged, amongst 
other men of original character and talent, the well-known 
William Smellie, author of the Philosophy j)f Natural History. 
Each member bore a military title, and some were endowed with 
ideal offices of a ludicrous character : for example, a lately 
surviving associate had been depute-hangman to the corps. 
Individuals committing a fault were subjected to a mock trial, 
in which such members as were barristers could display their 
forensic talents to the infinite amusement of the brethren. Much 
mirth and not a little horse-play prevailed. Smellie, while 
engaged professionally in printing the Edinburgh edition of the 
poems of Burns, introduced that genius to the Crochallans, 
when a scene of rough banter took place between him and 
certain privileged old hands, and the bard declared at the 

* Since this was written, the whole group of buildings has been taken down, and new 
ones substituted (1868). 



l82 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

conclusion that he had ' never been so abominably thrashed in 
his life.' There was one predominant wit, Willie Dunbar by 
name, of whom the poet has left a characteristic picture : 

* As I came by Crochallan, 

I cannily keekit ben — 
Rattling roaring Willie 

Was sitting at yon board en' — 
Sitting at yon board en', 

Amang gude companie ; 
Rattling roaring Willie, 

Ye 're welcome hame to me ! ' 

He has also described Smellie as coming to Crochallan mth his 
old cocked hat, gray surtout, and beard rising in its might : 

' Yet though his caustic wit was biting, rude. 
His heart was warm, benevolent, and good.' 

The printing-office of this strange genius being at the bottom of 
the close, the transition from the correction of proofs to the 
roaring scenes at Crochallan must have been sufficiently easy for 
Bums. 

I am indebted to a privately printed memoir on the Anchor 
Close for the following anecdote of Crochallan. 'A comical 
gentleman, one of the members of the corps [old Williamson of 
Cardrona, in Peeblesshire], got rather tipsy one evening after a 
severe field-day. When he came to the head of the Anchor 
Close, it occurred to him that it was necessary that he should 
take possession of the castle. He accordingly set off for this 
purpose. When he got to the outer gate, he demanded imme- 
diate possession of the garrison, to which he said he was entitled. 
The sentinel, for a considerable time, laughed at him; he, 
however, became so extremely clamorous, that the man found it 
necessary to apprise the commanding-officer, who immediately 
came down to inquire into the meaning of such impertinent 
conduct. H-e at once recognised his friend Cardrona, whom he 
had left at the festive board of the Crochallan Corps only a few 
hours before. Accordingly, humouring him in the conceit, he 
said : ' Certainly you have every right to the command of this 



JOHN DOWIE'S tavern. 1 83 

garrison ; if you please, I will conduct you to your proper 
apartment." He accordingly conveyed him to a bedroom in 
his house. Cardrona took formal possession of the place, and 
immediately afterwards went to bed. His feelings were inde- 
scribable when he looked out of his bedroom window next 
morning, and found himself surrounded with soldiers and great 
guns. Some time afterwards, this story came to the ears of the 
Crochallans; and Cardrona said he never afterwards had the life 
of a dog, so much did they tease and harass him about his 
strange adventure.' 

There is a story connected with the air and song of Crochallan 
which will tell strangely after these anecdotes. The title is 
properly Cro Chalien — that is, Colin's Cattle. According to 
Highland tradition, Colin's wife, dying at an early age, came 
back, some months after she had been buried, and was seen 
occasionally in the evenings milking her cow as formerly, and 
singing this plaintive air. It is curious thus to find Highland 
superstition associated with a snug tavern in the Anchor Close, 
and the convivialities of such men as Burns and Smellie. 

John Dowie's, in Liberton's Wynd, a still more perfect 
specimen of those taverns which Pitcaim eulogises — 

' Antraque Cocyto penfe propinqua' — 

enjoyed the highest celebrity during the latter years of the past, 
and early years of the present century. A great portion of this 
house was literally without light, consisting of a series of 
windowless chambers, decreasing in size till the last was a mere 
box, of irregular oblong figure, jocularly, but not inappropriately, 
designated the Coffin. Besides these, there were but two rooms 
possessing light, and as that came from a deep, naiTow alley, it 
was light little more than in name. Hither, nevertheless, did 
many of the Parliament House men come daily for their 
meridian. Here nightly assembled companies of cits, as well as 
of men of wit and of fashion, to spend hours in what may, by 
comparison, be described as gentle conviviality. The place is 
said to have been a howfif of Fergusson and Burns in succession. 



184 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Christopher North somewhere alludes to meetings of his own 
with Tom Campbell in that couthy mansion. David Herd, the 
editor of the Scottish songs, Mr Cumming of the Lyon Office, 
and George Paton the antiquary, were regular customers, each 
seldom allowing a night to pass without a symposium at Johnie 
Dowie's. Now, these men are all gone ; their very habits are 
becoming matters of history ; while, as for their evening haunt, 
the place which knew it once knows it no more, the new access 
to the Lawnmarket, by George IV. Bridge, passing over the 
area where it stood. 

Johnie Dowie^s was chiefly celebrated for ale — Younger' s 
Edinburgh ale — a potent fluid, which almost glued the lips of 
the drinker together, and of which few, therefore, could despatch 
more than a bottle. John, a sleek, quiet-looking man, in a last- 
century style of attire, always brought in the liquor himself, 
decanted it carefully, drank a glass to the healths of the com- 
pany, and then retired. His neat, careful management of the 
bottle must have entirely met the views of old William Coke, 
the Leith bookseller, of whom it is told that, if he saw a green- 
horn of a waiter acting in a different manner, he would rush 
indignantly up to him, take the ale out of his hands, caress it 
tenderly, as if to soothe and put it to rights again, and then 
proceed to the business of decanting it himself, saying : ' You 
rascal, is that the way you attend to your business? Sirrah, you 
ought to handle a bottle of ale as you would do a new-bom babe ! ' 

Dowiis was also famed for its ^etits soujbers, as one of its 
customers has recorded : 

' 'Deed, gif ye please, 
Ye may get a bit toasted cheese, 
A crumb o' tripe, ham, dish o' peas, 

The season fitting ; 
An egg, or, cauler frae the seas, 
A fleuTc or whiting.' 

When the reckoning came to be paid, John's duty usually con- 
sisted simply in counting the empty bottles which stood on a 
little shelf where he had placed them above the heads of his 



MRS FLOCKHARt's TAVERN. 1 85 

customers, and multiplying these by the price of the liquor — 
usually threepence. Studious of decency, he was rigorous as to 
hours, and, when pressed for additional supplies of liquor at a 
particular time, would say: 'No, no, gentlemen; it's past twelve 
o'clock, and time to go home.' 

Of John's conscientiousness as to money-matters, there is 
some illustration in the following otherwise trivial anecdote. 
David Herd, being one night prevented by slight indisposition 
from joining in the malt potations of his friends, called for first 
one and then another glass of spirits, which he dissolved, more 
Scotico, in warm water and sugar. When the reckoning came 
to be paid, the antiquary was surprised to find the second glass 
charged a fraction higher than the first — as if John had been 
resolved to impose a tax upon excess. On inquiring the reason, 
however, honest John explained it thus : ' Whe, sir, ye see, the 
first glass was out o' the auld barrel, and the second was out o' 
the new; and as the whisky in the new barrel cost me mair than 
the other, whe, sir, I 've just charged a wee mair for 't.' An 
ordinary host would have doubtless equalised the price, by 
raising that of the first glass to a level with the second. It is 
gratifying, but, after this anecdote, not surprising, that John 
eventually retired with a fortune said to have amounted to six 
thousand pounds. He had a son in the army, who attained the 
rank of major, and was a respectable officer. 

We get an idea of a class of taverns, humbler in their appoint- 
ments, but equally comfortable perhaps in their entertainments, 
from the description which has been preserved of Mrs Flockharfs 
— otherwise Lucky Fykie's — in the Potterrow. This was a 
remarkably small, as well as obscure mansion, bearing externally 
the appearance of a huckstry shop. The lady was a neat, little, 
thin, elderly woman, usually habited in a plain striped blue 
gown, and apron of the same stuff, with a black ribbon round 
her head, and lappets tied under her chin. She was far from 
being poor in circumstances, as her husband, the umquhile 
John Flucker, or Flockhart, had left her some ready money, 
together with his whole stock-in-trade, consisting of a multi- 



i86 



TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



farious variety of articles — as ropes, tea, sugar, whip-shafts, 
porter, ale, beer, yellow sand, cabn-stane, herrings, nails, cotton- 
wicks, stationery, thread, needles, tapes, potatoes, lollipops, 
onions, matches, &c., constituting her a very respectable 
merchant, as the phrase was understood in Scotland. On Sundays, 
too, Mrs Flockhart's little visage might have been seen in a 
front-gallery seat in Mr Pattieson's chapel in the Potterrow, 
Her abode, situated opposite to Chalmers's Entry in that sub- 
urban thoroughfare, was a square of about fifteen feet each way, 
divided agreeably to the following diagram : 





DWELLING-HOUSE. 




SHOP. 


o 
















A Screen. 






c 

a 










a 




Closet. HOTEL. 







' 1' 








o 
o 




1 


1 1 


...j 


1 Uoor. 1 



Potterrow. 

\ 

Each 'forenoon was this place, or at least all in front of the 
screen, put into the neatest order; at the same time three 
bottles, severally containing brandy, rum, and whisky, were 
placed on a bunker seat in the window of the ' hotel,' flanked, 
by a few glasses, and a salver of gingerbread biscuits. About 
noon, any one watching the place from an opposite mndow, 
would haveVobserved an elderly gentleman entering the humble 
shop, where \he saluted the lady with a 'Hoo d'ye do, mem?' 
and then passVd into the side space, to indulge himself with a 



THE WHITE HORSE INN. 1 87 

glass from one or other of the bottles. After him came another, 
who went through the same ceremonial — after him another 
again ; and so on. Strange to say, these were men of importance 
in society — some of them la-\vyers in good employment, some 
bankers, and so forth, and all of them inhabitants of good houses 
in George Square. It was in passing to or from forenoon 
business in town, that they thus regaled themselves. On special 
occasions, Lucky could furnish forth a soss — that is, stew — ^which 
the votary might partake of upon a clean napkin in the closet, 
a place which only admitted of one chair being placed in it. 
Such were amongst the habits of the fathers of some of our 
present (1824) most distinguished citizens ! 

This may be the proper place for introducing the few notices 
which I have collected respecting Edinburgh inns of a past 
date. 

The oldest house known to have been used in the character 
of an inn, is one situated in what is called Davidson's or the 
White Horse Close, at the bottom of the Canongate. A sort of 
port-cochere gives access to a court having mean buildings on 
either hand, but, facing us, a goodly structure of antique fashion, 
having two outside stairs curiously arranged, and the whole 
reminding us much of certain houses still numerous in the 
Netherlands. A date, deficient in the decimal figure (16-3), 
gives us assurance of the seventeenth century, and, judging from 
the style of the building, I would say the house belongs to an 
early portion of that age. The whole of the ground-floor, acces- 
sible from the street called North Back of Canongate, has been 
used as stables, thus reminding us of the absence of nicety in a 
former age, when human beings were content to sit with only a 
wooden floor between themselves and their horses. 

This house, supposed to have been styled The White Horse 
Inn or White Horse Stables (for the latter was the more common 
word), would be conveniently situated for persons travelling to, 
or arriving from London, as it is close to the ancient exit of the 
town in that direction. The adjacent Water-gate took its name 
from a horse-pond, which probably was an appendage of this 

M 



* 
l88 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

mansion. The manner of procedure for a gentleman going to 
London in the days of the White Horse, was to come booted to 
this house with saddle-bags, and here engage and mount a 
suitable roadster, "which was to serve all the way. In 1639, 
when Charles 'I. had made his first pacification -with the 
Covenanters, and had come temporarily to Berwick, he sent 
messages to the chief lords of that party, desiring some conver- 
sation with them. They were unsuspectingly mounting their 
horses at this inn, in order to ride to Berwick, when a mob, 
taught by the clergy to suspect that the king wished only to wile 
over the nobles to his side, came and forcibly prevented them 
from commencing their designed journey. Montrose alone 
broke through this restraint; and assuredly the result in his 
instance was such as to give some countenance to the suspicion, 
as thenceforward he was a royalist in his heart. 

The White Horse has ceased to be an inn from a time which 
no ' oldest inhabitant ' of my era could pretend to have any 
recollection of. The only remaining fact of interest connected 
with it, is one concerning Dr Alexander Rose, the last Bishop 
of Edinburgh, and the last survivor of the established Epis- 
copacy of Scotland. Bishop Keith, who had been one of his 
presbyters, and describes him as a sweet-natured man, of a 
venerable aspect, states that he died March 20, 1720, 'in his 
own sister's house in the Canongate, in which street he also 
lived.' Tradition points to the floor immediately above the 
port-cochbre by which the stable-yard is entered from the street, 
as the humble mansion in which the bishop breathed his last. 
I know at least one person who never goes past the place 
without an emotion of respect, remembering the self-abandoning 
devotion of the Scottish prelates to their engagements at the 

Revolution : 

' Amongst the faithless, faithful only found.' 

To the elegant accommodations of the best New-town 
establishments of the present day, the inns of the last 
century present a contrast which it is difficult by the greatest 
stretch of imagination to realise. For the west road, there 



Ramsay's tavern. v 189 

was the White Hart in the Grassmarketj for the east, the 
White Horse Inn in Boyd's Close, Canongate; for the south, 
and partly also the east, Peter Ramsay's, at the bottom of 
St Mary's Wynd. Amot, writing in 1779, describes them as 
' mean buildings ; their apartments dirty and dismal ; and if the 
waiters happen to be out of the way, a stranger will perhaps be 
shocked with the novelty of being shewn into a room by a dirty 
sunburnt wench, without shoes or stockings.' The fact is, 
however, these houses were mainly used as places for keeping 
horses. Guests, unless of a very temporary character, were 
usually relegated to lodging-houses j of which there were several 
on a considerable scale — as Mrs Thomson's at the Cross, who 
advertises, in 1754, that persons not bringing 'their silver plate, 
tea china, table china, and tea linen, can be served in them all ;' 
also in wines and spirits ; likewise that persons boarding with 
her 'may expect everything in a very genteel manner.' But 
hear the unflattering Amot on these houses, ' He [the stranger] 
is probably conducted to the third or fourth floor, up dark and 
dirty stairs, and there shewn into apartments meanly fitted 

up, and poorly furnished In Edinburgh, letting of 

lodgings is a business by itself, and thereby the prices are very 
extravagant ; and every article of furniture, far from wearing the 
appearance of having been purchased for a happy owner, seems 
to be scraped together with a penurious hand, to pass muster 
before a stranger who will never wish to return ! ' 

Ramsay's was almost solely a place of stables. General 
Paoli, on visiting Edinburgh in 177 1, came to this house, but; 
was immediately taken home by his friend Boswell to James's 
Court, where he lived during his stay in our city; his companion, 
the Polish ambassador, being accommodated with a bed by Dr 
John Gregory, in a neighbouring floor. An old gentleman of my 
acquaintance used to talk of having seen the Duke of Hamilton 
one day lounging in front of Ramsay's inn, occasionally chatting . 
with any gay or noble friend who passed. To one knowing 
the Edinburgh of the present day, nothing could seem more 
extravagant than the idea of such company at such places. I 



\ 

\ 



190 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

nevertheless find Ramsay, in 1776, advertising that, exclusive 
of some part of his premises recently offered for sale, he is 
'possessed of a good house of entertainment, good stables for 
above one hundred horses, and sheds for above twenty carriages.* 
He retired from business about 1790, with ;!^i 0,000. 

The modem White Horse was a place of larger and some- 
what better accommodations, though still far from an equality 
with even the second-rate houses of the present day. Here 
also the rooms were directly over the stables. 

It was almost a matter of course that Dr Johnson, on arriving 
in Edinburgh, August 17, 1773, should have come to the White 
Horse, which was then kept by a person of the name of Boyd. 
His note to Boswell, informing him of this fact, was as 
follows : 

* Saturday night. 

'Mr Johnson sends his compliments to Mr Boswell, being just arrived at 
Boyd's.' 

When Boswell came, he found his illustrious friend in a violent 
passion at the waiter, for having sweetened his lemonade with- 
out the ceremony of a pair of sugar-tongs. Mr William Scott, 
afterwards Lord Stowell, accompanied Johnson on this occasion; 
and he informs us, in a note to Croker's edition of Boswell, 
that when he heard the mistress of the house styled, in Scotch 
fashion, Lticky, which he did not then understand, he thought 
she should rather have been styled Unlucky, for the doctor 
seemed as if he would destroy the house.* 

James Boyd, the keeper of this inn, was addicted to horse- 
racing, and his victories on the turf, or rather on Leith sands, 
p.re frequently chronicled in the journals of that day. It is said 
that he was at one time on the brink of ruin, when he was 
saved by a lucky run with a white horse, which, in gratitude, he 
kept idle all the rest of its days, besides setting up its portrait 
as his sign. He eventually retired from this ' dirty and dismal ' 
inn, with a fortune of several thousand pounds; and, as a 

• A punfling friend, remarking on the old Scottish practice of stj'ling elderly landladies 
by the term Xwc/^J', said : ' Why not ? — Felix qui ^oi ' 



THE CROSS. 191 

curious note upon the impression which its slovenliness con- 
veyed to Dr Johnson, it may be stated as a fact, well authen- 
ticated, that at the time of his giving up the house, he possessed 
napery to the value of five hundred pounds ! 

A large room in the White Horse was the frequent scene of 
the marriages of runaway English couples, at a time when these 
irregularities were permitted in Edinburgh. On one of the 
windows were scratched the words : 

'JEREMIAH AND SARAH BENTHAM, 1 768.' 

Could this be the distinguished jurist and codificator, on a 
journey to Scotland in company with a female relation?* 



THE CROSS— CADDIES. 

The Cross, a handsome octagonal building in the High Street, 
surmounted by a pillar bearing the Scottish unicorn, was the 
great centre of gossip in former days. The principal coffee- 
houses and booksellers' shops were close to this spot. The 
chief merchants, the leading official persons, the men of learning 

* The following curious advertisement, connected with an inn in the Canongate, appeared 
in the Edinhnrgh Evening Conrant for July i, 1754. The advertisement is surmounted 
by a wood-cut representing the stage-coach — a towering vehicle, protruding at top — the 
coachman a stiif-looking, antique little figure, who holds the reins with both hands, as 
if he were afraid of the horses running away — a long whip streaming over his head, and 
over the top of the coach, and falling down behind — six horses, like starved rats in appear- 
ance — a postilion upon one of the leaders, with a whip. 

'The Edinburgh Stage-Coach, for the better accommodation of Passengers, will be 
altered to a new genteel two-end Glass Machine, hung on Steel Springs, exceeding light 
and easy, to go in ten days in summer and twelve in winter ; to set out the first Tuesday in 
March, and continue it from Rosea Eastgate's, the Coach and Horses in Dean Street, 
Soho, London, and from John Somerville's in the Canongate, Edinburgh, every other 
Tuesday, and meet at Burrow-bridge on Saturday night, and set out from thence on 
Monday morning, and get to London and Edinburgh on Friday. In the winter to set out 
from London and Edinburgh every other [alternate] Monday morning, and to go to Burrow- 
bridge on Saturday night ; and to set out from thence on Monday morning, and get to 
London and Edinburgh on Saturday night. Passengers to pay as usual. Performed, if 
God permits, by your dutiful servant, HosEA Eastgate. 

' Care is taken of small parcels according to their value.' 



192 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and talents, the laird, the noble, the clergyman, were constantly 
clustering hereabouts during certain hours of the day. It was 
the very centre and cynosure of the old city. 

During the reigns of the first and second Georges, it was 
customary for the magistrates of Edinburgh to drink the king's 
health on his birthday, on a stage erected at the Cross — loyalty 
being a virtue which always becomes peculiarly ostentatious 
when it is under any suspicion of weakness. On one of these 
occasions, the ceremony was interrupted by a shower of rain, so 
heavy, that the company, with one consent, suddenly dispersed, 
leaving their entertainment half finished. When they returned, 
the glasses were found full of water, which gave a Jacobite lady 
occasion for the following epigram, reported to me by a 
venerable bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church : 

' In Cana once Heaven's king was pleased 

With some gay bridal folks to dine, 
And then, in honour of the feast, 
He changed the water into wine. 

But when, to honour Brunswick's birth, 

Our tribunes mounted the Theatre, 
He would not countenance their mirth, 

But turned their claret into water ! ' 

As the place where state proclamations were always made, 
where the execution of noted state criminals took place, and 
where many important public ceremonials were enacted, the 
Cross of Edinburgh is invested with numberless associations of 
a most interesting kind, extending over several centuries. Here 
took place the mysterious midnight proclamation, summoning 
the Flodden lords to the domains of Pluto, as described so 
strikingly in Marmion ; the witness being ' Mr Richard Lawson, 
ill-disposed, ganging in his gallery fore-stair.' Here did King 
James VI. bring together his barbarous nobles, and make them 
shake hands over a feast partaken of before the eyes of the 
people. Here did the Covenanting lords read their protests 
against Charles's feeble proclamations. Here fell Montrose, 
Huntly, the Argylls, Warriston, and many others of note, 



CADDIES. 193 

victims of political dissension. Here were fountains set 
a-flowing with the blood-red wine, to celebrate the passing of 
kings along the causeway. And here, as a last notable fact, 
were Prince Charles and his father proclaimed by their devoted 
Highlanders, amidst screams of pipe and blare of trumpet, while 
the beautiful Mrs Murray of Broughton sat beside the party on 
horseback, adorned with white ribbons, and with a drawn sword 
in her hand ! How strange it seems that a time should at 
length have come when a set of magistrates thought this 
structure an encumbrance to the street, and had it removed. 
This event took place in 1756 — the ornamental stones dispersed, 
the pillar taken to the park at Drum. 

The Cross was the peculiar citadel and rallying-point of a 
species of lazzaroni called Caddies or Cawdies, which formerly 
existed in Edinburgh, employing themselves chiefly as street- 
messengers and valets-de-place. A ragged, half-blackguard- 
looking set they were, but allowed to be amazingly acute and 
intelligent, and also faithful to any duty intrusted to them. A 
stranger coming td reside temporarily in Edinburgh, got a caddy 
attached to his service to conduct him from one part of the town 
to another, to run errands for him ; in short, to be wholly at his 
bidding. 

' Omnia novit, 
Grasculus esuriens, in coelum, jusseris, ibit.' 

A caddy did literally know everything — of Edinburgh ; even to 
that kind of knowledge which we now expect only in a street 
directory. And it was equally true that he could hardly be 
asked to go anywhere, or upon any mission, that he would not 
go. On the other hand, the stranger would probably be aston- 
ished to find that, in a few hours, his caddy was acquainted 
^vith every particular regarding himself, where he was from, 
what was his purpose in Edinburgh, his family connections, and 
his own tastes and dispositions. Of course for every particle of 
scandal floating about Edinburgh, the caddy was a ready book 
of reference. We sometimes wonder how our ancestors did 
without newspapers. We do not reflect on the living vehicles 



194 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of news which then existed : the privileged beggar for the country 
people — for townsfolk, the caddies. 

The caddy is alluded to as a useful kind of blackguard in 
Burt's Letters from the North of Scotland, written about 1740. 
He says, that although they are mere wretches in rags, lying 
upon stairs and in the streets at night, they are often consider- 
ably trusted, and seldom or never prove unfaithful. The story 
told by tradition is, that they formed a society under a chief 
called their constable, with a common fund or box ; that when 
they committed any misdemeanour, such as incivility or lying, 
they were punished by this officer by fines, or sometimes cor- 
poreally; and if, by any chance, money intrusted to them 
should not be forthcoming, it was made up out of the common 
treasury. Mr Burt says : ' Whether it be true or not, I cannot 
say, but I have been told by several, that one of the judges 
formerly abandoned two of his sons for a time to this way of 
life, as believing it would create in them a sharpness which 
might be of use to them in the future course of their lives.' 
Major Topham, describing Edinburgh in 1774, says of the 
caddies : ' In short, they are the tutelary guardians of the city ; 
and it is entirely owing to them that there are fewer robberies 
and less housebreaking in Edinburgh than anywhere else.' 

Another conspicuous set of public servants, peculiar to Edin- 
burgh in past times, were the Chairmen, or carriers of sedans, 
who also formed a society among themselves, but were of 
superior respectability, in as far as none but steady considerate 
persons of so humble an order could become possessed of the 
means to buy the vehicle by which they made their bread. In 
former times, when Edinburgh was so much more limited than 
now, and rather an assemblage of alleys than of streets, sedans 
were in comparatively great request. They were especially in 
requisition amongst the ladies — indeed, almost exclusively so. 
From time immemorial, the sons of the Gael have monopolised 
this branch of service ; and as far as the business of a sedan- 
carrier can yet be said to exist amongst us, it is in possession of 
Highlanders. 



EDWARD BURKE. 1 95 

The reader must not be in too great haste to smile when I 
claim his regard for a historical person among the chairmen of 
Edinburgh. This was Edward Burke, the immediate attendant 
of Prince Charles Edward during the earlier portion of his 
wanderings in the Highlands. Honest Ned had been a chair- 
man in our city, but attaching himself as a servant to Mr 
Alexander Macleod of Muiravonside, aide-de-camp to the Prince, 
it was his fortune to be present at the battle of Culloden, and 
to fly from the field in his Royal Highness's company. He 
attended the Prince for several weeks, sharing cheerfully in all 
his hardships, and doing his best to promote his escape. Thus 
has his name been inseparably associated with this remarkable 
chapter of history. After parting with Charles, this poor man 
underwent some dreadful hardships while under hiding, his fears 
of being taken having reference chiefly to the Prince, as he was 
apprehensive that the enemy might torture him to gain intelli- 
gence of his late master's movements. At length the Act of 
Indemnity placed him at his ease; and the humble creature who, 
by a word of his mouth, might have gained thirty thousand 
pounds, quietly returned to his duty as a chairman on the streets 
of Edinburgh ! Which of the venal train of Walpole, which 
even of the admirers of Pulteney, is more entitled to admiration 
than Ned Burke? A man, too, who could neither read nor 
write — for such was actually his case.* * 

One cannot but feel it to be in some small degree a con- 
solatory circumstance, and not without a certain air of the 
romance of an earlier day, that a bacchanal company came 

* Bishop Forbes inserts in his manuscript (which I possess) a panegyrical epitaph for Ned 
Burke, stating that he died in Edinburgh in November 1751. He also gives the following 
particulars from Burke's conversation. 

' One of the soles of Ned's shoes happening to come off, Ned cursed the day upon which 
he should be forced to go without shoes. The Prince, hearing him, called to him and said : 
" Ned, look at me" — when (said Ned) I saw him holding up one of his feet at me, where 
there was de'il a sole upon the shoe ; and then I said : " Oh, my dear ! I have nothing more 
to say. You have stopped my mouth indeed." 

'When Ned was talking of seeing the Prince again, he spoke these words: "If the 
Prince do not come and see me soon, good faith I will go and see my daughter [Charles 
having taken the name of Betty Burke when in a female disguise], and crave her ; for she 
has not yet paid her christening money, and as little has she paid the coat I ga'e her in her 
greatest need." ' 



196 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

with a bowl of punch, the night before the demoHtion, and 
in that mood of mind when men shed ' smiles that might as 
well be tears,' drank the Dredgie of the Cross upon its doomed 

battlements. 

' Oh ! be his tomb as lead to lead, 
Upon its dull destroyer's head ! 
A minstrel's malison is said.' * 



THE TOWN-GUARD. 



One of the characteristic features of Edinburgh in old times 
was its Town-guard, a body of military in the service of the 
magistrates for the purposes of a police, but dressed and armed 
in all respects as soldiers. Composed for the most part of old 
Highlanders, of uncouth aspect and speech, dressed in a dingy 
red uniform with cocked hats, and often exchanging the musket 
for an antique native weapon called the Lochaber axe, these 
men were (at least in latter times) an unfailing subject of mirth 
to the citizens, particularly the younger ones. In my recollec- 
tion they had a sort of Patmos in the ground-floor of the Old 
Tolbooth, where a few of them might constantly be seen on 
duty, endeavouring to look as formidable as possible to the little 
boys who might be passing by. On such occasions as executions, 
or races at Leith, or the meeting of the General Assembly, they 
rose into a certain degree of consequence ; but, in general, they 
could hardly be considered as of any practical utility. Their 
numbers were at that time much reduced — only twenty-five 
privates, two sergeants, two corporals, and a couple of drummers. 
Every night did their drum beat through the Old Town at eight 
o'clock, as a kind of curfew. No other drum, it seems, was 
allowed to sound on the High Street between the Luckenbooths 

'* ' Upon the 26th of Febraary [1617], the Cross of Edinburgh was taken down. The old 
long stone, about forty footes or thereby in length, was to be translated, by the devise of 
certain mariners in Leith, from the place where it had stood past the memory of man, to a 
place beneath in the High Street, without any harm to the stone ; and the body of the old 
Cross was demolished, and another builded, whereupon the long stone or obelisk was erected 
and set up, on the 25th day Of March.' — Calderwood's Church History. 



THE TOWN-GUARD. I97 

and' Netherbow. They also had an old practice of giving a 
charivari on the drum, on the night of a marriage, before the 
lodgings of the bridegroom j of course not without the expecta- 
tion of something wherewithal to drink the health of the young 
couple. A strange remnant of old times, altogether, were the 
Town Rats, as the poor old fellows were disrespectfully called 
by the boys, in allusion to the hue of their uniform. 

Previous to 1805, when an unarmed police was established 
for the protection of the streets, the Town-guard had consisted 
of three equally large companies, each with a lieutenant (com- 
plimentarily called captain) at its head. Then it was a some- 
what more respectable body, not only as being larger, but 
invested with a really useful purpose. The unruly and the 
vicious stood in some awe of a troop of men bearing lethal 
weapons, and generally somewhat frank in the use of them. If 
sometimes roughly handled on kings' birthdays, and other 
exciting occasions, they in their turn did not fail to treat 
cavalierly enough any unfortunate roisterer whom they might 
find breaking the peace. They had, previous to 1785, a guard- 
house in the middle of the High Street, the ' black hole ' of 
which had rather a bad character among the bucks and the frail 
ladies. One of their sergeants in those days, by name John 
Dhu, is commemorated by Scott as the fiercest-looking fellow he 
ever saw. If we might judge from poor Robert Fergusson, they 
were truly formidable in his time. He says : 

' And thou, great god o' aquavitas, 
Wha sway'st the empire o' this city ; . . . 

Be thou prepared 
To hedge us frae that black banditti. 
The City-guard.' 

He adds, apostrophising the irascible veterans ; 

' Oh, soldiers, for your ain dear sakes, 
For Scotland's love — the land o' cakes — 
Gi'e not her baims sae deadly paiks. 

Nor be sae rude, 
Wi' firelock and Lochaber axe, 

As spill their blude I 



198 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

The affair at the execution of Wilson the smuggler, in 1736, when, 
under command of Porteous, theyfired upon and killed many of the 
mob, may be regarded as a peculiarly impressive example of the 
stern relation in which they stood to the populace of a former age. 
The great bulk of the corps was drawn either from the High- 
lands directly, or from the Highland regiments. A humble 
Highlander considered it as getting a berth, when he was enlisted 
into the Edinburgh Guard. Of this feeling we have a remarkable 
illustration in an anecdote which I was told by the late Mr Alex- 
ander Campbell, regarding the Highland bard, Duncan Macintyre, 
usually called Donacha Bhan. This man, really an exquisite 
poet to those understanding his language, became the object of 
a kind interest to many educated persons in Perthshire, his 
native county. The Earl of Breadalbane sent to let him know 
that he wished to befriend him, and was anxious to procure him 
some situation that might put him comparatively at his ease. 
Poor Duncan returned his thanks, and asked his lordship's 
interest — to get him into the Edinburgh Town-guard — pay, 
sixpence a day ! What sort of material these men would have 
proved in the hands of the magistrates, if Provost Stewart had 
attempted, by their means, and the other forces at his command, 
to hold out the city against Prince Charlie, seems hardly to be 
matter of doubt, I was told the following anecdote of a member 
of the corps, on good authority. Robert Stewart, a descendant 
of the Stewarts of Bonskeid in Athole, was then a private in the 
City-guard. When General Hawley left Edinburgh to meet the 
Highland army in the west country, Stewart had just been 
relieved from duty for the customary period of two days. 
Instantly forming his plan of action, he set off with his gun, 
passed through the English troops on their march, and joined 
those of the Prince. Stewart fought next day like a hero in the 
battle of Falkirk, where the Prince had the best of it ; and next 
morning our town-guardsman was back to Edinburgh, in time to 
go upon duty at the proper hour. The captain of his company 
suspected what business Robert and his gim had been engaged 
in, but preserved a friendly silence. 



THE TOWN-GUARD. 1 99 

The Gutter-blood people of Edinburgh had an extravagant 
idea of the antiquity of the Guard, led probably by a fallacy 
arising from the antiquity of the individual men. They used to 
have a strange story — too ridiculous, one would have thought, 
for a moment's credence anywhere — that the Town-guard existed 
before the Christian era. When the Romans invaded Britain, 
some of the Town-guard joined them; and three were actually 
present in Pilate's guard at the Crucifixion ! In reality, the 
corps took its rise ia the difficulties brought on by bad govern- 
ment in 1682, when, at the instigation of the Duke of York, it 
was found necessary to raise a body of io8 armed men, under a 
trusty commander, simply to keep the people in check.* 

Fifty years ago (1824), the so-called captaincies of the Guard 
were snug appointments, in great request among respectable old 
citizens who had not succeeded in business. Kay has given 
us some illustrations of these extraordinary specimens of soldier- 
craft, one of whom was nineteen stone. Captain Gordon of 
Gordonstown, representative of one of the oldest families in 
Scotland, found himself obliged by fortune to accept of one of 
these situations. 

Scott, writing his Heart of Mid-Lothian in 181 7, says: 'Of 
late, the gradual diminution of these civic soldiers reminds one 
of the abatement of King Lear's hundred knights. The edicts 
of each set of succeeding magistrates have, like those of Goneril 
and Regan, diminished this venerable band with similar question 
— "What need have we of five-and-twenty ? — ten? — five?" and 
now it is nearly come to: " What need we one?" A spectre 
may indeed here and there still be seen of an old gray-headed 
and gray-bearded Highlander, with war-worn features, but bent 
double by age ; dressed in an old-fashioned cocked-hat, bound 
with white tape instead of silver lace, and in coat, waistcoat, and 
breeches of a muddy-coloured red; bearing in his withered hand 
an ancient weapon, called a Lochaber axe — a long pole, namely, 
with an axe at the extremity, and a hook at the back of the 
hatchet. Such a phantom of former days still creeps, I have 

* See Domestic Annals of Scotland, ii, 436. 



200 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

been informed, round the statue of Charles II. in the Parliament 
Square, as if the image of a Stuart were the last refuge for any 
memorial of our ancient manners,' &c. At the close of this 
very year, the 'What need we one?' was asked, and answered 
in the negative; and the corps was accordingly dissolved. 
' Their last march to do duty at Hallow Fair had something 
in it affecting. Their drums and fifes had been wont, in better 
days, to play on this joyous occasion the lively tune of 
"Jockey to the fair ;" 

but on this final occasion, the afflicted veterans moved slowly 
to the dirge of 

" The last time I came owre the muir." ' * 

The half-serious pathos of Scott regarding this corps becomes 
wholly so, when we learn that a couple of members survived, 
to make an actual last public appearance, in the procession 
which consecrated his richly deserved monument, August 15, 
1846. 



EDINBURGH MOBS. 

The Blue Blanket — Mobs of the Seventeenth Century — Bowed Joseph- 

The Edinburgh populace was noted, during many ages, for its 
readiness to rise in tumultuary fashion, whether under the 
prompting of religious zeal, or from inferior motives. At an 
early time they became an impromptu army, each citizen 
possessing weapons, which he was ready and willing to use. 
Thus they are understood to have risen in 1482, to redeem 
James III. from restraint in the Castle; for which service, 
besides certain privileges, ' he granted them,' says Maitland, ' a 
banner or standard, with a power to display the same in defence 
of their king, country, and their own rights.' The historian 

Waiierley Annotations, i. 435. 



THE BLUE BLANKET. 201 

adds : ' This flag, at present denominated the Blue Blanket, 
is kept by the Convener of the Trades ; at whose appearance 
therewith, 'tis said that not only the artificers of Edinburgh are 
obliged to repair to it, but all the artisans or craftsmen within 
Scotland' are bound to follow it, and fight under the Convener 
of Edinburgh, as aforesaid.' The Blue Blanket, I may mention, 
has become a sort of myth in Edinburgh, being magnified by 
the popular imagination into a banner which the citizens carried 
with them to the Holy Land in one of the Crusades — expeditions 
which took place before Edinburgh had become a town fit to 
furnish any distinct corps of armed men. 

When the Protestant faith came to stir up men's minds, the 
lower order of citizens became a formidable body indeed. 
James VI., who had more than once experienced their violence, 
and consequently knew them well, says very naively in his 
Basilicon Doron, or ' Book of Instruction ' to his son : ' They 
think we should be content with their work, how bad and dear 
soever it be ; and if they be in anything controuled, up goeth 
the Blue Blanket!* 

The tumults at the introduction of the Service-book, in 1637, 
need only be alluded to. So late as the Revolution, there 
appears a military spirit of great boldness in the Edinburgh 
populace, reminding us of that of Paris in our own times : 
witness the bloody contests which took place in accomplishing 
the destruction of the papistical arrangements at the Abbey, 
December 1688. The Union mobs were of unexampled 
violence; and Edinburgh was only kept in some degree of 
quiet, during the greater part of that crisis, by a great assem- 
blage of troops. Finally, in the Porteous mob we have a 
singular example of popular vengeance,, wreaked out in the 
most cool, but determined manner. Men seem to have been 
habitually under an impression in those days that the law was at 
once an imperfect and a partial power. They seem to have 
felt themselves constantly liable to be called upon to supple- 
ment its energy, or control or compensate for its errors. The 
mob had at that time a part in the state. 



202 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

In this * fierce democracy ' there once arose a mighty Pyrrhus, 
who contrived, by dint of popular qualifications, to subject the 
rabble to his command, and to get himself elected, by acclama- 
tion, dictator of all its motions and exploits. How he acquired 
his wonderful power, is not recorded ; but it is to be supposed 
that his activity on occasions of mobbing, his boldness and 
sagacity, his strong voice and uncommonly powerful whistle, 
together with the mere whim or humour of the thing, conspired 
to his promotion. His trade was that of a cobbler, and he 
resided in some obscure den in the Cowgate. His person was 
low and deformed, with the sole good property of great 
muscular strength in the arms. Yet this wretch, miserable and 
contemptible as he appeared, might be said to have had, at one 
time, the command of the Scottish metropolis. The magistrates, 
it is true, assembled every Wednesday forenoon, to manage the 
affairs, and deliberate upon the improvements of the city ; but 
their power was merely that of a viceroyalty. Bowed Joseph, 
otherwise called General Joseph Smith, was the only true 
potentate; and their resolutions could only be carried into 
effect when not inconsistent with his views of policy. 

In exercising the functions of his perilous office, it does not 
appear that he ever drcAv down the vengeance of the more 
lawfully constituted authorities of the land. On the contraiy, 
he was in some degree countenanced by the magistracy, who, 
however, patronised him rather from fear than respect. They 
frequently sent for him in emergencies, in order to consult with 
him regarding the best means of appeasing and dispersing the 
mob. On such occasions, nothing could equal the con- 
sequential air which he assumed. With one hand stuck care- 
lessly into his side, and another slapped resolutely down upon 
the table — with a majestic toss of the head, and as much fierce- 
ness in his little gray eye as if he were himself a mob — he would 
stand before the anxious and feeble council, pleading the cause 
of his compeers, and suggesting the best means of assuaging 
their just fury. He was generally despatched with a promise of 
amendment, and a hogshead of good ale, with which he could 



BOWED JOSEPH. 203 

easily succeed in appeasing his men, whose dismissal, after a 
speech from himself, and a libation from the barrel, was 
usually accomplished by the simple words : ' Now disperse, my 
lads /^ 

Joseph was not only employed in directing and managing the 
mobs, but frequently performed exploits without the co-operation 
of his greasy friends, though always for their amusement, and in 
their behalf. Thus, for instance, when Wilkes, by his celebrated 
Number 45, incensed the Scottish nation so generally and so 
bitterly, Joseph got a cart, fitted up with a high gallows, from 
which depended a straw-stuffed effigy of North Britain's arch- 
enemy, with the devil perched upon his shoulder ; and this he 
paraded through the streets, followed by the multitude, till he 
came to the Gallow Lee in Leith Walk, where two criminals 
were then hanging in chains, beside whom he exposed the 
figures of Wilkes and his companion. Thus also, when the 
Douglas cause was decided against the popular opinion in the 
Court of Session, Joseph went up to the chair of the Lord 
President, as he was going home to his house, and called him 
to account for the injustice of his decision. After the said 
decision was reversed by the House of Lords, Joseph, by way 
of triumph over the Scottish court, dressed up fifteen figures in 
rags and wigs, resembhng the judicial attire, mounted them on 
asses, and led them through the streets, telling the populace 
that they saw the fifteen senators of the College of Justice ! 

When the craft of shoemakers used, in former times, to 
parade the High Street, West Bow, and Grassmarket, with 
inverted tin kettles on their heads, and school-boys' rulers in 
their hands, Joseph — who, though a leader and commander on 
every other public occasion, was not admitted into this proces- 
sion, on account of his being only a cobbler — dressed himself in 
his best clothes, with a royal crown painted and gilt, and a 
wooden truncheon, and marched pompously through the city, 
till he came to the Netherbow, where he planted himself in the 
middle of the street, to await the approach of the procession, 
which he, as a citizen of Edinburgh, proposed to welcome into 

N 



204 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the town. When the royal shoemaker came to the Netherbow 
Port, Joseph stood forth, removed the truncheon from his 
'haunch, flourished it in the air, and pointing it to the ground, 
with much dignity of manner, addressed his paste-work majesty 
in these words : ' O great King Crispianus ! what are we in 
thy sight but a parcel of puir slaister-kytes — creeshy cobblers — 
sons of bitches?' And I have been assured that this ceremony 
■was performed in a style of burlesque exhibiting no small 
artistic power. 

Joseph had a wife, whom he would never permit to walk 
beside him, it being his opinion that women are inferior to the 
male part of creation, and not entitled to the same privileges. 
He compelled his spouse to walk a few paces behind him ; and 
when he turned, she was obliged to ihake a circuit, so as to 
maintain the precise distance from his person which he assigned 
to her. When he wished to say anything to her, he whistled as 
upon a dog, upon which she came up to him submissively, and 
heard what he had to say ; after which she respectfully resumed 
her station in the rear. 

After he had figured for a few years as an active partisan of 
the people, his name waxed of such account with them, that it 
is said he could, in the course of an hour, collect a crowd X)f not 
fewer than ten thousand persons, all ready to obey his high 
behests, or to disperse at his bidding. In collecting his troops, 
he employed a drum, which, though a general, he did not 
disdain to beat with his own hands ; and never, surely, had 
the fiery cross of the Highland chief such an effect upon the 
warlike devotion of his clan, as Bowed Joseph's drum had upon, 
the spirit of the Edinburgh rabble. As he strode along, the 
street was cleared of its loungers, every close pouring forth an 
addition to his train, like the populous glens adjacent to a large 
Highland strath giving forth their accessions to the general force 
collected by the aforesaid cross. The Town Rats, who might 
peep forth like old cautious snails on hearing his drum, would 
draw in their horns with a Gaelic execration, and shut their 
door, as he approached ; while the Lazy Corner was, at sight of 



BOWED JOSEPH. 205 

him, a lazy corner no longer; and the West Bow ceased to 
resound as he descended. 

It would appear, after all, that there was a moral foundation 
for Joseph's power, as there must be for that of all governments 
of a more regular nature that would wish to thrive or be lasting. 
The little ^man was never known to act in a bad cause, or in 
any way to go against the principles of natural justice. He 
employed his power in the redress of such grievances as the law 
of the land does not, or cannot, easily reach ; and it was 
apparent that almost everything he did was for the sake of what 
he himself designated fair-play. Fair-play, indeed, was his 
constant object, whether in clearing room with his brawny arms 
for a boxing-match, insulting the constituted authorities, sacking 
the granary of a monopolist, or besieging the Town-council in 
their chamber. 

An anecdote, which proves this strong ' love of fair-play, 
deserves to be recorded. A poor man in the Pleasance, having ' 
been a little deficient in his rent, and in the country on business, 
his landlord seized and rouped his household furniture, turning 
out the family to the street. On the poor man's return, finding 
the house desolate, and his family in misery, he went to a 
neighbouring stable and hanged himself* Bowed Joseph did 
not long remain ignorant of the case; and as soon as it was 
generally known in the city, he shouldered on his drum, and 
after beating it through the streets for half an hour, found 
himself followed by several thousand persons, inflamed with 
resentment at the landlord's cruelty. ;~ With this army he 
marched to an open space of ground now covered by Adam 
Street, Roxburgh Street, &c., named in former times Thomson's 
Park, where, mounted upon the shoulders of six of his lieutenant- 
generals, he proceeded to harangue them, in Cambyses's vein, 
concerning the flagrant oppression which they were about to 
revenge. He concluded by directing his men to sack the 
premises of the cruel landlord, who by this time had wisely 
made his escape ; and this order was instantly obeyed. Every 

• Scots Magazine, June 1767. 



206 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

article which the house contained was brought out to the street, 
where, being piled up in a heap, the general set fire to them 
with his own hand, while the crowd rent the air with their 
acclamations. Some money and bank-notes perished in the 
blaze — besides an eight-day clock, which, sensible to the last, 
calmly struck ten just as it was consigned to the flamed. 

On another occasion, during a scarcity, the mob, headed by 
Joseph, had compelled all the meal-dealers to sell their meal at 
a certain price per peck, under penalty of being obliged to shut 
up their shops. One of them, whose place of business was in 
the Grassmarket, agreed to sell his meal at the price fixed by 
the general, for the good of the poor, as he said ; and he did 
so under the superintendence of Joseph, who stationed a party 
at the shop-door to preserve peace and good order, till the 
whole stock was disposed of, when, by their leader's command, 
the mob gave three hearty cheers, and quietly dispersed. Next 
day, the unlucky victualler let his friends know that he had not 
suffered so much by this compulsory trade as might be supposed; 
because, though the price was below that of the market, he had 
taken care to use a measure which gave only about three-fourths, 
instead of the whole. It was not long ere this intelligence came 
to the ears of our tribune, who, immediately collecting a party 
of his troops, beset the meal-dealer before he was aware, and 
compelled him to pay back a fourth of the price of every peck 
of meal sold ; then giving their victim a hearty drubbing, they 
sacked his shop, and quietly dispersed as before. 

Some foreign princes happening to visit Edinburgh 'during 
Joseph's administration, at a period of the year when the mob 
of Edinburgh was wont to amuse itself with an annual burning 
of the pope, the magistrates felt anxious that this ceremony- 
should for once be dispensed with, as it might hurt the feelings 
of their distinguished visitors. The provost, in this emergency, 
resolved not to employ his own authority, but that of Joseph, 
to whom, accordingly, he despatched his compliments, .with 
half a guinea, begging his kind offices in dissuading the mob 
from the performance of their accustomed sport. Joseph received 



BICKERS. 207 

the message with the respect due to the commission of 'his 
friend the lord provost,' and pocketed the half-guinea with a 
complacent smile; but standing up to his full height, and 
resolutely shaking his rough head, he gave for answer, that ' he 
v/as highly gratified by his lordship's message ; but, everything 
considered, the pope vmst he burnt P And so the pope, honest 
man, was burnt with all the honours accordingly. 

Joseph was at last- killed by a fall from the top of a Leith 
stage-coach, in returning from the races, while in a state of 
intoxication, about the year 1780. It is to be hoped, for the 
good of society, that 'we ne'er shall look upon his like again.' * 



BICKERS. 



Amongst the social features of a bygone age in Edinburgh, 
were the bickers in which the boys were wont to indulge — that 
is, street conflicts, conducted chiefly with stones, though occa- 
sionally with sticks also, and even more formidable weapons. 
One cannot but wonder that, so lately as the period when elderly 
men now living were boys, the powers for preserving peace in 
the city should have been so weak as to allow of such battles 
taking place once or twice almost every week. The practice 
was, however, only of a piece with the general rudeness of those 
old days ; and after all, there was more appearance than reality 
of danger attending it. It was truly, as one who had borne a 
part in it has remarked, ' only a rough kind of play.' t 

The most likely time for a bicker was Saturday afternoon, 
when the schools and hospitals held no restraint over their 
tenants. Then it was almost certain that either the Old-town 
and New-town boys, the George Square and Potterrow boys, 

* The skeleton of this singular being exists entire in the class-room of the professor of 
anatomy in the College. 
t Notes to Waverley. 



