OF THE CANONGATE
Page 2 of 5
On the same side of the street, opposite to the archway leading
into St. John Street, Jack's Land, a lofty stone tenement, formed,
in her latter years, the residence of the beautiful Susannah,
Countess of Eglinton, and there she was frequently visited by
the famous Lady Jane Douglas during the vexed progress of "the
Douglas cause;" and in another flat thereof resided David
Hume, who came thither from Ridder's Land in 1753, while engaged
on his History of England."
"The Shoemakers' Lands, which stand to the east of Jack's
Land," says Wilson, writing in 1847, " are equally lofty
and more picturesque buildings. One of them especially, opposite
to Moray House, is a very singular and striking object in the
stately range of substantial stone tenements that extend from
New Street to the Canongate Tolbooth. A highly-adorned tablet
surmounts the main entrance, enriched with angels' heads and a
border of Elizabethan ornament enclosing the shoemakers' arms,
with the date 1677.
open book is inscribed with the first verse of the Scottish metre
version of the one hundred and thirty-third Psalm-a motto which
appears to have been of special repute towards the close of the
seventeenth century among the suburban corporations, being also
inscribed over the '-Tailors' Hall of Eastern Portsburgh and the
Shoemakers' Land in the West Port. The turn-pike stair, the entrance
to which is graced by this motto and the further inscription,
in smaller letters,
'IT IS AN HONOUR FOR MAN TO CEASE FROM STRIFE,'
rises above the roof of the building, and is crowned by an ogee
roof of singular character, flanked on either side by picturesque
gables to the street. The first of the two tenements to the west
of this, at the head of Shoemakers' Close, has an open panel on
its front, from which the inscription appears to have been removed;
but the other, which bears the date 1725, is still adorned with
the same arms, and the following moral aphorism:-
BLESSED IS HE THAT WISELY DO
THE POOR MAN'S CASE CONSIDER.
We have referred to the mansion of the Marquis of Huntly, in the
Canongate, and the marriage of his daughters therein. This singularly
picturesque and antique edifice stands on the southern side of
the street, opposite the old Tolbooth, and is erroneously said
to have been at one time the Royal Mint.
Here George, sixth Earl and first Marquis of Huntly, is said to
have resided-the same noble who was suspected of corresponding
and conspiring with Spain, In his " History of the 'Troubles,"
Spalding tells us that this peer, in June, 1636, was borne from
his lodging in the Canongate, in the desire of reaching his northern
house in Badenoch, but got no farther than Dundee, where he died,
in his seventy-fourth year.
Here, too, abode his son, the second marquis, who was forfeited
in 1645 by the Covenanting Parliament for his steady adherence
to the king, and after being deprived of his stately castles of
Gicht and Strathbogie, lost his head on the block at the Market
Cross in 1649, ten years after the marriage festivities referred
When Maitland wrote, in 1753, this house was the residence of
the Dowager of Cosmo George, third Duke of Gordon, who had been
Lady Catharine Gordon, of the Aberdeen family.
It still presents a picturesque row of timber fronted gables to
the street, resting on a row of carved corbels and a cornice projecting
from the basement, and a series of sculptured tablets adorn it,
filled with certam pious phrases peculiar to the sixteenth century.
One of these is-; Vt tu lingvae,, sic e, o mear; avrium -Dominus
sum; " another is-
" Constanti pectori res mortalium umbra "
Lower down the street, on the same side, at the head of Reid's
Close, a square projecting turret, corbelled well out over the
pavement, with a huge gable, indicates the town mansion of the
Nisbets of Dirleton, an old baronial family in East Lothian, erected
in the year 1624- In accordance with the general style of all
Scottish houses in those days, the basement storey is arched with
stone; and the first of the family who resided there seems to
have been Sir John Nisbet of Dirleton, who was raised to the bench
in 1664, " a man of great learning, both in law and many
other things, chiefly in Greek," according to Burnet, who
adds that " he was a person of great integrity, and always
stood firm to the law."
was the son of Patrick Nisbet, Lord Eastbank in 1636, and was
appointed King's Advocate, and was author of an old legal work,
well known as " Dirleton's Doubts." He died in 1678.
He was a tool of the Bishops, and rendered himself unpopular by
his zeal in prosecut-ing the unfortunate Covenanters. Of this
Wodrow relates an instance.
named Robert Gray having been brought before the Privy Council,
and examined as to his knowledge of their hiding-places without
success, Sir John Nisbet artfully and cruelly took a ring from
his finger, and sent it to Mrs. Gray, with a message that her
husband had revealed all he knew of the Whigs. Deceived by this,
she told all that she knew of their lurking places, and thus many
were arrested, which so affected her husband that he sickened,
and died a few days after.
Nearly opposite Queensberry House, and on the north side of the
street, a narrow, old-fashioned edifice is known as John Paterson's
House, or " The Golfers' Land," concerning which there
is recorded a romantic episode connected with James VII., when,
as Duke of Albany, he held his court at Holyrood. Conspicuously
placed high upon the wall is a coat-armorial, and a slab above
the entrance door contains the two following inscrip-tions :-
"CUM VICTOR LUDO, SCOTIS QUI PROPRIUS, ESSE'T,
TER TRES VICTORES POST REMEDITOS AVOS, PATERSONUS, HUMO TUNC EDUCEBAT
IN ALTUM HANC, QUAE VICTORES TOT TULFT UNA, DOMUM."
" I HATE NO PERSON."
