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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Merchiston.] THE NAPIERS OF MERCHISTON. 35 likeness of the founder, painted by Sir James Foulis of Woodhall, Bart. In 1870 the original use to which the foundation was put underwent a change, and the hospital became a great public school for boys and girls. At the western extremity of what was the Burghmuir, near where lately was an old village of that name (at the point where the Colinton road diverges from that which leads to Biggar), there stands, yet unchanged amid all its new surroundings, the ancient castle of Merchiston, the whilom seat of a race second to none in Scotland for rank and talent -the Napiers, now Lords Napier and Ettrick. It is a lofty square tower, surmounted by corbelled battlements, a ape-house, and tall chimneys. It was once surrounded by a moat, and had a secret avenue or means of escape into the fields to the north. As to when it was built, or by whom, no record now remains. In the missing rolls of Robert I., the lands of Merchiston and Dalry, in the county of Edinburgh, belonged in his reign to William Bisset, and under David II., the former belonged to William de Sancto Claro, on the resignation of Williani Bisset, according to Robertson?s ?Index,? in which we find a royal charter, ?datum est apud Dundee,? 14th August, 1367, to John of Cragyof the lands of Merchiston, which John of Creigchton had resigned. So the estate would seem to have had several proprietors before it came into the hands of Alexander Napier, who was Provost of Edinburgh in 1438, and by this acquisition Merchiston became the chief title of his family. His son, Sir Alexander, who was Comptroller of Scotland under James 11. in 1450, and went on a pilgrimage to St. Thomas of Canterbury in the following year-for which he had safe-conduct from the King of England-was Provost of Edinburgh between 1469 and 1471- He was ambassador to the Court of the Golden Fleece in 1473, and was no stranger to Charles the Bold ; the tenor of his instructions to whom from James II., shows that he visited Bruges a d the court of Burgundy before that year, in 1468, when he was present at the Tournament of the Golden Fleece, and selected a suit of brilliant armour for his sovereign. Sir Alexander, fifth of Merchiston, fell at Flodden with James IV. John Napier of Merchiston was Provost 17th of May, 1484, and his son and successor, Sir Archibald, founded a chaplaincy and altar in honour of St. Salvator in St. Giles?s Church in November, 1493. His grandson, Sir Archibald Napier, who married a daughter of Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, was slain at the battle of Pinkie, in 1547. Sir Alexander Napier of Merchiston and Edinbellie, who was latterly Master of the Mint to James VI., was father of John Napier the celebrated inventor of the Logarithms, who was born in Merchiston Castle in 1550, fgur years after the birth of Tycho Brahe, and fourteen before that of Galileo, at a time when the Reformation in Scotland was just commencing, as in the preceding? year John Knox had been released from the French galleys, and was then enjoying royal patronage in England. His mother was Janet, only daughter of Sir Francis Bothwell, and sister of Adam, Bishop of Orkney. At the time of his birth his father was only sixteen years of age. He was educated at St. Salvator?s College, St. Andrews, where he matriculated 1562-3, and afterwards spent several years in France, the Low Countries, and Italy; he applied himself closely to the study of mathematics, and it is conjectured that he gained a taste for that branch of learning during his residence abroad, especially in Itily, where at that time were many mathematicians of high repute. While abroad young Napier escaped some perils that existed at home. In 150s a dreadful pest broke out in Edinburgh, and his father and family were exposed to the contagion, ? by the vicinity,? says Mark Napier, ?? of his mansion to the Burghmuir, upon which waste the infected were driven out to grovel and die, under the very walls of Merchiston.? In his earlier years his studies took a deep theological turn, the fruits of which appeared in his ? Plain Discovery of the Revelation of St John,? which he published at Edinburgh in 1593, and dedicated to James VI. But some twenty years before that time his studies must have been sorely interrupted, as his old ancestral fortalice lay in the very centre of the field of strife, when Kirkaldy held out the castle for Queen Mary, and the savage Douglas wars surged wildly round its walls. On the 2nd April, 1572, John Napier, then in his twenty-second year, was betrothed to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Stirling of Keir ; but as he had incurred the displeasure of the queen?s party by taking no active share in her interests, on the 18th of July he was arrested by the Laid of Minto, and sent a prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh, then governed by Sir TVilliam Kirkaldy, who in the preceding year had bombarded Merchiston with his iron guns because certain soldiers of the king?s party occupied it, and cut off provisions coming north for the use of his garrison. The solitary tower formed the key of the southern approach to the city ; thus, whoever triumphed, it became the object of the opponent?s enmity.
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36 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Merchistom captain named ScougaL After a hard struggle, during which several were killed and wounded, they stormed the outworks, and set them on fire to smoke the defenders out of the donjon keep ; but a body of the king's men veyed to Leith, and hanged, while he had a narrow escape, his horse being killed under him by a shot from Holyrood Palace, Another conflict of a more serious nature occurred before Merchiston on the last day of the same month. attack by firing forty guns from the Castle of Edinburgh. The men of Scougal (who were mortally wounded) fled over the Links and adjacent fields in all directions, hotly pursued by the Laird of Blairquhan. On the 10th of the subsequent June the queen's troops, under George, Earl of Huntly, with a small train of artillery, made another attack upon Merchiston, while their cavalry scoured all the fields between it and Blackford-fields now covered with long lines of stately and beautiful villas-bringing in forty head of cattle and sheep. By the time the guns had played on Merchiston from two till four o'clock p.m., two decided breaches were made in the walls. The garrison was about to capitulate, when the assemblage of a number of people, whom the noise of the cannonade had attracted, was mistaken for king's troops ; those of Huntly be,came party of twenty-four men-at-arms rode forth to forage. The well-stocked fields in the neighbourhood of the fortalice were the constant scene of enterprise, and on this occasion the foragers collected many oxen, besides other spoil, which they were driving triumphantly into town. They were pursued, however, by Patrick Home of the Heugh, who commanded the Regent's Light Horsemen. The foraging party, whom hunger had rendered desperate, contrived to keep their pursuers, amounting to eighty spears, at bay till they neared Merchiston, when the king's garrison issued forth, and re-captured the cattle, the collectors of which '' alighted from their horses, which they suffered to go loose, and faught CreauZZ'iee," till succoured from the town, when the fight turned in their favour. In this conflict, Home of the Heugh, Sir Patrick Home of Polwarth, four more gentle
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