208 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the Herioters and the Watsoners, or some other parties accus- 
tomed to regard themselves as natural enemies, would meet on 
some common ground, and fall a-pelting each other. There 
were hardly anywhere two adjoining streets, but the boys respec- 
tively belonging to them would occasionally hold encounters of 
this kind ; and the animosity assumed a darker tinge if there 
was any discrepancy of rank or condition between the parties, 
as was apt to be the case when, for instance, the Old-town 
lads met the children of the aristocratic streets to the north. 
Older people looked on with anxiety, and wondered what the 
Town-guard was about; and occasionally reports were heard 
that such a boy had got a wound in the head, while another had 
lost a couple of his front teeth : it was even said that fatal cases 
had occurred in the memory of aged citizens. Yet, to the best 
of my recollection — for I do remember something of bickers — 
there was little likelihood of severe damage. The parties some- 
how always kept at a good distance from each other, and there 
was a perpetual running in one direction or another ; certainly 
nothing like hand-to-hand fighting. Occasionally, attempts 
were made to put down the riot, but seldom with much success ; 
for it was one of the most ludicrous features of these contests, 
that whenever the ToAvn-guard made its appearance on the 
ground, the belligerent powers instantly coalesced against the 
common foe. Besides, they could quickly make their way to 
other ground, and there continue the war. 

Bickers must have had a foundation in human nature : from 
no temporary effervescence of the boy mind did they spring ; 
pleasant, though wrong, had they been from all time. Witness 
the following act of the Town-council so long ago as 1529: 
* Bikkyrringis hetwix Barnis. — It is statut and ordainit be the 
prouest bailies and counsall Forsamekle as ther has bene gret 
bikkyrringis betwix barnis and followis in tymes past and diuerse 
thar throw hurt in perell of ther lyffis and gif sik thingis be usit 
thar man diuerse barnis and innocentis be slane and diuisione 
ryse amangis nychtbouris theirfor we charge straitlie and com- 
mandis in our Souerane Lord the Kingis name the prouest and 



BICKERS. 209 

bailies of this burgh that na sic bykkyrringis be usit in tymes to 
cum. Certifing that and ony persone be fund bykkyrrand that 
faderis and moderis sail ansuer and be accusit for thar deidis 
and gif thai be vagabondis thai to be scurgit and bannist the 
toune.' 

An anecdote which Scott has told of his share in the bickers 
which took place in his youth between the George Square 
youth and the plebeian fry of the neighbouring streets, is so pat 
to this occasion, that its reproduction may be excusable. ' It 
followed,' he says, ' from our frequent opposition to each other, 
that, though not knowing the names of our enemies, we were 
yet well acquainted with their appearance, and had nicknames 
for the most remarkable of them. One very active and spirited 
boy might be considered as the principal leader in the cohort 
of the suburbs. He was, I suppose, thirteen or fourteen years 
old, finely made, tall, blue-eyed, with long fair hair, the very 
picture of a youthful Goth. This lad was always first in the 
charge, and last in the retreat — the Achilles, at once, and Ajax, 
of the Crosscauseway. He was too formidable to us not to 
have a cognomen, and, like tliat of a knight of old, it was taken 
from the most remarkable part of his dress, being a pair of old 
green livery breeches, which was "the principal part of his 
clothing ; for, like Pentapolin, according to Don Quixote's 
account. Green Breeks, as we called him, always entered the 
battle with bare arms, legs, and feet. 

' It fell that, once upon a time, when the combat was at the 
thickest, this plebeian champion headed a sudden charge, so 
rapid and furious, that all fled before him. He was several 
paces before his comrades, and had actually laid his hands on 
the patrician standard, when one of our party, whom some 
misjudging friend had intrusted with a couteati de chasse, or 
hanger, inspired with a zeal for the honour of the corps worthy 
of Major Sturgeon himself, struck poor Green Breeks over the 
head with strength sufficient to cut him down. When this was 
seen, the casualty was so far beyond what had ever taken place 
before, that both parties fled different ways, leaving poor Green 



2IO TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Breeks, with his bright hair plentifully dabbled in blood, to the 
care of the watchman, who (honest man) took care not to know 
who had done the mischief. The bloody hanger was flung into 
one of the Meadow ditches, and solemn secrecy was sworn on 
all hands ; but the remorse and terror of the actor were beyond 
all bounds, and his apprehensions of the most dreadful character. 
The wounded hero was for a few days in the Infirmary, the case 
being only a trifling one. But though inquiry was strongly 
pressed on him, no argument could make him "indicate the 
person from whom he had received the wound, though he must 
have been perfectly well known to him. When he recovered, 
and was dismissed,' the author and his brother opened a com- 
munication with him, through the medium of a popular ginger- 
bread baker, of whom both parties were customers, in order to 
tender a subsidy in name of smart-money. The sum would 
excite ridicule were I to name it; but sure I am, that the 
pockets of the noted Green Breeks never held as much money 
of his own. He declined the remittance, saying that he would 
not sell his blood ; but at the same time reprobated the idea of 
being an informer, which he said was clam — that is, base or 
mean. With much urgency he accepted a pound of snuff for 
the use of some old woman — aunt, grandmother, or the like — 
with whom he lived. We did not become friends, for the 
bickers were more agreeable to both parties than any more 
pacific amusement; but we conducted them ever after under 
mutual assurances of the highest consideration for each other.' * 



SUSANNA, COUNTESS OF EGLINTOUNE. 

The house on the west side of the Old Stamp-office Close, 
High Street, formerly Fortune's Tavern, was, in the early part 
of the last century, the family mansion of Alexander, Earl of 

* Waverley Annotations, i. 70. 



SUSANNA, COUNTESS OF EGLINTOUNE. 211 

Eglintoune. It is a building of considerable height and extent, 
accessible by a broad scale stair. The alley in which it is 
situated bears great marks of fonner respectabihty, and con- 
tained, till the year 182 1, the Stamp-office, then removed to the 
Waterloo Buildings. 

The ninth Earl of Eglintoune * was one of those patriarchal 
peers who live to an advanced age — indefatigable in the 
frequency of their marriages and the number of their children 
— who linger on and on, with an unfailing succession of young 
countesses, and die at last leaving a progeny interspersed 
throughout the whole of Douglas's Peerage, two volumes, folio, 
re-edited by Wood. His lordship, in early life, married a sister 
of Lady Dundee, who brought him a large family, and died just 
about that happy period when she could not have greatly 
increased it. His next wife was a daughter of Chancellor 
Aberdeen, who only added one daughter to his stock, and then 
paused, in a fit of ill health, to the great vexation of his lordship, 
who, on account of his two sons by the first countess having 
died young, was anxious for an heir. This was a consummation 
to his nuptial happiness which Countess Anne did not seem at 
all likely to bring about, and the chagrin of his lordship must 
have been increased by the longevity which her very ill health 
seemed to confer upon her ; for her ladyship was one of those 
valetudinarians who are too well acquainted with death, being 
always just at his door, ever to come to closer quarters with 
him. At this juncture the blooming Miss Kennedy was brought 
to Edinburgh by her father, Sir Archibald, the rough old cavalier, 
who made himself so conspicuous in the Persecution, and in 
Dundee's wars. 

Susanna Kennedy, though the daughter of a lady considerably 
under the middle size — one of the three co-heiresses of the 
Covenanting general, David Leslie (Lord Newark), whom 

* He is said to have been a nobleman of considerable talent, and a great underhand 
supporter of the exiled family. — See the Lockhart Papers. George Lockhart had married 
his daughter Euphemia, or Lady Effie, as she was commonly called. In the EdinburgJi 
Anmial Register, there is preserved a letter from Lord Eglintoune to his son, replete with 
good sense as well as paternal aflfection. 



212 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Cromwell overthrew at Dunbar — ^was six feet high, extremely 
handsome, elegant in her carriage, and had a face and com- 
plexion of most bewitching loveliness. Her relations and 
nurses always anticipated that she was to marry the Earl of 
Eglintoune, in spite of their disparity of age ; for, while walking 
one day in' her father's garden at Culzean, there alighted upon 
her shoulder a hawk, with his lordship's name upon its bells, 
which was considered an infallible omen of her fate. Her 
appearance in Edinburgh, which took place about the time of 
the Union, gained her a vast accession of lovers among the 
nobility and gentry, and set all the rhyming fancies of the period 
agog. Among her swains was Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, a 
man of learning and talent in days when such qualities were not 
common. As Miss Kennedy was understood to be fond of 
music, he sent her a flute as a love-gift ; from which it may be 
surmised that this instrument was played by females in that age, 
while as yet the pianoforte was not. When the young lady 
attempted to blow the instrument, something was found to inter- 
rupt the sound, which turned out to be a copy of verses in her 
praise : 

' Harmonious pipe, I languish for thy bhss, 
When pressed to Silvia's lips with gentle kiss ! 
And when her tender fingers round thee move 
In soft embrace, I listen and approve 
Those melting notes which soothe my soul in love. 
Embalmed with odours from her breath that ilow. 
You yield your music when she 's pleased to blow ; 
And thus at once the charming lovely fair 
Delights with sounds, with sweets perfuines the air. 
Go, happy pipe, and ever mindful be 
To court bewitching Silvia for me ; 
Tell all I feel — you cannot tell too much — 
Repeat my love at each soft melting touch — 
Since I to her my liberty resign, 
Take thou the care to tune her heart to mine.' 

Unhappily for this accomplished and poetical lover. Lord 
Eglintoune's sickly wife happened just about this time to 
die, and set his lordship again at large among the spinsters of 



SUSANNA, COUNTESS OF EGLINTOUNE. 213 

Scotland. Admirers of a youthful, impassioned, and sonnet- 
making cast, might have trembled at his approach to the shrine of 
their divinity; for his lordship was one of those titled suitors, who, 
however old and horrible, are never rejected, except in novels 
and romances. It appears that poor Clerk had actually made a 
declaration of his passion for Miss Kennedy, which her father 
was taking into consideration, a short while before the death of 
Lady Eglintoune. As an old friend and neighbour. Sir Archibald 
thought he would consult the earl upon the subject, and he 
accordingly proceeded to do so. Short, but decisive, was the 
conference. ' Bide a wee. Sir Archy,' said his lordship ; ' my 
wife 's very sickly.' With Sir Archibald, as with Mrs Slipslop, 
the least hint sufficed : the case was at once settled against the 
elegant baronet of Penicuik. The lovely Susanna accordingly 
became in due time Countess of Eglintoune. 

Even after this attainment of one of the greatest blessings 
that life has to bestow,* the old peer's happiness was like to 
have been destroyed by another untoward circumstance. It was 
true that he had the handsomest wife in the kingdom, and she 
brought him as many children as he could desire. One after 
another came no fewer than seven daughters. But then his 
lordship wanted a male heir ; and every one knows how poor a 
consolation a train of daughters, however long, proves in such a 
case. He was so grieved at the want of a son, that he threat- 
ened to divorce his lady. The countess replied that he need 
not do that, for she would readily agree to a separation, provided 
he would give back what he had with her. His lordship, 
supposing she alluded only to pecuniary matters, assured her 
she should have her fortune to the last penny. ' Na, na, my 
lord,' said she, ' that winna do : return me my youth, beauty, 
and virginity, and dismiss me when you please.' His lordship, 
not being able to comply with this demand, willingly let the 
matter drop ; and before the year was out, her ladyship brought 
him a son, who established the affection of his parents on an 

* The anecdote which follows is chiefly taken from T^ Tell-tale, a rare collection, 
published in 1762. 



214 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

enduring basis. Tvyo other male children succeeded. The 
countess was remarkable for a manner quite peculiar to herself, 
and which was remembered as the Eglmtoune air, or the Eglin- 
toune manner, long after her death. A Scottish gentleman, 
writing from London in 1730, says: ' Lady Eglintoune has set 
out for Scotland, much satisfied with the honour and civilities 
shewn her ladyship by the queen and all the royal family : she 
has done her country more honour than any lady I have seen 
here, both by a genteel and a prudent behaviour.'* Her 
daughters were also handsome women. It was a goodly sight, 
a century ago, to see the long procession of sedans, containing 
Lady Eglintoune and her daughters, devolve from the close, and 
proceed to the Assembly Rooms, where there was sure to be a 
crowd of plebeian admirers congregated, to behold their lofty 
and graceful figures step from the chairs on the pavement. It 
could not fail to be a remarkable sight — eight beautiful women, 
conspicuous for their stature and carriage, all dressed in the 
splendid though formal fashions of that period, and inspired at 
once with dignity of birth and consciousness of beauty ! Alas ! such 
visions no longer illuminate the dark tortuosities of Auld Reekie ! 

Many of the young ladies found good matches, and were the 
mothers of men more or less distinguished for intellectual attain- 
ments. Sir James Macdonald, the Marcellus of the Hebrides, 
together with his two more fortunate brothers, were the progeny 
of Lady Margaret ; and in various other branches of the family, 
talent seems to be hereditary. 

The countess was herself a blue-stocking — at that time a sort 
of prodigy — and gave encouragement to the humble literati of 
her time. The unfortunate Boyse dedicated a volume of poems 
to her ; and I need scarcely remind the Scottish reader that the 
Gentle Shepherd was laid at her ladyship's feet. The dedica- 
tion prefixed to that pastoral drama contains what appears the 
usual amount of extravagant praise; yet it was perhaps little 
beyond the truth. For the 'penetration, superior wit, and 
profound judgment ' which Allan attributes to her ladyship, she 

* Notes by C. K. Sharpe, in Stenhouse's edition of the Scots Musical Museum, ii. 202. 



SUSANNA, COUNTESS OF EGLINTOUNE. 215 

was perhaps indebted in some degree to the lucky accident of 
her having exercised it in the bard's favour; but he assuredly- 
overstrained his conscience very little when he said she was 
' possessed of every outward charm in the most perfect degree.' 
Neither was it too much to speak of 'the unfading beauties 
of wisdom and piety' which adorned her ladyship's mind.* 
Hamilton of Bangour's prefatory verses, which are equally 
laudatory and well bestowed, contain the following beautiful 
character of the lady, with a just compliment to her daughters : 

' In virtues rich, in goodness unconfined, 
Thou shin'st a fair example to thy kind ; 
Sincere, and equal to thy neighbours' fame, 
How swift to praise, how obstinate to blame ! 
Bold in thy presence bashfulness appears, 
And backward merit loses all its fears. 
Supremely blest by Heaven, Heaven's richest grace 
Confest is thine — an early blooming race ; 
"Whose pleasing smiles shall guardian wisdom arm — 
, Divine instruction ! — taught of thee to charm. 
What transports shall they to thy soul impart 
(The conscious transports of a parent's heart), 
When thou behold'st them of each grace possessed. 
And sighing youths imploring to be blest 
After thy image formed, with charms like thine, 
Or in the visit or the dance + to shine : 
Thrice happy who succeed their mother's praise. 
The lovely Eglintounes of other days ! ' 

• As a specimen of the complimentary intercourse of the poet with Lady Eglintoune, an 
anecdote is told of her having once sent him a basket of fine fruit ; to which he returned 
this stanza : 

' Now, Priam's son, ye may be mute. 

For I can bauldly brag wi' thee ; 
Thou to the fairest gave the fruit — 
The fairest gave the fruit to me.' 
The love of raillery has recorded that, on this being communicated by Ramsay to his 
friend Eustace Budgell, the following comment was soon after received from the English 
wit : 

' As Juno fair, as Venus' kind. 

She may have been who gave the fruit ; 
But had she had Minerva's mind. 

She 'd ne'er have given 't to such a brute.' 
t An old gentleman told our informant that he never saw so beautiful a figure in his life 
as Lady Eglintoune at a Hunters' Ball in Holyrood House, dancing a minuet in a large 
hoop, and a suit of black velvet, trimmed with gold. 



2l6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

It may be remarked that her ladyship's thorough-paced Jacobit- 
ism, which she had inherited from her father, tended much to 
make 'her the friend of Ramsay, Hamilton, and other Cavalier 
bards. She was, it is believed, little given to patronising Whig 
poets. 

The patriarchal peer who made Susanna so happy a mother, 
died in 1729, leaving her a dowager of forty, with a good 
jointure. Retiring to the country, she employed her widow- 
liood in the education of her children, and was considered a 
perfect example to all mothers in this useful employment. In 
our days of freer manners, her conduct might appear too 
reserved. The young were taught to address her by the phrase 
'Your ladyship;' and she spoke to them in the same cere- 
monious style. Though her eldest son was a mere boy when 
he succeeded to the title, she constantly called him Lord 
Eglintoune ; and she enjoined all the rest of the children to 
address him in the same manner. When the earl grew up, they 
were upon no less formal terms ; and every day in the world he 
took his mother by the hand at the dinner-hour, and led her 
down stairs to her chair at the head of his table, where she sat 
in state, a perfect specimen of the stately and ostentatious 
politeness of the last age. x 

All this ceremony was accompanied with so much affection, 
that the countess was never known to refuse her son a request 
but one — to walk as a peeress at the coronation of King 
George III. Lord Eglintoune, then a gentleman of the bed- 
chamber, was proud of his mother, and wished to display her 
noble figure on that occasion. But she jestingly excused 
herself, by saying that it was not worth while for so old a 
woman to buy new robes. 

The unhappy fate of her eldest and favourite son — shot by a 
man of violent passions, whom he was rashly treating as a 
poacher (1769) — gave her ladyship a dreadful shock in her old 
age. The earl, after receiving the fatal wound, was brought to 
Eglintoune Castle, when his mother was immediately sent for 
from Auchans. What her feelings must have been when she 



SUSANNA, COUNTESS OF EGLINTOUNE. 217 

saw one so dear to her thus suddenly struck down in the prime 
of his days, may be imagined. The tenderness he displayed 
towards her and others in his last hours, is said to have been to 
the last degree noble and affecting. 

When Johnson and Boswell returned from their tour to the 
Hebrides, they visited Lady Eglintoune at Auchans. She was 
so well pleased with the doctor, his politics, and his conversa- 
tion, that she embraced and kissed him at parting, an honour of 
which the gifted tourist was ever afterwards extremely proud. 
Boswell's account of the interview is interesting. ' Lady Eglin- 
toune,' says he, ' though she was now in her eighty-fifth year, 
and had lived in the country almost half a century, was still a 
veiy agreeable woman. Her figure was majestic, her manners 
high-bred, her reading extensive, and her conversation elegant. 
She had been the admiration of the gay circles, and the 
patroness of poets. Dr Johnson was delighted with his recep- 
tion here. Her principles in church and state were congenial 
with his. In the course of conversation, it came out that Lady 
Eglintoune was married the year before Dr Johnson was born ; 
upon which she graciously said to him that she might have been 
his mother, and she now adopted him.' 

This venerable woman amused herself latterly in taming and 
patronising rats. She kept a vast number of these animals in 
her pay at Auchans, and they succeeded in her affections to the 
poets and artists whom she had loved in early life. It does not 
reflect much credit upon the latter, that her ladyship used to 
complain of never having met with true gratitude except from 
four-footed animals. She had a panel in the oak wainscot of 
her dining-room, which she tapped upon and opened at meal-, 
times, when ten or twelve jolly rats came tripping forth, and 
joined her at table. At the word of command, or a signal from 
her ladyship, they retired again obediently to their native 
obscurity — a trait of good sense in the character and habits of 
the animals, which, it is hardly necessary to remark, patrons do 
not always find in two-legged proteges. 

Her ladyship died in 1780, at the age of ninety-one, having 



2l8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

preserved her stately mien and beautiful complexion to the last. 
The latter was a mystery of fineness to many ladies not the 
third of her age. As her secret may be of service to modern 
beauties, I shall, in kindness to the sex, divulge it. She never 
used paint, but washed her face periodically with sow's milk ! I 
have seen a portrait, taken in her eighty-first year, in which it is 
observable that her skin is of exquisite delicacy and tint. 
Altogether, the countess was a woman of ten thousand ! 

The jointure-house of this fine old country-gentlewoman — 
Auchans Castle, a capital specimen of the Scottish manor-house 
of the seventeenth century, situated near Irvine — is now 
uninhabited, and the handsome wainscoted rooms in which 
she entertained Johnson and Boswell are fast hastening to 
decay. One last trait may now be recorded : in her'ladyship's 
bedroom at this place was hung a portrait of her sovereign de 
jure, the ill-starred Charles Edward, so situated as to be the first 
object which met her sight on awaking in the morning. 



FEMALE DRESSES OF LAST CENTURY. 

Ladies in the last century wore dresses and decorations, many 
of which were of an inconvenient nature ; yet no one can deny 
them the merit of a certain dignity and grace. How fine it 
must have been to see, as an old gentleman told me he had 
seen, two hooped ladies moving along the Lawnmarket in a 
summer evening, and filling up the whole footway with their 
stately and voluminous persons ! 

Amongst female articles of attire in those days were calashes, 
bongraces, capuchins, negligees, stomachers, stays, hoops, lap- 
pets, pinners, plaids, fans, busks, rumple-knots, &c., all of them 
now forgotten. 

The calash was a species of hood, constructed of silk upon 
a framework of cane, and was used as a protection to a cap or 



FEMALE DRESSES OF LAST CENTURY. 219 

head-dress, in walking out or riding in a Carriage. It could be 
folded back like the hood of a carriage, so as to lie gathered 
together behind the neck. 

The bongrace was a bonnet of silk and cane, in shape some- 
what like a modern bonnet. 

The capuchin was a short cloak, reaching not below the 
elbows. It was of silk, edged with lace, or of velvet. Gentle- 
men also wore capuchins. The first Sir William Forbes fre- 
quently appeared at the Cross in one. A lady's mode tippet was 
nearly the same piece of dress. 

The negligee was a gown, projecting in loose and ample folds 
from the back. It could only be worn with stays. It was 
entirely open in front, so as to shew the stomacher, across which 
it was laced with flat silk cords, while below it opened more 
widely, and shewed the petticoat. This latter, though shorter, 
was sometimes more splendid than the gown, and had a deep 
flounce. Ladies, in walking, generally carried the skirt of the 
gown over the arm, and exhibited the petticoat ; but when they 
entered a room, they always came sailing in, with the train 
sweeping full and majestically behind them. 

The stomacher was a triangular piece of rich silk, one corner 
pointing downwards, and joining the fine black lace-bordered 
apron, while the other two angles pointed to the shoulders. 
Great pains were usually discovered in the adornment of this 
beautiful and most attractive piece of dress. Many wore jewels 
upon it ; and a lady would have thought herself poor indeed, if 
she co'uld not bedizen it with strings of bugles or tinsel. 

Stays were made so long as to touch the chair, both in front 
and rear, when a lady sat. They were calculated to fit so 
tightly, that the wearers had to hold by the bedpost while the 
maid was lacing them. There is a story told of a lady of high 
rank in Scotland, about 1720, which gives us a strange idea of 
the rigours and inconvenience of this fashion. She stinted her 
daughters as to diet, with a view to the improvement of their 
shapes ; but the young ladies, having the cook in their interest, 
used to unlace their stays at night, after her ladyship went to 

o 



220 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

bed, and make a hearty meal. They were at last discovered, 
by the smell of a roast goose, carried upstairs to their bed- 
chamber; as unluckily their lady-mother did not take snuff,* 
and was not asleep. 

' The hoop was contemporary with, and a necessary appendage 
of, the stays. There were different species of hoops, being of 
various shapes and uses. The pocket-hoop, worn in the morn- 
ing, was like a pair of small panniers, such as one sees on an 
ass. The bell-hoop was a sort of petticoat, shaped like a bell, 
and made with cane or rope for framework. This was not 
quite full dress. There was also a straw petticoat, a species of 
hoop such as is so common in French prints. The full-sized 
evening hoop was so monstrous, that people saw one-half of it 
enter the room before the wearer. This was very inconvenient 
in the Old Town, where doorways and closes were naiTOw. In 
going down a close or a turnpike-stair, ladies tilted them up, 
and carried them under their arms. In case of this happening, 
there was a show petticoat below ; and such care was taken of 
appearances, that even the garters were worn fine, being either 
embroidered, or having gold and silver fringes and tassels. 

The French silks worn during the last century were beautiful, 
the patterns were so well drawn, and the stuff of such excellent 
quality. The dearest common brocade was about a guinea a 
yard ; if with gold or silver, considerably more. 

The lappet was a piece of Brussels or point lace, hanging in 
two pieces from the crown of the head, and streaming gracefully 
behind. 

Pinners, such as the celebrated Egyptian Sphinx wears, were 
pinned down the stomacher. 

Plaids were worn by ladies to cover their heads and muffle 
their faces when they went into the street. The council records 

* SnufF-taking was prevalent among young women in our grandmothers' time. Their 
flirts used to present them with pretty snuff-boxes. In one of the monthly numbers of the 
Scots lilagazine for the year 1745, there is a satirical poem upon the practice of snuff-taking, 
by a swain ; to which a lady replies next month, defending the fashion as elegant, and of 
some account in coquetry. Almost all the old ladies who survived the commencement of 
this century took snuff. Some kept it in pouches, and abandoned, for its sake, the wearing 
of white ruffles and handkerchiefs. 



FEMALE DRESSES OF LAST CENTURY. 221 

of Edinburgh abound in edicts against the use of this piece of 
dress, which, they said, confounded decent women with those 
who were the contrary. 

Fans were large, the sticks curiously carved, and if of leather, 
generally very well painted — being imported from Italy or 
Holland. In later times, these have been sometimes framed 
like pictures, and hung on the walls. 

All women, high and low, wore enormous busks, generally 
with a heart. carved at the upper end. In low life, this was a 
common present to sweethearts ; if from carpenters, they were 
artificially veneered. 

The rumple-knot was a large bunch of ribbons worn at the 
peak of the waist behind. Knots of ribbons were then numerous 
over the whole body. There were the breast-knots, two hainch- 
knots (at which there were also buttons for looping up the gown 
behind), a knot at the tying of the beads behind the neck, one 
in front, and another at the back of the head-gear, and knots 
upon the shoes. It took about twelve yards or upwards to make 
a full suit of ribbons.* 

Other minor articles of dress and adornment were the befong 
handkerchief (spelt at random), of a stuff similar to what is now 
called nef, crossed upon the breast; paste ear-rings and necklace; 
broad black bracelets at the wrists; z.^ongpong — a jewel fixed 
to a wire with a long pin at the end, worn in front of the cap, 
and which shook as the wearer moved. It was generally stuck 
in the cushion, over which the hair was turned in front. Several 
were frequently worn at once. A song in the Charmer, 1751, 
alludes to this bijou : 

' Come all ye young ladies whose business and care 
Is contriving new dresses, and curling your hair ; 
Who flirt and coquet with each coxcomb who comes 
To toy at your toilets, and strut in your rooms ; 
While you 're plaaitng a patch, or adjusting pottg fongy 
Ye may listen and learn by the truth of my song.' 

Fly-caps, encircling the head, worn by young matrons, and mob- 

* A gown then required ten yards of stuff. 



222 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

caps, falling down over the ears, used only by old ones ; pockets 
of silk or satin, of which young girls wore one above their other 
attire ; silk or linen stockings — never of cotton, which is a 
modern stuff — slashed with pieces of a colour in strong contrast 
with the rest, or gold or silver clocks, wove in. The silk stock- 
ings were very thick, and could not be washed on account of 
the gold or silver. They were frequently of scarlet silk, and 
(1733) worn both by ladies and gentlemen. High-heeled shoes, 
set off with fine lace or sewed work, and sharply pointed in 
front. 

To give the reader a more picturesque idea of the former 
dresses of the ladies of Edinburgh, I cite a couple of songs, the 
first wholly old, the second a revivification : 

' I '11 gar our guidman trow that I '11 sell the ladle, 
If he winna buy to me a new side-saddle — 

To ride to the kirk, and frae the kirk, and round about the toun — 
Stand about, ye fisher jades, and gi'e my goun room ! 

I '11 gar our guidman trow that I '11 tak the fling-strings, 
If he winna buy to me twelve bonnie goud rings, 
Ane for ilka finger, and twa for ilka thumb — 
Stand about, ye fisher jades, and gi'e my goun room ! 

I '11 gar our guidman trow that I 'm gaun to dee, 

If he winna fee to me twa valets or three, 

To beir my tail up frae the dirt and ush me through the toun — 

Stand about, ye fisher jades, and gi'e my goun room !' 



' As Mally Lee cam' down the street, her capuchin did flee ; 
She coost a look behind her, to see her negligee. 

And we 're a' gaun east and wast, we 're a' gaun agee, 
We 're a' gaun east and wast, courtin' Mally Lee.* 

She had twa lappets at her head, that flaunted gallantlie, 
And ribbon knots at back and breast of bonnie Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

• This verse appears in a manuscript subsequent to 1760. The name, however, is Sleigh, 
not Lee. Mrs Mally Sleigh was married in 1725 to the Lord Lyon Brodie of Brodie. 
Allan Ramsay celebrates her. 



LORD JUSTICE-CLERK ALVA. 223 

A' down alang the Canongate were beaux o' ilk degree.; 
And mony ane turned round to look at bonnie Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

And ilka bab her pong p07tg gi'ed, ilk lad thought that 's to nle ; 
But feint a ane was in the thought of bonnie Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

Frae Seton's Land a countess fair looked owre a window hie, 
And pined to see the genty shape of bonnie Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

And when she reached the palace porch, there lounged erls three j 
And ilk ane thought his Kate or Meg a drab to Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

The dance gaed through the palace ha', a comely sight to see ; 
But nane was there sae bright or braw as bonny Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

Though some had jewels in their hair, like stars 'mang cluds did shine. 
Yet Mally did surpass them a' wi' but her glancin' eyne. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c. 

A prince cam' out frae 'mang them a', wi' garter at his knee, 
And danced a stately minuet wi' bonnie Mally Lee. 
And we 're a' gaun, &c' 



THE LORD JUSTICE-CLERK ALVA. 

Ladies Sutherland and Glenorchy — The Pin or Risp. 

This eminent person — a cadet of the ancient house of Mar 
(bom 1680, died 1763) — had his town mansion in an obscure 
recess of the High Street called Mylne Square, the first place 
bearing such a designation in our northern capital : it was, I 
may remark, built by one of a family of Mylnes, who are said 
to have been master-masons to the Scottish monarchs for eight 
generations, and some of whom are at this day architects by 
profession. Lord Alva's residence was in the second and third 



224 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

floors of the large building, on the west side of the square. Of 
the same structure, an Earl of Northesk occupied another JIat 
And, to mark the character of Lord Alva's abode, part of it 
was afterwards in the hands of a Mrs Reynolds, used as a lodging- 
house of the highest grade. The Earl of Hopetoun, while 
acting as commissioner to the General Assembly, there held 
vice-regal state. But to return to Lord Alva : it gives a curious 
idea of the habits of such a dignitary before the rise of the New 
Town, that we should find him content with this dwelling, while 
in immediate attendance upon the court, and happy, during the 
summer vacation, to withdraw to the shades of his little villa at 
Drumsheugh, standing on a spot now surrounded by town. 
Lord Lovat, who, on account of his numerous law-pleas, was a 
great intimate of Lord Alva's, frequently visited him here ; and 
Mrs Campbell of Monzie, Lord Alva's daughter, used to tell, 
that when she met Lord Lovat on the stair, he always took her 
up in his arms and kissed her, to her great aimoyance and 
horror — /le was so ugly. During one of his law-pleas, he went 
to a dancing-school ball, which Misses Jean and Susanna, Lord 
Alva's daughters, attended. He had his pocket full of sweeties, 
as Mrs Campbell expressed it; and so far did he carry his 
exquisitely refined system of cunning, that — in order no doubt 
to find favour with their father — he devoted the greater share of 
his attentions, and the whole of his comfits, to them alone. 
Those who knew this singular man used to say, that with all his 
duplicity, faithlessness, and cruelty, his character exhibited no 
redeeming trait whatever : nobody ever knew any good of him. 

In his Mylne Square mansion, Lord Alva's two step-daughters 
were married ; one to become Countess of Sutherland, the other 
Lady Glenorchy. There was something very striking in the 
fate of Lady Sutherland, and of the earl her husband — a couple 
distinguished as much by personal elegance and amiable 
character as by lofty rank. Lady Sutherland was blessed with 
a temper of extraordinary sweetness, which shone in a face of so 
much beauty, as to have occasioned admiration where many 
were beautiful — the coronation of George III. and his queen. 



COUNTESS OF SUTHERLAND, 22$ 

The happiness of the young pair had been increased by the 
birth of a daughter. One unlucky day, his lordship coming 
after dinner into the drawing-room at Dunrobin, a little flushed 
with wine, lifted up the infant above his head, by way of frolic, 
when, sad to tell, he dropped her by accident on the floor, and 
she received injuries from which she never recovered. This 
incident had such an effect upon his lordship's spirits, that his 
health became seriously affected, so as finally to require a 
journey to Bath, where he was seized with an infectious fever. 
For twenty-one successive days and nights he was attended by 
his wife, then pregnant, till she herself caught the fatal dis- 
temper. The countess's death was concealed from his lordship ; 
nevertheless, when his delirium left him, the day before he died, 
he frequently said: ' I am going to join my dear wife ;' appearing 
to know that she had ' alre_ady reached the goal with mended 
pace ! ' Can it be that we are sometimes able to penetrate the 
veil which hangs, in thick and gloomy folds, between this world 
and the next ; or does the ' mortal coil ' in which the light of 
mind is enveloped, become thinner and more transparent by the 
wearing of deadly sickness? The bodies of the earl and 
countess were brought to Holyrood House, where they had 
usually resided when in town, and lay in state for some time 
previous to their interment in one grave in the Abbey chapel. 
The death of a pair so young, so good, and who had stood in so 
distinguished a position in society — leaving one female infant to 
a disputed title — made a deep impression on the public, and 
was sincerely lamented in their own immediate circle. Of much 
poetry written on the occasion, a specimen may be seen in 
Evans's Old Ballads. Another appears in Brydges's Censicra 
Literaria, being the composition of Sir Gilbert EUiot of Minto, 

* In pity, Heaven bestowed 
An early doom : lo, on the self-same bier, 
A fairer form, cold by her husband's side, 
And faded every charm. She died for thee, 
For thee, her only love. In beauty's prime, 
In youth's triumphant hour, she died for thee. 



226 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Bring water from the brook, and roses spread 
O'er their pale limbs ; for ne'er did wedded love 
To one sad grave consign a lovelier pair, 
Of manners gentler, or of purer heart ! * 

Lady Glenorchy, the younger sister of Lady Sutherland, was 
remarkable for her pious disposition. Exceedingly unfortunate 
in her marriage, she was early taught to seek consolation from 
things ' not of this world.' I have been told that nothing could 
have been more striking than to hear this young and beautiful 
creature pouring forth her melodious notes and hymns, while 
most of her sex and age at that time exercised their voices only 
upon the wretched lyrics imported from Vauxhall and Ranelagh, 
or the questionable verses of Ramsay and his contemporaries. 
She met with her rich reward, even in this world; for she 
enjoyed the applause of the wealthy, and the blessings of the 
poor, with that supreme of all pleasures — the conviction that the 
eternal v/elfare of those in whose fate she was chiefly interested 
was forwarded, if not perfected, by her precepts and example. 

It is not unworthy of notice, in this record of all that is old 
and quaint in our city, that the Lord Justice-clerk's house was 
provided with z. j>in or risp, instead of the more modern con- 
venience — a knocker. The Scottish ballads, in numberless 
passages, make reference to this article : no hero in those 
compositions ever comes to his mistress's door, but he tirks at 
the pin. What, then, was a pin ? It was a small slip or bar of 
iron, starting out from the door vertically, serrated on the side 
towards the door, and provided with a small ring, which, being 
drawn roughly along the serrations or nicks, produced a harsh 
and grating sound, to summon the servant to open. Another 
term for the article was a crow. In the fourth eclogue of 
Edward Fairfax, a production of the reign of James VI. and I., 
quoted in the Muses' Library, is this passage : 

* Now, farewell Eglon ! for the sun stoops low, 
And calling guests before my sheep-cot's door ; 
Now clad in white, I see my porter-croiv ; 
Great kings oft want these blessings of th? poor : ' 



PINS OR RISPS. 227 

with the following note : ' The ring of the door, called a crow, 
and when covered with white linen, denoted the mistress of the 
house was in travel.' It is quite appropriate to this explanation 
that a small Latin vocabulary, published by Andrew Simpson in 
• 1702, places among the parts of a house, ' Corvex — a clapper or 
ringlet Hardly one specimen of the pin, crow, or ringle now 





Old Risps. 

survives in the Old Town. They were almost all disused many 
years ago, when knockers were generally substituted as more 
stylish. Knockers at that time did not long remain in repute, 
though they have never been altogether superseded, even by 
bells, in the Old Town. The comparative merit of knockers 
and pins was for a long time a controversial point, and many 
knockers got their heads twisted off in the course of the dispute. 
Pins were, upon the whole, considered very inoffensive, decent, 
old-fashioned things, being made of a modest metal, and 
making little show upon a door ; knockers were thought upstart, 
prominent, brazen-faced articles, and received the full share of 
odium always conferred by Scotsmen of the old school upon 
tasteful improvements. Every drunken fellow, in reeling home 



228 / TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

at night, thought it good sport to carry oflf all the knockers that 
came in his way; and as drunken gentlemen were very 
numerous, many acts of violence were committed, and some- 
times a whole stair was found stripped of its knockers in the 
morning ; when the voice of lamentation raised by the servants 
of the sufferers, might have reminded one of the wailings of 
the Lennox dairy-women after a creagh in the days of old. 
Knockers were frequently used as missile weapons by the bucks 
of that day against the Town-guard ; and the morning sun some- 
times saw the High Street strewed with them. The aforesaid 
Mrs Campbell remembered residing in an Old-town house, 
which was one night disturbed in the most intolerable manner 
by a drunken party kt the knocker. In the morning, the 
greater part of it was found to be gone; and it was besides 
discovered, to the horror of the inmates, that part of a finger 
was left sticking in the fragments, with the appearance of having 
been forcibly wrenched from the hand. 



MARLIN'S AND NIDDRY'S- WYNDS. 

Tradition of Marlin the Pavier — House of Provost Edward — Story of Lady 

Grange. 

Where South Bridge Street now stands, there formerly existed 
two wynds, or alleys of the better class, named Marlin's and 
Niddry's W)mds. Many persons of importance lived in these 
obscurities. Marlin's Wynd, which extended from behind the 
Tron Church, and contained several bookshops and stalls, the 
favourite lounge of the lovers of old literature, was connected 
with a curious tradition, which existed at the time when Mait- 
land wrote his History of Edinburgh (1753). It was said that 
the High Street was first paved or causewayed by one Marlin, a 



NIDDRYS WYND. 229 

Frenchman, who, thinking that specimen of his ingenuity the 
best monument he could have, desired to be buried under it, 
and was accordingly interred at the head of this wynd, which 
derived its name from him. The tradition is so far countenanced, 
by there having formerly been a space in the pavement at this 
spot, marked by six flat stones, in the shape of a grave. 
According, however, to more authentic information, the High 
Street was first paved in 1532 * by John and Bartoulme Foliot, 
who appear to have had nothing in common with this legendary 
Marlin, except country. The grave of at least Bartoulme Foliot 
is distinctly marked by a flat monument in the Chapel-Royal at 
Holyrood House. It is possible, nevertheless, that Marlin may 
have been the more immediate executor or superintendent of 
the work, 

Niddry's Wynd abounded in curious antique houses, many of 
which had been the residences of remarkable persons. The 
most interesting bit was a paved court, about half-way down, on 
the west side, called Lockhart's Court, from its having latterly 
been the residence of the family of Lockhart of Carnwath.t 
This was, in reality, a quadrangular palace, the whole being of 
elegant old architecture in one design, and accessible by a deep 
arched gateway. It was built by Nicol Edward or Udward, who 
was provost of Edinburgh in 1591 ; a wealthy citizen, and styled 
in his writts, 'of old descent in the burgh.' On a mantel-piece 

* The Cauongate seems to have been paved about the same time. In 1535, the king 
granted to the Abbot of Holyrood a duty of one pemiy upon every loaded cart, and a half- 
penny upon every empty one, to repair and maintain the causeway. 

t George Lockhart of Carnwath lived here in 1733. Afterwards he resided in Ross 
House, a suburban mansion, which afterwards was used as a lying-in hospital. The park 
connected with this house is now occupied by George Square. While in Mr Lockhart's 
possession, Ross House was the scene of many gay routs and balls. 

The Lords Ross, the original proprietors of this mansion, died out in 1754. One of the 
last persons in Scotland supposed to be possessed by an evil spirit was a daughter of 
George, the second last lord. A correspondent says : ' A person alive in 1824 told me that, 
when a child, he saw her clamber up to the top of an old-fashioned four-post bed like a cat. 
In her fits it was almost impossible to hold her. About the same time, a daughter of Lord 
Kinnaird was supposed to have the second-sight. One day, during divine worship in the 
High Church, she fainted away ; on her recovery, she declared that when Lady Janet 
Dundas (a daughter of Lord Lauderdale) entered the pew with Miss Dundas, who was a 
beautiful young girl, she saw the latter as it were in a shroud gathered round her neck, and 
upon her head. Miss Dundas died a short time after.' 



230 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

within the house his arms were carved, along with an anagram 
upon his name : 

VA D'uN vol a CHRIST — 

Go with one flight to Christ; which, the reader will find, can 
only be made out by Latinising his name into Nicholaus 
Eduartus. We learn from Moyses's Memoirs that, in January 
1591, this house was the temporary residence of James VI. and 
his queen, then recently arrived from Denmark ; and that, on 
the 7th of February, the Earl of Huntly passed hence, out of 
the immediate royal presence, when he went to murder the 
Bonny Earl of Moray at Donibrissle ; which caused a suspicion 
that his majesty was concerned in that horrid outburst of feudal 
hate. Lockhart's Court was latterly divided into several distinct 
habitations, one of which, on the north side of the quadrangle, 
was occupied by the family of Bruce of Kinnaird, the celebrated 
traveller. In the part on the south side, occupied by the Cam- 
wath family, there was a mantel-piece in the drawing-room of 
magnificent workmanship, and reaching to the ceiling. The 
whole mansion, even in its reduced state, bore an appearance of 
security and strength which spoke of other times; and there 
was, moreover, a profound dungeoti underground, which was 
only accessible by a secret trap-door, opening through the floor 
of a small closet, the most remote of a suite of rooms extending 
along the south and west sides of the court. Perhaps, at a time 
when to be rich was neither so common nor so safe as now. 
Provost Edward might conceal his hoards in this massy more. 

Alexander Black of Balbirney, who was provost of Edinburgh 
from 1579 to 1583, had a house at the head of the wynd. King 
James lodged in this house on the i8th of August 1584, and 
walked from it in state, next day, to hold a parliament in the 
Tolbooth. Here also lodged the Chancellor Thirlstain, in 
January 1591, while the king and queen were the guests of 
Nicol Edward.* It must be understood that these visits of 
royalty were less considered in the light of an honour, than of a 
tax. The king in those times went to live at the board of a 

* Both facts from Moyses's Memoirs, 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 23! 

wealthy subject, when his own table happened to be scantily- 
furnished ; which was too often the case with poor King James. 
On the east side of the wynd, nearly opposite to Lockhart's 
Court, was a good house,* which, early in the last century, was 
possessed by James Erskine of Grange, best known by his 
judicial title of Lord Grange, and the brother of John, Earl of 
Mar. This gentleman has acquired an unhappy notoriety, in 
consequence of his treatment of his wife. He was externally a 
professor of ultra-evangelical views of religion, and a patron of 
the clergy on that side, yet, in his private life, is understood to 
have been far from exemplary. The story of Lady Grange, as 
Mrs Erskine was called, had a character of romance about it 
which has prevented it from being forgotten. It also reflects a 
curious light upon the state of manners in Scotland in the early 
part of the eighteenth century. The lady was a daughter of 
that Chiesly of Dairy whom we have already seen led by an 
insane violence of temper to commit one of the most atrocious 
of murders. 

STORY OF LADY GRANGE.t 

Lord and Lady Grange had been married upwards of twenty 
years, and had had several children, when, in 1730, a separation 
was determined on between them. It is usually difficult in 
such cases to say in what degree the parties are respectively 

* In the house to the north of this, was a shop kept by an eccentric personage, who 
exhibited a sign bearing this singular inscription : 

ORRA THINGS BOUGHT AND SOLD — 

which signified that he dealt in odd articles, such as a single shoebuckle, one of a pair of 
skates, a teapot wanting a lid, or perhaps, as often, a lid minus a teapot ; in short, any 
unpaired article which is not to be got in the shops where only new things were sold, and 
which, nevertheless, are now and then as indispensably wanted by householders as any- 
thing else. 

t The present article is almost wholly from original sources, a fact probably unknown to 
a contemporary novelist, who has made it the groundwork of a fiction without any 
acknowledgment. Some additional particulars may be found in Tales of tJie Century, by 
John Sobieski Stuart (Edinburgh, 1846). In the Spalding Miscellany, vol. iii., are 
several letters of Lord Grange, containing allusions to his wife ; and a production of his, 
which has been printed under the title of Diary of a Senator of the College of Justice 
(Stevenson, Edinburgh, 1833), is worthy of perusal. 



232 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

blamable ; how far there have been positive faults on one side, 
and want of forbearance on the other, and so forth. If we were to 
beheve the lady in this instance, there had been love and peace 
for twenty years, when at length Lord Grange took a sudden 
dislike to his wife, and would no longer live with her. He, on 
the other hand, speaks of having suffered long from her ' unsub- 
duable rage and madness,' and of having failed in all his efforts 
to bring her to a reasonable conduct. There is too much reason 
to believe that the latter statement is in the main true ; although, 
were it more so, it would still leave Lord Grange unjustifiable in 
the measures which he took with respect to his wife. It is 
traditionally stated that, in their unhappy quarrels, the lady did 
not scruple to remind her husband whose daughter she was — 
thus hinting at what she was capable of doing if she thought 
herself deeply aggrieved. However all this might be, in the 
year 1730 a separation was agreed to (with great reluctance on 
the part of the lady), his lordship consenting to give her a 
hundred a year for her maintenance, so long as she should 
continue to live apart from him. 

After spending some months in the country. Lady Grange 
returned to Edinburgh, and took a lodging near her husband's 
house, for the purpose, as_ she tells us, of endeavouring to 
induce him to take her back, and that she might occasionally 
see her children. According to Lord Grange, she began to 
torment him by following him and the children on the street ' in 
a scandalous and shameful manner,' and coming to his house, 
and calling reproaches to him through the windows,* especially 
when there was company with him. He thus writes : ' In his 
house, at the bottom of Niddry's Wynd, where there is a court 
through which one enters the house, one time among others, 
when it was full of chairs, chairmen, and footmen, who attended 
the company that were with himself, or his sister Lady Jane 
Paterson, then keeping house together, she came into this court, 
and among that mob shamelessly cried up to the windows 
injurious reproaches, and would not go away, though entreated, 

* Here and elsewhere a paper in Lord Grange's own hand is quoted. 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 233 

till, hearing the late Lord Lovat's voice, who was visiting Mr 

E , and seeing two of his servants among the other footmen, 

"Oh," said she, "is your master here?" and instantly ran off.' 
He speaks of her having attacked him one day in church ; at 
another time she forced him to take refuge with his son in a 
tavern for two hours. She even threatened to assault him on 
the bench, 'which he every day expected; for she professed 
that she had no shame.' 

The traditionary account of Lady Grange represents her fate 
as having been at last decided by her threatening to expose her 
husband to the government for certain treasonable practices. 
It would now appear that this was partially true. In his state- 
ment, Lord Grange tells us that he had some time before gone 
to London, to arrange the private affairs of the Countess of 
Mar, then become unable to conduct them herself, and he had 
sent an account of his procedure to his wife, including some 
reflections on a certain great minister (doubtless Walpole), who 
had thwarted him much, and been of serious detriment to the 
interests of his family in this matter. This document she 
retained, and she now threatened to take it to London, and use 
it for her husband's disadvantage, being supported in the design 
by several persons with whom she associated. While denying 
that he had been concerned in anything treasonable. Lord 
Grange says, 'he had already too great a load of that great 
minister's wrath on his back to stand still and see more of it fall 
upon him by the treachery and madness of such a wife and such 
worthy confederates.' The lady had taken a seat in a stage- 
coach for London.* Lord Grange caused a friend to go and 
make interest to get her money returned, and the seat let to 
another person ; in which odd proceeding he was successful. 
Thus was the journey stayed for the meantime; but the lady 
declared her resolution to go as soon as possible. ' What,' says 
Lord Grange, ' could a man do with such a wife ? There was 

* ' Then, and some time before and after, there was a stage-coach from hence to 
England.' So says his lordship; implying that, in 1751, when he was .writing, there was 
no such public conveniency ! It had been tried, and had failed. 



234 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

great reason to think she would daily go on to do mischief to 
her family, and to affront and bring a blot on her children, 
especially her daughters. There were things that could not be 
redressed in a court of justice, and we had not then a madhouse 
to lock such unhappy people up in.' 

