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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


150 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. LGeorge 2:rtet. of the first, accompanied by Major-General Hope and that famous old literary officer General Stewart of Garth, who had been wounded under its colours in Egypt; and nothing could surpxss the grand, even tearful, enthusiasm with which the veterans had been welcomed ?in every town and village through which their route from England lay. Early on the ~gth,? says the Scots Magazine, ?vast crowds were collected on the streets, in expectation of their arrival. The road as far as Musselburgh was crowded with people ; and as they approached the city, so much was their progress impeded by the multitude that their march from Piershill to the castle-less than two miles-occupied two hours. House-tops and windows were crowded with spectators, and as they passed along the streets, amid the ringing of bells, waving of flags, and the acclamation of thousands, their red and black plumes, tattered colours-emblems of their wellearned fame in fight-and glittering bayonets, were all that could be seen of these heroes, except by the few who were fortunate in obtaining elevated situations. The scene, viewed from the windows and house-tops, was the most extraordinary ever witnessed in this city. The crowds were wedged together across the whole breadth of the street, and extended in length as far as the eye could reach, and this motley throng appeared to tnove like a solid body, till the gallant Highlanders were safely lodged in the castle.? To the whole of the non-commissioned officers and privates a grand banquet by public subscription, under the superintendence of Sir Walter Scott, was given in the Assembly Room, and every man was presented with a free ticket to the Theatre Royal. Asimilar banquet and ovation was bestowed on the 78th or Ross-shire Buffs, who marched in a few days after. It was in the Assembly Rooms that Sir Walter Scott, on the 23rd February, 1827, at the annual dinner of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund Association, avowed himself to be ?the Great Unknown,? acknowledging the authorship of the Waverley Novels-scarcely a secret then, as the recent exposure of Constable?s affairs had made the circumstance pretty well known, particularly in literary circles. In June 1841 a great public banquet was given to Charles Dickens in the Assembly Rooms, at which Professor Wilson presided, and which the novelist subsequently referred to as having been a source of sincere gratification to him. The rooms underwent considerable improvements in 1871 ; but two shops have always been in the basement storey, and the western of these . is now occupied by the Edinburgh branch of the ImperiaI Fire and Life Assurance Company. In immediate connection with the Assembly Rooms is the great music hall, built in 1843? at the cost of more than .&IO,OOO, It is a magnificent apartment, with a vast domed and panelled roof, 108 feet long by 91 feet broad, with orchestral accommodation for several hundred performers, and a powerful and splendid organ, by Hill of London. It is the most celebrated place in the city for public meetings. There, in 1853, was inaugurated by Lord Eglinton and others, the great Scottish Rights Association, the ultimate influence of which procured so many necessary grants of money for Scottish purposes; in 1859 the first Burns Centenary, and in 1871 the first Scott Centenary, were celebrated in this hall. There, tooJ has the freedom of the city been bestowed upon many great statesmen, soldiers, and others. There has Charles Dickens cften read his ?Christmas Carols? to delighted thousands ; and there it was that, in 1856, the great novelist and humourist, Thackeray, was publicly hissed down (to the marked discredit of his audience, be it said) in one of his readings, for making disparaging remarks on Mary Queen of Scots. The new Union Bank of Scotland is on the south side of tbe street, Commenced in 1874, it was finished in 1878, from designs by David Bryce, R.S.A. It is in the Tuscan style, with a frontage of more than IOO feet, and extends southwards to Rose Street Lane. It exhibits three storeys rising from a sunk basement, with their entrances, each furnished with a portico of Ionic columns. The first floor windows are flanked by pilasters, and furnished with entablatures and pediments ; the second floors have architraves, and moulded sills, while the wall-head is terminated by a bold cornice, supporting a balustrade. The telling-room is magnificent-fully eighty feet long by fifty feet broad, and arranged in a manner alike commodious and elegant. In the sunk basement is a library, with due provision of safes for various bank purposes, and thither removed, in 1879, the famous old banking house to which we have more than once had occasion to fefer, from its old quarters in the Parliament Square, which were then announced as for sale, with its fireproof interior ?of polished stone, with groined arches on the various floors ; its record rooms, book and bullion jafes of dressed stone, alike thief and fire proof.? Here we may briefly note that the Union Bank was incorporated in 1862, and its paid-up capital is .&I,OOO,OOO; but this bank is in reality of a much older date, and was originally known as the
Volume 3 Page 150
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