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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


been thrown down to facilitate the act. J?ames Hay had been provided with a key that opened the long-unused gate of the gloomy-domed mausoleum of Sir George Mackenzie, a place still full of terror to boys, as it is supposed to be haunted by the blood-red spirit of the persecutor, and there he .secreted himself, while the following advertisement appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser of the 24th .November, 1783 :- ?? ESCAPED FROM THE TOLBOOTH OF EDINBURGH, ?James Hay, indicted for highway roblery, ag.ed about IS years, by trade a glazier, 5 feet 10 inches high, slender made, pale complexion, long visage, brown hair cut short, pitted a little in the face with the small-pox, speaks slow with a Ruur in his tone, and has a mole on one of his cheeks. ?The magistrates offer a reward of Tuen& Guimus to any person who will apprehend and secure the said James Hay, to be paid by the City Chamberlain, on the said James Hay being re-committed to the Tolbwth of this city.? But James Hay had been a ?? Herioter,? brought up in the famous hospital which adjoins the ancient .and gloomy burying-ground ; thus, he contrived to make known his circumstances to some of his boy- . ish friends, and besought them to assist him in his .distress, as it was impossible for his father to do . so. A very clannish spirit animated ?the Auld Herioters? of those days, and not to succour one ,of the community, however undeserving he might be of aid, would have been deemed by them as a -crime of the foulest nature ; thus, Hay?s sshoolfellows supplied his wants from their own meals, -conveying him food in his eerie lurking-place, by .scaling the old smoke-blackened and ivied walls, at the risk of severe punishment, and of seeing sights <6 uncanny,? for six weeks, till the hue and cry abated, when he ventured to leave~the tomb in the night, and escaped abroad or to England, beyond reach of the law. ? The principal entrance to the Tolbooth,? to quote one familiar with the old edifice, ? was at the . bottom of the turret next the church. The gateway was of good carved stonework, and occupied by a door of ponderous massiveness and strength, having, besides the lock, a flap padlock, which, however, was generally kept unlocked during the day. In front of the door there always paraded a private of the Town Guard, with his rusty-red clothes and Lochaber axe or musket. The door .adjacent to the principal gateway was in the final days of the Tolbooth ? Michael Kettins? shoe-shop;?? but had formerly been a thiefs hole. After further .describing the tortuous access, the writer continues : A? You then entered the ha& which being free to all prisoners save those in the east end, was usual?ly dlled with a crowd of shabby-looking but very nerry loungers, A small rail here served as an rdditional security, no prisoner being permitted to :ome within its pale. Here, also, a sentinel of the rown Guard was always walking with a bayonet or i ramrod in his hand. The hall being also the chapel 3f the gaol, contained an old pulpit of singula$ fashion-such a pulpit as one could have imagined Knox to have preached from, and which indeed he is traditionally said to have actually done. At the right hand side of the pulpit was a door, leading up the large turnpike (stair) to the apartments occupied by the criminals, one of which was of plate-iron. The door was always shut, except when food was taken up to the prisoners. On the west end of the hall hung a board, whereon was inscribed the following emphatic lines :- ? A prison is a house of care, A place where none can thrive ; A touchstone true to try a friend, A grave for men alive. Sometimes a place of right, Sometimes a place of wrong, 5 . Sometimes a place for jades and thieves, And honest men among.? The floor immediately above the hall was occupied by one room for felons, having a bar along part of the floor, to which condemned criminals were chained, and a square box of plate-iron in the centre was called ?the cage? which was said to have been constructed for the purpose of confining some extraordinary culprit who had broken half the jails in the kingdom. Above this room was another of the same size appropriated to felons.? At the western end was the platform where public executions took place. Doomed to destruction, this gloomy and massive edifice, of many stirring memories, was swept away in 1817, and the materials of it were used for the construction of the great sewers and drains in the vicinity of Fettes Row, emphatically styled ? the grave of the old Tolbooth.? The arched doorway, door, and massive lock, Sir Walter Scott engrafted on a part of his mansion at Abbotsford; and in 1829 he found that ??a tom-tit was pleased to build her nest within the lock of the Tolbootha strong temptation,? he adds, in the edition of his works issued in the following year, ? to have committed a sonnet.? The City Guard-house formed long a ? pendicle? -to use a Scottish term-of the old Tolbooth. Scott has described this edifice as ?a long, low, ugly building, which, to a fanciful imagination, might have suggested the idea of a long black snail crawling up the middle of the High Street, and deforming its beautiful esplanade.? It stood in front of the Black Turnpike, and during the
