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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


34 OJ,D AND NEW EDINBURGH. -. - by a clause in one of the Acts of the North British Railway; and since 1847 it has fortunately become the property of the Free Church of Scotland, by whom it is now used as a training college or nor. mal school, managed by a rector and very efficient staff, On the Same side, but to the eastward, is Milton House, a large and handsome mansion, though heavy and sombre in style, built in what had been originally the garden of Lord Roxburghe?s house, or a portion thereof, during the eighteenth century, by Andrew Fletcher of Milton, raised to the bench in 1724 in succession to the famous Lord Fountainhall, and who remained a senator of the Court of Session till his death. He was the nephew of the noble and patriotic Fletcher of Salton, and was an able coadjutor with his friend Archibald the great Duke of Argyle, during whose administration he exercised a wise control over the usually-abused Government patronage in Scotland. He sternly discouraged all informers, and was greatly esteemed for the mild and gentle manner in which he used his authority when Lord Justice Clerk after the battle of Culloden. From the drawing-room windows on the south a spacious garden extended to the back of the Canongate, and beyond could be seen the hill of St. Leonard and the stupendous craigs. Its walls are still decorated with designs and landscapes, having rich floral borders painted in distemper, and rich stucco ceilings are among the decorations, and ? interspersed amid the ornamental borders there are various grotesque figures, which have the appearance,? says Wilson, ? of being copies, from an illuminated missal of the fourteenth century. They represent a cardinal, a monk, a priest, and other churchmen, painted with great humour and drollery of attitude and expression. They so entirely differ from the general character of the composition, that their insertion may be conjectured to have originated in a whim of Lord Milton?s, which the artist has contrived to execute without sacrificing the harmony of his .design.? Lord Milton was the guardian of the family of Susannah Countess of Eglinton for many years, and took a warm and fatherly interest in her beautiful girls after the death of the earl in 1729 ; and the terms of affectionate intimacy in which he stood with them are amusingly shown in ? The petition of the six vestal virgins of Eglinton,? signed by them all, and addressed ? To the Honourable Lord Milton, at his lodgings, Edinburgh,? in I 735-a curious and witty production, .printed in the ?Eglinton Memorials.? Lord Milton died at his house of Brunstane, [Canangate. - near Musselburgh, on the 13th of December, 1766, aged seventy-four. Four years after that event the Scots Magazine for 1770 gives us a curious account of a remarkable mendicant that had long haunted his gates:--? Edinburgh, Sept. 29th. A gentleman, struck with the uncommon good appearance of an elderly man who generally sits bareheaded under a dead wall in the Canongate, opposite to Lord Milton?s house, requesting alms of those who pass, had the curiosity to inquire into his history, and learned the following melancholy account of him. He is an attainted baronet, named Sif John Mitchell of Pitreavie, and had formerly a very affluent estate, . In the early part of his life he was a captain in the Scots Greys, but was broke for sending a challenge to the Duke of Marlborough, in consequence of some illiberal reflections thrown out by his Grace against the Scottish nation. Queen Anne took so personal a part in his prosecution that he was condemned to transportation for the offence ; and this part of his sentence was, with difficulty, remitted at the particular instance of John Duke of Argyle. Exposed, in the hundredth year of his age, to the inclemencies of the weather, it is hoped the humane and charitable of this city will attend to his distresses, and relieve him from a situation which appears too severe a punishment for what, at worst, can be termed his spirited imprudence. A subscription for his annual support is opened at Balfoufs coffee-house, where those who are disposed to contribute towards it will receive every satisfaction concerning the disposal of their charity and the truth of the foregoing relation.? The aged mendicant referred to may have been a knight, but the name of Mitchell is not to be found in the old list of Scottish baronets, and Pitreavie, belonged to the Wadlaws. In later years Milton House was occupied as a Catholic school, under the care of the Sisters of Charity, who, with their pupils, attracted considerable attention in 1842, on the occasion of the first visit of Queen Victoria to Holyrood, from whence they strewed flowers before her up the ancient street. It was next a school for deaf and dumb, anon 5 temporary maternity hospital, and then the property of an engineering firm. Where Whiteford House stands now, in Edgar?s map ?or 1765 there are shown two blocks of buildings (with a narrow passage between, and a Zarden 150 feet long) marked, ?Ruins of the Earl Df Winton?s house,? a stately edifice, which, no loubt, had fallen into a state of dilapidation from its extreme antiquity and abandonment after the attainder of George, fourth Earl of Winton, who was taken prisoner in the fight at Preston in 1715, ?
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