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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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Canongate1 SIR JOHN WHITEFORD OF THAT ILK 35 but who, after being sentenced to death, escaped to Rome, where he died in 1749, without issue, aceording to Sir Robert Douglas ; and, of course, is :the same house that has been mentioned in history as the Lord Seton?s lodging ?? in the Cannogait,? wherein on his arrival from England, ?.? Henrie Lord Dernlie, eldest son of Matho, erle of Lennox,? re- :sided when, prior to his marriage, he came to Edinburgh on the 13th of February, 1565, as stated in the ?? Diurnal of Occurrents.? In the same house was lodged, in 1582, according to Moyse, Mons. De Menainville, who came as an extra ambassador from France, with instructions to join La Motte Fenelon. He landed at Burntisland on the 18th of January, and came to Edinburgh, where he had an audience with Janies VI. on the 23rd, to the great alarm of the clergy, who dreaded this double attempt to revive French influence in? Scottish affairs. One Mr. James Lawson ?? pointed out the French ambassaye? as the mission of the King of Babylon, and characterised Menainville as the counterpart of the blaspheming Rabshakeh. Upon the 10th February, says Moyse, ?La Motte having received a satisfying answer to his comniission, with a great banquet at Archibald Stewart?s lodgings in Edinburgh, took his journey homeward, and called at Seaton by the way. The said Monsieur Manzeville remained still here, and lodging at my Lord Seaton?s house in the Canongate, had daily access to the king?s majesty, to whom he imparted his negotiations at all times.? In this house died, of hectic fever, in December, 1638, Jane, Countess of Sutherland, grand-daughter af the first Earl of Winton. She ?was interred at the collegiat churche of Setton, without any funeral1 ceremoney, by night.? In front of this once noble mansion, in which Scott lays some of the scenes of the ?Abbot,? there sprang up a kind of humble tavern, built chiefly of lath and plaster, known as ?Jenny Ha?s,? from Mrs. Hall, its landlady, famous for her claret. Herein Gay, the poet, is said to ??have boosed during his short stay in Edinburgh ;? and to this tavern it was customary for gentlemen to adjourn after dinner parties, to indulge in claret from the butt. On the site of the Seton mansion, and surrounded by its fine old gardens, was raised the present edifice known as Whiteford House, the residence of Sir John Whiteford, Bart., of that ilk and Ballochof the early patrons of Burns, who had been htre duced to him by Dr. Mackenzie, and the grateful bard never forgot the kindness he accorded to him. The failure of Douglas, Heron, & Co., in whose bank he had a fatal interest, compelled him to dispose of beautiful Ballochmyle, after which he resided permanently in Whiteford House, where he died in 1803. To the last he retained a military bearing, having served in the army, and been a major in 1762. Latterly, and for many years, Whiteford House was best known as the residence of Sir William Macleod Bannatyne, who was raised to the bench on the death of Lord Swinton, in 1799, and was long remembered as a most pleasing example of the old gentleman of Edinburgh ?before its antique mansions and manners had fallen under the ban of modern fashion.? One of the last survivors of the Mirror Club, in private life his benevolent and amiable qualities of head and heart, with his rich stores of literary and historical anecdote, endeared him to a numerous and highly distinguished circle of friends. Robert Chambers speaks of breakfasting with him in Whiteford House so late as 1832, ?on which occasion the venerable old gentleman talked as familiarly of the levees of the sous-nziniske for Lord Bute in the old villa at the Abbey Hill as I could have talked of the Canning administration, and even recalled, 2.5 a fresh picture of his memory, his father drawing on his boots to go to make interest in London on behalf of some men in trouble for the ?45, particularly his own brother-in-law, the Clanranald of that day.? He died at Whiteford House on the 30th of November, 1833, in the ninety-first year of his age. His mansion was latterly used as a type-foundry. On the south side of the street, nearly opposite the site of the Seton lodging, the residence of the Dukes of Queensberry still towers up, a huge, dark, gloomy, and quadrangular mass, the scene of much stately life, of low corrupt intrigue, and in one instance of a horrible tragedy. It was built by Lord Halton on land belonging to the Lauderdale family; and by a passage in Lord Fountainhall?s folios would seem to have been sold bp him, in June, 1686, to William first Duke of Queensbeny and Marquis of Dumfries-shire, Lord High Treasurer and President of the Council,a noted money-lender and land-acquirer, who built the castle of Drumlanrig, and at the exact hour . niyle, a locality in Ayrshire, on which the muse of whose death, in 1695, it is said, a Scottish of Bums has conferred celebrity, and whose father skipper, being in Sicily, saw one day a coach and is said to have been the prototype of Sir Arthur ,six driving to flaming Mount Etna, while a dia- Wardour in the ?Antiquary.? Sir John was one 1 bolical voice was heard to exclaim, ?Way for the
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