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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


9d OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [The Castle HX one going plump down a vent they set up a shout of joy. Sir David laughed, and entreated the father of the lads ?? not to be too angry ; he and his brother,? he added with some emotion, ?when CANNON BALL IN WALL OF nowE IN CASTLE KILL. living here at the same age, had indulged in precisely the same amusement, the chimneys then, as now, being so provokingly open to attacks, that there was no resisting the temptation.? From the Bairds of Newbyth the house passed to the Browns of Greenbank, and from them, Brown?s Close, where the modern entrance to it is situated, On the same side of the street Webster?s Close served to indicate the site of the house of Dr. Alexander Webster, appointed in 1737 to the Tolbooth church.. In his day one of the most popular men in the city, he was celebrated for his wit and socid qualities, and amusing stories are still told of his fondness for claret With the a s sistance of Dr. Wallace he matured his favourite scheme of a perpetual fund for the relief of widows and children of the clergy of the Scottish Church; and when, in 1745, Edinburgh was in possession of the Jacobite clans, he displayed a striking proof of his fearless character by employing all his eloquence and influence to retain the people in their loyalty to the house of Hanover. He had some pretension to the character of a poet, 2nd an amatory piece of his has been said to rival -the effusions of Catullus. It was written in allusion to his mamage with Mary Erskine. There is one wonderfully impassioned verse, in which, after describing a process of the imagination, by which ?he comes to think his innamarata a creature of more . derives its name. than mortal purity, he says that at length he clasps her to his bosom and discovers that she is but a woman after all ! ?? When I see thee, I love thee, but hearing adore, I wonder and think you a woman no more, Till mad with admiring, I cannot contain, And, kissing those lips, find you woman again ! ? He died in January, 1784. Eastward of this point stands a very handsome old tenement of great size and breadth, presenting a front of polished ashlar to the street, surmounted by dormer windows. Over the main entrance to Boswell?s Court (so named from a doctor who resided there about the close of the last century) there is a shield, and one of those pious legends so peculiar to most old houses in Scottish burghs. 0. LORD. IN. THE. IS. AL. MI. TRAIST. Andthis edifice uncorroborated tradition asserts to have been the mansion of the. Earls of Bothwell. A tall narrow tenement immediately to the west of the Assembly Hall forms the last ancient building on the south side of the street. It was built in 1740, by hfowbray of Castlewan, on the site of ? a venerable mansion belonging to the Countess Dowager of Hyndford (Elizabeth daughter of John Earl of Lauderdale), and from him it passed, about 1747, into the possession of William Earl of Dumfries, who served in the Scots Greys and Scots Guards, who was an aide de camp at the battle of Dettingen, and who succeeded his mother, Penelope, countess in her own right, and afterwards, by the death of his brother, as Earl of Stair. He was succeeded in it by his widow, who, within exactly a year and day of his death, married the Hon. Alexander Gordon (son of the Earl of Aberdeen), who, on his appointment to the bench in 1784, assumed the title of Lord Rockville. He was the last man of rank who inhabited this stately uld mansion ; but the narrow alley which gives?access to the court behind bore the name of Rockville Close. Within it, and towards the west there towered a tall substantial edifice once the residence of the Countess of Hyndford, and sold by her, in 1740, to Henry Bothwell of Glencome, last Lord Holyroodhouse, who died at his mansion in the Canongate in 1755. The corner of the street is now terminated by the magnificent hall built in 1842.3, at the cost of &16,000 for the accommodation of the General Assembly, which sits here annually in May, presided over by a Commissioner, who is always a Scottish nobleman, and resides in Holyrood Palace, where he holds royal state, and gives levCes in the gallery of the kings of Scotland. The octagonal
