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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


West PGrt.1 THE LAWSONS. 22; of Cromwell, expelled the General Assembly from Edinburgh, literally drumming the members out at that gate, under a guard of soldiers, after a severe reprimand, and ordering that never more than three of them should meet together. Marion Purdy, a miserable old creature, ? once a milkwife and now a beggar,? in the West Port, was apprehended in 1684 on a charge of witchcraft, for ?laying frenzies and diseases on her neighbours,? says Fountainhall ; but the King?s Advocate failed to bring her to the stake, and she was permitted to perish of cold and starvation in prison about the Christmas of the same year. Five years subsequently saw the right hand of Chieslie, the assassin of Lockhart, placed above the gate, probably on a spike ; and in the street close by, on the 5th September, 1695, Patrick Falconar, a soldier of Lord Lindsay?s regiment, was murdered by George Cumming, a writer in Edinburgh, who deliberately ran him through the body with his sword, for which he was sentenced to be hanged and have his estates forfeited. From the trial, it appears that Cumming was much to blame, and had previously provoked the unoffending soldier by abusive language. The tolls collected at the West Port barrier in 1690 amounted to A105 11s. Iid. sterling. (Council Register.) In the year of the Union the Quakers would seem to have had a meeting-house somewhere in the West Port, as would appear from a dispute recorded by Fountainhall-? Poor Barbara Hodge ? against Bartholoniew Gibson, the king?s farrier, and William Millar, the hereditary gardener of Holyrood. On the south side of this ancient burgh, in an opening of somewhat recent formation, leading to Lauriston, the Jesuits have now a very large church, dedicated to ?The Sacred Heart,? and Capable of holding more than 1,000 hearers. It is in the form of a great lecture hall rather than a church, and was erected in 1860, by permission of the Catholic Bishop Gillis, in such a form, that if ever the order was suppressed in Scotland the edifice might be used for educational purposes. Herein is preserved a famous image that once belonged to Holyrood, but was lately discovered by E. Waterton, F.S.A., in a shop at Peterborough. Almost opposite to it, and at the northern corner of the street, stood for ages the then mansion house of the Lawsons of the Highriggs, which was demolished in 1877, and was undoubtedly one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, houses in the city. When built in the fifteenth century it must have (Crim. Trials.) been quite isolated. It had crowstepped gables, dormers on the roofs, and remarkably small windows. . It was the residence of an old baronial family, long and intimately connected with the city. ?? Mr. Richard Lawson,? says Scott of Scotstarvet, ?Justice Clerk, conquest a good estate about Edinburgh, near the Burrow Loch, and the barony of Boighall, which his grandson, Sir William Lawson of Boighall, dilapidated, and went to Holland to the wars.? He was Justice Clerk in the time oi James IV., from 1491 to 1505. In 1482 his name first appears in the burgh records as common clerk or recorder, when Sir John Murray of Tulchad was Provost, a post which the former obtained on the 2nd May, 1492. He was a bailie of the city in the year 1501, and Provost again in 1504. Whether he was the Richard Lawson who, according to Pitscottie, heard the infernal summons of Pluto at the Market Cross before the army marched to Flodden we know not, but among those who perished on that fatal field with King James was Richard Lawson of the Highriggs ; and it was his daughter whose beauty led to the rivalry and fierce combat in Leith Loan between Squire Meldrum of the Binns and Sir Lewis Stirling, in 1516, In 1555 we find John Lawson of the Highriggs complaining to the magistrates that the water ot the burgh loch had overflowed and (? drownit ane greit pairt of his land,? and that he could get no remedy therefor. Lady Lawson?s Wynd, now almost entirely demolished, takes its name from this family. The City Improvement Trustees determined to form it into a wide thoroughfare, running into Spittal Street. In one of the last remaining houses there died, in his 95th year, in June, 1879, a naval veteran named M?Hardy, supposed to be the last survivor of the actual crew of the Victory at Trafalgar. He was on the main-deck when Nelson received his fatal wound. One of the oldest houses here was the abode of John Lowrie, a substantial citizen, above whose door was the legend-SoLr DEO. H.G. 1565, and a shield charged with a pot of lilies, the emblems of the Virgin Mary. ?John. Lowrie?s initials,? says Wilson, ? are repeated in ornamental characters on the eastern crowstep, separated by what appears to be designed for a baker?s peel, and probably indicating that its owner belonged to the ancient fraternity of Baxters.? The West Port has long been degraded by the character of its inhabitants, usually Irish of the lowest class, and by the association of its name with
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