Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


2YO OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [ Inchkeith. CHAPTER XXXIV. INCHKJZITH. The Defences of Leith-Inchkeith Forts-St. Serf-The Pest-stricken in 1497-E~perirnent of Jam- 1V.-The Old Fort-Johnson and Boswell-The New Channel-Colonel Moggridge?s Pkns--The Three New Forts-Magazines and B a n a c b T h e Lighthouse. THE long piers of Leith are now seaward of the Martello tower, and the battery at the fort is no longer on the seashore, but-owing to the reclamation of land, the erection of the goods and passenger stations of the Caledonian Railway, and the formation beyond these of a marine parade to Anchorfield- is ?now literal!y far inland and useless. This circumstance, coupled with the vast progress made of late years in the science of gunnery and projectiles, led to the construction of the Jnchkeith forts for the protection of Leith and of the river ; and to them we have already referred as the chief or only defences of the seaport. This island stands nearly midway between ?Leith and Kinghorn, four miles distant from the Martello tower, and is said to take its name from the valiant Scot named Robert, who slew the Danish general at the battle of Camustone or Bame in Angus, and obtained from Malcolm II., in 1010, the barony of Keith in Lothian, with the office of Marischal of Scotland. It has, however, claims to higher antiquity, and is supposed to be the caer pi& of the venerable Bede, and to have been fortified in his time. Among the anecdotes of St Serf, extracted by Pinkerton from the Chronicles of Winton, a Canon Regular of St. Andrews who lived in the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century, mention is made of some matters that are evidently fabulous-that the saint left Rome, and embarking for Britain, in the sixth century, with a hundred men, landed on this island, where he was visited by St. Adamnan, with whom he went to Fife. Inchkeith is half a mile in length and about the eighth or a mile in breadth. Throughout its surface is very irregular aiid rocky, but in many places it produces the richest herbage, well suited for the pasturage of cattle and horses ; yet there are no animals on it, except grey rabbits, and worwegian rats brought thither by the Leith shipping. Near the middle of the island, but rather towards its northern end, it rises gradually to the height of 180 feet above the level of the river, and thereon the well-known lighthouse is erected. The island possesses abundance of springs; the water is excellent, and is collected into a cistern near the harbour, from which the shipping in the Roads is supplied. In Maitland?s ? History of Edinburgh ? there is mentioned an order from the Privy Council, in the year 1497, addressed to the magistrates of Edinburgh, directing ?that all manner of persons within the freedom of this burgh who are infected with the contagious plague called the grand-gore, devoid, rid, and pass forth of this town, and compeer on the sands of Leith, at ten hours before noon ; and these shall have and find boats ready in the harbour, ordered them by the officers of this burgh, ready with victuals, to row them to the Inch (Inchkeith), and there to remain till God provide for their health.? There, no doubt, many of these unfortunate creatures found tneir last home, or in the wave6 around it. It was long in possession of the Keith family, and undoubtedly received its name from them. When their connection with it ceased there are no means of knowing now, but it afterwards belonged to the Crown, and was included with the grant of Kinghorn to Lord Glamis, wih whose family, according to Lamont?s ? Chronicles of Fife,? it remained till 1649, when it was bought, together with the Mill of Kinghorn and some acres of land, by the eccentric and sarcastic Sir John Scott of Scotstarvit, Director of the Chancery, for zo,ooo merks. It afterwards became the property of the Buccleuch family, and formed part of the barony of Royston, near Granton. Regarding this island Lindesay of Pitscottie records a curious experiment undertaken by the gallant James IV., for the purpose of discovering the primitive language of mankind. ? He caused tak ane dumb woman,? says that picturesque old chronicler, ?and pat hir in Inchkeith and gave hir two bairnes with hir, and gart furnish hir with all necessares thingis perteaning to theiar nourischment, desiring heirby to know what language they had when they cam to the aige of perfyte speach. Same say they spak guid Hebrew; but I know not by authoris rehearse.? Balfour records in his ?? Annales,? that in 1548 the English Navy, of twenty-five ships of war, amved in the Firth, and fortified Inchkeith, leaving five companies of soldiers to defend it. Hayward says this fleet was commanded by Admiral Seymour, and after burning the shipping in Burntis- ,
Volume 6 Page 290
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print