The result of his lordship's deliberations was a plan for what 
he calls 'sequestrating' his wife. It appears to have been 
concerted between himself and a number of Highland chiefs, 
including, above all, the notorious Lord Lovat. We now turn 
to the lady's narrative, which proceeds to tell that, on the 
evening of the 2 2d of January 1732, a party of Highlandmen, 
wearing the livery of Lord Lovat, made their way into her 
lodgings, and forcibly seized her, throwing her down and 
gagging her, then tying a cloth over her head, and carrying her 
off as if she had been a corpse. At the bottom of the stair was 
a chair containing a man, who took the hapless lady upon his 
knees, and held her fast in his arms till they had got to a place 
in the outskirts of the town. Then they took her from the 
chair, removed the cloth from her head, and mounted her upon 
a horse behind a man, to whom she was tied ; after which the 
party rode off 'by the lee light of the moon,' to quote the 
language of the old ballads, whose incidents the present 
resembles in character. 

The treatment of the lady by the way was, if we can believe 
her own account, by no means gentle. The leader, although a 
gentleman (Mr Forster of Corsebonny), disregarded her entreaties 
to be allowed to stop on account of cramp in her side, and only 
answered by ordering a servant to renew the bandages over her 
mouth. She observed that they rode along the Long Way 
(whe^e Princes Street now stands), past the castle, and so to 
the Linlithgow road. After a ride of nearly twenty miles, they 
stopped at Muiravonside, the house of Mr John Macleod, 
advocate, where servants appeared waiting to receive the lady 
— and thus shewed that the master of the house had been 
engaged to aid in her abduction. She was taken up stairs to a 
comfortable bedroom ; but a man being posted in the room as 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 235 

a guard, she could not go to bed, nor take any repose. Thus 
she spent the ensuing day, and when it was night, she was taken 
out and remounted in the same fashion as before; and the 
party then rode along through the Torvvood, and so to the place 
called Wester Polmaise, belonging to a gentleman of the name 
of Stewart, whose steward or factor was one of the cavalcade. 
Here was an old tower, having one little room on each floor, as 
is usually the case in such buildings ; and into one of these rooms, 
the window of which was boarded over, the lady was conducted. 
She continued here for thirteen or fourteen weeks, supplied with 
a sufficiency of the comforts of life, but never allowed to go into 
the open air ; till at length her health gave way, and the factor 
began to fear being concerned in her death. By his intercession 
with Mr Forster, she was then permitted to go into the court, 
under a guard ; but such was the rigour of her keepers, that the 
garden was still denied to her. 

Thus time passed drearily on until the month of August, 
during all which time the prisoner had no communication with 
the external world. At length, by an arrangement made between 
Lord Lovat and Mr Forster, at the house of the latter, near 
Stirling, Lady Grange was one night forcibly brought out, and 
mounted again as formerly, and carried off amidst a guard of 
horsemen. She recognised several of Lovat's people in this 
troop, and found Forster once more in command. They passed 
by Stirling Bridge, and thence onward to the Highlands ; but she 
no longer knew the way they were going. Before daylight they 
stopped at a house, where she was lodged during the day, and 
at night the march was resumed. Thus they journeyed for 
several days into the Highlands, never allowing the unfortunate 
lady to speak, and taking the most rigid care to prevent any 
one from becoming aware of her situation. During this time 
she never had off her clothes : one day she slept in a barn, 
another in an open enclosure. Regard to delicacy in such a 
case was impossible. After a fortnight spent at a house on 
Lord Lovat's ground {probably in Stratherrick, Inverness-shire), 
the journey was renewed in the same style as before; only Mr 

p 



236 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Forster had retired from the party, and the lady found herself 
entirely in the hands of Frasers. 

They now crossed a loch into Glengarry's land, where they 
lodged several nights in cow-houses, or in the open air, making 
progress all the time to the westward, where the country becomes 
extremely wild. At Lochour, an arm ' of the sea on the west 
coast, the unfortunate lady was transferred- to a small vessel 
which was in waiting for her. Bitterly did she weep, and 
pitifully implore compassion; but the Highlanders understood 
not her language; and though they had done so, a departure 
from the orders which had been given them was not to be 
expected from men of their character. In the vessel, she found 
that she was in the custody of one Alexander Macdonald, a 
tenant of one of the Western Islands named Heskir, belonging to 
Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat ; and here we have a curious 
indication of the spirit in which the Highlanders conducted 
such transactions. 'I told him,' says the lady, 'that I was 
stolen at Edinburgh, and brought there by force, and that it was 
contrary to the laws what they were doing. He answered that 
he would not keep me, or any other, against their will, excepi Sir 
Alexander Macdonald were in the affair.' While they lay in 
Lochoum, waiting for a wind, the brother and son of Macdonald 
of Scothouse came to see, but not to relieve her. Other persons 
visited the sloop, and among these one William Tolmy, a tenant 
of the chief of Macleod, and who had once been a merchant 
at Inverness. This was the first person she had seen who 
expressed any sympathy v/ith her. He undertook to bear 
information of her retreat to her friend and ' man of business,' 
Mr Hope of Rankeillor, in Edinburgh ; but it does not appear 
that he fulfilled his promise. 

Lady Grange remained in Macdonald's charge at Heskir 
nearly tAvo years — during the first year without once seeing 
bread, and with no supply of clothing ; obliged, in fact, to live 
in the same miserable way as the rest of the family ; afterwards 
some little indulgence was shewn to her. This island was of 
desolate aspect, and had no inhabitant besides Macdonald and 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 237 

his wife. The wretchedness of such a situation for a lady who 
had been all her life accustomed to the refined society of a 
capital, may of course be imagined. Macdonald would never 
allow her to write to any one ; but he went to his landlord, Sir 
Alexander, to plead for the indulgences she required. On one 
of these occasions. Sir Alexander expressed his regret at having 
been concerned in such an affair, and wished he were quit of 
it. The wonder is, how Erskine should have induced all these 
men to interest themselves in the 'sequestration' of his wife. 
One thing is here remarkable : they were all of them friends of 
the Stuart family, as was Macleod of Macleod, into whose hands 
the lady subsequently fell. It therefore becomes probable that 
Erskine had at least convinced them that her seclusion from the 
world was necessary in some way for the preservation of political 
secrets important to them. 

In June 1734, a sloop came to Heskir to take away the lady; 
it was commanded by a Macleod, and in it she was conveyed to 
the remotest spot of ground connected with the British Islands 
— namely, the isle of St Kilda, the property of the chief of 
Macleod, and remarkable for the simple character of the poor 
peasantry who occupy it. There cannot, of course, be a doubt 
that those who had an interest in the seclusion of Lady Grange, 
regarded this as a more eligible place than Heskir, in as far as 
it was more out of the way, and promised better for her complete 
and permanent confinement. In some respects it was an 
advantageous change for the lady : the place was not uninhabited, 
as Heskir very nearly was ; and her domestic accommodation 
was better. In St Kilda, she was placed in a house or cottage 
of two small apartments, tolerably well furnished, with a girl to 
wait upon her, and provided with a sufficiency of good food and 
clothing. Of educated persons the island contained not one, 
except for a short time a Highland Presbyterian clergyman, 
named Roderick Maclennan. There was hardly even a person 
capable of speaking or understanding the English language 
within reach. No books, no intelligence from the world in 
which she had once lived. Only once a year did a steward 



238 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

come to collect the rent paid in kind by the poor people j and 
by him was the lady regularly furnished with a store of such 
articles, foreign to the place, as she needed — ^usually a stone of 
sugar, a pound of tea, six pecks of wheat, and an anker of 
spirits. Thus she had no lack of the common necessaries of 
life : she only wanted society and freedom. In this way she 
spent seven dreary years in St Kilda. How she contrived to 
pass her time is not known. We learn, however, some particulars 
of her history during this period from the testimony of those 
who had a charge over her. If this is to be believed, she made 
incessant efforts, though without effect, to bribe the islanders to 
assist in liberating her. Once a stray vessel sent a boat ashore 
for water : she no., sooner heard of it, than she despatched the 
minister's wife to apprise the sailors of her situation, and entreat 
them to rescue her ; but Mrs Maclennan did not reach the spot 
till after they had departed. She was kind to the peasantry, 
giving them from her own stores ; and sometimes had the women 
to come and dance before her ; but her temper and habits were 
not such as to gain their esteem. Often she drank too much ; 
and whenever any one near her committed the slightest mistake, 
she would fly into a furious passion, and even resort to violence. 
Once she was detected in an attempt, during the night, to 
obtain a pistol from above the steward's bed, in the room next 
to her own : on his awaking and seeing her, she ran off to her 
own bed. One is disposed, of course, to make all possible 
allowances for a person in her wretched circumstances ; yet 
there can be little doubt, from the evidence before us, that it was 
a natural and habitual violence of temper which displayed itself 
during her residence in St Kilda. 

Meanwhile it was known in Edinburgh that Lady Grange had 
been forcibly carried away and placed in seclusion by orders of 
her husband ; but her whereabouts was a mystery to all besides 
a few who were concerned to keep it secret. During the years 
which had elapsed since her abduction, Mr Erskine had given 
up his seat on the bench, and entered into political life as a 
friend of the Prince of Wales, and opponent of Sir Robert 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 239 

Walpole. The world had wondered at the events of his domestic 
life, and several persons denounced the singular means he had 
adopted for obtaining domestic peace. But, in the main, he 
stood as well with society as he had ever done. At length, in 
the winter of 1740-41, a communication from Lady Grange for 
the first time reached her friends. It was brought by the minister 
Maclennan and his wife, who had left the island in discontent, 
after quarrelling with Macleod's steward. The idea of a lady 
by birth and education being immured for a series of years in. 
an outlandish place where only the most illiterate peasantry 
resided, and this by the command of a husband who could only 
complain of her irritable temper, struck forcibly upon public 
feeling, and particularly upon the mind of Lady Grange's legal 
agent, Mr Hope of Rankeillor, Avho had all along felt a keen 
interest in her fate. Of Mr Hope it may be remarked that he 
was also a zealous Jacobite; yet, though all the persons engaged 
in the lady's abduction were of that party, he hesitated not to 
take active measures on the contrary side. He immediately 
applied to the Lord Justice-clerk (supreme criminal judge) for a 
warrant to search for and liberate Lady Grange. This applica- 
tion was opposed by the friends of Mr Erskine, and eventually 
it was defeated : yet he was not on that account deterred from 
hiring a vessel, and sending it with armed men to secure the 
freedom of the lady — a step which, as it was illegal and danger- 
ous, obviously implied no small risk on his own part. This 
ship proceeded no farther than the harbour called the Horse- 
shoe, in Lorn (opposite to the modem town of Oban), where 
the master quarrelled with and set on shore Mrs Maclennan, his 
guide. Apparently the voyage was not prosecuted, in conse- 
quence of intelhgence being received that the lady had been 
removed to another place, where she was kept in more humane 
circumstances. If so, its object might be considered as in 
part at least, though indirectly, accomplished. 

I have seen a warrant, signed in the holograph of Normand 
Macleod — the same insular chief who, a few years after, lost 
public respect in consequence of his desertion of the Jacobite 



240 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

cause, and shewing an active hostility to Prince Charles when in 
hiding. The document is dated at Dunvegan, February 17, 
1 741, and proceeds upon a rumour which has reached the writer, 
that a certain gentlewoman, called Lady Grange, was carried to 
his isle of St Kilda in 1734, and has ever since been confined 
there under cruel circumstances. Regarding this as a scandal 
which he is bound to inquire into (as if it could have hitherto 
been a secret to him), he orders his baron-bailie of Harris, 
Donald Macleod of Bemera (this was a gallant fellow, who went 
out in the forty-five), to proceed to that island and make the 
necessary investigations, I have also seen the original precog- 
nition taken by honest Donald, six days thereafter, when the 
various persons who had been about Lady Grange gave evidence 
respecting her. The general bearing of this testimony, besides 
establishing the fact of her confinement as a prisoner, is to the 
effect that she was treated well in all other respects, having a 
house forty feet long, with an inner room and a chimney to it, 
a curtained bed, arm-chair, table, and other articles; ample store 
of good provisions, including spirits ; and plenty of good 
clothes; but that she was addicted to liquor, and liable to 
dreadful outbreaks of anger. Evidence was at the same time 
taken regarding the character of the Maclennans, upon whose 
reports Mr Hope had proceeded. It was Mr Erskine's interest 
to establish that they were worthless persons, and to this effect 
strong testimony was given by several of the islanders, though 
it would be difficult to say with what degree of verity. The 
whole purpose of these precognitions was to meet the clamours 
raised by Mr Hope as to the barbarities to which Lady Grange 
had been subjected. They had the effect of stopping for a 
time the legal proceedings threatened by that gentleman; but 
he afterwards raised an action in the Court of Session for pay- 
ment of the arrears of aliment or allowance due to the lady, 
amounting to ^^1150, and obtained decreet or judgment in the 
year 1743 against the defender in absence, though he did not 
choose to put it in force. 

The unfortunate cause of all these proceedings ceased to be a 



STORY OF LADY GRANGE. 241 

trouble to any one in May 1745. Erskine, writing from West- 
minster, June I, in answer to an intimation of her death, says : 
* I most heartily thank you, my dear friend, for the timely notice 
you gave me of the death of that person. It would be a 
ridiculous untruth to pretend grief for it ; but as it brings to my 
mind a train of various things for many years back, it gives me 
concern. Her retaining wit and facetiousness to the last 
surprises me. These qualities none found in her, no more than 
common-sense or good-nature, before she went to these parts ; 
and of the reverse of all which, if she had not been irrecoverably 
possest, in an extraordinary and insufferable degree, after many 
years' fruitless endeavours to reclaim her, she had never seen 
these parts. I long for the particulars of her death, which, you 
are pleased to tell me, I am to have by next post.' 

Mr Hope's wife and daughters being left as heirs of Lady 
Grange, an action was raised in their name for the ;^ii5o 
formerly awarded, and for three years additional of her annuity ; 
and for this compound sum decreet was obtained, which was 
followed by steps for forcing payment. The Hopes were aware, 
however, of the dubious character of this claim, seeing that Mr 
Erskine, from whatever causes, had substituted an actual subsist- 
ence since 1732. They accordingly intimated that they aimed 
at no personal benefit from Lady Grange's bequest; and the 
affair terminated in Mr Erskine reimbursing Mr Hope for all 
the expenses he had incurred on behalf of the lady, including 
that for the sloop which he had hired to proceed to St Kilda for 
her rescue. 

It is humbly thought that this story casts a curious and 
faithful light upon the age of our grandfathers, shewing things 
in a kind of transition from the sanguinary violence of an 
earlier age to the humanity of the present times. Erskine, not 
to speak of his office of a judge in Scotland, moved in English 
society of the highest character. He must have been the friend 
of Lyttelton, Pope, Thomson, and other ornaments of Frederick's 
court j and, as the brother-in-law of the Countess of Mar, who 
was sister of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, he would figure in 



242 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the brilliant circle which surrounded that star of the age of the 
second George. Yet he does not appear to have ever felt a 
moment's compunction at leaving the mother of his children to 
pine and fret herself to death in a half-savage wilderness — 

' Placed far amidst the melancholy main ;' 

for in a paper which expresses his feelings on the subject pretty- 
freely, he justifies the ' sequestration ' as a step required by 
prudence and decency; and, in shewing that the gross neces- 
saries of life were afforded to his wife, seems to have considered 
that his whole duty towards her was discharged. Such an 
insensibility could not be peculiar to one man : it indicates the 
temper of a class and of an age. While congratulating ourselves 
on the improved humanity of our own times, we may glance with 
satisfaction to the means which it places in our power for the 
proper treatment of patients like Mrs Erskine. Such a woman 
would now be regarded as the unfortunate victim of disease, 
and instead of being forcibly carried off under cloud of night by 
a band of Highlanders, and committed to confinement on the 
outskirts of the world, she would, with proper precautions, be 
remitted to an asylum, where, by gentle and rational manage- 
ment, it might be hoped that she would be restored to mental 
health, or, at the Avorst, enabled to spend the remainder of her 
days in the utmost comfort which her state admitted of. 



[1868. — About the middle of Cant's Close, on the west side, 
there exists a remarkable edifice, different from all others in the 
neighbourhood. It is two stories in height, the second story 
being reached by an outside stone stair within a small court- • 
yard, which had originally been shut in by a gate. The stone 
pillars of the gateway are decorated with balls at the top, as was 
the fashion of entrances to the grounds of a country mansion. 
The building is picturesque in character, in the style of the 
sixteenth century in Scotland. As it resembles a neat old- 
fashioned country-house, one wonders to find it jammed up 
amidst tall edifices in this confined alley. Ascending the stair, 



cant's close. 



243 



we find that tlie interior consists of three or four apartments, 
\vith handsome panelled walls, and elaborately carved stucco 
ceilings. The principal room has a double -window on the west 
to Dickson's Close. 

Daniel Wilson, in his Memorials of Edinburgh, speaks of this 
building in reference to Dickson's Close. He says : * A little 
lower down the close on the same side, an old and curious stone 
tenement bears on its lower crow-step the Haliburton arms, 




- Old Mansion, Cant's Close. 

impaled with another coat, on one shield. It is a singularly 
antique and time-worn edifice, evidently of considerable antiquity. 
A curious double window projects on a corbelled base into the 
close, while the whole stone-work is so much decayed as greatly 
to add to its picturesque character. In the earliest deed which 
exists, bearing date 1582, its first proprietor, Master James 



244 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Halyburton — a title then of some meaning — is- spoken of in 
indefinite terms as umq^% or deceased ; so that it is a building 
probably of the early part of the sixteenth century.' It is known 
that the adjoining properties on the north once pertained to the 
collegiate church of Crichton; while those on the east, in 
Strichen's Close, comprehended the town residence of the Abbot 
of Melrose, 1526. 

The adjoining wood-cut will give some idea of this strange old 
mansion in Cant's Close, with its gateway and flight of steps. 
In looking over the titles, we find that the tenement was con- 
veyed in 1735 from Robert Geddes of Scotstoun, Peeblesshire, 
to George Wight, a burgess of Edinburgh, since which period it 
has gradually deteriorated ; every apartment, from the ground to 
the garret, is now a dwelling for a separate family; and the 
whole surroundings are most wretched. The edifice forms one 
of the properties to be removed under the Improvement Act of 
1867.] 



ABBOT OF MELROSE'S LODGING. 

Sir George Mackenzie — Lady Anne Dick. 

In CathoHc times, several of the great dignitaries of the church 
had houses in Edinburgh, as the Archbishop of St Andrews at 
the foot of Blackfriars Wynd, the Bishop of Dunkeld in the 
Cowgate, and the Abbot of Cambuskenneth in the Lawnmarket.* 
The Abbot of Melrose's 'lodging' appears from public docu- 
ments to have been in what is now called Strichen's Close, in 
the High Street, immediately to the west of Blackfriars Wynd. 
It had a garden extending down to the Cowgate, and up part of 
the opposite slope. 

A successor of the abbot in this possession was Sir George 
Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, king's advocate in the reigns of 
Charles II. and James IL, and author of several able works 

* At the head of the Old Bank Close, to the westward ; burned down in 1771. 



SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE. 245 

in Scottish law, as well as a successful cultivator of miscellaneous 
literature. He got a charter of the property from the magistrates 
in 1677. The house occupied by Sir George still exists, and 
appears to have been a goodly enough mansion for its time. It 
is now, however, possessed by a brassfounder as a place of 
business. From Sir George the alley was called Rosehaugh's 
Close, till, this house falling by marriage connection into the 
possession of Lord Strichen, it got the name of Strichen's Close, 
which it still bears. Lord Strichen was a judge of the Court of 
Session for forty-five years subsequent to 1730. He was the 
direct ancestor of the present LordLovat of the British peerage. 
Mackenzie has still a place in the popular imagination in 
Edinburgh, as the Bluidy Mackingie, his office having been to 
prosecute the unruly Covenanters. It therefore happens that 
the founder of our greatest national library, one whom Dryden 
regarded as a friend, and who was the very first writer of classic 
English prose in Scotland, is a sort of Raw-head and Bloody- 
bones by the firesides of his native capital. He lies in a 
beautiful mausoleum, which forms a conspicuous object in the 
Gre3rfriars Churchyard, and which describes him as an ornament 
to his age, and a man who was kind to all, * except a rebellious 
crew, from whose violence, with tongue and pen, he defended 
his country and king, whose virulence he stayed by the sword of 
justice, and whose ferocity he, by the force of reason, blunted, 
and only did not subdue.' This monument was an object of 
horror to the good people of Edinburgh, as it was almost 
universally believed that the sprite of the persecutor could get no 
rest in its superb but gloomy tenement. It used to be ' a feat ' 
for a set of boys, in a still summer evening, to march up to the 
ponderous doors, bedropt with white tears upon a black ground, 
and cry in at the keyhole : 

' Bluidy Mackingie, come out if ye daur, 
Lift the sneck, and draw the bar ! ' 

after which they would run away, as if some hobgoblin were in 
chase of them, probably not looking round till they were out of 
the churchyard. 



246 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Sir George Mackerizie had a country-house called Shank, 
about ten miles to the south of Edinburgh, now a ruin. One 
day the Marquis of Tweeddale, having occasion to consult him 
about some law business, rode across the country, and arrived at 
so early an hour in the morning, that the lawyer was not yet out 
of bed. Soliciting an immediate audience, he was admitted to 
the bedroom, where he sat down and detailed the case to Sir 
George, who gave him all necessary counsel from behind the 
curtains. When the marquis advanced to present a fee, he was 
startled at the apparition of a female hand through the curtains, 
in an attitude expressive of a readiness to receive, while no 
hand appeared on the part of Sir George. The explanation 
was, that Sir George's lady, as has been the case with many a 
weaker man, took entire charge of his purse.* 

Several of the descendants of this great lawyer have been 
remarkable for their talents. None, perhaps, possessed more 
of the vivida vis animi than his grand-daughter. Lady Anne 
Dick of Corstorphine (also grand-daughter, by the father's side, 
to the clever but unscrupulous ' Tarbat Register,' the first Earl 
of Cromarty). t This lady excited much attention in Edinburgh 
society by her eccentric manners and her droll pasquinade 
verses : one of those beings she was who astonish, perplex, and 
fidget their fellow-creatures, till at last the world feels a sort of 
relief when they are removed from the stage. She made many 
enemies by her lampoons; and her personal conduct only 
afforded them too good room for revenge. Sometimes she 
would dress herself in men's clothes, and go about the town 
in search of adventures. One of her frolics ended rather 
disgracefully, for she and her maid, being apprehended in their 
disguise, were lodged all night in the Town Guard-house. It 

* This anecdote was related to me by the first Lord Wharncliffe, grandson's grandson to 
Sir George, about 1828. 

t Cromarty, at seventy, contrived to marry ' a young and beautiful countess in her own 
right, a widow, wealthy, and in universal estimation. The following distich was composed 
on the occasion : 

Thou sonsie auld carl, the world has not thy like, 

For ladies fa' in love with thee, though thou be ane auld tyke.' 

C. K. Sharpe, Notes to Law's Memorials, p. xlvii. 



LADY ANNE DICK. 247 

may be readily imagined that, by those whom her wit had 
exasperated, such folhes would be deeply relished, and made 
the most of. We must not, therefore be surprised at Scandal 
telling that Lady Anne had at one period lain a whole year in 
bed, in a vain endeavoui' — to baffle himself. 

Through private channels have oozed out at this late day a 
few specimens of Lady Anne's poetical abilities ; less brilliant 
than might be expected from the above character of her, yet. 
having a certain air of dash and espieglerie which looks appro- 
priate. They are partly devoted to bewailing the coldness of a 
certain Sir Peter Murray of Balmanno, towards whom she chose 
to act a sort of she-Petrarch, but apparently in the mere pursuit 
of whim. One runs in the following tender strain : 

' Oh, when he dances at a ball, 

He 's rarely worth the seeing ; 
So light he trips, you would him take 

For some aerial being ! 
While pinky- winky go his een, 

How blest is'each bystander ! 
How gracefully he leads the fair. 

When to her seat he hands her ! 

But when in accents saft and sweet, 

He chants forth Lizzie Baillie, 
His dying looks and attitude 

Enchant, they cannot fail ye. 
The loveliest widow in the land, 

When she could scarce disarm him, 
Alas ! the belles in Roxburghshire 

Must never hope to charm him ! 

O happy, happy, happy she, 

Could make him change his plan, sir. 
And of this rigid bachelor. 

Convert the married man, sir : 
« O happy, and thrice happy she, 

Could make him change his plan, sir, 
And to the gentle Benedick 

Convert the single man, sir,' &c. 



248 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

In another, tired, apparently, of the apathy of this sweet youth, 
she breaks out as follows : 

' Oh, wherefore did I cross the Forth, 

And leave my love behind me ? 
Why did I venture to the north, 
' With one that did not mind me ? 

Had I but'visited Carin ! 

It would have been much better, 
Than pique the prudes, and make a din. 

For careless, cold Sir Peter ! 

I 'm sure I 've seen a better limb. 
And twenty better faces ; 
I But still my mind it ran on him, 

When I was at the races. 

At night, when we went to the ball, 

Were many there discreeter ; 
The well-bred duke, and lively Maule, 

Panmure behaved much better. 

They kindly shewed their courtesy, 

And looked on me much sweeter j 
Yet easy could I never be. 

For thinking on Sir Peter, 

I fain would wear an easy air. 

But oh, it looked affected, 
And e'en the fine ambassador 

Could see he was neglected. 

Though Powrie left for me the spleen. 

My temper grew no sweeter ; 
I think I 'm mad — what do I mean. 

To follow cold Sir Peter ! ' 

Her ladyship died, without issue, in 1741. 



PALACE OF ARCHBISHOP BETHUNE. 249 



BLACKFRIARS WYND. 

Palace of Archbishop Bethune — Boarding-Schools of the Last Century — 
The Last of the Lorimers — Lady Lovat. 

Those who now look into Blackfriars Wynd — ^passing through 
it is out of the question — ^will be surprised to learn that, all 
dismal and wretched as it is in all respects, it was once a place 
of some respectability and even dignity. On several of its tall 
old lands may be seen inscriptions implying piety on the part of 
the founder — one, for example : 

PAX INTRANTIBUS, 
SALUS EXEUNTIBUS — 

another : 

MISERERE MET, DEUS J 

this last containing in its upper floor all that the adherents of 
Rome had forty years ago as a place of worship in Edinburgh — 
the chapel to which, therefore, as a matter of course, the late 
Charles X. resorted with his suite, when residing as Comte 
d'Artois in Holyrood House. The alley gets its name from 
having been the access to the Blackfriars' Monastery on the 
opposite slope, and being built on their land. 

PALACE OF ARCHBISHOP BETHUNE. 

At the foot of the wynd, on the east side, is a large mansion 
of antique appearance, forming two sides of a quadrangle, with 
diporte cochere giving access to a court behind, and a picturesque 
overhanging turret at the exterior angle. This house was built 
by James Bethune, archbishop of Glasgow (1508-15 24), chan- 
cellor of the kingdom, and one of the Lords Regent under the 
Duke of Albany during the minority of James V. Lyndsay, in 
his Chronicles, speaks of it as ' his owen ludging quhilk he biggit 
in the Freiris Wynd.' Keith, at a later period, says : ' Over the 



a^O TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

entry of which the arms of the family of Bethune are to be 
seen to this day.' Common report represents it as the house of 
Cardinal Bethune, who was the nephew of the Archbishop of 
Glasgow; and it is not improbable that the one prelate be- 
queathed it to the other, and that it thus became, what Maitland 




Cardinal Bethune's House. 

calls it, 'the archiepiscopal palace belonging to the see of St 
Andrews,' 

The ground-floor of this extensive building is arched over 
with strong stone-work, after the fashion of those houses of 
defence of the same period which are still scattered over the 
country. Some years ago, when one of the arches was removed 
to make way for a common ceiling, a thick layer of sand, firmly 
beaten down, was found between the surface of the vault and 



BOARDING-SCHOOLS OF THE LAST CENTURY. 25 1 

the floor above. Ground-floors thus formed were applied in 
former times to inferior domestic uses, and to the storing of 
articles of value. The chief apartments for living in were on 
the floor above — that is, the so-called first floor. And such is 
the case in all the best houses of an old fashion in the city of 
St Andrews at this day. 

I shall afterwards have something to say of an event of the 
year 15 17, with which Archbishop Bethune's house was con- 
nected. It appears to have been occupied by James V. in 
1528, while he was deliberating on the propriety of calling a 
parliament. 

The Bethune palace is now, like its confreres, abandoned to 
tlie humblest class of tenants. Eighty years ago, however, it 
must have still been a tolerably good house, as it was then the 
residence of Bishop Abernethy Drummond, of the Scottish 
Episcopal communion, the husband of the heiress of Hawthorn- 
den. This worthy divine occupied some space in the public 
eye in his day, and was particularly active in obtaining the repeal 
of the penal statutes against his church. Some wag, figuring 
the surprise in high places at a stir arising from a quarter so 
obscure, penned this epigram : 

' Lord Sydney, to the privy-council summoned, 

By testy majesty was questioned quick : 
" Eh, eh ! who, who 's this Abernethy Drummond, 
And where, in Heaven's name, is his bishopric?'" 

BOARDING-SCHOOLS OF THE LAST CENTURY. 

When the reader hears such things of the Freir W)Tid, he 
must not be surprised overmuch on perusing the following 
advertisement from the Edinburgh Gazette of April 19, 1703 : 
' There is a Boarding-school to be set up in Blackfriars Wynd, 
in Robinson's Land, upon the west side of the wynd, near the 
middle thereof, in the first door of the stair leading to the said 
land, against the latter end of May, or first of June next, where 
young Ladies and Gentlewomen may have all sorts of breeding 

Q 



252 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

that is to be had in any part of Britain, and great care taken of 
their conversation.' 

I know not whether this was the same seminary which, 
towards the middle of the century, was kept by a distinguished 
lady named Mrs Euphame or Effie Sinclair, who was descended 
from the ancient family of Longformacus, in Berwickshire, being 
the granddaughter of Sir Robert Sinclair, first baronet of 
Longformacus, upon whom that dignity was conferred by King 
Charles II., in consideration of his services and losses during 
the civil war. Mrs Effie was allied to many of the best families 
in Scotland, who made it a duty to place their children under 
her charge; and her school was thus one of the most respectable 
in Edinburgh. By her were educated the beautiful Miss Duff, 
afterwards Countess of Dumfries and Stair, and, by a second 
marriage, lady of the Honourable Alexander Gordon (Lord 
Rockville) ; the late amiable and excellently well informed Mrs 
Keith, sister of Si^ Robert Keith, commonly called, from his 
diplomatic services. Ambassador Keith ;^ the two Misses Hume 
of Linthill; and Miss Rutherford, the mother of Sir Walter 
Scott. All these ladies were Scottish cousins to Mrs Effie, To 
judge by the proficiency of her scholars, although much of what 
is called accomplishment might be then left untaught, she must 
have been possessed of uncommon talents for education; for 
all the ladies before mentioned had well-cultivated minds, were 
fond of reading, wrote and spelled admirably, were well 
acquainted with history and with belles-lettres, without neglecting 
the more homely duties of the needle and the account-book ; 
and, while two of them were women of extraordinary talents, all 
of them were perfectly well-bred in society. 

* This gentleman was absent from Edinburgh about twenty-two years, and returned at a 
time when it was supposed that manners were beginning to exhibit symptoms of great 
improvement. He, however, complained that they were degenerated. In his early time, 
he said, every Scottish gentleman of ;^300 a year travelled abroad when young, and brought 
home to the bosom of domestic life, and to the profession in which it might be his fate to 
engage, a vast fund of literary information, knowledge of the world, and genuine good- 
manners, which dignified his character through life. But towards the year 1770, this 
practice had been entirely given up; and, in consequence, a sensible change was discoverable 
upon the face of good society. — (See the Life ofyohn Home, by Henry Mackenzie, Esq.) 



BOARDING-SCHOOLS OF THE LAST CENTURY. 253 

It may be added, that many of these young ladies were sent 
to reside with, and be finished off by, the Honourable Mrs 
Ogilvie, lady of tlie Honourable Patrick Ogilvie of Longmay 
and Inchmartin, who was supposed to be the best-bred woman 
of her time in Scotland (ob. 1753). Her system was very 
rigorous, according to the spirit of the times. The young ladies 
were taught to sit quite upright; and the mother of my 
informant (Sir Walter Scott), even when advanced to nearly 
her eightieth year, never permitted her back to touch the chair 
in sitting. There is a remarkably good and characteristic 
anecdote told of the husband of this rigorous preceptress, a 
younger brother of the Earl of Findlater, whose exertions, while 
Lord High-chancellor of Scotland, in favour of the Union, were 
so conspicuous. The younger brother, it appears, had con- 
descended to trade a little in cattle, which was not considered 
derogatory to the dignity of a Scottish gentleman at that time, 
and was by no means an uncommon practice among them. 
However, the earl was offended at the measure, and upbraided 
his brother for it. 'Haud your tongue, man!' said the cattle- 
dealer, 'better sell nowte than sell nations,' pronouncing the 
last word with peculiar and emphatic breadth, 

I am tempted, by the curious and valuable document 
appended, to suspect that the female accomplishments of the 
last century were little behind those of the present in point of 
useless elaboration. 

' Thursday, December 9, 1703. — Near Dundee, at Dudhope, 
there is to be taught, by a gentlewoman from London, the 
following works, viz. — i. Wax-work of all sorts, as any one's 
picture to the life, figures in shadow glasses, fruits upon trees or 
in dishes, all manner of confections, fish, flesh, fowl, or anything 
that can be made of wax. — 2. Philligrim-work of any sort, 
whether hollow or flat. — 3. Japan-work upon timber or glass.- — 
4. Painting upon glass. — 5. Sashes for windows, upon sarsnet 
or transparent paper. — 6. Straw-work of any sort, as houses, 
birds, or beasts. — 7. Shell-work, in sconces, rocks, or flowers. — 
8. Quill-work. — 9. Gum-work. — 10. Transparent-work. — 11. 



-254 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

■Puff-work. — 12. Paper-work. — 13. Plate-work on timber, brass, 
or glass. — 14. Tortoiseshell-work. — 15. Mould-work, boxes and 
baskets. — 16. Silver landskips. — 17. Gimp-work. — 18. Bugle- 
work. — 19. A sort of work in imitation of japan, very cheap. — 
20. Embroidering, stitching, and quilting. — 21. True point or 
tape lace. — 22. Cutting glass. — 23, Washing gauzes, or Flanders 
lace and point. — 24. Pastry of all sorts, with the finest cuts and 
shapes that's now used in London. — 25. Boning fowls, without 
.cutting the back. — 26. Butter-work. — 27. Preserving, conserving, 
and candying.— 28. Pickling and colouring. — 29. All sorts of 
Enghsh wines. — 30. Writing and arithmetic. — 31. Music, and 
the great end of dancing, which is a good carriage; and several 
other things too tedious here to be mentioned. Any who are 
desirous to learn the above works may board with herself at a 
reasonable rate, or may board themselves in Dundee, and may 
come to her quarterly.' — Advertisemejit i?i Edinburgh Gazette, 
1703. 

Another distinguished Edinburgh boarding-school of the last 
century was kept by two ladies of Jacobite predilections named 
the Misses Ged, in Paterson's Court, Lawnmarket. They were 
remarkable at least for their family connections, for it was a 
brother of theirs who, under the name of Don Patricio Ged, 
rendered such kindly and effective service to Commodore 
Byron, as gratefully recorded in the well-known Narrative, and 
gracefully touched on by Campbell in the Pleasures of Hope: 

* He found a warmer world, a milder clime, 
A home to rest, a shelter to defend, 
FeacQ and repose, a Briton and a friend.' 

Another member of the family, William Ged, originally a gold- 
smith in Edinburgh, was the inventor of stereotype printing. 
The Misses Ged were described by their friends as of the Geds 
of Baldridge near Dunfermline; thorough Fife Jacobites every 
one of them. The old ladies kept a portrait of the Chevaher in 
their parlour, and looked chiefly to partisans of the Stuarts for 
support. They had another relative of less dignity, who, 



THE LAST OF THE LORIMERS. 255 

accepting a situation in the Town-guard, became liable to satiric 
reference from Robert Fergusson : 

' Nunc est bibendum, et bendere bickerum magnum, 
Cavete Town-guardum, Dougal Geddum, atque Campbellum.' 

Dougal had been a silversmith, but in his own conceit his red 
coat as a Town-guard officer made him completely military. 
Seeing a lady without a beau at the door of the Assembly 
Room, he offered his services, 'if the arm of an old soldier 
could be of any use.' 'Hoot awa, Dougal,' said the lady, 
accepting his assistance, however; 'an auld tinkler, you mean.' 

THE LAST OF THE LORIMERS. 

To return for a moment to the archiepiscopal palace. It 
contained, about eighty years ago, a person calling himself a 
LoRiMER — an appellative once familiar in Edinburgh, being 
applied to those who deal in the iron-work used in saddlery.* 

* It is curious to observe how, in correspondence with the change in our manners and 
customs, one trade has become extinct, while another succeeded in its place. At the end 
of the sixteenth century, the manufacture of offensive weapons predominated over all other 
trades in Edinburgh. We had then cutlers, whose essay-piece, on being admitted of the 
corporation, was ' ane plain finished quhanzear ' or sword ; gaird-makers, whose business 
consisted in fashioning sword-handles ; Dalmascars, who gilded the said weapon ; and 
belt-makers, who wrought the girdles that bound it to the wearer's body. There were also 
dag-makers, who made hackbuts (short guns) and dags (pistols). These various professions 
became all associated in the general one of armourers, or gunsmiths, when the wearing of 
weapons went into desuetude — there being then no further necessity for the expedition and 
expediency of the modem political economist's boasted 'division of labour.' As the above 
arts gave way, those which tended to provide the comforts and luxuries of civilised life 
gradually arose. About 1586, we find the first notice of locksmiths in Edinburgh, and there 
was then only one of the trade, whose essay was simply ' a kist lock.' In 1609, however, 
as the security of property increased, the essay was ' a kist lock and a hing, and bois lock, 
with an double plate lock ; ' and in 1644, ' a key and sprent band ' were added to the essay- 
In 1682, 'a cruik and cruik band' were further added; and in 1728, for the safety of the 
lieges, the locksmith's essay was appointed to be ' a cruik and cruik band, a pass lock with 
a round filled bridge, not cut or broke in the backside, with nobs and jamb bound.' In 
^595) we find the first notice of shearsmiths. In i6og, a heckle-maker was admitted into 
the Corporation of Hammermen. In 1613, a tinkler makes his appearance ; Thomas 
Duncan, the first tinkler, was then admitted. Pewterers are mentioned so far back as 
15SS. In 1647, we find the first knock-maker [clock-maker), but so limited was his business, 
that he was also a locksmith. In 1664, the first white-iron man was admitted — also the 
first harness-maker, though lorimers had previously existed. Paul Martin, a distressed 
French Protestant, in 1691, was the first manufacturer of surgical instruments in Edinburgh. 
In 1720, we find the first pin-maker ; in 1764, the first edge-tool maker and first fish-hook 
malier. 



256 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

LADY LOVAT. 

The widow of the rebel Lord Lovat spent a great portion of a 
long widowhood, and died (1796) in a house at the head of 
Blackfriars Wynd. 

Her ladyship was a niece of the first Duke of Argyll, and 
bom, as she herself expressed it, in the year Ten — that is, 17 10. 
The politic Mac Shemus* marked her out as a suitable second 
wife, in consideration of the value of the Argyll connection. 
As he was above thirty years her senior, and not famed for the 
tenderest treatment of his former spouse, or for any other 
amiable trait of disposition, she endeavoured, by all gentle 
means, to avoid the match; but it was at length effected 
through the intervention of her relations, and she was carried 
north to take her place in the semi-barbarous state which her 
husband held at Castle Downie. 

Nothing but misery could have been expected from such an 
alliance. The poor young lady, while treated with external 
decorum, was, in private, subjected to such usage as might have 
tried the spirit of a Griselda. She was occasionally kept 
confined in a room by herself, from which she was not allowed 
to come forth even at meals, only a scanty supply of coarse 
food being sent to her from his lordship's table. When 
pregnant, her husband coolly told her that, if she brought forth 
a girl, he would put it on the back of the fire. His eldest son 
by the former marriage was a sickly child. Lovat, therefore, 
deemed it necessary to raise a strong motive in the step-mother 
for the child being taken due care of during his absence in the 
Lowlands. On going from home, he would calmly inform her 
that any harm befalling the boys in his absence would be 
attended with the penalty of her o\vn death, for, in that event, 
he would undoubtedly shoot her through the head. It is added 
that she did, from this, in addition to other motives, take an 
unusual degree of care of her step-son, who ever after felt 
towards her the tenderest love and gratitude. One is disposed 

* The Highland appellative of Lord Lovat, expressing tlie son of Simon. 



LADY LOVAT. 257 

to believe that there must be some exaggeration in these stories; 
and yet, when we consider that it is a historical fact that Lovat 
applied to Prince Charles for a warrant to take President Forbes 
dead or alive (Forbes being his friend and daily intimate), it 
seems no extravagance that he should have acted in this manner 
to his wife. Sir Walter Scott tells an additional story, which 
helps out the picture. ' A lady, the intimate friend of her youth, 
was instructed to visit Lady Lovat as if by accident, to ascertain 
the truth of those rumours concerning her husband's conduct, 
which had reached the ears of her family. She was received by 
Lord Lovat with an extravagant affectation of welcome, and 
with many assurances of the happiness his lady would receive 
from seeing her. The chief then went to the lonely tower in 
which Lady Lovat was secluded, without decent clothes, and 
even without sufficient nourishment. He laid a dress before her 
becoming her rank, commanded her to put it on, to appear, and 
to receive her friend as if she were the mistress of the house ; in 
which she was, in fact, a naked and half-starved prisoner. And 
such was the strict watch which he maintained, and the terror 
which his character inspired, that the visitor durst not ask, nor 
Lady Lovat communicate, anything respecting her real situation.' * 
Afterwards, by a letter rolled up in a clue of yarn, and dropped 
over a window to a confidential person, she was enabled to let 
her friends know how matters actually stood; and steps were 
then taken to obtain her separation from her husband. When, 
some years later, his political perfidy had brought him to the 
Tower — forgetting all past injuries, and thinking only of her 
duty as a wife. Lady Lovat offered to come to London to 
attend him. He returned an answer, declining the proposal, 
and containing the only expressions of kindness and regard 
which she had ever received from him since her marriage. 

The singular character of Lord Lovat makes almost every 
particular regarding him worth collecting. 

Previous to 1745, when the late Mr Alexander BaiUie of 
Dochfour was a student at the grammar-school^ of Inverness, 

* Quarterly Review, vol. xiv. p. 326. 



258 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

cock-fights were very common among the boys. This detestable 
sport, by the way, was encouraged by the schoolmasters of those 
days, who derived a profit fi-om the beaten cocks, or, as they 
were called, fugies, which became, at the end of every game,, 
their appropriated perquisite. In pursuit of cocks, Mr Baillie 
went . to visit his friends in the Aird, and in the course of his 
researches was introduced to Lord Lovat, whose policy it was, 
on all occasions, to shew great attentions to his neighbours and 
their children. The situation in which his lordship was found 
by the school-boy was — if not quite unprecedented — ^nevertheless 
rather surprising. He was stretched out in bed between two 
Highland lasses, who, on being seen, affected, out of modesty, 
to hide their faces under the bedclothes. The old lord 
accounted for this strange scene by saying that his blood had 
become cold, and he was obliged to supply the want of heat by 
the application of animal warmth. 

It is said that he lay in bed for the most part of the two 
years preceding the Rebellion ; till, hearing of Prince Charles's 
arrival in Arisaig, he roused himself with sudden vehemence, 
crying to an attendant : ' Lassie, bring me my brogues — I '11 
rise noo !^ 

One of his odd fancies was to send a retainer every day to 
Loch Ness, a distance of eight miles, for the water he drank. 

His intimacy with his neighbour, President Forbes, is an 
amusing affair, for the men must have secretly known full well 
what each other was, and yet policy made them keep on decent 
terms for a long course of years. Lovat's son by the subject of 
this notice — the Honourable Archibald Campbell Fraser — was a 
boy at Petty school in 1745. The President sometimes invited 
him to dinner. One day, pulling a handful of foreign gold 
pieces out of his pocket, he carelessly asked the boy if he had 
ever seen such coins before. Here was a stroke worthy of 
Lovat himself, for undoubtedly he meant thus to be informed 
whether the lord of Castle Downie was accustomed to get 
remittances for the Chevalier's cause from abroad. 

After the death of Lord Lovat, there arose some demur about 



LADY LOVAT. 259 

his lady's jointure, which was only ;^i9o per annum. It was 
not paid to her for several years, during which, being destitute 
of other resources, she lived with one of her sisters. Some of 
her numerous friends — among the rest, Lord Strichen — offered 
her the loan of money, to purchase a house, and suffice for 
present maintenance. But she did not choose to encumber 
herself with debts which she had no certain prospect of repaying. 
At length the dispute about her jointure was settled in a favour- 
able manner, and her ladyship received in a lump the amount 
of past dues, out of which she expended ^500 in purchasing a 
house at the head of Blackfriars Wynd,* and a further sum upon 
a suite of plain substantial furniture. 

It would surprise a modem dowager to know how much good 
Lady Lovat contrived to do amongst her fellow-creatures with 
this small allowance. It is said that the succeeding Lady of 
Lovat, with a jointure of ;^4ooo, was less distinguished for her 
benefactions. In Lady Lovat's dusky mansion, with a waiting- 
maid, cook, and foot-boy, she not only maintained herself in 
the style of a gentlewoman, but could welcome every kind of 
Highland ^ cousin to a plain but hospitable board, and even 
afford permanent shelter to several unfortunate friends. A 
certain Lady Dorothy Primrose, who was her niece, lived with 
her for several years, using the best portion of her house — 
namely, the rooms fronting the High Street, while she herself 
was contented with the dtiller apartments towards the wynd. 
There was another desolate old person, styled Mistress of 
Elphinstone, whom Lady Lovat supported as a friend and 
equal for several years. Not by habit a card-player herself, 
she would make up a whist-party every week for the benefit 
of the Mistress. At length the poor Mistress came to a sad fate. 
A wicked, perhaps half-crazy boy, grandson to her ladyship, 
having taken an antipathy to his venerable relative, put poison 
into the oatmeal porridge which she was accustomed to take at 
supper. Feeling unwell that night, she did not eat any, and the 

* First door up the stair at the head of the \vynd, on the west side. The house was 
burnt down in 1824, but rebuilt in its former arrangement. 



26o TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Mistress took the porridge instead, of which she died. The 
boy was sent away, and died in obscurity. 

An unostentatious but sincere piety marked the character of 
Lady Lovat. Perhaps her notions of Providence were carried 
to the verge of a kind of fatalism; for not merely did she 
receive all crosses and troubles as trials arranged for her benefit 
by a High Hand, but when a neighbouring house on one 
occasion took fire, she sat unmoved in her own mansion, not- 
withstanding the entreaties of the magistrates, who ordered a 
sedan to be brought for her removal. She said, if her hour was 
come, it would be vain to try to elude her fate ; and if it was 
not come, she would be safe where she was. She had a con- 
scientiousness almost ludicrously nice. If detained from church 
on any occasion, she always doubled her usual oblation at the 
plate next time. When her chimney took fire, she sent her fine 
to the Town-guard before they knew the circumstance. Even 
the tax-collector experienced her ultra-rectitude. When he 
came to examine her windows, she took him to a closet lighted 
by a single pane, looking into a narrow passage between two 
houses. He hesitated about charging for such a small modicum 
of light, but her ladyship insisted on his taking note ©f it. 

Lady Lovat was of small stature, had been thought a beauty, 
and retained, in advanced old age, much of her youthful deHcacy 
of features and complexion. Her countenance bore a remark- 
ably sweet and pleasing expression. When at home, her dress 
was a red silk gown, with ruffled cuffs, and sleeves puckered like 
a man's shirt; a fly-cap, encircling the head, with a mob-cap 
laid across it, falUng down over the cheeks, and tied under the 
chin; her hair dressed and powdered; a double muslin hand- 
kerchief round the neck and bosom; lanwier-beads ; a white 
lawn apron, edged with lace ; black stockings, with red gushets ; 
high-heeled shoes.* She usually went abroad in a chair, as I 
have been informed by the daughter of a lady who was one of 
the first inhabitants of the New Town, and whom Lady Lovat 

* An old domestic of her ladyship's preserved one of her shoes as a relic for many yeais> 
The heel was three inches deep. 



LADY LOVAT. ' 26 1 

regularly visited there once every three months. As her chair 
emerged from the head of Blackfriars W3md, any one who saw 
her sitting in it, so neat, and fresh, and clean, would have taken 
her for a queen in wax-work, pasted up in a glass case. 

Lady Lovat was intimate with Lady Jane Douglas ; and one 
of the strongest evidences in favour of Lord Douglas being the 
son of that lady, was the following remarkable circumstance : 
Lady Lovat, passing by a house in the High Street, saw a child 
at a window, and remarked to a friend who was with her : ' If I 
thought Lady Jane Douglas could be in Edinburgh, I would 
say that was her child — he is so like her!' Upon returning 
home, she found a note from Lady Jane, informing her that she 

had just arrived in Edinburgh, and had taken lodgings in ■ 

Land, which proved to be the house in which Lady Lovat had 
observed the child, and that child was young Archibald Douglas. 
Lady Lovat was a person of such strict integrity, that no con- 
sideration could have tempted her to say what she did not think; 
and at the time she saw the child, she had no reason to suppose 
that Lady Jane was in Scotland. 

