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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


Cmongate.1 THE CANONGATE THEATRE. 23 the morning;?? and of the sanitary state of the community in those days some idea may be gathered from the fact that swine ran loose in the Canongate till 1583, when an attempt was made to put down the nuisance. In the city this was done earlier, as we find that in 1490 the magistrates ordain ?the lokman, quhairwer he fyndis ony .swyne betwk the Castell and the Netherbow upon the Gaitt,? to seize them, with a fine of fourpence .upon each sow taken. Again, in 1506, swine found in the streets or kennels are to be slaughtered by the ?lokman? and escheated ; and in 15 13 swine were again forbidden to wander, under pain of the owners being banished, and each sow to be escheat. At the same time fruit was forbidden to be sold on the streets, or in crames, ?? holden thairupon, under the pain oi escheitt ?-that is, of forfeit. In 1562 no flesh was to be eaten or even cooked on ,Friday or Saturday, under a penalty of ten pounds; and in 1563 all markets were forbidden .in the streets upon Sunday. Among the first operations of the Improvement ?Trust were the demolitions at the head of St. Mary?s Wynd, including with them the removal 01 -the Closes of Hume and Boyd, the first alleys a1 the head of the street on the south side, and the erection on their site of lofty and airy tenements in A species of Scottish style. Four,alleys to the eastward, Bell?s, Gillon?s, Gibbs? and Pine?s Closes, all narrow, dark, and filthy, have been without history or record j but Chessel?s Court, numbered as 240, exhibits a very superior style of architecture, and in 1788 was the scene 01 that daring robbery of the Excise Office which brought to the gallows the famous Deacon Brodie .and his assistant, thus closing a long career of secret villainy, his ingenuity as a mechanic giving him every facility in the pursuits to which he addicted himself. ? It was then customary for the shopkeepers of Edinburgh to hang their keys upon a nail at the back of their doors, or at least to take no pains in concealing them during the day. Brodie used to take impressions of them in putty or clay, a piece of which he used to carry in the palm of his hand. He kept a blacksmith in his pay, who forged exact copies of the keys he wanted, and with these it was his custom to open the shops of his fellow-tradesmen during the night.? In a house of Chessel?s Court there died, in I 854, an aged maiden lady of a very ancient Scottish stock-Elizabeth Wardlaw, daughter of Sir William Wardlaw, Bart., of the line of BalmuIe and Pitreavie in Fifeshire. In the Playhouse Close, a cdde-mc, and its neighbour the Old Playhouse Close, a narrow and gloomy alley, we find the cradle of the legitimate drama in Edinburgh. In the former, in 1747, a theatre was opened, on such a scale as was deemed fitting forthe Scottish capital, where the drama had skulked in holes and corners since the viceregal court had departed from Holyrood, in the days of the Duke of Albany and York. From 1727 till after 1753 itinerant companies, despite the anathemas of the clergy, used with some success the Tailors? Hall in the Cowgate, which held, in professional phraseology, from ;E40 to ;E45 nightly.? In the first-named year a Mr. Tony Alston endeavoured to start a theatre, in the same house which saw the failure of poor Allan Ramsay?s attempt, but the Society of High Constables endeavoured to suppress his ? abominable stage plays;? and when the clergy joined issue with the Court of Session against him, his performances had to cease. But, accqding to Wodrow, there had been some talk of building another theatre as early as 1728. In 1746 the foundation of the theatre within a back area (near St. John?s-Cross), now called the Playhouse Close, was laid by Mr. John Ryan, a London actor of considerable repute in his day, who had to contend with the usual opposition of the ignorant or illiberal, and that lack of prudence and thrift incidental to his profession generally. The house was capable of holding A70 ; the box seats were halfa-crown, the pit one-and-sixpence ; and for several years it was the?kcene of good acting under Lee, Digges, Mrs. Bellamy, and Mrs. Ward. After the affair of 1745 the audiences were apt to display a spirit of political dissension. On the anniversary of the battle of Culloden, in I 749, some English officers who were in the theatre commanded the orchestra, in an insolent and unruly manner, to strike up an obnoxious air known as CulZoden ; but in a spirit of opposition, and to please the people, the musicians played (? You?re welcome, Charlie S h u t ? The military at once drew their sworQs and attacked the defenceless musicians and players, but were assailed by the audience with tom-up benches and every missile that couid be procured. The officers now attempted to storm the galleries ; but the doors were secured. They were then vigorously attacked in the rear by the Highland chairmen with their poles, disarmed, and most ignominiously drubbed and expelled ; but in consequence of this and similar disturbances, bills were put up notifying that no music would be played but such as the management selected. Another disturbance ensued soon after, occasioned by the performance of Garrick?s farce, ?? High I
Volume 3 Page 23
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