Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


2 OLD AND NEW? EDINBURGH. [Canongate. refain its distinct dignity as a burgh of regality. In its arms it bears the white hart?s head, with the cross;crosslet of the miraculous legend betweeg the horns, and the significant motto, (( SIC ITUR AU As the main avenue from the palace to the city, so a later writer tells us, it has borne upon its pavement the burden of all that was beautiful and gallant, and all that has become historically interesting in Scotland for the last seven hundred years?; and though many of its houses have been modernised, it still preserves its aspect of great quaintness and vast antiquity. It sprang up independent of the capital, adhering naturally to the monastery, whose vassals and dependents were its earliest builders, and retaining to the last legible marks of a different parentage from the city. Its magistrates claimed a feudal lordship over the property of the regality as the successors of its spiritual superiors ; hence many of the title-deeds therein ran thus :-? To be holden of the Magistrates of the Canongate, as come in place of the Monastery of the Holy Cross.? The Canongate seems to have been a favourite with the muse of the olden time, and is repeatedly alluded to in familiar lyrics and in the more polished episodes of the courtly poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A Jacobite song has it :- ASTR A. ?? (? As I cam doun the Canongate, As I cam doun the Canongate, ? Merry may the keel rowe. The Canongate, the Canongate, I heard a lassie sing, That my true love is in,? ? &c. The (? Satire on Court Ladies ? tells us, (? The lasses 0? the Canongate, Oh they are wondrous nice ; They winna gie a single kiss But for a dm& price.? And an old song concerning a now-forgotten belle says :--. 6? A? doun alang the Canongate Were beaux 0? ilk degree ; At bonny Mally Lee. We?re a? gaun agee, Courtin? Mally Lee ! ? And mony ane turned round to look And we?re a? gaun east and west, We?re a? gaiin east and west, ? The earliest of the register-books preserved in the archives of this little burgh commences in 1561 -about a hundred years before Cromwell?s invasion; but the volume, which comes down to 1588, had been long in private hands, acd was only restored at a recent date, though much of it is printed in the ?? Maitland Miscellany ? for 1840. Unlike Edinburgh, the Canongate had no walls for defence-its gates and enclosures being for civic purposes only. If it relied on the sanctity OF its monastic superiors as a protection, it did so in vain, when,,in 1380, Richard 11. of England gave it to the flames, and the Earl of Hertford in 1544; and in the civil wars during the time of Charles I., the jourhal of Antipities tells us that (( the Canongate suffered severely from the barbarity of the English-so much so that scarcely a house was left standing.? In 1450, when the first wall of the city was built, its eastern extremity was the Nether Bow Port. Open fields, in all probability, lay outside the latter, and though the increasing suburb was. then building, the city claimed jurisdiction within it as far as the Cross of St. John, and the houses crept gradually westward up the slope, till they formed the present unbroken street from the Nether Bow to the palace porch; but it seems strange that even in the disastrous year 1513, when the Cowgate was enclosed by a wall, no attempt was made to secure the Canongate; though it had gates which were shut at night, and it had boundary walls, but not of a defensive character. Of old, three crosses stood in the main street: that of St. John, near the head of the present St. John Street, at which Charles I. knighted the Provost on his entering the city in 1633; the ancient Market Cross, which formerly stood opposite the present Tolbooth, and is represented in Gordon?s Map as mounted on a stone gallery, like that of the City Cross, and the shaft of which, a very elegant design, still exists, attached to the southeast corner of the just.named edifice. Its chief use in later times was a pillory, and the iron staple yet remains to which culprits were attached by the iron collar named the jougs. The third, or Girth Cross, stood at the foot of the Canongate, IOO feet westward from the Abbey-strand. (? It consisted,? says Kincaid, ?( of three steps as ?a base and a pillar upon the top, and was called the Girth Cross from its being the western limit of the Sanctuary ; but in paving the street it was removed,, and its place is now known by a circle of stones. upon the west side of the well within the Water Gate.? In the earlier age$ of its history the canons tc, whom the burgh belonged had liberty to buy and sell in open market. It has been supposed by several writers that a village of some kind had existed on the site prior to the erection of the Abbey, as the king says in more than one version of the
Volume 3 Page 2
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print