Edinburgh Bookshelf

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


L UCKENBOOTUS AND PARLIAMENT CLOSE. I95 we are indebted for other curious traditions, that his great-grandfather, Lord Alva, had often assured his grandfather of this, and stated, in corroboration, that Lord Haddington was known to have taken a prominent share in the proceedings, dis,pised in his own cook-maid's dress. There is little reason to anticipate that the mystery in which this deed of popular justice is involved will ever be further cleared up, now that nearly a century and a half has elapsed since its occurrence. The absence, however, of all acts of violence or private injury, seems rather to prove the unanimity of feeling that prevailed on the occasion, than the presence of actors from the upper ranks of society ; since, however much the latter might desire to accomplish their purpose with the calm severity of a judicial act, their inclinations could have had little effect in securing the moderation of the rabble, to whom, on any other occasion, such an event would have proved so favourable an opportunity for excess. We shall conclude our notice of this memorable deed, with the very circumstantial narrative furnished in the evidence of George Wilson, a workman in Edinburgh, as confirmed and extended by other witnesses examined on the trial of Willitlm Maclauchlane, already alluded to. Their account is divested oc the usual legal formality, and otherwise somewhat abridged, but the substance ie as follows :-Wileon stated that he arrived about eleven o'clock at night at the Tolbooth, where he saw faggots of broom brought by some of the mob, with which they set fire to the door. He waited till he saw Captain Porteous brought down ; and after that the mob carried him up the Lawnmarket until they came to Stewart's sign-post, near the Bow head, over which some of them proposed to hang him, but others were against it. He was stopped a second time at the Weigh-house. By this time Wilson contrived to get near Porteous, and heard some of the rioters propose to hang him over the Weigh-house stair, but here the witness was recognised as an intruder, and knocked down by one of the ringleaders in female attire. After being run over by a number of the mob, Wilson recovered himself, and followed them to the Grassmarket, where he saw Porteous dragged to the dyer's tree, whereon he was hanged. There he saw the wretched captive give his purse to a wealthy citizen who waa near, to be delivered to his brother, a fact afterwards confirmed by the evidence of the citizen himself. "he account this witness gives of the mode in whiih the final object of all this procedure was accomplished, fully confirms the resolute composure with which the rioters are said to have acted throughout. He saw the rope put about Porteous's neck, but he was not drawn up until it was reported that the military were coming from the Canongate by the Hospital port, at the foot of Leith Wynd. The first time the rope was not right about his neck ; and when he had been a second time drawn up he was again let down, and his shirt drawn over his face. Others of the mob, however, were more violent in their proceedings, striking him on the face with their Lochaberaxes, and shouting to cut off hie ears, and ot,herwise to wreak their vengeance on him. William Turner, another witness, mentions having observed Porteous, after he was hung up, struggling to take hold of the rope, but the rioters struck at him with their weapom, and compelled him to quit his hold. When they were satisfied that their object was accomplished, they nailed the end of the rope to the pole, flung away their weapons, and rapidly dispersed. Such is the narrative, as related by eye-witnesses, immediately after the occurrence of Even after Porteous was hung up, he was twice let down again.
Volume 10 Page 214
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print