Such was the generosity of her disposition, that when her 
grandson Simon was studying law, she at various times presented 
him with ;^5o, and when he was to pass as an advocate, she 
sent him ;^ioo. It was wonderful how she could spare such 
sums from her small jointure. Whole tribes of grand-nephews 
and grand-nieces experienced the goodness of her heart, and 
loved her with almost filial affection. She frequently spoke to 
them of her misfortunes, and was accustomed to say: 'I daresay, 
bairns, the events of my life would make a good novelle; but 
they have been of so strange a nature, that nobody would 
believe them' — meaning that they wanted the vraisemUance 
necessary in fiction. She contemplated the approach of death 
with fortitude, and, in anticipation of her obsequies, had her 
grave-clothes ready, and the stair whitewashed. Yet the disposal 
of her poor remains little troubled her. When asked by her son 
if she wished to be placed in the burial-vault at Beaufort, she 
said : ' 'Deed, Archie, ye needna put yoursel' to ony fash about 



262 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

me, for I dinna care though ye lay me aneath that hearthstane 1 ' 
After all, it chanced, from some misarrangements, that her 
funeral was not very promptly executed; whereupon a Miss 
Hepburn of Humbie, living in a floor above, remarked, 'she 
wondered what they were keeping her sae lang for — stinkin' a' 
the stair.' This gives some idea of circumstances connected 
with Old-town life. 

The conduct of her ladyship's son in life was distinguished by 
a degree of eccentricity which, in connection with that of his 
son already stated, tends to raise a question as to the character 
of Lord Lovat, and make us suspect that wickedness so great 
as his could only result from a certain unsoundness of mind. 
It is admitted, however, that the eldest son, Simon, who rose to 
be a major-general in the army, was a man of respectable 
character. He retained nothing of his father but a genius for 
making fine speeches. The late Mrs Murray of Henderland 
told me she was present at a supper-party given by some gentle- 
man in the Horse Wynd, where General Fraser, eating his egg, 

said to the hostess : * Mrs , other people's eggs overflow 

with milk; but yours run over with cream P 



THE COWGATE. 

House of Gavin Douglas the Poet — Skirmish of Cleanse-the-Causeway — 
College Wynd — Birthplace of Sir Walter Scott — The Horse Wynd — 
Tam o' the Cowgate — Magdalen Chapel. 

Looking at the present state of this ancient street, it is impos- 
sible to hear without a smile the description of it given by 
Alexander Alesse about the year 1530 — Ubi nihil est humik 
aut rustiawi, sed omfiia magnified I (' Where nothing is humble 
or homely, but everything magnificent!') The street was, he 
tells us, that in which the nobles and judges resided, and where 



^ HOUSE OF GAVIN DOUGLAS THE POET. 263 

the palaces of princes were situated. The idea usually enter- 
tained of its early history is, that it rose as an elegant suburb 
after the year 1460, when the existing city, consisting of the 
High Street alone, was enclosed in a wall. It would appear, 
however, that some part of it was built before that time, and 
that it was in an advanced, if not complete, state as a street 
not long after. It was to enclose this esteemed suburb that the 
city wall was extended after the battle of Flodden. 

HOUSE OF GAVIN DOUGLAS THE POET — SKIRMISH OF 
CLEANSE-THE-CAUSEWAY. 

So early as 1449, Thomas Lauder, canon of Aberdeen, granted 
an endowment of 40s. annually to a chaplain in St Giles's 
Church, ' out of his own house lying in the Cowgaite, betwixt 
the land of the Abbot of Melrose on the east, and of George 
Cochrane on the west.' This appears to have been the same 
Thomas Lauder who was preceptor to James II., and who 
ultimately became Bishop of Dunkeld. We are told that, besides 
many other munificent acts, he purchased a lodging in Edinburgh 
for himself and his successors.^ That its situation was the same 
as that above described, appears from a charter of Thomas 
Cameron in 1498, referring to a house on the south side of the 
Cowgate, * betwixt the Bishop of Dimkeld's land on the east, 
and William Rappilowe's on the west, the common street on 
the north, and the gait that leads to the Kirk-of-Field on the 
south.' 

From these descriptions, we attain a tolerably distinct idea of 
the site of the house of the bishops of Dunkeld in Edinburgh, 
including, of course, one who is endeared to us from a peculiar 
cause — Gavin Douglas, who succeeded to the see in 15 16. 
This house must have stood nearly opposite to the bottom of 
Niddry Street, but somewhat to the eastward. It would have 
gardens behind, extending up to the line of the present Infirmary 
Street. 

We thus not only have the pleasure of ascertaining the 

* Myla's Lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld. Edinburgh, 1831. 



264 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Edinburgh whereabouts of one of our most distinguished 
national poets ; but we can now read, with a somewhat clearer 
intelligence, a remarkable chapter in the national history. 

It was in April 1520 that the Hamiltons (the party of the 
Earl of Arran), with Bethune, Archbishop of Glasgow, called an 
assembly of the nobility in Edinburgh, in order to secure the 
government for the earl. The rival magnate, the Earl of Angus, 
soon saw danger to himself in the great crowds of the Hamilton 
party which flocked into town. Indeed warlike courses seem 
to have been determined on by that side. Angus sent his uncle, 
the bishop of Dunkeld, to caution them against any violence ; 
and to offer that he should submit to the laws, if any offence 
were laid to his charge. The reverend prelate, proceeding to 
the place of assembly, which was in the archbishop's house, at 
the foot of Blackfriars Wjnid, found the Hamilton party 
obstinate. Thinking an archbishop could not or ought not to 
allow strife to take place if he could help it, he appealed to 
Bethune, who, however, had actually prepared for battle, by 
putting on armour under his rochet. ' Upon my conscience, 
my lord,' said Bethune, ' I know nothing of the matter,' at the 
same time striking his hand upon his breast, which caused the 
armour to return a rattling sound. Douglas's remark was 
simply, ' Your conscience clatters ; ' a happy pun for the 
occasion, clatter being a Scotch word signifying to tell tales. 
Gavin then returned to his lodging, and told his nephew that 
he must do his best to defend himself with arms. ' For me,' he 
said, ' I will go to my chamber and pray for you.' With our 
new light as to the locality of the Bishop of Dunkeld's lodging, 
we now know that Angus and his uncle held their consultations 
on this occasion within fifty yards of the house in which the 
Hamiltons were assembled. The houses, in fact, nearly faced 
each other in the same narrow street. 

Angus now put himself at the head of his followers, who, 
though not numerous, stood in a compact body in the High 
Street. They were, moreover, the favourites of the Edinburgh 
citizens, who handed spears from their windows to such as were 



COLLEGE WYND. 265 

not armed with that useful weapon. Presently the Hamiltons 
came thronging up from the Cowgate, through narrow lanes, 
and entering the High Street in separate streams, armed with 
swords only, were at a great disadvantage. In a short time the 
Douglases had cleared the streets of them, killing many, and 
obliging Arran himself and his son to make their escape through 
the North Loch, mounted on a coal-horse. Archbishop Bethune, 
with others, took refuge in the Blackfriars' Monastery, where he 
was seized behind the altar, and in danger of his life, when 
Gavin Douglas, learning his perilous situation, flew to save him, 
and with difficulty succeeded in his object. Here, too, local 
knowledge is important. The Blackfriars' Monastery stood 
where the High School latterly was, a spot not more than a 
hundred yards from the houses of both Bethune and Gavin 
Douglas. It would not necessarily require more than five 
minutes to apprise Douglas of Bethune's situation, and bring 
him to the rescue. 

The popular name given to this street battle is characteristic 
— Cleanse-the- Causeway. 

COLLEGE WYND — BIRTHPLACE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT. 

The old buildings of the College of Edinburgh, themselves 
mean, had for their main access, in former times, only that 
narrow dismal alley called the College Wynd, leading up from 
the Cowgate. Facing down this humble lane was the gateway, 
displaying a richly ornamented architrave. The wynd itself, 
strange as the averment may now appear, was the abode of 
many of the professors. The illustrious Joseph Black lived at 
one time in a house adjacent to the College gate, on the east 
side, afterwards removed to make way for North College Street. 
Another floor of the same building was occupied by Mr Keith, 
father of the late Sir Alexander Keith of Ravelston, Bart. ; and 
there did the late Lord Keith reside in his student-days. There 
was a tradition, but of a vague nature, that Goldsmith, when 
studying at the Edinburgh university, lived in the College 
Wynd. 



266 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

The one peculiar glory of this humble place remains to be 
mentioned — its being the birthplace of Sir Walter Scott. In the 
third floor of the house just described, accessible by an entry 
leading to a common stair behind, did this distinguished person 
first see the light, August 15, 1771. It was a house of plain 
aspect, like many of its old neighbours yet surviving ; its truest 
disadvantage, however, being in the unhealthiness of the situa- 
tion, to which Sir Walter himself used to attribute the early 
deaths of several brothers and sisters bom before him. When 
the house was required to give way for the public conveniency, 
the elder Scott received a fair price for his portion of it : he had 
previously removed to an airier mansion, No. 25 George Square, 
where Sir Walter spent his boyhood and youth. 

In the course of a walk through this part of the town, in 
1825, Sir Walter did me the honour to point out the site of the 
house in which he had been born. On his mentioning that his 
father had got a good price for his share of it, in order that it 
might be taken down for the public convenience, I took the- 
liberty of jocularly expressing my belief that more money might 
have been made of it, and the public certainly much more 
gratified, if it had remained to be shewn as the birthplace of a 
man who had written so many popular books. ' Ay, ay,' said 
Sir Walter, ' that is very well ; but I am afraid I should have 
required to be dead first, and that would not have been so 
comfortable, you know.' 

In the transition state of the College, from old to new 
buildings, the gate at the head of the wynd was shut up by 
Principal Robertson, who, however, living within the walls, 
found this passage convenient as an access to the town, and 
used it accordingly. It became the joke of a day, that from 
being the principal gate, it had become only a gate for the 
Principal. 

THE HORSE WYND. 

This alley, connecting the Cowgate with the grounds on the 
south side of the town -within the walls, and broad enough for a 



TAM O' THE COWGATE. 267 

carriage, is understood to have derived its name from an inn 
which long ago existed at its head, where the Gaehc Church 
long after stood. Although the name is at least as old as the 
middle of the seventeenth century, none of the buildings appear 
older than the middle of the eighteenth. They had all been 
renewed by people desirous of the benefit of such air as was to 
be had in an alley double the usual breadth. Very respectable 
members of the bar were glad to have a flat in some of the tall 
lands on the east side of the wynd. 

On the west side of the wynd, about the middle, the Earl of 
Galloway had built a distinct mansion, ornamented with vases 
at top. They kept a coach and six, and it was alleged that 
when the Countess made calls, the leaders were sometimes at 
the door she was going to, when she was stepping into the 
carriage at her own door. This may be called a tour de force 
illustration of the nearness of friends to each other in Old 
Edinburgh. 

TAM 0' THE COWGATE. 

A court of old buildings, in a massive style of architecture, 
existed, previous to 1829, on a spot in the Cowgate now occupied 
by the southern piers of George IV. Bridge. In the middle of 
the last century, it was used as the Excise-oflice ; but even this 
was a kind of declension from its original character. It is certain 
that the celebrated Thomas Hamilton, first Earl of Haddington, 
President of the Court of Session, and Secretary of State for 
Scotland, lived here at the end of the sixteenth century, renting 
the house from Macgill of Rankeillour. This distinguished 
person, from the circumstance of his living here, was endowed 
by his master, King James, with the nickname of Tam o' the 
CowGATE, under which title he is now better remembered than 
by any other. 

The earl, who had risen through high legal offices to the 
peerage, and who was equally noted for his penetration as a 
judge, his industry as a collector of decisions, and his talent for 
amassing wealth, was one evening, after a. day's hard labour in 

R 



268 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

the public service, solacing himself with a friend over a flask of 
wine in his house in the Cowgate * — attired, for his better ease, 
in a night-gown, cap, and slippers — when he was suddenly 
disturbed by a great hubbub which arose under his window in 
the street. This soon turned out to be a bicker between the 
High School youths and those of the College; and it also 
appeared that the latter, fully victorious, were, notwithstanding 
a valiant defence, in the act of driving their antagonists before 
them. The Earl of Haddington's sympathies were awakened 
in favour of the retiring party, for he had been brought up at 
the High School, and going thence to complete his education at 
Paris, had no similar reason to affect the College. He therefore 
sprung up, dashed into the street, sided with and rallied the 
fugitives, and took a most animated share in the combat that 
ensued, so that finally the High School youths, acquiring fresh 
strength and valour at seeing themselves befriended by the 
prime judge and privy-councillor of their country (though not 
in his most formidable habiliments), succeeded in turning the 
scale of victory upon the College youths, in spite of their 
superior individual ages and strength. The earl, who assumed 
the command of the party, and excited their spirits by word 
as well as action, was not content till he had pursued the 
Collegianers through the Grassmarket, and out at the West Port, 
the gate of which he locked against their return, thus compelling 
them to spend the night in the suburbs and the fields. He 
then returned home in triumph to his castle of comfort in the 
Cowgate, and resumed the enjoyment of his friend and flask. 
We can easily imagine what a rare jest this must have been for 
King Jamie. 

When this monarch visited Scotland in 1617, he found the 
old statesman very rich, and was informed that the people 
believed him to be in possession of the Philosopher's Stone ; 
there being no other feasible mode of accounting for his 

* Most of the traditionary anecdotes in this article were communicated by Charles, 
eighth Earl of Haddington, through conversation with Sir Walter Scott, by whom they 
were directly imparted to the author. 



TAM O' THE COWGATE. 269 

immense wealth, which rather seemed the effect of supernatural 
agency than of worldly prudence or talent. King James, quite 
tickled with the idea of the Philosopher's Stone, and of so 
enviable a talisman having fallen into the hands of a Scottish 
judge, was not long in letting his friend and gossip know of the 
story which he had heard respecting him. The Lord President 
immediately invited the king, and the rest of the company 
present, to come to his house next day, when he would both do 
his best to give them a good dinner, and lay open to them the 
mystery of the Philosopher's Stone. This agreeable invitation 
was of course accepted; and the next day saw his Cowgate 
palazzo thronged with king and courtiers, all of whom the 
President feasted to their hearts' content. After dinner, the 
king reminded him of his Philosopher's Stone, and expressed 
his anxiety to be speedily made acquainted with so rare a 
treasure, when the pawky lord addressed his majesty and the 
company in a short speech, concluding with this information, 
that his whole secret lay in two simple and familiar maxims — 
'Never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day; nor 
ever trust to another's hand what your own can execute.' He 
might have added, from the works of an illustrious contem- 
porary : 

' This is the only witchcraft I have used ; ' 

and none could have been more effectual. 

A ludicrous idea is obtained from the following anecdote of 
the estimation in which the wisdom of the Earl of Haddington 
was held by the king, and at the same time, perhaps, of that 
singular monarch's usual mode, of speech. It must be under- 
stood, by way of prefatory illustration, that King James, who 
was the author 6f the earl's popular appellation, ' Tam d the 
Cowgate^ had a custom of bestowing such ridiculous sobriquets 
on his principal councillors and courtiers. Thus he conferred 
upon that grave and sagacious statesman, John, Earl of Mar, 
the nickname, Jock <?' Sklates — probably in allusion to some 
circumstance which occurred in their young days, when they 
were the fellow-pupils of Buchanan. On hearing of a meditated 



270 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

alliance between the Haddington and Mar families, his majesty 
exclaimed, betwixt jest and earnest : 'The Lord haud a grup o' 
me ! If Tam o' the Cowgate's son marry Jock o' Sklates's 
daughter, what's to come o' meV The good-natured monarch 
probably apprehended that so close a union betwixt two of his 
most subtle statesmen, might make them too much for their 
master — as hounds are most dangerous when they hunt in 
couples. 

The Earl of Haddington died in 1637, full of years and 
honours. At Tynningham, the seat of his family, there are two 
portraits of his lordship, one a half-length, the other a head ; as 
also his state-dress ; and it is a circumstance too characteristic 
to be overlooked, that in the crimson-velvet breeches there are 
no fewer than nine pockets ! Among many of the earl's papers 
which remain in Tynningham House, one contains a memor- 
andum, conveying a curious idea of the way in which public 
and political affairs were then managed in Scotland. The 
paper details the heads of a petition in his own handwriting to 
the Privy Council ; and at the end is a note ' to gar [that is, 
make] the chancellor ' do something else in his behalf. 

A younger son of Tam o' the Cowgate was a person of much 
ingenuity, and was popularly known, for what reason I cannot 
tell, by the nickname of ' Dear Sandie Hamilton.' He had a 
foundry in the Potterrow, where he fabricated the cannon 
employed in the first Covenanting war in 1639, This artillery, 
be it remarked, was not 'formed exclusively of metal. The 
greater part of the composition was leather ; and yet, we are 
informed, they did some considerable execution at the battle of 
Newburnford, above Newcastle (August 28, 1640), where the 
Scots drove a large advanced party of Charles I.'s troops before 
them, thereby causing the king to enter into a new treaty. The 
cannon, which were commonly called 'Dear Sandie's Stoups,' 
were carried in swivel fashion between two horses. 

The Excise-office had been removed, about 1730, from the 
Parliament Square to the house occupied many years before by 
Tam o' the Cowgate. It afforded excellent accommodations 



Thomson's bowling-green. 271 

for this Important public office. The principal room on the 
second floor, towards the Cowgate, was a very superb one, 
having a stucco ceiling divided into square compartments, each 
of which contained some elegant device. To the rear of the 
house was a bowling-green, which the Commissioners of Excise 
let on lease to a person of the name of Thomson. In those 
days bowling was a much more prevalent amusement than now, 
being chiefly a favourite with the graver order of the citizens. 
There were then no fewer than three bowling-greens in the 
grounds around Heriot's. Hospital; one in the Canongate, near 
the Tolbooth, another on the opposite side of the street, another 
immediately behind the palace of Holyrood House, where the 
Duke of York used to play when in Scotland, and perhaps 
several others scattered about the outskirts of the town. The 
arena behind the Excise-office was called Thomson's Green, 
from the name of the man who kept it ; and it may be worth 
while to remind the reader that it is alluded to in that pleasant- 
spirited poem by Allan Ramsay, in imitation of the Vides ixt 
alta of Horace : 

' Driving their ba's frae whins or tee, 

There 's no ae gouffer to be seen, 
Nor doucer folk wysing a-jee 

The byas bowls on Tamson's green.' 

The green was latterly occupied by the relict of this 
Thomson; and among the bad debts on the Excise books, all 
of which are yearly brought forward and enumerated, there still 
stands a sum of something more than six pounds against Widow 
Thomson, being the last half-year's rent of the green, which the 
poor woman had been unable to pay. The north side of 
Brown's Square was built upon part of this space of ground; 
the rest remained a vacant area for the recreation of the people 
dwelling in Merchant Street, until the erection of the bridge, 
which has overrun that, as well as every other part of the scene 
of this article.* 

* Near by is the Magdalen Chapel, a curious relic of the sixteenth century, belonging to 
the Corporation of Hammermen. It was erected immediately before the Reformation by a 
pious citizen, Michael Macquhan, and Jonet Rhynd, his widow, whose tomb is shewn in 



'.J 2 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



ST CECILIA'S HALL. 

Few persons now living (1847) recollect the elegant concerts 
that were given many years ago in what is now an obscure part 
of our ancient city, known by the name of St Cecilia's Hall. 
They did such honour to Edinburgh, nearly for half a centuiy, 
that I feel myself called on to make a brief record of them, and 
am glad to be enabled to do so by a living authority, one of the 
most fervent worshippers in the temple of the goddess. Hear, 
then, his last aria pai'lante on this interesting theme. 

' The concerts of St Cecilia's Hall formed one of the most 
liberal and attractive amusements that any city in Europe could 
boast of The hall was built on purpose at the foot of Niddry's 
Wynd, by a number of public-spirited noblemen and gentlemen ; 
and the expense of the concerts was defrayed by about two 
hundred subscribers paying two or three guineas each annually; 
and so respectable was the institution considered, that upon the 
death of a member, there were generally several applications for 
the vacancy, as is now the case with the Caledonian Hunt. The 
concerts were managed by a governor and a set of six or more 

the floor. The windows towards the south were anciently filled with stained glass ; and 
there still remain some specimens of that kind of ornament, which, by some strange 
chance, had survived the Reformation. In a large department at the top of one window 
are the arms of Mary of Guise, who was queen-regent at the time the chapel was built. 
The arms of Macquhan and his wife are also to be seen. In the lower panes, which have 
been filled with small figures of saints, only one remains — a St Bartholomew — who, by a 
rare chance, has survived the general massacre. The whole is now very carefully pre- 
served. When the distinguished Reformer, John Craig, returned to Scotland at the 
Reformation, after an absence of twenty-four years, he preached for some time in this 
chapel in the Latin language, to a select congregation of the learned, being unable, by long 
disuse, to hold forth in his vernacular tongue. This divine subsequently was appointed a 
colleague to John Knox, and is distinguished in history for having refused to publish the 
banns between Queen Mary and Bothwell, and also for having written the National 
Covenant in 1589. Another circumstance in the history of this chapel is worthy of notice. 
The body of the Earl of Argj'U, after his execution, June 30, 1685, was brought down and 
deposited in this place, to wait till it should be conveyed to the family burying-place at 
Kilmun. 



ST CECILIA S HALL. 273 

directors, who engaged the performers — the principal ones from 
Italy, one or two from Germany, and the rest of the orchestra 
was made up of English and native artists. The concerts were 
given weekly during most of the time that I attended; the 
instrumental music consisting chiefly of the concertos of Corelli 
and Handel, and the overtures of Bach, Abel, Stamitz, Vanhall, 
and latterly of Haydn and Pleyel ; for at that time, and till a 
good many years after, the magnificent symphonies of Haydn, 
Mozart, and Beethoven, which now form the most attractive 
portions of all public concerts, had not reached this country. 
Those truly grand s)anphonies do not seem likely to be super- 
seded by any similar compositions for a century to come, 
transcending so immensely, as they do, all the orchestral 
compositions that ever before appeared ; yet I must not venture 
to prophesy, when I bear in mind what a powerful influence 
fashion and folly exercise upon music, as well as upon other 
objects of taste. When the overtures and quartetts of Haydn 
first found their way into this country, I well remember with 
what coldness the former were received by most of the grave 
Handelians, while at the theatres they gave delight. The old 
concert gentlemen said that his compositions wanted the solidity 
and full harmony of Handel and Corelli ; and when the cele- 
brated leader — the elder Cramer — visited St Cecilia's Hall, and 
played a spirited charming overture of Haydn's, an old amateur 
next to whom I was seated asked me: " Whase music is that, 
now ? " " Haydn's, sir," said I. " Poor new-fangled stuff," 
he replied ; " I hope I shall never hear it again ! " Many 
years have since .rolled away, and mark what some among 
us now say : A friend calling lately on an old lady much in 
the fashionable circle of society, heard her give directions to 
the pianist who was teaching her nieces to bring them some new 
and fashionable pieces of music, but no more of the unfashio7i- 
able compositions of Haydn ! Alas for those ladies whose taste 
in music is regulated by fashion, and who do not know that the 
music of Haydn is the admiration and delight of all the real 
lovers and judges of the art in Europe ! 



274 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

' The vocal department of our concerts consisted chiefly of 
the songs of Handel, Arne, Gluck, Sarti, Jomelli, Guglielmi, 
Paisiello, Scottish songs, &c. ; and every year, generally, we had 
an oratorio of Handel performed, with the assistance of a 
principal bass and a tenor singer, and a few chorus-singers from 
the English cathedrals ; together with some Edinburgh amateurs,* 
who cultivated that sacred and sublime music ; Signor and 
Signora Domenico Corri, the latter our prima donna, singing 
most of the principal songs, or most interesting portions of the 
music. On such occasions the hall was always crowded to 
excess by a splendid assemblage, including all the beauty and 
fashion of our city. A supper to the directors and their friends 
at Fortune's Tavern generally followed the oratorio, where the 
names of the chief beauties who had graced the hall were 
honoured by their healths being drunk : the champion of the 
lady whom he proposed as his toast being sometimes challenged 
to maintain the pre-eminence of her personal charms by the 
admirer of another lady filling a glass of double depth to her 
health, and thus forcing the champion of the first lady to say 
more by drinking a still deeper bumper in honour of her beauty ; 
and if this produced a rejoinder from the other, by his seizing 
and quaffing the cup of largest calibre, there the contest gener- 
ally ended, and the deepest drinker saved his lady, as it was 
phrased, although he might have had some difficulty in saving 
himself from a flooring, while endeavouring to regain his seat.t 
Miss Burnet of Monboddo and Miss Betsy Home, reigning 
beauties of the time, were said more than once to have been the 
innocent cause of the fall of man in this way. The former was 
gifted with a countenance of heavenly sweetness and expression, 
which Guido, had he beheld it, would have sought to perpetuate 
upon canvas as that of an angel ; while the other lady, quite 

* The amateurs who took the lead as choristers were Gilbert Innes, Esq. of Stow ; Alex- 
ander Wight, Esq. advocate ; Mr John Hutton, paper-maker ; Mr John Russel, W.S., and 
Mr George Thomson. As an instrumentalist, we could boast of our countryman the Earl 
of Kelly, who also composed six overtures for an orchestra, one of which I heard played 
in the hall, himself leading the band. 

t See a different account of this custom, p. 162. 



ST CECILIA S HALL. 275 

piquant and brilliant, might have sat to Titian for a Hebe, or 
one of the Graces. Miss Burnet died in the bloom of youth, 
universally regretted both for her personal charms and the rare 
endo^vments of her mind. Miss Home was happily married to 
Captain Bro\vn, her ardent admirer, who had made her his toast 
for years, and vowed he would continue to do so till he toasted 
her Brown. This sort of exuberant loyalty to beauty was by no 
means uncommon at the convivial meetings of those days, when 
" time had not thinned our flowing hair, nor bent us with his 
iron hand." 

' Let me call to mind a few of those whose lovely faces at the 
concerts gave us the sweetest zest for the music. Miss Cleghorn 
of Edinburgh, still living in single-blessedness; Miss Chalmers 
of Pittencrief, who married Sir William Miller of Glenlee, Bart. ; 
Miss Jessie Chalmers of Edinburgh, who was married to Mr 
Pringle of Haining ; Miss Hay of Hayston, who married Sir 
William Forbes of Pitsligo, Bart. ; Miss Murray of Lintrose, who 
was called the Flower of Strathmore, and upon whom Bums 
wrote the song : 

" Blithe, blithe, and merry was she, 
Blithe was she but and ben ; 
Blithe by the banks of Earn, 
And blithe in Glenturit Glen." 

She married David Smith, Esq. of Methven, one of the Lords of 
Session; Miss Jardine of Edinburgh, who married Mr Home 
Drummond of Blairdrummond — their daughter, if I mistake not, 
is now the Duchess of Athole ; Miss Kinloch of Gilmerton, who- 
married Sir Foster Cunliffe of Acton, Bart. ; Miss Lucy Johnston 
of East Lothian, who married Mr Oswald of Auchincruive; Miss 
Halket of Pitferran, who became the wife of the celebrated 
Count Lally-Tolendal ; and Jane, Duchess of Gordon, cele- 
brated for her wit and spirit, as well as for her beauty. These, 
with Miss Burnet and Miss Home, and many others whose 
names I do not distinctly recollect, were indisputably worthy of 
all the honours conferred upon them. But beauty has tempted 



276 • TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

me to digress too long from my details relative to the hall and 
its concerts, to which I return. 

' The hall [built in 1762 from a design of Mr Robert Mylne, 
after the model of the great opera theatre of Parma] was an 
exact oval, having a concave elliptical ceiling, and was remark- 
able for the clear and perfect conveyance of sounds, without 
responding echoes, as well as for the judicious manner in which 
the seating was anunged. In this last respect, I have seen no 
concert-room equal to it either in London or Paris. The 
orchestra was erected at the upper end of the hall, opposite to 
the door of entrance : a' portion of the area, in the centre or 
widest part, was without any seats, and served as a small 
promenade, where friends could chat together during the 
intervals of performance. The seats were all fixed down on 
both sides of the hall, and each side was raised by a gradual 
elevation from the level area, backward, the rows of seats behind 
each other, till they reached a passage a few feet broad, that was 
carried quite round the hall behind the last of the elevated seats ; 
so that when the audience was seated, each half of it fronted 
the other — an an'angement much preferable to that commonly 
adopted, of placing all the seats upon a level behind each other, 
for thus the 'whole company must look one way, and see each 
other's backs. A private staircase at the upper end of the hall, 
not seen by the company, admitted the musicians into the 
orchestra ; in the front of which stood a harpsichord, with the 
singers, and the principal violoncellist ; and behind these, on a 
platform a little elevated, were the violins, and other stringed 
and wind instruments, just behind which stood a noble organ. 
The hall, when filled, contained an audience of about four 
hundred. No money was taken for admission, tickets being 
given gratis to the lovers of music, and to strangers. What a 
pity that such a liberal and gratifying institution should have 
ceased to exist ! But after the New Town arose, the Old was 
deserted by the upper classes : the hall was too small for the 
increased population, and concerts were got up at the Assembly 
Rooms and Corri's Rooms by the professional musicians, and by 



ST Cecilia's hall. 277 

Corri himself. Now, a capacious Music Hall is erected behind 
the Assembly Rooms, where a pretty good subscription concert 
is carried on; and from the increased facility of intercourse 
between Paris, London, and Edinburgh, it seems probable that 
concerts by artists of the highest talents will ere long be set on 
foot in Edinburgh in this fine hall, diversified sometimes by 
oratorios or Italian operas. 

' Before concluding this brief memoir of St Cecilia's Hall 
Concerts, I shall mention the chief performers who gave 
attractions to them. These were Signor and Signora Domenico 
Com, from Rome ; he with a falsetto voice, which he managed 
\vith much skill and taste ; the signora with a fine, full-toned, 
flexible soprano voice. Tenducci, though not one of the band, 
nor resident among us, made his appearance occasionally when 
he came to visit the Hopetoun family, his liberal and steady 
patrons ; and while he remained, he generally gave some con- 
certs at the hall, which made quite a sensation among the 
musicals. I considered it a jubilee year whenever Tenducci 
arrived, as no singer I ever heard sung with more expressive 
simplicity, or was more efficient, whether he sung the classical 
songs of Metastasio, or those of Arne's Artaxerxes, or the simple 
melodies of Scotland. To the latter he gave such intensity of 
interest by his impassioned manner, and by his clear enunciation 
of the words, as equally surprised and delighted us. I never 
can forget the pathos and touching effect of his Gilderoy, 
Lochaber 710 more, The Braes of Ballenden, I'' II never leave thee, 
Roslhi Castle, &c. These, with the Verdi prati of Handel, Fair 
Aurora from Arne's Artaxerxes, and Gluck's Che faro, were 
above all praise. Miss Poole, Mr Smeaton, Mr Gilson, and 
Mr Urbani were also for a time singers at the hall — chiefly of 
English and Scottish songs. 

' In the instrumental department we had Signor Puppo, from 
Rome or Naples, as leader and violin concerto player, a most 
capital artist ; Mr Schetky, from Germany, the principal violon- 
cellist, and a fine solo concerto player ; Joseph Reinagle, a very 
clever violoncello and viola player ; Mr Barnard, a very elegant 



278 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

violinist ; Stephen Clarke, an excellent organist and harpsichord 
player ; and twelve or fifteen violins, basses, flutes, violas, horns, 
and clarionets, with extra performers often from London. Upon 
the resignation of Puppo, who charmed all hearers, Stabilini 
succeeded him, and held the situation till the institution was at 
an end : he had a good round tone, though, to my apprehension, 
he did not exceed mediocrity as a performer. 

' But I should be unpardonable if I omitted to mention the 
most a6complished violin-player I ever heard, Paganini only 
excepted — I mean Giomovicki, who possessed in a most extra- 
ordinary degree the various requisites of his beautiful art : 
execution peculiarly brilliant, and finely articulated as possible ; 
a tone of the richest and most exquisite quality ; expression of 
the utmost delicacy, grace, and tenderness ; and an animation 
that commanded your most intense and eager attention, 
Paganini did not appear in Edinburgh till [thirty years] after 
the hall was closed. There, as well as at private parties, I 
heard Giomovicki often, and always with no less delight than 
I listened to Paganini.'^ Both, if I may use the expression, 
threw their whole hearts and souls into their Cremonas, bows, 
and fingers. 

" Hall of sweet sounds, adieu, with all thy fascinations of langsyne, 
My dearest reminiscences of music all are thine." ' 

G. T. Octogmaritis Edinburgcnsis, Feb. 1847.+ 



* [' John M. Giomovicki, commonly known in Britain under the name of Jamowick, was 
a native of Palermo. About 1770 he went to Paris, where he performed a concerto of his 
famous master LoUi, but did not succeed. He then played one of his own concertos, that 
in A major, and became quite the fashion. The style of Giomovicki was highly elegant 
and finished, his intonation perfect, and his taste pure. The late Domenico Dragonetti, 
one of the best judges in Europe, told me that Giomovicki was the most elegant and grace- 
ful violin-player he had ever heard before Paganini, but that he wanted power. He seems 
to have been a dissipated and passionate man ; a good swordsman too, as was common in 
those days. One day, in a dispute, he struck the Chevalier St George, then one of the 
greatest violin-players and best swordsmen in Europe. St George said coolly : "I have too 
much regard for his musical talent to fight him." A noble speech, shewing St George in 
all respects the better man. Giomovicki died suddenly at St Petersburg in 1S04.' — G. F. G.\ 

t G. T., it may now be explained, was George Thomson, the well-known and generally 
loved editor of the Melodies of Scotland. He might rather have described himself as 
Noiwgenaritis, for at his death in 1851, he had reached the age of ninety-four, his violin, as 
he believed, having prolonged his life much beyond the usual term. 



ST Cecilia's hall. 279 

Stabilini, to whom our dear G. T. refers, and who died in 
1 815, much broken down by dissipation, was obliged, against 
his will, to give frequent attendance at the private concerts of 
one of these gentlemen performers, where Corelli's trios were in 
great vogue. There was always a capital supper afterwards, at 
which Stab (so he was familiarly called) ate and drank for any 
two. A waggish friend, who knew his opinion of Edinburgh 
amateurs, meeting him next day, would ask : ' Well, Mr 
Stabilini, what sort of music had you the other night at 



' Vera good soaper, sir ; vera good soaper ! ' 

' But tell us the verse you made about one of these parties.' 

Stabilini, twitching up his shirt-collar, a common trick of his, 

would say : 

* A piece ov toarkey for a hungree bellee 
Is moatch suTpeerior to Corelli ! ' 

The accent, the manner, the look with which this was delivered, 
is said to have been beyond expression rich. 

It is quite remarkable, when we consider the high character 
of the popular melodies, how late and slow has been the intro- 
duction of a taste for the higher class of musical compositions 
into Scotland. The Earl of Kelly, a man of yesterday, was the 
first Scotsman who ever composed music for an orchestra. 
This fact seems sufficient. It is to be feared that the beauty 
of the melodies is itself partly to be blamed for the indifference 
to higher music. There is too great a disposition to rest with 
the distinction thus conferred upon the nation ; too many are 
content to go no further for the enjoyments which music has to 
give. It would be well if, while not forgetting those beautiful 
simple airs, we were more generally to open our minds to the 
still richer charms of the German and the Italian muses. 



28o TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



THE MURDER OF DARNLEY. 

While this event is connected with one of the most problem- 
atical points in our own history, or that of any other nation, it 
chances that the whole topography of the aifair is very distinctly 
recorded. We know not only the exact spot where the deed 
was perpetrated, but almost every foot of the ground over which 
the perpetrators walked on their way to execute it. It is chiefly 
by reason of the depositions and confessions brought out by the 
legal proceedings against the inferior instruments, that this 
minute knowledge is attained. 

The house in which the unfortunate victim resided at the time 
was one called the Prebendaries' Chamber, being part of the 
suite of domestic buildings connected with the collegiate church 
of St-Mary-in-the-Fields (usually called the Kirk d Field). 
Darnley was brought to lodge here on the 30th of January 
1566-7. He had contracted the small-pox at Glasgow, and it 
was thought necessary, or pretended to be thought necessary, t-o 
lodge him in this place for air, as also to guard against infecting 
the infant prince, his son, who was lodged in Holyrood House, 
The house, which then belonged, by gift, to a creature of the 
Earl of Bothwell, has been described as so very mean, as to 
excite general surprise. Yet, speaking by comparison, it does 
nQt appear to have been a bad temporary lodging for a person 
in Damley's circumstances. It consisted of two storeys, with a 
turnpike or spiral staircase behind. The gable adjoined to the 
town-wall, which there ran in a line east and west, and the cellar 
had a postern opening through that wall. In the upper floor 
were a chamber and closet, with a little gallery having a window 
also through the town-wall.* Here Darnley was deposited in 

* About seventy paces to the east of the site of the Prebendaries' Chamber, and exactly 
opposite to the opening of Roxburgh Place, was a projection in the wall, which has been 
long demolished, and the wall altered. Close, however, to the west of the place, and near 



THE MURDER OF DARNLEY. 261 

an old purple travelling-bed. Underneath his room was an 
apartment in which the queen slept for one or two nights before 
the murder took place. On the night of Sunday, February g, 
she was attending upon her husband in his sick-room, when the 
servants of the Earl of Bothwell deposited the powder in her 
room, immediately under the king's bed. The queen afterwards 
took her leave, in order to attend the wedding of two of her 
servants at the palace. 

It appears, from the confessions of the wretches executed for 
this foul deed, that, as they returned from depositing the powder, 
they saw ' the Queenes grace gangand before thame with licht 
torches up the Black Frier Wynd.' On their returning to 
Bothwell's lodging at the palace, that nobleman prepared himself 
for the deed, by changing his gay suit of 'hose, stockit with 
black velvet, passemented with silver, and doublett of black 
satin of the same maner,' for ' ane uther pair of black hose,* 
and ane canves doublet white, and tuke his syde [long] riding- 
cloak about him, of sad English claith, callit the new colour.' 
He then went, attended by Paris, the queen's servant, Powry, 
his own porter. Pate Wilson, and George Dalgliesh, ' downe the 
turnepike altogedder, and along the bak of the Queenes garden, 
till you come to the bak of the cunyie-house [mint], and the 
bak of the stabbillis, till you come to the Cannogate foment the 
Abbey zett.' After passing up the Canongate, and gaining entry 
with some difficulty by the Netherbow Port, 'thai gaid up 
abone Bassentyne's hous on the south side of the gait,t and 
knockit at ane door beneath the sword slippers, and callit for 
the laird of Ormistounes, and one within answerit he was not 
thair ; and thai passit down a cloiss beneath the Frier Wynd 
\_apparently ToddricKs Wjynd], and enterit in at the zett of the 
Black Friers, till thay came to the back wall and dyke of the 

the ground, are some remains of an arch in the wall, which Malcolm Laing supposes to 
have been a gun-port connected with the projection at this spot. It certainly has no 
connection, as Arnot and (after him) Whitaker have supposed, with the story of Damley's 
murder. 

* Hose, in those days, covered the whole of the lower part of the person. 

t This indicates pretty nearly the site of the house of Bassendyne, the early printer. It 
must have been opposite, or nearly opposite, to the Fountain Well. 



282 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

town-wall, whair my lord and Paris past in over the wall.' The 
explosion took place soon after, about two in the morning. 
The earl then came back to his attendants at this spot, and 
* thai past all away togidder out at the Frier zett, and sinderit 
in the Cowgait.' It is here evident that the alley now called 
the High School Wynd was the avenue by which the conspirators 
approached the scene of their atrocity. Bothwell himself, with 
part of his attendants, went up the same wynd 'be east the 
Frier Wynd,' and crossing the High Street, endeavoured to get 
out of the city by leaping a broken part of the town-wall in 
Leith Wynd, but finding it too high, was obliged to rouse once 
more the porter at the Netherbow. They then passed — for 
every motion of the villains has a strange interest — down St 
Mary's Wynd, and along the south back of the Canongate, to 
the earl's lodgings in the palace. 

The house itself, by this explosion, was destroyed, ' even' as 
the queen tells in a letter to her ambassador in France, ' to the 
very grwid-stmie^ The bodies of the king and his servant were 
found next morning in a garden or field on the outside of the 
town-wall. The buildings connected with the Kirk o' Field 
were afterwards converted into the College of King James, now 
our Edinburgh university. The hall of the Senatus in the new 
building occupies nearly the exact site of the Prebendaries' 
Chamber, the ruins of which are laid down in De Witt's map of 
1648. 



MINT CLOSE. 

The Mint — Robert Cullen — Lord Chancellor Loughborough. 

The Ciinyie House, as the Scottish Mint used to be called, was 
near Holyrood Palace in the days of Queen Mary. In the 
regency of Morton, a large house was erected for it in the Cow- 
gate, where it may still be seen, with the following inscription 
over the door : 

BE. MERCYFULL. TO. ME. O. GOD. I574. 



THE MINT. 2S3 

In the reign of Charles II., other buildings were added behind, 
forming a neat quadrangle; and here was the Scottish coin 
produced till the Union, when a separate coinage was given up, 
and this establishment abandoned ; though, to gratify prejudice, 
the offices were still kept up as sinecures. This court, with its 
buildings, was a sanctuary for persons prosecuted for debt, as 
was the King's Stables, a mean place at the west end of the 
Grassmarket. There was, however, a small den near the top of 
the oldest building, lighted by a small window looking up 
the Cowgate, which was used as a jail for debtors or other 
delinquents condemned by the Mint's own officers. 

In the western portion of the old building, accessible by a 
stair from the court, is a handsome room with an alcove ceiling, 
and lighted by two handsomely proportioned windows, which 
is known to have been the council-room of the Mint, being a 
portion of the private mansion of the master. Here, in May 
1590, on a Sunday evening, the town of Edinburgh entertained 
the Danish lords who accompanied James VI. and his queen 
from her native court — namely, Peter Monk, the admiral of 
Denmark ; Stephen Brahe, captain of Eslinburg [perhaps a 
relative of Tycho ?] ; Braid Ransome Maugaret ; Nicholaus 
Theophilus, Doctor of Laws ; Henry Goolister, captain of 
Bocastle; William Vanderwent; and some others. For this 
banquet, ' maid in Thomas Aitchinsoune, master of the cunyie- 
house lugeing,' it was ordered ' that the thesaurer cans by and 
lay in foure punsheouns wyne; John Borthuik baxter to get 
four bunnis of beir, with foure gang of aill, and to furneis breid ; 
Henry Charteris and Roger Macnacht to caus hing the hous 
with tapestrie, set the burdis, furmis, chandleris [cand/esficks], 
and get flowris ; George Carketill and Rychert Doby to provyde 
the cupbuirds and men to keep thame ; and my Lord Provest 
was content to provyde naprie and twa dozen greit veschell, 
and to avance ane hunder pund or mair, as thai sail haif 
a do.' 

In the latter days of the Mint as an active establishment, the 

coining-house was in the ground-floor of the building, on the 

s 



2 84 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

north side of the court; in the adjoining house, on the east 
side, was the finishing-house, where the money was pohshed and 
fitted fiDr circulation. The chief instruments used in coining 
were a hammer and steel dies, upon which the device was 
engraved. The metal, being previously prepared of the proper 
fineness and thickness, was cut into longitudinal slips ; and a 
square piece being cut from the slip, it was afterwards rounded 
and adjusted to the weight of the money to be made. The 
blank pieces of metal were then placed between two dies, and 
the upper one was struck with a hammer. After the Restoration, 
another method was introduced — that of the mill and screw — 
which, modified by many improvements, is still in use. At the 
Union, the ceremony of destroying the dies of the Scottish 
coinage took place in the Mint. After being heated red-hot in 
a furnace, they were defaced by three impressions of a broad- 
faced punch — which were of course visible on the dies as long as 
they existed; but it must be recorded, that all these implements, 
which would now have been great curiosities, are lost, and none 
of the macl^inery remains but the press, which, weighing about 
half a ton, was rather too large to be readily appropriated, or 
perhaps it would have followed the rest. 

The floors over the coining-house — ^bearing the letters, c. R. ii., 
surmounting a crown, and the legend, god save the king, 1674, 
originally the mansion of the master — ^was latterly occupied by 
the eminent Dr CuUen, whose family were all bom here, and 
who died here himself in 1792. 

ROBERT CULLEN. 

Robert Cullen, the son of the physician, made a great impres- 
sion on Edinburgh society by his many delightful social qualities, 
and particularly his powers as a mimic of the Mathews genus. 
He manifested this gift in his earliest years, to the no small 
discomposure of his grave old father. One evening, when Dr 
Cullen was going to the theatre, Robert entreated to be taken 
along with him, but, for some reason, was condemned to remain 
at home. Some time after the departure of the doctor, Mrs 



rob:ert cullen. 285 

CuUen heard him come along the passage, as if from his own 
room, and say, at her door : ' Well, after all, you may let Robert 
go.' Robert was accordingly allowed to depart for the theatre, 
where his appearance gave no small surprise to his father. On 
the old gentleman coming home, and remonstrating with his lady 
for allowing the boy to go, it was discovered that the voice 
which seemed to give the permission had proceeded from the 
young wag himself. 

In maturer years, Cullen could not only mimic any voice or 
mode of speech, but enter so thoroughly into the nature of any 
man, that he could supply exactly the ideas which he was likely 
to use. His imitations were therefore something much above 
mimicries — they were artistic representations of human char- 
acter. He has been known, in a social company, where 
another individual was expected, to stand up, in the character 
of that person, and return thanks for the proposal of his health ; 
and this was done so happily, that, when the individual did 
arrive, and got upon his legs to speak for himself, the company 
was convulsed with an almost exact repetition of what Cullen 
had pre\dously uttered, the manner also, and every inflection of 
the voice, being precisely alike. In relating anecdotes, of which 
he possessed a vast store, he usually prefaced them with a 
sketch of the character of the person referred to, which greatly 
increased the effect, as the story then told characteristically. 
These sketches were remarked to be extremely graphic, and 
most elegantly expressed. 

When a young man, residing with his father, he was very 
intimate with Dr Robertson, the Principal of the university. 
To shew that Robertson was not likely to be easily imitated, it 
may be mentioned, from the report of a gentleman who has 
often heard him making public orations, that when the students 
observed him pause for a word, and would themselves mentally 
supply it, they invariably found that the word which he did use 
was different from that which they had hit upon. Cullen, how- 
ever, could imitate him to the life, either in his more formal 
speeches, or in his ordinary discourse. He would often, in 



'286 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

entering a house which the Principal was in the habit of visiting, 
assume his voice in the lobby and stair, and when arrived at the 
drawing-room door, astonish the family by turning out to be — 
Bob -Cullen. Lord Greville, a pupil of the Principal's, having 
been one night detained at a protracted debauch, where Cullen 
was also present, the latter gentleman next morning got admis- 
sion to the bed-room of the young nobleman, where, personating 
Dr Robertson, he sat down by the bedside, and with all the 
manner of the reverend Principal, gave him a sound lecture for 
having been out so late last night. Greville, who had fully 
expected this visit, lay in remorseful silence, and allowed his 
supposed monitor to depart without saying a word. In the 
course of a quarter of an hour, however, when the real Dr 
Robertson entered, and commenced a harangue exactly dupli- 
cating that just concluded, he could not help exclaiming that it 
was too had to give it him twice over. ' Oh, I see how it is,' 
said Robertson, rising to depart ; ' that rogue Bob Cullen must 
have been with you.' The Principal became at lengthjaccus- 
tomed to Bob's tricks, which he would seem, from the following 
anecdote, to have regarded in a friendly spirit. Being attended 
during an illness by Dr Cullen, it was found .^necessary to 
administer a liberal dose of laudanum. The physician, however, 
asked him, in the first place, in what manner laudanum affected 
him. Having received his answer, Cullen remarked, with 
surprise, that he had never known any one affected in the same 
way by laudanum besides his son Bob. ' Ah,' said Robertson, 
* does the rascal take me off there too V 

Mr Cullen entered at the Scottish bar in 1764, and, distin- 
guishing himself highly as a lawyer, was raised to the bench in 
1796, when he took the designation of Lord Cullen. He 
cultivated elegant literature, and contributed some papers of 
acknowledged merit to the Mirror and Lounger; but it was in 
conversation that he chiefly shone. 

