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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


?The West Chum.: MR. ROBER?T PONT. 13x1 CHAPTER XVIII. THE CHURCH OF ST. CUTHBERT. Iiirtory and Antiquity-Old Views of it Described-First Protestant Incumbeqts-The Old hlanse-Old Communion Cups-Pillaged by Cmmwdi -Ruined by the Siege of 1689, and again in ~g+~-Deaths of Messrs. McVicar and Pitcairn-Early Body-snatchem-Demolition of the Old Church-Erection of the Ncw-Cax of Heart-bud-Old Tombs and Vaults-The Nisbets of Deau-The Old Poor How-Kirkbraehud Road-Lothian Road-Dr. Candlish?s Church-Military Academy-New Caledonian Railway Station. IN the hollow or vale at the end of which the North Loch lay there stands one of the most hideous churches in Edinbutgh, known as the West Kirk, occupying the exact site of the Culdee Church of St. Cuthbert, the parish of which was the largest in Midlothian, and nearly encircled the whole of the city without the walls. Its age was greater than that of any record in Scotland. It was supposed to have been built in the eighth century, and was dedicated to St. Cuthbert, the Bishop of Durham, who died on the 20th of March, 687. In Gordon of Rothiemay?s bird?s-eye view it appears a long, narrow building, with one transept or aisle, on the south, a high square tower of three storeys at the south-west corner, and a belfry. The burying-ground is square, with rows of trees to the westward. On the south of the buryingground is a long row of two-storeyed houses, with a gate leading to the present road west of the Castle rock, and another on the north, leading to the pathway which yet exists up the slope to Princes Street, from which point it long was known as the Kirk Loan to Stockbridge. A view taken in 1772 represents it as a curious assorlment of four barn-like masses of building, having a square spire of five storeys in height in the centre, and the western end an open ruinthe western kirk-with a bell hung 011 a wooden frame. Northward lies the hare open expznse, or ridge, whereon the first street of the new town was built. After the Reformation the first incumbent settled here would seem to have been a pious tailor, named William Harlow, who was born in the city about 1500, but fled to England, where he obtained deacon?s orders and became a preacher during the reign of Edward VI. On the death of the, latter, and accession of Mary, he was compelled to seek refuge in Scotland, and in 1556 he began ?pub ,licly to exhort in Edinburgh,? for which he was excommunicated by the Catholic authorities, whose days were numbered now; and four years after, when installed at St. Cuthbert?s, ? Mr. Harlow attended the meeting of the first General Assembly, held in Edinburgh on the 20th of December, 1560. He died in 1578, but four years before that event Mr. Robert Pont, afterwards ah eminent judge and miscellaneous writer, was ordained to the ministry of St. Cuthbert?s in his thirtieth year, at the time he was, with others, appointed by the Assembly to revise all books that were printed and published. About the saiiie period he drew up the Calendar, and framed the rule to understaqd it, for Arbuthnot and Bassandyne?s famous edition of the Bible. In . 1571 he had been a Lord of Session and Provost of the Trinity College. On Mr. Pont being transferred in 1582, Mr. Nicol Dalgleish came in his place ; but the former, being unable to procure a stipend, returned to his old charge, conjointly with his successor. IVhen James VI. insidiously began his attempts to introduce Episcopacy, Mr. Pont, a zealous defender of Presbyterianism, with two other ministers, actually repaired to the Parliament House, with the design of protesting for the rights of the Church in the face of the Estates; but finding the doors shut against them, they repaired to the City Cross, and when the obnoxious ?Black Acts ? were proclaimed, pub. licly denounced them, and then fled to England, followed by most of the clergy in Edinburgh. Meanwhile Nicol Dalgleish, for merely praying for them, was tried for his life, and acquitted, but he was indicted anew for corresponding with the rebels, because he had read a letter which one of the banished ministers had sent to his wife. For this fault sentence of death was passed upon him ; but though it was not executed, by a refinement of cruelty the scaffold on which he expected to die was kept standing for several weeks before the windows of his prison. While Mr. Pont remained a fugitive, William Aird, a stonemason, ? an extraordinary witness, stirred cp by God,? says Calderwood, ?Land mamed, learned first of his wife to speak English,? was appointed, in the winter of 1584, colleague to Mr. Dalgleish, who, on the return of Mr. Pont in 1585, ? was nominated to the principality of Aberdeen.? Aware of the igqorance of most of their parishioners concerning the doctrines of the Protestant faith, and that many had no faith- whatever, they offered to devote the forenoon of every Thursday to public tzaching, and to this end a meeting was held on Pont?s next colleague was Mr. Aird.
Volume 3 Page 131
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