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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


The West BOW.] MAJOR WEIR. even to this day, a deep-rooted impression on the popular mind. A powerful hand at praying and expounding, 46 ? he became so notoriously regarded among the Presbyterian sect, that if four met together, be sure Major Weir was one,?? says Chambers, quoting Fraser?s MS. in the Advocate?s Library ; ? ?at private meetings he prayed to admiration, which He never married, but lived in a private lodging with his sister Grizel Weir. Many resorted to his house to join with him, and hear him pray; but it was observed that he could not officiate in any holy duty without the black staff, or rod, in his hand, and leaning upon it, which made those who heard him pray, admire his flood in prayer, his ready extemporary expression, his heavenly gesture, so that he was thought more an angel than a man, and was termed by some of the holy sisters, ordinarily Angelid Tho?nas.? ?? ? Holy sisters,? in those days abounded in the major?s quarter ; and, indeed, during all the latter part of the 17th century the inhabitants of the Bow enjoyed a peculiar fame for piety and zeal in the cause of the National Covenant, and were frequently subjected to the wit of the Cavalier faction; Dr. Pitcairn, Pennycook, the burgess bard, stigmatised them as the (? Bow-head Saints,? the ? godly plants of the Bow-head,? &c. ; and even Sir Walter Scott, in describing the departure of Dundee, sings :- ? As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow, Ilka carline was flyting and shaking her POW i? and it was in this quarter that many of the polemical pamphlets and sermons of Presbyterian divines have since been published. after a life characterised externally by all the graces of devotion, but polluted in secret by crimes of the most revolting nature, and which little needed the addition of wizardry to excite the horror of living men, fell into a severe sickness, which affected his mind so much that he made open and voluntary confession of all his wickedness.? According to Professor Sinclair, the major had made a compact with the devil, who of course outwitted his victim. The fiend had promised, it was said, to keep him scatheless from all peril, but a single ? burn ; hence the accidental naming of a man named Bum, by the sentinels at the NetheI Bow Port, when he visited them as commande1 of the Guard, cast him into a fit of terror; and on another occasion, finding Libberton Burn ?before him, was sufficient to make him turn back trembling. . made many of that stamp court his converse. . Major Weir, ____ ~~~ ~~~ ~~ ~ His sick-bed confession, when he was now verging on his seventieth year, seemed at first so incredible that Sir Andrew Ramsay of Abbotshall, who was Lord Provost from 1662 to 1673, refused for a time to order his arrest. Eventually, however, the major, his sister (the partner of one of his crimes), and the black magical staff, were all taken into custody and lodged in the Tolbooth. The staff was secured by the express request of his sister, and local superstition still records how it was wont to perform all the major?s errands for any article he wanted from the neighbouring shops ; that it answered the door when ?the pin was tirled,? and preceded him in the capacity of a linkboy at night in the Lawnmarket. In his house several sums of money in dollars were found wrapped up in pieces of cloth. A fragment of the latter, on being thrown on the fire by the bailie in charge, went up the wide chimney with an explosion like a cannon, while the dollars, when the magistrate took them home, flew about in such a fashion that the demolition of his house seemed imminent. While in prison he confessed, without scruple, that he had been guilty of crimes alike possible and impossible. Stung to madness by conscience, the unfortunate wretch seemed to feel some comfort in sharing his misdeeds with the devil, yet he refused to address himself to Heaven for pardon. To all who urged him to pray, he answered by wild screams. ?Torment me no m o r e 1 am tortured enough already !?, was his constant cry ; and he declined to see a clergyman of any creed, saying, acdording to ? Law?s Memorials,? that ?? his condemnation was sealed; and since he was to go to the devil, he did not wish to anger him !? When asked by the minister of Ormiston if he had ever seen the devil, he answered, (? that any fealling he ever hade of him was in the dark.? He and his sister were tried on the 9th of April, 1670, before the Justiciary Court; he was sentenced to be strangled and burned, between Edinburgh and Leith, and his sister Grizel (called Jean by some), to be hanged in the Grassmarket. When hi?s neck was encircled by the fatal rope at the place of execution, and the fire that was to consume his body-the ?burn to which, as the people said the devil had lured him-he was bid to say, ?Lord, be merciful to me!? but he only replied fiercely and mournfully, ? Let me alone- I will not ; I have lived as a beast and must die like a beast.? When his lifeless body fell from the stake into the flaming pyre beneath, his favourite stick, which (according to RavaiZZm Rediuivus) ?? was all of one piece of thornwood, with a crooked ~
Volume 2 Page 311
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