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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


Xigh Street.] EXCISE OFFICE. 217 not only to inspire his enthusiasm, but improve his seamanship ; and there was something prophetic in the poem, as the frigate Azlroru, in which he served, perished at sea in 1769. Eastward of Knox?s manse is an old timberfronted land, bearing the royal arms of Scotland on its first floor, and entered by a stone turnpike, the door of which has the legend Beus Benedictat, and long pointed out as the excise office of early times. ? The situation,? says Wilson, ? was peculiarly convenient for guarding the principal gate of das?s splendid mansion in St. Andrew?s Square, now occupied by the Royal Bank. This may be considered its culminating point It descended thereafter to Bellevue House, in Drummond Place, built by General Scott, the father-in-law of Mr. Canning, which house was demolished in 1846 in completing the tunnel of the Edinburgh and Leith Railway; and now we believe the exciseman no longer possesses a local habitation ? within the Scottish capital.? The interesting locality of the Nether Bow takes the city, and the direct avenue (Leith Wynd) to the neighbouring seaport. . . . . . Since George 11.?~ reign the excise office had as many rapid vicissitudes as might mark the ?areer of a profligate spendthrift. In its earlier days, when a floor of the old land in the Nether Bow sufficed for its accommodation, it was regarded as foremost among the detested fruits of the Union. From thence it removed to more commodious chambers in the Cowgate, since demolished to make way for the southern piers of George IV. bridge. Its next resting place was the large tenement on the south side of Chessel?s Court in the Canongate, the scene of the notorious Deacon Brodie?s last robbery. From thence it was removed to Sir Lawrence Dun- 28 its name from the city gate, known as the Nether Bow Port, in contradistinction to the Upper Bow Port, which stood near the west end of the Eigh Street. This barrier united the city wall from St. Mary?s Wynd on the south to the steep street known as Leith Wynd on the north, at a time when, perhaps, only open fields lay eastward of the gate, stretching from the township to the abbey of Holyrood. The last gate was built in the time of Tames VI. ; what was the character of its predecessor we have no means of ascertaining; but to repair it, in 1538, as the city cash had run low, the magistrates were compelled to mortgage its northern vault for IOO rnerks Scots; and this was the gate which the English, under Lord Hertford, blew open
Volume 2 Page 217
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