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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


310 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH [The West Bow. by Victoria Terrace, replaced in one part by a flight of stairs, in another by the Free Church 01 St John, and sloping away eastward into Victoria Street, it is impossible to realise what the old Wed Bow, which served as a connecting link between the High and the Low Town, the Lawnmarket and the Grassmarket, really was. The pencil of the artist alone may reproduce its features. At its lower end were the houses that belonged to the Knights of the Temple, whereon, to mark them as beyond the reach of corporation enactments, the iron cross of St. John was placed sc lately as the eighteenth century, by the Bailie oj Lord Torphichen, as proprietor of the !ands of St. John of Jerusalem ; and there flows, as of old, the Bowfoot Well, built by Robert Mylne in 1681, jus1 where it is shown in Edgar?s map of the city when the Bow was then, as it had been centuries before, the principal entrance to the city from the west. One of the chief relics in the West Bow wa: an enormous rustyiron hook, on which hung an ancient gate of the city wall, the upper Bow Port built in 1450. It stood in the wall of a house a1 the first angle on the east side, about four feet-from the ground. When Maitland wrote his history ir 1753, two of these hooks were visible; but by tht time that Chambers wrote his ? Traditions,? ir 1824, the lower one had been buried by the leve of the street having been raised. Among those slain at the Battle of Pinkey, ir 1547, we find the name of John Hamilton (of tht house of Innerwick), a merchant in the West Bow This John Hamilton was a gallant gentleman whose eldest son was ancestor of the Earls 0, Haddington, and whose second son was a seculai priest, Rector of the University of Paris, and one of the Council of the League that offered thc crown of France to the King of Spain in 1591. Qpposite St John?s Free. Church and the General Assembly Hall there stood, till the spring of I 878 that wonderfully picturesque old tenement, with a description of which we commenced? the story of the houses on the south side of the Lawn. market; and lower down the Bow was another, demolished about the same time. The latter was a stone land, without any timbe1 additions, having a dark grey front of polished ashlar, supposed to have been built in the days of Charles I. String-courses of moulded stone decorated it, and on the bed-corbel of its crowstepped gable was a shield with the lettersI. O.,I. B., with a merchant?s mark between them, doubtless the initials of the first proprietor and of his wife. From its gloomy history and better architecture, the next tenement, which stood a little way back -for every house in the Bow was built without the slightest reference to the site of its neighbouris more worthy of note, as the alleged abode of the temble wizard, and bearing the name of Major Weir?s Land-but in reality the dwelling of the major stood behind it. The city motto appeared on a CU~~OLIS dormer window over the staircase, and above the elaborately moulded entrance door, which was only five feet six inches in height by three feet six i l l breadth, were the legend and date, SOLI. DEO. HONOR. ET CLORIA. D.W. 1604. In the centre were the arms of David Williamson, a wealthy citizen, to whom the house belonged. This legend, so common over the old doorways of the city, was the fashionable grace before dinner at the tables of the Scottish noblesse during the reigns of Mary and James VI., and like others noted here, was deemed to act as a charm, and to bar the entrance of evil. But the turnpike stair within, says Chambers, ?was said to possess a strange peculiarity-namely, that people who ascended it felt as if going down, and not up a stair.? A passage, low-browed, dark, and heavily vaulted, led, until February, 1878, through this tall tenement into a narrow court eastward thereof, a gloomy, dark, and most desolate-looking place, and there abode of old with his sister, Grizel, the notorious wizard whose memory is so inseparably woven up with the superstitions of old Edinburgh. Major Thomas Weir of Kirktown was a native of Lanarkshire, where the people believed that his mother had taught him the art of sorcery, before he joined (as Lieutenant) the Scottish army, sent by the Covenanters in 1641 for the protection of the Ulster colonists, and with which he probably served at the storming of Carrickfergus and the battle of Benburb; and from this force he had been appointed, when Major in the Earl of Lanark?s Regiment, and Captain-Lieutenant of Home?s Regiment, to the command of that ancient gendarmerie, the Guard of Edinburgh, in which capacity he attended the execution of the great Montrose in 1650. He wasa grim-featured man, with a large nose, and always wore a black cloak of ample dimensions. He usually carried a staff, the supposed magical powers of which made it a terror to the community. He pretended to be a religious man, but was in reality a detestable hypocrite ; and the frightful story of his secret life is said to have furnished Lord Byron with the plot of his tragedy Manfreed; md his evil reputation, which does not rest on ibscure allusions in legendary superstition, has left,
Volume 2 Page 310
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