Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present

Search

LEITH. 103 ratified with so deep and solemn a reverence, as in Leith: a fact which shows very plainly, as it seems to us, that whatever their feelings or beliefs in the days of Mary of Guise with respect to religion, they had non- quite decided for the Reformation doctrine. Whether, indeed, any of the Leithers was bellicose enough to buckle on the sword, or shoulder the firelock, and march across the Border under the able leadership of the old and astute Earl of Leven, we are not in a position to say. We hope, however, that they did not just suffer all their zeal and ardour for Protestantism to evaporate or melt away in the signing of that very solemn and formidable document, but that some of them at least had the courage to face the warlike and disciplined forces of Newcastle, and leave their mark upon, if not their bodies before, the strongly-walled and gallantlydefended city of Durham. A dark day of terrible suffering was now fast hurrying up, and ready to burst in lamentation and woe over Leith. That ancient scourge of Scotland, the Plague, the horrors of which were at this time aggravated by a dreadful famine, then visited the town and neighbourhood, cutting down in its malignant wrathfulness young and old, rich and poor, and bringing sorrow and desolation into almost every home. The town then numbered about 5000 inhabitants ; but so fatal were the ravages of this dreadful disease, that in the short space of six or seven months it was reduced to a little less than the half. The churchyards could not receive the bodies requiring interment, and numbers of the dead, wrapped in the blankets in which they had died, were carried forth and buried in the Links and adjacent grounds. As just observed, the Plague was accompanied by a famine, which perhaps was even more fatal in its consequences ; and upon a representation to Parliament of the impoverished and starving condition of the inhabitants, authority was given to the magistrates to seize on, and make use of, the grain and other provisions then in the stores and warehouses, for the support or maintenance of the people, payment to be made subsequently by voluntary subscription. The next important event in the annals of the town took place in the year 1650. We refer to the fact that, while the forces of Cromwell were moving upon Edinburgh after their victory over the Scottish army at Dunbar, a detachment, under the command of Major-General Lambert, entered and took possession of Leith. It did not suffer much, however, from this untoward event. Only a contribution of some x z z sterling was exacted, a matter which, in ordinary circumstances, would not have been felt by them, but which, follqwing unhappily so closely upon the heel of the Plague and famine, was rather a grievance. Shortly after this, however, Lambert was appointed elsewhere, and
Volume 11 Page 156
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 11 Page 157
  Enlarge Enlarge