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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


The Great Fire.] THE GREAT FIRE. 189 Assemlily Close, then occupied as a workshop by Kirkwood, a well-known engraver. The engines came promptly enough ; but, from some unknown cause, an hour elapsed before they were in working order, and by that time the terrible element had raged with such fierceness and rapidity that, by eleven o'clock the upper portion of this tenement, including six storeys, forming the eastern 'division of a uniform pile of buildings, was one mass of roaring flames, which, as the breeze was from the to their elevated position, or the roar of the gathering conflagration, the shouts of the crowd, and wailing of women and children, their cries were unheard for a time, until it was too late. The whole tenement was lost, together with extensive ranges of buildings in the old Fish Market and Assembly Closes, to -which it was the means of communicating the flames. While these tall and stately edifices were yielding to destruction, the night grew calm and still, and THE ROYAL EXCHANGE. sooth-west, turned them, as they burst from the gaping windows, in the direction of a house to the eastward, the strong' gable of which saved it from the destruction which seemed imminent. Two tenements to the westward were less fortunate, and as, from the narrowness of the ancient close, it was impossible to work the engines, they soon were involved in one frightful and appalling blaze. Great fears mere now entertained for the venerable Courant office; nor was it long before the fire seized on its upper storey, at the very time when some brave fellows got upon the roof of a tenement to the westward, and shouted to the firemen to give them a pipe, by which they could piay upon the adjoining roof, But, owing either I the sparks emitted by the flames shot upwards as if spouted from a volcano, and descended like the thickest drift or snow-storm, affecting the respiration of all. A dusky, lurid red tinged the clouds, and the glare shone on the Castle wdls, the rocks of the Calton, the beetling crags, and all the city spires. Scores of lofty chimneys, set on fire by the falling sparks, added to the growing horror of the scene ; and for a considerable time the Tron Church was completely enveloped in this perilous shower of embers. About one in the morning of the 16th the alarm of fire was given from a house directly oppoife to the burning masses, and, though groundless, it added to the deepening Consternation. Mean
Volume 1 Page 189
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