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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


The High Street.] THE HIGH STREET. six storeys each ; in short, down as far as the Cowgate nothing was to be seen but frightful heaps of calcined and blackened ruins, with gaping windows and piles of smoking rubbish. In the Par!iament Square four double tenements of from seven to eleven storeys also perished, and the incessant cmsh of falling walls made the old vicinity re-echo. Among other places of interest destroyed here was the shop of Kay, the cancaturist, always a great attraction to idlers. During the whole of Thursday the authorities were occupied in the perplexing task of .examining the ruined edifices in the Parliament Square. These being of enormous height and dreadfully shattered, threatened, by their fall, destruction to everything in their vicinity. One eleven-storeyed edifice presented such a very striking, terrible, and dangerous appearance, that it was proposed to batter it down with cannon. On the next day the ruins were inspected by Admiral Sir David Milne, and Captain (afterwardssir Francis) Head of theRoyal Engineers, an officer distinguished alike in war and In literature, who gave in a professional report on the subject, and to him the task of demolition was assigned. ? In the meantime offers of assistance from Captain Hope of H.M.S. BnX, then in Leith Roads, were accepted, and his seamen, forty in number, threw a line over the lofty southern gable above Heron?s Court, but brought down only a small portion Next day Captain Hope returned to the attack, with iron cables, chains, and ropes, while some sappers daringly undermined the eastern wall. These were sprung, and, as had been predicted by Captain Head, the enormous mass fell almost perpendicularly to the grognd. At the Tron Church, on the last night of every year, there gathers a vast crowd, who watch with patience and good-humour the hands of the illuminated clock till they indicate one minute past twelve, and then the New Year is welcomed in with ringing cheers, joy, and hilarity. A general shaking of hands and congratdlations ensue, and one and all wish each other ?? A happy New Year, and mony 0? them.? A busy hum pervades the older parts of the city; bands of music and bagpipes strike up in many a street and wynd; and, furnished with egg-flip, whiskey, &c., thousands hasten off in all directions to ?first foot? friends and relations, CHAPTER XXI. THE HIGH STREET, A Place for Brawling-First Paved and Lighted-The Meal and Flesh MarketsState of the Streets-Municipal Regulations 16th Century- Tuleies-The Lairds of Ainh and Wemyss-The Tweedies of Drummelzier-A Mont- Quarrel-The Slaughter of Lord Tarthorwald- -A Brawl in 1705-Attacking a Sedan Chair-Habits in Lhe Seventeenth Century-Abduction of Women and Girls-Sumptuary Law6 against Women. BEFORE narrating the wondrous history of the many quaint and ancient closes and wynds which diverged of old, and some of which still diverge, from the stately High Street, we shall treat of that venerable thoroughfare itself-its gradual progress, changes, and some of the stirring scenes that have been witnessed from its windows. Till so late as the era of building the Royal Exchange Edinburgh had been without increase or much alteration since King James VI. rode forth for England in 1603. ?The extended wall erected in the memorable year 1513 still formed the boundary of the city, with the exception of the enclosure of the Highriggs. The ancient gates remained kept under the care of jealous warders, and nightly closed at an early hour ; even as when the dreaded iiiroads of the Southron summoned the Burgher Watch to guard their walls. At the foot of the High Street, the lofty tower and spire of the Nether Bow Port terminated the vista, surmounting the old Temple Bar of Edinburgh, interposed between the city and the ancient burgh of Canongate.? On this upward-sloping thoroughfare first rose the rude huts of the Caledonians, by the side of the wooded way that led to the Dun upon the rock -when Pagan rites were celebrated at sunrise on the bare scalp of Arthur?s Seat-and destined to become in future years ?the King?s High Street,? as it was exclusively named in writs and charters, in so far as it extended from the Nether Bow to the edifice named Creech?s Land, at the east end of the Luckenbooths. ?Here,? says a writer, ? was the battle-ground of Scotland for centuries, whereon private and party feuds, the jealousies of nobles and burghers, and not a few of the contests between the Crown and the people, were settled at the sword.? As a place for brawling it was proverbial ; and thus it was that Colonel Munro, in ?His Expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment called Mackeyes,? levied in 1626, for service in Denmark
Volume 1 Page 191
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