The latter is an anagram on the name of " John Paterson,"
while the quatrain was the production of Dr. Pitcairn, and is
referred to in the first volume of Gilbert Stuart's Edinburgh
Magazine and Review for 1774, and may be rendered thus: -"In
the year when Paterson won the prize in golfing, a game peculiar
to the Scots (in which his ancestors had nine times won the same
honour), he then raised this mansion, a victory more honourable
than all the rest."
According to tradition, two English nobles at Holyrood had a discussion
with the royal duke as to the native country of golf, which he
was frequently in the habit of playing on the Links of Leith with
the Duke of Lauderdale and others, and which the two strangers
insisted to be an English game as well.
evidence of this being forthcoming, while many Scottish Parliamentary
edicts, some as old as the days of James II., in I457, could be
quoted concerning the said game, the Englishmen, who both vaunted
their expertness, offered to test the legitimacy of their pretensions
on the result of a match to be played by them against His Royal
Highness and any other Scotsman he chose to select.
careful inquiry he chose a man named John Paterson, a poor shoe-maker
in the Canongate, but the worthy descendant of a long line of
illustrious golfers, and the associa-tion will by no means surprise,
even in the present age, those who practise the game in the true
old Scottish spirit. The strangers were ignominiously beaten,
and the heir to the throne had the best of this practical argument,
While Paterson's merits were rewarded by the stake played for,
and he built the house now standing in the Canongate.
its summit he placed the Paterson arms-three pelicans vulned on
a chief three mullets; crest, a dexter-hand grasping a golf club,
with the well-known Motto-FAR AND SURE. Concerning this old and
well-known tradition, Chambers says, "it must be admitted
there is some uncertainty, The house, the arms, and the inscriptions
only indicate that Paterson built the house after being victor
at golf, and that Pitcaim had a hand in decorating it."
In this doubt Wilson goes further, and believes that the Golfers'
Land was lost, not won, by the gambling propensities of its owner.
It was acquired by Nicol Paterson in 1609, a maltman in Leith,
and from him it passed, in 1632, to his son John (and Agnes Lyel
his spouse), who died 23rd April, 1663, as appears by the epitaph
upon his tomb in the churchyard of Holyrood, which was extant
in Maitland's time, and the strange epitaph on which is given
at length by Monteith. He would appear to have been many times
Bailie of the Canongate Both Nicol and John, it may be inferred
from the inscriptions on the ancient edifice, were able and successful
style of the building, says Wilson, confirms the idea that it
had been rebuilt by him "with the spoils, as we are bound
to presume, which he won on Leith links, from 'our auld enemies
of England.' The title-deeds, how-ever, render it probable that
other stakes had been played for with less success. In 1691 he
grants a bond over the property for £400 Scots. This is
followed by letters of caption and horning, and other direful
symptoms of legal assault, which pursue the poor golfer to his
grave, and remain behind as his sole legacy to his heirs."
The whole tradition, however, is too serious to be entirely overlooked,
but may be taken by the reader for what it seems worth.
Bailie Paterson's successor in the old mansion was John, second
Lord Bellenden of Broughton and Auchnoule, Heritable Usher of
the Exchequer, who married Mary, Countess Dowager of Dalhousie,
and daughter of the Earl of Drogheda. Therein he died in 1704,
and was buried in the Abbey Church; and as the Union speedily
followed, like other tenements so long occupied by the old courtiers
in this quarter, the Golfers' Land became, as we find it now,
the abode of plebeians.
Immediately adjoining the Abbey Court-house was an old, dilapidated,
and gable-ended mansion of no great height, but of considerable
extent, which was long indicated by oral tradition as the abode
of David Rizzio. It has now given place to buildings connected
with the Free Church of Scotland. Opposite these still remain
some of the older tenements of this once patrician burgh, distinguishable
by their lofty windows filled in with small square panes of glass
; and on the south side of the street, at its very eastern end,
a series of pointed arches along the walls of the Sanctuary Court-house,
alone remain to indicate the venerable Gothic porch and gate-house
of the once famous Abbey of Holyrood, beneath which all that was
great and good, and much that was ignoble and bad have passed
and repassed in the days that are no more.
This edifice, of which views from the east and west are still
preserved, is supposed to have been the work of " the good
Abbot Ballantyne," who rebuilt the north side of the church
in 1490. and to whom we shall have occasion to refer elsewhere.
His own mansion, or lodging, stood here on the north side of the
street, and the remains of it, together with the porch, were recklessly
destroyed and removed by the Hereditary Keeper of the Palace in
A little gable-ended house now occupies the site of the former,
and was long known as the dwelling of a very different personage,
a Lucky Spence, of unenviable notoriety, whose "Last Advice"
figures somewhat coarsely in the poems of Allan Ramsay.
About 1833 a discovery was made, during some alterations in this
house, which was deemed illus-trative of the desperate character
of its seventeenth -century occupant. " In breaking out a
new window on the ground floor, a cavity was found in the solid
wall, containing the skeleton of a child, with some remains of
fine linen cloth in which it had been wrapped. Our authority,"
says Wilson, "a worthy shoemaker, who had occupied the house
for forty-eight years, was present when the dis-covery was made,
and described very graphically the amazement and horror of the
workman, who threw away his crowbar, and was with difficulty persuaded
to resume his operations."
LI THE CANONGATE (continued).
