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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Portobello.] ?THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL? I45 afterwards an earthenware manufactory. These public works, as well as others which followed them, necessarily made the place a seat of population. Portobello began to grow a thriving village, from which it rapidly expanded to the dignity of a town, but was still so small that, in 1798, we find advertised to sell ?the old Thatch House of Portobello? on the great road leading to Musselburgh. In 1801 it was advertised that the Marquis of Abercom was prepared to feu in lots the whole of of drilling, Scott used to delight in walking his powerful black horse up and down by himself on Portobello sands, within the beating of the surge; and now and then you would see him plunge in his spurs and go off as if at the charge, with the spray dashing about him. As we rode back to Musselburgh he often came and placed himself beside me to repeat the verses he had been composing during those pauses in our exercise.? These verses were probably portions of the ? Lay MARIONVILLG the land lying on the north side of that road, from Mr, Rae?s property westward to the Magdalene Bridge; for about that time the beauty of the beach, the firmness of its sand, and its general eligibility as a bathing place, drew the attention of the citizens towards it, and speedily won for the rising town a fame that prompted the erection of many villas and streets, and a growing local prosperity. With other corps of cavalry, here the Edinburgh Light Horse in those days were wont to ?drill on . the noble extent of sandy beach, which has an average breadth of half a mile, with a slow and almost insensible gradient. When Scott was in the corps mentioned, Skene of Rubislaw tells us that, in 1802, ?? in the intervals 115 of the Last Minstrel,? for we are told that when the corps was on permanent duty at Musselburgh, Scott, the quartermaster, during a charge on Portobello sands, received a kick from a horse, which confined him for three days to his lodgings, where Skene always found him busy with his pen ; and before three days were passed he produced the first canto of ?The Lay,? very nearly in the state in which it was ultimately published j and that the whole poem was sketched and filled in with extraordinary rapidity there can be no difficulty in believing, for Scott?s really warlike spirit was warmed up by the daily blare of the trumpet, the flashing of steel, and the tramp of hoofs, From Mr. Jarnieson, to whom a great portion of
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146 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Portoklla Portobello once belonged, Mr. James Cunningham, W.S., one of the earliest feuars there, procured the piece of ground to the westward, whereon he erected, in the first years of the present century, the eccentric and incongruous edifice named the Tower, the window-lintels and cornices of which were formed of carved stones found in the houses that were pulled down to make way for the South Bridge, from the cross of the city, and even from the cathedral of St. Andrews. For many years it remained an unfinished and open ruin. The editor of Kay tells us that Mr.Jamieson, to whom this locality owes so much, was also contractor for making the city drains, at an estimate of LIO,OOO. The rubbish from the excavations was to be carted to Portobello free of toll at Jock?s Lodge, as the bar belonged to the Towh Council. The tollman, insisting on his regular dues, closed the gate, on which Mr. Jamieson said to the carters, ?? Weel, weel, just coup the carts against the tollbar,? which was done more than once, to the inconceivable annoyance of the keeper, who never after refused the carters the right of free passage. Portobello, in spite of its name, is no seaport, and neither has, nor probably ever will have, any seaward trade. At the mouth of the Figgate Bum a small harbour was constructed by the enterprising Mr. Jamieson after his discovery of the clay bed ; but it was never of any use except for boats. It became completely ruinous, together with a little battery that formed a portion of it ; and now their vestiges can scarcely be traced. The manufactures, which? consist of brick, lead, glass, and soap works, and a mustard manufactory, are of some importance, and employ many hauds, whose numbers are always varying. Communication with Princes Street is maintained incessantly by trains and tramway cars. On the sands here, in 1822, George IV. reviewed a great body of Scottish yeomanry cavalry, and a picturesque force of Highland clans that had come to Edinburgh in honour of his visit. On the mole of the little harbour-now vanished-the royal standard was hoisted, and a battery of guns posted to fire a royal salute. On that day, the 23rd of August, the cavalry were the 3rd Dragoon Guards, the Glasgow Volunteer Horse, the Peebles, Selkirkshire, Fifeshire, Berwickshire, East and West Eothian, Midlothian, and Roxburgh Regiments of Yeomanry, with the Scots Greys, under the veteran Sir James Stewart Denholm of Coltness, latterly known as ? the father of the British army.? The whole, under Sir Thomas Bradford, formed a long and magnificent line upon the vast expanse ofyeliow sands, with the broad blue Firth, Prestos Bay, and Berwick Law as a background to the scene, and all under a glorious sunshine. The King more than once exclaimed, ? This is a fine sight, Dorset ! ? to the duke of that name, as his open carriage traversed it, surrounded by a glittering staff, and amid the acclamations of a mighty throng. .After the march past and salute, His Majesty expressed a desire to see the Highlanders ; and the Duke of Argyle, who commanded them, formed them in open column, Sir Walter Scott acting as adjutant-general of the ?Tartan Con- ? fderacy,? as it was named. The variety of the tartans, arms, and badges on this occasion is described as making the display ?? superb, yet half barbaric,? especially as regarded the Celtic Society, no two of whom were alike, though their weapons and ornaments were all magnificent, being all gentlemen of good position. The clans, of course, were uniform in their own various tartans. The Earl of Breadalbane led the Campbells of his sept, each man having a great badge on his right arm. Stewart of Ardvoirlich and Graham of Airth marched next with the Strathfillan Highlanders. After them came the Macgregors, all in red tartans, with tufts of pine in their bonnets, led by Sir Evan Macgregor of that ilk ; then followed Glengany, with his men, among whom was his tall and stately brother, Colonel Macdonnel, whose powerful hand had closed the gate of Hougomont, all carrying, in addition to targets, claymores, dirks, and pistols, like the rest, antique muskets of extraordinary length. The Sutherland Highlanders wore trews and shoulder plaids. The Drumrnonds, sent by Lady Gwydir, marched with sprigs of holly in their bonnets. ?TO these were to have marched the clans under the Dukes of Athole and Gordon, Macleod of Macleod, the Earl of Fife, Farquharson of Invercauld, Clanranald, and other high chiefs; but it was thought that their numbers would occasion inconvenience.? The King surveyed this unusual exhibition with surprise and pleasure, and drove off to Dalkeith House under an escort of the Greys, while the Highlanders returned to Edinburgh, Argyle marching on foot at the head of the column with his claymore on his shoulder. In 1834 Portobello, which quoad CiZliZia belongs to the parish of Duddingston, was separated from it by order of the General Assembly. ceding year, by an Act of William IV., it had been created a Parliamentary burgh, and is governed Ly a Provost, two bailies, seven councillors, and other officials In conjunction with Leith and Musselg In the pre- ,
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