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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


238 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Grassmarket. Watt and Downie, they were brought to trial respectively in August and September, and the facts were fully proved against them. A letter from Downie, treasurer of the Committee of Ways and Means, to Walter Millar, Perth, acknowledging the receipt of LIS, on which he gave a coloured account of the recent riots in the theatre on the performance of ?? Charles I.? was produced and identified; and Robert Orrock stated that Downie accompanied Watt to his place at the Water of Leith, where the order was given for the pikes. William Brown said that he had made fifteen of these weapons, by order of Watt, to whom he delivered them, receiving 22s. 6d. for the fifteen. Other evidence at great length was led, a verdict of guilty was returned, and sentence of death was passed upon the prisoners-to have their bowels torn out, and to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The punishment of Downie was commuted to transportation ; and on the royal clemency being announced to him he burst into tears, and kneeling on the floor of the vault above the portcullis he exclaimed, in ecstasy, ?Oh, glory be to God, and thanks to the king! Thanks to him for his goodness ! I will pray for him as long as I live ! He had a wife and children,. and for years had enjoyed the reputation of being a sober and respectable mechanic. Previous to his execution Watt made a full confession of the aims and objects contemplated by the committees and their ramifications throughout Britain. He was in his thirty-sixth year, and was the natural son of a gentleman of fortune in Angus. He was executed on the 15th October, 1794 The magistrates, Principal Baird, the. city guard,. and town officers, with their halberds, conducted him from the Castle to the place of death at the end of the Tolbooth about two o?clock, The sheriff and his substitute were there, in black, with white gloves and rods. The hurdle was painted black, but drawn by a snow-white horse. It was surrounded by constables and zoo of the Argyle Fencible Highlanders, stepping to the ?? Dead March.? Watt was a picture of the most abject dejection. He was wrapped up in an old greatcoat, and wore a red night-cap, which, on the platform, he exchanged for a white one and a round hat ; but his whole appearance was wretched and pitiful in the extreme, and all unlike that of a man willing to die for conscience, or for country?s sake. After his body had hung for thirty minutes, it was cut down lifeless and placed on a table ; the executioner then Came forward with a large axe, and with two strokes severed from the body the head, which fell into a basket, and was then held up by the hair, in the ancient form, by the executioner, who exclaimed, ?? This is the head of a traitor ! The crowd on this occasion was slow in collecting, but became numerous at last, and showed little agitation when the drop fell; ?but the appearance of the axe,? says the Annual Regzkter, ?a sight for which they were totally unprepared, produced a shock instantaneous as electricity; and when it was uplifted such a general shriek or shout of horror burst forth as made the executioner delay his blow, while numbers .rushed off in all directions to avoid the sight.? The remains were next put into a coffin and conveyed away. The handcuffs used to secure Watt while a prisoner in the Castle were, in 1841, presented by Miss Walker of Drumsheugh to the Antiquarian Museum, where they are still preserved. C H A P T E R XXXI. THE COWGATE. ?The Cuwgate-Origin and Gend History of the Thoroughfare-First Houses built the-TheVernour?s Tenement-Alexander Ale-Division of the City in ~gx-?Dichting the Calsayy in qrS-The Cowgate Port-Beggars in 1616Gilbert B1akha.I-Names ofthe most Ancient Closes-The North Side of the Street-MacLcllan?s Land-Mrs Syme-John Nimmo-Dr. Qraham-The How of Si Thomas Hope and Lady Mar-The Old Back Stairs-Tragic Story of Captain Caylq-Old Meal Market-Riots in 1763-The Episcopal Chapel, now St. Pauick?s Roman Catholic Church-Trial of the Rev. Mr. Fitzsimmons THE Cowgate is, and has always been, one of the most remarkable streets in the ancient city. A continuation of the south back of the Canongate it runs along the deepest part of a very deep gorge, into which Blair, Niddry, and St. Mary?s Streets, with many other alleys, descend rapidly from the north and others from the south, and though high in its lines of antique houses, it passes underneath the overspanning central arch of the South Bridge and the more spacious one of George IV. Bridge, and, though very narrow, is not quite straight. For generations it has been the most densely peopled and poorest district in the metropolis, the most picturesque and squalid, and, when viewed
Volume 4 Page 238
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