Execution of the Marquis of Montrose-The
First Dromedary in Scotland The Streets Cleansed-Roxburgh House-London
Stages of 1712 and 1754-Religious Intolerance-Declension of the
Burgh.OF all the wonderful and startling spectacles wit-nessed
amid the lapse of ages from the windows of the Canongate, none
was perhaps more startling and pitiful than the humiliating procession
which conducted the great Marquis of Montrose to his terrible
On the 18th of May 1650, he was brought across the Forth to Leith,
after his defeat and capture by the Covenanters at the battle
of Invercarron, where he had displayed the royal standard; and
it is impossible now to convey an adequate idea of the sensation
excited in the city, when the people be-came aware that the Griham,
the victor in so many battles, and the slayer of so many thousands
of the best troops of the Covenant, was almost at their gates.
Placed on a cart-horse, he was brought in by the eastern barrier
of the city, as it was resolved, by the influence of his rival
and enemy, Argyle, to protract the spectacle of his humiliation
as long as possible, by compelling him to traverse the entire
length of the excited and tumultuous metropolis, by the Canongate
and High Street, " overlooked by the loftiest houses in Europe,
with their forestairs, balconies, bartizans, and outshots, that
afforded every facility for beholding the spectacle. On this day
the whole length of that vast thoroughfare was one living mass
of human beings; but for one who had come to pity, there were
more than a hundred whose hearts were filled with a tiger-like
ferocity, which the clergy had inspired to a dan-gerous degree,
and for the most ungenerous purpose."
The women of the kail-market and the " saints of the Bowhead"
were all there, their tongues trembling with abuse, and their
hands full of stones or mud to launch at the head of the fallen
Cavalier, who passed through the Water Gate at four in the afternoon,
greeted by a storm of yells. Seated on a lofty hurdle, he was
bound with cords so tightly that he was unable to raise his hands
to save his face ; preceded by the magistrates in their robes,
he was bareheaded, his hat having been torn from him.
in the prime of manhood and perfection of manly beauty, we are
told that he " looked pale, worn, and hollow-eyed, for many
of the wounds he had received at Inver-carron were yet green and
smarting. A single horse drew the hurdle, and thereon sat the
execu-tioner of the city, clad in his ghastly and sable livery,
and wearing his bonnet as a mark of dis-respect." He was
escorted by the city guard, under the notorious Major Weir-Weir
the wizard, whose terrible fate has been recorded elsewhere.
In front marched a number of Cavalier pri-soners, bareheaded and
bound with cords. Many of the people now shed tears on witnessing
this spectacle ; but, says Kincaid, they were publicly rebuked
by the clergy, " who declaimed against this movement of rebel
nature, and reproached them with their profane tenderness ; "
while the " Wigton Papers " state that how even the
widows and the mothers of those who had fallen in his wars wept
for Montrose, who looked around him with the profoundest serenity
as he proceeded up the Canongate, even when he came to Moray House-
" Then, as the Graham looked upward, he met the ugly smile
Of him who sold his king for gold, the master-fiend Argyle ! "
On the broad stone balcony which there projects into the street
was Argyle, with a gay bridal party in their brave dresses. His
son, Lord Lorne, had just been wedded to the Earl of Moray's daughter,
Lady Mary Stuart, and the young couple were there, with the Marchioness,
the Countess of Had-dington, Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston,
and others, to exult over the fallen Royalist. " Their malice
was not confined to that," says Monteith of Salmonet ; "
they caused the cart to be stopped for some time before the Earl
of Moray's house, where, by an unparalleled baseness, Argyle,
with the chief men of his cabal, who never durst look Montrose
in the face while he had his sword in his hand, appeared in the
balcony in order to feed merrily their sight with a spectacle
which struck horror into all good men. But Montrose astonished
them with his looks, and his resolution confounded them."
Then with broad vulgarity the marchioness spat full in his face!
Argyle shrank back at this, and an English Cavalier who stood
among the crowd below reviled him sharply, while Lorne and his
bride continued to toy and smile in the face of the people. ("
So protracted was this melancholy spectacle that seven o'clock
had struck before the hurdle reached the gate of the Tolbooth,
where Montrose, when unbound, gave the executioner a gold coin,
saying " This is your reward, my man, for driving the cart."
On the following day, Sunday, the ministers in their pulpits,
according to Wishart, rebuked the people for not having stoned
him. One declared that " he was a faggot of hell, and that
he al-ready saw him burning," while he was constantly taunted
by Major Weir as " a dog, atheist, and murderer."
story of Montrose's execution on the 21st of May, when be was
hanged at the Cross on a gibbet thirty feet high, with the record
of his battles suspended from his neck, how he died with glorious
magnanimity and was barbarously quartered, belongs to the general
annals of the nation ; but the City Treasurer's account contains
some curious items connected with that great legal tragedy :-
1650. Februar. To making a scaffold at ye Cross for burning ye
Earl of Montrose's papers. 2 8 0
May 13 For making a seat on a cart to carry him from ye Water
Gate to ye Tolboooth 12 16 0
For making a high new gallows and double leather and setting up
a galbert 12 8 4
Pd. 6 workmen for carrying ye trunk of his body and burying it
in ye Burrow muir 2 0 0 Pd. the Lockman for making sd. grave deeper
and covering it again 1 16 0
Pd. for sharping the axe for striking away the head, leg, and
arms from the body 0 12 0
As a set-off -against these items, we have the following, in 1660-1
when Argyle's fate came:-
To Alexander Davidson for a new axe to ye Maiden, and is to maintainit
all ye days of his life 70 12 0
To 4 Drummer: when Argyle and Swinton were brought from Leith
14 8 0
To 17 extra Drummers, 2 days, when Montrosewas buried and Aygyle
executed 21 12 0
The marquis was interred amid great pomp in the Church of St.
