Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


and burned, and ?? that ilk mail in Edinburgh have his lumes (vents) full of watter in the nycht, under pain of deid !? (I? Qiurnal.?) This gives us a graphic idea of the city in the sixteenth century, and of the High Street in particular, ?with the majority of the buildings on either side covered with thatch, encumbered by piles of heather and other fuel accumulated before each door for the use of the inhabitants, and from amid these, we may add the stately ecclesiastical edifices, and the substantial mansions of the nobility, towering with all the more imposing effect, in contrast to their homely neighbourhood.? Concerning these heather stacks we have the following episode in ?Moyse?s Memoirs :?--?On the 2nd December, 1584, a b.kxteis boy called Robert Henderson (no doubt by the instigation of Satan) desperately put some powder and a candle to his father?s heather-stack, standing in a close opposite the Tron, and burnt the same with his.father?s house, to the imminent hazard of burning the whole Sown, for which, being apprehended most marvellously, after his escaping out of town, he wus n~xt day burnt pick at the cross of Edinburgh as an example.? There was still extant in 1850 a small fragment .of Forrester?s Wynd, a beaded doorway in a ruined wall, with the legend above it- ?? O.F. OUR INHERITANCE, 1623.? ?In all the old houses in Edinburgh,? says Amot, ?it is remarkable that the superstition of the time had guarded each with certain cabalistic characters or talismans engraved upon its front. These were generally composed of some texts of Scripture, of the name of God, or perhaps an emblematical representation of the crucifixion.? Forrester?s Wynd probably took its name from Sir Adam Forrester of Corstorphine, who was twice chief magistrate of the city in the 14th century. After the ?Jenny Geddes? riot in St. Giles?s, Guthrie, in his ?Memoirs,? tells us of a mob, consisting of some hundreds of women, whose place .of rendezvous in 1637 was Forrester?s Wynd, and who attacked Sydeserf, Bishop of Galloway, when .on his way to the Privy Council, accompanied by Francis Stewart, son of the Earl of Bothwell, .?with such violence, that probably he had been torn in pieces, if it had not been that the said Francis, with the help of two pretty men that attended him, rescued him out of their barbarous hands, aud hurled him in at the door, holding back the pursuers until those that were within shut the door. Thereafter, the Provost and Bailies being assembled in their council, those women beleaguered them, and threatened to burn the house about their ears, unless they did presently nominate two commissioners for the town,? Src. Their cries were : ?? God defend all thdse who will defend God?s cause! God confound the service-book and all maintainers thereof !? From advertisements, it wonld appear that a character who made some noise in his time, Peter Williamson, ?I from the other world,? as he called himself, had a printer?s shop at the head of this wynd in 1772. The victim of a system of kidnapping encouraged by the magistrates of Aberdeen, he had been c?arried off in his boyhood to America, and after almost unheard-of perils and adventures, related in his autobiography, published in 1758, he returned to Scotland, and obtained some small damages from the then magistrates of his native city, and settled in Edinburgh as a printer and publisher, In 1776 he started The Scots Spy, published every Friday, of which copies are now extremely rare. He had the merit of establishing the first penny post in Edinburgh, and also published a ?? Directory,? from his new shop in the Luckenbooths, in 1784. He would appear for these services to have received a small pension from Government when it assumed his institution of the penny post. The other venerable alley referred to, Beith?s Wynd, when greatly dilapidated by time, was nearly destroyed by two fires, which occurred in 1786 and 1788. The former, on the 12th Decernher, broke out near Henderson?s stairs, and raged with great violence for man), hours, but by the assistance of the Town Guard and others it was suppressed, yet not before many families were burnt out. The Parliament House and the Advocates? Library were both in imminent peril, and the danger appeared so great, that the Court of Session did not sit tha? day, and preparations were made for the speedy removal of all records. At the head of Beith?s Wynd, in 1745, dwelt Andrew Maclure, a writing-niaster, one of that corps of civic volunteers who marched to oppose the Highlanders, but which mysteriously melted away ere it left the West Port. It was noted of the gallant Andrew, that having made up his mind to die, he had affixed a sheet of paper to his breast, whereon was written, in large text-hand, ?This is the body of Andrew Maclure j let it be decently interred,? a notice that was long a source of joke among the Jacobite wits. With this wynd, our account of the alleys in connection with the Lawnmarket ends. We have elsewhere referred to the once well-known Club formed by the dwellers in the latter, chiefly woc!!en He died in January, 1799.
Volume 1 Page 122
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print