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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


St. Mary?s Wynd.1 THE ? WHITE HORSE? INN. 299 long dwelt the celebrated artistic decorator of many of the best old houses in Edinburgh, John Norrie, whose workshop adjoined the coach-house of Lord Milton, and both of which were converted into stables for Boyd?s famous old ?White Horse ? Inn, one of the great hostelries of Edinburgh, in the days when ?? hotels? were unknown, and when guests, except those whose business was of a very temporary nature, usually repaired to lodging-houses, of which the most famous in 1754 was Mrs. Thomson?s at the Cross, who, as per advertisement, served people who had not their own silver plate, tea china, table china, and tea linen, with all these luxuries, together with wines and spirits. When the famous patriot chief, Pasquale de Paoli, had been driven into exile by the French invaders of Corsica, among other places in his wanderings he came to Edinburgh in the autumn of 177 I, accompanied by the Polish Ambassador, Count Burzyuski; and on the 3rd of September they arrived at Peter Ramsay?s ? White Horse ?I Inn, in St. Mary?s Wynd, from whence he was immediately taken home by Boswell to his house in James?s Court, while the Count became the guest of his neighbour, Dr. John Gregory, ?to whom they brought a letter from the ingenious Mrs. Montague.? Boswell introduced Paoli to Lord Kames, Dr. Robertson, David Hume, and others, who though greatly his seniors, admitted him into their circle, and he showed him over the Castle, Holyrood, Duddingston, and other places. Ramsay?s inn was chiefly famous for its stables, and in that establishment he realised a large fortune. In I 776 he advertised that, exclusive of some part of his premises recently offered for sale, he possessed ? a good house for entertainment, good stables for above one hundred horses, and sheds for above twenty carriages.? He retired from business in St. Mary?s Wynd in 1790, with above LIO,OOO, according to one account, and his death is thus recorded in the ?Scottish Register.? ?Jan. I, 1794. At his son?s house of Gogar, Co. Edinburgh, Peter Ramsay, Esq., formerly an eminent innkeeper at the Cowgate Port, in which station he acquired upwards of ~ 3 0 , 0 0 0 . He has left one son, William Ramsay, jun., Esq., banker in Edinburgh, and one daughter, the widow of Captain Mansfield, of the South Fencible Regiment, who lost his life at Leith in 1779, when attempting to quell a mutiny.? Eoyd?s Close, or the White Horse Close, as it was often called, opened into Boyd?s Entry from St. Mary?s Wynd. The inn there was more modern, and was larger than Ramsay?s, but had, like his, the principal rooms above the stables ; and at this White Horse? it was that Dr. Johnson, on arriving at Edinburgh on the 17th of August, 1773, put up, and from whence he sent his curt note to Boswel1:- ?( Saturday night :-<? Mr. Johnson sends his compliments to Mr. Boswell, being just arrived at Boyd?s.? And here it was, as we have related, that Boswell found him storming at the waiter, when he and William Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell, repaired thither, and received an instalment of that domineering manner which excited the aristocratic contempt that old Lord Auchinleck so freely expressed for ?? the dominie the auld English dominie, that keepit a schule and ca?ad it an acaademy.? In Boyd?s ?? White Horse Inn ? one particularly large room was the scene of many a marriage between runaway English couples ; and on a window, written with a diamond, were long to be seen the remarkable names of Jeremiah and Sarah Bmtham, I 768. ? James Eoyd, the keeper of this inn, was addicted to horse racing, and his victories on the turf, or rather on Leith sands, are frequently chronicled in journals of that day. It is said that he was one time on the brink of ruin, when he was saved by a lucky run with a white horse, which in gratitude he kept idle all the rest of its days, besides setting up its portrait as his sign. He eventually retired from this ? dirty and dismal? inn with a fortune of several thousand pounds ; and, as a curious note upon the impression which its slovenliness conveyed to Dr. Johnson, it may be stated as a fact, well authenticated, that, at the time of his giving up the house he possessed napery to the value of five hundred pounds.? St. Mary?s Wynd was, in 1869, the first scene of the operations of the trustees who acted under the Improvement Act of 1867, when they commenced to pull down the buildings between it and Gullan?s Close, in the Canongate. By this time it had become one of the most wretched slums in the city, a narrow and stifling alley, to navigate the intricacies of which required some courage. I t was scarcely possible to avoid coming in contact with cast-off apparel of all kinds, or stumbling against piles of old boots, pots, pans, and furniture. Under designs furnished for the upper part by the late David Cousin, who for many years occupied an important official post in connection with the municipality, and for the lower part by Mr. Lessels, another architect, the wynd has now become a
Volume 2 Page 299
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