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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


Hih Street.] THE CROCHALLAN CLUB. 235 CHAPTER XXVII. THE HIGH STREET (rontinurd). The Anchor Close-Dawney Douglas?s Tavern-The ?? Crown Room?-The Cmchallan Club-Members-Burns among the Crochallan Fencibles -Smellie?s Printing Office-Dundas?s House, Fleshmarket Close-Mylne?s Square-Lord Alva?s House-The Conntes of Sutherland and Lady Glenorchy-Birthplace of Fergusson-Halkerston?s Wynd Port-Kinloch?s Close-Carmbbeh Close-?fie Episcopal Chapel-Clam Shell Land-Capt. Matthew Henderson-Allan Ramsay?s Theatre-Its later Tenants-The Tailor?s Hall-Bailie Fyfe?s Close-? Heave awa,? lads, I?m no deid yet ?-Chalmers? Close-Hope?s House-Sandiknd?s Close-Bishop Kennedy?s House-Grant?s C l o s e - h n Grant?s H o e . ONE of the most interesting of the many old alleys of the High Street (continuing still on the north side thereof) is the Anchor Close. A few yards down this dark and narrow thoroughfare bring us to the entrance of a scale-stair, having the legend, The Lord is 0714~ my svjwt; adjoining it is another and older door, inscribed 0. Lm?. in . tk . is. a(. my. traist; while an architrave bears a line? from a psalm, Be mmczjX to me, under which we enter what was of old the famous festive and hospitable tavern of Daniel, or, as he was familiarly named by the Hays, Erskines, Pleydells, and Crosbies, who were his customers, Dawney Douglas, an establishment second. to none in its time for convivial meetings, and noted for suppers of tripe, mince collops, rizzared haddocks, and fragrant hashes, that never cost more than sixpence a-head ; yet on charges so moderate Dawney Douglas and hisgudewife contrived to grow extremely rich before they died. Who caused the three holy legends to be carved, as in many other instances, no man knows, nor can one tell who resided here of old, except that it was in the seventeenth century the house of a senator entitled Lord Forglen. ? The frequenter of Douglas?s,?? we are told, ?? after ascending a few steps, found himself in a pretty large kitchen, through which numerous ineffable ministers of flame were continually flying about, while beside the door sat the landlady, a large, fat woman, in a towering head-dress and large-flowered silk gown, who bowed to every one passing. Most likely, on emerging from this igneous region, the party would fall into the hands of Dawney himself, and be conducted to an apartment.? He was a little, thin, weak, quiet, and submissive man ; in all things a contrast to his wife. Here met the famous club called the Crochallan Fencibles, which Bums has celebrated both in prose and verse, and to which he was introduced in 1787 by William Smellie, when in the city superintending the printing of his poems, and when, according to custom, one of the club was pitted against him in a contest of wit and humour. Burns bore the assault with perfect equanimity, and entered fully into the spirit of the meeting. Dawney Douglas knew a sweet old Gaelic song, called Cro Chalien,? or, Colin?s cattle, which he was wont to sing to his customers, and this led to . the establishment of the club, which, with jocular reference to the many Scottish corps then raising, was named the Crochallan Fencibles, composed entirely of men of original character and talent. Each member took some military title or ludicrous office. Amongst them was Smellie, the famous printer, and author of the ? Philosophy of Natural History.? Individuals committing an alleged fault were subjected to mock trials, in which those members who were advocates could display their wit; and as one member was the depute hngman cf the club, a little horse-play, with much mirth, at times prevailed. The song of ? Cro Chalien? had a legend connected therewith. Colin?s wife died very young, but some months after he had buried her she was occasionally seen in the gloaming, when spirits are supposed to appear, milking her cows as usual, and singing the plaintive song to which Bums must often have listened amid the orgies in the Anchor Close. In Dawney?s tavern the chief room was rather elegant and well-sized, having an access by the second of the doors described, iind was reserved for large companies or important guests. Pm exceZZeme, it was named the ? Crown Room,? and was thus distinguished to guests on their bill tops, from some foolish and unwarrantable tradition that Queen Mary had once been there, when the crown was deposited in a niche in the wall. It was handsomely panelled, with a decorated fireplace and two lofty windows that opened to the dose ; but all this has disappeared now, and new buildings erected in 1869 have replaced the old. Here, then, was Bums introduced to the jovial Crochallans, among whom were such men as Erskine, Lords Newton and Gillies, by Smellie the philosopher and printer who contested with Dr. Walker the chair of natural history in the University; and of one member, William Dunbar, W.S., ? Colonel of the club, a predominant wit, he has left us a characteristic picture :- Oh, he held to the fair, And buy some other ware ; The saut tear blin?t his ee ; Ye?re welcome hame to me I . ? Oh, rattlin? roarin? Willie, An? for to sell his fiddle, But parting wi? his fiddle, And rattlin?, roarin? Willie,
Volume 2 Page 235
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