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Edinburgh Past and Present


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
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I04 QUEENSFERRY To MUSSELBURGH. General Monk succeeding him, took up his residence in the town-greatly to its advantage-which he at once set about to fortify and secure, enlarging the citadel, providing suitable and wellconstructed houses for the governor, officers, and soldiers, and furnishing it with a chapel, as well as ample accommodation for magazines and stores. During his residence, too, it is related that many English families of wealth and position were induced by him to come and settle in it. Bringingwith them the spirit of mercantile enterprise, and possessed of the means andenergynecessaryto establishandsuccessfully cany on suchundertakings, they then inaugurated and profitably pursued certain trades and manufactures which are yet among the staple industries of the place. As was to be expected, the restrictive burdens of the city Town-Council proved very annoying and harassing, and they frequently appealed to the Republican Government to ease their chain and give them a little more freedom, but somehow or other it never was done. Having recovered in a measure from the dejection and hopelessness into which it had been thrown by the humiliating event of the complete loss of its independence, and stimulated and energised by the new life which had budded forth in it by the residence of Englishmen of wealth and position within it, it advanced, and, in spite of the hampering and grinding imposts with which it was saddled, eventually attained to a prosperity and influence which commanded respect. A very memorable event now occurs in the history of Leith, the landing of George IV. Two hundred and sixty-one years before this a young Queen, of surpassing beauty and high accomplishments, set foot on her native land near the same place, and much about the same time of the year, to assume a crown entwined with many a thorn, and to wield a, sceptre which had the touch of saddest trouble in it, but whose landing, in most of its attendant circumstances, was widely different. On this occasion all was pomp and circumstance. Preparations on the grandest scale had been going on for months, and long before the royal yacht had made its appearance in the roadstead all was ready. Then began the imposing spectacle of disembarking. The King, shortly before twelve o’clock, having entered his barge, moved slowly landwards, preceded by that of the Admiral, and followed by others from all his Majesty’s ships on the station, together- with an immense number of private boats, all gaily trimmed, and crowded with people in their holiday attire. forming an aquatic procession such as never before had been witnessed on Scottish shore. Amving within hail of the pier, which was cavered with thousands, the royal barge was saluted in a right loyal fashion. The royal standard, then hoisted, floated over the lighthouse, and a simul- Meanwhile, Leith gradually grew.
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