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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Rcstalrig.] THE NISBETS OF CRAIGANTINNIE. ?37 receiving and returning their visits as such. After a four-days? debate, the Lords of Session pronounced for the defender, with expenses. The son John, as sixth baronet; but not without a contest, as fourteen years afterwards a Mr. John Edgar raised in the Court of Session an action of reduction of his service, as nearest lawful heir of the late baronet, on the plea that the latter had never been legally married to his wife. It was alleged that he had gone to France, and there had formed a connection with a lady whose social position was inferior to his own, but who accompanied him to Britain, where she bore him The question was, whether from the whole circumstances, Sir John and this lady were to be considered as married persons? In evidence it appeared that they had never doubted that they were so, though Sir John, in dread of his proud relations, had sedulously kept the fact a secret while in Scotland, where, it was alleged for the pursuer, Sir John had ventured to pay his addresses to a lady of rank. On the other side there was the evidence of an Locn END. two sons. After selling out of the army, in 1775, Sir John went to Carolina, to settle upon an estate he possessed there, taking with him this lady and his two sons, and the process stated that after their arrival in America, in 1775, or the beginning of 1776, Sir John and his lady were shipwrecked and drowned. From this awful catastrophe their two sons were preserved, having been left at school in the Jerseys. Some time afterwards the boys were sent over to this country, and the eldest of them-the defender in this action-on the 15th August, 1781, was served heir to his father. From the time of his father and mother?s death, till 1790, when this action was raised, he had been in the uninterrupted possession of his fatheis estates.? 114
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138 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Restalrig. latter married a lady whom Burke calls ?Miss Alston, of America,? and died without any family, and now the line of the Nisbets of Dean and Craigantinnie has passed completely away ; but long prior to the action recorded the branch at Restalrig had lost the lands there and the old house we have described. In the beginning of the last century the proprietor of Craigantinnie was Nisbet of Dirleton, of the male line of that Sir John Nisbet of Dirleton who was King?s Advocate after the Restoration. It was subsequently the property of the Scott- Nisbets, and on the death of John Scott-Nisbet, Esq., in 1765, an action was raised against his heirs and trustees, by Young of Newhall, regarding the sale of the estate, which was ultimately carried to the House of Peers. Craigantinnie was next acquired by purchase by William Miller, a wealthy seedsman, whose house and garden, at the foot of the south back of the Canongate, were removed only in 1859, when the site was added to the Royal Park. When Prince Charles?s army came to Edinburgh in 1745, he obtained 500 shovels from William Miller for trenching purposes. His father, also Wdliam Miller, who died in 1757, in his eightieth year, had previously acquired a considerable portion of what is now called the Craigantinnie estate, or the lands of Philliside, and others near the sea. He left .&20,000 in cash, by which Craigantinnie proper was acquired by his son M7illiam. He was well known as a citizen of Edinburgh by the name of ?? the auld Quaker,? as he belonged to the Society of Friends, and was ever foremost in all works of chanty and benevolence. About 1780, when in his ninetieth year, he married an Englishwoman who was then in her fiftieth year, with whom he went to London and Pans, where she was delivered of a child, the late William Miller, M.P. for Newcastle-under-Lyne ; and thereby hangs a story, which made some stir at the time of his death, as he was currently averred to be a changeling-even to be a woman, a suggestion which his thin figure, weak voice, absence of all beard, aad some peculiarity of habit, seemed to corroborate. Be that as it may, none were permitted- save those interested in him-to touch his body, which, by his will, lies now buried in a grave, dug to the great depth of foity feet, on the north side of the Portobello Road, and on the lands of Craigantinnie, with a classic tomb of considerable height and beauty erected over it. At his death, without heirs, the estate passed into the hands of strangers. His gigantic tomb, however, with its beautiful sculptures, forms one of the most remarkable features in this locality. Regarding it, a writer in, Tem~jZe Bar for 1881, says :-?? Not one traveller in a thousand has ever seen certain sculptures known as the ? Craigantinnie Marbles.? They arel out of town, on the road to Portobello, beyond the Piershill cavalry barracks, and decorate a mausoleum which is to be found by turning off the high road, and so past a cottage into a field, green and? moist with its tall neglected grass. There is something piquant in coming upon Art among humble? natural things in the country or a thinly peopled suburb.? After referring to Giotto?s work outside Padua, he continues : ? It is obvious there is no comparison intended between that early work of Italy, so rich in sincere thought and beautiful expression, and the agreeable, gracious and even manly hbour, of the artist who wrought for modern Scotland, the ?Song of Miriam? in this Craigantinnie field. Still there is a certain freshness of pleasure in the situation of the work, nor does examination of the art displayed lead to prompt disappointment.? Standing solitary and alone, westward of Restalrig Church, towers the tall villa of Marionville, which, though now rather gloomy in aspect, was prior to 1790 the scene often of the gayest private theatricals perhaps in Britain, and before its then possessor won himself the unenviable name of ?? the Fortunate Duellist,? and became an outcast and one of the most miserable of men, The house is enclosed by shrubbery of no great extent, and by high walls. ?Whether it be,? says Chambers, ? that the place has become dismal in consequence of the rise of a noxious fen in its neighbourhood, or that the tale connected with it acts upon the imagination, I cannot decide ; but unquestionably there is about the house an air of depession and melancholy such as could scarcely fail to strike the most unobservant passenger.? Elsewhere he mentions that this villa was built, by the Misses Ramsay, whose shop was on the east side of the old Lj-on Close, on the north side of the High Street, opposite the upper end of the City Guardhouse. There they made a fortune, spent on building Marionville, which was locally named hjpeet Ha? in derision of their profession. Here, for some time before 1790, lived Captain James Macrae, formerly of the 3rd Regiment of Horse (when commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Ralph Abercrombie), and now known as the 6th Dragoon Guards, or Carabineers ; and his story is a very remarkable one, from the well-known names that must be introduced in it. He was Macrae of Holemains, whom Fowler, in his Ren-,
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