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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Bell?s Mills.] LADY SINCLAIR. 63 portray. She was born Margaret Learmouth, at ~ 6 , St John Street, in the Canongate, in January) 1794, while that street and much of the neighbour. hood around it were still the centre of the literaq and fashionable society of the then secluded capital of Scotland. Thus she was old enough to have seen and known many who were ? QUt with the Prince ? b 1745, and reminiscences of these people and 01 their days were ever a favourite theme with hei when she had a sympathetic listener. ?Old maiden ladies,? she was wont to say, with a sort 01 sad pitifulness in her tone, ?were the last lea1 Jacobites in Edinburgh ; spinsterhood in its loneli. ness remained then ever true to Prince Charlit and the vanished dreams of youth.? Lady Sinclaii used to relate how in the old Episcopal Chapel in the Cowgate, now St. Patrick?s Church, the last solitary representative of these Jacobite ladies nevei failed to close her prayer-book and stand erect, in d e n t protest, when the prayer for King George 111. ?( and the reigning family ? was read in the Church Service. Early in her girlhood her family removed from St. John Street to Picardy Place, and the following adventure, which she used to relate, curiously evinces the difference between the social customs of the early years of this century and those of the present day. ? Once, when she was returning from a ball, the bearers of her sedan-chair had their bonnets carried off by the wind, while the street oil-lamps were blown out, and the ? Donalds ? departed in pursuit of their head-gear. It was customary in those times for gentlemen to escort the sedan-chairs that held their fair partners of the evening, and the two gentlemen who were with her-the Duke af Argyle and Sir John Clerk of Penicuickseized hold of the spokes and carried her home. ?Gentlemen were gentlemen in those days,? she was wont to add, ?and Edinburgh was the proper residence of the Scottish aristocracy-not an inn .or a half-way house between London and the Highland muirs.? ? In 1821 she was married to Mr. Sinclair, afterwards Sir John Sinclair, Bart., of Dunbeath, and for fifty years afterwards her home was at the House of Barock, in Caithness, where her influence among the poor was ever felt and gratefully acknowledged. She was a staunch and amusingly active Liberal, and, with faculties clear and unimpaired in the last week of her long life, noted and commented on Mr. Gladstone?s famous ? hlidlothian speeches,? and rejoiced over his success. She was always scrupulously dressed, and in the drawing-room down to the day of her death. She saw all her children die before her, in early or middle life; her eldest, Colonel Sinclair, dying in India in his forty-fifth year. After Sir John?s death she settled in Edinburgh. ?I am the last leaf on the outmost bough,? she was wont to say, ?and want to fall where I was born.? And so she passed away. When she was interred within the Chapel Royal at Holyrood, it was supposed that she would be one of the last to whom that privilege would be accorded. It was not so ; for the remains of James, Earl of Caithness, who died in America, were laid there in April, 1881. The Dean, or Den, seems to have been the old general name for the rocky hollow now spanned by the stately bridge of Telford. Bell?s Mills, a hamlet deep down in a grassy glen, with an old bridge, aver which for ages lay the only road to the Queensferry, and now overshadowed by fashionable terraces and crescents, is described by Kincaid in 1787 as a village, ?one and three-quarter niiles north-west of Edinburgh, on the north bank of the Water of Leith, and .a quarter of a mile west of West Leith village.? * It received its name from an old proprietor of the flour-mills, which are still grinding there, and have been long in existence. ?? On Thursday night last,? says the Zdinburgh Advertseer of 3rd January: 1764, ? the high wall at Bells Brae, near the Water of Leith Bridge, fell down, by which accident the footpath and part of the turnpike road are carried away, which makes it hazardous for carriages. This notice may be of use to those who have occasion to pass that road.? At the head of the road here, near the Dean Bridge, is a Free Church, built soon after the Disruption-a little edifice in the Saxon style, with a square tower ; and a quaint little ancient crowstepped building, once a toll-house, has built into it some of the old sculpture from the Dean House. At the foot of the road, adjoining Bell?s Mills Bridge, are old Sunbury distillery and house, in a lelta formed by the Leith, which sweeps under a steep and well-wooded bank which is the boundary 3f the Dean Cemetery. The Water of Leith village, which bears marks of peat antiquity, is fast disappearing amid the enxoachments of modern streets, and yet all that renains of it, deep down in the rocky hollow, where :he stream, flowing under its quaint old bridge, 3etween ancient mills, pours in a foaming sheet wer a high, broad weir, is wonderfully striking ind picturesque. Dates, inscriptions, crowstepped :ables, and other features of the seventeenth :entury, abound here in profusion. .
Volume 5 Page 63
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