The close adjoining to the Mint contains several old-fashioned 
houses of a dignified appearance. In a floor of one bearing 
the date 1679, ^.nd having a little court in front, Alexander 



ROBERT CULLEN. 287- 

Wedderbum, Earl of Rosslyn, and Lord Chancellor of England, 
resided while at the Scottish bar. This, as is well known, was a 
very brief interval ; for a veteran barrister having one day used 
the term 'presumptuous boy' with reference to him, and his own 
caustic reply having drawn upon him a rebuke from the bench, 
he took off his gown, and making a bow, said he would never 
more plead where he was subjected to insult, but would seek a 
wider field for his exertions. His subsequent rapid rise at the 
English bar is matter of history. It is told that, returning to 
Edinburgh at the end of his life, after an absence of many years, 
he wished to see the house where he had lived while a Scotch 
advocate. Too infirm to walk, he was borne in a chair to the 
foot of the Mint Close, to see this building. One thing he was 
particularly anxious about. While residing here, he had had 
five holes made in the little court, to play at some bowling 
game of which he was fond. He wished above all things to see 
these holes once more, and, when he found they were still there, 
he expressed much satisfaction. Churchill himself might have 
melted at such an anecdote of the old days of him who was 

' Pert at the bar, and in the senate loud.' 

About midway up the close is a turreted mansion accessible 
from Hyndford's Close, and having a tolerably good garden 
connected with it. This was, in 1742, the residence of the Earl 
of Selkirk ; subsequently it was occupied by Dr Daniel Ruther- 
ford, professor of botany. Sir Walter Scott, who, being a 
nephew of that gentleman, was often in the house in his young 
days, communicated to me a curious circumstance connected 
with it. It appears that the house immediately adjacent was 
not furnished with a stair Avide enough to allow of a coffin being 
carried down in decent fashion. It had, therefore, what the 
Scottish law calls z.--servitude upon Dr Rutherford's house, con- 
ferring the perpetual liberty of bringing the deceased inmates 
through a passage into that house, and down its stair into the 
lane. 



288 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



MISS NICKY MURRAY. 

The dancing assemblies of Edinburgh were for many years, 
about the middle of the last century, under the direction and 
dictatorship of the Honourable Miss Nicky Murray, one of the 
sisters of the Earl of Mansfield. Much good sense, firmness, 
knowledge of the world anji of the histories of individuals, as 
well as a due share of patience and benevolence, were required 
for this office of unrecognised though real power; and it was 
generally admitted that Miss Murray possessed the needful 
qualifications in a remarkable degree, though rather more 
marked by good-manners than good-nature. She and her 
sisters lived for many years in a floor of a large building at 
the head of Bailie Fife's Close — a now unhallowed locality, 
where, I believe, Francis Jeffrey attended his first school. In 
their narrow mansion, the Miss Murrays received flights of 
young lady-cousins from the country, to be finished in their 
manners, and introduced into society. No light task must 
theirs have been, all things considered. I find a highly signifi- 
cant note on the subject inserted by an old gentleman in an 
interleaved copy of my first edition : ' It was from Miss Nicky 
Murray's — a relation of the Gray family — that my father ran off 
with my mother, then not sixteen years old.' 

The Assembly Room of that time was in the close where 
the Commercial Bank was afterwards established. First there 
was a lobby, where chairs were disburdened of their company, 
and where a reduced gentleman, with pretensions to the title of 
Lord Kirkcudbright — descendant of the once great Maclellans 
of Galloway — might have been seen selling gloves ; this being 
the person alluded to in a letter written by Goldsmith while a 
student in Edinburgh : ' One day, happening to slip into Lord 
Kilcobry's — don't be surprised, his lordship is only a glover!' 
The dancmg-room opened directly from the lobby, and above 



MISS NICKY MURRAY. 289 

Stairs was a tea-room. The former had a railed space in the 
centre, within which the dancers were arranged, while the 
spectators sat round on the outside; and no communication 
was allowed between the different sides of this sacred pale. 
The lady-directress had a .high chair or throne at one end. 
Before Miss Nicky Murray, Lady Elliot of Minto, and Mrs 
Brown of Coalstoun, wives of judges, had exercised this lofty 
authority, which was thought honourable on account of the 
charitable object of the assembhes. The arrangements were 
of a rigid character, and certainly tending to dulness. There 
being but one set allowed to dance at a time, it was seldom that 
any person was twice on the floor in one night. The most of 
the time was spent in acting the part of lookers-on; which threw 
great duties in the way of conversation upon the gentlemen. 
These had to settle with a partner for the year, and were upon 
no account permitted to change, even for a single night. The 
appointment took place at the beginning of the season, usually 
at some private party or ball, given by a person of distinction, 
where the fans of the ladies were all put into a gentleman's 
cocked hat ; the gentlemen put in their hands, and took a fan ; 
and to whomsoever the fan belonged, that was to be his partner 
for the season. In the general rigours of this system, which 
sometimes produced ludicrous combinations, there was, however, 
one palliative — namely, the fans being all distinguishable from 
each other, and the gentleman being in general as well 
acquainted with the fan as the face of his mistress, and the 
hat being open, it was possible to peep in, and exercise, to 
a certain extent, a principle of selection, whereby he was 
perhaps successful in procuring an appointment to his mind. 
All this is spiritedly given in a poem of Sir Alexander Boswell. 

' Then were the days of modesty of mien ! 
Stays for the fat, and quilting for the lean ; 
The ribboned stomacher, in many a plait, 
Upheld the chest, and dignified the gait ; 
Some Venus, brightest planet of the train, 
Moved in a lustering halo, propped with cane. 



290 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Then the Assembly Close received the fair — 

Order and elegance presided there — 

Each gay Right Honourable had her place, 

To walk a minuet with becoming gi-ace. 

No racing to the dance, with rival hurry — 

Such was thy sway, O famed Miss Nicky Muiray ! 

Each lady's fan a chosen Damon bore, 

With care selected many a day before ; 

For, unprovided with a favourite beau, 

The nymph, chagrined, the ball must needs forego j 

But, previous matters to her taste arranged, 

Certes, the constant couple never changed ; 

Through a long night, to watch fair Delia's will, 

The same dull swain was at her elbow still.' 

A little before Miss Nicky's time, it was customary for gentle- 
men to walk alongside the chairs of their partners, with their 
swords by their sides, and so escort them home. They called 
next afternoon upon their Dulcineas, to inquire how they were, 
and drink tea. The fashionable time for seeing company in 
those days was the evening, when people were all abroad upon 
the street, as in the forenoon now, making calls, and shopping. 
The people who attended the assemblies were very select. 
Moreover, they were all known to each other ; and the intro- 
duction of a stranger required nice preliminaries. It is said 
that Miss Murray, on hearing a young lady's name pronounced 

for the first time, would say : ' Miss , of what ? ' If no 

territorial addition could be made, she manifestly cooled. Upon 
one occasion, seeing a man at the assembly who was born in a 
low situation, and raised to wealth in some humble trade, she 
went up to him, and, without the least deference to his fine- 
laced coat, taxed him with presumption in coming there, and 
turned him out of the room. 

Major Topham praises the regularity and propriety observed 
at the assemblies, though gently insinuating their heaviness. 
He says : ' I was never at an assembly where the authority of 
the manager was so observed or respected. With the utmost 
politeness, affability, and good-humour. Miss Murray attends to 
every one. All petitions are heard, and demands granted, which 



THE BISHOPS LAND, 29I 

appear reasonable. The company is so much the more obliged 
to Miss Murray, as the task is by no means to be envied. The 
crowd which immediately surrounds her on entering the room, 
the impetuous applications of chaperons, maiden-aunts, and the 
earnest entreaties of lovers to obtain a ticket in one of the first 
sets for the dear object, render the fatigue of the office of lady- 
directress almost intolerable.' 

Early hours were kept in those days, and the stinted time was 
never exceeded. Wlien the proper hour arrived for dissolving 
the party, and the young people would crowd round the throne 
to petition for one other set, up rose Miss Nicky in unrelenting 
rigidity of figure, and with one wave of her fan silenced the 
musicians : 

' Quick from the summit of the grove they fell, 
And left it inharmonious.' 



[THE BISHOP'S LAND. 

On the north side of the High Street, a hundred yards or so 
below the North Bridge, there existed previous to 1813 an 
unusually large and handsome old land or building, named the 
BisJwfs Land. It rested upon an arcade or piazza, as it is 
called, and the entry in the first floor bore the ordinary legend : 

BLISSIT BE ZE LORD FOR ALL HIS GIFTIS, 

together with the date 1578, and a shield impaled with two 
coats of arms. Along the front of this floor was a balcony 
composed of brass, a thing unique in the ancient city. The 
house had been the Edinburgh residence of Archbishop John 
Spottiswood. Most unfortunately, the whole line of building 
towards the street was burned down in the year 18 13. 

In the latter part of the last century, the Bishop's Land was 
regarded as a very handsome residence, and it was occupied 



292 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

accordingly by persons of consideration. The dictum of an old 
citizen to me many years ago was : ' Nobody without livery- 
servants lived in the Bishop's Land.' Sir Stuart Threipland of 
Fingask occupied the first floor. His estate, forfeited by his 
father in 1 7 1 6, was purchased back by him, with money obtained 
through his wife, in 1784 ; and the title, which was always given 
to him by courtesy, was restored as a reality to his descendants 
by George IV. He had himself been engaged in the affair of 
1745-6, and had accompanied ' the Prince ' in some part of his 
wanderings. In the hands of this ' fine old Scottish gentleman,' 
for such he was, his house in the Bishop's Land was elegantly 
furnished, there being in particular some well-painted portraits 
of royal personages — not of the reigning house. These had all 
been sent to his father and himself by the persons represented 
in them, who thus shewed their gratitude for efforts made and 
sufferings incurred in their behalf There were five windows 
to the street ; three of them lighting the drawing-room ; the 
remaining two lighted the eldest son's room. A dining-room, 
Sir Stuart's bed-room, his sister Janet's (who kept house for him) 
room, and other apartments were in the rear, some lighted from 
the adjacent close — and these still exist, having been spared by 
the fire. The kitchen and servants' rooms were below. 

In the next floor above lived the Hamiltons of Pencaitland ; 
in the next again, the Aytouns of Inchdaimie. Mrs Aytoun, 
who was a daughter of Lord RoUo, would sometimes come down 
the stair in a winter evening, lighting herself with a little wax- 
taper, to drink tea with Mrs Janet Threipland, for so she called 
herself, though unmarried. In the uppermost floor of all lived 
a reputable tailor and his family. All the various tenants, 
including the tailor, were on good neighbourly terms with each 
other ; a pleasant thing to tell of this bit of the old world, which 
has left nothing of the same kind behind it in these later days, 
when we all live at a greater distance, physical and moral, from 
each other.] 



JOHN KNOX's MANSE. 293 



JOHN KNOX'S MANSE. 

The lower portion of the High Street, including the Netherbow, 
was, till a recent time, remarkable for the antiquity of the 
greater number of the buildings, insomuch that no equal portion 
of the city was more distinctly a memorial of the general appear- 
ance of the whole, as it was in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. On the north side of the High Street, immediately 
adjacent to the Netherbow, there was a nest of tall wooden- 
fronted houses, of one character, and the age of which generally 
might be guessed from the date existing upon one — 1562, 
This formed a perfect example- of the High Gait, as it appeared 
to Queen Mary, excepting that the open booths below had been 
converted into close shops. The fore-stairs — that is, outside 
stairs ascending to the Jirst fioor (technically so called), from 
which the women of Edinburgh reviled the hapless queen, as 
she rode along the street after her surrender at Carberry — ^were 
unchanged in this little district. 

The popular story regarding houses of this kind is, that they 
took their origin in an inconvenience which was felt in having 
the Boroughmoor covered with wood, as it proved, from that 
circumstance, a harbour for robbers. To banish the robbers, it 
was necessary to extirpate the wood. To get this done, the 
magistrates granted leave to the citizens to project their house- 
fronts seven feet into the street, provided they should execute 
the work with timber cut from the Boroughmoor. Robert 
Fergusson follows up this story in a burlesque poem, by relating 
how, consequently, 

' Edina's mansions with lignarian art 
Were piled and fronted. Like an ark she seemed 
To lie on mountain's top, with shapes replete, 
Clean and iinclean 



294 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

To Jove the Dryads prayed, nor prayed in vain, 
For vengeance on her sons. At midnight drear 
Black showers descend, and teeming myriads rise 
Of bugs abhorrent ' 

The only authentic information to be obtained on the point is 
presented by Maitland, when he tells us that the clearing of the 
Boroughmoor of timber took place in consequence of a charter 
from James IV. in 1508. He says nothing of robbers, but 
attributes the permission granted by the magistrates for the 
making of wooden projections merely to their desire of getting 
sale for their timber. After all, I am inclined to trace this 
fashion mainly to taste. The wooden fronts appear to have 
originated in open galleries — an arrangement often spoken of in 
early writings. These, being closed up, or formed into a range 
of windows, would produce the wooden-fronted house. It is 
remarkable that the wooden fronts do not, in many instances, 
bear the appearance of after-thoughts, as the stone structure 
within often shews such an arrangement of the fore wall, as 
seems designed to connect the projecting part with the cham- 
bers within, or to give these chambers as much as possible of 
the borrowed light. At the same time, it is somewhat puzzling 
to find, in the closes below the buildings, gateways with hooks 
for hinges seven feet or so from the present street-front — an 
arrangement which does not appear necessary on the supposition 
that the houses were built designedly with a stone interior and a 
wooden projection. 

In the Netherbow, the street receives a contraction from the 
advance of the houses on the north side, thus closing a species 
of parallelogram, of which the Luckenbooths formed the upper 
extremity — the market-place of our ancient city. The upper- 
most of the prominent houses — ^having of course two fronts 
meeting in a right angle, one fronting to the line of street, the 
other looking up the High Street — is pointed to by tradition as 
the residence or manse of John Knox, during his incumbency 
as minister of Edinburgh, from 1560 till (with few interruptions) 
his death in 1572W It is a picturesque building, of three above- 



JOHN KNOX's MANSE. 295 

ground floors, constructed of substantial ashlar masonry, but on 
a somewhat small scale, and terminating in curious gables and 
masses of chimneys. A narrow door, right in the angle, gives 
access to a small room, lighted by one long window presented 
to the westward, and apparently the hall of the mansion in 
former times. Over the window and door is this legend, in an 
unusually old kind of lettering : 

LVFE • GOD • ABVFE * AL * AND * YI ' NYCHTBOVR ' [AS '] YI " SELF * 

The word * as ' is obliterated. The words are, in modern 
English, simply the well-known scriptural command : ' Love 
God above all, and thy neighbour as thyself.' Perched upon 
the comer above the door is a small effigy of the Reformer, 
preaching in a pulpit, and pointing with his right hand to a 
stone above his head in that direction, which presents in rude 
sculpture the sun bursting from clouds, with the name of the 
Deity inscribed on his disc in three languages : 

0EO2 

DEUS 
GOD 

Dr M'Crie, in his Life of John Kjwx, states that the Reformer, 
on commencing duty in Edinburgh at the conclusion of the 
struggles with the queen-regent, ' lodged in the house of David 
Forrest, a burgess of Edinburgh, from which he removed to the 
lodging which had belonged to Durie, Abbot of Dunfennline.' 
The magistrates acted liberally towards their minister, giving 
him a salary of two hundred pounds Scottish money, and paying 
his house-rent for him, at the rate of fifteen merks yearly. In 
October 156 1, they ordained the dean of guild, 'with al diligence, 
to mak ane warm studye of dailies to the minister, Johne Knox, 
within his hous, aboue the hall of the same, with lyht and 
wyndokis thereunto, and all uther necessaris.' This study is 
generally supposed to have been a very small wooden projection, 
of the kind described a few pages back, still seen on the front 
of the first floor. Close to it is a window in the angle of the 



296 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

building, from which Knox is said by tradition to have occasion- 
ally held forth to multitudes below. 

The second floor, which is accessible by two narrow spiral 
stairs, one to the south, another to the west, contains a tolerably 
spacious room, with a ceiling ornamented by stucco mouldings, 
and a window presented to the westward. A partition has at 
one time divided this room from a narrow one towards the 
north, the ceiling of which is composed of the beams and 
flooring of the attic flat, all curiously painted with flower-work 
in an ancient taste. Two inferior rooms extend still further to 
the northward. It is to be remarked that the wooden projection 
already spoken of extends up to this floor, so that there is here 
likewise a small room in front ; it contains a fireplace, and a 
recess which might have been a cupboard or a library, besides 
two small windows. That this fireplace, this recess, and also 
the door by which the wooden chamber is entered from the 
decorated room, should all be formed in the front wall of the 
house, and with a necessary relation to the wooden projection, 
strikes one as difficult to reconcile with the idea of that pro- 
jection being an after-thought ; the appearances rather indicate 
the whole having been formed at once, as parts of one design. 
The attic floor exhibits strong oaken beams, but the flooring is 
in bad order. 

In the lower part of the house there is a small room, said by 
tradition to have been used in times of difficulty for the purpose 
of baptising children ; there is also a well to supply the house 
with water, besides a secret stair, represented as communicating 
subterraneously with a neighbouring alley. 

From the size of this house, and the variety of accesses to it, 
it becomes tolerably certain that Knox could have only occupied 
a portion of it. The question arises, which part did he occupy ? 
Probability seems decidedly in favour of the Jirsi floor — that 
containing the window from which he is traditionally said to 
have preached, and where his effigy appears. An authentic fact 
in the Reformer's life favours this supposition. When under 
danger from the hostility of the queen's party in the castle — in 



HYNDFORDS CLOSE. 297 

the spring of 15 71 — ' one evening a musket ball was fired in at 
his window, and lodged in the roof of the apartment in which 
he was sitting. It happened that he sat at the time in a 
different part of the room from that which he had been accus- 
tomed to occupy, otherwise the ball, from the direction it took, 
must have struck him.' — M'Crie. The second floor is too high 
to have admitted of a musket being fired in at one of the 
windows. A ball fired in at the ground-floor would not have 
struck the ceiling. The only feasible supposition in the case is, 
that the Reformer dwelt in \!a.& first fioor, which was not beyond 
an assassin's aim, and yet at such a height, that a ball fired from 
the street would hit the ceilina:. 



HYNDFORD'S CLOSE. 

At the bottom of the High Street, on the south side, there is an 
uncommonly huge and dense mass of stone buildings or lands, 
penetrated only by a few narrow closes. One of these is Hynd- 
ford's Close, a name indicating the noble family which once had 
lodgment in it. This was a Scotch peerage not without its 
glories — witness particularly the third earl, who acted as ambas- 
sador in succession to Prussia, to Russia, and to Vienna. It is 
now- extinct : its bijouterie, its pictures, including portraits of 
Maria Theresa, and other royal and imperial personages, which 
had been presented as friendly memorials to the ambassador, 
have all been dispersed by the salesman's hammer, and 
H}aidford's Close, on my trying to get into it lately (1868), 
was inaccessible (literally) "from filth. 

The entry and stair at the head of the close on the west side 
was a favourite residence, on account of the ready access to 
it from the street. In the second floor of this house, lived 
about the beginning of the reign of George III., Lady Maxwell 
of Monreith, and there brought up her beautiful daughters, one 



298 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of whom became Duchess of Gordon. The house had a dark 
passage, and the kitchen door was passed in going to the dining- 
room, according to an agreeable old practice in Scotch houses, 
which lets the guests know on entering what they have to expect. 
The fineries of Lady Maxwell's daughters were usually hung up, 
after washing, on a screen in this passage, to dry ; while the 
coarser articles of dress, such as shifts and petticoats, were slung 
decently out of sight at the window, upon a projecting con- 
trivance similar to a dyer's pole, of which numerous specimens 
still exist at windows in the Old Town, for the convenience of 
the poorer inhabitants. 

So easy and familiar were the manners of the great in those 
times, fabled to be so stiff and decorous, that Miss EgHntoune, 
afterwards Lady Wallace, used to be sent with the tea-kettle 
across the street to the Fountain -Well for water to make tea. 
Lady Maxwell's daughters were the wildest romps imaginable. 
An old gentleman, who was their relation, told me that the first 
time he saw these beautiful girls was in the High Street, where 
Miss Jane, afterwards Duchess of Gordon, was riding upon a 
sow, which Miss Eglintoune thumped lustily behind with a stick. 
It must be understood that, in the middle of the eighteenth 
century, vagrant swine went as commonly about the streets of 
Edinburgh as dogs do in our own day, and were more generally 
fondled as pets by the children of the last generation.* It may, 
however, be remarked, that the sows upon which the Duchess 
of Gordon and her witty sister rode, when children, were not 
the common vagrants of the High Street, but belonged to Peter 
Ramsay, of the inn in St Mary's Wynd, and were among the 
last that were permitted to roam abroad. The two romps used 
to watch the animals as they were let loose in the forenoon 
from the stable-yard (where they lived among the horse-litter), 
and get upon their backs the moment they issued from the close. 

* The following advertisement, inserted in the Edininirgh Courant of August i, 1754, 
illustrates the above in a striking manner : ' If any person has lost a large sow, let them 
call at the house of Robert Fiddes, gardener to Lord Minto, over against the Earl of 
Galloway's, in the Horse Wynd, where, upon proving the property, paying expenses and 
damages done by the said sow, they may have the same restored.' 



hyndford's close. 299 

The extraordinary cleverness, the genuine wit, and the delight- 
ful abandon of Lady Wallace, made an extraordinary impression 
on Scottish society in her day. It almost seemed as if some 
faculty divine had inspired her. A milliner, bringing home a 
cap to her when she was just about to set off to the Leith races, 
was so unlucky as tear it against the buckle of a porter's knee 
in the street. 'No matter,' said her ladyship; and instantly 
putting it on, restored all to grace by a single pin. The cap, 
thus mis-arranged, was found so perfectly exquisite, that ladies 
tore their caps on nails, and pinned them on, in the hope of 
imitating it. It was, however, a grace beyond the reach of 
art. 

Of the many bon mots attributed to her, one alone seems 
worthy, from its being unhackneyed, of appearing here. The 
son of Mr Kincaid, king's printer — a great Macaroni, as the 
phrase went ; that is, dandy — was nicknamed, from his father's 
lucrative patent. Young Bibles. This beau entering a ball-room 
one evening, some of the company asked who was that extra- 
ordinary-looking young man. ' Only Young Bibles,' quoth Lady 
Wallace, 'bound in calf, and gilt, but not lettered!' 

[In the same stair in Hyndford's Close lived another lady of 
rank, and one who, for several reasons, filled in her time a broad 
space in society. This was Anne, Countess of Balcarres, the 
progenitrix of perhaps as many persons as ever any woman was 
in the same space of time. Her eldest daughter, Anne, authoress 
of the ballad oi Auld Robin Gray, was, of all her eleven children, 
the one whose name is most likely to continue in remembrance 
— yea, though another of them put down the Maroon war in 
the West Indies. When in Hyndford's Close, Lady Balcarres 
had for a neighbour in the same alley Dr Rutherford, the uncle 
of Sir Walter Scott; and young Walter, often at his uncle's, 
occasionally accompanied his aunt ' Jeanie ' to Lady Balcarres's. 
Forty years after, having occasion to correspond with Lady 
Annfe Barnard, nee Lindsay, he told her : ' I remember all the 
locale of Hyndford's Close perfectly, even to the Indian screen 
with Harlequin and Columbine, and the harpsichord, though I 



300 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

never had the pleasure of hearing Lady Anne play upon it. I 
suppose the close, once too clean to soil the hem of your 
ladyship's garment, is now a resort for the lowest mechanics — 
and so wears the world away. ... It is, to be sure, more 
picturesque to lament the desolation of towers on hills and 
haughs, than the degradation of an Edinburgh close; but I 
cannot help thinking on the simple and cosie retreats where 
worth and talent, and elegance to boot, were often nestled, and 
which now are the resort of misery, filth, poverty, and vice.' * 

The late Mrs Meetham, a younger sister of Miss Spence 
Yeaman, of Murie, in the Carse of Gowrie, had often heard her 
grand-aunt. Miss Molly Yeaman, describe, from her own 
recollection, the tea-drinkings of the Countess of Balcarres in 
Hyndford's Close. The family was not rich, and it still retained 
something of its ancient Jacobitism. The tea-drinkings, as was 
not uncommon, took place in my lady's bed-room. At the foot 
of a four-posted bed, exhibiting a finely worked coverlet, stood 
John, an elderly man-servant, and a character, in full Balcarres 
livery, an immense quantity of worsted lace on his coat. 
Resting with his arm round a bedpost, he was ready to hand 
the kettle when required. As the ladies \vent chattering on, 
there would sometimes occur a difficulty about a date, or a 
point in genealogy, and then John was appealed to to settle the 
question. For example, it came to be debated how many of 
tlie Scotch baronetcies were real ; for, as is still the case, many 
of them were known to be fictitious, or assumed without legal 
grounds. Here John was known to be not only learned, but 
eloquent. He began : * Sir James Kinloch, Sir Stuart Threip- 

land. Sir John Wedderbum, Sir Ogilvy, Sir James Steuart 

of Coltness ' [all of them forfeited baronets, be it observed] : 
' these, leddies, are the only real baronets. For the rest, I do 

believe, the Deil ' then a figurative declaration not fit for 

modern print, but which made the Balcarres party only laugh, 
and declare to John that they thought him not far wrong.] 

• Lord Lindsay's Lives of the Lindsays, iii. 190. 



HOUSE OF THE MARQUISES OF TWEEDDALE. 30!' 



HOUSE OF THE MARQUISES OF TWEEDDALE 
—THE BEGBIE TEAGEDY. 

The town mansion of the Marquises of Tweeddale was one of 
large extent and dimensions, in a court which still bears the title 
of that family, nearly opposite to the mansion of John Knox.* 
When John, the fourth marquis, was Secretary of State for 
Scotland, in the reign of George II., this must have been a 
dwelling of considerable importance in the eyes of his country- 
men. It had a good garden in the rear, witli a yard and coach 
entry from the Cowgate. Now, all the buildings and 'pertinents' 
are in the occupation of Messrs Oliver and Boyd, the well-known 
publishers. 

The passage from the street into Tweeddale Court is narrow 
and dark, and about fifteen yards in length. Here, in 1806, 
when the mansion was possessed as a banking-house by the 
British Linen Company, there took place an extraordinary 
tragedy* About five o'clock of the evening of the 13th of 
November, when the short mid-winter day had just closed, a 
child who lived in a house accessible from the close was sent 
by her mother, with a kettle, to obtain a supply of water for 
tea from the neighbouring well. The little girl, stepping with 
the kettle in her hand out of the public stair into the close, 
stumbled in the dark over something which lay there, and which 
proved to be the body of a man just expiring. On an alarm 
being given, it was discovered that this was William Begbie, a 
porter connected with the bank, in whose heart a knife was 
stuck up to the haft, so that he bled to death before uttering a 

* ' During this peaceable time [i66S — 1675], he [John, Earl of Tweeddale] built the park 
of Vester of stone and limej near seven miles about, in seven years' time, at the expense of 
20,000 pound ; bought a house in Edinburgh from Sir William Bruce for 1000 pound sterling, 
and ane other house within the same court, which, being rebuilt from the foundation, the 
price of it and reparations of both stood him 1000 sterling.' — Fatlier Hay's Genealosis oj 
the Hayes of Tweeddale (Edinburgh, 183s), p. 32. 



302 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

word which might tend to explain the dismal transaction. He 
was at the same time found to have been robbed of a package 
of notes to the value of above four thousand pounds, which he 
had been intrusted, in the course of his ordinary duty, to carry 
from the branch of the bank at Leith to the head-office.* The 
blow had been given with an accuracy, and a calculation of 
consequences, shewing the most appalling deliberation in the 
assassin; for not only was the knife directed straight into the 
most vital part, but its handle had been muffled in a bunch of 
soft paper, so as to prevent, as was thought, any sprinkling of 
blood from reaching the person of the murderer, by which he 
might have been, by some chance, detected. The knife was 
one of those with broad thin blades and wooden handles which 
are used for cutting bread, and its rounded front had been 
ground to a point, apparently for the execution of this horrible 
deed. The unfortunate man left a wife and four children to 
bewail his loss. 

The singular nature and circumstances of Begbie's murder 
occasioned mtich excitement in the public mind, and every 
effort was of course made to discover the guilty party. No 
house of a suspicious character in the city was left unsearched, 
and parties were despatched to watch and patrol all the various 
roads leading out into the country. The bank offered a reward 
of five hundred pounds for such information as might lead to 
the conviction of the offender or offenders; and the govern- 
ment further promised the king's 'pardon to any except the 
actual murderer, who, having been concerned in the deed, 
might discover their accomplices. The sheriff of Edinburgh, 
Mr Clerk Rattray, displayed the greatest zeal in his endeavoius 
to ascertain the circumstances of the murder, and to detect and 
seize the murderer, but with surprisingly little success. All that 
could be ascertained was, that Begbie, in proceeding up Leith 
Walk on his fatal mission, had been accompanied by 'a man;' 

* The notes are thus described in the Hue and Cry : ;^i300 in twenty-pound notes of Sir 
W. Forbes and Company ; ^looo in twenty-pound notes of the Leith Banking Company ; 
JC1400 In twenty, ten, and five pound notes of different banks ; 240 guinea and 440 poimd 
notes of different banks — in al), ^4392. 



THE BEGBIE TRAGEDY. 303 

and that, about the supposed time of the murder, ' a man ' had 
been seen by some children to run out of the close into the 
street, and down Leith Wynd, a lane leading off from the 
Netherbow at a point nearly opposite to the close. There was 
also reason to believe that the knife had been bought in a shop 
about two o'clock on the day of the murder, and that it had 
been afterwards ground upon a grinding-stone, and smoothed on 
a hone. A number of suspicious characters were apprehended 
and examined; but all, with one exception, produced satis- 
factory proofs of their innocence. The exception was a carrier 
between Perth and Edinburgh, a man of dissolute and irregular 
habits, of great bodily strength, and known to be a dangerous 
and desperate character. He was kept in custody for a con- 
siderable time on suspicion, having been seen in the Canongate, 
near the scene of the murder, a very short time after it was 
committed. It has since been ascertained that he was then 
going about a different business, the disclosure of which would 
have subjected him to a capital punishment. It was in con- 
sequence of the mystery he felt himself impelled to preserve on 
this subject, that he was kept so long in custody; but at length 
facts and circumstances came out to warrant his discharge, and 
he was discharged accordingly. 

Months rolled on, without eliciting any evidence respecting 
the murder, and, like other wonders, it had ceased in a great 
measure to engage public attention, when, on the loth of 
August 1807, a journeyman mason, in company with two other 
men, passing through the Bellevue grounds in the neighbour- 
hood of the city, found, in a hole in a stone enclosure, by the 
side of a hedge, a parcel containing a large quantity of bank- 
notes, bearing the appearance of having been a good while 
exposed to the weather. After consulting a little, the men 
carried the package to the sheriff's ofhce, where it was found to 
contain about ;^3ooo in large notes, being those which had been 
taken from Begbie. The British Linen Company rewarded the 
men with two hundred pounds for their honesty; but the circum- 
stance passed without throwing any light on the murder itsel£ 



304 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Up to the present day, the murderer of Begbie has not 
been discovered ; nor is it probable, after the space of time 
which has elapsed, that he ever will be so. It is most likely 
that the grave has long closed upon him. The only person 
on whom public suspicion alighted with any force during 
the sixteen years ensuing upon the transaction, was a medical 
practitioner in Leith, a dissolute man and a gambler, who put 
an end to his own existence not long after the murder. But I 
am not acquainted with any particular circumstances on which 
this suspicion was grounded, beyond the suicide, which might 
spring from other causes. It was not till 1822 that any further 
light was throAvn on this mysterious case. In a work then 
published under the title of The Life and Trial of James 
Mackoull^ there was included a paper by Mr Denovan, the Bow 
Street officer, the object of which was to prove that Mackoull 
was the murderer, and which contained at least one very curious 
statement. 

Mr Denovan had discovered in Leith a man, then acting as a 
teacher, but who, in 1806, was a sailor boy, and who had 
witnessed some circumstances immediately connected with the 
murder. The man's statement was as follows : ' I was at that 
time (November 1806) a boy of fourteen years of age. The 
vessel to which I belonged had made a voyage to Lisbon, and 
was then lying in Leith harbour. I had brought a small present 
from Portugal for my mother and sister, who resided in the 
Netherbow, Edinburgh, immediately opposite to Tweeddale's 
Close, leading to the British Linen Company's Bank. I left the 
vessel late in the afternoon, and as the articles I had brought 
were contraband, I put them under my jacket, and was pro- 
ceeding up Leith Walk, when I perceived a tall man carrying a 
yellow-coloured parcel under his arm, and a genteel man, 
dressed in a black coat, dogging him. I was a little afraid : I 
conceived the man who carried the parcel to be a smuggler, 
and the gentleman who followed him to be a custom-house or 
_ excise officer. In dogging the man, the supposed officer went 
from one side 'of the Walk to the other [the Walk is a broad 



THE BEGBIE TRAGEDY, 305 

Street], as if afraid of being noticed, but still kept about the 
same distance behind him. I was afraid of losing what I 
carried, and shortened sail a little, keeping my eyes fixed on the 
, person I supposed to be an officer, until I came to the head of 
Leith Street, when I saw the smuggler take the North Bridge, 
and the custom-house officer go in front of the Register Office ; 
here he looked round him, and imagining ;he was looking for 
me, I hove to, and watched him. He then looked up the 
North Bridge, and, as I conceive, followed the smuggler, for 
he went the same way, I stood a minute or tft'^o where I was, 
and then went forward, walking slowly up the North Bridge. I 
did not, however, see either of the men before me : and when I 
came to the south end or head of the Bridge, supposing that 
they might have gone up the High Street, or along the South 
Bridge, I tiurned to the left, and reached the Netherbow, without 
again seeing either the smuggler or the officer. Just, however, 
as I came opposite to Tweeddale's Close, I saw the custom-house 
officer cmie rtmiiiiig out of it, with something under his coat : I 
think he ran down the street. Being much alarmed, and sup- 
posing that the officer had also seen me, and knew what I 
carried, I deposited my little present in my mother's with all 
possible speed, and made the best of my way to Leith, without 
hearing anything of the murder of Begbie until next day. On 
coming on board the vessel, I told the mate what a narrow 
escape I conceived I had made : he seemed somewhat alarmed 
(having probably, like myself, smuggled some trifling article 
from Portugal), and told me in a peremptory tone that I should 
not go ashore again without first acquainting him. I certainly 
heard of the murder before I left Leith, and concluded that the 
man I saw was the murderer ; but the idea of waiting on a 
magistrate and communicating what I [had seen never struck 
me. We sailed in a few days thereafter from Leith ; and the 
vessel to which I belonged having been captured by a privateer, 
I was carried to a French prison, and only regained my liberty 
at the last peace. I can now recollect distinctly the figure of 
the man I saw ; he was well dressed, had a genteel appearance, 



306 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and wore a black coat. I never saw his face properly, for he 
was before me the whole way up the Walk ; I think, however,. 
he was a stout big man, but not so tall as the man I then 
conceived to be a smuggler.' 

This description of the supposed custom-house officer coin- 
cides exactly with that of the appearance of Mackoull; and 
other circumstances are given which almost make it certain that 
he was the murderer. This Mackoull was a London rogue of 
unparalleled effrontery and dexterity, who for years haunted 
Scotland, and effected some daring robberies. He resided in 
Edinburgh from September 1805 till the close of 1806, and 
during that time frequented a coffee-house in the Ship Taver7i at 
Leith. He professed to be a merchant expelled by the threats 
of the French from Hamburg, and to live by a new mode of 
dyeing skins, but in reality he practised the arts of a gambler 
and a pickpocket. He had a mean lodging at the bottom of 
New Street in the Canongate, near the scene of the murder of 
Begbie, and to which it is remarkable that Leith Wynd was the 
readiest as well as most private access from that spot. No 
suspicion, however, fell upon Mackoull at this period, and he 
left the country for a number of years, at the end of which time 
he visited Glasgow, and there effected a robbery of one of the 
banks. For this crime he did not escape the law. He was 
brought to trial at Edinburgh in 1820, was condemned to be 
executed, but died in jail while under reprieve from his 
sentence. 

The most striking part of the evidence which Mr Denovan . 
adduces against Mackoull, is the report of a conversation which 
he had with that person in the condemned cell of the Edinburgh 
jail, in July 1820, when Mackoull was very doubtful of being 
reprieved. To pursue his own narrative, which is in the third 
person : ' He told Captain Sibbald [the superior of the prison] 
that he intended to ask Mackoull a single question relative to 
the murder of Begbie, but would first humour him by a few 
jokes, so as to throw him off his guard, and prevent him from 
thinking he had called for any particular purpose [it is to be 



THE BEGBIE TRAGEDY. 307 

observed that Mr Denovan had a professional acquaintance 
with the condemned man] ; but desired Captain Sibbald to 
watch the features of the prisoner when he (Denovan) put his 
hand to his chin, for he would then put the question he meant. 
After talking some time on different topics, Mr Denovan put 
this very simple question to the prisoner : " By the way, 
MackouU, if I am correct, you resided at the foot of New Street, 
Canongate, in November 1806 — did you not?" He stared — 
he rolled his eyes, and, as if falling into a convulsion, threw 
himself back upon his bed. In this condition he continued for 
a few moments, when, as if recollecting himself, he started up, 

exclaiming wildly : " No, ! I was then in the East 

Indies — in the West Indies. What do you mean ? " "I mean 
no harm, MackouU," he replied ; " I merely asked the question 
for my own curiosity ; for I think when you left these lodgings, 
you went to Dublin. Is it not so?" "Yes, 'yes, I went to 
Dublin," he replied ; " and I wish I had remained there still. 
I won ;^io,ooo there at the tables, and never knew what it 
was to want cash, although you wished the folks here to believe 
that they locked me up in Old Start (Newgate), and brought 
down your friend Adkins to swear he saw me there : this was 
more than your duty." He now seemed to rave, and lose all 
temper, and his visitor bade him good-night, and left him.' 

It appears extremely probable, from the strong circumstantial 
evidence which has been offered by Mr Denovan, that MackouU 
was the murderer of Begbie. 

One remaining fact regarding the Netherbow will be listened 
to with some interest. It was the home — perhaps the native 
spot — of William Falconer, the author of Tke Shipwreck, whose 
father was a wigmaker in this street. 



308 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



[THE LADIES OF TRAQUAIR. 

Lady Lovat was at the head of a genus of old ladies of quality,- 
who, during the last century, resided in third and fomth Jiafs of 
Old-town houses, wore pattens when they went abroad, had 
miniatures of the Pretender next their hearts, and gave tea and 
card parties regularly every fortnight. Almost every generation 
of a Scottish family of rank, besides throwing off its swarm of 
male cadets, who went abroad in quest of fortune, used to'' 
produce a corresponding number of daughters, who stayed at 
home, and for the most part became old maids. These gentle- 
women, after the death of their parents, when, of course, a 
brother or nephew succeeded to the family seat and estate, were 
compelled to leave home, and make room for the new laird to 
bring up a new generation, destined in time to experience the 
same fate. Many of these ladies, who in Catholic countries 
would have found protection in nunneries, resorted to Edinburgh, 
where, with the moderate family provision assigned them, they 
passed inoffensive and sometimes useful lives, the peace of 
which was seldom broken otherwise than by irruptions of their 
grand-nephews, who came with the hunger of High School 
boys, or by the more stately calls of their landed cousins and 
brothers, who rendered their visits the more auspicious by a 
pound of hyson for the caddy, or a replenishment of rappee for 
the snuff-box. The /eddies, as they were called, were at once 
the terror and the admiration of their neighbours in the stair, 
who looked up to them as the patronesses of the la^id, and as 
shedding a light of gentility over the flats below. 

In the best days of the Old Town, people of all ranks lived 
very closely and cordially together, and the whole world were 
in a manner next-door neighbours. The population being dense, 
and the toAvn small, the distance between the houses of friends 
was seldom considerable. When a hundred friends lived within 



THE LADIES OF TRAQUAIR. 309 

the space of so many yards, the company was easily collected ; 
and, consequently, meetings took place more frequently, and 
upon more trivial occasions, than in these latter days of stately 
dinners and fantastic balls. Tea — simple tea^-was then almost 
the only meal to which invitations were given. Tea-parties, 
assembling at four o'clock, were resorted to by all who wished 
for elegant social intercourse. There was much careful cere- 
monial in the dispensation of those pretty small china cups, 
individualised by the numbers marked on each of the miniature 
spoons which circulated with them, and of which four or five 
returns were not uncommon. The spoon in the saucer indicated 
a wish for more — in the cup the reverse. A few tunes on the 
spinet — a Scotch song from some young lady, solo — and the 
unfailing whist-table — furnished the entertainment. At eight 
o'clock to a minute would arrive the sedan, or the lass with 
the lantern and pattens, and the whole company would be at 
home before the eight o'clock drum of the Town-guard had 
ceased to beat. 

In a house at the head of the Canongate, but having its 
entrance from St Mary's Wynd, and several stairs up, lived two 
old maiden ladies of the house of Traquair — the Ladies Barbara 
and Margaret Stuart. They were twins, the children of Charles, 
the fourth earl, and their birth on the 3d of September, the 
anniversary of the death of Cromwell, brought a Latin epigram 
from Dr Pitcairn — of course previous to 17 13, which was the 
year of his own death. The learned doctor anticipated for them 
* timid wooers,' but they nevertheless came to old age unmarried. 
They drew out their innocent retired lives in this place, where, 
latterly, one of their favourite amusements was to make dolls, 
and little beds for them to lie on — a practice not quite uncommon 
in days long gone by, being to some degree followed by Queen 
Mary.* 

* * deliure a Jacques le tailleur deux chanteaux de damas gris broches dor pour faire 

vne robbe a vne poupine ;' also ' trois quartz et demi de toille dargent et de soze blanche 
pour faire vne cotte et aultre chose a des poupines.' — Caialogtces of the Jewels, Dresses, 
Furniture, &r'c. of Mary Queen of Scots, edited by Joseph Robertson. Edinburgh, 1863, 
p. 139- 



3IO TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

I may give, in the words of a long-deceased correspondent, 
an anecdote of the ladies of Traquair, referring to the days when 
potatoes had as yet an equivocal reputation, and illustrative of 
the frugal scale by which our leddies were in use to measure 
the luxuries of their table. ' Upon the return one day of their 
weekly ambassador to the market, and the anxious investigation 
by the old ladies of the contents of Jenny's basket, the little 
morsel of mutton, with a portion of accompanying off-falls, was 
duly approved of. " But, Jenny, what 's this in the bottom of 
the basket?" "Oo, mem, just a dozen o' 'taties that Lucky, 
the green-wife, wad ha'e me to tak' — they wad eat sae fine Avi' 
the mutton." " Na, na, Jenny ; tak' back the 'taties — we need 
nae provocatives in this house."' 

The latest survivor of these Traquair ladies died in 1794.] 



GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD. 

Signing of the Covenant — Henderson's Monument — Bothwell Bridge 
Prisoners — A Romance. 

This old cemetery — the burial-place of Buchanan,* George 
Jameson the painter, Principal Robertson, Dr Blair, Allan 
Ramsay, Henry Mackenzie, and many other men of note — 
whose walls are a circle of aristocratic sepulchres, will ever be 
memorable as the scene of the Signing of the Covenant; the 

* A skull, represented as Buchanan's, has long been shewn in the College of Edinhurgh. 
It is extremely thin, and being long ago shewn in company with that of a known idiot, 
which was, on the contrary, very thick, it seemed to form a commentary upon the popular 
expression, which sets forth density of bone as an invariable accompaniment of paucity of 
brain. The author of a diatribe, called Scotland Characterised, which was published in 
1701, and may be found in the Harleian Miscellany, tells us that he had seen the skull in 
question, and that it bore 'a very pretty distich upon it* — the first line I have forgot, but 
the second was 

" Et decus es tumulo jam, Biichanane, tuo." 



• The composition of Principal Adamson, who had caused the skull to be lifted. 



BOTHWELL BRIDGE PRISONERS. 31I 

document having first been produced in the church, after a 
sermon by Alexander Henderson, and signed by all the con- 
gregation, from the Earl of Sutherland downward, after which it 
was handed out to the multitudes assembled in the kirkyard, 
and signed on the flat monuments, amidst tears, prayers, and 
aspirations which could find no words ; some writing with their 
blood ! Near by, resting well from all these struggles, lies the 
preacher under a square obelisk-like monument ; near also rests, 
in equal peace, the Covenant's enemy, Sir George Mackenzie. 
The inscriptions on Henderson's stone were ordered by parlia- 
ment to be erased at the Restoration; and small depressions are 
pointed out in it as having been inflicted by bullets from the 
soldiery when executing this order. With the '88 came a new 
order of things, and the inscriptions were then quietly reinstated. 

BOTHWELL BRIDGE PRISONERS. 

As if there had been some destiny in the matter, the Grey^ 
friars Churchyard became connected with another remarkable 
event in the religious troubles of the seventeenth century. At 
the south-west angle, accessible 'by an old gateway bearing 
emblems of mortality, and which is fitted with an iron-rail gate 
of very old workmanship, is a kind of supplement to the 
burying-ground — an oblong space, now having a line of 
sepulchral enclosures on each side, but formerly empty. On 
these enclosures the visitor may remark, as he passes, certain 
names venerable in the history of science and of letters ; as, for 
instance, Joseph Black and Alexander Tytler. On one he sees 
the name of Gilbert Innes of Stow, who left a million, to take 
six feet of earth here. These, however, do not form the matter 
in point. Every lesser particular becotaes trivial beside the 
extraordinary use to which the place was put by the government 
in the year 1679. Several hundred of the prisoners taken at 
Bothwell Bridge were confined here in the open air, under 
circumstances of privation now scarce credible. They had 
hardly anything either to lie upon or to cover them; their 
allowance of provision was four ounces of bread per day, with 



312 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

water derived from one of the city pipes, which passed near the 
place. They were guarded by day by eight, and through the 
night by twenty-four men; and the soldiers were told that if 
any prisoner escaped, they should answer it life for life by cast 
of dice. If any prisoner rose from the ground by night, he was 
shot at. Women alone were permitted to commune with them, 
and bring them food or clothes ; but these had often to stand 
at the entrance from morning till night without getting access, 
and were frequently^ insulted and maltreated by the soldiers, 
without the prisoners being able to protect them, although in 
many cases related by the most endearing ties. In the course 
of several weeks a considerable number of the prisoners had 
been liberated upon signing a bond, in which they promised 
never again to take up arms against the king, or without his 
authority; but it appears that about four hundred, refusing 
mercy on such terms, were kept an this frightful bivouac for 
five months, being only allowed, at the approach of winter, to 
have shingle huts erected over them, which was boasted of as a 
great mercy. Finally, on the 15 th of November, a remnant, 
numbering two hundred and fifty-seven, were put on board a 
ship to be sent to Barbadoes. The vessel was wrecked on one 
of the Orkney islands, when only about forty came ashore alive. 
From the gloom of this sad history there is shed one ray of 
romance. Amongst the charitable women of Edinburgh who 
came to administer to the prisoners, there was one attended by 
a daughter — a young, and, at least by right of romance, a fair 
girl. Every few days they approached this iron gate with food 
and clothes, either from their own stores, or collected among 
neighbours. Between the young lady and one of the juvenile 
prisoners an attachment sprung up. Doubtless she loved him 
for the dangers he had passed in so good a cause, and he loved 
her because she pitied them. In happier days, long after, when 
their constancy had been well tried by an exile which he 
suffered in the plantations, this pair were married, and settled 
in Edinburgh, where they had sons and daughters. A respect- 
able elderly citizen tells me he is descended from them. 



STORY OF MRS MACFARLANE. 313 



' STORY OF MRS MACFARLANE. 

' Let them say I am romantic ; so is every one said to be that either 
admires a fine thing or does one. On my conscience, as the world goes, 'tis 
hardly worth anybody's while to do one for the honour of it. Glory, the 
only pay of generous actions, is now as ill paid as other just debts ; and 
neither Mrs Macfarland for immolating her lover, nor you for constancy to 
your lord, must ever hope to be compared to Lucretia or Portia.' — Pope to 
Lady Mary W. Montagu. 