Giles at the Restoration but when a search was made for his remains
in the Chapman aisle, in April, 1879, no trace of them whatever
could be found there.
Amid the gloom and horror of scenes such as these executions,
and the general events of the wars of the Covenant, all traces
of gaiety, and especially of theatrical entertainments, disappeared
in Edinburgh as forbidden displays; but in January, 1659, the
citizens were regaled with the sight of a travel-ling dromedary,
the first that had ever been in Scotland.
describes it as "ane heigh great beast, callit ane dummodary,
quhilk being keepit ,clos in the Canongite, none had a sight of
it, with-out three pence the person. ........... It was very big,
and of great height, cloven futted like unto a kow, and on the
bak ane saitt, as it were a sadill to sit on. Thair was brocht
in with it ane lytill baboun, faced lyke unto an aip."
In 1686 the public attendance at mass by some of the officers
of state excited a tumult in the city, and many persons of rank
were insulted on return-ing therefrom by the rioters. One of these,
a journeyman baker, was, by order of the Privy Council, whipped
through the Canongate, and ultimately the Foot Guards had to fire
on the mob that assembled.
that year an Act of Parliament empowered the magistrates to impose
a tax of £500 sterling yearly, for three years, to cleanse
the town and Canongate, and free both from beggars; and in 1687
the whole members of the College of Justice volun-tarily offered
to bear their full share of this tax, and appointed two of their
body to be present when it was levied.
1692 we find an instance in the Canongate of one of the many troubles
which in those days arose from corporation privileges, by which
the poor and industrious tradesman was made the victim of monopoly.
In the open ground which now surrounds Milton House, there stood
in those days the mansion of the Earls of Roxburgh, surrounded
by a beautiful garden. In October, 1692, William Somerville, a
wright-burgess of the city, was engaged on some repairs in this
house, when Thomas Kinloch, Deacon of the Wrights in the Canongate,
came with others, and violently carried off all the tools of Somerville
and his workmen, on the plea that they were not freemen of the
burgh; and when the tools were demanded formally, two days after,
they were withheld.
Robert, Earl of Roxburgh (who afterwards died on his travels abroad),
was then a minor, but his curators resented the proceedings of
Kinloch, and sued him for riot and oppression. Apparently, if
the Roxburgh mansion had been subject to the jurisdiction of the
Canongate, the Privy Council would have given no redress ; but
when the earl's ancestor, in 1636, had given up the superiority
of the Canongate, as he reserved his house to be holden of the
Crown, it was found that the local corporation had no right to
interfere with his workmen, and Somerville's tools were restored
to him by order of the Council.
Earl Robert was succeeded-in this house by his brother John, fifth
Earl and first Duke of Rox-burgh, K.G., who sold his Union vote
for £500, became Secretary of State for Scotland in 1716,
and died in 1741.
Long ere that time the effect of the Union had done its worst
upon the old court burgh. Maitland, writing in 1753, says :-"
This place has suffered more by the union of the kingdoms than
all the other parts of Scotland : for having, before that period,
been the residence of the chief of the Scottish nobility, it was
then in a flourishing condition; but being deserted by them, many
of their houses are fallen down, and others in a ruinous condition;
it is ill a piteous case ! "
Five years after the Union we find a London coach announced as
starting from the Canongate, the advertisement for which, with
regard to expedi-tion, comfort, and economy, presents a curious
con-trast to the announcements of today, and is worth giving at
length, as we find it in the Newcastle Courant of October, 1712.
"Edinburgh Berwick, Newcastle, Durham, and London Stage-coach
begins on Monday, 13th October, 1712. All that desire to pass
from Edinburgh to London, or from London to Edinburgh or any place
on that road, let them repair to Mr. John Bailies, at the Coach
and Horses at the head of the Canongate, every Saturday, or the
Black Swan in Holborn, every other Monday, at both of which places
they may be received in a stage-coach which performs the whole
journey in thirteen days, without any stoppage if God permit,
having eighty able horses to perform the whole stage. Each passenger
paying £4 10s. for the whole journey,. allowing each 20
lbs. weight, and all above to pay 6d. per lb. The coach sets off
at six in the morn-ing. Performed by Henry Harrison, Nich.Speighl,
Rob. Garbe, Rich.Croft."
When we consider the cost of food on a thirteen days' journey,
the fees to successive guards and drivers, the small allowance
of luggage, and the overcharge, the contrast of travelling in
the days of Anne and Victoria seems great indeed.
In July, 1754, the Edinburgh Courant advertises the stage-coach,
drawn by six horses, with a pos-tilhon on one of the leaders,
as " a new, genteel, two-end glass machine, hung on steel
springs; exceeding light and easy, to go in ten days in summer
and tweIve in winter," setting out from Hosea Eastgate's,
at the Coach and Horses, Dean Street, Soho, and from John Somerville's,
in the Canongate, every other Tuesday. "In the winter to
set out from London and Edinburgh every other Monday morning,
and to go to Burrowbridge on Saturday night; and to set out from
thence on Monday morning, and to 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."
few years before this move in the way of pro-gress, the Canongate
had been the scene of a little religious persecution; thus we
find that on a Sunday in the April of 1722 the Duchess Dowager
of Gordon, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk,
venturing to have mass cele-brated at her house in the Canongate
for herself and some fifty other Roman Catholics, Bailie Hawthorn,
magistrate of the burgh, broke open the doors at the head of an
armed party, and seized the whole. The ladies he permitted to
depart on bail, but John Wallace, the priest, he cast into prison;
this he did all the more zealously that some thirty-five years
before the latter had been-according to Wodrow -a Protestant clergyman.
