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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


242 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street. CHAPTER XXVIII. THE HIGH STREET-(continued). ?The Salamander Land ?-The Old Fishmarket Close-Heriot?s Mansion-The Deemster?s Hocse-Borthwick?s Close-Lord Durie?s House- Old Assembly Rooms-Edinburgh As.emblies, 17zc-53-Mes Nicky Blurray-Formalities of the Balls-Ladies? Fashions-Assemblies Removed to Hell?s Wpd-Hair Srreet and Hunter?s Square-Kennedy?s Close-George Buchanan?s Death-Niddry?r Wynd- Nicol Edwards? House-A Case of Homicide in 1597-A Quack Doctor -Livingstone?s Liberty. IN describing the closes and wynds which diverge from the great central street of the old city on the south we must resume at the point where the great fire of 1824 ceased, a conflagration witnessed by Sir Walter Scott, who says of it :- ?? I can conceive no sight more grand or terrible than to see those lofty buildings on fire from top to bottom, vomiting out flames like a volcano from every aperture, and finally crashing down one after another into a* abyss of fire, which resembled nothing but hell ; for there were vaults of wine and spirits, which sent up huge jets of flames wherever they were called into activity by the fall of these massive fragments.? ?( The Salamander Land,? an enormous black tenement, so named from its having survived or escaped the fires that raged eastward and westward of it, and named also from that curious propensiv, which is so peculiarly Scottish, for inventive and appropriate sobriquets, was removed to make way for the Police Chambers and the Cournnt office, in the latter of which James Hannay, the author of ?Satire and Satirists? and several other works, and Joseph Robertson, the wellknown Scottish antiquary, conducted the editorial duties of that paper, the first editor of which was Daniel Defoe. ?We have been told,? says Wilson, writing of the old tenement in question, ?that this land was said to have been the residence of Daniel Defoe while in Edinburgh ; the tradition, however, is entirely unsupported by other testimony.? Descending the street on the south, as we have done on the north, we shall peep into each of the picturesque alleys that remain, and recall those .which are no more, with all the notables who once .dwelt therein, and summon back the years, the men, and the events that have passed away. Through ?? the Salamander Land ? a spacious archway led into the Old Fishmarket Close, where, qrevious to the great fire, an enormous pile of buildings reared their colossal front, with that majestic effect produced now by the back of the Royal Exchange and of James?s Court, and where now the lofty tenements of the new police office stand. To this alley, wherein the cannon shot of Kirkaldy fell with such dire effect during the great siege of 1573, Moyse tells us the plague was brought, on the 7th of May, 1588, by a servant woman from St. Johnston. Within the Fishmarket Close was the mansion of George Heriot, the royal goldsmith, wherein more recently resided President Dundas, ?? father of Lord, Melville, a thorough bon vivant of the old claretdrinking school of lawyers.? Here, too, dwelt, we learn from Chambers?s ? Traditions,? the Deemster, a finisher of the law?s last sentence, a grim official, who annually drew his fee from the adjacent Royal Bank; and one of the last of whom, when not officiating at the west end of the Tolbooth or the east end of the Grassmarket, eked out his subsistence by cobbling shoes, Borthwick?s Close takes its name from the noble and baronial hmily of Borthwick of that ilk, whose castle, a few miles south from the city, is one of the largest and grandest examples of the square tower in Scotland. In the division 6f the city in October, 1514, the third quarter is to be-according to the Burgh records-? frae the Lopelie Stane with the Cowgaitt, till Lord Borthwick?s Close,? assigned to ?? Bailie Bansun,? with his sergeant Thomas Amott, and his quartermaster Thomas Fowler. The property on the middle of the east side of the close belonged to one of the Lords Napier of Merchiston, but to which there is no record to show; and it is n9t referred to in the minute will of the inventor of logarithms, who died in 1617. A new school belonging to Heriot?s Hospital occupies the ground that intervenes between this alley and the old Assembly Close. On that site stood the town mansion of Lord Dune, President of the Court of Session in 1642, the hero of the ballad of ? Christie?s Will,? and according thereto the alleged victim of the Earl of Traquair, as given in a very patched ballad of the Border Minstrelsy, beginning :- ? Traquair he has ridden up Chapelhope, And sae has he doon by the Greymare?s Tail ; Till he spiered for Christie?s Will? But he never stinted his light gallop, And hence for a time the alley bore the name of Lord Dune?s Close. On the site of his mansion, till its destruction by the fire of 1824, stood the Old Assembly Rooms
Volume 2 Page 242
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