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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


been thrown down to facilitate the act. J?ames Hay had been provided with a key that opened the long-unused gate of the gloomy-domed mausoleum of Sir George Mackenzie, a place still full of terror to boys, as it is supposed to be haunted by the blood-red spirit of the persecutor, and there he .secreted himself, while the following advertisement appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser of the 24th .November, 1783 :- ?? ESCAPED FROM THE TOLBOOTH OF EDINBURGH, ?James Hay, indicted for highway roblery, ag.ed about IS years, by trade a glazier, 5 feet 10 inches high, slender made, pale complexion, long visage, brown hair cut short, pitted a little in the face with the small-pox, speaks slow with a Ruur in his tone, and has a mole on one of his cheeks. ?The magistrates offer a reward of Tuen& Guimus to any person who will apprehend and secure the said James Hay, to be paid by the City Chamberlain, on the said James Hay being re-committed to the Tolbwth of this city.? But James Hay had been a ?? Herioter,? brought up in the famous hospital which adjoins the ancient .and gloomy burying-ground ; thus, he contrived to make known his circumstances to some of his boy- . ish friends, and besought them to assist him in his .distress, as it was impossible for his father to do . so. A very clannish spirit animated ?the Auld Herioters? of those days, and not to succour one ,of the community, however undeserving he might be of aid, would have been deemed by them as a -crime of the foulest nature ; thus, Hay?s sshoolfellows supplied his wants from their own meals, -conveying him food in his eerie lurking-place, by .scaling the old smoke-blackened and ivied walls, at the risk of severe punishment, and of seeing sights <6 uncanny,? for six weeks, till the hue and cry abated, when he ventured to leave~the tomb in the night, and escaped abroad or to England, beyond reach of the law. ? The principal entrance to the Tolbooth,? to quote one familiar with the old edifice, ? was at the . bottom of the turret next the church. The gateway was of good carved stonework, and occupied by a door of ponderous massiveness 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 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 Kettins? shoe-shop;?? but had formerly been a thiefs hole. After further .describing the tortuous access, the writer continues : A? You then entered the ha& which being free to all prisoners save those in the east end, was usual?ly dlled with a crowd of shabby-looking but very nerry loungers, A small rail here served as an rdditional security, no prisoner being permitted to :ome within its pale. Here, also, a sentinel of the rown Guard was always walking with a bayonet or i ramrod in his hand. The hall being also the chapel 3f the gaol, contained an old pulpit of singula$ fashion-such a pulpit as one could have imagined Knox to have preached from, and which indeed he is traditionally said to have actually done. At the right hand side of the pulpit was a door, leading up the large turnpike (stair) to the apartments occupied by the criminals, one of which was of plate-iron. The door was always shut, except when food was taken up to the prisoners. On the west end of the hall hung a board, whereon was inscribed the following emphatic lines :- ? 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, 5 . Sometimes a place for jades and thieves, And honest men among.? 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 was called ?the cage? which was said to have been constructed for the purpose of confining some extraordinary culprit who had broken half the jails in the kingdom. Above this room was another of the same size appropriated to felons.? At the western end was the platform where public executions took place. Doomed to destruction, this gloomy and massive edifice, of many stirring memories, was swept away in 1817, and the materials of it were used for the construction of the great sewers and drains in the vicinity of Fettes Row, emphatically styled ? the grave of the old Tolbooth.? The arched doorway, door, and massive lock, Sir Walter Scott engrafted on a part of his mansion at Abbotsford; and in 1829 he found that ??a tom-tit was pleased to build her nest within the lock of the Tolbootha strong temptation,? he adds, in the edition of his works issued in the following year, ? to have committed a sonnet.? The City Guard-house formed long a ? pendicle? -to use a Scottish term-of the old Tolbooth. Scott has described this edifice as ?a long, low, ugly building, which, to a fanciful imagination, might have suggested the idea of a long black snail crawling up the middle of the High Street, and deforming its beautiful esplanade.? It stood in front of the Black Turnpike, and during the
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