Thomas Kennedy, the Lord Advocate, refused bail for him, though
five persons of rank offered it. It was at length taken to the
extent of 5,000 merks, and failing to stand his trial under the
statute of 1700, according to Arnot's " Criminal Trials,"
he was outlawed.
Notwithstanding the gloom, ruin, and desertion of which Maitland
wrote in 1753, many persons of rank and note continued to linger
in the Canon-gate, and a curious list of them is given by Robert
Chambers, as taken down by " the late Mr. Chalmers Izett,
whose memory extended back to 1769." It includes two dukes,
sixteen earls, two dowager countesses, seven lords, and seven
lords of session, thirteen baronets, four commanders of the forces
in Scotland, and five eminent men- --Adam Smith, Drs, Young, Dugald
Stewart, Gardner, and Gregory; and he adds that the last blow
was given to the locality by the opening of the road along the
Calton Hill in 1817, which rendered it no longer the avenue of
approach to the city from the east.
Among the last of the old noblesse who resided in it was the Lady
Janet Sinclair, daughter of William, Lord Strathnaver (who died
in July, 1720). She was the relict of George Sinclair of Ulbster,
and mother of Sir John Sinclair, the famous agriculturist. She
died in her seventy-eighth year, in June, 1795.
LII THE CANONGATE-(continued).
Closes and Alleys on the North Side-Flesh-market
and Coull's Closes-Canongate High School-Rae's Close-Kinloch's
Lodging-New Street and its Residents-Hall of the Shoemakers-Sir
Thos.Dalyell-The Canongate Washhouse-Panmure House-Hannah Robertson-The
White Horse Hostel-The Water Gate.
AMONG the earliest breaches made in the Old Town by the City Improvement
Trustees were those at the head of the Canongate, where several
closes were swept away, especially on the north side, where we
now find the entrances to Jeffrey and Cranston Streets.
The first of these was the old Fleshmarket Close (which adjoined
Leith Wynd on the east), once a thickly-peopled locality, but
a cul-de-sac, the bottom of which was blocked up by ancient buildings.
On the west side of this squalid and filthy alley there stood
a mansion, the interior of which pre-sented undoubted evidence
of its magnificence in the sixteenth century, as it had among
its many carved details a beautifully canopied, cusped, and ornate
Gothic niche, with two shields, of which a drawing has been preserved,
and which, in de-tails, is identical with those found in the palace
of Mary of Guise. Traditionally it was named " the old Parliament
House," wherein it is sup-posed the Regent Lennox, with Morton,
Mar, Glencairn, and others, held their meeting in the troublesome
time subsequent to the enforced abdi-cation of Queen Mary. At
the foot of the close there was once an opening to the old Flesh-market
of the Canongate-hence its name-an area shown in Edgar's map as
entered by a gate, and measuring about 100 feet by 60.
Coull's Close lay next, with a very narrow entrance, and latterly
it opened into Macdowal Street, and long exhibited-ere it absolutely
tumbled into ruins-many a sculptured doorway, and many an inscription
dictated by the piety or pride of its former inhabitants, of whom
not even the name can now be traced.
The High School Close adjoined it, so named as leading to a large,
and handsome edifice which stood in an open court at its foot,
and was long occupied as the burgh High School. In the central
pediment, which bore a sundial, was the date 1704, and Dutch-looking
dormer windows studded its roof, but the school had a date far
beyond the days of Queen Anne; it appears to have been founded
by the monks of Holyrood, and is referred to in a charter granted
by James V. in 1529; therein mention is made of Henryson, clerk
and orator of the monastery, having taught with success in the
grammar school of the Canon-gate, and many notices of this old
educational establishment occur in the Register of the Burgh,
printed in the " Maitland Club Miscellany."
Under date 5th of April, 1580, Gilbert Tailyour, schoolmaster,
renounced his gift of the school, given him for his lifetime by
Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, in favour of the bailies and
Council, who therefore restored it to him.
Of Midcommon Close, a narrow, blocked-up, and tortuous alley,
little more is known than the name; but there once stood on its
eastern side a stately old tenement, bearing the date 16I4, with
this pious legend: I. TAKE. THE. LORD. JESUS. AS MY. ONLY. ALL.
SUFFICIENT. PORTION. TO. CONTENT. ME. This was cut in massive
Roman letters, and the house was adorned by handsome dormer windows
and moulded stringcourses; but of the person who dwelt therein
no memory remains. And the same must be said of the edifices in
the closes called Morocco-and Logan's, and several others.
Between these two lies Rae's Close, very dark and narrow, leading
only to a house with a back green, beyond which can be seen the
Calton Hill. In the sixteenth century this alley was the only
open thoroughfare to the north between Leith Wynd -and the Water
Gate. In 1568 the foot of it was closed by a stone wall for security,
and there was ordered to be "cast ane stank at the slope
yatt comis fra the Justice Clark landis to the Abbaye, on tllc
south side of this burghe." In 1574 a gate with a secure
lock was placed upon it for the same purpose.