Pope here alludes to a tragical incident which took place in 
Edinburgh on the 2d of October 17 16. The victim was a 
young Englishman, who had been sent down to Scotland as a 
Commissioner of Customs. It appears that Squire Cayley, or 
Captain Cayley, as he was alternatively called, had become the 
slave of a shameful passion towards Mrs Macfarlane, a woman of 
uncommon beauty, the wife of Mr John Macfarlane, Writer to 
the Signet in Edinburgh. One Saturday forenoon, Mrs Mac- 
farlane was exposed, by the treachery of Captain Cayley's land- 
lady, with whom she was acquainted, to an insult of the most 
atrocious kind on his part, in the' house where he lodged, which 
seems to have been situated in a close in the Cowgate, opposite 
to what were called the Back Stairs. Next Tuesday, Mr 
Cayley waited upon Mrs Macfarlane at her own house, and was 
shewn into the drawing-room. According to an account given 
out by his friends, he was anxious to apologise for his former 
rudeness. From another account, it would appear that he had 
circulated reports derogatory to the lady's honour, which she 
was resolved to punish. A third story represents him as having 
repeated the insult which he had formerly offered ; whereupon 
she went into another room, and presently came back with a 
pair of pistols in her hand. On her bidding him leave the 
house instantly, he said : ' What, madam, d'ye design to act a 
comedy?' To which she answered, that ^ he woitld find it a 



314 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

tragedy if he did not retire!! The infatuated man not obeying 
her command, she fired one of the pistols, which, however, only 
wounded him slightly in the left wrist, the bullet slanting down 
into the floor. The mere instinct, probably, of self-preservation, 
caused him to draw his sword ; but before he could use it, she 
fired the other pistol, the shot of which penetrated his heart. 
* This dispute,' says a letter of the day, * was so close, that Mr 
Cayley's shirt was burnt at the sleeves with the fire of one of the 
pistols, and his cravat and the breast of his shirt with the fire of 
the other.* Mrs Macfarlane immediately left the room, locking 
the door upon the dead body, and sent a servant for her 
husband, who was found at a neighbouring tavern. On his 
coming home, about an hour after, she took him by the sleeve, 
and leading him into the room where the corpse lay, explained 
the circumstances which had led to the bloody act. Mr Mac- 
farlane said: 'Oh, woman! what have you done?' But soon 
seeing the necessity for prompt measures, he went out again to 
consult with some of his friends. ' They all advised,' says the 
letter just quoted, 'that he should convey his wife away 
privately, to prevent her lying in jail, till a precognition should 
be taken of the affair, and it should appear in its true light. 
Accordingly [about six o'clock], she walked down the High 
Street, followed by her husband at a little distance, and now 
absconds. 

' The thing continued a profound secret to all except those 
concerned in the house, till past ten at night, when Mr Mac- 
farlane, having provided a safe retreat for his wife, returned and 
gave orders for discovering it to. the magistrates, who went and 
viewed the body of the deceased, and secured the house and 
maid, and all else who may become evidence of the fact.' 

Another contemporary says : ' I saw his [Cayley's] corpse after 
he was cereclothed, and saw his blood where he lay on the floor 
for twenty-four hours after he died, just as he fell ; so it was a 
difficulty to straight him.' 

* The pistols belonged to Mr Cayley himself, having been borrowed a few daj-s before 
by Mr Macfarlane. 



STORY OF MRS MACFARLANE. 315 

A careful investigation was made into every circumstance 
connected with this fatal affair, but without demonstrating any- 
thing except the passionate rashness or magnanimity of the fair 
homicide. Mr Macfarlane was discharged upon his own affir- 
mation that he knew nothing of the deed till after it had taken 
place. A pamphlet was published by Mrs Murray, Mr Cayley's 
landlady, who seems to have kept a grocery shop in the 
Cowgate, vindicating herself from the imputation which Mrs 
Macfarlane's tale had thrown upon her character ; but to this 
there appeared an answer, from some friend of the other party, 
in which the imputation was fixed almost beyond the possibility 
of doubt. Mrs Murray denied that Mrs Macfarlane had been 
in her house on the Saturday before the murder ; but evidence 
was given that she was seen issuing from the close in which Mrs 
Murray resided, and, after ascending the Back Stairs, was 
observed passing through the Parliament Square towards her 
■own house. 

It will surprise every one to learn that this Scottish Lucrece 
was a woman of only nineteen or twenty years of age, and some 
months enceinte, at the time when she so boldly vindicated her 
honour. She was a person of respectable connections, being a 
daughter of Colonel Charles Straiton, ' a gentleman of great 
honour,' says one of the letters already quoted, and who further 
appears to have been intrusted with high negotiations by the 
Jacobites during the reign of Queen Anne. By her mother, she 
was grand-daughter to Sir Andrew Forrester. 

Of the future history of Mrs Macfarlane we have but one 
glimpse, but it is of a romantic nature. Margaret Swinton, who 
was the aunt of Sir Walter Scott's mother, and round whom he 
and his boy-brothers used to close, to listen to her tales, 
remembered being one Sunday left by her parents at home in 
their house of Swinton in Berwickshire, while the rest of the 
family attended church. Tiring of the solitude of her little 
nursery, she stole quietly down stairs to the parlour, which she 
entered somewhat abruptly. There, to her surprise, she beheld 

the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, sitting at the break- 

u 



3l6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

fast table making tea. She believed it could be no other than 
one of those enchanted queens whom she had heard of in fairy 
tales. The - lady, after a pause of surprise, came up to her with 
a sweet smile, and conversed with her, concluding with a request 
that she would speak only to her mamma of the stranger whom' 
she had seen. Presently after, little Margaret having turned 
her back for a few moments, the beautiful vision had vanished. 
The whole appeared like a dream. By and by the family 
returned, and Margaret took her mother aside, that she might 
talk of this wonderful apparition. Mrs Swinton applauded her 
for thus observing the injunction which had been laid upon her. 
' Had you not,' she added, ' it might have cost that lady her 
life.' Subsequent explanations made Margaret aware that she 
had seen the unfortunate Mrs Macfarlane, who, having some 
claim of kindred upon the Swinton family, had been received by 
them, and kept in a secret room, till such time as she could 
venture to make her way out of the country. On Margaret 
looking away for a moment, the lady had glided by a sliding 
panel into her Patmos behind the wainscot, and thus unwittingly 
increased the child's apprehension of the whole being an event 
out of the course of nature. 



THE CANONGATE. 

Distinguished Inhabitants in Former Times — Story of a Burning- 
Morocco's Land — New Street. 

The Canongate, which takes its name from the Augustine 
canons of Holyrood (who were permitted to build it by the 
charter of David I. in 1128, and afterwards ruled it as a burgh 
of regality), was formerly the court end of the town. As the 
main avenue from the palace into the city, it has borne upon its 
pavement the burden of all that was beautiful, all that was 
gallant, all that has become historically interesting in Scotland, 



THE CANONGATE. 317 

for the last six or seven hundred years. It still presents an 
antique appearance, although many of the houses are modern- 
ised. There is one with a date from Queen Mary's reign,* and 
many may be guessed, from their appearance, to be of even an 
earlier era. Previously to the Union, when the palace ceased 
to be occasionally inhabited, as it had formerly been, by at least 
the vicar of majesty, in the person of the Commissioner to the 
Parliament, the place was densely inhabited by persons of 
distinction. Allan Ramsay, in lamenting the death of Lucky 
Wood, says : 

' Qh, Canigate, puir elrich hole, 
What loss, what crosses does thou thole ! 
' London and death gars thee look droll. 

And hing thy head ; 
Wow but thou has e'en a cauld coal 
To blaw indeed ; ' 

and mentions, in a note, that this place was 'the greatest 
sufferer by the loss of our members of parliament, which 
London now enjoys, many of them having had their houses 
there;' a fact ^ which Maitland confirms. Innumerable traces 
are to be found, in old songs and ballads, of the elegant 
population of the Canongate in a former day. In the piteous 
tale of Marie Hamilton — one of the Queen's Maries — occurs 
this simple but picturesque stanza : 

' As she cam' doun the Cannogait, 
The Cannogait sae free, 
Mony a lady looked owre her window, 
Weeping for this ladye.' 

An old popular rhyme expresses the hauteur of these Canongate 
dames towards their city neighbours of the male sex : 

' The lasses o' the Canongate, 

Oh they are wondrous nice ; 
They wnna gi'e a single kiss 
But for a double price. 

* A little below the church. 



3l8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Gar hang them, gar hang them, 

Hich upon a tree ; 
For we '11 get better up the gate 

For a bawbee ! ' 

Even in times comparatively modern, this faubourg was 
inhabited by persons of very great consideration.* Within the 
memory of a lady living in 1830, it used to be a common thing 
to hear, among other matters of gossip, ' that there was tp be a 
braw fiitting\ in the Ca?iotigate to-morrow ;'' and parties of yOung 
people were made up, to go and see the fine furniture brought 
out, sitting perhaps for hours in the windows of some friend on 
the opposite side of the street, while cart after cart was laden 
with magnificence. J Many of the houses to this day are fit for 

* Subjoined is a list of persons of note who lived in the Canongate in the early days of 
•the late Mr Chalmers Izett, whose memory extended back to 1769 : 



' DUKES. 


COUNTESSES. 


BARONETS. 


EMINENT MEN. 


■Hamilton. 


Tweeddale. 


Sir J. Grant. 


Adam Smith. 


■Queensberry. 


Lothian. 


Sir J. Suttie. 


Dr Young. 






Sir J. Whiteford. 


Dugald Stewart. 


EARLS. 


LORDS. 


Sir J. Stewart. 


Dr Gardner. 


Breadalbane. 


Haddo. 


Sir J. Stirling. 


Dr Gregory. 


Hyndford. 


Colvill. 


Sir J. Sinclair, Glorat. 




Wemyss. 


Blantyre. 


Sir J. Halkett. 


BANK. 


Balcarras. 


Nairn. 


Sir James Stirling. 


Douglas, Heron, and 


Moray. 


Semple. 


Sir D. Hay. 


Company. 


Dalhousie. 


A. Gordon. 


Sir B. Dunbar. 




Haddington. 


Cranstoun. 


Sir J. Scott, Ancrum. 


ladies' BOARDING- 


Mar. 




Sir R. Anstruther. 


SCHOOL. 


Strathmore. 


L. OF SESSION. 


Sir J. Sinclair, Ulbster. 


Mrs Hamilton, 


Traquair. 


Eskgrove. 




Chessels's Court, 


Selkirk. 


Hailes. 






Dundonald, 


Prestongrange. 


COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF, 


PRINOPAL INNS. 


Kintore. 


Karnes. 


General Oughton. 


Ramsay's, St Mary's 


Dunmore. 


Milton. 


General Skene. 


Wynd. 


Seafield. 


Montgomery. 


Lord A. Gordon. 


Boyd's, Head of 


Panmure. 


Bannatyne. 


Lord Moira. 


Canongate. 



' Two coaches went down the Canongate to Leith — one hour in going, and one hour in 
returning.' 

t Removal. 

i ' At a former period, when the Canongate of Edinburgh was a more fashionable 
residence than at present, a lady of rank who lived in one of the closes, before going out to 
an evening-party, and at a time when hairdressers and peruke-makers were much in demand, 
requested a servant (newly come home) to tell Tam Tough the hairdresser to come to her 
immediately. The servant departed in quest of Puff, but had scarcely reached the street, 
before she forgot the barber's name. Meeting with a caddy, she asked him if he knev/ 



STORY OF A BURNING. 319 

the residence of a first-rate family in every respect but vicinage 
and access. The last grand blow was given to the place by the 
opening of the road along the Calton Hill in 181 7, which 
rendered it no longer the avenue of approach to the city from 
the east. Instead of profiting by the comparative retirement 
which it acquired on that occasion, it seemed to become the 
more wretchedly squalid, from its being the less under notice — 
as a gentleman dresses the least cairefuUy when not expecting 
visitors. It is now a secluded, and, in general, meanly inhabited 
suburb, only accessible by ways which, however lightly our 
fathers and grandfathers might regard them, are hardly now 
pervious to a lady or gentleman without shocking more of the 
senses than one, besides the difficulty of steering one's way 
through the herds of the idle and the wretched who encumber 
the street. " 

One of the houses near the head of the Canongate, on the 
north side of the street, was indicated to me by an old lady a 
few years ago as that which tradition in her young days pointed 
to in connection with a wild story related in the notes to 
Rokehy, She had often heard the tale told, nearly in the same 
manner as it has been given by Scott, and the site of the house 
concerned in the tragedy was pointed out to her by her seniors. 
Perhaps the reader will again excuse a quotation from the 
writings of our late gifted fellow-townsman : if to be related at 
all — and surely, in a work devoted to Edinburgh popular legends, 
it could not rightly be overlooked — it may as well be given in 
the language of the prince of modem conteurs : 

'About the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the 
large castles of the Scottish nobles, and even the secluded 
hotels, like those of the French noblesse, which they possessed 
in Edinburgh, were sometimes the scenes of strange and 
mysterious transactions, a divine of singular sanctity was called 

where the hairdresser lived. "Whatna hairdresser is't?" replied the caddy. "I ha'e 
forgot his name," answered she. "What kind o' name wus't?" responded Donald. "As 
near as I can mind," said the girl, " it was a name that wad neither rug nor rive." " The 
deil's in 't," answered Donald, "but that's a tam'd tough name." "Thank ye, Donald, 
that 'sthe man's name I wanted — Tam Tough." ' — [From art Edinburgh, NewsJia^erJ] 



320 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

up at midnight to pray with a person at the point of death. 
This was no unusual summons; but what followed was alarming. 
He was put into a sedan-chair, and after he had been transported 
to a remote part of the town, the bearers insisted upon his 
being blindfolded. The request was enforced by a cocked 
pistol, and submitted to ; but in the course of the discussion, 
he conjectured, from the phrases employed by the chairmen, 
and from some part of their dress, not completely concealed by 
their cloaks, that they were greatly above the menial station 
they had assumed. After many turns and windings, the chair 
was carried up-stairs into a lodging, where his eyes were un- 
covered, and he was introduced into a bedroom, where he found 
a lady, newly delivered of an infant. He was commanded by 
his attendants to say such prayers by her bedside as were fitting 
for a person not expected to survive a mortal disorder. He 
ventured to remonstrate, and observe that her safe delivery 
warranted better hopes. But he was sternly commanded to 
obey the orders first given, and with difficulty recollected himself 
sufficiently to acquit himself of the task imposed on him. He 
was then again hurried into the chair ; but as they conducted 
him down-stairs, he heard the report of a pistol. He was safely 
conducted home ; a purse of gold was forced upon him ; but he 
was warned, at the same time, that the least allusion to this dark 
transaction would cost him his life. He betook himself to rest, 
and after long and broken musing, fell into a deep sleep. From 
this he was awakened by his servant, with the dismal news that 

a fire of uncommon fury had broken out in the house of , 

near the head of the Canongate, and that it was totally con- 
sumed ; with the shocking addition, that the daughter of the 
proprietor, a young lady eminent for beauty and accomplishments, 
had perished in the flames. The clergyman had his suspicions, 
but to have made them public would have availed nothing. He 
was timid; the family was of the first distinction J above all, 
the deed was done, and could not be amended. Time wore 
away, however, and with it his terrors. He became unhappy 
at being the solitary depositary of this fearful mystery, and 



MOROCCOS LAND. 321 

mentioned it to some of his brethren, through whom the 
anecdote acquired a sort of pubHcity. The divine, however, 
had been long dead, and the story in some degree forgotten, 
when a fire broke out again on the very same spot where the 

house of had formerly stood, and which was now occupied 

by buildings of an inferior description. When the flames were 
at their height, the tumult, which usually attends such a scene, 
was suddenly suspended by an unexpected apparition, A 
beautiful female, in a night-dress, extremely rich, but at least 
half a century old, appeared in the very midst of the fire, and 
uttered these tremendous words in her vernacular idiom : " Anes 
burned, twice burned ; the third time I '11 scare you all ! " The 
belief in this story was formerly so strong, that on a fire breaking 
out, and seeming to approach the fatal spot, there was a good 
deal of anxiety testified, lest the apparition should make good 
her denunciation.' 

A little way farther down the Canongate, on the same side, is 
an old-fashioned house called Morocco's Lmid, having an alley 
passing under it, over which is this inscription — a strange cry of 
the spirit of man to be heard in a street : 

MISERERE MEI, DOMINE : A PECCATO, PROBRO, 
DEBITO, ET MORTE SUBITA, LIBERA ME. 

From whom this exclamation proceeded I have never learned ; 
but the house, which is of more modern date than the legend, 
has a story connected with it. It is said that a young woman 
belonging to Edinburgh, having been taken upon a voyage by 
an African rover, was sold to the harem of the Emperor of 
Morocco, with whom she became a favourite. Mindful, like her 
countrymen in general, of her native land and her relations, she 
held such a correspondence with home, as led to a brother of 
hers entering into merchandise, and conducting commercial 
transactions with Morocco. He was successful, and realised a 
little fortune, out of which he built this stately mansion. From 
gratitude, or out of a feeling of vanity regarding his imperial 
brother-in-law, he erected a statue of that personage in front of 
his house— a black, naked figure, with a turban and a necklace 



322 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of beads ; such being the notion which a Scottish artist of those 
days entertained of the personal aspect of the chief of one of the 
Mohammedan states of Africa. And this figure, perched in a 
little stone pulpit, still exists. As to the name bestowed upon the 
house, it would most probably arise from the man being m the 
first place called Morocco by way of sobriquet, as is common 
when any one becomes possessed by a particular subject, and 
often speaks of it. 

A little farther along is the opening of New Street, a modern 
offshoot of the ancient city, dating from a time immediately 
before the rise of the New Town. Many persons of consequence 
lived here : Lord Kames in a neat house at the top, on the east 
side — an edifice oftce thought so fine, that people used to bring 
their country cousins to see it ; Lord Hailes, in a house more 
than half-way down, afterwards occupied by Mr Ruthven, 
mechanist ; Sir Philip Ainslie in another house in the same row. 
The passers-by were often arrested by the sight of Sir Philip's 
preparations for a dinner-party through the open windows, the 
show of plate being particularly great. Now, all these mansions 
are left to become workshops. Sic transit. Opposite to Kames's 
house is a small circular arrangement of causeway, indicating 
where St John's Cross formerly stood. Charles I., at his 
ceremonial entry into Edinburgh in 1633, knighted the provost 
at St John's Cross. 



ST JOHN STREET. 

Lord Monboddo's Suppers— The Sister of Smollett— Anecdote of 
Henry Dundas. 

St John Street, so named with reference to St John's Cross 
above mentioned, was one of the heralds of the New Town- 
In the latter half of the last century, it was occupied solely by 
persons of distinction — nobles, judges, and country gentlemen ; 



THE SISTER OF SMOLLETT. 323 

now, it is possessed as exclusively by persons of the middle 
Tank. In No. 13 lived that eccentric genius, Lord Monboddo, 
'whose 'supper-parties, conducted in classic taste, frequented by 
the literati, and for a time presided over by an angel in the 
form of a daughter of his lordship, were of immense attraction 
in their day. In a stair at the head of this street lived the 
sister of the author of Roderick Random. 

Smollett's life as a literary adventurer in London, and the full 
participation he had in the woes of authors by profession, have 
perhaps conveyed an erroneous idea of his birth and connections. 
The SmoUetts of Dumbartonshire were in reality what was called 
in Scotland a good old family. The novelist's own grandfather 
had been one of the commissioners for the union between 
England and Scotland. And it is an undoubted fact, that 
Tobias himself, if he had lived two or three years longer, would 
have become the owner of the family estate, worth about a 
thousand a year. All this, to any one conversant with the 
condition of the Scottish gentry in the early part of the last 
century, will appear quite consistent with his having been 
brought up as a druggist's apprentice in Glasgow — ' the bubbly- 
nosed callant, wi' the stane in his pouch,' as his master affection- 
ately described him, with reference to his notorious qualities as 
a Pickle. 

The sister of Smollett — she who, failing him, did succeed to 
the family property — was a Mrs Telfer, domiciled as a gentle 
widow in a common stair at the head of St John Street (west 
side), first door up. She is described as a somewhat stem- 
looking specimen of her sex, with a high cast of features, but in 
reality a good-enough-natured woman, and extremely shrewd 
and intelligent. One passion of her genus possessed her — 
Whist A relative tells me that one of the city magistrates, 
who was a tallow-chandler, calling upon her one evening, she 
said : ' Come awa, bailie, and take a trick at the cartes.' 

' Troth, ma'am,' said he, ' I hav'na a bawbee in my pouch.' 

' Tut, man, ne'er mind that,' replied the lady ; ' let 's e'en play 
for a pund o' candles !' 



324 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

During his last visit to Edinburgh (1766) — the visit which 
occasioned Humphry Clinker — Smollett lived in his sister's 
house. A person who recollects seeing him there, describes 
him as dressed in black clothes, tall, and extremely handsome, 
but quite unlike the portraits at the front of his works, all of 
which are disclaimed by his relations. The unfortunate truth 
appears to be, that the world is in possession of no genuine 
likeness of Smollett ! He was very peevish, on account of the 
ill health to which he had been so long a martyr, and used to 
complain much of a severe ulcerous disorder in his arm. 

His wife, according to the same authority, was a Creole, with 
a dark complexion, though, upon the whole, rather pretty — a 
fine lady, but a silly woman. Yet she had been the Narcissa of 
Roderick Random.^ 

In Humphry Clinker, Smollett works up many observations 
of things and persons which he had made in his recent visit to 
Scotland. His relative. Commissary Smollett, and the family 
seat near Loch Lomond, receive ample notice. The story in 
the family is, that while Matthew Bramble was undoubtedly 
himself, he meant, in the gay and sprightly Jerry Melford, to 
describe his sister's son, Major Telfer, and in Liddy to depict 
his own daughter, who was destined to be the wife of the Major, 
but, to the inexpressible and ineffaceable grief of her father, 
died before the scheme could be accomplished. Jerry, it will 
be recollected, * got some damage from the bright eyes of the 
charming Miss R- — n, whom he had the honour to dance with 
at the ball ;' Liddy contracted an intimate friendship with the 
sanie person. This young beauty was Eleonora Renton, charm- 
ing by the true right divine, for she was daughter of Mr Renton 
of Lamerton, by Lady Susan Montgomery, one of the fair off- 
shoots of the house of Eglintoune, described in a preceding 
article. A sister of hers was married to Smollett's eldest 

* Strap, in Roderick Random, was supposed to represent one Hutchinson, a barber 
near Dunbar. The man encouraged the idea as much as possible. When Mr Hastings 
(governor^ of India) and his wife visited Scotland, they sent for this man, and were so 
pleased with him, that Mr Hastings afterwards sent him a couple of razors, mounted in gold, 
from London. 



ANECDOTE OF HENRY DUNDAS. 325 

nephew, Telfer, who became inheritor of the family estate, 
and, on account of it, took the surname of Smollett : a large 
modern village in Dumbartonshire takes its name from this lady. 
It seems to have been this connection which brought the 
charming Eleonora under the novelist's attention. She after- 
wards married Charles Sharpe of Hoddam, and became the 
mother of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, the well-known antiquary. 
Strange to say, the lady whose bright eyes had flamed upon 
poor Smollett's soul in the middle of the last century, was living 
so lately as 1836. 

When Smollett was confined' in the King's Bench Prison for 
the libel upon Admiral Knowles, he formed an intimacy with 
the celebrated Tenducci. This melodious singing-bird had 
recently got his wings clipped by his creditors, and was mewed 
up in the same cage with the novelist. Smollett's friendship 
proceeded to such a height, that he paid the vocalist's debts 
from his own purse, and procured him his liberty. Tenducci 
afterwards visited Scotland, and was one night singing in a 
private circle, when somebody told him that a lady present was 
a near relation of his benefactor; upon which the grateful 
Italian prostrated himself before her, kissed her hands, and 
acted so many fantastic extravagances, after the foreign fashion, 
that she was put extremely out of countenance. 

On the west side of the street, immediately to the south of 
the Canongate Kilwinning Mason Lodge, there is a neat self- 
contained house of old fashion, with a flower-plot in front. 

This was the residence of Anderson, merchant in Leith, 

the father of seven sons, all of whom attained respectable 
situations in life : one was the late Mr Samuel Anderson of St 
Gennains, banker. They had been at school with Mr Henry 
Dundas (afterwards Lord Melville) ; and when he had risen to 
high office, he called one day on Mr Anderson, and expressed 
his earnest wish to have the pleasure of dining with his seven 
school companions, all of whom happened at that time to be at 
home. The meeting took place at Mr Dundas's, and it was a 
happy one, particularly to the host, who, when the hour of 



326 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

parting arrived, filled a bumper in high elation to their healths, 
and mentioned that they were the only men who had ever dined 
with him since he became a public servant, who had not asked 
some favour either for themselves or their friends. 

The house adjoining to the one last mentioned — ^having its 
gable to the street, and a garden to the south — ^was, about 
1780, the residence of the Earl of Wemyss. A Lady Betty 
Charteris, of this family, occupied the one furthest to the south 
on that side of the street. She was a person of romantic 
history, for, being thwarted in an affair of the heart, she lay in 
bed for twenty-six years, till dismissed to the world where such 
troubles, are unknown. 



MORAY HOUSE. 

In the Canongate there is a house which has had the fortune to 
be connected with more than one of the most interesting points 
in our history. It is usually styled Moray House, being the 
entailed property of the noble family of Moray. The large 
proportions and elegant appearance of this mansion distinguish 
it from all the surrounding buildings, and in the reai' (1847) 
there is a fine garden, descending in the old fashion by a series 
of terraces. Though long deserted by the Earls of Moray, it 
has been, till a recent time, kept in the best order, being 
occupied by families of respectable character. 

This house was built in the early part of the reign of Charles 
I. (about 1628) by Mary, Countess of Home, then a widow. 
Her ladyship's initials, M. H., appear, in cipher fashion, under- 
neath her coronet upon various parts of the exterior ; and over 
one of the principal windows towards the street there is a 
lozenge shield, containing the two lions rampant which form the 
coat armorial of the Home family. Lady Home was an English 
lady, being the daughter of Edward Sutton, Lord Dudley. She 



MORAY HOUSE. 



327 



seems to have been unusually wealthy for the dowager of a 
Scottish earl, for, in 1644, the English parliament repaid seventy 
thousand pounds which she had lent to the Scottish Covenanting 
government ; and she is found in the same year lending seven 
thousand to aid in paying the detachment of troops which that 
government had sent to Ireland. She was also a sufferer, how- 
ever, by the civil war, in as far as Dunglass House, which was 




Moray House. 



blown up in 1640, by accident, when in the hands of the 
Covenanters, belonged to her in liferent. To her affluent 
circumstances, and the taste which she probably brought with 
her from her native country, may be ascribed the superior style 
of this mansion, which not only displays in the outside many 
traces of the elegant architecture which prevailed in England in 
the reign of James I., but contains two state apartments, 
decorated in the most elaborate manner, both in the walls 
and ceilings, with the favourite stucco-work of that reign. On 
the death of Lady Home, the house passed (her ladyship having 



328 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

no surviving male issue) to her daughters and co-heiresses, 
Margaret, Countess of Moray, and Anne, Countess (afterwards 
Duchess) of Lauderdale, between whom the entire property 
of their father, the first Earl of Home, appears to have been 
divided, his title going into another line. By an arrangement 
between the two sisters, the house became, in 1645, the 
property of the Countess of Moray and her son James, Lord 
Doune, 

It stood in this condition as to ownership, though still 
popularly called ' Lady Home's Lodging,' when, in the summer 
of 1648, Oliver Cromwell paid his first visit to Edinburgh. . 
Cromwell had then just completed the overthrow of the army 
of the Engagement — a gallant body of troops which had been 
sent into England by the more Cavalier party of the Scottish 
Covenanters, in the hope of rescuing the king from the hands 
of the sectaries. The victorious general, with his companion 
Lambert, took up his quarters in this house, and here received 
the visits of some of the leaders of the less loyal party of the 
Covenanters — the Marquis of Argyll, the Chancellor Loudoun, 
the Earl of Lothian, the Lords Arbuthnot, Elcho, and Burleigh, 
and the Reverend Messrs David Dickson, Robert Blair, and 
James Guthrie. 'What passed among them,' says Bishop Henry 
Guthrie in his Memoirs, ' came not to be known infallibly ; but 
it was talked very loud that he did communicate to them his 
design in reference to the king, and had their assent thereto.' 
It is scarcely necessary to remark that this was probably no 
more than a piece of Cavalier scandal, for there is no reason to 
believe that Cromwell, if he yet contemplated the death of the 
king, would have disclosed his views to men still so far tinctured 
with loyalty as those enumerated. Cromwell's object in visiting 
Edinburgh on this occasion, and in holding these conferences, 
was probably limited to the reinstatement of the ultra-Presby- 
terian party in the government, from which the Duke of Hamilton 
and other loyalists had lately displaced it. 

When, in 1650, the Lord Lorn, eldest son of the Marquis of 
Argyll, was married to Lady Mary Stuart, eldest daughter of the 



MORAY HOUSE. 329 

Earl of Moray, the wedding feast 'stood,' as contemporary 
writers express it, at the Earl of Moray's house in the Canongate. 
The event so auspicious to these great families was signahsed 
by a circumstance of a very remarkable kind. A whole week 
had been passed in festivity by the wedded pair and their 
relations, when, on Saturday the i8th of May, the Marquis of 
Montrose was brought to Edinburgh, an excom,municated and 
already condemned captive, having been taken in the north in 
an unsuccessful attempt to raise a Cavalier party for his young 
and exiled prince. When the former relative circumstances of 
Argyll and Montrose are called to mind — when it is recollected 
that they had some years before struggled for an ascendency in 
the civil affairs of Scotland, that Montrose had afterwards chased 
Argyll round and round the Highlands, burned and plundered 
his country undisturbed, and on one occasion overthrown his 
forces in a sanguinary action, while Argyll looked on from a safe 
distance at sea — the present relative circumstances of the two 
chiefs become a striking illustration of the vicissitudes in 
personal fortune that characterise a time of civil commotion. 
Montrose, after riding from Leith on a sorry horse, was led into 
the Canongate by the Watergate, and there placed upon a low 
cart, driven by the common executioner. In this ignominious 
fashion he was conducted up the street towards the prison, in , 
which he was to have only two days to live ; and in passing 
along, was necessarily brought under the walls and windows of 
Moray House. On his approach to that mansion, the Marquis 
of Argyll, his lady, and children, together with the whole of the 
marriage party, left their banqueting, and stepping out to a 
balcony which overhangs the street, there planted themselves to 
gaze on the prostrated enemy of their house and cause. Here, 
indeed, they had the pleasure of seeing Montrose in all external 
circumstances reduced beneath their feet; but they had not 
calculated on the strength of nature which enabled that extra- 
ordinary man to overcome so much of the bitterness of humilia- 
tion and of death. He is said to have gazed upon them with 
so much serenity, that they shrank back with some degree of 



330 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

discomposure, though not till the marchioness had expressed 
her spite at the fallen hero by spitting at him — an act which, in 
the present age, will scarcely be credible, tliough any one well 
acquainted with the history of the seventeenth century will have 
too little reason to doubt it. 

In a Latin manuscript of this period, the gardens connected 
with the house of the Earl of Moray are spoken of as ' of such 
elegance, and cultivated with so much care, as to vie ■svith those 
of warmer countries, and perhaps even of Ji^ngland itself And 
here,' pursues the writer, ' you may see how much the art and 
industry of man may avail in supplying the defects of nature. 
Scarcely any one would believe it possible to give so much 
beauty to a garden in this frigid clime.' One reason for the 
excellence of the garden may have been its southern exposure. 
On the uppermost of its terraces there is a large and beautiful - 
thorn, with pensile leaves ; on the second there are some fruit- 
trees, the branches of which have been caused to spread out in 
a particular way, so as to form a kind of cup, possibly for the 
reception of a pleasure-party, for such fantastic twistings of 
nature were not uncommon among our ancestors. In the 
lowest level of the garden there is a little receptacle for water, 
beside which is the statue of a fishing-boy, having a basket of 
fish at his feet, and a clai7i-shell inverted upon his head. Here 
is also a small building, surmounted by two lions holding female 
shields, and which may therefore be supposed contemporaneous 
with the house : this was formerly a summer-house, but has 
latterly been expanded into the character of a conservatory. 
Tradition vaguely reports it as the place where the Union 
between England and Scotland was signed; though there is 
also a popular stor^' of that fact having been accomplished in a 
laigh shop of the High Street (marked No. 117), at one time a 
tavern, and known as the Union Cellar. Probably, the rumour, 
in at least the first instance, refers only to private arrangements 
connected with the passing of the celebrated statute in question. 
The Chancellor Earl of Seafield inhabited Moray House at that 
time on lease, and nothing could be more likely than that he 



MORAY HOUSE. 33 1 

should there have after-dinner consultations on the pending 
measure, which might, in the evening, be adjourned to this 
garden retreat. 

It would appeat that, about this period, the garden attached 
to the house was a sort of public promenade or lounging-place ; 
as was also the garden connected with Heriot's Hospital. In 
this character it forms a scene in the licentious play called The 
Asse?nbly, written in 1692 by Dr Pitcairn. Will, 'a discreet 
smart gentleman,' as he is termed in the prefixed list of dramatis 
personcB, but in reality a perfect debauchee, first makes an 
appointment with Violetta, his mistress, to meet her in this 
place ; and as she is under the charge of a sourly-devout aunt, 
he has to propound the matter in metaphorical language. 
Pretending to expound a particular passage in the Song of 
Solomon, for the benefit of the dame, he thus gives the hint to 
her young protegee. 

' Will. " Come, my beloved, let us walk in the fields, let us 
lodge in the villages." The same metaphor still. The kirk 
not having the liberty of bringing her servant to her mother's 
house, resolveth to meet him in the villages, such as the Canon- 
gate, in respect of Edinburgh; and the vineyard, such as my 
Lady Murray's Yards, to use a homely comparison. 

* Old Lady. A wondrous young man this ! 

* - * * * 

* Will. The eighth chapter towards the close : " Thou that 
dwellest in the gardens, cause me to hear thy voice." 

* Violetta. That 's still alluding to the metaphor of a gallant, 
who, by some signs, warns his mistress to make haste — a whistle 
or so. The same with early in the former chapter ; that is to 
say, to-morrow by six o'clock. Make haste to accomplish our 
loves. 

* Old L. Thou art a hopeful girl ; I hope God has blest my 
pains on thee.' 

In terms of this curious assignation, the third act opens in a 
walk in Lady Murray's Yards, where Will meets his beloved 
Violetta. After a great deal of badinage, in the style of 



332 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Dryden's comedies, which were probably Dr Pitcaim's favourite 
models, the dialogue proceeds in the following style : 

' Will. I '11 marry you at the rights, if you can find in your 
heart to give yourself to an honest fellow of no great fortune. 

* Vio. In truth, sir, methinks it Were fully as much for my 
future comfort to bestow myself, and any little fortune I have, 
upon you, as some reverend spark in a band and short cloak, 
Avith the patrimony of a good gift of prayer, and as little sense 
as his father, who was hanged in the Grassmarket for murdering 
the king's officers, had of honesty. 

' Will. Then I must acknowledge, my dear madam, I am 
most damnably in love with you, and must have you by foul or 
fair means ; choose you whether. 

' Vio. I '11 give you. fair-play in an honest way. 

' Will. Then, madam, I can command a parson when I 
please ; and if you be half so kind as I could "wish, we '11 take 
a hackney, and trot up to some honest curate's house : besides, 
a guinea or so will be charity to him perhaps. 

' Vio. Hold a little ; I am hardly ready for that yet,' &c. 

After the departure of this hopeful couple, Lord Huffy and 
Lord Whigriddin, who are understood to have been intended 
for Lord Leven (son of the Earl of Melville) and the Earl of 
Crawford, enter the gardens, and hold some discourse of a 
different kind. 



THE SPEAKING HOUSE. 

The mansion on which I venture to confer this title is an old 
one of imposing appearance, a little below Moray House. It is 
conspicuous by three gables presented to the street, and by the 
unusual space of linear ground which it occupies. Originally, it 
has had no door to the street. Kporte cochere gives admittance 
to a close behind, from which every part of the house had been 



THE SPEAKING HOUSE. 333 

admissible, and when this gateway was closed, the inhabitants 
would be in a tolerably defensible position. In this feature the 
house gives a striking idea of the insecurity which marked the 
domestic life of three hundred years ago. 

It was built in the year of the assassination of the Regent 
Moray, and one is somewhat surprised to think that, at so dark 
a crisis of our national history, a mansion of so costly a char- 
acter should have taken its rise. The owner, whatever grade he 
held, seems to have felt an apprehension of the popular talk on 
the subject of his raising so elegant a mansion; and he took a 
curious mode of deprecating its expression. On a tablet over the 
ground floor, he inscribes : hodie mihi : cras tibi. cur igitur 
CURAS? along with the year of the erection, 1570. This is as 
much as to say : ' I am the happy man to-day ; your turn may 
come to-morrow. Why, then, should you repine?' One can 
imagine from a second tablet, a little way further along the 
front, that as the building proceeded, the storm of public remark 
and outcry had come to be more and more bitter, so that the 
soul of the owner got stirred up into a firm and defying 
anger. He exclaims (for, though a lettered inscription, one feels 
it as an exclamation) : Ut Tu Lingua tu^, sic Ego Mear, 
AURIUM, DoMiNUS SUM ('As thou of thy tongue, so I of my 
ears, am lord'). Thus quoting, in his rage on this petty 
occasion, an expression said to have been used in the Roman 
senate by Titus Tacitus when repelling the charges of Lucius 
Metellus.* Afterwards, he seems to have cooled into a religious 
view of the predicament, and in a third legend along the front, 
he tells the world : Constanti pectori res mortalium umbra ; 
ending a little further on with an emblem of the Christian hope 
of the resurrection, ears of wheat springing from a handful of 
bones. It is a great pity that we should not know who was 
the builder and owner of this house, since he has amused us so 
much with the history of his feelings during the process of its 

* I was indebted to my friend Dr John Brown {Harm Suhseciviz, p. 42) for drawing my 
attention to a quotation of Seneca by Beyerlinck [Magn. Tlieatr. Vit. Human, torn, vi., p. 
60), involving this fine expression. Some one, however, has searched all over the writings 
of Seneca for it in vain. 



334 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH, 

erection, A friend at my elbow suggests — A schoolmaster ! but 
who ever heard of a schoolmaster so handsomely remunerated 
by his profession as to be able to build a house ! 

Nothing else is known of the early history of this house 
beyond the fact of the Canongate magistrates granting a charter 
for it to the Hammermen of that burgh, September lo, 1647, It 
was, however, in 1753 occupied by a person of no less distinction 
than the dowager Duchess of Gordon. 

In the alley passing under this mansion there is a goodly 
building of more modem structure, forming two sides of a 
quadrangle, ^vith a small court in front divided from the lane 
by a wall in which there is a large gateway. Amidst filthiness 
indescribable, one discerns traces of former elegance : a crest 
over the doorway — namely, a cock mounted on a trumpet, with- 
the motto ' Vigilantibus,' and the date 1633 ; over two upper 
windows, the letters S, A. A, and D, M. H. These memorials, 
with certain references in the charter before mentioned, leave no 
room for doubt that this was the house of Sir Archibald Acheson 
of Abercaimy, secretary of state for Scotland in the reign of 
Charles I,, and ancestor of the Earl of Gosford in Ireland, who 
to this day bears the same crest and motto. The letters are 
the initials of Sir Archibald and his wife, Dame Margaret 
Hamilton. Here of course was the court of Scotland for a 
certain time, the secretary of state being the grand dispenser of 
patronage in our country at that period — here, where nothing 
but the extremest wretchedness is now to be seen ! That 
boastful bird, too, still seeming to assert the family dignity, 
two hundred years after it ceased to have any connection wth 
the spot ! Verily there are some moral preachments in these 
dark old closes, if modem refinement could go to hear tlie 
sermon ! 

Sir Archibald Acheson acquired extensive lands in Ireland, 
which have ever since been in the possession of his family. 
It was a descendant of his, and of the same name, who had the 
gratification of becoming the landlord of Swift at Market-hill, 
and whom the dean was consequently led to celebrate in many 



THE SPEAKING HOUSE, 335 

of his poems. Swift seems to have been on the most famihar 
terms with this worthy knight and his lady ; the latter he was 
accustomed to call Skinnibonia, Lean, or Snipe, as the humour 
inclined him. The inimitable comic painting of her ladyship's 
maid Hannah, in the debate whether Hamilton's Bawn should 
be turned into a malt-house or a barrack, can never perish from 
our literature. In like humour the dean asserts the superiority 
of himself, and his brother-tenant Colonel Leslie, who had served 
much in Spain, over the knight : 

. • Proud baronet of Nova Scotia, 

The dean and Spaniard much reproach ye. 

Of their two fames the world enough rings ; 

Where are thy services and sufferings ? 

What if for nothing once you kissed, 

Against the grain, a monarch's fist ? 

What if among the courtly tribe, 

You lost a place and saved a bribe ? 

And then in surly mood came here 

To fifteen hundred pounds a year. 

And fierce against the Whigs harangued ? 

You never ventured to be hanged. n 

How dare you treat your betters thus ? 

Are you to be compared to us ? ' 

Speaking also of a celebrated thorn at Market-hill, which had 
long been a resort of merry-making parties, he reverts to the 
Scottish secretary of former days : 

' Sir Archibald, that valorous knight, 

The lord of all the fruitful plain, 
J Would come and listen with delight, 

For he was fond of niral strain : 

Sir Archibald, whose favourite name 

Shall stand for ages on record. 
By Scottish bards of highest fame, 

Wise Hawthomden and Stirling's lord.' 

The following letter to Sir Archibald from his friend Sir James 
Balfour, Lord Lyon, occurs amongst the manuscript stores of 
the latter gentleman in the Advocates' Library ; 



33^ TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

' To Sir Archibald Achesone, 

one of the Secretaries of Staite. 
'Worthy Sir— Your letters, full of Spartanical brevity to the first 
view, bot, againe overlooked, Demosthenicall longe ; stuffed full of 
exaggerations and complaints ; the yeast of your enteirest affections, 
sent to quicken a slumbring friend as you imagine, quho nevertheless 
remains vigilant of you and of the smallest matters, which may aney 
wayes adde the least rill of content to the ocean of your happiness ; 
quherfor you may show your comerad, and intreat him from me, as 
from one that trewly loves and honors his best pairts, that now he 
void refraine, both his tonge and pen, from these quhirkis and 
obloquies, quherwith he so often uses to stain the name of grate 
personages, for hardly can he live so reteiredly, in so voluble ane 
age, without becoming at one tyme or uther obnoxious to the blow 
of some courtier. So begging God to bless you, I am your — • 

Ja. Balfour. 
'London, 9 Apryll 1631.' 

Twenty years before the Duchess of Gordon lived in the 
venerable house at the head of the close, a preceding dowager 
resided in another part of the town. This was the distin- 
guished Lady Elizabeth Howard (daughter of the Duke of 
Norfolk, by Lady Anne Somerset, daughter of the Marquis of 
Worcester), who occasioned so much disturbance in the end of 
Queen Anne's reign, by the Jacobite medal which she sent to 
the Faculty of Advocates. Her Grace lived in a house at the 
Abbeyhill, where, as we are informed by Wodrow, in a tone of 
pious horror,* she openly kept a kind of college for instructing 
young people in Jesuitism and Jacobitism together. In this 
labour she seems to have been assisted by the Duchess of Perth, ' 
a kindred soul, whose enthusiasm afterwards caused the ruin of 
her family, by sending her son into the insurrection of i745.t 
The Duchess of Gordon died here in 1732. I should suppose 
the house to have been that respectable old villa, at the 
extremity of the suburb of Abbeyhill, in which the late Baron 

* In his MS. Diaries in the Advocates' Library. 

t In an advertisement in a Jacobite newspaper, called The Thistle, which rose and sunk 
in 1734, the house is advertised as having lately been occupied by the Duchesses of Gordon 
and Perth. [iS68. It is in the course of being taken down, to make way for a railway.] 



PANMURE HOUSE — ADAM SMITH. 337 

Norton, of the Court of Exchequer, Uved for many years. 
It was formerly possessed by Baron Mure, who, during the 
administration of the Earl of Bute, exercised the duties, and 
dispensed the patronage, of the sous-ministre for Scotland, under 
the Hon. Stuart Mackenzie, younger brother of the premier. 
This was of course in its turn the cotirt of Scotland ; and from 
,the description of a gentleman old enough to remember attend- 
ing the levees (Sir W. M. Bannatyne), I should suppose that it 
was as much haunted by suitors of all kinds as ever were the 
more elegant halls of Holyrood House. Baron Mure, who was 
the personal friend of Earl Bute, died in 1774. 



PANMURE HOUSE— ADAM SMITH. 

At the bottom of a close a little way below the Canongate 
Church, there is a house which, a few years ago, bore the 
appearance of one of those small semi-quadrangular manor- 
houses which were prevalent in the country about the middle of 
the seventeenth century. It is now altered, and brought into 
juxtaposition with the coarse details of an iron-foundry, yet still 
is not without some traits of its original style. The name of 
Panmure House takes the mind back to the Earls of Panmure, 
the fourth of whom lost title and estates for his concern in the 
affair of 17 15; but I am not certain of any earlier proprietor 
of this family than William Maule, nephew of the attainted earl, 
created Earl of Panmure as an Irish title in 1743. He possessed 
the house in the middle of the last century. 

All reference to rank in connection with this house appears 
trivial in comparison with the fact that it was the residence of 
Adam Smith from 1778, when he came to live in Edinburgh as 
a commissioner of the customs, till his death in 1790, Avhen he 
was interred in a somewhat obscure situation at the back of the 



338 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Canongate Tolbooth. In his time, the house must have seen 
the most intellectual company to be had in Scotland ; but it had 
not the honour of being the birthplace of any of Smith's great 
works. His last and greatest — the book which has undoubtedly 
done more for the good of the community than any other ever 
produced in Scotland — was the work of ten quiet studious years 
previous to 1778, during which the philosopher lived in his 
mother's house in Kirkcaldy. 

The gentle virtuous character of Smith has left little for the 
anecdotist. The utmost simplicity marked the externals of the 
man. He said very truly (being in possession of a handsome 
library) that ' he was only a beau in his books.' Leading an 
abstracted scholarly life, he was ill fitted for common worldly 
affairs. Some one remarked to a friend of mine, while Smith 
still lived : ' How strange to think of one who has written so 
well on the principles of exchange and barter — he is obliged to 
get a friend to buy his horse-corn for him ! ' The author of the 
Wealth of Nations never thought of marrying. His household 
affairs were managed to his perfect contentment by a female 
cousin, a Miss Jeanie Douglas, who almost necessarily acquired 
a great control over him. It is said that the amiable philos- 
opher, being fond of a bit of sugar, and chid by her for taking 
it, would sometimes, in sauntering backwards and forwards along 
the parlour, watch till Miss Jeanie's back was turned, in order 
to supply himself with his favourite morsel. Such things are 
not derogatory to greatness like Smith's : they link it to human 
nature, and secure for it the love, as it had previously possessed 
the admiration, of common men. 

The one personal circumstance regarding Smith which has 
made the greatest impression on his fellow-citizens, is the rather 
too well-known anecdote of the two fishwomen. He was walking 
along the streets one day, deeply abstracted, and speaking in a 
low tone to himself, when he caught the attention of two of 
these many-petticoated ladies, engaged in selling their fish. 
They exchanged significant looks, bearing strong reference to 
the restraints of a well-managed lunatic asylum, and then sighed 



^ JOHN PATERSON THE GOLFER. 339 

one to the other : ' Aih, sirs ; and he 's weel put on too ! ' that 
is, well dressed ; his gentleman-like condition making the case 
appear so much the more piteous. 



JOHN PATERSON THE GOLFER. 

In the Canongate, nearly opposite to Queensberry House, is a 
narrow old-fashioned mansion, of peculiar form, having a coat- 
armorial conspicuously placed at the top, and a plain slab over 
the doorway containing the following inscriptions : 

' Cum victor ludo, Scotis qui proprius, esset, 
Ter tres victores post redimitus avos, 
Patersonus, humo tunc educebat in altum 
Hanc, quae victores tot tulit una, domum.' 

' I hate no person.' 

It appears that this quatrain was the production of Dr 
Pitcairn, while the sentence below is an anagram upon the 
name of John Patersone. The stanza expresses, that ' when 
Paterson had been crowned victor in a game peculiar to 
Scotland, in which his ancestors had also been often victorious, 
he then built this mansion, which one conquest raised him 
above all his predecessors.' We must resort to tradition for an 
explanation of this obscure hint. 

Till a recent period, golfing had long been conducted upon 
the Links of Leith.''' It had even been the sport of princes on 
that field. We are told by Mr William Tytler of Woodhouselee, 
that Charles I. and the Duke of York (afterwards James II.) 
played at golf on 'Leith Links, in succession, during the brief 
periods of their residence in Holyrood. Though there is an 
improbability in this tale as far as Charles is concerned, seeing 

* In 1864, this favourite Scottish pastime was resuscitated on Leith Links, and is now 
enjoyed with a relish as keen as ever. 



340 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

that he spent too short a time in Edinburgh to have been able 
to play at a game notorious for the time necessary in acquiring 
it, I may quote the anecdote related by Mr Tytler : ' That while 
he was engaged in a party at golf on the green or Links of 
Leith, a letter was delivered into his hands, which gave him the 
first account of the insurrection and rebellion in Ireland ; on 
reading which, he suddenly called for his coach, and leaning on 
one of his attendants, and in great agitation, drove to the palace 
of Hol)TOod House, from whence next day he set out for London.' 
Mr Tytler says, regarding the Duke of York, that he 'was 
frequently seen in a party at golf on the Links of Leith with 
some of the nobility and gentry. I remember in my youth to 
have often conversed with an old man named Andrew Dickson, 
a golf-club maker, who said that, when a boy, he used to carry 
the duke's golf-clubs, and run before him, and announce where 
the balls fell.' * 

Tradition reports that when the duke lived in Holyrood House, 
he had on one occasion a discussion with two English noblemen 
as to the native country of golf; his royal highness asserting 
that it was peculiar to Scotland, while they as pertinaciously 
insisted that it was an English game as well. Assuredly, what- 
ever may have been the case in those days, it is not now an 
English game in the proper sense of the words, seeing that it is 
only played to the south of the Tweed by a few fraternities of 
Scotsmen, who have acquired it in their own country in youth. 
However this may be, the two English nobles proposed, good- 
humouredly, to prove its English character by taking up the, 
duke in a match, to be played on Leith Links. James, glad of 
an opportunity to make popularity in Scotland, in however small 
a way, accepted the challenge, and sought for the best partner 
he could find. By an association not at this day surprising to 
those who practise the game, the heir presumptive of the British 
throne played in concert with a poor shoemaker named John 
Paterson, the worthy descendant of a long line of illustrious 
golfers. If the two southrons were, as might be expected, 

* Arclueolosia Scotica, i. 



