Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


70 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Edinburgh Castle. ?? by a net tied to an iron ring ; he fell and fractured by Miss Balrnain, who remained in her stead, and who was afterwards allowed to go free. , In 1752 the Castle received a remarkable prisoner, in the person of James Mhor Macgregor of Bohaldie, the eldest of the four sons of,Rob Roy, who had lost his estate for the part he had taken in the recent civil strife, ?and holding a major?s commission under the old Pretender.? Robin Oig Macgregor, his younger brother, having conceived that he would make his fortune by at his captious employers. ~ ?An old and tattered great-coat enveloped him ; he had donned a leather apron, a pair of old shoes, and ribbed stockings. A red night-cap was drawn to his ears, and a. broad hat slouched over his eyes.? He quitted the Castle undiscovered, and left the city without delay; but his flight was soon known, the city gates were shut, the fortress searched, and every man who had been on duty was made a prisoner. A court-martial, consisting of thirteen officers, sat - considered as the chief instigator of this outrage, thus the vengeance of the Crown was directed against him rather than Robin, ?who was considered but a half-wild Highlandman ; ? and in virtue of a warrant of fugitation issued, he was arrested and tried. The Lords of Justiciary found him guilty, but in consequence of some doubts, or informality, sentence of death was delayed until the 20th of November, 1752. In consequence of an expected rescue-meditated by Highlanders who served in the city as caddies, chairmen, and city guards, among whom Macgregor? s bravery at Prestonpans, seven years before, made him popular-he was removed by a warrant from the Lord Justice Clerk, addressed to General Churchill, from the Tolbooth to the Castle, there to be kept in close confinement till his fatal day amved. But it came to pass, that on the 16th of November, one of his daughters-a tall and very handsome girl-had the skill and courage to disguise herself as a lame old cobbler, and was ushered into his prison, bearing a pair of newlysoled shoes in furtherance of her scheme. The sentinels in the adjacent corridors heard Lady Bohaldie scolding the supposed cobbler with considerable asperity for some time, with reference to the indifferent manner in which his work had been his- skull,? on tlie rock facing Livingstone?s Yards, -the old tilting ground, oin the south side of the Castle? rock. This was a singularly unfortunate man in his domestic relations. His eldest son was taken prisoner at Carlisle, and executed there with the barbarity then usual. His next son, Thomas, was poisoned by his wife, the famous and beautiful Katherine Nairne (who escaped), but whose paramour, the third son, Lieutenant Patrick Ogilvie of the 89th or old Gordon Highlanders (disbanded in 1765), was publicly hanged in the Grassmarket. In July, 1753, the last of those who were tried for loyalty to the House of Stuart was placed in the Castle-Archibald Macdonald, son of the aged Cole Macdonald of Barrisdale, who died a captive there in 1750. Arraigned as a traitor, this unfor. tunate gentleman behaved with great dignity before the court; he admitted that he was the person accused, but boldly denied the treason, and asserted his loyalty to his lawful king. ?On the 30th March he was condemned to die; but the vengeance of the Government had already been glutted, and after receiving various successive reprieves, young Barrisdale was released, and permitted to return to the Western Isles.? From this period till nearly the days of Waterloo the Castle vaults were invariably used in every war
Volume 1 Page 70
  Enlarge Enlarge  
tunate creature were chained in '{the good old may be imagined. times " romancists write so glibly of. The origin of all these vaults is lost in antiquity. There prisoners have made many desperate, but in the end always futile, attempts to escape-particularly in 1761 and in 1811. On the former occasion one was dashed to pieces ; on the latter, a captain and forty-nine men got out of the fortress in the night, by cutting a hole in the bottom of the parapet, below the place commonly called the Devil's Elbow, and letting themselves down by a Tope, and more would have got out had not the nearest sentinel fired his musket. One fell and was killed zoo feet below. The rest were all re-captured on the Glasgow Road. In the Grand Parade an octagon tower of considerable height gives access to the strongly vaulted crown room, in whicb the Scottish regalia are shown, and wherein they were so long hidden from the nation, that they were generally believed to have been secretly removed to England and destroyed; and the mysterious room, which was never opened, became a source of wonder to the soldiers, and of superstition to many a Highland sentinel when pacingon his lonely post at night. On the 5th of November, 1794, in prosecuting a search for some lost Parliamentary records, the crown-room was opened by the Lieutenant- Governor and other commissioners. It was dark, being then w.indowless, and filled with foul air. In the grated chimney lay the ashes of the last fire and a cannon ball, which still lies where it had fallen in some past siege ; the dust of eighty-seven years lay on the paved floor, and the place looked grim and desolate. Major Drummond repeatedly shook the oak chest; it returned no sound, was supposed to be empty, and stronger in the hearts of the Scots waxed the belief that the Government, " It was with feelings of no common anxiety that the commissioners, having read their warrant, proceeded to the crown-room, and, having found a11 there in the state in which it had been left in 1794, commanded the king's smith, who was in attendance, to force open the great chest, the keys of which had been sought for in vain. The general impression that the regalia had been secretly removed weighed heavily on the hearts of all while the labour proceeded. The chest seemed to return a hollow and empty sound to the strokes of the hammer; and even those whose expectations had been most sanguine felt at the moment the probability of bitter disappointment, and could not but be sensible that, should the result of the search cmfirnl those forebodings, it would only serve to show that a national affront-an injury had been sustained, for which it might be ditficult, or rather impossible, to obtain redress. The joy was therefore extreme when, the ponderous lid of the chest having been forced open, at the expense of some time and labour, the regalia were discovered lying at the bottom covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in 1707, being I 10 years before, since they had been surrendered by William the ninth Earl Marischal to the custody of the Earl of Glasgow, Treasurer-Deputy of Scotland. The reliques were passed from hand to hand, and greeted with the affectionate reverence which emblems so venerable, restored to public view after the slumber of more than a hundred years, were so peculiarly calculated to excite. The discovery was instantly communicated to the public by the display of the royal standard, and was greeted hy the shouts of the soldiers in garrison, and a vast multitude assembled on the Castle hill ; indeed the rejoicing was so general and sincere as plainly to show that, however altered in other in wicked policy, had destroyed its contents j but ' respects, the people of Scotland had lost norhing of murmurs arose from time to time, as the years went that national enthusiasm which formerly had dison, and a crown, called that of Scotland, was ac- played itself in grief for the loss of those emblematic honours, and now was expressed in joy for their I tually shown in the Tower of London ! of Cardinal York, the Prince Regent, afterwards I Covered with glass and secured in a strong iron,
Volume 1 Page 71
  Enlarge Enlarge