In 1647 only three open thoroughfares are shown to the north-one
the Tolbooth Wynd-and all are closed by arched gates in a wall
bounding the Canongate on the north, and lying parallel with a
Iong watercourse flowing away towards Craigentinnie, and still
Kinloch's Close, described in 1856 as "short, dark, and horrible,"
took its name from Henry Kinloch, a wealthy burgess of the Canongate
in the days of Queen Mary,, who committed to his hospitality,
in 1565, when she is said to have acceded to the League of Bayonne,
the French ambassadors M. de Rambouillet and Clernau, who came
on a mission from the Court of France. Their ostensible visit,
however, was more probably to invest Darnley with the order of
St. Michael. They had come through England with a train of thirty-six
mounted gentlemen. After presenting themselves before the king
and queen at Holy-rood, according to the "Diurnal of Occurrents,"
they '"there after depairtit to Heny Kynloches lugeing in
the Cannogait besyid Edinburgh"
A few days after Darnley was solemnly invested with the collar
of St. Michael in the abbey church ; and on the 11th of February
the ambassadors were banqueted, and a masked ball was given, when
" the Queenis Grace and all her Maries and ladies -were cled
in men's apparell" and each of them pre-sented a sword, "
brawlic and maist artificiallie made and embroiderit with gold,
to the said am-bassatour and his gentlemen." Next day they
were banqueted in the castle by the Earl of Mar, and on the next
ensuing," they took their departure for France and England.
Kinloch's mansion and that which adjoined it- the abode of the
Earls of Angus-were pulled down about 1760, when New Street was
built, "a curious sample of fashionable modern improve-ment,
prior to the bold scheme of the New Town" and first called
Young Street, according to Kincaid. Though sorely faded and decayed,
it still presents a series of semi-aristocratic, detached, and
not in-digent mansions of the plain form peculiar to the time.
Among its inhabitants were Lords Kames and Hailes, Sir Philip
Ainslie, the Lady Betty Anstruther, Christian Ramsay daughter
of the poet, Dr. Young the eminet physician, and others.
Henry Home, Lord Kames, "who was raised to the bench in 1752,
occupied a self-contained house at the head of the street facing
the Canon-gate on the east side, and then deemed one of the best
in the city; thus strangers were taken by their friends to see
it as one of the local sights, with its front of grooved ashlar-work.
Born in 1695, he early exhibited great talent with profound legal
knowledge, and the mere enumeration of his works on law and history
would fill a large page. He was of a playful disposition, and
fond of prac-tical jokes; but during the latter part of his life
he entertained a nervous dread that he would outlive his noble
faculties, and was pleased to find that by the rapid decay of
his frame he would escape that dire calamity; and he died, after
a brief illness, in 1782, in the eighty-seventh year of his age.
The great Dr. Hunter, of the Tron church, afterwards lived and
died in this house.
Lord Hailes, to whom we have referred elsewhere, resided during
his latter years in New Street; but prior to his promotion to
the bench he generally lived at New Hailes. His house, No. 23,
was latterly possessed by Mr. Ruthven, the ingenious improver
of the Ruthven printing-press.
Christian Ramsay, the daughter of "honest Allan," and
so named from her mother, Christian Ross, lived for many years
in New Street. She was an amiable and kind-hearted woman, and
possessed something of her father's gift of verse, In her seventy-fourth
year she was thrown down by a hackney-coach and had her leg broken
- yet she recovered, and lived to be eighty-eight. Lead-ing a
solitary life, she took a great fancy to cats, and besides supporting
many in her house, cosily disposed of in bandboxes, she laid out
food for others around her house. "Not a word of obloquy
would she listen to against the species," says the author
of "Traditions of Edinburgh,"
"alleging, when any wickedness of a cat was spoken of, that
the animal must have acted under provocation, for by nature, she
asserted, they were 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, when she saw one labouring in the street with
the appearance of defective diet, she would send rolls to its
master, entreating him to feed the animal. These peculiarities,
though a little eccentric, are not unpleasing; and I cannot be
sorry to record those of the daughter of one whose head and heart
were an honour to his country."
The hideous chapel of ease built in New Street in 1794 occupied
the site of the houses of Henry Kinloch and the Earls of Angus,
the latter of which formed during the eighteenth century the banking
office of the unfortunate firm of Douglas, Heron, and Co., whose
failure spread ruin and dismay far and wide in Scotland.
Little Jack's Close, a narrow alley leading by a bend into New
Street, and Big Jack's Close, which led to an open court, adjoin
the thoroughfare of 1760, and both are doubtless named from some
forgotten citizen or speculative builder of other days.
In the former stood the hall of the once wealthy corporation of
the Cordiners or Shoemakers of the Canongate, on the west side,
adorned with all the insignia of the craft, and furnished for
their convivalia with huge tables and chairs of oak, in addition
to a carved throne, surmounted by a crowned paring-knife, and
dated 1682, for the solemn inauguration of King Crispin on St.
Crispin's Day, the 25th of October.
This corporation can be traced back to the 10th of June, 1574,
when William Quhite was elected Deacon of the Cordiners in the
Canongate, in place of the late Andrew Purvis.
lt was of old their yearly custom to elect a king, who held his
court in this Corporation Hall, from whence, after coronation,
he was borne in procession through the streets, attended by his
subject souters clad in fantastic habiliments. Latterly he was
conducted abroad on a finely caparisoned horse, and clad in ermined
robes attended by mock officers of state and preceded by a champion
in armour; and in fooleries such as these the funds of the corporation
became, in time, utterly exhausted before the classic of the last
The Shoemakers' Close was, at the end of the last century, the
abode of a curious dwarf, known as Geordie Cranstoun, who figures
twice in Kay's remarkable portraits.
