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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


Canongate.] , THE MOROCCO LAND. 7 per month. A number of the ailing were hutted in the King?s Park, a few were kept at home, and aid for all was invoked from the pulpits. The Session of the Canongate ordained, on the 27th of June, that, ?to avoid contention in this fearful time,? all those who died in the park should be buried therein ; for it would seem that those who perished by the plague were buried in places apart from churchyards, lest the infection might burst forth anew if ever the graves were reopened.? Maitland records. that such was the terror prevailing at this period that the prisoners in the Tolbooth were all set at liberty, and all who were not free men were compelled, under severe penalties, to quit the city, until at length, ? by the unparalleled ravages committed by the plague, it was spoiled of its inhabitants to such a degree that there were scarcely sixty men left . capable of assisting in the defence of the town in case of an attack,? At this crisis a large armed vessel of peculiar rig and aspect entered the Firth of Forth, and came to anchor in Leith Roads. By experienced seamen she was at once pronounced to be an Algenne rover, and dismay spread over all the city. This soon reached a culminating point when a strong band landed from her, and, entering the Canongate by Moors. After some conference with his men he intimated his possession of an elixir of wondrous potency, and demanded that the Provost?s daughter should be entrusted to his skill, engaging that if he did not cure her immediately to embark with his men, and free the city without ransom. After considerable parley the Provost proposed that the leader should enter the city and take up an abode in his house.? This was rejected, together with higher offers of ransom, till Sir John Smith yielded to the exhortations of his friends, and the proposal of the Moor was accepted, and the fair sufferer was borne to a house at the head of the Canongate, wherein the corsair had taken up his residence, and from thence she went forth quickly restored and in health. The most singular part of this story is its denouement, from which it would appear that the corsair and physician proved to be no other than the condemned fugitive Andrew Gray, who had risen high in the favour and service of the Emperor of Morocco. ?He had returned to Scotland,? says Wilson, ?? bent on revenging his own early wrongs on the magis-. trates of Edinburgh, when, to his surprise, he found in the destined object of his special vengeance relation of his own. He married the Provost?s daughter, and settled EFFIGY OF THE MOOR, MOROCCO LAND. the.Water Gate, advanced to the Netherbow Port and required admittance. The magistrates parleyed with their leader, who demanded an exorbitant ransom, and scoffed at the risk to be run in a plague-stricken city. The Provost at this time was Sir John Smith, of Groat Hall, a small mansion-house near Craigleith, and he, together with his brother-in-law, Sir William Gray, Bart., of Pittendrum, a staunch Cavalier, and one of ?the wealthiest among the citizens, to whom we have referred in our account of Lady Stair?s Close, agreed to ransom the city for a large sum, while at the same time his eldest son was demanded by the pirates as a hostage. ? It seems, however,? says Wilson, ?that the Provost?s only child was a daughter, who then lay stricken of the plague, of which her cousin, Egidia Gray, had recently died. This information seemed to work an immediate change on the leader of the - ?Dom. Ann.,? Vol. 11. down a wealthy citizen in the burgh of Canongate. The house to which his fair patient. was borne, and whither he afterwards brought her as his bride, is still adorned with an effigy of his royal patron, the Emperor of Morocco, and the tenement has ever since borne the name of the Morocco Land. . . . . We have had the curiosity to obtain a sight of the title-deeds of the property, which prove to be of recent date. The earliest, a disposition of 1731, so far confirms the tale that the proprietor at that date is John Gray, merchant, a descendant, it may be, of the Algerine rover and the Provost?s daughter. The figure of the Moor has ever been a subject of pcapular admiration and wonder, and a variety of legends are told to account for its existence. Most of them, though differing in almost every other point, seem to agree in connecting it with the last visitation of the plague.?? Near this tenement, a little to the eastward, was the mansion of John Oliphant of Newland, second
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