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.The Castle Hill~l LORD SEMPLE 9s - spire which surmounts the massive Gothic tower at the main entrance rises to an altitude of 240 feet, and forms a point in all views of the city. . Many quaint closes and picturesque old houses were swept away to give place to this edifice, and to the hideous western approach, which weakened the strength and destroyed the amenity of the Castle in that quarter. Among these, in ROSS?S Court, stood the house of the great Marquis of Argyle, which, in the days of Creech, was rented by a hosier at f;~a per annum, In another, named Remedy?s Close-latterly a mean and squalid alley -there resided, until almost recent times, a son of Sir Andrew Kennedy of Clowburn, Bart., whose title is now extinct ; and the front tenement was alleged to have been the town residence of those proud and fiery Earls of Cassillis, the ?kings ol Qrrick,? whose family name was Kennedy, and whose swords were seldom in the scabbard. Here, too, stood a curious old timber-fronted ?? land,? said to have been a nonjurant Episcopal chapel, in which was a beautifully sculptured Gothic niche with a cusped canopy, and which Wilson supposes to have been one of the private oratories that Arnot states to have been existing in his time, and in which the baptismal fonts were then re. maining. On the north side of the street, most quaint was the group of buildings partly demolished to make way for Short?s Observatory. One was dated 1621 another was very lofty, with two crowstepped gqble2 and four elaborate string mouldings on a ,smootf ashlar front. The first of these, which stdod at thc corner of Ramsay Lane, and had some very ornate windows, was universally alleged to be the towx residence of that personage so famous in Scottisf song, the Laird of Cockpen, whose family namt was Ramsay (being a branch of the noble family 01 Dalhousie) and from whom some affirm the lane *to have been called, long before the days of tht .poet. .By an advertisement in the Bdinburgh Cw ,runt for January, 1761, we find that Lady Cockper was then resident in a house ?? in the Bell Close,? the north side of the Castle Hill, the rental o which was A14 10s. ? The last noble occupants of the old mansion were two aged ladies, daughters of the Lord Graq of Kinfauns. The house adjoining bore the datc as mentioned, 1621 ; and the on: below it was : fine specimen of the wooden-fronted tenements with the oak timbers of the projecting gable beauti fully carved. During the early part of the I8tt century this was the town mansion of David thirc Earl of Leven, who succeeded the Duke of Gor don as governor of the Castle in 1689, and beliec ii; race by his cowardice at Killiecrankie. ?No ioubt,? wrote an old cavalier at a later period,. ? if Her Majesty Queen Anne had been rightly inormed of his care of the Castle, where there were lot ten barrels of powder when the Pretender was m the coast of Scotland, and of his courteous beiaviour to ladies-particularly how he horsewhipped be Lady Mortonhall-she would have made him L general for life.? Close by this editice there stands, in Semple?s Zlose, a fine example of its time, the old family nansion of the Lords Semple of Castlesemple. Large and substantially built, it is furnished with a ?rejecting octagonal turnpike stair, over the door :o which is the boldly-cut legend- PRAISED BE THE LORD MY GOD, MY STRENGTH AND MY REDEEMER. ANNO h b f . 1638. Over a second doorway is the inscription-Sedes, Manet optima Cdo, with the above date repeated, and the coat of arms of some family now unknown. Hugh eleventh Lord Semple, in 1743 purchased the house from two merchant burgesses of Edinburgh, who severally possessed it, and he converted it into one large mansion. He had seen much military service in Queen Anne?s wars, both in Spain and Flanders. In 1718 he was major of the Cameronians; and in 1743 he commanded the Black Watch, and held the town of Aeth when it was besieged by the French. In 1745 he was colonel of the 25th or Edinburgh Regiment, and commanded the left wing of the Hanoverian army at the battle of Culloden. Few families have been more associated with Scottish song than the Semples. Prior to fie acquisition af this mansion their family residence appears to have been in Leith, and it is referred to . in a poem by Francis Semple, of Belltrees, written about 1680. The Lady Semple of that day, a daughter of Sir Archibald Primrose of Dalmeny (ancestor of the Earls of Rosebery), is traditionally said to have been a Roman Catholic. Thus, her house was a favourite resort of the priesthood then Visiting Scotland in disguise, and she had a secret passage by which they could escape to the fields in time of peril. Anne, fourth daughter of Hugh Lord Seniple, was married in September, 1754 to Dr. Austin, of Edinburgh, author of the well-known song, ?For lack of gold,? in allusion to Jem, Drum- * ? M i m l h e a soo?;ca.-
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