In Big Jack's Close there was extant, until within a few years
ago, the town mansion of General Sir Thomas Dalyell of Binns,
commander-chief of the Scottish forces, whose beard remained uncut
after the death of Charles I., and who raised the Scots Greys
on the 25th of November, 1681, and clad them first in grey uniform,
and at their head served as a merciless persecutor of the out-lawed
Covenanters, with a zest born of his service in Russia. The chief
apartment in this house has been described as a large hall, with
an arched or coach roof, adorned, says Wilson, with a painting
of the sun in the centre, surrounded by gilded rays on an azure
dome- Sky, clouds, and silver stars filled up the remaining space.
large windows were partially closed with oak shutters in the old
Scottish fashion. "'The kitchen also was worthy of notice,
for a fireplace formed of a plain circular arch, of such unusual
dimensions that popular credulity might have assigned it for the
perpetra-tion of those rites it had ascribed to him of spitting
and roasting his miserable captives !................. . A chapel
formerly stood on the site of the open court, but all traces of
it were removed in 1779. It is not at all inconsistent with the
character of the fierce old Cavalier that he should have erected
a private chapel for his own use."
was to this house in Big Jack's Close that the Rev. John Blackadder
was brought a prisoner in 1681, guarded by soldiers under Johnstone,
the town major, and accompanied by his son Thomas, who died a
merchant In New England, and where that interview took place which
is related in Blackadder's Memories," by D. A. Crichton:-
"I have brought you a prisoner," said Major Johnstone.
"Take him to the guard," said Dalyell, who was about
to walk forth.
On this, the poor divine, whose emotions must have been far from
enviable in such a terrible pre-sence, said, timidly, " May
I speak with you sir ? "
"You have already spoken too much, sir," replied Dalyell,
whose blood always boiled at the sight of a Covenanter, "
and I should hang you with my own hands over that outshot !
On this, Major Johnstone, dreading what might ensue, took hastily
away his prisoner, who, by order of the Privy Council, was sent
to the Bass Rock, escorted by a party of the Life Guards, and
there he died, a captive, in his seventieth year.
In the Tolbooth Wynd, on the east side thereof and near the foot,
was built the old Charity Workhouse of the burgh. It was established
by subscrip-tion, and opened for the reception of the poor in
1761, the expense beeing defrayed by collections at the church
doors and voluntary contributions, without any assessment whatever
; and in those days the managers were chosen annually from the
public societies of the Canongate. The city plan of 1647 shows
but seven houses within the gate, on the west side of the Wynd,
and open gardens on the other, eastward nearly to the Water Gate.
Panmure Close, the third alley to the eastward- one with a good
entrance, and generally more pleasant than most of those narrow
old streets-is so named from its having been the access to Pan-mure
House, an ancient mansion, which still remains at the foot of
Monroe's Close, and bore, till within the last few years, the
appearance of those partly quadrangular manor-houses so common
in Scot-land during the seventeenth century.
It became greatly altered after being brought into juxtaposition
with the prosaic details of the Panmure Iron Foundry, but it formed
the town residence of the Earls of Panmure, the fourth of whom,
James, who distinguished himself as a volunteer at the siege of
Luxemburg, and was Privy Councillor to James VII., a bitter opponent
of the Union, lost his title and estates after the battle of Sheriffmuir,
and died, an exile, in Paris. His nephew, William Maule, who served
in the Scots Guards at Dettingen and Fontenoy, obtained an Irish
peerage in 1743 as Earl Panmure of Forth, and was the last who
possessed this house, in which he was resident in the middle of
the last century, and was succeeded in it by the Countess of Aberdeen.
From 1778 till his death, in 1790, it formed the residence of
Adam Smith, author of " The Wealth of Nations," after
he came to Edinburgh as Commissioner of the Customs, an appointment
obtained by the friendship of the Duke of Buccleuch. A few days
before his death, at Panmure House, he gave ,orders to destroy
all his manuscripts except some detached essays, which were afterwards
published by his executors, Drs. Joseph Black and James Hutton,
and his library, a valuable one, he left to his nephew, Lord Reston.
From that old mansion the philosopher was borne to his grave in
an ob-scure nook of the Canongate churchyard. During the last
years of his blameless life his bachelor household had been managed
by a female cousin, Miss Jeanie Douglas, who acquired a great
control over him.
At the end of Panmure Close was the mansion of John Hunter, a
wealthy burgess, who was Treasurer of the Canongate in 1568, and
who built it in 1565, when Mary was on the throne. Wilson refers
to it as the earliest private edifice in the burgh, and says "
it con-sists ', like other buildings of the period of a lower
erection of stone with a forestair leading to the first floor,
and an ornamental turnpike within, affording access to the upper
the top of a very steep wooden stair, constucted alongside of
the latter, a very rich specimen of carved oak panelling remains
in good preservation, adorned with the Scottish lion, displayed
within a broad wreath and surrounded by a variety of ornaments.
The door-way of the inner turnpike bears on the sculptured lintel
the initials I. H., a shield charged with a chevron, and a hunting
horn in base, and the date 1565." It bore also a comb with
six teeth. It was demolished in August, 1853.
A little lower down are Big and Little Lochend Closes, which join
each other near the bottom and run into the north back of the
Canongate. In the former are some good houses, but of no great
antiquity. One of these was occupied by Mr. Gordon of Carlton
in 1784 ; and in the other, during the close of the last and first
years of the present cen-tury, there resided a remarkable old
lady, named Mrs. Hannah Robertson, who was well known in her time
as a reputed grand-daughter of Charles II.