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THE OLD TOWN GUARD. I35 The Tolbooth.] impartial rule of the Cromwellian period, formed the scene of many an act of stern discipline, when drunkards were compelled to ride the wooden horse, with muskets tied to their feet, and ? a drinking cup,? as Nicoll names it, on their head. ?? The chronicles of this place of petty durance, could they now be recovered, would furnish many an amusing scrap of antiquated scandal, interspersed at rare intervals with the graver deeds of such disciplinarians as the Protector, or the famous sack of the Porteous mob. There such fair offenders as the witty 2nd eccentric Miss Mackenzie, daughter of Lord Royston, found at times a night?s lodging, when she and her maid sallied out aspreux chma- Ciers in search of adventures. Occasionally even grave jidge or learned lawyer, surprised out of his official decorum by the temptation of a jovial club, was astonished, oh awaking, tu find himself within its impartial walls, among such strange bedfellows as the chances of the night had offered to its vigilant guardians.?? A slated building of one storey in height, it consisted of four apartments. In the western end was the captain?s room; there was also a ? Burghers? room,? for special prisoners ; in the centre was a common hall ; and at the east end was an apartment devoted to the use of the Tron-men, or city sweeps. Under the captain?s room was the black-hole, in which coals and refractory prisoners were kept. In I 785 this unsightly edifice was razed to the ground, an3 the soldiers of the Guard, after occupying the new Assembly Rooms, had their head-quarters finally assigned them on the ground floor of the old Tolbooth. It is impossible to quit our memorials of the latter without a special reference to the famous old City Guard, with which it was inseparably connected. In the alarm caused by the defeat at Flodden, all male inhabitants of the? city were required to be in arms and readiness, while twenty-four men were selected as a permanent or standing watch, and in them originated the City Guard, which, however, was not completely constituted until 1648, when the Town Council appointed a body of sixty men to be raised, whereof the captain was, says Amot, ?to have the monthly pay of LII 2s. 3d. sterling, two lieutenants of E2 each, two sergeants of AI 5s., three corporals of AI, and the private men 15s. each per month.? No regular fund being provided to defray this expense, after a time the old method of ?watching and warding,? every fourth citizen to be on duty in arms each night, was resumed; but those, he adds, on whom this service was incumbent, became so re- , - laxed in discipline, that the Privy Council informed the magistrates that if they did not provide an efficient guard to preserve order in the city, the regular troops of the Scottish army would be quartered in it Upon this threat forty armed men were raised as. a guard in 1679, and in consequence of an event which occurred in 1682, this number was increased to 108 men. The event referred to was a riot, caused by an attempt to carry off a number of lads who had been placed in the Tolbooth for trivial offences, to serve the Prince of Orange as. soldiers. As they were being marched to Leith, under escort, a crowd led by women attacked the latter. By order of Major Keith, commanding, the soldiers fired upon the people ; seven men and two women were shot, and twenty-two fell wounded. One of the women being with child, it was cut from her and baptised in the street. The excitement of this affair caused the augmentation of the guard, for whose maintenance a regular tax was levied, while Patrick Grahame, a younger son of Inchbraikiethe same officer whom Macaulay so persistently confounds with Claverhouse-was appointed captain, with the concurrence of the Duke of York and Albany. Their pay was 6d. daily, the drummers? IS., and the sergeants? IS. 6d. In 1685 Patnck Grahame, ? captain of His Majesty?s company of Foot, within the town of Edinburgh (the City Guard), was empowered to import 300 ells of English cloth of a scarlet colour, with wrappings and other necessaries, for the clothing of the corps, this being in regard that the manufactories are not able to furnish His Majesty?s (Scottish) forces with cloth and other necessaries.? After the time of the Revolution the number of the corps was very fluctuating, and for a period, after 1750, it consisted usually of only seventy-five men, a force most unequal to the duty to be done. ?The Lord Provost is commander of this useful corps,? wrote Amot, in 1779. ? The men are properly disciplined, and fire remarkably well. Within these two years some disorderly soldiers in one of the marching regiments, having conceived an umbrage at tha Town Guard, attacked them. They were double in number to the party of the Town Guard, who, in the scuffle, severely wounded some of their assailants, and made the whole prisoners.? By day they were armed with muskets and bayonets ; at night with Lochaber axes. They were mostly Highlanders, all old soldiers, many of whom had served in the Scots brigades in Holland. In the city they took precedence of all troops of the line. At a monthly inspection of the corps in 1789 the Lord Provost found a soldier in the ranks who had
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