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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


Lord Provost?.] THE DUNDAS RIOTS. 281 daughter of the head of the firm. When he took ofice politics ran high, The much-needed reform of the royal burghs had been keenly agitated for some time previous, and a motion on the subject, negatived in the House of Commons by a majority of 26, incensed the Scottish public to a great degree, while Lord Melville, Secretary of State, by his opposition to the question, rendered himself so obnoxious, that in many parts of Scotland he was burned in effigy. In this state of excitement Provost Stirling and others in authority at Edinburgh looked forward to the King?s birthdaythe 4th of June, 1792-with considerable uneasiness, and provoked mischief by inaugurating the festival by sending strong patrols of cavalry through the streets at a quick pace with swords drawn. Instead of having the desired effect, the people became furious at this display, and hissed and hooted the cavalry with mocking cries of ?Johnnie Cope.? In the afternoon, when the provost and magistrates were assembled in the Parliament House to drink the usual loyal toasts, a mob mustered in the square, and amused themselves after a custom long peculiar to Edinburgh on this day, of throwing dead cats at each other, and at the City Guard who were under arms to fire volleys after every toast. Some cavalry officers incautiously appeared at this time, and, on being insulted, brought up their men to clear the streets, and, after considerable stonethrowing, the mob dispersed. Next evening it re-assembled before the house of Mr. Dundas in George Square, with a figure of straw hung from a pole. When about to burn the effigy they were attacked by some of Mr. Dundas?s friends-among others, it is said, by his neighbours, the naval hero of Camperdown, and Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre. These gentlemen retired to Dundas?s house, the windows of which were smashed by the mob, which next attacked the residence of the Lord Advocate, Dundas of Amiston. On this it became necessary to bring down the 53rd Re$- ment from the Castle ; the Riot Act was read, the people were fired on, and many fell wounded, some mortally, who were found dead next day in the Meadows and elsewhere. This put an end to the disturbances for that night ; but on Wednesday evening the mob assembled in the New Town with the intention of destroying the house of Provost Stirling at the south-east corner of St. Andrew Square, where they broke the City Guards? sentry boxes to pieces. But, as an appointed signal, the ancient beacon-fire, was set aflame in the Castle, the Bind frigate sent ashore her marines at Leith, and the cavalry came galloping ih from the eastward, an which the mob separated finally. By this time Provost Stirling had sought shelter In the Castle from the mob, who were on the point Jf throwing Dr. Alexander Wood (known as Lang Sandy) over the North Bridge in mistake for him. For his zeal, however, he was made a baronet of Great Britain. The year 1795 was one of great listress in the city ; Lord Cockbum tells us that 16,000 persons (about an eighth of the population) were fed by charity, and the exact quantity of food each family should consume was specified by public proclamation. In 1793 a penny post was established in Edinburgh, extending to Leith, Musselburgh, Dalkeith, and Prestonpans. Sir James Stirling latterly resided at the west end of Queen Street, and died in February, 1805. Sir William Fettes, Lord Provost in 1800 and 1804, we have elsewhere referred to ; but William Coulter, a wealthy hosier in the High Street, who succeeded to the civic chair in 1808, was chiefly remarkable for dying in office, like Alexander Kina i d thirty years before, and for the magnificence with which his funeral obsequies were celebrated. He died at Morningside Lodge, and the cortkge was preceded by the First R E. Volunteers, and the officers of the three Regiments of Edinburgh local militia, and the body was in a canopied hearse, drawn by six horses, each led by a groom in deep mourning. On it lay the chain of office, and his sword and sash as colonel of the volunteers. A man of great stature, in a peculiar costume, bore the banner of the City. When the body was lowered into the grave, the senior herald broke and threw therein the rod of office, while the volunteers, drawn up in a line near the Greyfriars? Church, fired three funeral volleys. Sir John Marjoribanks, Bart., Lord Provost in 1813, was the son of Marjoribanks of Lees, an eminent wine merchant in Bordeaux, and his mother was the daughter of Archibald Stewart, Lord Provost of the city in the memorable ?45. Sir John was a partner in the banking-house of Mansfield, Ranisay, and Co., and while in the civic chair was the chief promoter of the Regent Bridge and Calton Gaol, though the former had been projected by Sir James Hunter Blair in 1784 When the freedom of thedty was given to Lord Lynedoch, ?the gallant Graham,? Sir John gave h k a magnificent dinner, on the 12th of August, I815-two months after Waterloo. There were present the Earl of Morton, Lord Audley, Sir David Dundas, the Lord Chief Baron, the Lord Chief Commissioner, Sir James Douglas, Sir Howard Elphinstone, and about a hundred of the most notable men in Edinburgh, the freedom of which was presented to Lord Lynedoch in a box of gold ; and at the conclusion
Volume 4 Page 283
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