From her published memoir-which, after its first appearance in
1792, reached a tenth edition in 1806, and was printed by James
Tod in Forrester's Wynd-and from other sources, we learn that
she was the widow of Robert Robertson, a merchant in Perth, and
was the daughter of a burgess named George Swan, son of Charles
II. and Dorothea Helena, daughter of John Kirkhoven, Dutch baron
of Ruppa, the beautiful Countess of Derby, who had an intrigue
with the king during the protracted absence of her husband in
Holland, Charles, eighth earl, who died in 1672 without heirs.
According to her narrative, the child was given to nurse to the
wife of Swan, a gunner at Windsor, a woman whose brother, Bartholomew
Gibson, was the king's farrier at Edinburgh; and it would further
appear that the latter obtained on trust for George Swan, from
Charles II. or his brother the Duke of York, a grant of lands
in New Jersey, where Gibson's son died about 1750, as would appear
from a notice in the London Chronicle for 1771.
all this as it may, the old lady referred to was a great favourite
with all those of Jacobite proclivities, and at the dinners of
the Jacobite always sat on the right band of the president, till
her death, which occurred in Little Lochend Close in 1808, when
she had attained her eighty-fourth year, and a vast concourse
attended her funeral, which took place in the Friends' burial
place at the Pleasance. Unusually tall in stature, and beautiful
even in old age, her figure, with black velvet capuchin and cane,
was long familiar in the streets of Edinburgh.
From a passage in the " Edinburgh Historical Re-gister"
for 1791-2, she would appear to have been a futile applicant for
a pension to the Lords of the Treasury, though she had many powerful
friends, including the Duchess of Gordon and the Countess of Northesk,
to whom she dedicated a book named The Lady's School of Arts."
One of the most picturesque and interesting houses in the Canongate
is one situated in what was called Davidson's Close, the old "White
Horse Hostel," on a dormer window of which is the date 1603.
It was known as the " White Horse" a century and more
before the accession of the House of Hanover, and is traditionally
said to have taken its name from a favourite white palfrey when
the range of stables that form its basement had been occupied
as the royal mews. The ad-jacent Water Gate took its name from
horse-pond which was, no doubt, an appendage to this establishment.
ln 1639, when Charles I. had made his first peace with the Covenanters,
and came temporarily to Berwick, he sent messages to the chief
nobles of the National Church party to have a conference with
In obedience to this, with their various retinues, they were all
mounting their horses in the yard of this inn, to which a kind
of arched porte-cochère gives access from the main street,
when a mob, taught wisely by the clergy to distrust a monarch
who was under English influences, compelled them to desist and
abandon their intended journey. The Earl of Montrose alone broke
through all restraint ; he went to the king, and from, thence-forward
was lost to the cause of the Covenant for ever.
The invariable mode of a gentleman setting out for London in those
days was to come to the White Horse with his saddle-bags, boots,
and gambadoes, and there engage a suitable roadster to convey
him the whole way. In more recent times it was associated with
the Cavalier officers and Highland gentleman of Charles Edward's
picturesque court, and the quarters of Scott's hero, Captain Waverley.
According to a passage in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1786, there
were then set apart, " in the inns at Edinburgh Glasgow,
&c., English rooms, where English travellers could eat and
When the White Horse ceased to be an inn is unknown, but the vicinity
is connected with the memory of more than one Episcopal dignitary.
A tenement which serves to complete the courtyard is pointed out
as the residence of John Paterson, Bishop of Edinburgh in 1679,
a special object of hate to the Covenanters, as he had been chaplain
to the cruel and brutal Duke of Lauderdale.
After his translation to Glasgow in 1687, he was succeeded by
Bishop Alexander Rose, who was ejected in the following year by
the Revolution party-the last survivor of established Episcopacy
in Edinburgh. He has been described by Bishop Keith as a man of
sweet disposition and most venerable aspect. He died on the 20th
of March, 1720, in his sister's house in the Canongate.. "Tradition,"
says Chambers, "points to the floor, immediately above the
porte-cochère (of the White Horse), by which the stable-yard
is entered, 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
A barrier called the Water Gate, existing now only in name, closed
the lower end of the street on the north side. lt was by this
avenue that the English entered Edinburgh in 1544, and advanced
to their futile attack on the Castle. It was the principal entrance
from the east, not only to the Canongate, but to the whole city
prior to the North Bridge ; nearly all public entrances were made
by it, and many state prisoners, on their way to execution, have
passed through it ; but the Water Gate, and the " Post and
yet passand in to the Abbaye Knok," have long been numbered
with the past. A single rib, or arch of wood, sur-mounted by a
ball, indicated the locality latterly, till it was blown down
According to the " City Records," the Council' granted
to the Baron Bailie, of the Canongate, as a gift of escheat, all
the goods and chattels of witches found therein ; accordingly
that official, in, 166i1 was not long in discovering a certain
Barbara Mvlne, who Janet Allen, burnt for witch-craft, once saw
enter by the Water Gate in the "likeness of a catt,' and
did change her garment- under her owni staire, and went into her
Canongate dues were long levied at the site of the gate after
it had ceased to exist ; but on the fall of' the ornamental structure
referred to, the fishwomen of Musselburgh and Newhaven stoutly
refused. payment of all burghal customs on the contents of their
creels, till the magistrates again restored-but for a time only-the
arch of wood across the street.