V LOTHIAN HUT. 341 

inexperienced in the game, they had no chance against a pair, 
one member of which was a good player. So the duke got the 
best of the practical argument; and Paterson's merits were 
rewarded by a gift of the sum played for. The story goes on to 
say that John was thus enabled to build a somewhat stylish 
house for himself in the Canongate ; on the top of which, being 
a Scotsman, and having of course a pedigree, he clapped the 
Paterson arms — three pelicans vulned; on a chief three mullets; 
crest, a dexter hand grasping a golf-club ; together with the 
motto — dear to all golfers — Far and Sure. 

It must be admitted there is some uncertainty about this tale. 
The house, the inscriptions, and arms only indicate that 
Paterson built the house after being a victor at golf, and 
that Pitcaim had a hand in decorating it. One might even 
see, in the fact of the epigram, as if a gentleman wit were 
indulging in a jest at the expense of some simple plebeian, who 
held all notoriety honourable. It might have been expected 
that, if Paterson had been enriched by a match in which he was 
connected with the Duke of York, a Jacobite like Pitcairn would 
have made distinct allusion to the circumstance. The tradition, 
nevertheless, seems too curious to be entirely overlooked, and 
the reader may therefore take it at its worth. 



[LOTHIAN HUT. 

The noble family of Lothian had a • mansion in Edinburgh, 
though of but a moderate dignity. It was a small house situated 
in a spare piece of ground at the bottom of the Canongate, on 
the south side. Latterly, it was leased to Professor Dugald 
Stewart, who, about the end of the last century, here entertained 
several English pupils of noble rank — among others, the Hon. 



342 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Henry Temple, afterwards Lord Palmerston.* About 1825, 
the building was taken down to make room for a brewery. 

About the middle of the last century, Lothian Hut was 
occupied by the wife of the fourth marquis, a lady of great 
lineage, being the only daughter of Robert, Earl of Holdemess, 
and great-granddaughter of Charles Louis, Elector Palatine. 
Her ladyship was a person of grand character, while yet 
admittedly very amiable. As a piece of very old gossip : 
The Lady Marchioness, on first coming to live in the Hut, 
found herself in want of a few trifling articles from a milliner, 
and sent for one who was reputed to be the first of the class 
then in Edinburgh — ^namely. Miss Ramsay. But there were 
two Miss Ramsays. They had a shop on the east side of the 
Old Lyon Close, on the south side of the High Street; and 
there made ultimately a little fortune, which enabled them to 
build the villa of Marionville, near Restalrig (called Lappet Hall 
by the vulgar). The Misses Ramsay, receiving a message from 
so grand a lady, instead of obeying the order implicitly, came 
together, dressed out in a very splendid style, and told the 
marchioness that every article they wore was 'at the very top 
of the fashion.' The marchioness, disgusted with their forward- 
ness and affectation, said she would take their specimens into 
consideration, and wished them a good-moming. According to 
our gossiping authority, she then sent for Mrs Sellar, who carried 
on the millinery business in a less pretentious style at a place 
in the Lawnmarket where Bank Street now stands. (I like the 
localities, for they bring the Old Town of a past age so clearly 
before us). Mrs Sellar made her appearance at Lothian Hut in 
a plain decorous manner. Her head-dress consisted of a mob 

* A newspaper, giving an account of Lord Palmerston's visit to Edinburgh in 1865, 
mentions that his lordship, during his stay in the city, was made aware that an aged woman 
of the name of Peggie Forbes, who had been a servant with Dugald Stewart, well remem- 
bered his lordship when under the professor's roof in early days. Interested in the circum- 
stance, Lord Palmerston took occasion to pay her a visit at her dweUing, No. i Rankeillor 
Street, and e.xpressed his pleasure at renewing the acquaintance of the old^domestic. Dr 
John Brown had discovered the ex-istence of this old association, and with it a box of tools 
which were the property of 'young Maister Henry' of those days. The sight of them 
called up within the breast of the Premier further associations of days long bygone. 



HENRY PRENTICE AND POTATOES. 343 

cap of the finest lawn, tied under her chin ; over which there 
was a hood of the same stuff. She wore a cloak of plain black 
silk without any lace, and had no bonnet, the use of which was 
supplied by the hood. Mrs Sellar's manners were elegant and 
pleasing. When she entered, the marchioness rose to receive 
her. On being asked for her patterns, she stepped to the door 
and brought in two large boxes which had been carried behind 
her by two women. The articles, being produced, gave great 
satisfaction, and her ladyship never afterwards employed any 
other milliner. So the story ends, in the manner of the good- 
boy books, in establishing that milliners ought not to be too 
prone to exhibit their patterns upon their own persons.] 



HENRY PRENTICE AND POTATOES. 

No doubt is entertained on any hand that the field-culture of 
the potato was first practised in Scotland by a man of humble 
condition, originally a pedler, by name Henry Prentice. He 
was an eccentric person, as rnany have been who stepped out of 
the common walk to do things afterwards discovered to be great. 
A story is told, that while the potatoes were growing in certain 
little fields which he leased near our city, Lord Minto came 
from time to time to inquire about the crop. Prentice at length 
told his lordship that the experiment was entirely successful, and 
all he wanted was a horse and cart to drive his potatoes to 
Edinburgh, that they might be sold. * I '11 give you a horse and 
cart,' said his lordship. Prentice then took his crop to market, 
cart by cart, till it was all sold, after which he disposed of the 
horse and cart, which he affected to believe Lord Minto had 
given him as a present. 

Having, towards the close of his days, realised a small sum 



344 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of money, he sunk ^^140 in the hands of the Canongate magis- 
trates, as managers of the poor-house of that parish, receiving in 
return seven shillings a week, upon which he lived for several 
years. Occasionally, he made little donations to the charity. 
During his last years, he was an object of no small curiosity in 
Edinburgh, partly on account of his connection with potato 
culture, and partly by reason of his oddities. It was said of 
him that he would never shake hands with any human being 
above two years of age. In his bargain with the Canongate 
dignitaries, it was agreed that he should have a good grave in 
their churchyard, and one was selected according to his own 
choice. Over this, thinking it as well, perhaps, that he should 
enjoy a little quasi-posthumous notoriety during his life, he 
caused a monument to be erected, bearing this inscription : 

' Be not anxious to know how I lived, , 

But rather how you yourself should die.' 

He also had a coffin prepared, at the price of two guineas, taking 
the undertaker bound to screw it down gratis with his own 
hands. In addition to all this, his friends the magistrates were 
under covenant to bury him with a hearse and four coaches. 
But even the designs of mortals respecting the grave itself are 
liable to disappointment. Owing to the mischief done by the 
boys to the premature monument, Prentice saw fit to have it 
removed to a quieter cemetery, that of Restalrig, where, at his 
death in 1788, he was accordingly interred. 

Such was the originator of that extensive culture of the potato 
which has since borne so conspicuous a place in the economics 
of our country, for good and for evil. 

It is curious that this plant, although the sole support of 
millions of our population, should now again (1846) have fallen 
under suspicion. At its first introduction, and for several ages 
thereafter, it was regarded as a vegetable of by no means good 
character, though for a totally different reason from any which 
affect its reputation in our day. Its supposed tendency to 
inflame some of the sensual feelings of human nature, is frequently 



DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUCH AND MONMOUTH. 345 

adverted to by Shakspeare and his contemporaries; and this 
long remained a popular impression in the north.* 



THE DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUCH AND MONMOUTH. 

It is rather curious that one of my informants in this article 
should have dined with a lady who had dined with a peeress 
married in the year 1662. 

This peeress was Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, 
the wife of 'the unfortunate son of Charles II. As is well known, 
she was early deserted by her husband, who represented, not 
without justice, that a marriage into which he had been tempted 
for reasons of policy by his relations, when he was only thirteen 
years of age, could hardly be binding. 

The young duchess, naturally plain in features, was so unfor- 
tunate in early womanhood as to become lame, in consequence 
of some feats in dancing. For her want of personal graces, 
there is negative evidence in a dedication of Dryden, where he 
speaks abundantly of her wit, but not a word of beauty — ^which 
shews that the case must have been desperate. [This, by the 
way, was the remark made to me on the subject by Sir Walter 
Scott, who, in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, has done what 
Dryden could not do — flattered the duchess : 

' She had known adversity, 
Though born in such a high degree ; 
In pride of power and beauty's bloom. 
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb.'] 

* Robertson, in his R-ural Recollections (Irvine, 1829), says: 'The earliest evidence that 
I have met writh of potatoes in Scotland, is an old household book of the Eglintoune family, 
in 1733, in which potatoes appear at different times as a dish at supper.' They appear 
earlier than this — namely, in 1701 — in the household book of the Duchess of Buccleuch and 
IMonmouth, where the price per peck is intimated at 2s. 6d. — See Amot's History of 
Edinburgh, 410, p. 20i« 



346 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Were any further proof wanting, it might be found in the regard 
in which she was held by James II., who, as is well known, had 
such a tendency to plain women, as induced a suspicion in his 
witty brother that they were prescribed to him by his confessor 
by way of penance. This friendship, in which there was nothing 
improper, was the means of saving her Grace's estates at the 
tragical close of her husband's life. 

It is curious to learn that the duchess, notwithstanding the 
terms on which she had been with her husband, and the sad 
stamp put upon his pretensions to legitimacy, acted throughout 
the remainder of her somewhat protracted life as if she had been 
the widow of a true prince of the blood-royal. In her state- 
rooms she had a canopy erected, beneath which was the only 
seat in the apartment, everybody standing besides herself When 
Lady Margaret Montgomery, one of the beautiful Countess of 
Eglintoune's daughters, was at a boarding-school near London — 
previous to the year Thirty — she was frequently invited by the 
duchess to her house; and because her great-grandmother. Lady 
Mary Leslie, was sister to her Grace's mother, she was allowed 
a chair; but this was an extraordinary mark of grace. The 
duchess was the last person of quality in Scotland who kept 
pages, in the proper acceptation of the term — that is, young 
gentlemen of good birth, who acquired manners and knowledge 
of the world in attending upon persons of exalted rank. The 
last of her Grace's pages rose to be a general. When a letter 
was brought for the duchess, the domestic gave it to the page — 
the page to the waiting-gentlewoman (always a person of birth 
also) — and she at length to her Grace. The duchess kept a 
tight hand over her clan and tenants, but was upon the whole 
beloved. 

She was buried (1732) on the same day with the too much- 
celebrated Colonel Charteris. At the funeral of Henry, Duke 
of Buccleuch, in the year 181 2, in the aisle of the church at 
Dalkeith, my informant (Sir Walter Scott) was shewn an old 
man who had been at the funeral of both her Grace and Colonel 
Charteris. He said that the day was dreadfully stormy, which. 



DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUCH AND MONMOUTH. 347 

all the world agreed, was owing to the devil carrying off 
Charteris. The mob broke in upon the mourners who followed 
this personage to the grave, and threw cats, dogs, and a pack of 
cards upon the coffin; whereupon the gentlemen drew their 
swords, and cut away among the rioters. In the confusion, one 
little old man was pushed into the grave ; and the sextons, 
somewhat prompt in the discharge of their duty, began to shovel 
in the earth upon the quick and the dead. The grandfather of 
my informant (Dr Rutherford), who was one of the mourners, 
was much hurt in the affray ; and my informant has heard his 
mother describe the terror of the family on his coming home 
with his clothes bloody and his sword broken. 

As to pages — a custom existed among old ladies till a later 
day of keeping such attendants, rather superior to the little 
polybuttoned personages who are now so universal. It was not, 
however, to be expected that a pranksome youth would behave 
with consistent respect to an aged female of the stiff manners 
then prevalent. Accordingly, ridiculous circumstances took 
place. An old lady of the name of Plenderleith, of very stately 
aspect and grave carriage, used to walk to Leith by the Easter 
Road with her little foot-page behind her. For the whole way, 
the young rogue would be seen projecting burs at her dress, 
laughing immoderately, but silently, when one stuck. An old 
lady and her sequel of a page was very much like a tragedy 
followed by a farce. The keeping of the rascals in order at 
home used also to be a sad problem to a quiet old lady. The 

only expedient which Miss could hit upon to preserve her 

page from the corruption of the streets was, in her own phrase, 
to lock up his hreeks, which she did almost every evening. The 
youth, being then only presentable at a window, had to content 
himself with such chat as he could indulge in with his companions, 
and such mischief as he could execute, from that loophole of 
retreat. So much for the parade of keeping pages. 



348 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



CLAUDERO. 

Edinburgh, which now smiles complacently upon the gravities 
of her reviews, and the flippancies of her magazines, formerly- 
laughed outright at the coarse lampoons of her favourite poet 
and pamphleteer, Claudero. The distinct publications of this 
witty and eccentric personage (whose real name was James 
Wilson) are well known to collectors ; and his occasional pieces 
must be fresh in the remembrance of those who, forty or fifty 
years ago (1824), were in the habit of perusing the Scots Maga- 
zi?ie, amidst the general gravity of which they appeared, like the 
bright and giddy eyes of a satyr, staring through the sere leaves 
of a sober forest scene. 

Claudero was a native of Cumbernauld, in Dumbartonshire, 
and at an early period of his life shewed such marks of a 
mischief-loving disposition, as procured him general odium. The 
occasion of his lameness was a pebble thrown from a tree at the 
minister, who, having been previously exasperated by his tricks, 
chased him to the end of a closed lane, and with his cane inflicted 
such personal chastisement as rendered him a cripple, and a 
hater of the clergy, for the rest of his life. 

In Edinburgh, where he lived for upwards of thirty years 
previous to his death in 1789, his livelihood was at first osten- 
sibly gained by keeping a little school, latterly by celebrating 
what were called half-mark marriages ; a business resembling 
that of the Gretna blacksmith. It is said that he who made 
himself the terror of so many by his wit, was in his turn held in 
fear by his wife, who was as complete a shrew as ever fell to the 
lot of poet or philosopher. 

He was a satirist by profession ; and when any person wished 
to have a squib played ofif upon his neighbours, he had nothing 
to do but call upon Claudero, who, for half-a-cro^vn, would 
produce the desired effusion, composed, and copied ofif in a fair 



CLAUDERO. 349 

hand, in a given time. He liked this species of employment 
better than writing upon speculation, the profit being more 
certain and immediate. When in want of money, it was his 
custom to write a sly satire on some opulent public personage, 
upon whom he called with it, desiring to have his opinion of the 
work, and his countenance in favour of a subscription for its 
publication. The object of his ridicule, conscience-struck by his 
own portrait, would wince, and be civil, advise him to give up 
thoughts of publishing So hasty a production, and conclude by 
offering a guinea or two, to keep the poet alive till better times 
should come round. At that time there lived in Edinburgh a 
number of rich old men, who had made fortunes in questionable 
ways abroad, and whose characters, labouring under strange 
suspicions, were wonderfully susceptible of Claudero's satire. 
These the wag used to bleed profusely and frequently, by working 
upon their fears of public notice. 

In 1766 SL-pT^eaxed Afisce/lanies m Prose and Verse, by ClauderOy 
Son of Nimrod the Mighty JItmter, 6^^. 6^^., opening with this 
preface : * Christian Reader — The following miscellany is pub- 
lished at the desire of many gentlemen, who have all been my 
very good friends ; if there be anything in it amusing or enter- 
taining, I shall be very glad I have contributed to your diversion, 
and will laugh as heartily at your money as you do at my works. 
Several of my pieces may need explanation; but I am too. 
cunning for that : what is not understood, like Presbyterian 
preaching, will at least be admired. I am regardless of critics : 
perhaps some of my lines want a foot ; but then, if the critic 
look sharp out, he will find that loss sufficiently supplied in other 
places, where they have a foot too much : and besides, men's 
works generally resemble themselves ; if the poems are lame, so 
is the author — Claudero.' 

The most remarkable poems in this volume are : ' The Echo 
of the Royal Porch of the Palace of Holyrood House, which 
fell under Military Execution, anno 1753;' 'The Last Speech 
and Dying Words of the Cross, which was Hanged, Drawn, and 
Quartered on Monday the 15th of March 1756, for the horrid 



350 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

crime of being an Incumbrance to the Street;' 'Scotland in 
Tears for the horrid Treatment of the Kings' Sepulchres ; ' ' An 
Elegy on the much-lamented Death of Quaker Erskine ;' * 'A 
Sennon on the Condemnation of the Netherbowj' 'Humphry 
Colquhoun's Last Farewell,' &c. Claudero seems to have been 
the only man of his time who remonstrated against the destruc- 
tion of the venerable edifices then removed from the streets 
which they ornamented, to the disappointment and indignation 
of all future antiquaries. There is much wit in his sermon upon 
the destruction of the Netherbow : ' What was too hard,' he 
says, ' for the great ones of the earth, yea, even queens, to effect, 
is now accomplished. No patriot duke opposeth the scheme, 
as did the great Argyll in the grand senate of our nation; 
therefore the project shall go into execution, and down shall 
Edina's lofty porches be hurled with a vengeance. Streets shall 
be extended to the east, regular and beautiful, as far as the 
Frigate Whins; and Portobellot shall be a lodge for the captors 
of tea and brandy. The city shall be joined to Leith on the 
north, and a procession of wise masons shall there lay the 
foundations of a spacious harbour. Pequin or Nanquin shall 
not be able to compare with Edinburgh for magnificence. Our 
city shall be the greatest wonder of the world, and the fame of 
its glory shall reach the distant ends of the earth.]: But lament, 
O thou descendant of the royal Dane, and chief of the tribe of 

* A noted brewer, much given to preaching. Of him Claudero says : 
' Our souls with gospel he did cheer. 
Our bodies, too, with ale and beer ; 
Gf-aiis he gospel got and gave away ; 
For ale and beer he only made us pay.' 

f This thriving parliamentary burgh originated in a cottage built, and long inhabited, by 
a retired seaman of Admiral Vernon's squadron, who gave it this name, in commemoration 
of the triumph which his commander there gained over the Spaniards in 1739. There must 
have been various houses at the spot in 1753, when we find one ' George Hamilton, in 
Portobello,' advertising in the Edinburgh Cozirant, that he would give a reward of three 
pounds to any one who should discover the author of a scandalous report, which represented 
liim as harbouring robbers in his house. 

The waste upon which Portobello is now partly founded was dreadfully infested at this 
time with robbers, and resorted to by smugglers. — See Couranifor the thne. 

\ Claudero could have little serious expectation that several of these predictions would 
come to pass before he had been forty years in his grave. 



CLATTDERO. 35 1 

Wilson ; for thy shop, contiguous to the porch, shall be dashed 
to pieces, and its place will know thee no more ! No more 
shall the melodious voice of the loyalist Grant* be heard in the 
morning, nor shall he any more shake the bending wand towards 
the triumphal arch. Let all who angle in deep waters lament, 
for Tom had not his equal. The Netherbow Coffee-house of 
the loyal Smeiton can now no longer enjoy its ancient name 
with propriety ; and from henceforth T/ie Revolutioit Coffee-house 
shall its name be called. Our gates must be extended wide for 
accommodating the gilded chariots, which, from the luxury of 
the age, are become numerous. With an impetuous career, they 
jostle against one another in our streets, and the unwary foot- 
passenger is in danger of being crushed to pieces. The loaded 
cart itself cannot withstand their fury, and the hideous yells of 
Coal Johnie resound through the vaulted sky. The sour-milk 
barrels are overturned, and deluges of Corstorphin cream run 
down our strands, while the poor unhappy milkmaid wrings her 
hands with sorrow.' To the sermon are appended the 'Last 
Speech and Dying Words of the Netherbow,' in which the 
following laughable declaration occurs : ' May my clock be 
struck dumb in the other world, if I lie in this ! and may Mack, 
the reformer of Edina's lofty spires, never bestride my weather- 
cock on high, if I deviate from truth in these my last words ! 
Though my fabric shall be levelled with the dust of the earth, 
yet I fall in hope that my weathercock shall be exalted on some 
more modern dome, where it shall shine like the burnished gold, 
reflecting the rays of the sun to the eye of ages unborn. The 
daring Mack shall yet look down from my cock, high in the 
airy region, to the brandy-shops below, where large graybeards 
shall appear to him no bigger than mutchkin-bottles, and 
mutchkin-bottles shall be in his sight like the spark of a diamond.' 

* A celebrated and much-esteemed fishing-rod maker, who afterwards flourished in the 
old wooden land at the head of Blackfriars Wynd. He survived to recent times, and was 
distinguished for his adherence to the cocked hat, wrist ruffles, and buckles of his youth. 
He was a short neat man, very well-bred, a great angler, intimate with the great, a Jacobite, 
and lived to near a century. He had fished in almost every trouting stream in the three; 
kingdoms, and was seen skating on Lochend at the age of eighty-five. His fishing-rods 
are still esteemed of peculiar excellence and value. 



352 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

One of Claudero's versified compositions, 'Humphry Colquhoun'§ 
Farewell/ is remarkable as a kind of coarse prototype of the 
beautiful lyric entitled 'Mary,' sung in The Pirate by Claud 
Halcro. One wonders to find the genius of Scott refining upon 
such materials : 

* Farewell to Auld Reekie, 

Farewell to lewd Kate, 
Farewell to each , 

And farewell to cursed debt ; 
With light heart and thin bi-eeches, 

Humph crosses the main ; 
All worn out to stitches, 

He '11 ne'er come again. 

Farewell to old Dido, 

Who sold him good ale ; 
Her charms, like her drink, 

For poor Humph were too stale ; 
Though closely she urged liim 

To marry and stay, 
Her Trojan, quite cloyed, 

From her sailed away. 

Farewell to James Campbell, 

Who played many tricks ; 
Humph's ghost and Lochmoidart's * 

Will chase him to Styx ; 
Where in Charon's wherry 

He '11 be ferried o'er 
To Pluto's dominions, 

'Mongst rascals great store. 

Farewell, pot-companions. 

Farewell, all good fellows ; 
Farewell to my anvil, 
V Files, pliers, and bellows : 

\ Sails, fly to Jamaica, 

\ - Where I mean long to dwell, 

^ Change manners with climates- 

Dear Drummond, farewell.' 

• Tliis seems to tear some reference to the seizure of young Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart 
at Lesmahago in 1745. 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 353 

It is not unworthy of notice that the publication of Dr Blair's 
Lectures on Rhetoric and the Belles-lettres was hastened by 
Claudero, who, having procured notes taken by some of the 
students, avowed an intention of giving these to the world. 
The reverend author states in his preface that he was induced to 
publish the lectures in consequence of some surreptitious and 
incorrect copies finding their way to the public ; but it has not 
hitherto been told that this doggerel-monger was the person 
chiefly concerned in bringing about that result. 

Claudero occasionally dealt in whitewash as well as blackball, 
and sometimes wrote regular panegyrics. An address of this 
kind to a writer named Walter Fergusson, who built St James's 
Square, concludes with a strange association of ideas : 

' May Pentland Hills pour forth their springs, 
To water all thy square ! 
May Fergussons still bless the place, 
Both gay and debonnair ! ' 

When the said square was in progress, however, the water 
seemed in no hurry to obey the bard's invocation ; and an 
attempt was made to procure this useful element by sinking 
wells for it, despite the elevation of the ground. Mr Walter 
Scott, W.S., happened one day to pass when Captain Fergusson 
of the royal navy — a good officer, but a sort of Commodore 
Trunnion in his manners — was sinking a well of vast depth. 
Upon Mr Scott expressing a doubt if water could be got there : 
' I will get it,' quoth the captain, * though I sink to hell for it ! ' 
* A bad place for water,' was the dry remark of the doubter. 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 

In the Canongate, on the south side, is a large gloomy building, 
enclosed in a court, and now used as a refuge for destitute 
persons. This was formerly the town mansion of the Dukes of 



354 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Queensbeny, and a scene, of course, of stately life and high 
political affairs. It was built by the first duke, the willing 
minister of the last two Stuarts — he who also built Drumlanrig 
Castle in Dumfriesshire, which he never slept in but one night, 
and with regard to which it is told that he left the accounts for 
the building tied up mth this inscription : ' The deil pyke out 
his een that looks herein !' Duke William was a noted money- 
maker and land-acquirer. No little laird of his neighbourhood 
had any chance with him for the retention of his family property. 
He was something still worse in the eyes of the common people 
— a persecutor; that is, one siding against the Presbyterian 
cause. There is a story in one of their favourite books of his 
having died of the morbus pediculosus, by way of a judgment 
upon him for his wickedness. In reality, he died of some 
ordinary fever. It is also stated, from the same authority, that 
about the time when his Grace died, a Scotch skipper, being in 
Sicily, saw one day a coach-and-six driving to Mount Etna, 
while a diabolic voice exclaimed : ' Open to the Duke of Drum- 
lanrig ! ' — * which proves, by the way,' says Mr Sharpe, ' that the 
devil's porter is no herald. In fact,' adds this acute critic, ' the 
legend is borrowed from the story of Antonio the Rich, in 
George Sandys's Travels.^ * 

It appears, from family letters, that the first duchess often 
resided in the Canongate mansion, while her husband occupied 
Sanquhar Castle, The lady was unfortunately given to drink, 
and there is a letter of hers in which she pathetically describes 
her situation to a country friend, left alone in Queensberry 
House with only a few bottles of wine, one of which, having 
been drawn, had turned out sour. Sour wine being prejudicial 
to her health, it was fearful to think of what might prove the 
quality of the remaining bottles. 

The son of this couple, James, second duke, must ever be 
memorable as the main instrument in carrying through the 
Union. His character has been variously depicted. By Defoe, 
in his History of the Union, it is liberally panegyrised, ' I think 

* Introduction to Law's Memorials, p. Ixxx. 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 355 

I have,' says he, ' given demonstrations to the world that I will 
flatter no man.' Yet he could not refrain from extolling the 
' prudence, calmness, and temper ' which the duke shewed 
during that difficult crisis. Unfortunately, the author of 
Robinson Crusoe, though not a flatterer, could not insure 
himself against the usual prepossessions of a partisan. Boldness 
the duke must certainly have possessed, for during the ferments 
attending the parliamentary proceedings on that occasion, he 
continued daily to drive between his lodgings in Holyrood and 
the Parliament House, notwithstanding several intimations that 
his life was threatened. His Grace's eldest son, James, was an 
idiot of the most unhappy sort — rabid and gluttonous, and early 
grew to an immense height ; which is testified by his coffin in 
the family vault at Durisdeer, still to be seen, of great length, 
and unomamented with the heraldic follies which bedizen the 
violated remains of his relatives. A tale of mystery and horror 
is preserved by tradition respecting this monstrous being. While 
the family resided in Edinburgh, he was always kept confined in 
a ground apartment, in the western wing of the house, upon the 
windows of which, till within these few years, the boards still 
remained by which the dreadful receptacle was darkened, to 
prevent the idiot from looking out or being seen. On the day 
the Union was passed, all Edinburgh crowded to the Parliament 
Close, to await the issue of the debate, and to mob the chief 
promoters of the detested measure on their leaving the House. 
The whole household of the commissioner went en masse, with 
perhaps a somewhat different object, and among the rest was 
the man whose duty it was to watch and attend Lord Drum- 
lanrig. Two members of the family alone were left behind — 
the madman himself, and a little kitchen-boy who turned the 
spit. The insane being, hearing everything unusually still 
around, the house being completely deserted, and the Canongate 
like a city of the dead, and observing his keeper to be absent, 
broke loose from his confinement, and roamed wildly through 
the house. It is supposed that the savoury odour of the prepar- 
ations for dinner led him to the kitchen, where he found the 



35 6 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

little turnspit quietly seated by the fire. He seized the boy, 
killed him, took the meat from the fire, and spitted the body of 
his victim, which he half-roasted, and was found devouring when 
the duke, with his domestics, returned from his triumph. The 
idiot survived his father many years, though he did not succeed 
him upon his death in 171 1, when the titles devolved upon 
Charles, the younger brother. He is known to have died in 
England. This horrid act of his child was, according to the 
common sort of people, the judgment of God upon him for his 
wicked concern in the Union — the greatest blessing, as it 
has happened, that ever was conferred upon Scotland by any 
statesman. 

Charles, third Duke of Queensberry, who was born in Queens- 
berry House, resided occasionally in it when he visited Scotland; 
but as he was much engaged in attending the court during the 
earlier part of his life, his stay here was seldom of long continu- 
ance. After his Grace and the duchess embroiled themselves 
with the court (1729), on account of the support which they 
gave to the poet Gay, they came to Scotland, and resided for 
some time here. The author of the Beggar's 0_pera accompanied 
them, and remained about a month, part of which was given to 
Dumfriesshire. Tradition in Edinburgh used to point out an 
attic in an old house opposite to Queensberry House, where, as 
an appropriate abode for a poet, his patrons are said to have 
stowed him. It was said he wrote the Beggar's Opera there — an 
entirely gratuitous assumption. In the progress of the history 
of his writings, nothing of consequence occurs at this time. He 
had finished the second part of the opera a short while before : 
after his return to the south, he is found engaged in 'new- 
writing a damned play, which he wrote several years before, 
called The Wife of Bath; a task which he accomplished while 
living with the Duke of Queensberry in Oxfordshire, during the 
ensuing months of August, September, and October.' * It is 
known, however, that while in Edinburgh, he haunted the shop 
of Allan Ramsay, in the Luckenbooths — the flat above that well- 

• See letters of Gay, Swift, Pope, and Arbuthnot, in Scott's edition of Swift. 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 357 

remembered and classical shop so long kept by Mr Creech, from 
which issued the Mirror, Lounger, and other works of name, 
and where, for a long course of years, all the literati of Edin- 
burgh used to assemble every day, like merchants at an 
Exchange. Here Ramsay amused Gay, by pointing out to him 
the chief public characters of the city, as they met in the fore- 
noon at the Cross. Here, too, Gay read the Gentle Shepherd, 
and studied the Scottish language, so that, upon his return to 
England, he was enabled to make Pope appreciate the beauties 
of that delightful pastoral. He is said also to have spent some 
of his time with the sons of mirth and humour in an alehouse 
opposite to Queensberry House, kept by one Janet Hall. 
Jemiy Hc^s, as the place was called, was a noted house for 
drinking claret from the butt within the recollection of old 
gentlemen living in my time. 

While Gay was at Drumlanrig, he employed himself in picking 
out a great number of the best books from the library, which 
were sent to England, whether for his own use or the duke's is 
not known. 

Duchess Catherine was a most extraordinary lady, eccentric 
to a degree undoubtedly bordering on madness. Her beauty 
has been celebrated by Pope not in very elegant terms : 

' Since Queensberry to strip there 's no compelling, 
'Tis from a handmaid we must take a Helen.' 

Prior had, at an early period of her life, depainted her irrepress- 
ible temper : 

' Thus Ktty, beautiful and young, 

And -wild as colt untamed, 
Bespoke the fair from whom she sprang, 

By little rage inflamed : 
Inflamed with rage at sad restraint, 

Which wise mamma ordained j 
And sorely vexed to play the saint^ 

Whilst wit and beauty reigned. 

" Shall I thumb holy books, confined 
With Abigails forsaken ? 



35 8 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

Kitty 's for other things designed, 

Or I am much mistaken. 
Must Lady Jenny frislc about, 

And visit with her cousins ? 
At balls must she make all the rout, 

And bring home hearts by dozens ? 

What has she better, pray, than I ? 

What hidden charms to boast. 
That all mankind for her should die. 

Whilst I am scarce a toast ? 
Dearest mamma, for once let me, 

Unchained, my fortune try ; 
I '11 have my earl as well as she. 

Or know the reason why. 

I '11 soon with Jenny's pride quit score, 

Make all her lovers fall ; 
They '11 grieve I was not loosed before. 

She, I was loosed at all." 
Fondness prevailed, mamma gave way ; 

Kitty, at heart's desire. 
Obtained the chariot for a day. 

And set the world on fire ! ' 

It IS an undoubted fact that, before her marriage, she had 
been confined in a strait-jacket, on account of mental derange- 
ment ; and her conduct in married hfe was frequently such as 
to entitle her to a repetition of the same treatment. She was, 
in reality, at all times to a certain extent insane, though the 
politeness of fashionable society, and the flattery of her poetical 
friends, seem to have succeeded in passing off her extravagances 
as owing to an agreeable freedom of carriage and vivacity of 
mind. Her brother was as clever and as mad as herself, and 
used to amuse himself by hiding a book in his library, and 
hunting for it after he had forgot where it was deposited. 

Her Grace was no admirer of Scottish manners. One of 
their habits she particularly detested — the custom of eating off 
the end of a knife. When people dined with her at Drumlanrig, 
and began to lift their food in this manner, she used to scream 
out, and beseech them not to cut their throats ; and then she 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 359 

would confound the offending persons by sending them a silver 
spoon or fork upon a salver.* 

When in Scotland, her Grace always dressed herself in the 
garb of a peasant-girl. Her object seems to have been to 
ridicule, and put out of countenance, the stately dresses and 
demeanour of the Scottish gentlewomen who visited her. One 
evening some country ladies paid her a visit, dressed in their 
best brocades, as for some state occasion. Her Grace proposed 
a walk, and they were of course under the necessity of trooping 
off, to the utter discomfiture of their starched-up frills and 
flounces. Her Grace at last pretended to be tired, sat down 
upon the dirtiest dunghill she could find, at the end of a farm- 
house, and saying : ' Pray, ladies, be seated,' invited her poor 
draggled companions to plant themselves round about her. 
They stood so much in awe of her, that they durst not refuse ; 
and of course her Grace had the satisfaction of afterwards 
laughing at the destruction of their silks. 

When she went out to an evening entertainment, and found a 
tea-equipage paraded which she thought too fine for the rank of 
the owner, she would contrive to overset the table and break the 
china. The forced politeness of her hosts on such occasions, 
and the assurances which they made her Grace that no harm 
was done, &c. delighted her exceedingly. 

Her custom of dressing like a paysanne once occasioned her 
Grace a disagreeable adventure at a review. On her attempting 
to approach the duke, the guard, not knowing her rank or 
relation to him, pushed her rudely back. This threw her 

* In a letter from Gay to Swift, dated February 15, 1727-S, we find the subject illustrated 
as follows : ' As to my favours from great men, I am in the same state you left me ; but I 
am a great deal happier, as I have expectations. The Duchess of Queensberry has signal- 
ised her friendship to me upon this occasion [the bringing out of the Beg-gar's OJierd\ in 
such a conspicuous manner, that I hope (for her sake) you will take care to put your 
fork to all its proper uses, and suffer nobody for the future to put their knives in their 
mouth.' 

In thg P.S. to a letter from Gay to Swift, dated Middleton Stoney, November 9, 1729, 
Gay says : ' To the lady I live with I owe my life and fortune. Think of her with respect 
—value and esteem her as I do — and never more despise a fork with three prongs. I wish, 
too, you would not eat from the point of your knife. She has so much goodness, virtue, and 
generosity, that if you knew her, you would have a pleasure in obeying her as I do. She 
often wishes she had known you.' 



360 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

into such a passion, that she could not be appeased till his 
Grace assured her that the men had been all soundly flogged 
for their insolence. 

An anecdote scarcely less laughable is told of her Grace as 
occurring at court, where she carried to the same extreme her 
attachment to plain-dealing and plain-dressing. An edict had 
been issued forbidding the ladies to appear at the drawing-room 
in aprons. This was disregarded by the duchess, whose rustic 
costume would not have been complete without that piece of 
dress. On approaching the door, she was stopped by the lord 
in waiting, who told her that he could not possibly give her 
Grace admission in that guise, when she, without a moment's 
hesitation, stripped off her apron, threw it in his lordship's face, 
and walked on, in her brown gown and petticoat, into the 
brilliant circle ! 

Her caprices were endless. At one time when a ball had 
been announced at Drumlanrig, after the company were all 
assembled, her Grace took a headache, declared that she could 
bear no noise, and sat in a chair in the dancing-room, uttering 
a thousand peevish complaints. Lord Drumlanrig, who under- 
stood her humour, said : * Madam, I know how to cure you ; ' 
and taking hold of her immense elbow-chair, which moved on 
castors, rolled her several times backwards and forwards across 
the saloon, till she began to laugh heartily — after which the 
festivities were allowed to commence. 

The duchess certainly, both in her conversation and letters, 
displayed a great degree of wit and quickness of mind. Yet 
nobody perhaps, saving Gay, ever loved her. She seems to 
have been one of those beings who are too much feared, 
admired, or envied, to be loved. 

The duke, on the contrary, who was a man of ordinary mind, 
had the affection and esteem of all. His temper and dispositions 
were sweet and amiable in the extreme. His benevolence, 
extending beyond his fellow-creatures, was exercised even upon 
his old horses, none of which he would ever permit to be killed 
or sold. He allowed the veterans of his stud free range in some 



QUEENSBERRY HOUSE. 36 1 

parks near Drumlanrig, where, retired from active life, they got 
leave to die decent and natural deaths. Upon his Grace's 
decease, however, in 1778, these luckless pensioners were all 
put up to sale by his heartless successor ; and it was a painful 
sight to see the feeble and pampered animals forced, by their 
new masters, to drag carts, &c. till they broke down and died 
on the roads and in the ditches. 

Duke Charles's eldest son. Lord Drumlanrig, was altogether 
mad. He had contracted himself to one lady when he married 
another. The lady who became his wife was a daughter of the 
Earl of Hopetoun, and a most amiable woman. He loved her 
tenderly, as she deserved ; but, owing to the unfortunate con- 
tract which he had engaged in, they were never happy. They 
were often observed in the beautiful pleasure-grounds at Drum- 
lanrig weeping bitterly together. These hapless circumstances 
had such a fatal effect upon him, that, during a journey to 
London in 1754, he rode on before the coach in which the 
duchess travelled, and shot himself with one of his own pistols. 
It was given out that the pistol had gone off by chance. 

There is just one other tradition of Drumlanrig to be noticed. 
The castle, being a very large and roomy mansion, had of course 
a ghost, said to be the spirit of a Lady Anne Douglas. This 
unhappy phantom used to walk about the house, terrifying 
everybody, with her head in one hand, and her fan in the other 
—are we to suppose, fanning her face ? 

On the death of the Good Duke, as he was called, in 1778, 
the title and estates devolved on his cousin, the Earl of March, 
so well remembered as a sporting character and debauchee of 
the old school by the name of Old Q. In his time Queensberry 
House was occupied by other persons, for he had little inclina- 
tion to spend his time in Scotland. And this brings to mind an 
anecdote highly illustrative of the wretchedness of such a life as 
his. When professing, towards the close of his days, to be 
eaten up with ennui, and incapable of any longer taking an 
interest in anything, it was suggested that he might go down to 
his Scotch estates and live among his tenantry. ' I 've tried 



362 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

that,' said the blase aristocrat : 'it is not amusing.' In 1801, he 
caused Queensberry House to be stripped of its ornaments and 
sold. With fifty-eight fire-rooms, and a gallery seventy feet long, 
besides a garden, it was offered at the surprisingly low upset price 
of ;^9oo. The government purchased it for a barrack. Thus 
has passed away the Douglas of Queensberry from its old place 
in Edinburgh, where doubtless the money-making duke thought 
it would stand for ever. 



TENNIS COURT. 



Early Theatricals — The Canongate Theatre — Digges and Mrs Bellamy — 
A Theatrical Riot. 

' Just without the Water-gate,' says Maitland, ' on the eastern 
side of the street, was the Royal Tennis Court, anciently called 
the Catchpel [from Cache, a game since called Fives, and a 
favourite amusement in Scotland so early as the reign of James 
IV.].' The house — a long narrow building with a court — was 
burned down in modern times, and rebuilt for workshops. Yet 
the place continues to possess some interest, as connected with 
the early and obscure history of the stage in Scotland, not to 
speak of the tennis itself, which was a fashionable amusement in 
Scotland in the seventeenth century, and here played by the 
Duke of York, Law the financial schemer, and other remarkable 
persons. 

The first known appearance of the post-reformation theatre in 
Edinburgh was in the reign of King James VI., when several 
companies came from London, chiefly for the amusement of the 
court, including one to which Shakspeare is known to have 
belonged, though his personal attendance cannot be substan- 
tiated. There was no such thing, probably, as a play acted in 
Edinburgh from the departure of James in 1603, till the arrival 
of his grandson, the Duke of York, in 1680. 



EARLY THEATRICALS. 363 

Threatened by the Whig party in the House of Commons 
with an exclusion from the throne of England on account of his 
adherence to Popery, this prince made use of his exile in 
Scotland to conciliate the nobles, and attach them to his person. 
His beautiful young wife, Mary of Modena, and his second 
daughter, the Lady A?ine, assisted, by giving parties at the 
palace — where, by the by, tea was now first introduced into 
Scotland. Easy and obliging in their manners, these ladies 
revived the entertainment of the masque, and took parts them- 
selves in the performance. At length, for his own amusement 
and that of his friends, James had some of his own company of 
players brought down to Holyrood, and established in a little 
theatre, which was fitted up in the Tennis Court. On this 
occasion the remainder of the company playing at Oxford 
apologised for the diminution of their strength in the following 
lines ^vritten by Dryden : 

' Discord and plots, which have undone our age, 
With the same ruin have o'erwhelmed the stage. 
Our Iiouse has suffered in the common woe ; 
We have been troubled with Scots rebels too. 
Our brethren have from Thames to Tweed departed, 
And of our sisters, all the kinder-hearted 
To Edinburgh gone, or coached or carted. 
Witli bonny Blew cap there they act all night, 
For Scotch half-crowns — in English threepence hight. 
One nymph to whom fat Sir Jolm Falstaff 's lean. 
There, with her single person, fills the scene. 
Another, with long use and age decayed, 
Died here old woman, and there rose a maid. 
Our trusty door-keeper, of former time, 
There struts and swaggers in heroic rhyme. 
Tack but a copper lace to drugget suit, 
And there 's a liero made without dispute ; 
And that which was a capon's tail before, 
Becomes a plume for Indian emperor. 
But all his subjects, to express the care 
Of imitation, go like Indians bare. 
Laced linen tliere would be a dangerous thing, 
It might perhaps a new rebellion bring ; 
The Scot who wore it would be chosen king.' 
X 



364 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

We learn from Fountainhall's Diary, that on the celebration 
of the king's birthday, 1681, the duke honoured the magistrates 
of the city with his presence in the theatre — namely, this theatre 
in the Tennis Court. 

No further glimpse of our city's theatrical history is obtained 
till 1705, when we find a Mr Abel announcing a concert in the 
Tennis Court, under the patronage of the Duke of Argyll, then 
acting as the queen's commissioner to the parliament. It is 
probable that the concert was only a cloak to some theatrical 
representation. This is the more likely, from a tradition already 
mentioned of some old members of the Spendthrift Club who 
once frequented the tavern of a Mrs Hamilton, whose husband 
recollected having attended the theatre in the Tennis Court at 
Holyrood House, when the play was The Spanish Friar, and 
many members of the Union parliament were present in the 
house. 

Theatrical amusements appear to have been continued at the 
Tennis Court in the year 17 10, if we are to place any reliance 
upon the following anecdote : When Mrs Siddons came to 
Edinburgh in 1784, the late Mr Alexander Campbell, author of 
the History of Scottish Poetry, asked Miss Pitcairn, daughter of 
Dr Pitcairn, to accompany him to one of the representations. 
The old lady refused, saying, with coquettish vivacity : ' Laddie, 
Avad ye ha'e an auld lass like me to be running after the play- 
actors — me that hasna been at a theatre since I gaed wi' papa 
to the Canongate in the year te?i V The theatre was in those 
days encouraged chiefly by such Jacobites as Dr Pitcairn. 
It was denounced by the clergy as a hotbed of vice and pro- 
fanity. 

After this, we hear no more of the theatre in the Tennis 
Court. The next place where the drama set up its head was 
in a house in Carrubber's Close, under the management of an 
Italian lady styled Signora Violante, who paid two visits to 
Edinburgh. After her came, in 1726, one Tony Alston, who 
set up his scenes in the same house, and whose first prologue 
was written by Ramsay : it may be found in the works of that 



CANONGATE THEATRE. 365 

poet. In 1727, the Society of High Constables, of which 
Ramsay Avas then a member, endeavoured to 'suppress the 
abominable stage-plays lately set up by Anthony Alston.'* 
Mr Alston played for a season or two, under the fulminations 
of the clergy, and a prosecution on their part in the Court of 
Session. 

CANONGATE THEATRE. 

From a period subsequent to 1727 till after the year 1753, 
the Tailors' Hall in the Cowgatet was used as a theatre by 
itinerating companies, who met with some success, notwith- 
standing the incessant hostility of the clergy. It was a house 
which, in theatrical phrase, could hold from ;^4o to ;^45- A 
split in the company here concerned led to the erection, in 
1746-7, of a theatre at the bottom of a close in the Canongate, 
nearly opposite to the head of New Street. This house, capable 
of holding about ;^7o — the boxes being half-a-crown, and pit 
one-and-sixpence — was for several years the scene of good acting 
under Lee, Digges, Mrs Bellamy, and Mrs Ward. We learn 
from Henry Mackenzie that the tragedy of Douglas, which first 
appeared here in 1756, was most respectably acted — the two 
ladies above mentioned playing respectively Young Norval and 
Lady Randolph. The personal elegance of Digges — under- 
stood to be the natural son of a man of rank — and the beauty 
of Mrs Bellamy, were a theme of interest amongst old people 
fifty years ago ; but their scandalous life was of course regarded 
with horror by the mass of respectable society. They lived in a 
small country-house at Bonnington, between Edinburgh and 
Leith. It is remembered that Mrs Bellamy was extremely fond 

* Record of that Society. 

t The date over the exterior gateway of the Tailors' Hall, towards the Cowgate, is 1644 ; 
but it is ascertained that the corporation had its hall at this place at an earlier period. An 
assembly of between two and three hundred clergymen was held here on Tuesday the 27th 
of February 1638, in order to consider the National Covenant, which was presented to the 
public next day in the Greyfriars Church. We are informed by the Earl of Rothes, in his 
Relations of the transactions of this period, in which he bore so distinguished a part, that 
some few objected to certain points in it; but being taken aside into the garden attached to 
this hall, and there lectured on the necessity of mutual concession for the sake of the 
general cause, they were soon brought to give their entire assent. 



366 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

of singing-birds, and kept many about her. When emigrating to 
Glasgow, she had her feathered favourites carried by a porter all 
the way, that they might not suffer from the jolting of a carriage. 
Scotch people wondered to hear of ten guineas being expended 
on this occasion. Persons under the social ban for their irregular 
lives often win the love of individuals by their benevolence and 
sweetness of disposition — qualities, it is remarked, not unlikely 
to have been partly concerned in their first trespasses. This 
was the case with Mrs Bellamy. Her waiting-maid, Annie 
Waterstone, who is mentioned in her Memoirs, lived many 
years after in Edinburgh, and continued to the last to adore 
the memory of her mistress. Nay, she was, from this cause, 
a zealous friend of all kinds of players, and never would allow a 
slighting remark upon them to pass unreproved. It was curious 
to find, in a poor old Scotchwoman of the humbler class, such a 
sympathy with the follies and eccentricities of the children of 
Thespis. 

While under the temporary management of two Edinburgh 
citizens extremely ill qualified for the charge — one of them, by 
the by, a Mr David Beatt, who had read the rebel proclamations 
from the Cross in 1745 — a sad accident befell the Canongate 
playhouse. Dissensions of a dire kind had broken out in the 
company. The public, as usual, was divided between them. 
Two classes of persons — the gentlemen of the bar, and the 
students of the university* — were especially zealous as partisans. 
Things were at that pass when a trivial incident will precipitate 
them to the most fearful conclusion. One night, when Havilct 
was the play, a riot took place of so desperate a description, that 
at length the house was set on fire. It being now necessary for 
the authorities to interfere, the Town-guard was called forth, 
and marched to the scene of disturbance ; but though many of 
that veteran corps had faced the worst at Blenheim and Dettin- 
gen, they felt it as a totally different thing to be brought to 
action in a place which they regarded as a peculiar domain of 

* Maitland, in his History of Edinh2irgk, 1753, says that the encouragement given to the 
diversions at this house 'is so very great, 'tis to be feared it will terminate in the dcsintction 
cf the uniz'ersiiy. Such diversions,' he adds, ' are noways becoming a seat of the Muses-' 



CANONGATE THEATRE. 367 

the Father of Evil. When ordered, therefore, by their com- 
mander to advance into the house and across the stage, the 
poor fellows fairly stopped short amidst the scenes, the glaring 
colours of which at once surprised and terrified them. Indig- 
nant at their pusillanimity, the bold captain seized a musket, 
and placing himself in an attitude equal to anything that had 
ever appeared on those boards, exclaimed : ' Now, my lads, 
follow meP But just at the moment that he was going to rush 
on and charge the rioters, a trap-door on which he trod gave 
way, and in an instant the heroic leader had sunk out of sight, 
as if by magic. This was too much for the excited nerves of 
the guard; they immediately vacated the house, leaving the 
devil to make his own of it ; and accordingly it was completely 
destroyed. It is added that, when the captain by and by 
reappeared, they received him in the quality of a gentleman from 
the other world ; nor could they all at once be undeceived, even 
when he cursed them in vigorous Gaelic for a pack of cowardly 
scoundrels. 

