Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


any goods on hand in their shops, everything had to be ordered long before it was required ; and it was always usual for the goldsmith and his customer to adjourn together to the B ~ j e n Hole, an ancient baker?s shop, the name of which has proved a puzzle to local antiquarians, or to John?s Coffee House, to adjust the order and payment, through the medium of a dram or a stoup of mellow ale. But, as time passed on, and the goldsmiths of Edinburgh became more extensive in their views, capital, and ambition, the old booths in the Parliament Close were in quick succession abandoned for ever. The workshop of George Heriot existed in this neighbourhood till the demolition of Beth?s Wynd and the adjacent buildings. There were three contiguous small shops, with projecting wooden superstructures above them, that extended in a line, between the door of the old Tolbooth and that of the 1,aigh Councilhouse. They stood upon the site of the entrancehall of the present Signet Library, and the central of these three shops was the booth of the immortal George Heriot, the founder of the great hospital, the goldsmith to King James VI.-the good-humoured, honest, Humble though this booth, after the execution of ?the bonnie Earl of Gowrie,? when the extravagance of Anne of Denmark-a devoted patron of George Heriot -rendered the king?s private exchequer somewhat impaired, he was not above paying visits to some of the wealthier citizens in the Lawnmarket or Parliament Square, and, among. others, to the royal goldsmith. The latter being. bred to his father?s business, to which in that age was usually added the occupation of a banker, was GEORGE HERIOT?S DRINKING CUP. (De-d Sy himsew) and generous ?Jingling Geordie? of the ?? Fortunes of Nigel.? It measured only seven feet square ! The back windows looked into Beth?s Wynd ; and, to show the value of local tradition, it long appeared that this booth belonged 10 George Heriot, and it became a confirmed fact when, on the demolition of the latter place, his name was found carved above the door, on the stone lintel. His forge and bellows, as well as a stone crucible and lid, were also found on clearing away the ruins, and are now carefully preserved in the museum of the hospital, to which they were presented by the late Mr. Robertson, of the Commercial Bank, a grateful ?? Auld Herioter.? admitted a member of the Incorporation of Goldsniiths on the 28th May, 1588. In 1597 he was appointed goldsmith to Queen Anne, and soon after to the king. Several of the accounts for jewels furnished by him to the queen are inserted in Constable?s ? Life of Heriot,? published in 1822. It is related that one day he had been sent for by the king, whom he found seated in one of the rooms at Holyrood, before a fire composed of cedar, or some other perfumed wood, which cast a pleasant fragrance around, and the king mentioned incidentally that it was quite as costly as it was agreeable, ? If your majesty will visit me at my booth in the Parliament Close,? quoth Heriot, ?I will show you a fire more costly than that.? ?? Say you so ! ? said the king ; ?? then I will.? On doing so, he was surprised to find that Heriot had only a coal fire of the usual kind. ?Is this, then, your costly fire?? asked the king. ? Wait, your highness, till I get my fuel,? replied Heriot, who from an old cabinet or almrie took a bond for Az,ooo which he had lent to James, and, laying it on the fire, he asked, laughingly, ?Now, whether is your majesty?s fire in Holyrood or mine the most costly ?? ? Certainly yours, Master Heriot ! ? replied the king.
Volume 1 Page 175
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