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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


78 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [The Water of Leith. CHAPTER VIII. VALLEY OF THE WATER OF LEITH (concluded). Eminent Men connected with Stockbridge-David Roberts, RA-K. Macleay, RSA.-Jams Browne, LL.D.-James Hogg-Sir J, Y. Simpsan, Bart.-Leitch Ritchie-General Mitchell-G. R. Luke-Comely Bank-Fettes College-Craigleith Quarry-Groat Half-Silver- Mills-St. Stephen?s Church-The Brothers Lauder-James Drummond, R.S.A.-Deaf and Dumb Institution-Dean Bank Institution- The Edinburgh Academy. IN Duncan?s Land, in the old Kirk Loan-a pile built of rubble, removed during the construction of Bank Street, and having an old lintel brought from that quarter, with the legend, I FEAR GOD ONLYE, 1605-was born, on the 24th October, 1796, David Roberts, son of a shoemaker. In the jamb of the kitchen fireplace there remains to this day an indentation made by the old man when sharpening his awl. In his boyhood David Roberts gave indications of his taste for drawing, and made free use of his mother?s whitewashed walls, his materials, we are told, ? being the ends of burnt spunks (matches) and pieces of red keel.? He was apprenticed to Gavin Beugo, a housepainter in West Register Street, whose residence was a house within a garden, where the north-west corner of Clarence Street stands. His fellow-apprentice was David Ramsay Hay, afterwards House Painter to the Queen, and well known for his treatises on decorative art On the expiry of his apprenticeship, Roberts took to scene-painting, his first essay being for a circus in North College Street; and after travelling about in Scotland and England, working alternately as a house and scene painter, he returned to his parents? house in Edinburgh in 1818, and was employed by Jeffrey to decorate with his brush the library at Craigcrook. About this time he was scene-painting for Mr. W. H. Murray, of the Theatre Royal, and began his life-long acquaintance with Clarkson Stanfield. He now took to landscape painting, and his first works- Scottish subjects - appeared in the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1822, when, to his delight and astonishment he found that they had been well hung, and bought at the private view ; two were sold foi to a pictureidealei who never paid for it. After scene-painting at Drury Lane theatre, he became an exhibitor in the Royal Academy of London, and ere long won such fame that he was admitted to the full honours 01 Academician in 1841, and his pictures were riuickly bought at great prices. His most splendid work i: that entitled ?The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, and Nubia,? published in four large volumes in 1842. Though resident in London, he was not for. gotten in the city of his birth, where, in the? lattei 10s. each, and one for year, he was entertained at a public banquet in the Hopetoun Rooms, when Lord Cockbum presided ; md in 1858 he was feted by the Royal Scottish Academy, Sir John Watson Gordon in the chair; Clarkson Stanfield and Professors J. Y. Simpson md Aytoun were present. David Roberts died suddenly, when engaged on his last work, ? St. Paul?s from Ludgate Hill.?? He had left home in perfect health on the 25th of November, 1864, to walk, but was seized with xpoplexy in Berners Street, and died that evening. He was buried at Norwood. His attachment to EdinbuJgh was strong and deep, and when he returned there he was never weary of wandering imong the scenes of his boyhood. Thus Stockbridge and St. Bernard?s Well received niany a visit. James Ballantine, in his ?Life of Roberts,? quotes a letter of the artist, dated September, 1858, in which he writes of himself and Clarkson Stanfield, who accompanied him :-?.? Yesterday we went to see a fine young fellow, a member of the RSA. His studio is at Canonmills, near to my dear oZd Sfock6~id?e, and we strolled along the old road, aRd crossed the bum I had so often paddled in ; after which, in passing through the village, I pointed out to Stanny an early effort of mine in sign-not scene-painting, done when I was an apprentice boy. We had a long look at the old house where some of my happiest days were spent.? His parents lived to see him in the zenith of his fime. He buried them in the Calton ; and there is something grand and pathetic in the simplicity with which he records their rank in life on the stone designed by his own hand to cover their remains :- ? Sacred to the memory of John Roberts, shoemaker in Stockbridge, who died 27th April, 1840, aged 86 years ; as also his wife, Christian Richie, who died 1st July, 1845, aged 86 years. . . . This stone is erected to their memory by their only surviving son, David Roberts, Member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London.? In No. 5 Mary Place dwelt David Scott, R.S.A., whose most important work, ? Vasco de Gama Doubling the Cape of Good Hope,? is now in the Trinity House, and who died in Dalry House in
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