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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. (South Bridge. 378 then paid for the dean?s gown. This Hugh Blair was the grandson of the eminent Covenanting clergyman Robert Blair, who accompanied the Scottish army into England in 1640, and assisted at the negotiations which led to the Peace of Ripon; and he was the grandfather of his namesake, author of the famous Sermons and ficttires on 3dZes-fiitres. One of the earliest movements of any importance in the history of the company was its acquisition .of a hall. Bailie Robert Blackwood, who was master in 169i, found a large mansion in the Congate, belonging to Robert Macgill, Viscount Oxenford, the price of which would be about IZ,OOO merks, or A670 sterling ; and this house the company purrhased with subscriptions. It was a large quadrangle, surrounding a courtyard, and in a portion .of it several persons of rank and position had apartments, including the widow of the temble old ?persecutor,? Sir Thomas Dalyell of Binns. It contained one large apartment, that was adopted as a hall, which one of the company, Alexander Brand, a bailie of the city-who had a manufactory for stamping Spanish leather with gold, then used for the decoration of rooms, before paper-hangings were known-liberally offered to decorate, and only to charge what was due over and above his own contribution of A150 Scots. ?? Ten years afterwards, when accounts came to be settled with the then Sir Alexander Brand, it appeared that a hundred and nineteen skins of gold leather with a black ground had been used, at a total expense of A253 Scots, including the manufacturer?s contribution. There was also much concernment about a piece of waste ground behind; but the happy thought occurred of converting it into a bowlinggreen for the use of the members in the first place, .and the public in the second. Many years afterwards we find Allan Ramsay making Horatian .allusions to this place of recreation, telling us that now in winter, douce folk were no longer seen using the biassed bowls on Thomson?s Green (Thornson being a subsequent tenant). It is not unworthy of notice,? continues Dr. Chambers, ?that from the low state of the arts in Scotland, the bowls required for this green had to be brought from abroad. It is gravely reported to the company on the 6th of March, 1693, that the bowls are ?upon the sea homeward.? Ten pairs cost &6 4s. 3d. Scots.? Brand got himself into trouble in 1697 for making what were called ? donations ? to the Pnvy Council. In 1693, he, together with Sir Thomas Kennedy of Kirkhill, Provost in 1685, and 6ir William Binning, Provost in 1676, had contracted with the national Government for a supply of 5,000 , stand of arms at a pound each ; but when abroad for their purchase, he alleged that the arms could not be got under twenty-six shillings a stand. To obtain payment of the extra sum (tf;1,500), the two knights bribed the Earls of Linlithgow and Breadalbane by a gift of 250 guineas. Hence, when the affair was discovered, the then contractors, ?fox the compound fault of contriving bribery and de. faming the nobles in question,? were cast in heavy fines-Kennedy, in A800, Binning in A300, and Brand in A500, ? and to be imprisoned till payment was made.? It is long since the company?s connection with the Cowgate ceased, and even the house they occupied there has passed away, being removed to make room for a pier of George IV.?s Bridge; and in that quarter no memorial of the company now remains but the name of Merchant Street, applied to a petty line of buildings behind the Cowgate ; but the company has still a title to ground rents in that part of the city. Rich members died, leaving bequests to the company for the relief of decayed brethren ; but so wealthy and prosperous was the body, that when a legacy of A;3,5oo was left to them in 1693 by Patrick Aikinhead, a Scottish merchant of Dantzig, they had not a single member in need of monetary aid ; and soon after, the company became engaged in the erection of a hospital for the education of the daughters of the less prosperous members, on the ground now occupied by the Industrial Museum. Though originally designed by Mrs. Mary Erskine, a scion of the House of Mar, the principal expense of the institution fell on the company, and the governors were made a body corporate by an Act of Parliament in 1707. In 1723, a merchant named George Watson, who, in 1696, had commenced life as a clerk with Sir John Dick, died and left the company AI 2,000 sterling for children of the other sex, and enabled them to found the hospital which still bears his name. After the Union, long years followed ere national enterprise or industry found a fair field for action, and produced the results that created the Edinburgh of to-day ; and it was not till the reign of George 111. that her merchants, like those elsewhere, had ceased in any degree to depend upon prohibitions and the exclusive rights of dealing in merchandise. In the eighteenth century a considerable aristocratic element was infused into mercantile life in Edinburgh. ?To take the leading firms,? says Chambers, ?among the silk mercers: Of John Hope and Company, the said John Hope was a
Volume 2 Page 378
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