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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


In 1667 the Sands were the scene of that desperate duel with swords between William Douglas younger, of M'hittingham, and Sir John Home, of Eccles, attended by the Master of Ramsay and Douglas of Spott, who all engaged together. Sir James was slain, a d William Douglas had his head stricken from his body at the Cross three days after. For many generations the chief place for horseracing in Scotland was the long stretch of bare sand at Leith, LEITH LINKS. informer for the double thereof, half to him and half to the poor '' (Glendoick). In 1620 there were horse-races at Paisley, the details of which are given in the MaitZand MisceZZany, in which the temporary prize of the bell figures prominently; and after the Restoration there were horse-races every Saturday at Leith, which are regularly detailed in the little print called the Mermrills Caledoniu. In the March of 1661 it states :-" Our accustomed recreations on the Sands of Leith was (sic) much injured because of As a popular amusement horse-racing was practised at an early period in Scotland. In 1552 there was a race annually at Haddhgton, the prize being a bell, and hence the phrase to "bear away the bell ; * and during the reign of James VI. races were held at Peebles and Dumfries-at the latter place in 1575, between Scots and'English, when the Regent Morton held his court there; but as such meetings led to conflicts with deadly weapons, they were interdicted by the Privy Council in 1608 ; and by an Act of James VI., passed in his twentythiid Parliament, any sum won upon a horse-race above a hundred marks was to be given to the poot. Magistrates were empowered to pursue '' for the said surplus gain, or else declared liable to the a furious storm of wind, accompanied with a thick snow ; yet we had some noble gamesters that were so constant in their sport as would not forbear a designed horse-match. It was a providence the wind was from the sea, otherwise they had run a hazard either of drowning or splitting upon Inchkeith. This tempest was nothing inferior to that which was lately in Caithness, when a bark of fifty tons was blown five furlongs into the land, and would have gone farther if it had not been arrested by the steepness of a large promontory." The old races at Leith seem to have been conducted with all the spirit of the modem Jockey Club, and a great impetus was given to them by the occasional presence of the Duke of Albany,
Volume 6 Page 268
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