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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


TALLY-STICK, BEARING DATE OF 1692. discovery was made in one of our churches. Some years ago a chest, without any address, but of enormous weight, was removed from the Old Weigh House at Leith, and lodged in the outer aisle of the old church (a portion of St. Giles?s). This box had lain for upwards of thirty years at Leith, and several years in Edinburgh, without a clainiznt, and, what is still more extraordinary, without any one ever having had the curiosity to examine it. On Tuesday, however, some gentlemen connected with the town caused the mysterious box to be opened, and, to their surprise and gratification, they found it contained a the power which the chamberlain had of regulating matters in his Court of the Four Burghs respecting the common welfare was transferred to the general Convention of Royal Burghs. This Court was constituted in the reign of James III., and appointed to be held yearly at Inverkeithing. By a statute of James VI., the Convention was appointed to meet four times in each year, wherever the members chose; and to avoid confusion, only one was to appear for each burgh, except the capital, which was to have two. By a subsequent statute, a majority of the burghs, came, by whom it was made, or to whom it belongs, this cannot remain long a secret. We trust, however, that it will remain as an ornament in some public place in this city.? More concerning it was never known, and ultimately it was placed in its present position, without its being publicly acknowledged to be a representation of the unfortunate prince. In this Council chamber there meets yearly that little Scottish Parliament, the ancient Convention of Royal Burghs. Their foundation in Scotland is as old, if not older, than the days of David I., who, in his charter to the monks of Holyrood, describes Edinburgh as a burgh holding of the king, paying him certain revenues, beautiful statute of his majesty (?), about the size of life, cast in bronze. . . . . Although it is at present unknown from whence this admirable piece of workmanship ?and having the privilege of free markets. The judgments of the ( F Y O ~ Scoftish ~ntiq7rurirm -w7?scunr.) magistrates of burghs were liable TALLY-STICK, BEARING DATE OF 1692. to the review of the Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland (the first of whom was Herbert, in IIZS), and his Court of the Four Burghs. He kept the accounts of the royal revenue and expenses, and held his circuits or chamberlainayres, for the better regulation of all towns. But even his decrees were liable to revision by the Court of the Four Burghs, composed of certain burgesses of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, and Berwick, who met ahiiually, at Haddington. to decide, as a court of last resort, the appeals from the chamberlain-ayres, and determine upon all matters affecting the welfare of the royal burghs. Upon the suppression of the office of chamberlain (the last of whom was Charles Duke of Lennox, in 1685), the power of controlling magistrates? accounts was vested in the Exchequer, and the reviewd of their sentences in the courts of law ; while . . or the capital with any other six, were empowered to call a Convention as often as they deemed it necessary, and all the other burghs were obliged to attend it under a. penalty. The Convention, consisting of two deputies from each burgh, now meets ancually at Edinburgh in the Council Chzmber, and it is somewhat singular that the Lord Provost, although only a meniber, is the perpetuai president, and the city clerks are clerks to the Convention, during the sittings of which the magistrates are supposed to keep open table for the members. The powers of this Convention chiefly respect the establishment of regulations concerning the trade and commerce of Scotland ; and with this end it has renewed, from time to time, articles of staple contract with the town of Campvere, in Holland, of old the seat of the conservator of Scottish privileges. As the royal burghs pay a sixth part of the sum imposed as a land-tax upon the counties in Scotland, the Convention is empowered to consider the state of trade, and the revenues of individual burghs, and to assess their respective portions The Convention has also been iii use to examine the administrative conduct of magistrates in the matter of burgh revenue (though this comes more properly under the Court of Exchequer), and to give sanction upon particular occasions to the Common Council of burghs to alienate a part of the burgh estate. The Convention likewise considers and arranges the political seffs or constitutions of the different burghs, and regulates matters concerning elections that may be brought before it. Before the use of the Council Chamber was assigned to the Convention it was wont to meet in an aisle of St. Giles?s church. Writers? Court-so named from the circumstance of the Signet Library being once there-adjoins the Royal Exchange, and a gloomy little cuZ de sac it
