Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


.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.-
Volume 1 Page 91
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