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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Leith.] MONSON'S SUGGESTIONS. 185 12 0
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186 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith . choice of the inhabitants whether they will make their dwelling where they do or remove to Leith, where they shall enjoy the same liberties they did in Edinburgh. His Majesty may do it out of these respects : Leith is a maritime town, and with some great labour and charge in conveying their merchandise to Edinburgh, which no man but will find conveniency in ; Leith is a sea town, whithe1 ships resort and mariners make their dwelling, and the Trinity House being settled there lies more convenient for transportation and importation, it being the port town of Edinburgh, and in time of war may cut off all provisions betwixt the sea and Edinburgh, and bring Edinburgh to the mercy of it? Sir William took a seaman?s view in this sugges tion ; but we may imagine the dire wrath it would have occasioned in the municipality of Edinburgh. At the prospect of an invasion from England, the restoration of the fortifications of Leith went on with great spirit. ?The work was begun and carried on with infinite alacrity,? says Amot, ? not only mercenaries, but an incredible number of volunteers, gentry, nobility-nay, even ladies themselves, surmounting the delicacy of their sex and the reserve so becoming them-put their hands to the work, happy if at any expense they could promote so pious a cause.? At least a thousand men were employed on these works j the bastions, says Principal Baillie, were strong and perfect, and armed with ? double cannon.? And necessary indeed seemed their national enthusiasm, when eady in May, 1639, the servile Marquis of Hamilton arrived in Leith Roads with 5,000 troops on board a fleet of twenty sail, with orders to attack Edinburgh and its seaport, ?to infest the country by sea,? says Lediard, ?to hinder its trade, and make a descent upon the land? He threatened bombardment ; but the stout hearts of the Covenanters never failed them, and the work of fortification went on, while their noble armyfor a noble one it was then-anticipated the king by marching into England at the sword?s point, and compelling him to make a hasty treaty and hurry to Edinburgh in a conciliatory mood, where, as Guthry says, ?he resigned every branch of his prerogative, and scarcely retained more than the empty title of sovereignty.? In October, 1643, the Covenant was enthusiastically subscribed by the inhabitants of Leith, the pastor and people standing solemnly with uplifted hands. This took place at Leith, as the parish register shows, on the - 26th, and at Restalrig on Sunday the 29th. In that month, the Earl of Leven, at the head of 20,000 men, again entered England, but to form a junction with Cromwell against the king; and while the strife went on the plague broke out in Edinburgh and Leith in 1645. In the latter town about 2,320 persons, constituting perhaps one-half of the entire population, were swept away within eight months by this scourge of those ante-sanitation times. As the small churchyards were utterly deficient in accommodation for the dead, many of them were buried in the Links and on the north side of the road leading to Hermitage Hill. Till very recent times masses of halfdecayed bones, wrapped in the blankets in which the victims perished, have been dug up in the fields and gardens abolit Leith. This scourge broke out on the 19th of May in King James?s hospital in the Kirkgate. In Restalrig there died 160 ; in the Craigend, rss-the total number of victims in the whole parish was generally estimated at 2,736, but the accounts vary. In 1832 great quantities of their remains were laid bare near Wellington Place-among them a cranium which bore traces of a gunshot wound. (?Antiquities of Leith.?) So fearful were the double ravages of the plague and an accompanying famine, that Parliament, believing the number of the dead to exceed that of the living, empowered the magistrates to seize for the use of survivors all grain that could be found in warehouses or cellars, and to make payment, therefor at their convenience, and to find means of making it by appeals to the humanity of their landward countrymen. Nicoll in his Diary records, under date 25th July, 1650-the day after Cromwell was repulsed in his attack upon Leslie?s trenches-that the whole Scottish army, to the number of 40,000 men, was convenedor mustered on the Links of Leith, to undergo a process called ?purging,? Le., the dismissal from its ranks of all officers and men who were obnoxious in any way to the clergy. The result of this insane measure, when almost within range of Cromwell?s cannon, was that ?above the half of thame ? were disbanded and sent to their homes. Then after Charles 11. had been fe?ksted in the Parliament House, on the 1st of August he came to Leith, and took up his residence in Lord Balmerino?s house near the Kirkgate. Nicoll also records that a soldier of Leslie, being discovered in correspondence with the enemy, on being made prisoner strangled himself in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh; after that his body was gibbeted between the city and Leith, ?quhair h? yet hangs to the terror of otheris,?
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