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Truir Church 1 THE TRON CHURCH. 187 is, into which the sun scarcely penetrates. But it once contained a tavern of great consideration in its time, ?The Star and Garter,? kept by a man named Cleriheugh, who is referred to in ? Guy Mannering,? for history and romance often march side by side in Edinburgh, and Scott?s picture of the strange old tavern is a faithful one. The reader . of the novel may remember how, on a certain Saturday night, when in search of Mr. Plzydell, Dandie Dinmont, guiding Colonel Mannering, turned into a dark alley, then up a dark stair, and then into an open door. While Dandie ?was whistling shrilly for the waiter, as if he had been one of his collie dogs, Mannering looked around him, and could hardly conceive how a gentleman of a liberal profession and good society should choose such a scene foi social indulgence. Besides the miserable entrance, the house itself seemed paltry and half ruinous. The passage in which they stood had a window to the close, which admitted a little Irght in the daytime, and a villainous compound of smells at all times, but more especially towards evening. Corresponding to this window was a borrowed lighl on the other side of the passage, looking into the kitchen, which had no direct communication with the free air, but received in the daytime, at second. hand, such straggling and obscure light as found its way from the lane through the window opposite. At present, the interior of the kitchen was visible by its own huge fires-a sort of pandemonium, where men and women, half-dressed, were busied in baking, boiling, roasting oysters, and preparing devils on the gridiron; the mistress of the place, with her shoes slipshod, and her hair straggling like that of Megzra from under a round-eared cap, toiling, scolding, receiving orders and giving them and obeying them all at once, seemed the presiding enchantress of that gloomy and fiery Tegion.? Yet it was in this tavern, perhaps more than any other, that the lawyers of the olden time held their high jinks and many convivialities. Cleriheugh?s was also a favourite resort of the magistrates and town councillors when a deep ,libation was deemed an indispensable element in the adjustment of all civic affairs; thus, in the last century, city wags used to tell of a certain treasurer d Edinburgh, who, on being applied to for new rope to the Tron Kirk bell, summoned the Council to consider the appeal. An adjournment to Cleriheugh?s was of course necessary ; but as one dinnei was insufficient for the settlement of this weighty matter, it was not until three had been discussed that the bill was settled, and the old rope spliced ! Before proceeding with the general history ot the High Street we will briefly notice that of the Tron Church, and of the great fire in which it was on the eve of perishing. The old Greyfriars, with the other city churches, being found insufficient for the increasing population, the Town Council purchased two sites, on which they intended to erect religious fabrics. One was on the Castle Hill, where the reservoir now stands ; the other was where the present Tron Church is now built. This was in the year 1637, when the total number of householders, as shown by the Council records, could not have been much over 5,000, as a list made four years before ?shows the numbers to have been 5,071, and the annual amount ofrents payable by them only ;EI~z,I 18 ss., hots money. Political disturbances retarded the progress of both these new churches. The one on the Castle Hill was totally abandoned, after having been partially destroyed by the English during the siege in 1650 ; and the other-the proper name of which is Christ?s Church at the Tron-was not ready for public worship till 1647, nor was it completely finished ,till 1663, at the cost of A6,000, so much did war with England and the contentions of the Covenanters and Cavaliers retard everything and impoverish the nation. On front of the tower over the great doorway a large ornamented panel bears the city arms in alto-relievo, and beneath them the inscription-XDEM HANC CHRISTO ET ECCLESIE SACRARUNT CIVES EDINBGRGENSES,, ANNO Doxr MDCLI. It is finished internally with an open roof of timber-work, not unlike that of the Parliament House. Much of the material used in the construction of the sister church on the Castle Hill was pulled down and used in the walls of the Tron, which the former was meant closely to resemble, if we may judge from the plan of Gordon of Rothiemay. 10 1644 the magistrates bought 1,000 stone weight of copper in Amsterdam to cover the roof; but such were the exigencies of the time that it was sold, and stones and lead were substituted in its place. In 1639 David Mackall, a merchant of Edinburgh; gave >,so0 merks, or about ;E194 sterling, to the magistrates in trust, for purchasing land, to be applied to the maintenance of a chaplain in the Tron Church, where he was to preach every Sunday morning at six o?clock, or such other hour as the wgistrates should appoint They may be truly said, continues Arnot, ?to have hid this talent in a napkin. They did not? appoint a preacher for sixty-four years. As money then bore ten per cent., although the interest of thii
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