The Canongate theatre revived for a short time, and had the 
honour to be the first house in our city in which the drama was 
acted with a licence. It was opened with this privilege by Mr 
Ross on the 9th December 1767, when the play was The Earl 
of Essex, and a general prologue was spoken, the composition of 
James Boswell. Soon after, being deserted for the present 
building in the New Town, it fell into ruin ; in which state it 
formed the subject of a mock elegy to the muse of Robert 
Fergusson. The reader will perhaps be amused with the fol- 
lowing extract from that poem : 

' Can I contemplate on those dreary scenes 
Of mouldering desolation, and forbid 
The voice elegiac, and the falHng tear ! 
No more from box to box the basket, piled 
With oranges as radiant as the spheres, 
Shall with their luscious virtues charm the sense 
Of taste or smell. No more the gaudy beau, 
With handkerchief in lavender well drenched, 
Or bergamot, or rose-waters pure. 



368 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

With flavoriferous sweets shall chase away 

The pestilential fumes of vulgar cits, 

Who, in impatience for the curtain's rise, 

Amused the lingering moments, and applied 

Thirst-quenching porter to their parched lips. 

Alas ! how sadly altered is the scene ! 

For lo ! those sacred walls, that late were brushed 

Ey rustling silks and waving capuchines. 

Are now become the sport of wrinkled Time ! 

Those walls that late have echoed to the voice 

Of stern King Richard, to the seat transformed 

Of crawling spiders and detested moths. 

Who in the lonely crevices reside. 

Or gender in the beams, that have upheld 

Gods, demigods, and all the joyous crew 

Of thunderers in the galleries above.' 



MARIONVILLE— STORY OF CAPTAIN MACRAE. 

Between the eastern suburbs of Edinburgh and the village of 
Restalrig stands a solitary house named Marionville, enclosed 
in a shrubbery of no great extent, surrounded by high walls. 
Whether it be that the place has become dismal in consequence 
of the rise of a noxious fen in its neighbourhood, or that the 
tale connected with it acts upon the imagination, I cannot 
pretend to decide, but unquestionably there is about the house 
an air of depression and melancholy such as could scarcely fail 
to strike the most unobservant passenger. Yet, in 1790, this 
mansion was the abode of a gay and fashionable family, who, 
amongst other amusements, indulged in that of private theatricals, 
and in this line were so highly successful, that admission to the 
Marionville theatre became a privilege for which the highest in 
the land would contend. Mr Macrae, the head of this family, 
was a man of good fortune, being the proprietor of an estate in 



STORY OF CAPTAIN MACRAE. 369 

Dumfriesshire, and also of good connections — the Earl of Glen- 
cairn, whom Burns has so much celebrated, being his cousin, 
while by his mother he was nearly related to Viscount Fermoy 
and the celebrated Sir Boyle Roach. He had been for some 
years retired from the Irish Carabiniers, and being still in the 
prime of life, he was thinking of again entering the army, when 
the incident which I am about to relate took place. He was 
a man of gentlemanlike accomplishments and manners, of a 
generous and friendly disposition, but marked by a keen and 
imperious sense of the deference due to a gentleman, and a heat 
of temper which was apt to make him commit actions of which 
he afterwards bitterly repented. After the unfortunate affair 
which ended his career in Scotland, the public, who never make 
nice distinctions as to the character of individuals, adopted the 
idea that he was as inhumane as rash, and he was reported to 
be an experienced duellist. But here he was greatly misrepre- 
sented. Mr Macrae would have shrunk from a deliberate act 
of cruelty ; and the only connection he had ever had with single 
combat, was in the way of endeavouring to reconcile friends who 
had quarrelled — an object in which he was successful on several 
memorable occasions. But the same man — whom all that really 
knew him allowed to be a delightful companion and kind-hearted 
man — was liable to be transported beyond the bounds of reason 
by casual and trivial occurrences. A messenger of the law 
having arrested the Rev. Mr Cunningham, brother of the Earl 
of Glencairn, for debt, as he was passing with a party from the 
drawing-room to the dining-room at Drumsheugh House, Mr 
Macrae threw the man over the stair. He was prompted to 
this act by indignation at the affront which he conceived his 
cousin, as a gentleman, had received from a common man. But 
soon after, when it was represented to him that every other 
means of inducing Mr Cunningham to settle his debt had failed, 
and when he learned that the messenger had suffered severe 
injury, he went to him, made him a hearty apology, and agreed 
to pay three hundred guineas by way of compensation. He had 
himself allowed a debt due to a tailor to remain too long unpaid, 



370 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

and the consequence was, that he received a summons for it 
before the Sheriff-court. With this document in his hand, he 
called, in a state of great excitement, upon his law-agent, to 
whom he began to read : ' Archibald Cockbum of Cockpen, 
sheriff-depute,' &c. till he came to a passage which declared that 
' he, the said James Macrae, had been oft and diverse times 
desired and required,' &c. 'The greatest lie ever uttered!' he 
exclaimed. * He had never heard a word of it before; he would 
instantly go to the sheriff and horsewhip him.' The agent had 
at the time letters of horning against a very worthy baronet 
lying upon his table — that is to say, a document in which the 
baronet was denounced as a rebel to the king, according to a 
form of the law of Scotland, for faiHng to pay his debt. The 
agent took up this, and coolly began to read : ' George III. by 
the grace of God,' &c. Macrae at once saw the application, 
and fell a-laughing at his own folly, saying he would go directly 
and give the sheriff tickets for the play at Marionville, which he 
and his family had requested. It will be seen that the fault of 
this unfortunate gentleman was heat of temper, not a savage 
disposition ; but what fault can be more fatal than heat of 
temper ? 

Mr Macrae was married to an accomplished lady, Maria 
CeciHa le Maitre, daughter of the Baroness Nolken, wife of the 
Swedish ambassador. They occasionally resided in Paris, with 
Mrs Macrae's relations, particularly with her cousin, Madame de 
la Briche, whose private theatricals in her elegant house at the 
Marais were the models of those aftenvards instituted at Marion- 
ville. It may not be unworthy of notice that, amongst their 
fellow-performers at Madame de la Briche's, was the celebrated 
Abbd Sieyes. When Mr Macrae and his l^dy set up their 
theatre at Marionville, they both took characters, he appearing 
to advantage in such parts as that of Dionysius in the Grecian 
Daughter, and she in the first line of female parts in genteel 
comedy. Sir David Kinloch and a Mr Justice were their best 
male associates 3 and the chief female performer, after Mrs 
Macrae herself, was Mrs Carruthers of Dormont, a daughter of 



STORY OF CAPTAIN MACRAE. 371 

the celebrated artist Paul Sandby. Wlien all due deduction is 
made for the efifects of complaisance, there seems to remain 
undoubted testimony that these performances involved no small 
amount of talent. 

In Mr and Mrs Macrae's circle of visiting acquaintance, and 
frequent spectators of the Marionville theatricals, were Sir 
George Ramsay of Bamff and his lady. Sir George had recently 
returned, with an addition to his fortune, from India, and was 
now settling himself down for the remainder of life in his native 
country. I have seen original letters between the two families, 
stiewing that they lived on the most friendly terms, and enter- 
tained the highest esteem for each other. One written by Lady 
Ramsay to Mrs Macrae, from Sir George's country-seat in Perth- 
shire, commences thus : ' My dear friend, I have just time to 
write you a few lines to say how much I long to hear from you, 
and to assure you how sincerely I love you.' Her ladyship 
adds : ' I am now enjoying rural retirement with Sir George, 
who is really so good and indulgent, that I am as happy as the 
gayest scenes could make me. He joins me in kind comphments 
to you and Mr Macrae,' &c. How deplorable that social afiec- 
tions, which contribute so much to make life pass agreeably, 
should be liable to a wild upbreak from perhaps some trivial 
cause, not in itself worthy of a moment's regard, and only 
rendered of consequence by the sensitiveness of pride, and a 
deference to false and worldly maxims ! 

The source of the quarrel between Mr Macrae and Sir George 
was of a kind almost too mean and ridiculous to be spoken of. 
On the evening of the yth April 1790, the former gentleman 
handed a lady out of the Edinburgh theatre, and endeavoured 
to get a chair for her, in which she might be conveyed home. 
Seeing two men approaching through the crowd with one, he 
called to ask if it was disengaged, to which the men replied 
with a distinct affirmative. As Mr Macrae handed the lady 
forward to put her into it, a footman, in a violent manner, seized 
hold of one of the poles, and insisted that it was engaged for his 
mistress. The man seemed disordered by liquor, and it was 



372 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

afterwards distinctly made manifest that he was acting without 
the guidance of reason. His lady had gone home some time 
before, while he was out of the way : he was not aware of this, 
and, under a confused sense of duty, he was now eager to 
obtain a chair for her, but in reality had not bespoken that 
upon which he laid hold. Mr Macrae, annoyed at the man's 
pertinacity at such a moment, rapped him over the knuckles 
with a short cane, to make him give way ; on which the servant 
called him a scoundrel, and gave him a push on the breast. 
Incensed overmuch by this conduct, Mr Macrae struck him 
smartly over the head with his cane, on which the man cried out 
worse than before, and moved off. Mr Macrae following him, 
repeated his blows two or three times, but only with that degree 
of force which he thought needful for a chastisement. In the 
meantime, the lady whom Mr M^acrae had handed out got into 
a different chair, and was carried off. Some of the bystanders 
seeing a gentleman beating a servant, cried shame, and shewed 
a disposition to take part with the latter ; but there were indivi- 
duals present who had observed all the circumstances, and who 
felt differently. One gentleman afterwards gave evidence that 
he had been insulted by the servant, at an earlier period of the 
evening, in precisely the same manner as Mr Macrae, and that 
the man's conduct had throughout been rude and insolent, a 
consequence apparently of drunkenness. 

Learning that the servant was in the employment of Lady 
Ramsay, Mr Macrae came into town next day, full of anxiety to 
obviate any unpleasant impression which the incident might 
have made upon her mind. Meeting Sir George in the street, 
he expressed to him his concern on the subject, when Sir George 
said, lightly, that the man being his lady's footman, he did not 
feel any concern in the matter. Mr Macrae then went to 
apologise to Lady Ramsay, whom he found sitting for her 
portrait in the lodgings of the young artist Raeburn, afterwards 
so highly distinguished. It has been said that he fell on his 
knees before the lady, to entreat her pardon for what he had 
done to her servant. Certainly he left her with the impression 



STORY OF CAPTAIN MACRAE. 373 

that he had no reason to expect a quarrel between himself and 
Sir George on account of what had taken place. 

James Merry — this was the servant's name — had been 
wounded in the head, but not severely. The injuries which 
he had sustained, though nothing can justify the violence which 
inflicted them, were only of such a nature as a few days of 
confinement would have healed. Such, indeed, was the express 
testimony given by his medical attendant, Mr Benjamin Bell. 
There was, however, a strong feeling amongst his class against 
Macrae, who was informed, in an anonymous letter, that a 
hundred and seven men-servants had agreed to have some 
revenge upon him. Merry himself had determined to institute 
legal proceedings against Mr Macrae for the recovery of damages. 
A process was commenced, by the issue of a summons which 
Mr Macrae received on the 12 th. Wounded to the quick by 
this procedure, and smarting under the insolence of the anony- 
mous letter, Mr Macrae wrote next day a note to Sir George 
Ramsay, in which, addressing him without any term of friendly 
regard, he demanded that either Merry should drop the prose- 
cution, or that his master should turn him off. Sir George 
temperately replied, ' that he had only now heard of the prose- 
cution for the first time ; that the man met with no encourage- 
ment from him ; and that he hoped that Mr Macrae, on further 
consideration, would not think it incumbent on him to interfere, 
especially as the man was at present far from being well.' 

On the same evening Mr Amory, a military friend of Mr 
Macrae, called upon Sir George with a second note from that 
gentleman, once more insisting on the man being turned off, and 
stating that, in the event of his refusal, Mr Amory was empowered 
to communicate his opinion of his conduct. Sir George did 
refuse, on the plea that he had yet seen no good reason for his 
discharging the servant ; and Mr Amory then said it was his 
duty to convey Mr Macrae's opinion, which was, * that Sir 
George's conduct had not been that of a gentleman.' Sir 
George then said that further conversation was unnecessary ; all 
that remained was to agree upon a place of meeting. They met 



374 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

again that evening at a tavern, where Mr Amory informed Sir 
George that it was Mr Macrae's wish that they should meet, 
properly attended, next day at twelve o'clock at Ward's Inn, on 
the borders of Musselburgh Links. 

The parties met there accordingly, Mr Macrae being attended 
by Captain Amory, and Sir George Ramsay by Sir William 
Maxwell ; Mr Benjamin Bell, the surgeon, being also of the 
party. Mr Macrae had brought an additional friend, a Captain 
Haig, to favour them with his advice, but not to act formally as 
a second. The two parties being in different rooms, Sir William 
Maxwell came into that occupied by Mr Macrae, and proposed 
that, if Mr Macrae would apologise for the intemperate style of 
his letters demanding the discharge of the servant, Sir George 
would grant his request, and the affair would end. Mr Macrae 
answered that he would be most happy to comply with this 
proposal if his friends thought it proper; but he must abide 
by their decision. The question being put to Captain Haig, 
he answered, in a deliberate manner : * It is altogether impos- 
sible ; Sir George must, in the first place, turn off his servant, 
and Mr Macrae will then apologise.' Hearing this speech, 
equally marked by wrong judgment and wrong feeling, Macrae, 
according to the testimony of Mr Bell, shed tears of anguish. 
The parties then walked to the beach, and took their places in 
the usual manner. On the word being given. Sir George took 
deliberate aim at Macrae, the neck of whose coat was grazed by 
his bullet. Macrae had, if his own solemn asseveration is to be 
believed, intended to fire in the air; but when he found Sir 
George aiming thus at his life, he altered his resolution, and 
brought his antagonist to the ground with a mortal wound in the 
body. 

There was the usual consternation and unspeakable distress. 
Mr Macrae went up to Sir George and * told him that he was 
sincerely afflicted at seeing him in that situation.'* It was with 
difficulty, and only at the urgent request of Sir William Maxwell, 
that he could be induced to quit the field. Sir George lingered 

* Letter of Captain Amory, MS. 



STORY OF CAPTAIN MACRAE. 375 

for two days. The event occasioned a great sensation in the 
public mind, and a very unfavourable view was generally taken 
of Mr Macrae's conduct. It was given out, that during a con- 
siderable interval, while in expectation of the duel taking place, 
he had practised pistol-shooting in his garden at a barber's 
block ; and he was also said to have been provided with a pair 
of pistols of a singularly apt and deadly character; the truth 
being, that the interval was a brief one, his hand totally unskilled 
in shooting, and the pistols a bad brass-mounted pair, hastily 
furnished by Amory. We have Amory's testimony that, as they 
were pursuing their journey to another country, he was constantly 
bewailing the fate of Sir George Ramsay, remarking how 
unfortunate it was that he took so obstinate a view about the 
servant's case. The demand, he said, was one which he would 
have thought it necessary to comply with. He had asked Sir 
George nothing but what he would have done had it been his 
own case. This is so consonant with what appears otherwise 
respecting his character, that we cannot doubt it. It is only to 
be lamented that he should not have made the demand in terms 
more calculated to lead to compliance. 

The death of an amiable man under such deplorable circum- 
stances roused the most zealous vigilance on the part of the law 
authorities; but Mr Macrae and his second succeeded in 
reaching France. A summons was issued for his trial, but he 
was advised not to appear, and accordingly sentence of outlawry 
was passed against him. The servant's prosecution meanwhile 
went on, and was ultimately decided against Mr Macrae, 
although, on a cool perusal of the evidence on both sides, there 
appears to me the clearest proof of Merry having been the first 
aggressor. Mr Macrae lived in France till the progress of the 
Revolution forced him to go to Altona. When time seemed to 
have a little softened matters against him, he took steps to 
ascertain if he could safely return to his native country. It was 
decided by counsel that he could not. They held that his 
case entirely wanted the extenuating circumstance which was 
necessary — ^his having to contemplate degradation if he did 



376 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

not challenge. He was under no such danger; so that, from 
his letters to Sir George Ramsay, he appeared to have forced on 
the duel purely for revenge. He came to see the case in this 
light himself, and was obliged to make up his mind to perpetual 
self-banishment. He survived thirty years. A gentleman of my 
acquaintance, who had kno'wn him in early life in Scotland, was 
surprised to meet him one day in a Parisian coffee-house after 
the peace of 1814 — the wreck or ghost of the handsome 
sprightly man he had once been. The comfort of his home, 
his country, and friends, the use of his talents to all these, had 
been lost, and himself obliged to lead the life of a condemned 
Cain, all through the one fault of a fiery temper. 



ALISON SQUARE. 



This is a large mass of building between Nicolson Square and 
the Potterrow, in the south side of the town. It was built about 
the middle of the eighteenth century, upon venture, by one 
Colin Alison, a joiner, who in after-life was much reduced in his 
circumstances, not improbably in consequence of this large 
speculation. In his last days he spent some of his few remain- 
ing shillings in the erection of two boards, at different parts of 
his buildings, whereon was represented a globe in the act of 
falling, with this inscription : 

' If Fortune smile, be not puffed up, 
And if it frown, be not dismayed ; . 
For Providence govemetli all, 
Although the world 's turned upside down.' 

Alison Square has enjoyed some little connection with the 
Scottish muses. It was in the house of a Miss Nimmo, in this 
place, that Burns met Clarinda. It would amuse the reader of 
the ardent letters which passed between these two kindred soulS; 



ALISON SQUARE. 377 

to visit the plain, small, dusky house in which the lady lived at 
that time, and where she received several visits of the poet. It 
is situated in the adjacent humble street called the Potterrow, 
the first floor over the passage into General's Entry, accessible 
by a narrow spiral stair from the court. A little parlour, a bed- 
room, and a kitchen, constituted the accommodations of Mrs 
M'Lehose; now the residence of two, if not three families in the 
extreme of humble life. Here she lived with a couple of infant 
children, a young and beautiful woman, blighted in her prospects 
in consequence of an unhappy marriage (her husband having 
deserted her, after using her barbarously), yet cheerful and 
buoyant, through constitutional good spirits and a rational 
piety. To understand her friendship with Burns, and the 
meaning of their correspondence, it was almost necessary to 
have known the woman. Seeing her, and hearing her converse, 
even in advanced life, one could penetrate the whole mysteiy 
very readily, in appreciating a spirit unusually gay, frank, and 
emotional. The perfect innocence of the woman's nature was 
evident at once ; and by her friends it was never doubted. 

In Alison Square Thomas Campbell lived while composing 
his Pleasures of Hope. The place where any deathless com- 
position took its shape from the author's brain is worthy of a 
place in the chart. A lady, the early friend of Campbell and 
his family, indicates their residence at that time as being the 
second door in the stair, entered from the east side, on the 
north side of the arch, the windows looking partly into Nicolson 
Square and partly to the Potterrow. The same authority states 
that much of the poem was written in the middle of the night, 
and from a sad cause. The poet's mother, it seems, was of a 
temper so extremely irritable, that her family had no rest tiU she 
retired for the night. It was only at that season that the young 
poet could command repose of mind for his task. 



;78 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 



LEITH WALK. 



Up to the period of the building of the North Bridge, which 
connects the Old with the New Town of Edinburgh, the 
Easter Road was the principal passage to Leith. The origin of 
Leith Walk was accidental. At the approach of Cromwell to 
Edinburgh, immediately before the battle of Dunbar, Leslie, 
the Covenanting general, arranged the Scottish troops in a line, 
the right wing of which rested upon the Calton Hill, and the 
left upon Leith, being designed for the defence of these towns. 
A battery was erected at each extremity, and the line was itself 
defended by a trench and a mound, the latter composed of the 
earth dug from the former. Leslie himself took up his head- 
quarters at Broughton, whence some of his despatches are dated. 
When the war was shifted to another quarter, this mound 
became a footway between the two towns. It is thus described 
in a book published in 1748: ' A very handsome gravel walk, 
twenty feet broad, which is kept in good repair at the public 
charge, and no horses suffered to come upon it' When Provost 
Drummond built the North Bridge in 1769, he contemplated 
that it should become an access to Leith, as well as to the 
projected New Town. Indeed, he seems to have been obliged 
to make it pass altogether under that semblance, in order to 
conciliate the people; for, upon the plate sunk under the 
foundations of the bridge, it is solely described as the opening 
of a road to Leith. At that time the idea of a New Town seemed 
so chimerical, that he scarcely dared to avow his patriotic 
intentions. After the opening of the bridge, the Wa/k seems to 
have become used by carriages, but without any regard being 
paid to its condition, or any system established for keeping it in 
repair. It consequently fell into a state of disorder, from which 
it was not rescued till after the commencement of the present 
century, when a splendid causeway was formed at a great 



LEITH WALK. 379 

expense by the city of Edinburgh, and a toll erected for its 
payment. 

One terrible peculiarity attended Leith Walk in its former 
condition. It was overhung by a gibbet, from which were 
suspended all culprits whose bodies at condemnation were 
sentenced to be hung in chains. The place where this gibbet 
stood, called the Gallow Lee, is now a good deal altered in 
appearance. It was a slight rising-ground immediately above 
the site of the toll, and on the west side of the road, being 
now partly enclosed by the precincts of a villa, where the 
beautiful Duchess of Gordon once lived. The greater part of 
the Gallow Lee now exists in the shape of mortar in the walls of 
the houses of the New Town. At the time when that elegant 
city was built, the proprietor of this redoubtable piece of ground, 
finding it composed of excellent sand, sold it all away to the 
builders, to be converted into mortar, so that it soon, from a 
rising-ground, became a deep hollow. An amusing anecdote is 
told in connection with this fact. The honest man, it seems, 
was himself fully as much of a sand-bed as his property. He 
was a big, voluminous man, one of those persons upon whom 
drink never seems to have any effect. It is related that every 
day, while the carts were taking away his sand, he stood regularly 
at the place receiving the money in return ; and every little sum 
he got was immediately converted into liquor, and applied to 
the comfort of his inner man. A public-house was at length 
erected at the spot for his particular behoof; and assuredly, as 
long as the Gallow Lee lasted, this house did not want custom. 
Perhaps, familiar as the reader may be with stories of sots who 
have drunk away their last acre, he never before heard of the 
thing being done in so literal a manner. 

If my reader be an inhabitant of Edinburgh of any standing, 
he must have many delightful associations of Leith Walk in 
connection with his childhood. Of all the streets in Edinburgh 
or Leith, the Wal^, in former times, was certainly the street for 
boys and girls. From top to bottom, it was a scene of wonders 
and enjoyments peculiarly devoted to children. Besides the 



360 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

panoramas and caravan-shows, which were comparatively transient 
spectacles, there were several shows upon Leith Walk, which 
might be considered as regular fixtures, and part of the counfry- 
cousiji sights of Edinburgh. Who can forget the wax- works of 
'Mrs Sands, widow of the late G. Sands,' which occupied a 
laigh shop opposite to the present Haddington Place, and at 
the door of which, besides various parrots, and sundry birds of 
Paradise, sat the wax figure of a little man in the dress of a 
French courtier of the ancieji regime, reading one eternal copy of 
the Edinburgh Advertiser ? The very outsides of these wonder- 
shops was an immense treat : all along the Walk, it was one 
delicious scene of squirrels hung out at doors, and monkeys 
dressed like soldiers and sailors, with holes behind where their 
tails came through. Even the half-penniless boy might here get 
his appetite for wonders to some extent gratified. 

Besides being of old the chosen place for shows, Leith Walk 
was the Rialto of objects. This word requires explanation. It 
is applied by the people of Scotland to persons who have been 
bom with, or overtaken by, some miserable personal evil. From 
one end to the other, Leith Walk was garrisoned by poor 
creatures under these circumstances, who, from handbarrows, 
wheelbarrows, or iron legs, if peradventure they possessed such 
adjuncts, entreated the passengers for charity — some by voices 
of song, some by speech, some by driddling, as Bums calls it, 
on fiddles, or grinding on hand-organs — indeed, a complete 
continuous ambuscade against the pocket. Shows and objects 
have now alike vanished from Leith Walk. It is now a plain 
street, composed of little shops of the usual suburban appear- 
ance, and characterised by nothing peculiar, except, perhaps, a 
certain air of pretension, which is, in some cases, abundantly 
ludicrous. A great number, be it observed, are mere tiled 
cottages, which contrive, by means of lofty fictitious fronts, 
plastered and painted in a showy manner, to make up a good 
appearance towards the street. If there be a school in one of 
those receptacles, it is entitled an academy ; if an artisan's work- 
shop, however humble, it is a manufactory. Everything about it 



LEITH WALK. 38 1 

is Still showy and insubstantial ; it is still, in some measure, the 
type of what it formerly was. 

Near the bottom of Leith Walk is a row of somewhat old- 
fashioned houses bearing the name of Springfield. A large one, 
the second from the top, was, ninety years ago, the residence of 
Mr M'CuUoch of Ardwell, a commissioner of customs, and noted 
as a man of pleasantry and wit. Here, in some of the last 
years of his life, did Samuel Foote occasionally appear as Mr 
M'Culloch's guest — Arcades ambo et respondere parati. But the 
history of their intimacy is worthy of being particularly told ; 
so I transcribe it from the recollection of a gentleman whose 
advanced age and family connections could alone have made us 
faithfully acquainted with circumstances so remote from our 
time. 

In the winter of 1775-6 [more probably that of 1774-5], Mr 
M'Culloch visited his countiy mansion in the stewartry of 
Kirkcudbright, in company with a friend named Mouat, in order 
to be present at an election. Mr M'Culloch was a man of joyous 
temperament and a good deal of wit, and used to amuse his 
friends by spouting half-random verses. He and his friend 
spent a week or two very pleasantly in the country, and then 
set out on their return to Leith ; Mr M'Culloch carrying with 
him his infant son David, familiarly called Wee Davie, for the 
purpose of commencing his education in Edinburgh. To pursue 
the narrative of my correspondent : ' The two travellers got on 
pretty well as far as Dumfries ; but it was with difficulty, occa- 
sioned by a snow-storm, that they reached Moffat, where they 
tarried for the night. 

' Early in a January morning, the snow having fallen heavily 
during the preceding night, they set off in a post-chaise and four 
horses to proceed on their perilous journey. Two gentlemen 
in their own carriage left the King's Arms Inn (then kept by 
James Little) at the same time. With difficulty the first pair of 
travellers reached the top of Erickstane, but farther they could 
not go. The parties came out of their carriages, and, aided by 
their postilions, they held a consultation as to the prudence of 



382 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

attempting to proceed down the vale of Tweed. This was 
considered as a vain and dangerous attempt, and it was therefore 
determined on to return to Moffat. The turning of the carriages 
having become a dangerous undertaking, Wee Davie had to be 
taken out of the chaise and laid on the snow, wrapped in a 
blanket, until the business was accomplished. The parties then 
went back to Moffat, arriving there between nine and ten in the 
morning. Mr M'CuUoch and his friend then learned that of 
the two strangers who had left the inn at the same time, and 
had since returned, one was the celebrated Foote, and the other 
either Ross or Souter, but which of the two favourite sons of 
Thalia I cannot remember at this distant period of time. Let 
it be kept in mind that Foote had lost a leg, and walked with 
difficulty. 

'Immediately on returning, Foote had entered the inn, not 
in good-humour, to order breakfast. His carriage stood opposite 
the inn door, in order to get the luggage taken off. While this 
was going on, a paper wa,s placarded on one of the panels. The 
wit came out to see how all matters were going on, when, 
observing the paper, he in ^vrath exclaimed : " What rascal has 
been placarding his ribaldry on my carriage?" He had patience, 
however, to pause and read the following lines : 

" While Boreas his flaky storm did guide, 

Deep covering every hill, o'er Tweed and Clyde, 
, The north-wind god spied travellers seeking way ; 
Sternly he cried : ' Retrace your steps, I say j 
Let not 07iefoot, 'tis my behest, profane 
The sacred snows which lie on Erickstane.' " 

The countenance of our wit now brightened, as he called out, 
with an exclamation of surprise : " I should like to know the 
fellow who wrote that ; for be he who he may, he 's no mean 
hand at an epigram." Mrs Little, the good but eccentric land- 
lady, now stepped forward and spoke thus : " Trouth, Maister 
Fut, it 's mair than likely that it was our^r/m' Maister M'CuUoch 
of Ardwell that did it ; it 's weel kent that he 's a poyet j he 's a 
guid eneugh sort o' man, but he never comes here without 



LEITH WALK. 383 

poyet-teasing mysel' or the guidman, or some ane or other about 
the house. It wud be weel dune if ye wud speak to him." 
Ardwell now came forward, muttering some sort of apology, 
which Foote instantly stopped by saying: "My dear sir, an 
apology is not necessary ; I am fair game for every one, for I 
take any one for game when it suits me. You and I must 
become acquainted, for I find that we are brother-poets, and 
that we were this morning companions in misfortune on 'the 
sacred snows of Erickstane.'" Thus began an intimacy which 
the sequel will shew turned out to be a lasting one. The two 
parties now joined at the breakfast-table, as they did at every 
other meal for the next twenty days. 

' Foote remained quiet for a few hours after breakfast, until he 
had beat about for game, as he termed it, and he first fixed on 
worthy Mrs Little, his hostess. By some occult means he had 
managed to get hold of some of the old lady's habiHments, 
particularly a favourite night-cap — provincially, a mutch. After 
attiring himself h la Mrs Little, he went into the kitchen and 
through the house, mimicking the garrulous landlady so very 
exactly in giving orders, scolding, &c. that no servant doubted 
as to its being the mistress in propria persona. This kind of 
amusement went on for several days for the benefit of the 
people in Mofiat. By and by, the snow allowed the united 
parties to advance as far as the Crook, upon, Tweed, and here 
they were again storm-stayed for ten days. Nevertheless, Foote 
and his companion, who was well qualified to support him, 
never for a moment flagged in creating merriment, or affording 
the party amusement of some sort. The snow cleared away at 
last, so as to enable the travellers to reach Edinburgh, and there 
to end their journey. The intimacy of Foote and Ardwell did 
not end here, but continued until the death of Foote. 

' After this period, Foote several times visited Scotland : he 
always in his writings shewed himself partial to Scotland and to 
the Scotch. On every visit which he afterwards made to the 
northern metropolis, he set apart a night or two for a social 
meeting with his friend Ardwell, whose family lived in the 



384 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

second house from the head of that pretty row of houses more 
than half-way down Leith Walk, still called Springfield. In the 
parlour, on the right-hand side in entering that house, the 
largest of the row, Foote, the celebrated wit of the day, has 
frequently been associated with many of the Edinburgh and 
Leith worthies, when and where he was wont to keep the table 
in a roar. 

'The biography of Foote is well known. However, I may 
add that Mr Mouat and Mr M'Culloch died much lamented in 
the year 1793. David M'Culloch (Wee Davie) died in the 
year 1824, at Cheltenham, much regretted. For many years he 
had resided in India. In consequence of family connection, he 
became a familiar visitor at Abbotsford, and a favourite acquaint- 
ance of Sir Walter Scott.* Mr Lockhart tells us that, next to 
Tom Moore, Sir Walter thought him the finest warbler he had 
ever heard. He was certainly an exquisitely fine singer of 
Scotch songs. Sir Walter Scott never heard him sing until he 
was far advanced in life, or until his voice had given way to a 
long residence in India. Mr Lockhart also tells us that David 
M'Culloch in his youth was an intimate and favourite com- 
panion of Burns, and that the poet hardly ventured to publish 
many of his songs until he heard them sung by his friend. I 
will only add, that the writer of this has more than once heard 
Burns say that he never fully knew the beauty of his songs until 
he heard them sung by David M'Culloch.' 



[GABRIEL'S ROAD. 

Previous to 1767, the eye of a person perched in a favourable 
situation in the Old Town, surveyed the whole ground on which 
the New Town was afterwards built. Immediately beyond the 

* Sir Walter's brother Thomas was married to a sister of Mr M'Culloch. 



Gabriel's road. 385 

North Loch was a range of grass fields, called Bearford's Parks, 
from the name of the proprietor, Hepburn of Bearford in East 
Lothian. Bounding these on the north, in the line of the 
subsequent Princes Street, was a road enclosed by two dry- 
stone walls, thence called the Lang Dykes ; it was the line by 
which the Viscount Dundee rode with his small troop of 
adherents, when he had ascertained that the Convention was 
determined to settle the crown upon the Prince of Orange, and 
he saw that the only duty that remained for him was to raise the 
Highland clans for King James. The main mass of ground, 
originally rough with whins and broom, but latterly forming 
what was called Wood's Farm, was crossed obliquely by a road 
extending between Silvermills, a rural hamlet on the mill- 
course of the Leith, and the passage into the Old Toum 
obtained by the dam of the North Loch at the bottom of 
Halkerston's Wynd. There are still some traces of this road. 
You see it leave Silvermills behind West Cumberland Street. 
Behind Duke Street, on the west side, the boundary-wall of the 
Queen Street Garden is oblique in consequence of its having 
passed that way. Finally, it terminates in a short oblique 
passage behind the Register House, wherein stood till lately 
a tall building containing a famous house of resort, Ambrose's 
Tavern. This short passage bore the name of Gabriel's Road, 
and it was supposed to do so in connection with a remarkable 
murder, of which it was the scene. 

The murderer in the case was in truth a man named Robert 
Irvine. He was tutor to two boys, sons of Mr Gordon of Ellon. 
In consequence of the children having reported some liberties 
they saw him take with their mother's maid, he conceived the 
horrible design of murdering them, and did so one day as he 
was leading .them for a walk along the rough ground where the 
New Town is now situated. The frightful transaction was 
beheld from the Castle-hill ; he was pursued, taken, and next 
day but one hanged by the baron of Broughton, after having 
his hands hacked off by the knife with which he had committed 
the deed. The date of this off-hand execution was 30th April 



386 TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH. 

17 1 7. Both the date and the murderer's name have several 
times been misstated.* " ' 

Adjacent to this road, about the spot now occupied by the 
Royal Bank, stood a small groups of houses called Mutrie's 
Hill, some of which professed to furnish curds and cream and 
fruits in their seasons, and were on . these accounts resorted to 
by citizens and their families on summer evenings. One in 
particular bore the name of ' Peace and Plenty.' 

The village of Silvermills, for the sake of which, as an access 
to the city, Gabriel's Road existed, still maintains its place 
amidst the streets and crescents of the New Town. It contains 
a few houses of a superior cast ; but it is a place sadly in want 
of the sacer vates. No notice has ever been taken of it in any 
of the books regarding Edinburgh, nor has any attempt ever 
been made to account for its somewhat piquant name. I shall 
endeavour to do so. 

In 1607, silver was found in considerable abundance at 
Hilderstone in Linlithgowshire, on the property of the gentle- 
man who figures in another part of this volume as Tam o' the 
Cowgate. Thirty-eight barrels of ore were sent to the Mint in 
the Tower of London to be tried, and were found to give about 
twenty-four ounces of silver for every hundredweight Expert 
persons were placed upon the mine, and mills were erected on 
the Water of Leith for the melting and fining of the ore. The 
sagacious owner gave the mine the name of God^s blessing. By 
and by the king heard of it, and thinking it improper that any 
such fountain of wealth should belong to a private person, 
purchased God's blessing for ;^5ooo, that it might be worked 
upon a larger scale for the benefit of the public. But somehow, 
from tlie time it left the hands of the original owner, God's blessing 
ceased to be anything like so fertile as it had been, and in time 
the king withdrew from the enterprise a great loser. The Silver- 
mills I conceive to have been a part of the abandoned plant. +] 

* In Mr Lockhart's clever book, Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, the murderer is called 
Gabriel. A work called Celebrated Trials (6 vols. 1825) gives an erroneous account of the 
murder, styling the murderer as the Rev. Thomas Hunter. 

t See Domestic Annals cif Scotland, i, 407. 



INDEX. 



PAGE 

Aberuchil, Campbell of, his family 85 

Acheson of Gosford, "house of, in Canon- 
gate 344 

Advertiser, Edinburgh, started 63 

Alison Square, its origin 376 

Alva, Lord Justice-clerk 223 

Anderson, Dr, inventor of pills 38 

, Samuel, anecdote of. r. ..325 

Arnot, Hugo, 14 ; ' anecdotes of 22 

Asse7!ibly, The, a play by Pitcaim 331 

Assembly-room, old, in West Bow 56 

Aytouns of Inchdairnie in Bishop's 
Land 292 

Baird, Sir David, anecdote of 30 

Balcarres, Countess of, her tea-drink- 

ings 299, 300 

Balfour, James, anecdotes of. 156-158 

, Sir James, letter of 336 

Bankton House, East Lothian 40 

Bannatyne, Lord, his reminiscences in 

1832 20, 336 

Begbie tragedy 301 

Bellamy, Mrs 365-36S 

Bethune, Archbishop, his house in 

Blackfriars Wynd 249, 264 

Bethune, Cardinal 250 

Bickers, street-fights of boys 207-210 

Bishop's Land, the, its inhabitants 291 

Blackfriars Wynd 249 

Blue-gowns, their annual assembly 116 

Boar Club 167 

Boarding-schools of last century 251 

Booths around St Giles's Church 122 

Boswell, James, his residence 73 

Burke, Ned, a chairman, engaged in 

the escape of Prince Charles Edward.. 195 

Bothwell, Anne, her Lines in 

, Commendator, his house iii 

Bothwell Bridge prisoners 311 

' Bowed Joseph,' a general of mobs.. 202-207 

Bowhead and its 'saints' 38, 41 

Brodie, WiUiam, his guilt and execution. 105 

Bryce, his small shop 115 

Buccleuch, Duchess of. 345 

Buchanan, George, his skull 310, n. 

Burning, a, strange tale of. 319 

Bums, Robert, at ' Crochallan' 181 



PAGE 

Caddies, a set of street-messengers 193 

Campbell, Mungo, his suicide when 

under sentence 104. 

Campbell, Thomas, poet. .' 377 

of Laguine, a distracted liti- 
gant 149 

Canary, a Jacobite 41 

Canongate, the, once a residence of the 

great 316 

Cant's Close, curious old house in 242 

Cape Club, the 164 

Castle-hill, a favourite promenade 21 

Chairmen (sedan-carriers) 194 

Changes of the last hundred years 11 

Chapman, Walter, his tenement in 

Cowgate 122 

Charles I. plays golf on Leith Links . . . .339 

Charteris, Colonel, his funeral 346 

Chiesly of Dairy 87 

Citadel of Leith, inhabitants in 1745.. 29, «. 
Clattering of tinsmiths in West Bow. ... 55 

Claudero, a low poet 348 

Cleanse the Caiisezuay, a conflict in 

Edinburgh 264 

Clubs, convivial 165-173 

Coalstoun, Lord, and his wig no 

Cockbum, Mrs, author of Flowers of 

the Forest 72 

College Wynd 265 

Concerts, company at 275 

Conviviaha 152-173 

Court, the Dirt 128 

Court of Sessioti Garland, a burlesque 

poem 139 

Cowgate, the 263-272 

Craig, James, his plan of the New 

Town 17 

Creech's shop 117 

' Crochallan Corps,' a convivial society. . 181 
Cromwell's guard -house, 113; his 

judges, 135; residence 328 

Cross, the 191-193 

CuUen, Robert, eminently a mimic 285 

Danish lords entertained 283 

Damley, scene of his murder. 280 

' Deid Chack,' the, a custom after 
executions 127 



388 



INDEX. 



PAGE 

Dick, Lady Anne, her eccentricities 

and verses 246-248 

Dick, Sir William, his enormous riches. . 89 

Donacha Bhan, a Highland poet 198 

Donaldson, Alexander, bookseller 62 

Douglas, Gavin, the poet, his house 263 

Douglas's tavern 179 

Dowie's tavern 153, 183 

Dresses, female, of last century 218 

Drummond, Bishop Abernethy, epi- 
gram on 251 

Dundas of Arniston, anecdote of. 155 

Eglintoune, Countess of 210-218 

Elliot, Jeanie t6 

Excise-office in Cowgate 270 

Executioners of Edinburgh 65 

Fergusson, the plotter, took refuge in 

the OldTolbooth 102 

Fergusson, Walter, writer, digs for 

water in James's Square 353 

Flockhart's, Lucky, in the Potterrow... .185 

Foote, Samuel, anecdote of. 382-384 

Fore-stairs, uses of 115 

Fountainhall, Lord, anecdote of 74 

Gabriel's Road 3S4 

Gallows-stone in Grassmarket 64 

Gardenstone, Lord 147 

Gardiner, Colonel, his oratory 40 

Ged, Dougal, of Town-guard 254, 255 

, Misses, their boarding-school 254 

Geddes, Jenny, her stool 119 

Giornovicki, musician 278 

Glenlee, Lord 16 

Glenorchy, Lady 226 

Goldsmith's account of a dancing 

assembly in Edinburgh in 1753 58 

Goldsmiths in Parliament Square 124 

Gordon, Jane, Duchess of. 298 

family, residences in Edin- 
burgh 29, 336 

Gourlay, Robert, remarkable house of . . 83 

Grange, Lady, story of. 231-242 

Greyfriars Churchyard 310 

Hailes, Lord (Sir D. Dalrymple).. ..140-145 

Ha's, Jenny, tavern 157, 357 

Hay, a young criminal, singular escape. 107 

Heckler, the, a lunatic litigant 151 

Hell-fire Club 1 70 

Henderson, Alexander, his tombstone. . .311 

Heriot, George, his shop 125 

'He that tholes overcomes,' inscribed 

on a house 60 

High School, barring out 89 

Holstein, Duke of, entertained, 1598.. .. 90 
Hope, Sir Tliomas, king's advocate to 

Charles 1 84-87 

' Horn Order ' 173 

Horse Wynd, Earl of Galloway's house 

in the 266 

Hume, David 69-73 

Hyndford's Close 287, 297 

Irving, Mrs, anecdote of. 39 



PAGH 

James II. plays golf on Lelth Links 340 

James's Court 68 

Jeddart staff possessed by each citizen.. 114 

Johnston of Westerhall 49 

Justice in bygone times 132 

Kames, Lord, 144 ; his house 322 

Kerr, goldsmith 12 

and Dempster, goldsmiths 123 

Kinnaird, Miss, having second-sight.22g, n, 

Knox, John, his manse 293 

Krames, the 116 

Lady's Steps, the, payments made at. ...117 

Leith Walk 378 

Little of Libberton, his hou.se 89 

Lockhart, President, assassination of.... 88 

of Covington 143 

Lorimer, the, a deceased trade 255 

Lothian, Marchioness of, anecdote of. ...342 

Hut 341 

Loughborough, Chancellor, his house 

in Mint Close 286, 287 

Lovat, Lady, her house, and anecdotes 

of 256-262 

Lovat, Lord 224, 256, 257 

Luckenbooths, some memories of the log 

M'Culloch of Ardwell, residence of. 381 

Macfarlane, Mrs, her story 313 

Mackenzie, Henry. 17 

, Sir George, his house.. .245, 246 

M'Lehose, Mrs, house of (Clarinda of 

Bums) ;•.■•••. 377 

Macmoran, Bailie, killed Sg 

Macrae, Captain, tragical story of 368 

Magdalen Chapel, Cowgate 271, n. 

JMally Lee, a ballad 222 

Mar, Countess of, her death 87 

Marionville, villa of, theatricals at 368 

Marlin's Wynd, story of. 228 

Mary de Guise, her house in Edinburgh. 32 
Maxwell, Lady, of Monreith, her house.2'37 
Melrose, Abbot of, his ' lodging ' in 

Edinburgh 244 

Melville, Henry, Viscount 141, «. 

Middlemass's tavern j6z 

Mint, the 282 

Mirror, magic, story of the 77 

Mobs of Edinburgh; 200 

Monboddo, Lord 147 

Montrose, Marquis of, how treated by 

the Argyll family 319 

^loray House, Canongate 326 -332 

Morocco's Land, legend of. 32 1 

Morton, Regent, his execution, 84 ; 

anecdote of. 133 

Murder, extraordinary 383 

Murray, J. A., erects a statue to Allan 

Ramsay 23 

Murray, Miss Nicky, ball directress. 288-291 
, Regent, his tomb 120 

Nairn, Catherine, her tale of guilt, and 

escape from justice 103 

Negro servants 82, «. 



INDEX. 



389 



PAGE 

New Town, first house in 18 

Nicol, Andrew, claimant at law of a 

midden-stead 132 

Niddry's Wynd, houses in 229 

North Loch, memorials of the 123-131 

Ogilvie, Hon. Mrs, her boarding-school. 253 

Old Bank Close 82 

Oratories, a feature in houses of a 

certain era 40 

Oyster cellars 160 

Pages, keeping of. 347 

Palmerston, Lord, a pupil of Dugald 

Stewart in Edinburgh 342 

Panmure House, Canongate 337 

Parliament Close 121 

Council 128 

Parliament House 131 

■ Worthies 148-152 

Paterson, John, a golfing shoemaker. . . .339 

Peat, a, or Pate 136 

Pitcairn, Dr, his account of Edinburgh 

taverns, 174; his habits 176 

Poker Club, the 178 

Porteous Riot 65 

Portobello, origin of village of. 350, 91.. 

Post-office, old arrangements of. 143 

Prentice, Henry, introducer of the field- 
culture of potatoes 343 

Press, printing, used in rebel army 85 

Primrose, Viscount, a profligate 76 

Queensberry, Catherine, Duchess of. . . .357 
, second Duke of, strange 

story of. ._ 354 

Queensberry, third Duke of, and poet 

Gay 356 

Queensberry House 353 

Ramsay, A., the painter 26, 28 

, Allan, the poet, 14, 24 ; 

defence of the assembly 57 

Ramsay, Sir George, of BamfF, killed 

in a duel ^ 374 

Ramsay's Stables. 189 

Renton, Eleonora, of Lamerton 324 

Riddel's Close, Lawnmarket 89 

Risp, or pin, on doors 226 

Romieu, Paul, a noted watchmaker 59 

Rope used for Porteous, bought 60 

Ross House, George Square 229 

' Saving the ladies ' 162, 274 

Scott, Sir Walter, his birthplace 265 

Sellar, Mrs, a milliner, anecdote of.... ...342 

Shut-up houses in Old Town 47 

Silvermills, village of 386 

Sinclair, Mrs Effie, her boarding-school.. 252 
Smith, Adam, residence of, in Edin- 
burgh 337 



PAGE 

Smollett, visit to Edinburgh 323 

Somerville, Braid Hugh, a street-fight 

in 1640 51 

Speaking house, the 332 

St Cecilia's Hall, Cowgate, reminis- 
cences of. 272-279 

St David Street, a joke about 71 

St Giles, memoranda of the ' Old Kirk ' 

of 118 

St John Street 322 

Stabilini, a musician, his opinion of 

private concerts 279 

Stair, Countess of, story of. 76 

, the Earl of, a love ambuscade .... 80 

Stewart, provost in 1745, his house 61 

• , Sir William, killed in Black- 
friars Wynd 51 

Sutherland, Earl and Countess of 224 

Swift, his connection with the Gosford 

family in Ireland 33s 

Swine roaming in the streets iis 

Tarn o' the Cowgate (first Earl of 

Haddington) 267 

Taverns of old times 174-igi 

Templars' Lands in Grassmarket 64 

Tennis Court 36a 

Theatre in Canongate 365 

Theatricals, early, in Edinburgh 363 

Thomson, G., his account of music in 

Edinburgh in last century 272 

Threipland, Sir Stuart, house in 

Bishop's Land 292 

Tinklarian doctor (William Mitchell), 

a prating fanatic 53 

Tolbooth, Old, description and anec- 
dotes of 95-109 

Tolbooth Whigs, the 127 

Town-guard, the 196-200 

Traquair, ladies of. 308 

Tulzies (street-fights) 49 

Tweeddale, Marquis of, house of. 301 

Uduart's house in Niddry's Wynd 229 

Union, the, legends of. 330 

Wallace, Lady .299 

Webster, Dr Alexander, 'of convivial 

memory' 30, 127 

Weir, Major 42 

Wemyss, Earl of, lives in Parliament 

Close 123 

Wemyss, Earl of, residence of 326 

West Bow 36-68 

White Horse Inn 189-191 

■ Stables 187 

Williamson, Peter 126 

of Cardrona 182 

Wooden-fronted houses, account of. 293 



Edinburgh : Printed by W. and R. Chambers. 



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