Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


Arthur?s Seat.1 ST. ANTHONY?S CHAPEL. 319 farmers, who are maintained in it for six years; ?whom failing, the sons of respectable master pnnters or booksellers, and the sons of respectable servants in the agricultural line,? and who, when admitted, must be of the age of six, and not more than eight, years. They are taught the ordinary branches of education, and Latin, Greek, French, German, and mathematics. The management of this institution is in the survivor of certain individuals nominated by the founder, and in certain [email protected] trustees, viz., the Lord Provost, the Principal of the University, the Rector of the High School, the Ministers of Duddingston, Liberton, Newton, the Laird of Niddrie, and the factor of the Duke of Abercorn. On the north-east side of Arthur?s Seat, overhoked by those portions of it known as the Whinny Hill and Sampson?s Grave, is the Mansion House of Parson?s Green, which was terribly shaken by three distinct shocks of an earthquake on the 30th September, 1789, that caused a dinner party there to fly from the table, while the servants also fled frm the kitchen. Here the hand of change has been at work, and though the mansion house and much of its surrounding timber have been retained, streets have been run along the slope and close to Piershill Tollbar, and westward of these was the great dairy, long known as the Cow palace, and the temporary railway station for the use of the royal family. Above the curious little knoll, named the Fairies? or Haggis Knowe, on a plateau of rock overlooking St. Margaret?s artificial loch, on the northern slope of Arthur?s Seat, we find the ruined chapel and hermitage of St. Anthony-a familiar feature in the landscape. The former, which terminated in a square tower, with two gables at its summit-as shown in the view of the city in 15444s 36 feet long by 12 inside the walls, and was roofed by three sets of groined arches that sprang from corbels. It had two entrance doors, one on the south and one on the north, where the hole yet remains for the bar that secured it. Near it was the elegantly-sculptured font A press, grooved for shelves, yet remains in the north-east corner; and a stair ascended to the tower, which rose on groins about forty feet high. Nine yards south-east is the ruin of the hermitage, partly formed of the rock, irregular in shape, but about I 7 feet by I z in measurement. The hermit who abode here must, in the days when it was built, have ied a lonely life indeed, though beneath him lay a wealthy abbey and a royal palace, from whence a busy city,gkt by embattled walls, coveredall theslope to the castled rock. More distant, he could see on one side the cheerful fields and woods that spread away towards the Firth of Forth, but elsewhere only the black basaltic rocks ; and, as a writer has excellentlyexpressedit, he had butto step a few pacesfrom the brow of the rock on which his cell and chapel stood to immure himself in such a grim mountain solitude as Salvator Rosa might have thought an appropriate scene forthe temptationsof that saint of the desert to whom the chapel was dedicated. Kincaid says that a handsome stone seat projected from the outside of the wall at the east end, and the whole appeared to have been enclosed by a stone wall. So simple is the architecture of the edifice that it is difficult to assign any precise date for it. There remains not a single vestige of record to say when, or by whom, it was erected or endowed, though it stands in the centre of a tract that for ages has been a royai park. No reference to it occurs in the muniments of the Abbey of Holyrood, nor is there any evidence-though it has often been asserted-that it was a chaplaincy or pendicle of the Knights Hospitallers of St. Anthony in Leith. Yet it is extremely probable that it was in some wzy connected with them. Tradition says it was merely founded for the guardianship of the holy well in its vicinity, and that it was a spot for watching vessels, the impost on which formed part of the revenues of the adjacent abbey, and also that a light was hung in the tower to guide mariners in the Birth at night, that, as Grose says in his ?Antiquities,? they might be induced to make vows to its titular saint. At the foot of the rock there still bubbles up the little spring named St. Anthony?s Well, which flows pleasantly down through the rich grass of the valley. Originally the spring flowed from under the little stone arch, but about the year 1674 it dried up, and after a time broke out lower down, where we now find it. The well is referred to in the old song which begins ? 0 waly, waly !? the Scottish exclamatior, for ? Alas ! ? In Robert Chambers?s ?Scottish Songs? there is anote upon it, from which we may give the following passage :- ?This beautiful old song has hitherto been sup posed to refer to some circumstance in the life of Queen Mary, or at least to some unfortuna:e love affair which happened at her Court. It is now discovered, from a copy which has been found as forming part of a ballad in the Pepysian Library at Cambridge (published in Motherwell?s ? Minstrelsy,? 1827, under the title of ?Lord Jamie Douglas?), to have been occasioned by the affecting tale of Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of John (sixteenth Lord Erskine), ninth Earl of Mar, and wife of James II.,
Volume 4 Page 319
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print