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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


182 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Bmughton. superiority of Broughton was yielded by the Crown, partly in payment of debts due by Charles I. to the hospital. Thenceforward the barony* was governed by a bailie, named by the Governors of the Hospital, who possessed to the full the baronial powers of pit and gallows over theiI tenants therein. Prior to this, in 1629, Kincaid of Warriston was pursued before the Baron-bailie, but the case was remitted to the Lord Justice General and the Judgp, who remitted the affair to the Council. In 1650, during some portions of the campaign that preceded the battle of Dunbar, General Leslie made Broughton his head-quarters, when he threw up those lines of defence from the base of the Calton Hill-to Leith, and so completely baffled Cromwell?s advance upon the city. After the barony came into the possession ol Heriot?s Hospital, the Common Council of the city, on the 17th of July, 1661, gave a grant to William Johnstone, then Baron-bailie, ? of the goods and chattels of women condemned for witchcraft, and which were thereby escheated to the said bailie.?? On this remarkable grant, Maitland observes in his History : ? Wherefore, it is not to be wondered at that innocent persons should be convicted of a crime they could not be guilty of, when their effects fall to the judge or judges.? In 1715, during the insurrection, a party of Highlanders marching through Broughton were cannonaded from the Castle, and a six-pound shot that went through a barn on this occasion, is preserved in the Antiquarian Museum. In 1717 Broughton was the scene of the trial and execution in a remarkable case of murder, which made famous the old pathway known as Gabriel?s Road. By some strange misconception, in ?? Peter?s Letters to his Kinsfolk,? the murderer is called ?Gabriel,? and in a work called ?Celebrated Trials? (in six volumes), he is called the Rev. Thomas Hunter, whereas in reality his name was Robert Irvine. Of this road, to which we have already referred, Chambers gives us the following description :-? Previous to 1767 the eye of a person perched in a favourable situation in the Old Town surveyed the whole ground on which the New Town was built. Inimediately beyond the North Loch was a range of grass fields called Bearford?s Parks, from the name of the proprietor, Hepbum? of Bearford, in East Lothian. Bounding these on the north, in the line of the subsequent Princes Street, was a road enclosed by two dry stone walls, called the Lang Dykes. . . , . The main mass of ground, originally rough with whins and broom, but latterly forming what was called Wood?s Farm, was crossed obliquely by a road extending between Silver Mills, a rural hamlet on the mill course of the Leith, and the passage into the Old Town at the bottom of Halkerston?s Wynd. There are still some tracesof this road. You will see it leave Silver Mills behind West Cumberland Street. Behind Duke Street, on the west side, the boundary wall of the Queen Street garden is oblique, in consequence of its having passed that way. Finally, it terminates in a short oblique passage behind the Register House, wherein stood till lately ? Ambrose?s Tavern. This short passage bore the name of Gabriel?s Road, and was supposed to do so in connection with a remarkable murder of which it was the scene.? Mr. James Gordon, of Ellon, in Aberdeenshire, a rich merchant of Edinburgh, and once a bailie there, in the early part of the eighteenth century had a villa on the north side of the city, somewhere between this road and the village of Broughton. His family consisted of his wife, two sons, and a daughter, these being all of tender age. He had a tutor for his two boys-John and Alexander-a licentiate of the Church, named Robert Irvine, who was of respectable attainments, but had a somewhat gloomy disposition. Views of predestination, drawn from some work of Flavel?s, belonging to the college library, had taken possession of his mind, which had, perhaps, some infirmity ready to be acted upon by external circumstances and dismal impulses. Having cast eyes of admiration on a pretty servant-maid in Mr. Gordon?s house, he was tempted to take some liberties with her, which were observed, and mentioned incidentally by his pupils. For this he was reprimanded by Mr. Gordon, but on apologising, was forgiven. Into Irvine?s morbid and sensitive nature the affront, or rebuke, sank deeply, and a thirst for revenge possessed him. For three days he revolved the insane idea of cutting off Mr. Gordon?s three children, and on the 28th of April, 1717, he found an opportunity of partially accomplishing his terrible purpose. It was Sunday, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon went to spend the afternoon with a friend in the city, taking their little daughter with them. Irvine, left with the two boys, took them out for a walk along the then broomy and grassy slope, where now York Place and St. Andrew Square are situated. While the boys ran about gathering flowers and pursuing butterflies, he sat whetting the knife with which he meant to destroy them !
Volume 3 Page 182
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